After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the disciples, but Thomas was absent for this momentous event. He requested to see the physical body of the risen Jesus in order to believe, but his greater question wasn’t about receiving physical proof, it was about whether or not Jesus is God. He asked the same question that we and others have asked of Jesus for the last couple millennia: who are You to me? The answer: He is our Lord and God.
On Palm Sunday Jesus unveiled that He is the gentle King we long for. One week later, on Resurrection Sunday He proved it. Today we review the record of King Jesus’ resurrection and celebrate that He is alive and with all who believe that he is Lord.
What is the announcement on Palm Sunday? From the crowd in Jerusalem, the ancient prophecies, and Jesus Himself, God’s message is clear. Jesus is King, a gentle King. Whether you are a religious beginner or a long time follower, the trumpeted announcement on Palm Sunday summons a response. Worship Him or discard Him but you cannot ignore Him.
Much of life is steady and predictable. Yet, sometimes we are nudged to do something unexpected, extravagant and even crazy. After Jesus raised Mary’s brother from the grave, she did something crazy. She took valuable perfume, worth a year’s wages, and poured it out on Jesus. This extravagant moment incited both strong criticism from Judas and great approval from Jesus. Has God prompted you to do something unexpected, extravagant and even crazy? Is there something He wants you to do that requires pure devotion? If so, listen closely, proceed tenaciously, expect opposition and anticipate God’s pleasure upon you.
On this 4th Sunday of Lent we encounter Jesus at Lazarus’ grave. Tombs, vaults and cemeteries raise questions. Where is our loved one? What should I do as I consider my own mortality? Where is God? Jesus’ encounter with Lazarus and his family is not only the 7th sign in the Gospel of John and HIs greatest miracle (besides His own resurrection) on record, it is also a clarifying moment for all who ask these and other questions in the midst of death’s sting.
While following Jesus is a life full of meaning and joy, have you noticed that sometimes His words are hard to believe and even more difficult to obey? What did He mean by, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out,” “Love your enemy,” and “drink my blood”? In this encounter with Jesus, recorded in John 6:60-69, we discover that real life is preceded by an accurate understanding of and absolute surrender to King Jesus and His words.
While Jesus came to give life and set us free, bad habits can derail us. Jesus’ encounter with a woman in Samaria is more than her transforming story. It is great news (i.e. “gospel”) for all since the exalted Savior always longs to heal, forgive and set us free for the destiny He has for us. This is the gospel. In Jesus and with Jesus, freedom is for everybody!
Jesus invites each of His followers to join Him in his mission of love to help those who are far from God find a restored relationship with their Maker. Yet, most of us disciples struggle to know how to best serve those who don’t believe or behave like us. Fortunately, Jesus models an intentional approach for loving those outside His church. In this Sunday’s message and service we discover His way and receive His help to love our neighbors well.
We all have a way we interpret and react to the suffering of ourselves and others. We must recognize and resist any temptations to resolve it for others. The truth is, only God knows why He allows the suffering of the innocent; our role as listeners is to point those who are suffering to God, Who is with the broken-hearted. Through us mourning with them and encouraging them to be emotionally authentic with God, our friends are most likely to meet the challenge, be refined, and develop a greater love of God for who He is, and not merely what He does for us. In so doing they become more like Jesus Himself, who is God’s ultimate answer for suffering.