April 26, 2009

Words Not Found in the Easter Dictionary - Apr 26, 2009


In the 2009 Edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, there are many words that you wouldn’t find in your grandmother's dictionary. Words like ringtone, unibrow, and aquascape are some of the new words found in more recently published dictionaries.

What if someone were to compile an Easter Dictionary? In such a dictionary we’d certainly find words like resurrection, victory, and joy. But what words wouldn't we find? What words would never be included in the Easter Dictionary? Today we find out.

Matthew 28:5-6 (NIV)

“5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”


Fear is defined as "the distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain".

When the women approached Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning, sadness must have been their primary emotion. But no doubt fear was present as well.

For years Jesus had been their teacher, healer and friend. They had believe He was the Messiah sent from God. But then He had died a gruesome and shameful death on a Cross.

With Jesus dead, how could these women live on. How would they face a world of impending danger, evil and pain?

And when death finally came to take them, how could they face the All-powerful God who demands that sinners be just as sinless as He is?

When the women finally reached the tomb and looked inside, their fear only increased! Here was a gleaming, supernatural being, a messenger of God – an angel!

But "fear" is not in the Easter Dictionary, as the angel made clear: "Do not be afraid… he has risen."

As fragile human creatures, we are very familiar with fear. But Jesus’ Easter victory over death erases that word from our hearts.

But to understand why this is so, we have to understand what the resurrection signifies.

Outwardly it had looked like Jesus had been defeated by sin, death and the Devil when He died on the cross. But when He rose from the dead three days later, the truth of the matter was revealed. Jesus had lived a sinless life. Jesus had suffered the punishment for the world’s sin.

The proof? Death had no power over Him. Sin’s reign was broken. Satan’s work undone. Because our sins are forgiven through Christ’s Cross, Satan now has no lasting power over us.

Why fear the economy, health problems, relationship issues? If Jesus has conquered death, are these other problems beyond his power to overcome?

Why fear death, or the judgment of God that will follow? If Jesus’ resurrection declares “sacrifice accepted”, “sin atoned for”, than God’s judgment on the faithful will be “not guilty”.

You won’t find the word “Fear” in the Easter Dictionary, for “He lives to silence all our fears”.

TLH 200 verses 1, 5

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)

“8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”


One word now recognized by Merriam-Webster is the word "supersize." Just the mention of that word probably makes you hungry for an extra large order of fries.

But it's not just food that we find supersized in today's world. We also see sadness in supersized proportions. We call it despair.

We are living is what has been called the post-modern era. The teaching of Postmodernism says there are no fixed truths, only opinions. There is no solid meaning on which to build your life.

If there is no truth, than there is no God. If there is no God, than this life is all there is. These are the inevitable conclusions of Postmodernism.

No wonder the world around us is in despair.

Our culture tries to fill the hollow teaching of Postmodernism with big bank accounts, wild parties, and an obsession with entertainment. But these things can only satisfy us for a little while. When youth wears out and we stare our own death in the face, these distractions turn to dust and despair wraps it’s clammy fingers around our souls.

The ironic thing is, Postmodernism and its companion despair are not modern at all. Pilate expressed its basic premise when he asked Jesus: "What is truth?" Paul quoted the cynical poet who wrote: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."

But "Despair" is not in the Easter Dictionary, as Paul made clear to his fellow believers: "We are perplexed, but not in despair".

Hope is alive because Jesus rose from the dead. There is truth and meaning to life.

This world was once perfect. Pain and sadness entered it when sin did. But Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead so that our sins might be forgiven. Jesus entered this sinful world so that we could one day enter a sinless world restored to perfection by the all-powerful God.

By faith in Jesus we are now free from the chains of sin and the blinders of Post-modern thought. We are free to live our lives for the God who died and rose for us. And our hope for an endless life tomorrow is guaranteed because death has no power over Jesus and His people.

How can we despair when our Savior lives?!

These fixed truths are more than enough to supersize our joy, now and forever!

TLH 192 verses 1-3

Romans 5:5 (NIV)

“5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”


At the beginning of every NFL season, hope springs eternal. Every fan believes that just maybe their team might be the one this year. Maybe they’ll make the playoffs and win their division. Maybe they’ll actually make it to the big game.

But halfway through the season when the analysts are discussing whether your team just might be the first team ever to play a winless season, a certain feeling sets in…


In life we hope, we dream, we work hard to achieve a goal, but so often the result is - disappointment.

Much of our disappointment has to do with people. Political figures let us down. Even dependable friends and family disappoint us at times. We ourselves make promises and fail to keep them, disappointing those who count on us. We even make promises to ourselves and come up short.

In this sinful, imperfect world just about everything and everyone is a source of disappointment in one way or another. And disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow.

But “disappointment” is another word not found in the Easter Dictionary. The risen Savior will never let us down. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The living Christ will never fail you, dear child of God. You, the repentant faithful never have to wonder if he will forgive you, or answer your prayers, or make the curses in your life turn out to be blessings.

Best of all, you won't be disappointed when you stand before your Maker on Judgment Day,. Easter says sin, death, and hell have been conquered by God's Son – in whom you trust.

That means there is no doubt whatsoever that you will be welcomed into that inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

That means that you will be raised up and glorified and will live with God and His people forever. Our hope in Christ is a guaranteed hope -- a hope that will in no way disappoint.

But what about all the disappointments of this life? When we keep the focus on Jesus, whatever disappointments we may experience can't get us down too far. The one who can never disappoint us will help us deal with those situations and those people who sometimes let us down.

Christ’s Easter resurrection is a sweetness that softens the bitterness of this world’s disappointments. Keep your thoughts on that day, until the last day arrives.

TLH 192 verses 4-6

1 Corinthians 15:17 (NIV)

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”


Ever do a job that was absolutely pointless? A task that served no meaningful purpose whatsoever? That's what one calls "an effort in futility."

Something that is "Futile" is defined as something that is "serving no useful purpose, completely ineffective."

“Futile” is another word not found in the Easter Dictionary.

Paul says that “futile” is exactly what our faith would be if Christ is not risen from the dead. If Jesus' body is moldering in a grave, then it's pointless to look to Him for help. Only fools would place their confidence in someone who is dead!

If Easter didn't happen, then following Christ is an effort in futility. Where could a corpse ever lead us?

If Jesus didn't rise, there is no resurrection, no life eternal, for anyone. Paul asserts that we have no forgiveness of sins if Christ is not risen. Jesus' death was useless if He did not rise from the grave.

All in all, if Jesus did not rise bodily on Easter Sunday, then being a Christian is a complete waste of time.

Three verse later, Paul writes,

"But now Christ is risen from the dead!" (1 Corinthians 15:20 NKJV).

Since Christ is indeed risen, our faith is truly most meaningful. Our Christian faith tells us that we have a living Lord who forgives us, loves us, and helps us in every way. Our Christian faith tells us that life has a definite purpose: serving the One Who lived, died and rose for us all! Our Christian faith tells us that life has a guaranteed destination: heaven with God forever.

So go ahead, erase that word futile from your heart and from your life! The risen Jesus has rescued us from sin, death, and hell!

Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:58:

"So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV).

TLH 187

Luke 24:29 (NIV)

"29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them."


One of our Pastors writes, “For eleven years of my life I lived within the happy confines of Immanuel Lutheran High School and College. I was never alone. There was always a friend nearby to make me laugh, to cheer me up, and to share my faith.

But then came the day when the life I loved so well came to an abrupt end. With all my worldly possessions stuffed into a U-Haul trailer, I made the long drive in my banged up '76 Cordoba to Washington, DC to begin my work as a CLC pastor. How would I survive so far away from family and friends? I had never felt so lonely in all my life.”

The disciples on the road to Emmaus felt an awful loneliness too. How could they carry on without their dear friend Jesus? Who else could ever understand them, care for them, or help them as much as He did?

But, as they would soon find out, how foolish and unnecessary were those feelings of isolation. For soon Jesus would come to them. He would stay with them. He would bring them His Word, which promises that nothing could ever separate them from His love.

The word, “Alone” isn’t in the Easter dictionary.

Easter tells us that we are never alone. We have a living Savior who has promised to be with us always. In faith we call to Him, "Stay with us." In love He has promised that He will "never leave us or forsake us."

It was Jesus who experienced true loneliness on the cross. Left alone with our sins, His Father deserted Him so that we could be united to God forever through the forgiveness of sins.

In Word and Sacrament our risen Lord comes to our lonely, guilty hearts with His grace, mercy, and peace. Every day He walks with us, listens to our problems, guides and directs even the smallest details of our lives.

At times we may feel very lonely. But take heart! The word "alone" is not in the Easter dictionary either. Jesus is with us!

And though time, space, and death may separate us from many Christian loved ones and friends, Jesus will take care of that loneliness too. One day we'll all be together with Him in endless joy! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

TLH 206 verses 1-2

Luke 24:33 (NIV)

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together,”


Remember how Jesus finally revealed Himself to the disciples travelling to Emmaus? They had invited this traveler who had showed up to walk with them - to dinner. It was the least they could do! He had opened up their eyes to see all that the Scriptures said about the Savior. He had shown them that all the events that had happened to Jesus weren’t unexpected events but things that HAD to happen according to Scripture.

They sat down to eat. And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it the bread to share it with them. At that point He opened their eyes and let them recognize who He was. And then He vanished from their sight.

And what happened next?

The two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to be with the other disciples. They just couldn't keep the joy to themselves. They just had to join the others and celebrate Jesus' victory over sin, death, and hell!

Jesus does not want us to remain isolated from one another. He wants us to stick together. Jesus knows how much believers need each other.

The word "disconnected" isn't in the Easter dictionary.

The Last Day is coming! What a great day that will be! But in the meantime, Satan will be relentless in His attacks upon God's children. That's one reason God has set you into a family of believers, so that you will remain and grow stronger in faith. But, also so that others may remain because of you, and grow stronger because of you.

He has placed you into a very special family, which, by His grace, believes that every doctrine of Scripture is precious. Cherish the family to which you belong.

Gather with your spiritual family as often as possible. Join them in using Word and Sacrament. Celebrate God's redeeming love with them at every opportunity. Work with them in spreading the Gospel to your community, and to the world at large. Stay connected!

As the Bible says,

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 NKJV).

Will we have squabbles and disagreements? What family doesn’t. But we will cover over our family’s faults with love. We will paint their sins with His blood. We will LIVE the message of the resurrection – He lives! And so do we.

In peace.

In confidence.

In forgiveness.

In forgiveness given.


TLH 208 verses 8-10

April 19, 2009

Gifts from God's Great Mercy - Apr 19, 2009

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

God’s grace be to you. And may God’s peace settle in your hearts as we meditate on our great God who has saved us through His Son. Amen.

The New Testament book called “First Peter”, is a letter that was written by the apostle Peter. It was addressed to the Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. These were Roman provinces located in Asia Minor, south of the Black Sea and North of the Mediterranean Sea near Cypress.

First of all Peter praises God. But not just any God. Peter praises the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. He says “our Lord Jesus Christ” because he’s writing to fellow followers of Jesus.

Once he’s identified the Father as the one who he’s praising currently, then Peter hits on the first big reason he has for praising God: because of His “great mercy”.

Mercy plays a huge role in this section of the Bible, and in the life of every Christian. So, what does mercy really mean? When we look at the way the Greek word, “ele-os” is used, we see that “mercy” means something like “pity in action”. When you see the pitiful and hopeless condition of someone and step in to help them out – that’s mercy. Like grace, mercy is not something earned, but something freely given without obligation.

Peter describes God’s mercy as being “great” or “abundant”. Huge mercy is what we’re talking about here. In the darkness of eternity, before God spoke and created the universe, God knew what would happen to His perfect creation. He saw that His perfect angel Satan would fall away. He saw that Adam and Eve would sin. He saw that death would permeate the creation and bring pain and decay to everything. God saw that the human race would be set on the slippery slope toward the eternal fires of hell. And He knew that once infected with sin, humans would never be able to rid themselves of it alone. Every son and daughter of Adam and Eve were born infected. Sinful. Unfit for heaven in every way. And there was no way for them to do anything about it. Their doom was sealed.

But God saw it all. He saw the eternity of suffering that mankind had coming, and God decided – “I will have mercy on them.” It was human fault that brought sin into the world, but it would be God that would provide the escape route to heaven.

Jesus was promised to Adam and Eve. Jesus was predicted by the prophets over the millennia between Adam and Mary. And then Jesus was born. Human. God. The God-Man.

Then Jesus lived. Like no human had. Perfectly.

Then Jesus died. Like God had never. Truly.

But before His death, the Son of God did something. He absorbed all the punishment that had been meant for sinful mankind. Like a sponge, Jesus soaked it all into His soul on the cross. And then, with everything suffered, He died in victory. He had taken our punishment away and made it possible for us to stand in God’s presence in life and after death – cleansed. Forgiven. Redeemed.

In the tomb His dead body law for three days, to fulfill the ancient prophecy, and then He was raised from the dead – once and for good. Now Jesus cannot die anymore. Now Jesus lives. And soon, He will return.

Okay, now I’m going to get to the mercy part. In His mercy, God the Father had His Son do all this. And furthermore, God the Father had His Holy Spirit convince these Christians that Peter was writing to that it was all true. And by their faith in Jesus their sin-Savior, they were reborn.

You see the significance? These people, like us, were born dead in sin. But through faith in Christ, they were joined with Him on the cross, in the Tomb, and in His resurrection from the dead.

The other day I signed up for a “Blockbuster Rewards Card” For twenty bucks I got a free movie, and was enrolled in a program so I could get more free movies. If we rent a certain number of movies in a month we get extra free rentals.

Anyway, I got a couple little keychain scanner cards and a toke for my first free movie with the sign-up packet. And when I got home I gave one to my wife. I had put her name on the account also. So, she gets the benefits too.

When the Holy Spirit convinced us that Christ really is our Savior, that’s what happened to us. We were given access into Christ’s account status. We didn’t pay the price, but we have access to complete forgiveness. We didn’t go to the cross, but faith gets us all the benefits as if we actually suffered our debt of hell. We didn’t lay in the tomb, but again because Jesus did, we were there.

And when Jesus was raised to life, we were given new life also. In fact, we were given REBIRTH. We were born into this world dead in sin, now, through faith in Christ Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, we have been reborn, alive, into God’s family.

When you’re part of God’s family, what belongs to the Father is going to be yours someday. Peter tells his fellow Christians that they have been born into an inheritance. Really, what he means is that through faith in Jesus Christ, they have become ENTITLED to the inheritance that is waiting in heaven.

I like this part. Peter doesn’t even try to describe exactly WHAT is all waiting in heaven for all followers of Christ. Peter just describes what that inheritance is like.

Peter says that the when we get to heaven we’ll have something that can never perish. It’s imperishable. It can’t rot from the inside out because there is no sin in heaven.

Also, in heaven, we’ll have something that can’t get dirty. The New King James translation is a little better here. It says “undefiled”. We won’t be able to mess it up. Heaven isn’t a second chance to get things right. Heaven is perfect, sinless bliss, forever. We won’t be able to screw it up when we get there.

One more thing. Peter says our inheritance in heaven won’t fade. It’s not going to get boring. It’s not going to get old. It’s not going to end. It’ll be like the brightest, most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen, but it won’t end. And the clouds won’t soften it’s beauty.

Until we reach heaven, we are promised something else. In verse five Peter says that through faith Christians are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is to be revealed in the last time. Until Christ returns, God’s power shields us.

When we think of God shielding us, we might think of Him protecting us with His angels, from physical harm. Turning the car that was going to hit us, away in the last second. Actually causing our body to eradicate the cancer that it couldn’t even see months before.

But Peter says that THROUGH FAITH we are shielded by God’s power. THROUGH FAITH.

In the Old Testament book of Job, the Devil appeared before God. God said, “Look at my good servant Job. Have you considered him?” Satan told God that Job was only faithful because God blessed him so much. So, God let Satan take away Job’s wealth, his children, his health. And though Job felt cheated and questioned God, his faith remained. God was still standing by Job shielding him. Even though he had lost everything by human standards, Job testified:

“25 I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27 NIV).

We might imagine God the Father standing next to us at all times with a big shield. And every time Satan throws something our way to pierce our faith in Jesus and kill it, God blocks the spear.

Paul once wrote,

“…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 NIV).

Until your dying day, or Jesus descends down through the sky, may the shield of faith in Christ protect you.

There is sobering thought here. Remember the angels of God? In the beginning they were created perfect, but with free will also. They had the choice to leave God, and some did. When they left, they were gone for good. There is no Savior for the fallen angels.

We’re like the fallen angels in this way: we Christians have the FREE WILL to leave God whenever we want. We can walk away from the protecting shield of faith in Christ. And that’s why Satan tempts us away with all kinds of distracting things. He says, “Don’t worry about church. You know everything that that guy’s gonna say anyway. Why read the Bible? You know the Good News. It’s like a bike, once you learn you never forget.”

But faith isn’t a bicycle. It’s a shield. And when we aren’t walking in step with God, we are walking away from the shield.

How many steps can we take into pornography before we’ve fully stepped away from Christ? How far can we walk apart from other Christians before we find ourselves far from Christ? I don’t know. I don’t want to find out. I don’t want you to ever find out either. Or your family. Or your friends in Christ.

Stay behind the shield of faith by continual communication with God in prayers and reading His Word. By coming to the Lord’s Supper and bringing your children to baptism. Studying the word in Bible Class and here together. Stay behind God’s shield, faith in God’s Son, till that Son takes you in His arms for good.

It’s not hard to see why Peter says we’ve been born into a living hope. Jesus is our LIVING hope because He is alive forever now that He has risen. Jesus is our HOPE because we can’t see Him now. But we can believe in Him and love Him. And we do, for through Him we have received the Father’s mercy.

In verse six, Peter says that all this good news makes the Christians in Asia minor greatly rejoice! But at the same time, they are probably experiencing grief and trials. Peter knew this was the destiny of all followers of Christ because Jesus had told them so. Satan would not leave Jesus’ preachers alone, not the apostle preachers, not the layman and laywoman who brought Jesus to their neighbors. No way was Satan going to let them be.

But Peter says that’s okay. Through God’s shield Satan could only hurt their bodies, feelings, and minds - not their souls. And the trials that they were facing served two purposes.

Number one – trials in life separate genuine faith from false faith.

When the Roman soldier says, “Worship this image of the emperor, or you will be burned to death,” genuine faith is revealed. When the rampaging student points a gun at your face and asks, “Do you believe in God?” genuine faith is revealed. Or think of Job. His children were all in one house celebrating when a Satan sent wind knocked the supports away and the roof caved in, killing them all. Job mourned. But He did not curse God. His faith remained, and was shown to be true.

The second reason for trials in the Christian life is so that in heaven we may receive praise, glory and honor in God’s presence.

Jesus once said,

“31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:31-40 NIV).

With every Christian we recognize that even the good we do is brought about by God’s power. As it says in Philippians:

“…it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV).

But the Christian will still receive the credit in the end. God’s mercy will give it to us.

The verses of our reading talk once more about our living HOPE. It is hope because Jesus is unseen.

“8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV).

I was visiting my brother Andy once in Watertown, SD. He serves as a pastor there, and on one day of the week he goes to a nursing home and preaches to a room of folks that wheel themselves down from their rooms, most of them in wheelchairs.

There was one particular gentleman there that I can’t forget. His face has faded from my memory, but I remember the sound of his voice. He didn’t articulate well, but the feeling expressed in his moaning was pure. Genuine. Heartwarming to the core. You see, he didn’t talk, but throughout the sermon, whenever Andy spoke the Good News of Jesus, that man would put into voice what his heart felt. Inexpressible and glorious joy. He was receiving the goal of his faith. He was in Jesus’ hand, and Jesus had even sent this preacher to remind him of that fact. His soul was secure. His salvation was certain.

We have not seen Jesus, but we love Him. And we believe in Him.

Let us pray.


Jesus fill us up with inexpressible and glorious joy. You have given us NEW BIRTH into the Father’s family. We are your siblings. Heaven is our inheritance. And we can’t break it when we get there. Help us to stay close to You. Keep us diligent, communicating with You every step of the way, staying behind the shield of faith in You. Make our trials beneficial to us, and help us to understand them. Give us opportunities to serve you by serving others and give us a heart of exuberant love to serve with exstatic joy.

Some would say we’re fools Jesus, to pray to one we have never seen. But then again, some would say You were a fool to die for those who hated You. We’ll be fools for you. In You we now live. All glory be to You, the Father and the every patient Spirit.


And the peace of God which is far beyond our understanding will keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.

April 11, 2009

I Wasn't There: Doubting Thomas - Apr 12, 2009


Leading up to Easter we’ve been holding special worship services. These services have focused on all that Jesus suffered so that sinners like you and me might be made acceptable in God’s sight.

Today we celebrate what God did so that we’d know without a doubt that Jesus’ sacrifice in our place was accepted. Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from death to life.

He is risen!

To help us imagine the events of Jesus’ suffering and death, our Wednesday night sermon meditations were written from the perspective of the people who were there.

Assisted by the facts recorded for us in the Bible, we’ve heard from Judas the betrayer, Caiaphas the High Priest, Simon Peter, Pontius Pilate, Simon of Cyrene and the Thief on the Cross. These men could actually say, “I was there.”

Today, on the birthday of the New Testament Church, we imagine what the first Easter was like through the eyes of a man who WASN’T there. Today we meditate on the resurrection of God’s Son, through the eyes the apostle named Thomas.


The part of God’s message that we meditate on today comes from…

John 20:26-31 (NIV)

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Dear fellow sinners made saints, through faith in Jesus Christ: grace, peace and Easter joy be to you.

Let’s pretend. Let’s imagine that the apostle Thomas was actually here today as our guest speaker. May the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with thoughtful contemplation, and joy over Christ Jesus our living Savior.


Hello. My name is Thomas. And I have to tell you right away, that I wasn’t there.

I wasn’t there with the women who went out to the tomb early on Easter morning.

I wasn’t there when Peter and John ran to verify that Jesus’ body really was gone.

I wasn’t there when Jesus quietly joined the two disciples travelling on the road to Emmaus.

I wasn’t even there when He appeared to the rest of the apostles gathered in that upstairs room on the first Easter evening.

I’m sorry, but I can’t really give you a first hand account of those events, because I just wasn’t there.

We had all parted ways in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. We had abandoned Him in his darkest hour. When I learned that He had been crucified, I just didn’t see the wisdom of us all gathering together again. I mean, really, the Jews who had orchestrated the Master’s death might now be out for our blood. Was it such a great idea for everyone to gather in one place?

Besides, Jesus was the pin that held us together. With Him dead and in the grave, I just didn’t see the point.

Throughout my life people considered me a pessimist, but I preferred to think of myself as a realist. We can all have our hopes and dreams, but we all have to function in reality don’t we? Yes we do. And reality doesn’t always match up with our dreamy expectations.

We apostles thought that Jesus was sent from God to restore the nation of Israel. To get us out from under the thumb of Rome and back to ruling our own glorious country. But on that Thursday night when Jesus was arrested, and on that Friday when He was killed, that dream came crashing down. And we all had to deal with the reality, that Jesus wasn’t the going to shake Rome out of our land. Not now, not ever.

You might wonder why Jesus selected a man like me to be one of His inner circle. Maybe I once thought Jesus chose me because of my special talents and abilities. Now I know that it was purely out of His gracious love that He chose me.

We apostles certainly weren’t chosen because of our humility, I can tell you that. We frequently argued about who was the greatest among us.

We weren’t chosen because of our talent for grasping spiritual truths either. Jesus repeatedly had to explain His teachings to us after the crowds had gone home.

Regardless of what we might have thought back then, Jesus chose us to be His apostles because we were sinners, just like everyone else. Sinners He had come to redeem from sin and hell. Sinners who could talk with other sinners on common ground.

That would be our job eventually. The risen Jesus would send us out to let people know that He had suffered and died for their sins too. We would announce to the world that because He suffered, their sins were forgiven in the eyes of the eternal God.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I said, I wasn’t there on the first Easter Sunday. I wasn’t there when the rest of the disciples met together and shared another meal in the upstairs room.

And so, when they came to me, and told me that Jesus was alive, and had materialized before their very eyes in that locked upper room, I did not believe it.

You know me as “doubting Thomas”, but really, I was unbelieving Thomas. I didn’t believe that He was alive. I refused to trust the testimony of the men and women that I had spent most of my time with for the last three years.

I harshly told them,

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25b NIV).

But as persistent as my unbelief was, Jesus was more persistent. As strong as my pessimism was, Jesus’ love was stronger.

The Scribes and Pharisees once demanded that Jesus do a miracle in front of them to prove that He was the Christ. He responded by saying:

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39b-40 NIV).

I was asking for a sign too. What a faithless thing to do. But, as wicked as I was, Jesus was more gracious. I got my sign.

It happened like this.

A week after the first Easter Sunday, the disciples gathered in the upper room again. But this time, I was there.

And before long, so was Jesus. When the doors were locked, He hadn’t been there. But all the sudden, He was. Beyond a doubt, it was Him. Jesus, in the flesh.

To all of us He said,

“Peace be with you!”

Then to me He said,

“Put your finger here”

And He held out His hands to me. They were beyond beautiful, somehow even the holes in them were beautiful. And He said,

“see my hands.”

Pulling back the side of His garment, He showed me the wound that I knew would be there. The deep, straight place where a spear had been driven into His already dead body. Proof to those dreadfully thorough Roman soldiers that this one was dead.

When I met His gaze, He said,

“Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

And I did. I didn’t doubt anymore. I believed.

You know, you and I have some things in common. I wasn’t there on the first Easter Sunday, and neither were you.

I’m a sinner, and so are you.

Maybe we have some other things in common too.

Maybe you also have doubts sometimes.

Maybe you consider yourself a realist, or even a pessimist.

Maybe you have trouble grasping spiritual truths, just like me.

But you know what else we have in common?

Jesus. He suffered for my sins, and for yours too.

He’s opened the gates of heaven to me, and to you also.

His persistent love for both of us brought Him all the way to the cross. To hell and back again. And now He has appeared to both of us.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “That was a long time ago. I certainly wasn’t there. I wasn’t there to see Jesus in the flesh.” And I know that you weren’t physically there. But through the Bible you’ve seen everything that I saw.

You’ve seen His hands.

You’ve seen His side.

You’ve seen that He lives.

And just like me, the Holy Spirit has convinced you that He is your Lord, and your God.

That’s what I told Jesus that Sunday night. When I saw that it was really Him, I exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!”

And you know what He said to me? He said,

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 NIV).

He was talking about you.

And you ARE blessed BY GOD. For He has brought you, a sinner, to trust in His Son. God has given you the gift of faith in Jesus. By that faith, complete forgiveness and the hope of eternal life has become your possession.

I wasn’t there, to see the Tomb on Easter morning. And you weren’t there either. And neither was Jesus, not when they came looking for Him anyway, for He has risen. And because He has, so will you. Though you will die, all who die in Christ will rise again to join all the saints in heaven.

And no doubt, dear Christians, I’ll see you then.

Have a very happy Easter, in Christ.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

April 10, 2009

"I Was There : The Centurion at the Cross" - Apr 10, 2009

            To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen. The text that I would lay on your hearts on this solemn occasion comes from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, beginning with the 44th verse, as follows:
            And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commend My spirit.'" And having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, "Certainly this was a righteous Man!" These are the words.
            In Christ Jesus, who on this dark day gave up His life for us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
            If you've been to Disneyland, Great America or Six Flags sometime within the last thirty years or so, you may have had a movie experience the likes of which you'd never dreamed of. It's called the IMAX theater. The people sit in a round auditorium, almost completely surrounded by a huge, semi-circular screen. The screen is so large, in fact, that it totally fills the range of vision of the viewers. When the movie begins, you have the immediate sensation of actually being there, because that's all you can see. In one film, called "Flight", you get the feeling that you, personally, are soaring in a glider over the Grand Canyon. The feeling is so strong that, when the plane in the movie banks left, the whole audience will lean to the left in unison!
            Why is this type of movie so thrilling and powerful? Because it fills the eyes of the viewer. In fact, what it actually does is allow the viewer to look through the eyes of an airplane pilot, or a race car driver, or a passenger on a roller coaster. Tonight you and I are being given an opportunity like that. Today God is offering us a first-person view of most important event in history. It is the death of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Tonight we'll see that event, looking through the eyes and feeling the emotions of a Roman soldier who was actually there. Through him, you will stand a few scant feet from the cross on which the Son of God was crucified! The theme we've been following this Lenten season is "I Was There!" This evening we're introduced to...
I. See the cross through my eyes.
II. Join me in my good confession.
            I'm glad I finally get to tell my story. After all, I was there. I was a first-hand witness to the events of that dark day. Tradition says my name is Longinus, but you may know me simply as the centurion at the cross.
            I was an officer in the Roman army; a centurion, in charge of 100 men. Something like a master sergeant in your own army. Like most veteran soldiers of my time, I was tough, and hard-bitten. You don't get to be an officer in the Roman army by being a nice guy. I'd seen a lot in my years in the Roman legions, including plenty of crucifixions. I'd witnessed a lot of cruelty, a lot of injustice, and a lot of death. It takes quite a bit to shock an old campaigner like me. But what happened that Friday outside Jerusalem shocked me, I can tell you. More than shocked me, it changed me - changed me forever!
            You read in your Bible that it was the Jewish mob that screamed for the death of Jesus. But it wasn't the Jews who carried out the actual crucifixion - that job fell to a squad of Roman soldiers. I was in command of the execution detail.
            You should understand something about me - I had no natural sympathy for the Jews. Just the opposite, in fact. As part of the Roman army occupying Israel, I was a long way from home, and I wasn't very happy about it. I was a Roman citizen...these Jews were foreigners to me. Normally I couldn't care less what happened to them. That is, until Jesus came along. His case caught my attention.
            Of course I had heard about this unusual prophet. Everybody had. Word concerning Him had spread through Judea like wildfire. For three years He had been traveling around the country, calling sinners to repentance, forgiving the penitent, and blessing the children. By all accounts, He had performed some powerful acts of healing. Rumor had it, He had even raised a dead man named Lazarus back to life!
            Well, I took it all with a grain of salt. But when I heard He was going on trial before Pontius Pilate, my curiosity got the better of me. So I looked in on the proceedings. They didn't have anything on Jesus - not really. The charges the Jews brought against Him were obviously phony; they'd never make them stick. I heard our governor, Pontius Pilate, declare again and again, "I find no fault in this Man!" But for some reason, the frenzied mob just kept crying out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" over and over. There seemed to be no reason for it. Certainly I knew of Jesus' claim to be the Son of God...but was that an offense punishable by death? It didn't seem so to me!
            And yet, He was condemned. Pilate gave in to the mob, washed his hands, and passed sentence. He turned to me and said, "Centurion, crucify this Man!"
            "Crucify this Man!" -Over the centuries you in the Christian Church have grown used to the word "crucifixion." Perhaps, for you, the word conjures up thoughts of beauty or nobility. Well, take it from me - a Roman centurion: I crucified a lot of men, and there was absolutely nothing beautiful or noble about a crucifixion. It was a disgusting and a humiliating way to kill a man, and that's why it was the form of execution reserved for the worst of criminals. Basically, the prisoner was attached to a rough wooden cross, and exposed to the elements until he died. His arms were fixed on the cross-beam either with ropes, and the full weight of his body had to be supported by a tiny block of wood that sloped away from his feet. It was death by slow torture. As the prisoner succumbed to exhaustion and dehydration, his legs would eventually become too weak to support the weight of his body. The body would slip lower and the head loll forward. Eventually the airway would be blocked, choking the victim. Death - when it finally came - was either caused by suffocation or heart failure. I can see a few of you shiver at the thought, and well you might! -This was a particularly horrible way to die.
            But remember: crucifixion was nothing new to me. The soldiers under my command were so used to it that they sat down under the crosses and calmly began to throw dice to see who got the clothes of the prisoners. Another day, another execution. A little grim, perhaps, but really no big deal, not to us...
            Or was this one different? Over the course of that day, some strange things began to happen. It began to dawn on me that there might be something special about the case of this man Jesus of Nazareth. Take at it through my eyes, for a moment. Consider the things I witnessed during those final, fateful hours in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
            I've told you I'd seen a lot of crucifixions, and it's true. But Jesus' crucifixion was different, somehow. More sinister and diabolical. For one thing, I'd never quite seen the level of cruelty that was applied to this particular prisoner. Usually, a criminal would suffer either scourging or crucifixion; Jesus was whipped within an inch of His life, and then crucified, too. Normally, the victim's limbs would be tied to the cross with ropes; Jesus had large metal spikes driven through His hands and feet. I'll never forget that. To this day I can hear the hammer blows ringing in my head.
            The whole scene was strange, and terribly wrong somehow. It made me think, I can tell you! While my men were gambling under the cross, I was watching and listening. Later, I saw the light of the sun go out - go out, I'm telling you! Not an eclipse, not just an overcast sky, but a sudden darkness as black and as heavy as velvet. The darkness lasted from noon till three.
            Even more unusual, to my mind, was Jesus Himself. I had seen many men die...but never like this! This Man prayed for the people who were mocking His agony, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." From the very cross, this Man showed care and concern for His mother. Why, He even spoke kindly to the wretched thief who was dying on the cross next to Him! -And imagine what went through my mind when I heard what Jesus said to that thief! He said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."
            Well, what started out as a rather routine day was all of a sudden getting a lot less routine! Things were getting stranger by the moment. Who was this Man who controlled people's destiny, this Man who forgave people's sins and admitted them to paradise? Who was He? I asked myself. Why was He suffering?
            You don't have to ask those questions, do you? You don't have to wonder and struggle like I did. You know who He was. More than that - you know exactly why He was suffering. You've always known it...but I never found out until that dark afternoon on Golgotha. The Man on that cross was dying for the sins of the world. In His own words, Jesus was "giving His life a ransom for many." -- Matt 20:28.
            Do you realize that? As you gather here in this pleasant building for your Good Friday commemoration, do you know what the cross was all about? I'm a plain-speaking man, so I'm not going to tiptoe around it...Jesus was dying for our sins. He was suffering for every time that you and I have failed to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; every time that you and I have abused God's name, skipped church, or defied authority; every time you or I have hurt somebody, had lustful thoughts or cut somebody down behind their back... well, just keep going down the commandments - you won't have any trouble finding where you fit in. I certainly didn't, hard-living soldier that I was. I was a sinner of the blackest stripe, and I knew it!
            The point is, on that Friday afternoon, God's anger over those sins of ours finally came crashing down. But it didn't strike us. -It struck Jesus! "All we like sheep have gone astray," the prophet Isaiah said, but "...the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Is 53:10.
            Yes, you know exactly who Jesus is, and why He was suffering on Calvary that day. And I - the grizzled old centurion - I was beginning to figure it out, too. At about three in the afternoon, when Jesus was near the end, I suddenly felt the earth shift beneath my feet. A tremendous earthquake shook the ground; rocks split, and people cried out. By this time fear was clutching at my heart - What have we done? Who IS this Man we've crucified? With His final words, Jesus answered the question: "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.' And having said this, He breathed His last."
            Now I knew! There was no doubt in my mind as I made  my trembling confession: Your evangelist Luke wrote down what I said: "Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, 'Certainly this was a righteous Man!'" And the parallel account in Matthew records that I not only confessed Jesus to be a righteous Man, but the very Son of God.
            The death of the Son of God softened my hard heart. In passing sentence on Jesus, the Jewish Sanhedrin had snarled, "He is guilty of death." But with my confession, I overturned their verdict. "No," I decided, "He wasn't guilty of death. He was who He said He was - the innocent Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior." That's an important confession. It's a good confession. It took quite a bit for the Lord to bring me to the point of making that confession. And it's a confession I hope you'll share with me on this Good Friday!
            Perhaps my example - the example of a Roman centurion - will encourage you. It certainly ought to! Especially if you've had a particular sin or sins weighing on your conscience recently. Has the devil been trying to convince you that your sins aren't really forgiven? Then look to my example. I was the worst sort of sinner imaginable, and the Lord forgave me. Why, I gave the orders to pound the nails and set the cross...I killed Him...and He died for me!
            My Christian friends, He died for you, too. If, like me, you've felt that your many transgressions have been piling up in a book somewhere, then on this day of all days you can rejoice. For with the suffering, the hell, and the God-forsakenness He endured on Good Friday, Jesus Christ cancelled your sins. The Apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Colossians: for Jesus' sake God has "...forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Col 2:13-14.
            Wonderful Good News! Strange, happy tidings to come from so black a day! Let rejoice in knowing that, with His innocent death on the cross, Jesus has saved us from our sins. Today I ask you to join me - the centurion at the cross - join me in confessing, "Surely this was a righteous Man." It's a good confession to make. You can take it from me that that Friday was a dark day. But, as one inspired Christian said: "How good it is to know that it will never be that dark again!" AMEN.

April 9, 2009

I Was There: The Apostle John - Apr 9, 2009


Jesus, You prayed for us on the evening of that first Maundy Thursday. Through the message of the apostles, we have come to trust in You. Make us truly one with each other, unified in mind, mouth, heart and judgment. Make us also one with You and the Father, sinners forgiven by faith in Your blood, saints of heaven, children of God in the world of men. Breath Your Holy Spirit out on us here, and sanctify us by Your truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.


Throughout this Lenten season we’ve tried to imagine our Savior’s sufferings through the eyes of people who were actually there. Tonight, we try to picture the events that happened on the first Maundy Thursday through the eyes of the apostle John.

May the Holy Spirit bless our thoughts as we meditate on these events, as described for us in the Holy Word of God.

Luke 22:7-13 (NKJV)

7Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”
9So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”
10And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”
13So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.

Good evening. I was there in the upper room when Jesus celebrated His last Passover, and instituted the first Lord’s Supper. I am one of the original Twelve.

In fact, I was there in the upper room much earlier than the rest. Jesus had instructed Peter and I to make Passover preparations. So, on Thursday, that’s what we did.

Only Jesus knew where we were going to eat the Passover. And when He revealed it to Peter and I, He did so in a miraculous way. Only later did we understand why.

Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him that night, when no crowd was around. The Passover supper would have been the perfect time to do this. Everyone else was busy at their own suppers.

But Jesus would not have His Last Supper interrupted by a mob of priests and soldiers. He wanted to celebrate this meal in peace. Three years had passed and our Teacher still had more to tell us.

He especially wanted to further prepare us for the events that were so soon to overwhelm us and take Him from us. He wanted to give us what you still enjoy today, Holy Communion with the Son of God.

Peter and I found the man carrying the water jar, and followed him to the upper room. It was furnished, but not just with furniture. As was common at the time of the Passover, the owners of this house had also furnished their spare room with dishes and even some of the customary Passover foods.

The Passover is a meal of remembrance. It commemorates how Jehovah God freed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The foods on the Passover table have special meaning in connection with this.

The bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of slavery.

Charoseth was a mixture of nuts, raisins, apples and almonds that was suppose to look like the clay that our ancestors used to make Pharaoh’s bricks.

The unleavened bread remind us how hastily Israel had fled Egypt. When the time came, they couldn’t even wait for the morning bread to rise.

All these foods pointed our minds back to the first Passover. But the Passover lamb was by far the most important.

On the first Passover, God sent the angel of death through Egypt to strike dead the first born child of every house. But, if a perfectly healthy lamb had been butchered, and its blood painted on the door frame of a house, death passed over that house leaving its inhabitants alive.

A lamb was sacrificed, so that others might live. Everyone who ate the Passover meal in remembrance of these events had to eat part of the lamb.

So, Peter and I went to the sheep market and purchased a perfect, healthy, spotless lamb and took it to the Temple. There, as was customary, we joined the throng of others bringing their lambs into the court of the priests. That was the court just outside the sanctuary itself. There stood the great blazing altar where burnt sacrifices were offered.

Peter and I killed of the lamb ourselves, as a priest stood by to catch the lamb’s blood in a golden bowl. Then the blood was cast at the base of the altar.

When the lamb had been flayed and cleansed properly, we took it with us back to the upper room to roast it over the fire.

The blood of the lamb was not taken to the feast. That would have been detestable to any Jew. But when the wine was poured, one couldn’t help but think of that image. The blood of that perfect lamb, poured out to rescue God’s people.

Luke 22:14-18 (NKJV)

14When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

On Thursday evening, when the first three stars had appeared in the night sky, three trumpet blasts sounded from the Temple, and everyone knew that the day of Passover had begun. Now the meal could commence.

The Passover meal itself was a worship service and a supper in one. Three cups of wine were drunk throughout the supper. One at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end.

The unleavened cakes of bread were broken and part of one was reserved for the end of the meal. There were prayers and Psalms. There were ceremonial washings. At one point in the meal the youngest participant asked what all this ceremony meant, at all was explained. And there in the middle of all was the Passover lamb that all shared.

We didn’t sit in chairs around the dinner table like is the custom in your country. All these things took place around a low, rectangular, eastern table. We laid down, resting over a cushion, on our left side, leaving our right hand free to eat with.

It was common to seat the guests around the table in a horse-shoe shape, leaving one end of the table open. That way the servants didn’t have to step over the guests to serve them. They simply placed the dishes on the open end of the table and they were passed along as needed.

Jesus was the host of our Passover meal. He was seated with one person to His left and one to His right, on one end of the horse-shoe shape. The place to His left was the place of highest honor, the place that we all desired.

It’s sad to say, but we argued about who was the greatest on that night. In the end, Judas was seated to the left of Jesus, and I recline to His right. Across the open end of the table, Peter was seated at the other end of the horse-shoe shape.

The meal began with cup of wine that had been mixed with two-parts water. After it had been blessed and passed around among us all, Jesus got up and walked over to where the water for ceremonial washing was.

This came of no surprise to anyone. It was all part of the ritual. After the first cup of wine, the host went and washed his hands.

But, when Jesus returned dressed like a servant and began washing our feet, we didn’t know what to do. We were appalled. We just lay there, dumbstruck as Jesus made His way around the table, first washing, then drying our dirty feet.

Peter spoke up. Tried to get Jesus to stop. Jesus was our Master! Not our servant. After a few words from Jesus, Peter listened and let Him wash his feet also.

When He had put His regular clothes back on, He returned to His place. And said,

“…Do you understand what I have done for you?”… 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17 NIV).

I’ll tell you, we felt pretty ashamed. Moments before we were arguing about which one of us was the greatest. And now, the truly great one had washed our feet.

The Passover had always been a meal of remembrance, but that night it became a meal of revelation too. This was the first revelation: Jesus wanted His followers to serve each other in a spirit of love and humility. Jesus wants His followers to serve each other like He served us.

Matthew 26:21-24 (NIV)

21And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

The fact that Jesus wanted humble servants was not the only revelation of the night.

Our attention was focused on Jesus that night, even more so than usual. He was the Master. He was also the host of this Passover meal.

Sometime after we had begun to eat, Jesus began to look very upset. He told us the reason for His troubled heart, saying that one of us, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.

A spirit of somber depression settled on the table. We stared at each other, shocked that this could be so. But Jesus was never wrong. One after another we asked Jesus, “Surely not I, Lord?”. Surely not I!

From across the table I saw Peter motion to me. When I was paying attention he quietly hissed, “Ask him which one he means.”

As everyone was jawing away about how it certainly wasn’t them, I leaned back against Jesus, and asked, “Who is it?”

He said, “…It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped I in the dish…” (John 13:26 NIV).

And dipping a piece of bread into a bowl nearby, Jesus offered it to Judas.

Though we did not know it then, at the very moment that Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

No one else heard their hushed conversation. But I did. I was there reclining right next to Jesus, with Judas just on the other side of Him.

Judas said, “Surely not I, Rabbi”

Jesus responded quietly, “Yes, it is you. What you are about to do, do quickly.”

Then Judas got up and left the room. Only Peter and I knew why. Us, and Jesus. Everyone else assumed that he was going out to get something that had been forgotten, or to make some special Passover gift to the poor. He was after all, the treasurer of our little group.

Only later did we learn that Judas wasn’t spending money that night. He was making it. Thirty silver pieces for the Messiah. Thirty silver pieces to betray the Son of God.

But Jesus had known. He had known Judas’ heart just as surely as he knew ours. After Judas left Jesus taught us a lot more. He foretold how we would all abandon. Which we did, that very night even though we all said we’d rather die than abandon Him.

He even foretold how Peter would deny knowing Him THREE TIMES before the rooster crowed, that very night.

His words were true. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

Jesus knows your sinner’s hearts too. He knows the sinful thoughts that fill your mind. The sinful deeds that darker your every day. The words you say behind people’s backs. But He loves you anyway. In fact, He chose to suffer for your sins on the cross. Died so that you could live forever with Him in heaven. He even sends His Holy Spirit to show you these things in the Bible. And He even comes to you Himself, in the Lord’s Supper.

Mark 14:22-25 (NKJV)

22And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
23Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

I said earlier that the Passover was a meal of remembrance. Through it we Jews were reminded of the slavery of our ancestors, and the freedom that God had given us. We were reminded how a spotless lamb died so our ancestor’s children could live.

The Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance too. Jesus Himself told us to celebrate it in remembrance of Him. In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of our past slavery to sin, and the freedom that God has given us through His Son’s cross. We are reminded how the sinless Lamb of God died so that we might live with God, freed from sin and punishment forever.

You know, before I was a disciple of Jesus, I was a disciple of John the Baptizer. I was standing beside the Jordan River one day when John pointed at Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b NIV). Now I know exactly what He meant.

Jesus is God’s eternal Passover Lamb. Death cannot touch us now, because His blood marks us as God’s forgiven people.

But the Lord’s Supper is more than a meal of remembrance. It is also a meal of revelation. For in it, the depth of Jesus’ love is revealed. He allowed His body to be broken for us. He poured out His blood for us.

Jesus resurrection is also revealed in this Supper. It is His LIVING flesh and blood that you receive when you take the Lord’s Supper. For He is alive now, and forevermore.

And Jesus also reveals His love for YOU THE INDIVIDUAL in His Supper. For He comes to you SPECIFICALLY when you stand at His altar to receive the bread and wine.

Revelation 7:13-17 (NIV)

13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
16 Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Years after that Last Supper, when I was an old man, the Roman government banished me to the Island of Patmos because of my faith in Jesus. And while I was there, God gave me the visions which I recorded in the book of Revelation.

In one of the visions I saw a huge crowd of people robed in white. I found out that their robes were white because they had been washed in the blood of the Lamb. In the blood of my dear Savior, Jesus Christ.

And there He was in my vision, standing in the form of a Lamb. Leading His people to springs of living water in heaven.

I know, it’s not part of the things that I saw on the evening of Maundy Thursday. But I wanted you to hear it, because I think that’s what you should think of when you take the cup of blessing at the Lord’s Supper.

You’ve been made white, from head to foot, by the blood of the Lamb. The Holy, sinless Lamb of God. That Passover Lamb that was sacrificed once and for all on a rough Roman cross.

Think of those robes when you take the Lord’s body and blood with the bread and wine. Think of those white robes. His suffering makes you sinless in the sight of God the Father.

The Lord’s Supper is surely a supper of remembrance. It is a reminder of His suffering in our place and a revelation of His love and forgiveness. And because of Him, one day, you and I will sit down to feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb, in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Until that meal, cherish the one you have been given. Come to it often, and remember what it means. Robes of white now cover all your sins.

April 5, 2009

Christ's Crucifixion: His Glory, Our Salvation - Apr 5, 2009


Have you ever wished someone “good luck”, and felt slightly guilty about it? Being Christians, we understand that there is no such thing as “luck”. We believe that God guides the events of our lives, down to the smallest details. If we say, “good luck”, I think what we’re really expressing is our hope that things will go well for someone.

Proverbs 16:33 is a great passage dealing with “luck”. Listen to this:

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33 NIV).

This reminds us that God isn’t playing a cosmic game of roulette with the human race. He is wisely moving people and events according to His grand and loving plan.

Throughout my short life I’ve seen God’s preserving hand at work.

A devotion reading or a sermon topic unexpectedly addresses a problem that I’ve been struggling with - like it was written specifically for me.

An unexpected expense is suddenly resolved when an unforeseen check arrives in the mail. A check from the government, or a late birthday card from a friend that supplies almost exactly what was needed.

Little gifts like these have been continual reminders to me that my God is a great God. And He is not only watching over my life, but actively tending to my needs. Chance and luck are really just illusions constructed by my cloudy sinner’s mind.

And this truth applies to the suffering of Christ Jesus as well. It was no chance happenstance that put the Son of God into the hands of sinners to be condemned and crucified. He chose to do in time, what God the Father had planned from eternity.

When a soldier courageously throws himself on a live grenade to save his friends, his death is no unfortunate stroke of bad luck, it is a high and honorable act of loving service.

In the same way, Christ’s crucifixion was not a case of Jesus being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was His conscious choice to die for those He loved. Christ’s Crucifixion is His Glory, and Our Salvation.

We see this in our sermon reading for today from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (M 26:1-5, L 22:3-4, M 26:15b, L 22:5, M 26:15c, and L 22:6 combined with M 26:16):

1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5“But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Judas asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.
16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.


Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, humans have been born sinful. Unless something was done to fix our sin problem, every one of us would have doomed to spend eternity apart from God – in Hell.

So God the Son became human to suffer the punishment for our sins and make our forgiveness possible.

Even in His childhood, Jesus knew that this was His life’s purpose. When His earthly guardians found the boy Jesus in the Temple after a frantic three days of searching for Him, Jesus told them,

“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:29b).

Throughout His ministry, Jesus demonstrated that He knew very well that He would have to suffer greatly and die to complete His work of saving sinners. He not only accepted this as the culmination of His life’s work, He also communicated this necessity to His disciples and to others.

The very first time Jesus taught in the Temple He talked about His death and resurrection saying,

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV).

To Nicodemus Jesus spoke of His being lifted up on a cross when He said,

“4Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 NIV).

Jesus spoke of His time in the tomb when He taught,

“40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40 NIV).

He willingly offered His life for the world of sinners.

“51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51 NIV).

He gladly offered His life with His church in mind.

“11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NIV).

“…I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15 NIV).

Jesus’ disciples had been taught that the Messiah would be a glorious, ruling King. And indeed, that’s how many of the Old Testament prophecies refer to Him. But Jesus wanted them to understand that the Messiah was also to be a suffering servant, and His suffering would precede His glory.

So, when Peter confessed that he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Bible says,

“21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21 NIV).

After Peter, James and John had witnessed Jesus’ visible glory revealed on the mount of Transfiguration, Jesus told His disciples plainly,

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life” (Matthew 17:22-23 NIV).

And in the days just preceding His glorious entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus told them again,

“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18-19 NIV).

After His last week of teaching in the Temple, Jesus told the disciples once again that He would die soon. The second verse of our text reads,

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matthew 26:2).

In His final days, Jesus’ actions showed that the cross was His choice.

He willingly went into the viper’s den when He entered Jerusalem. All it’s leaders wanted Him dead. When they came to arrest Him He didn’t try to escape, He strode boldly to meet the mob. He stood silent and resolute in the face of ridiculous accusations.

The Man who miraculously walked on water, healed the sick and cast out demons refused to use His power to escape the cross. He even denied the numbing drink that they offered Him before they drove the nails through His precious hands.

The cross was a tool of torture and a symbol of painful, shameful death. But now it is our emblem of joy and life and forgiveness, all because He chose it – for us.


Most of our sermon reading speaks about the evil characters that were involved in the final condemnation and crucifixion of the Son of God.

We hear about Judas, the close friend of Jesus. His own chosen apostle. The one whose betrayal placed Jesus in the hands of the Chief Priests.

We hear about the Chief Priests and the elders of the people. Those men whose authority and power the people feared. Those men who plotted and carried out the murder of Jesus.

These men seem like major players in the drama of the Christ’s crucifixion. But, in reality they are little fish. They were but pawns in the hands of a greater entity.

We hear of Satan, who entered Judas and brought Him to the Chief Priests to barter a price for Jesus’ betrayal. Satan, who had been created by God as an angel of light. Satan, who long ago had chosen to rebel against His Creator, thus severing His connection to the Holy God forever. Satan, who was now wiser from millennia of dealing with mankind. Wiser from centuries of corrupting and tempting. Satan, who was no fool.

Satan knew all about God’s plan to save sinners. Though evil, he studied the Scriptures too. Knew them backward and forward so that he could misquote them for his own purposes. He knew that Jesus was going to the cross.

So, Satan poured all his energy into making Christ’s road to the cross as difficult as possible. If he could make the God-Man slip at just ONE point, the mission would fail. If he could cause Jesus to think just ONE thought of hatred. If he could cause Jesus to take ONE lustful glance. Tell ONE little white lie.

But through it all, God remained in control. Every evil word and deed and temptation spun from the Devil’s loom, God wove into the tapestry of His own perfect and good will.

As Satan raged against God’s Son, prophesy after prophesy fell fulfilled around him. God’s will was being done. The Father’s plan was being carried out by the Father’s Son. And soon the sacrifice of the eons would be made, and the doom of sinners would be erased. Let me share with you the Bible passage that I think Satan might hate the most:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

Judas was a mere pawn in the hands of the Chief Priests. The Chief Priests were mere pawns in the hands of Satan. But Satan was a mere pawn in the hands of God.


The salvation of sinful mankind was inevitable, even before the Adam and Eve sinned. The all seeing God knew the destruction that Satan would cause in His World, and to His people. So, God graciously provided a way for sinners to escape the hell that was to consume them. He bought back sinners from an eternity of suffering with the eternal currency of His Son’s blood.

Through the apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit wrote,

“18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God”(1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV).

Though Christ’s sacrifice in our place was inevitable, the salvation that it won can still be abandoned. Just as a delirious person can swim away from an unsinkable raft, we also can make the CHOICE to walk away from Jesus, and salvation.

The Chief Priests chose to reject Jesus. Judas chose to betray Him.

Do not abandon your Savior. He has never abandoned you. Through the dark times of your life, He has been at work shifting people and events for your ultimate good. Even when you have rejected His will by your sins and betrayed Him with your words, He has remained. He stands with His arms outstretched, calling us to His forgiving embrace.

With the outstretched arms of every cross you’ve ever seen He has calls out to you, saying,

I chose your suffering. I chose your death. Come to me, for I have chosen you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

April 1, 2009

I Was There: The Thief on the Cross - April 1, 2009

During His ministry, Jesus spent a lot of time with open sinners. He went to supper with thieving tax collectors and spoke with prostitutes. These were the people the Son of God came to save. Jesus Himself said,

“…the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11 NKJV).

Even in His last hours Jesus was surrounded by sinners. While suffering on the cross, to His left and to His right were men who had been condemned to die because of their sins against society.

Tonight we hear from one of these men. Tonight we hear the testimony of the Thief on the Cross.

Luke 23:39-43 (NIV)

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Thief on the Cross:

I was there alright. I was there on the hill they call Golgotha, the “place of the skull”. I was there when the soldiers drove the nails through His hands and raised Him up to hang just a few feet off the ground. I was there, already hanging on a cross of my own.

This may sound strange to you, but that day was the best day of my life. It was the day that I met my God and King. It was the day that salvation found me.

It hadn’t started out as a very good day. That I remember clearly. The Roman government had previously condemned me and another man to die by the long and painful death of crucifixion. Now the day of our execution had come.

I was angry and bitter. Not because I thought I deserved better. I knew that I deserved this because of the things I had done. I was a lost man. Wandering through life far from God.

I think I was mostly angry because I couldn’t do anything about my fate. There was no appeal to be made. If I didn’t die today, I was at least going to start the long and painful process of dying. And there was nothing that I could do about it. Nothing at all.

And then another Man was added to our number. Jesus.

I didn’t recognize Him, because I didn’t know Him. He hadn’t been in prison with us. He had been condemned to die just moments before.

I assumed that Jesus must have done something pretty terrible to receive such a quick and merciless condemnation. But I soon learned that wasn’t the case at all.

Jesus was innocent. A guilty man doesn’t act like He did.

First of all, He was silent. Though people treated Him roughly, spit in His face and said horrible things about Him, He wouldn’t defend Himself with a single word.

After we received our crosses - they make you carry your own to the crucifixion site. After we received our crosses and had travelled part of the way, Jesus was unable to go on.

He was in rough shape after being scourged by the soldiers and by the look of it, pummeled by a good many others along the way. He just ran out of strength. Dropped His cross. They had to get some bystander to carry it the rest of the way for Him.

That was when the women of the city came forward to mourn over Him. And that was when His strength came back. At least enough to talk. He sharply told them they shouldn’t be crying over Him, but for themselves and for their children, because terrible times were coming soon.

This was Jesus’ character. As far as He was concerned, it’s wasn’t all about Him, it was all about others. Everything He did was with someone else in mind.

When we finally reached “skull hill”, we had a short reprieve. The soldiers had to get things ready for us. And as they did, we were offered a gift. No, Really. They offered us a drink that, while it wasn’t very tasty, contained something to soften our pain.

But Jesus wouldn’t take it. No matter what the chattering rabble around us said, it was Jesus’ choice to be here. And He would feel everything with clear and un-numbed senses.

And He did. I can tell you, for I was there. Already up on my own cross. Looking down as they put one iron shaft through His right, and then another through His left. And drawing Him up beside me they drove the third nail through, securing Him to the little wooden perch below His feet.

Many in the crowd must have missed His words. But I heard them. Even though my hands and feet were on fire, and my whole body was quivering with shock, I heard Him. He prayed for the people who crucified Him.

That was Jesus. Always caring for others.

On that day I came to believe that Jesus cared about me too. I came to believe that He really was a King, and one who truly cared for His people.

Pontius Pilate had put on the little sign above Jesus’ head. It was supposed to be the sign that proclaimed His crime. But since Pilate had no charge for a man he had proclaimed innocent, He had them write, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”.

It was a cheap shot really. “Look how pathetic the Jews are, their king sits crucified on the throne of a cross”, that’s what Pilate meant.

But Pilate had unknowingly put the perfect title above Jesus. He WAS the King of the Jews, and of all people. He is the Messiah, the Savior sent from God. And He died so that sinners like me and you might be forgiven.

It took a while for the Spirit of God to get through to my sinner’s heart on that day. I’m sorry to say that before the Spirit led me to trust in Jesus, I said some nasty things to Him.

The place of crucifixion was near a major road that came into Jerusalem from the countryside. The Chief Priests and Scribes had come out to convince the people passing by that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. They stood there at our feet yelling things like,

“42’He saved others,’ …‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”’” (Matthew 27:42-43 NIV).

Their hateful words spread like wildfire. The people who had stopped to see what was going on heard them and joined in.

The soldiers assigned to our crosses joined in too.

And so did we.

I jeered and mocked Jesus, just like everyone else. And that’s what makes Him all the more amazing in my eyes. I made fun of my Savior. I blasphemed God the Son, and He forgave me. Died to save me.

You might think that there’s some sin that you’ve done that Jesus can never forgive. But you’re wrong. Look at me. I was a condemned criminal with a mouth full of blasphemy, and Jesus took me and made me His own. Jesus forgave my sins. Turn from your sins, He’s waiting to forgive you.

After I had joined in with the crowd for a while I stopped. It was partly the pain of speaking, but it was something else too. Things began to click together in my mind. All I had ever heard about the Messiah. All that I had seen Jesus do and say on that day.

I became very sorry for the things I had yelled at Him. And not just sorry because it was a crummy thing, insulting a dying man. I was sorry to say these hurtful words to Jesus because I realized – He really is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

So, yes, I told the other thief to be quiet. And I asked Jesus to remember me when He came into His kingdom. But the words that really matter here are the ones He said back to me. He said,

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV).

From that moment on it didn’t matter if the people below made me the subject of their insults. He said I would be with Him in Paradise. Today. Today He said.

He cares for you too. He wants you in Paradise also. He wants everyone to know He is their Savior. He wants everyone to trust in Him with their whole heart and be saved.

Things got darker from then on. And I don’t just mean our suffering. The soldiers had gotten their lunches out below us when the sun’s light began to dim.

It was then that I percieved that Jesus was suffering more than I was. Sure, we were both skewered to crosses in the same way, but He was not merely bleeding out His life with each precious drop of blood. Something was being poured into His soul that none of us could imagine. Wave after wave of some unseen and scorching fire was being directed His way.

The agony on His face was so terrible that I almost wasn’t sure if this was the same Man who had been put on the cross those few hours previous. And for three whole hours, until three in the afternoon, this horror continued beside me.

At the pinnacle of His suffering I heard Him speak again. Out of the darkness I heard Him say,

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” In your language that means,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 NIV).

The soldiers below thought He was talking to Elijah, but I heard Him right. He was talking to God. And God wasn’t hearing Him. God had left Him.

Jesus was in Hell. Completely separated from God. All those unseen waves had buried Him in the ocean of suffering that is Hell. And part of those acid waters were from my sins. The punishment for MY SINS was on Him.

I could try to describe the pains of crucifixion to you, but I could only try. Some things have to be experienced to be truly known. But know this, you will never have to experience the pains of Hell like He did, Jesus suffered your Hell as He hung beside me.

It’s all done now. I heard Him say so myself.

It wasn’t long after that that He surfaced from the ocean of suffering. I know because He finally asked for something for Himself. He said,

“I thirst” (John 19:28 NIV).

And when the soldiers below lifted up a sponge of wine vinegar to Him, He moistened His lips and said,

“It is finished!” (John 19:30 NIV).

And with a loud and triumphant voice He cried out,

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV).

Hold onto those words, you who still have breath in your lungs. The price required to redeem you from your sins has been paid. All of it. It is finished. Recognize that your forgiveness is free, because Jesus paid for it.

Some people forget that whenever forgiveness is given, it comes at a price. When a man forgives some debt that is owed to Him, He takes the hit in His own pocketbook. When God forgave you your debt, God the Son, took the hit in His own soul. And by His hell, yours has been swallowed up. By His death, you have been given eternal life.

I know, because I was there. But more important for you, He was there. Even if they re-write all the history books, nothing can change the truth that HE WAS THERE FOR YOU. And because He was, your sins stand forgiven, now and forever.

I told you earlier that the day I was crucified was the best day of my life. Sounds strange I know, but I hope you understand why I can say that now.

But in truth, it was only the best day of my life – to that point. For that was back when I was still in the Old World.

Now I live with God, and He with me. I am His child, and He is my Father. He has wiped away all my tears and I no longer know what death and crying and pain is. For me, the old order of things is gone. Now all is newness and life. (see Revelation 21:3-5)

Now I know what Paradise means.

I was there. But because of Jesus, now I’m here.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13 NIV).

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.