Category Archives: Easter

One Righteous Act

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14, ESV)

If Jesus were to ask that same question today, the answers might be, a religious leader, a healer, or even a fake. He is often put on a level with Mahatma Gandhi as an advocate of peace; with Mother Teresa as a bringer of love; with Mohammed as a prophet. Most people who have any understanding of the historical Jesus say that he was, at the very least, a good teacher.

C.S. Lewis, of course, seeks to dispel that misconception by his famous “Lord, liar, or lunatic” argument (see the Preface to his book, Mere Christianity). His basic argument: given the incredible claims Jesus made about himself, he could only be a deluded lunatic, a pathological liar…or exactly who he said he was: Lord.

There is no doubt that Jesus was what so many believe of him: a good teacher, a prophet, a healer. He epitomized love for the outcast and spoke wisdom that shut the mouths of religious and political authorities alike. But if that is all he was, his impact on the world is all but over and done. Sure, his followers (most, anyway) continue to promote his message of love and peace, continue to seek the good of their communities and the world. But that’s about it. Hope ends there.

Recently I came across this verse: “…through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone.” (Romans 5:18, Christian Standard Bible)

For some reason, those three words—one righteous act—stopped me in my tracks. Just one thing made the difference between a good but ultimately meaningless life, and a life of ultimate purpose and eternal impact.

What was that one righteous act? His death. The cross. 

Sit with that thought for a few moments. It is, after all, Good Friday—the day Christians around the world remember Jesus’ sacrifice. We look forward to Easter, of course, but you can’t get to Resurrection Sunday without going through Good Friday. Or silent Saturday, a day of grieving, wondering, waiting…for God knows what? So just sit with the reality of the cross, of a torturous death.

Sit with the truth that, but for Jesus’ sacrifice, we would have no hope beyond this life (which, you have to admit, has been challenging the past few years). Just one righteous act made possible justification leading to life for everyone. Life. Justification—a big word that simply means the slate has been wiped clean.

Jesus’ one righteous act demands just one righteous act in return. To lay claim to that gift—life, justification—you need only believe.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10, CSB)

Just one righteous act.

Holy Week – Expectations

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Colorado Late WinterAs I write, I am sitting in a hospital in Colorado Springs, waiting while my dad is prepped for surgery to replace a valve in his heart. We are two days into spring and in the middle of Holy Week.

All of this—the hospital, the surgery, the season, the church calendar—points to one thing: expectations.

Outside the windows I can seek majestic Pikes Peak, peppered with late snow. Between me and the mountain are brown grasses and the bare branches of trees that haven’t quite begun to show the green buds of spring…but they will soon, in spite of tomorrow’s forecast snow.

Down the hall, my father is getting ready for a procedure that will give him new life; he is even anticipating the very real possibility of getting back on the ski slopes that he said goodbye to a year ago.

Jesus, at this point of Holy Week, is still being hailed as a conquering hero. His followers then—and we today—are still anticipating great things from God.

Hospitals and Holy Week, surgeries and Spring. All offer hope. And yet all also bring uncertainty. People die in hospitals. Surgeries fail. Spring (especially in Colorado) can quickly be hidden by late snows. And Holy Week reaches an apparent climax at a cross-topped hill.

But the hope and the uncertainty are held in tension by something stronger than both: faith in a good and sovereign God.

This Holy Week—this Spring—will you look forward in faith?

Holy Week

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Holy Table SettingHoly Week—what is it? We tend to focus more on the second word, week, than the first; for many, a legitimate synonym to Holy Week is Spring Break, with all the connotations that phrase carries. But what is Holy Week? And why is it holy?

Holy isn’t just about righteous living, and it certainly isn’t just about religious living. Holy means “set apart for sacred purposes.” It is a distinction between the common and the sacred, the ordinary and the God-focused. Perhaps the best picture is the difference between the dishes and silverware we use every day and that special set we bring out only at holidays or for special guests: the wedding china and the silverware.

Holy Week is so much more than spring break, so much more than just a week off school. It is a week set apart for the sacred purpose of drawing near to God; of setting the table of our heart with the good china and inviting Christ to dine with us each day.

“Behold, I—Christ—stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and will dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Will you make today holy? Will you set apart this day, this week, for Jesus Christ? Will you set your table for Him?

Resurrection Stories

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Peter’s Story

Fear bred denial.
Denial gave way to loss.
Loss brought forth doubt, disillusionment, confusion.
Then, a glimmer of hope…but only a glimmer.

Mary came running, breathlessly exclaiming “I’ve seen the Lord!”

Could it be? Fear mingles now with a breath of hope, and suddenly, there he is! No turn of the key, no opening of the door – he’s just…there!

A greeting of peace; a cryptic breath about the Holy Spirit, and then…more waiting.

A day passes. Another. Six days, and we’re beginning to think it was just the shock of the crucifixion; that we hadn’t really seen him at all. But then again, just as before, he’s there with us!

Again, the greeting: “Peace be with you.” This time he focuses on Thomas, who didn’t believe we’d seen him – and whose doubt we were beginning to carry, to be honest with you. He invites Thomas to touch his scars; he holds his hands out to all of us, but we believe…at least, I think we do.

It’s been a while now, though. The days pass as in a fog. Was that it? Is it all over now? What happens next? What do we do?

We stayed in the house for a while – partly from fear of the Jews and the Romans, and partly because that’s where He has shown himself twice before. But as the days pass we’ve begun to venture out more. Finally the monotony is too much. We have to do something. I have to do something. “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll go with you.”

Seven of us, fishermen all, prepare the boat. It feels good to be back on the water, back among the nets and ropes and smells that I grew up with. To hear the creak of the oars in their locks, the gentle lapping of the water at the hull.

But something doesn’t seem quite right. I’ve been in this boat a thousand times, spent hours beyond count on this very lake, but something’s different. Something’s wrong, but I just can’t put my finger on it.

The night – and the nets – drag on, each as empty as the other. Have the fish moved? Have I forgotten so quickly the best spots? We’ve tried the deeps and the shallows, the coves and the open waters, all to no avail. But the nagging sense that I – not just the boat, but I myself – am in the wrong place tempers what frustration I should be feeling at the futility of our night’s efforts.

And then, with a faint glimmer of sun barely visible over the low eastern hills, a voice comes from the near shore: “Children, do you have any fish to eat?”

“No.”

“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

There’s something familiar about that voice, those words. Too tired to argue, to hungry to not try, we haul in the empty nets from the port side and throw them to the starboard. Scarcely have they hit the water before they fairly drag the boat backward. Fish!

Straining against the sudden weight, John, always the perceptive one, always the first to recognize, identifies the stranger on the shore: “It’s the Lord!” he gasps.

With an eagerness that surprises even me, I grab my cloak and dive in, half swimming, half wading the hundred yards. I need to see him, to hold him, to have just two minutes alone with him. What will he say? The last time our eyes met was when that rooster crowed; in the house I couldn’t look at him, though I felt his gaze burning into my soul.

———————— 

Our Story 

Denial. Doubt. Disillusionment.

They weigh us down like an anchor. In spite of our calling to something new, we retreat to the comfort of the old and familiar. But something doesn’t feel right anymore. If we’re lucky (or perceptive), we realize that we can’t go back. I remember the pain of that realization the Christmas after graduating from high school. Six months after leaving, I was back at home…and surprised to learn that life had gone on quite well without me.

But Peter’s absence wasn’t just from home or family or job. He had left those things three years earlier, but his triple denial had separated him even from the One for whom he had abandoned all.

The doubt and disillusionment may be with Jesus – or it may be with ourselves. Like Peter, our doubt may be about our own unworthiness to serve the master. Will he really accept me, after I denied him? Can he really forgive me?

But as with Peter, the master – Jesus – stands by the shore and calls to us. Hungry as we are for purpose and meaning and love, he waits for us with a warm fire and a meal of grace. Whether we dive in to get to him
or row patiently, ploddingly, he waits, ready.

No matter how – or how often – we have denied him, Jesus forgives.
It is not an easy forgiveness, for Jesus or for us. It cost him his life; it costs us our pride…and our lives, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:24)

And it is not a painless forgiveness, for Jesus or for us. He suffered untold horrors on his way to buying our redemption. For our part, we would just as soon move on from our denial – to leave it in the past and forget it there.  But Jesus won’t allow that; as Michael Card writes:

Jesus is not only the perfect Savior; he is also the perfect Friend. And here he demonstrates perfectly what friendship entails. He has commanded [the disciples] to forgive; now he will perfectly demonstrate it. His painful questions are meant to restore Peter to his proper place. Painful as the questions are, they are an expression of Jesus’ creative forgiveness. Jesus’ questions open a wound in Peter’s soul, a wound that can be tended to and healed only by being reopened. (Michael Card, A Fragile Stone, pp. 124-5)

This morning as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, his victory over death, we also invite the pain of his healing forgiveness. As symbols of the pain he endured to purchase that forgiveness, we share together the bread and wine of communion, the Lord’s Supper.

“Do you love me more than these?”
            Eat my body.

“Do you love me?”
            Drink my blood.

“Do you love me?”
            Follow me.

With each question, the surgeon’s knife cut more deeply into Peter’s pain.
With each answer, the infection of his denials is removed.
With each new commission, Jesus sutures the wounds, reassuring Peter – and us – of his forgiveness and acceptance.

Today, this Easter morning, accept Jesus’ forgiveness.
Today, join in the resurrection story by accepting the new life that only Jesus can offer.