“Gone Fishin’, Be Back at Dark-Thirty!”

Gone Fishin'

The plaque above, from http://www.QuotesDonkey.com, is similar to the one I gave my brother-in-law. He loves to fish. Being on a boat, in the middle of a lake, with its peaceful natural surroundings, casting a fishing line now and then, with only an occasional cooing of birds breaking the silence of the early morning, is a very serene thing to do for those who like to fish. My sister’s husband likes to fish on the Quabbin Reservoir.

Fishing on the Quabbin

Most people, I would say, go fishing for the calm tranquility it brings to them. I believe this is the same reason why Peter and the other disciples went fishing. Peter and the disciples just went through a week filled with experiencing a wide range of emotions; from confusion to chaos, from terror to triumph, from feelings of unshakable loyalty to fearfully lying and retreating. Peter, out of all the disciples wore his emotions on his sleeves. He must have been exhausted and a bit confused with what the future would bring. Most of us, after going through a rollercoaster of emotions, turn to some type of normalcy. For instance, after my mom’s Funeral, I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come to just get lost in watching a football game. I was too exhausted to go to church, but there were the football playoffs; something I normally watch on a Sunday in January. I believe Peter wanted to do something he was familiar with, something he knew like the back of his hand. That’s why he went fishing and allowed others to join him (See John 21:1-3). Peter liked to fish on the Sea of Tiberius [or Galilee]

fish at Seea of Tiberias.Peter Saved by Jesus

While they were fishing all night and caught nothing, early in the morning the disciples heard a familiar voice calling from shore. It was Jesus asking them: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” and they answered, “No” and Jesus told them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some” (John 21:5-6). When Peter heard those words and saw the enormous catch of fish they had just caught, he recognized that it was the Lord Jesus, so he got dressed and swam to shore (See John 21:6b-7). Peter was not going to try walking on water this time (See John 6:16-21)! The other disciples rowed the boat to shore and saw that it was Jesus waiting for them, with a “fire of burnings coals there with fish on it, and some bread” (John 21:9). With all this happening – Jesus appearing to them a third time after His resurrection and cooking breakfast for them – someone counted the catch to be 153 fish (See John 21:11-14). Maybe one of the un-named disciples was Matthew, who wasn’t into fishing as he was into numbers, since his former job was that of a tax collector. I’m just guessing.

beach with Jesusfish net

There have been many sermons preached on Jesus making a point to talk with Peter, after that special breakfast on the beach. I have heard that Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” because Jesus wanted to let Peter know that his three denials of Him, before He was crucified, were forgiven (See Luke 22:54-62). Other sermons emphasized that while Jesus used the word “agapao” for “love”, which describes God’s perfect love for men, Peter used the word “phileo” for “love”, meaning a close friendship type of love (From “JOHN: The Gospel of Belief” by Merrill C. Tenney, p290-293). Still other preachers focus of what Jesus meant when He asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15b). Was Jesus talking about the fish or the other disciples or what? Then, there are Jesus’ three commands to Peter: “Feed my lambs” (v. 15b), “Take care of my sheep” (v.16b) and “Feed My sheep” (v. 17b). I believe that Jesus was helping Peter to focus. Maybe Peter had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or something like that (just a theory). Jesus was telling Peter that he had to love Jesus completely, in order to carry out His mission of spreading His GOOD NEWS to new disciples, as well as help the disciples already with him to grow and mature.

FISHING NET AND JESUSPeter and Jesus on Beach

Personally, the most important part of the conversation Jesus had with Peter on the beach is in John 21:18-22: “‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you don’t want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’”

blogging2bed with Tulip 1

This is a very powerful and personal portion of Scripture for me. If I read it as though Jesus is talking to me, it sounds like He is describing my disability and what is going to happen to me as I age. Even now, I used to be able to walk, but now I need to use a wheelchair. Even now, I need more help dressing and I’ll need even more help later on in life. Even now, someone brings me to doctor appointments, something I’d rather not be doing, but there will be more of these appointments as I age. When I read this portion of Scripture, I think of the elderly in nursing homes and pray that their dignity will not be stripped away from them. I might find myself in that situation someday.

Christ's Love

It is true that Peter died a martyr’s death. Some say that he asked to be crucified up-side-down because he did not feel worthy to die the same kind of death as his Savior. I am pretty sure I will not be called to glorify God by dying a martyr’s death, but I am called to glorify God with my cerebral palsy and with the aging of my body parts that do not work as well as they used to. I can glorify God by being kind to others who are serving me, being gracious to those who don’t know how to handle my disability, and by being a good listener. I can glorify God by using His wisdom that “gives patience” and “overlooks an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). I can glorify God by praying that, in whatever state I find myself in, it will bring me closer to the Cross of Christ, and for the same attitude Christ had in suffering, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).

a pleasant worddifficulties

I must admit, I am not there yet. I do not like to suffer, even if it means I will have a better understanding of what Jesus went through for me. I’m like Peter pointing at John, “Lord what about him?” (v. 21). Why does he go his merry way? Why can’t you give some of my suffering to him? Or, I’m like Tevye, in “Fiddler on the Roof”: “[If I were not disabled,] Lord Who made the lion and the lamb; You decreed I should be what I am. Should it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were [an able-bodied woman]?” Yes, I am not there yet, but with God‘s help and a lot of prayer, I‘m getting closer to where God wants me to be: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God‘s will for you in Christ Jesus”
(I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Peter and Jesus on BeachGod Sees Us as

Peter deserves more praise than we give him. What would I do if Jesus told me that following Him meant hardship, imprisonment and eventual execution? Peter chose to follow his Lord and Savior, no matter the cost. Some may think Peter really didn’t know that Jesus was talking about his death, but II Peter 1:13-14 tells us he did understand: “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus has made it clear to me.” In his first letter to the same group of Christians, Peter encouraged them as Jesus encouraged him while walking on the beach:

imagesCATZNBNU

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (I Peter 5:2-4).

There’s nothing like taking a fishing trip to renew the mind, body and soul!

“CAST all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7)

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Lydia

Will the Real Pessimist Please Lighten Up?!

SWIRL THE WINEEore 2

We all know people who see the glass half-empty and have a “dark cloud” hovering over them and can think of all the reasons why something CAN‘T be done. We say, “Isn’t this a beautiful day?! And they answer, “It’s going to rain tomorrow.“ I knew someone that would say, “You better not laugh too much because tomorrow you’ll be crying.“ Once, I commented to a friend that my hanging plant was doing well and maybe it would bloom all summer. She replied, “These flowers don’t usually work that way.“ I thought to myself, “Thanks for bursting my bubble.“ Then, I said to her, “Maybe this plant will surprise us.” And it did produce flowers all summer. To be truthful, I can be a “half-empty” kind of person, if I’m not careful.

Eore

Jesus’ disciple Thomas sounds like a pessimistic type person. I can hear him talking in an Eeore-monotone-draggy voice. Eeore is the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons, who always sees disaster lurking around the corner and has a very low opinion of himself. We first hear Thomas in John 11:16, when Jesus wants to go to Jerusalem because His friend Lazarus has died. Jesus is already in trouble with the religious leaders and a mob had already tried to stone Him twice (See John 8:59 and 10:31-33). Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16b). Another time, when Jesus says to all his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4). Jesus said this after He told His disciples that He was going to be glorified by His Father and would not be with them for much longer (See John 12-13). After all this, “Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’” (John 14:5).

Christ's pierced

Next, we learn that Thomas isn’t with the rest of the disciples when Jesus appears to them after His Resurrection. When Thomas finally joins the disciples Jesus has already left, but they tell him that they have seen the Lord (See John 20:24-25a). Thomas refuses to believe them and says, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger in His side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25b). Where was Thomas? Why did he doubt that Jesus rose from the dead, just as He said He would? Before we judge Thomas, let’s read what Homer A. Kent Jr. writes in his book, LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS: Studies in the Gospel of John, (p. 222): “The reason for [Thomas’] absence the previous week is not explained by John…It should be noted that Jesus did not rebuke him for his absence. Perhaps Thomas preferred to be alone with his grief.” Also, Merrill C. Tenney writes in his book, JOHN: The Gospel of Belief, (p.284): “[Thomas] was naturally of a pessimistic temperament as his previous utterances showed (11:16, 14:5), and his doubt seems to have been the product of his pessimism rather than a lack of confidence in Jesus Himself. After all, he knew that Jesus had died, and he could say, ‘The worst has happened just as I said it would.’” I also think Thomas was on his guard against being terribly disappointed and having his heart crushed again.

encouragementb. kneeing in prayer

Jesus met Thomas on his terms. John records, “A 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!’ Then 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.’ Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘My Lord and My God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:26-29).

a pleasant wordWORSHIP

Jesus is always willing to meet each one of us where we are and speak words of comfort and grace and to turn our doubts into faith and worship, as He did for Thomas. For those of us who have not seen Jesus and yet believe in Him, we have also been met by Jesus and have been touched by His pierced hands. Jesus calls us “blessed” and that we are! I do not believe Thomas had to put his fingers into Jesus’ hands or his hand into Jesus‘ side. Kent Jr. writes, “It is not stated whether or not [Thomas] still felt it necessary to handle the body of Jesus, although the subsequent words of Jesus may imply that ‘seeing’ was enough to satisfy him (20:29). But he did make to Jesus the greatest confession of any in the room: ‘My Lord and My God!’ The reality of the resurrection had satisfied the unresolved questions of a demanding Thomas” (p. 223).

believe god's love

Tenney writes, “The fact that [Jesus] knew what Thomas had said when He was not present was convincing proof of His supernatural knowledge, and His willingness to accept Thomas on his own terms was a marvel of condescension and compassion…All his unbelief vanished as he worshipped. For a Jew to salute another man, however he might revere him, as ‘Lord and God’ (28) could only mean that he had come to the point of worshipping Him as deity. The resurrection made the difference between the skepticism of despair and the worship which brings certainty. Thus belief in a risen Christ made a mourner into a missionary, a penitent into a preacher, the bereaved friend into an apostle of love, a timid and shrinking coterie of disciples into the fearless heralds of a new movement, and a doubter into a confessor. With the confession of Thomas, JOHN reached the high peak of belief: faith can rise no higher than when it avows Jesus of Nazareth to be its Lord and God” (p. 284).

As Jesus said it to Thomas, He is saying it to us: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27b).

christ's anointed with expensive perfume

How do we remember Thomas? Sadly, most of us remember the bad things people do. A person can lead an extempore life, but make one horrible mistake and, from that point on, be remembered for that one mistake. I see it in the sports world and, sadly, I see it in myself when I am left to my own human devices. Most of us remember Thomas as that “doubting Thomas“. Jesus knows the same Thomas as the Thomas who made the Great Confession: “My Lord and My God!” I believe this is true because of what Jesus said about the “sinful” woman who poured costly perfume on Jesus head and washed His feet with her tears. Matthew 26:10-13 reads, “Aware of this, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for Me…When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’” [See also Luke 7:36-50]

SWIRL THE WINE

Do you see Thomas as “Doubting Thomas” or the disciple who confessed, “My Lord and my God”? Do you see the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus as a “wasteful sinner” or a “believer who loved Jesus extravagantly”? Do you see me as a “disabled woman” or as a “woman named Lydia who loves Jesus and enjoys watching sports, eating gourmet food with just the right wine complement the meal, and writing about her ‘look on life’ and how God works in subtle and miraculous ways”? How do you view your neighbors, co-workers, relatives, people you meet everyday? Will the real pessimist please lighten up?! And that includes ME!

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(My nephew and I on Annual

Before-Easter ROAD TRIP)

Peace,

Lydia

“Jesus Has Risen and So Have the Rolls!”

bread rolls

On Easter morning, my friend sent the above text message to her aunt, along with a photo of the rolls she had just taken out of the oven. The morning sun glistened on these delectably looking, mouth-watering rolls. She used her mom’s recipe, who was her aunt’s sister. I am sure her aunt believed that she was looking at rolls her niece had just baked. She had no reason to doubt. Still, she had to have faith that her niece was telling the truth because she wasn’t with her niece to see and smell and touch and taste and hear the “Mmms” from the guests eating the rolls firsthand. In a way, believing that God raised Jesus from the dead takes that same kind of faith in the Father fulfilling His Promise to us. Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen indeed! We were not there to see Him rise, but we have faith that it is the “Gospel Truth!” This brings us great joy – “MEGA-JOY”, as a former pastor of mine described the joy Christians share during Christmas and Resurrection Sunday.

empty tombgospels

Jesus rising from the dead is a Fulfilled Promise I accept by faith. However, some Christians try to present the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a “proven fact” and “more” than something believed by faith. During my first three or four years of my Christian walk, I heard the same sermon every Easter. I even had a tract about why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a proven historical fact (I think written by Josh McDowell) and not only God’s promise fulfilled and believed by faith. Every Easter Sunday, I heard the same sermon about the “Swoon Theory” and the “Hallucination Theory” and the “Impersonation Theory” and the “Spiritual Resurrection Theory” and the “Unknown Tomb Theory” and the “Stolen Body Theory” and how all these theories were bogus. I heard the pastor refute every theory with the help of psychology, biology and Scripture.

jesus has risenOT SCROOLS

But, what about FAITH? What about believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because the Bible says that it happened? If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ could be proven by historical artifacts, psychology and biology or any other human intellectual rationale, we would not need faith. Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Verse 6 adds, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believes that He exists and tht He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a MIRACLE. A “miracle” is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by nature or any scientific laws and is thereby considered to be the work of a divine agency (‘the miracle of rising from the grave’)” [from a Google search]. Christians believe that this “divine agency” is the Triune God. I believe in miracles and that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle that cannot be scientifically or otherwise humanly proven. I believe that Jesus rose again by the faith God gave me to believe in Him and to believe that His Word, the Bible, is true.

This is what the Gospels say about the First Resurrection Sunday:

Jesus with two angels

The women disciples of Jesus are the first to discover the empty tomb and to see the Risen Lord. They go to the tomb early Sunday morning and find the huge stone rolled away from the entrance and the tomb empty. The angels tell Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome that Jesus has risen from the dead, just as He said He would! The angels declare, “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!” They run to tell Peter and James and they also go to see the empty tomb. (See Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10).

Jesus with Mary

Mary Magdalene, the woman that Jesus healed of seven demons, was the first to see Jesus alive! Mary stayed at the tomb, while Peter and the others go home. She sees someone she thinks is a gardener and pleads with Him to tell her where Jesus’ body has been taken. It is when Jesus says, “Mary” that she recognizes that it is Jesus! (See Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18). Jesus meets the other women on their way back to the tomb. He instructs them to go and tell His disciples that they will see Him in Galilee. (See Matthew 28:9-10)

Christ's tomb guardedempty tomb

When the guards who were stationed at the tomb reported what had happened, the chief priests bribed them to say that the disciples stole the body. They also said that they would make sure they didn’t get into trouble with their superiors. The rumor of the stolen body spread among the Jews (Matthew 28:11-15).

bread
Jesus appears to two disciples and to Simon Peter. Mark briefly mentions this encounter, while Luke goes into detail of how Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples do not recognize Him while they walk and listen to Him explain how all the Scriptures point to the Messiah. It is only when they are eating and He breaks bread with them that they recognize Him, and He vanishes. They go and tell the other disciples that “THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!” They also say that Jesus has appeared to Simon [Peter] as well. (See Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35)

God Sees Us as

Jesus appears to ten disciples, in Thomas’ absence. He says to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus exhorts them for not believing the reports of His resurrection. He begins to prepare them to preach the Gospel – the GOOD NEWS – and build His Church. When Thomas returns and hears Jesus came to them, he says he will not believe it unless he sees and touches Jesus wounds for himself. (See Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25)

gatitude3Jesua, heart, sand

“JESUS HAS RISEN! JESUS HAS RISEN INDEED!” I cannot prove it, but I believe it with all my heart because, just like freshly baked rolls, I have tasted God’s goodness in saving a sinner like me.

breadSWIRL THE WINE

“Taste and see that the Lord is
Good;
Blessed is the [person] who takes
Refuge in Him.”
(Psalm 34:8)

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and [anyone] who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

risen lordimagesCAM8G25Y

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
(By Charles Wesley)

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns, and earth reply: Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death is now your sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Do you believe this?

(I forgot to mention that the Lenten Season ended on Maundy Thursday – forty days from Ash Wednesday. I hope no one is starving.)

Peace be with you.

The Lyd

Lydia

“GOOD” Friday

good friday6

“GOOD” Friday is the most solemn day on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. It is the day we remember Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. It was a day like no other. It was the day that changed the world. It was that day that changed me forever. Why do Christians call this day “GOOD”?

On the first “Good” Friday, Judas tried to undo his betrayal of Jesus by returning the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests. But it was too late. He threw the money into the temple and went and hanged himself. The chief priests decided to use the money for the “Potter’s Field”, a graveyard for strangers. (Matthew 27:3-10)

Christ before the SanhedrinChrist before Pilate

The chief priests took Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judaea. Pilate asks Jesus if He is “the King of the Jews” and Jesus says, “It is as you say”. Jesus stops answering questions, at this point, regarding the accusations against Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Pilate about Himself and His kingdom. He tells Pilate He has come to “bear witness to the truth.“ Pilate asks the age-old question, “What is truth?”. Jesus answered that question for His disciples, in John 14:6: “I am the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Pilate finds no reason to put Jesus to death, but the chief priests press him. (Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38)

When Pilate heard that Jesus was a Galilean, he jumped at the opportunity to “pass the buck” and sends Jesus to Herod, the tetrach of Galilee. Herod was in Jerusalem at the time. Herod wanted Jesus to perform miracles for him, but Jesus kept silent. Herod’s soldiers mocked Jesus, dressed Him in a purple robe and sent Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:6-12)

cross, crown, nailsChrist's Love

Pilate tried to release Jesus because he did not see Jesus guilty of death. In the Gospel of Matthew, it tells of Pilate’s wife having a disturbing dream about Jesus and warns Pilate not to have anything to do with Him. According to the custom of releasing a prisoner during the Passover Feast, Pilate tries to persuade the crowd that has gathered outside to release Jesus. The chief priest incite the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist, and shout for Jesus to be crucified. The Gospel of Luke records that “their voices prevailed”. John’s Gospel tells how Jesus is scourged and given a crown of thorns, and Pilate presents Him to the crowd, saying, “Behold, the Man!” This does not appease the crowd. They shout even louder, “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!” Matthew records Pilate washes his hands and gives over the bloodguilt to the crowd. He releases Barabbas and hands Jesus over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16)

Christ to CalveryChrist mocked by soldiers

The entire Roman cohort took Jesus to the Praetorium and stripped Him of His clothes, Gave Him a purple robe, a crown of thorns and a reed for a staff. They spit at Him, beat Him and mocked Him shouting, “Hail, Kind of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:27-30; Mark 15:16-19). After beating Him, the soldiers took the robe, gave back His clothes and led Him to Golgotha (“the Place of the Skull) to be crucified. They had Simon of Cyrene help carry His cross. Hanging on the cross, Jesus refused wine mixed with gall [berry from a poppy plant]. (Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:16-17)

Christ Crucified

As Jesus hung on the cross, with nails that pierced His hands and His feet, between two thieves, the soldiers cast lots for His garments and all the people mocked Him. The sign nailed on top of His cross read, “JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Luke’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke also records Jesus forgiving the thief who believes in Him. On the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!“ (He is reciting Psalm 22), as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells “the disciple Whom He loved” [John] to take care of His mother Mary. In Luke, Jesus says, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” John also records Jesus saying, “It is finished.” When Jesus died, the earth grew dark; the curtain in the temple, which hid the Holy of Holies, was torn in two; and many of the dead were raised from their graves and came back to life. Matthew’s Gospel records a centurion declaring, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:35-56; Mark 15;24-41; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:18-30)

Christ's burial

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council who did not approve of Jesus’ death, who was a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He is helped by Nicodemus, and they wrap Jesus’ body in linen and spices weighing one hundred pounds and lay Him in a new tomb. Some of the women disciples were also at the tomb and saw where He was laid. (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-42)

encouragement

Did we get to the “GOOD” part of “GOOD Friday” yet? I am going to let one of my Favorite “GOOD Friday” hymns answer that question:

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
(By Paul Gerhardt)

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns Thy only crown:
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn,
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior; ’tis I deserve Your place;
Look on me with Thy favor, assist me with Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee. Amen.

Christ's myhhr 2Christ's tomb guarded

Before the Sabbath began, the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body the next day (Luke 23:55-56). The chief priests asked for a guard to be placed at Jesus’ tomb because they were afraid His disciples would steal the body. Pilate agreed and posted guards at the tomb, and had them set a seal on the stone in front of the tomb.

church buildings

But wait! There’s more to why “GOOD Friday” is so GOOD. It has to do with the GOOD NEWS that comes on Sunday! I encourage all of you to go to church tomorrow, the most JOYOUS Sunday on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. If you don’t have a church and live in the Northampton area, I invite you to come to the College Church. You can look us up at thecollegechurch.org. If you come, please come and say “HI” to me. I’m the one who brings my own chair and have a big smile on my face.

Because He Lives,

The Lyd

Lydia

“Maundy Thursday” (Continued)

the upper room

The word “Passover” comes from Exodus 12:12-13: “On that same night I [God] will pass through Egypt and strike down ever firstborn – both men and animals – and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I am the LORD. The blood [lamb blood on the doorframes of the Israelites – vv. 1-7] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and I will pass over you. No destruction will touch you when I strike Egypt.

seder wine

Jesus is celebrating the Feast of the Passover (or Seder) with His disciples in an upper room. They are eating a lamb dinner, along with drinking four cups of wine, which they drink throughout the meal, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and other foods commemorating the First Passover, when God freed Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. I am finding out, as I write this post, that there varying names for the four cups of Passover. For instance, the Passover booklet I have been using calls the first cup, “the cup of thanksgiving” and there is no mention of “the second cup”, but there is an “Elijah cup”.

me writing 2

After asking my Pastor if he knew the name of the second cup of Passover, he emailed to me the following web page:

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am The LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be My people, and I will be Your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:6-7 ESV).

The web page explains: “As the Lord spoke these words to Moses, He revealed to him the plan by which He would redeem His elect to become His children. Based on the four promises in the passage above we have the four cups of the Passover Feast.

*The Cup of Sanctification – based on God’s statement, ‘I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians’
*The Cup of Judgment or Deliverance – based on God’s statement, ‘I will deliver you from slavery to them’
*The Cup of Redemption – based on God’s statement, ‘I will redeem you with an outstretched hand’
*The Cup of Praise or Restoration – based on God’s statement, ‘I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God.’”

All these cups point to our Redeemer Jesus Christ, no matter the differing names given to them. I hope this isn’t confusing. But, what do you expect from a Gentile?

judas with high priests

We return to the upper room and Judas almost plows us down. He is going to the chief priests to discuss his betrayal of Jesus. It looks like this is the end, but it’s just the opposite. It is the beginning of God’s redemptive plan to save mankind from the slavery of sin. John 13:31-32 tells us, “When he [Judas] was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once.’”

broken matzo

After Jesus and his disciples finished their lamb dinner and time of fellowship, it was the custom to conclude the Passover meal with a piece of unleavened bread. It was possibly at this time, Luke 22:19 records, “And He [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them [disciples], saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”

SWIRL THE WINE

In the Passover booklet, it says the third cup of wine (“the Cup of Blessing” or “the Cup of Redemption”) is poured. The Apostle Paul refers to this cup when he asks, “Is not this cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16). Luke also tells us, “In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20).

eucharist

During this time in the Seder the leader talks about Elijah returning to announce the coming of the Messiah, and he goes and opens an outside door to welcome him in. Jesus, instead of opening the outside door, He took “the Cup of Elijah” and, offering the blessing, He says to His disciples, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27b-28).

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Finally, the fourth cup of wine is poured (the Cup of Praise or Restoration”) to remember the fourth promise God made to Israel and to us who believe in Christ (from the Passover booklet), “I will make you a chosen people to spread My Word among the nations of the world!” Numbers 6:24-26 is recited: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

The Bible says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).

Christ and disciplesJesus in the Garden

Many other crucial events occurred on the first “Maundy Thursday”: Jesus says farewell to His disciples and promises that He is preparing a place for them, the Holy Spirit will come to comfort them and He gives them His peace that is not like what the world offers (John 14:1-31). Jesus also talks to His disciples about Him being the “True Vine” and that they are the “branches”; their strength will come from Him and their “sorrow will be turned into joy” because He has “overcome the world” (John 15-16). Jesus prays for His disciples; for His Father to keep them safe and for His future disciples: “…in order that the love You [the Father] have for Me [The Son] may be in them [all of Jesus’ followers]” (John 17). Jesus agonizes in the Garden of Gethsemane, while His disciples sleep. He asks His Father three times, if there is any way “this cup” can pass from Him. Luke tells us that Jesus’ sweat became “like drops of blood.” At the end of each prayer, Jesus said, “yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1). Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss and is arrested and all the disciples desert Him (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12). Jesus is tried before Annas (John 18:12-23), tried before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:15-27). Finally, Peter – His friend Peter, denies knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27).

believe god's love 2banana split love

On the first Maundy Thursday, Jesus give His disciples a New Commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). How do we love like Jesus? He shows us how to love by His own example. Jesus shows us how to love by all the things He did and by all the things He endured on that first Maundy Thursday. But, He didn’t stop there. He explains in John 15:12-14, 17: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command…This is my command: Love each other.” Jesus never tells us to do anything He hasn’t done Himself. On that first Maundy Thursday, He gave us the Sacrament of Communion, to remember Him, and He washed His disciples’ feet. Next, comes “Good Friday” when He died to make us free!

good friday6glasses on Bible

During this past Fall and Winter, I had a weekly Bible study at my house. A group of friends and I, as well as our whole church, studied “Authentic Community: Practicing the one another commands” by Jim Van Yperen. (It is an excellent Bible study book.) You know the “one another” commands – “Love one another”, “Accept one another”, “Have concern for one another”, “Be kind and compassionate to one another” and so on. At the beginning of each study, we took turns leading Communion. Each week, we had a different “style” of Communion. One week, we had a Lutheran Communion, the next week we had a Presbyterian Communion, the next week we read what the Bible said about Communion. It was a very enriching time. We were able to see Communion is so many ways. The experience deepened my understanding and also my awe of Communion and what an awesome gift Jesus gave us to give us joy and unity, instead of being set in our ways and separated from each other. I believe this is what God wants – to love and appreciate one another and to learn from one another. O Lord Jesus, make us one. Help us to love each other as You love us. Amen.

May the Love of Christ Consume Us!

The LydJesua, heart, sand

 

Lydia

“Maundy Thursday”

the upper room

Jesus celebrates His last Passover meal with His disciples, on the day before His death on the cross. Only, from this time on, it will be celebrated as the “Lord’s Supper” or the “Lord’s Table” or “Communion”. Jesus will not only change the Passover to represent His atoning sacrifice on the cross, He will also give all His disciples a New Commandment. “Maundy” comes from the Latin “man datum” which means “mandate” or “commandment”. During the Passover meal, Jesus says to His disciples, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

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First, Jesus sends His disciples to find a man who has an upper room for them to use for the Passover meal (The Passover celebrates the time God frees the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage [Exodus 12]). On the first day of Unleavened Bread, Jesus has His last meal with His disciples. The Synoptic Gospels record the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus also tells His disciples that someone would betray Him. (See Matthew 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-30) The Gospel of John does not record the Last Supper, but John records Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and He telling Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly”, and He predicts Peter’s denial of Him (John 13:1-38).

seder wineimagesCAEA2RP3

In the following paragraphs, I am going to share what I learned from a booklet given to me by a friend who invited me to a Passover Supper at her home. It was there I learned the significance of the Last Supper coming from the Jewish Passover celebration. I kept the booklet because it changed my life and gave Communion an even richer and deeper meaning for me. I do not know who wrote the booklet, so please know I am using it in addition to my own words.

seder winetowel and basin

During the Passover (or Seder) meal, four cups of wine are used. Each cup is poured from a common bowl to all present as a symbol of unity. The first cup of wine poured is “the cup of blessing”. At the Last Supper, Jesus passed the common bowl to His disciples, saying, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the wine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17b). After everyone drinks “the cup of blessing”, the server presents a basin of water, pitcher and napkin to the leader for the washing of the hands. This symbolizes the interior cleansing necessary for those partaking in this ritual. It is possibly at this time that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, giving a tangible example of His new commandment He gave to His disciples.

broken matzo

The unleavened bread used during the eight days of the Passover, including the Seder supper, commemorates the first Passover, when during the flight from Egypt, God’s people had no time to make leavened bread. Jesus used unleavened bread at His Last Supper. The matzo that is hidden in a cloth envelope or napkin is called the Afikomen, which has two meanings: 1. “hidden” and 2. “coming one”. The Afikomen is broken, which symbolizes, for Christians, as pointing to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the way in which God has saved us from the bondage of sin. Also, it gives me “goose bumps” when I see the matzo having stripes and tiny holes through it. This reminds me of Isaiah 53:5: “But He was pierced [holes] for our transgressions, He was crushed [broken] for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds [stripes] we are healed.” It causes my eyes to tear and my skin to form “goose bumps” every time I take the time to examine a piece of matzo and remember that portion of Isaiah.

hands unitedunited hands

As in the case of the wine shared from a common bowl, the breaking and distributing of a single piece of matzo to all present signifies unity. The Apostle Paul writes, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (I Corinthians 10:17). This reminds me of Jesus’ prayer for all His disciples: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You sent Me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me” (John 17:20b-21, 23b-). How it must grieve Jesus to see His followers at odds with each other!

haroseth

During the Seder, the host dips a piece of matzo into a mixture of apples, cinnamon, honey and sweet wine, called haroseth, and gives it to one of the guests as a customary sign of affection. This gives deep meaning to the time when Jesus dips a piece of bread and gives it to Judas: “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And in was night” (John 13:30). I believe Jesus reached out to Judas one more time, but Judas did not want anything to do with Jesus anymore. Jesus wants to give us the Bread of Life: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never be hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 635). What is our response to Jesus?

Crossconfession

(To be continued)

Through Him, with Him, in Him,

In the unity of the Holy Spirit,

All glory and honor is Yours,

Almighty Father,

For ever and ever! Amen.

The Lyd

Lydia

Holy (Taxing) Tuesday! (Continued)

Christ and disciples

When we rejoin Jesus on the last Tuesday before His crucifixion, He is alone with His disciples. Jesus answers their questions regarding the end times, but He does not give an exact date when “the end” will come. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and gives the signs to look for in nature, human governments, and people’s depravity and so on, as clues that the end of the world as we know it is near. He also says that the Gospel [GOOD NEWS] is to be preached to all nations before His return. In Matthew, Jesus talks about the days of Noah, and how one is taken into heaven and the other is left behind. He teaches the parables of “The Faithful Householder” and “The Wise Servant” and “The Ten Virgins” and “The Talents [money]”. All these parables are about being ready for Christ Jesus’ Second Coming. Jesus warns them again about “The Final Judgment” in “The Sheep and the Goats” parable. (See Matthew 24-25; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38). I know that I am ready for Jesus to come again because “…when the KINDNESS and LOVE of GOD OUR SAVIOR [Jesus Christ] appeared, He saved us, not because of any righteous things we had done, but because of His MERCY. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us GENEROUSLY through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His GRACE, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life” (Titus 34-7). [Did you notice that these verses in Titus talk about the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?]

Cross

Matthew records Jesus telling His disciples, two days before the Passover, that He will be crucified. The three Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] record the chief priests and scribes plotting Jesus’ death after the Festival. Luke records Satan entering Judas Iscariot. (See Matthew 26:1-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2.) Right about now, it looks like Satan is gaining ground and something terribly wrong is going to happen. However, just the opposite is going to happen. We who believe in the Cross of Christ are set free from Satan’s grip. To this day, some people think all this talk about the cross is utter nonsense. But,to those who trust Jesus for their salvation, it is the crux (decisive, pivotal, most vital point) of our lives.“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’” (I Corinthians 1:18-19 [Also Isaiah 29:14]).

imagesCAGQGR4WiChrist's head oil

The woman who enters Simon’s house does not think the cross is foolishness. Matthew and Mark tell of the time when Jesus is at the house of Simon the leper, in Bethany. Perhaps Jesus finally took time to get a bite to eat, when a woman comes in and pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. The disciples complain that what she is doing is a waste and the perfume should be turned into money to be given to the poor. Jesus tells them they will always have the poor, but they will not always have Him. He explains that the woman was preparing Him for burial. In Mark, Jesus says that what she has done will be remembered. (See Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9.) The same kind of event is recorded in John 12:2-8, before the “Triumphal Entry”, at Lazarus’ house. The woman is identified as Mary, Lazarus’ sister and, of course, Martha was serving dinner in Jesus’ honor. This time, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:3). Judas Iscariot, keeper of the money bag, is identified as the one who complained about the waste. John writes, “[Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (12:6). Because this same kind of event happened in two separate locations, I believe Matthew and Mark are writing about the same incident and John is writing about another incident. Whether it is the same incident, only someone got the location wrong, or they are two separate events, the important lesson to be learned is not to hold back when we serve the Lord. We need to GO FOR IT, with everything we have, no matter what others may think. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

judas with high priests

Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, thought all this talk about Jesus dying on the cross was foolishness. Jesus was not the “Jesus” he was looking for. Judas thought he was going nowhere fast. Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to discuss an opportune time to betray Jesus. The chief priests were glad about this and agreed to pay him to betray Jesus. Matthew records the payment to be thirty pieces of silver. (See Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).

BURIED TREASURE

I’m afraid many people, even those who call themselves Christians, want Jesus to be what He is not. They want Him to be the One who makes their lives easy and gives them riches and good health and fame and a smoothly paved path to walk on. But Jesus calls everyone who wants to follow Him to walk the way of the cross. Jesus says to all of His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). (See Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24)

masks we wear

My brother in Christ who worships God in the Eastern Orthodox Church [By the way, our Resurrection Sundays are celebrated on the same Sunday this year], sent me a timely email. He has given me permission to share his “Thoughts and Readings” with you.

“Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses his/her life will find it.” – Matthew 16:25

“That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls ‘losing your very life,’ or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

When you do die before you die, you are choosing the Real – or union with God, (theosis) – over separation from God. You are choosing ‘the kingdom of God’ over your smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later, Only the True Self knows that.

The lasting question is: ‘How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?’ Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, (for it is dying of self) which is what good spiritual teachers/leaders will tell you very honestly.”

(Taken in part from “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life”, Fr. Richard Rohr)

Jesus HugimagesCAM8G25Y

I’m still “chewing” meditating on this one. However, I believe dying to myself means being more like Jesus. When there is more of Jesus and less of ME, I will be able to “taste” what Heaven is like.

gospels

All four Gospels do not record what happens on Wednesday. Perhaps “Hump Day” is a day of rest for Jesus, or maybe He is arranging for the upper room to be the location for His Last Supper. I can only imagine how exhausting Tuesday must have been.

The Peace of Christ Be With You and With Me!

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Lydia