The Third Day

It began with a ray of light.

The column of light seemed to emanate from the very core of the earth. It shot through the rough hewn tomb and radiated through the sky.  White hot and blinding, it seemed to stretch far upwards to the edges of space, pointing ever closer to Heaven itself.  Invisible to human eyes, yet present to all with spiritual eyes rose a multitude of the Heavenly Host.  Arranged in concentric rings around the beam of light, the angels hovered with a beautiful symmetry.  Their radiant wings outstretched, fiery swords extended toward the light.  Hundreds of thousands of them flew. Arranged as low as the blooming dogwoods that circled the tomb and as high as the stars unseen because of the risen Son.

As the beam of light shot forth with all the velocity of the speed of light, something amazing happened.  The demons that had been crowded around the stone, excited in their apparent victory, began to tremble.  As the stone began to roll back, they jumped and twitched and shuddered.  They nervously moved, leathery wings unfurling, prepared to slink away.  This couldn’t be happening!  They had finally defeated this Jesus, the Son of God.  He had breathed His last on the cross.  He said “It is finished.”  God the Father, had turned his back on His Son.  But all at once, with a sound like thunder, and a rumble as the earth shook and quaked, the light burst forth from the ground and shot out from the tomb like an exploding star, and with a loud squeal, the demons fled.  Shot forth like a million pieces of shrapnel, they fled from the onslaught of light.  The angels that for three days had been held back from the tomb suddenly rushed in to fill the void.  They took their places in rings around the beam of light stretching from the earth to heaven.  Their singing could be heard in beautiful angelic harmony.  “It’s time, He is Risen,” could be heard echoing over and over and over throughout all the atmosphere.

Slowly the stone moved away. The guards who had been stationed there fell to the ground and lay as dead men.  Although they couldn’t see the light or hear the beautiful songs, they could see the stone move and hear the shuffling coming from within.

At once, with majesty and power, He stepped out from the shadows.  Where a day earlier there was only death and decay, now stood life everlasting.  Where sin once had had it’s way, now it had been defeated once, for all.  Where death had seemed to claim victory, now its sting was gone.

Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man; the source of the radiant light, stepped into the morning of the third day.  The grave clothes had fallen from his frame and he stood in glowing white, the only source of imperfection coming from His nail scarred feet and hands.

Two angels descended from their place among the host and sat on the stone.

They waited in humble adoration as the Savior walked away from the empty tomb.

They knew that soon the women would come to anoint his body.

Soon the disciples and Peter would run to the tomb only to find it empty.

Soon the message, the Good News, would ignite like a fire and spread across the land.

Soon He would return home to His Father’s side, and resume His place at the throne.

But today would bring a message of hope.

For today the angels would say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He is risen, just as He said!”

Peter’s Lament

“It is finished.”

These are the words John said Jesus uttered yesterday before sagging one final time against the nails and breathing His final ragged breath.

Finished?  Lord, how can it be finished?  Just a week ago you rode into Jerusalem like a conquering hero, palm branches waving, the crowd chanting, “Hosanna!”  Now this Sabbath morning you lay sealed up in a borrowed tomb, broken, beaten, abused…and gone.

How can this have happened?

You called me Cephas. Peter. Stone. Rock? Surely you couldn’t have known what I would do last night or you would have called me something else.   Three times I denied you.  Three times!  Then when you looked at me I thought I would die.  My eyes are red from crying.  I have no tears left.  I feel more inconsequential than a grain of sand.  Some rock.  On me you would build a church?

This wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  Your time here has been too short.  Only three years we have traveled with you, walked where you walked, seen you do the amazing things you have done.  You are the Son of God! I know it.  I saw you up on the mountain, transformed before my eyes.  It was a terrifying and wonderful sight to see. 

Why did you let them take you like that last night?  Out of the darkness came an angry mob, carrying stones and swords, treating you like you were a dangerous criminal.  All your hands have ever done is bring hope and healing.  And Judas, that traitor.  Why did you let him betray you?  Then they took you away and we fled, we left you alone.  All the big talk and promises and not one of us stood by your side.  You were left to meet Pilate and Herod alone.  You endured the whip alone.  You carried your cross alone.  Even a stranger had to be plucked from the crowd to help you with that. 

I am ashamed to even face any of the others.  I am Peter.  Big. Boisterous.  Quick to speak, quick to act.  Yet in your hour of greatest need, my mouth denied you, my sword struck one whom you healed, my feet fled you and now I lay cold and shivering in hiding outside your tomb.  I see the guards they have posted outside your tomb.  I guess even in death you are a threat to the religious leaders. 

What would you have me do Lord?  I am not sure where to even begin.  Once I have walked with you how can I go back to fishing?  I have nowhere to go.  I have no one to turn to. Give me peace Lord.  Forgive me for denying you.  I am sorry for what you faced alone.  I am sorry for falling asleep last night as you prayed.  Forgive me, O Lord please forgive me.

You said this had to happen, but I still don’t understand.  You said three days, so I will wait here.  Jesus, where else can I go but where you are?  

I will get up tomorrow, on the third day, and find the others.                                        Together, if they will have me, we will try to carry on…

I am Peter. I am yours.

Good Friday (reposted from 2010)

Have you ever really thought about how much God loves you?

Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged and down.  In this world it is easy to feel insignificant and unimportant.  As we struggle with the day-to-day matters, we see that there are people around us who seem to have everything we wish we had.  It is easy to feel lost in the midst of it all.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days.  The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the birds were chirping.   It morphed into a beautiful starry night.  I was outside with my four year old son when he said, “Let’s look at the stars together Dad.”  So I got a blanket and laid it down and he and I lay on our backs and looked up.  As I watched the tiny pinpricks of light emerge on the midnight blue canvas of the sky, I suddenly realized how small I was.

Yet in spite of that, I am worth so much to God.

Today is Good Friday.  It is an interesting name for a day when so much pain and suffering took place.  Today is the day that Jesus gave his life for YOU.  That’s right, you.  As I looked up at the stars that God hung in the sky, I realized that the very hands that placed them there are the hands that stretched out on the cross and took the nails that were meant for me.  It is a staggering thought, really.  I know the kind of man that I would be without Christ.

Yet in spite of that, I am worth so much to God.

When Jesus was marched up the hill of Calvary on that Good Friday almost 2000 years ago, it was not a random chance that put him there.  Nor was it just the end to his three-year ministry.  He was fulfilling a plan that God the Father had since the fall of Adam.  Allow me some artistic license here.  After Adam sinned, perhaps the conversation went like this: 

            God:  “Son, Adam took the fruit, and I am going to have to cast 

them out of Eden.” 

            Jesus:  “Yes, Father.” 

            God:    “We are going to have to get them back.” 

            Jesus:   “I know Dad.” 

            God:    “It is going to be costly and painful.” 

            Jesus:   “…Not my will but yours be done, Father.”

So began a journey that would take Jesus from his place of glory, holding the stars in the sky, to his place of agony on a Roman cross with nails piercing those hands. 

Why did he do it?  Because he loves you that much.

Every child in Sunday school learns John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse could just as well state “God loves me so much, that he gave up Jesus so that if I believe in Jesus, I won’t die, but will live with him forever.”

Never let anything around you make you feel worthless.  You are a treasure to God.  He loves you so much that he gave his Son, the one he valued most, to purchase you and redeem you back.  This day above any other should convince you that your life is worth everything to God.

Father, on this most precious of days for believers, help us to remember the great cost it took for you to win us back. Help us to take a moment this afternoon to remember what you went through for us.  Help us to remember that you chose us even though it was so difficult and painful for you.  Let us never forget that we are your children and you love us so.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Peter’s Lament

“It is finished.”

These are the words John said Jesus uttered yesterday before sagging one final time against the nails and breathing His final ragged breath.

Finished?  Lord, how can it be finished?  Just a week ago you rode into Jerusalem like a conquering hero, palm branches waving, the crowd chanting, “Hosanna!”  Now this Sabbath morning you lay sealed up in a borrowed tomb, broken, beaten, abused…and gone.

How can this have happened?

You called me Cephas. Peter. Stone. Rock? Surely you couldn’t have known what I would do last night or you would have called me something else.   Three times I denied you.  Three times!  Then when you looked at me I thought I would die.  My eyes are red from crying.  I have no tears left.  I feel more inconsequential than a grain of sand.  Some rock.  On me you would build a church?

This wasn’t supposed to happen like this.  Your time here has been too short.  Only three years we have traveled with you, walked where you walked, seen you do the amazing things you have done.  You are the Son of God! I know it.  I saw you up on the mountain, transformed before my eyes.  It was a terrifying and wonderful sight to see. 

Why did you let them take you like that last night?  Out of the darkness came an angry mob, carrying stones and swords, treating you like you were a dangerous criminal.  All your hands have ever done is bring hope and healing.  And Judas, that traitor.  Why did you let him betray you?  Then they took you away and we fled, we left you alone.  All the big talk and promises and not one of us stood by your side.  You were left to meet Pilate and Herod alone.  You endured the whip alone.  You carried your cross alone.  Even a stranger had to be plucked from the crowd to help you with that. 

I am ashamed to even face any of the others.  I am Peter.  Big. Boisterous.  Quick to speak, quick to act.  Yet in your hour of greatest need, my mouth denied you, my sword struck one whom you healed, my feet fled you and now I lay cold and shivering in hiding outside your tomb.  I see the guards they have posted outside your tomb.  I guess even in death you are a threat to the religious leaders. 

What would you have me do Lord?  I am not sure where to even begin.  Once I have walked with you how can I go back to fishing?  I have nowhere to go.  I have no one to turn to. Give me peace Lord.  Forgive me for denying you.  I am sorry for what you faced alone.  I am sorry for falling asleep last night as you prayed.  Forgive me, O Lord please forgive me.

You said this had to happen, but I still don’t understand.  You said three days, so I will wait here.  Jesus, where else can I go but where you are?  

I will get up tomorrow, on the third day, and find the others.                                            Together, if they will have me, we will try to carry on…

I am Peter. I am yours.

The Thief and The Savior

The thief on the cross has always fascinated me.  Not the one that ridiculed Jesus, but the one that recognized Him for what He was.  I don’t know why but he is one of the first people I want to see when I get to heaven.  All of our accounts of Jesus, in particular on the Friday he died, are from his disciples or those close to the disciples.  The thief witnessed Jesus in a different way from the others.

Up until that day, they presumably had no contact with one another.  In fact if not for Jesus, the thief would have been one of hundreds of other unnamed people crucified at the hands of the Romans.  However on this day, the thief and his brief conversation with the Lord became etched forever in the Bible and the implications ring true to this day.

Picture the thief, hanging in agony next to Jesus.  He managed to see through the man that was beaten and bleeding, torn and hanging by the nails in His hands and feet, not resembling anything human, much less anything holy.  He saw past the mocking sign, “Here is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  He ignored the taunts, “Save yourself, if you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross.”  He even engaged the taunts of the other criminal although he was finished and knew it really didn’t matter. 

This man, this criminal, whose life had been lived solely for himself, saw through what was left of the man to glimpse the Son of God.

Several things come to mind.  First, this man gave us an example that it is never too late to turn to the Lord.  I don’t say this as an admonition to wait until the last minute, but rather to show that God has almost limitless patience for us to turn to Him.  Second, the thief’s “deathbed conversion” shows us that there is only one way to God and that is by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  At this point, the thief was past his ability to do “good works” to earn his way into heaven.  He simply realized who he was and realized who was hanging next to him.  He acknowledged who Jesus was and asked to be remembered.

Those next words probably even shocked the thief a little bit.  Presumably, with the Pharisees and Sadducees hung up on the Law and keeping every bit of it, this thief knew he had no chance to be saved.  How sweet those words must have been to his ears, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise!”    

This dying man must have felt the sweet release that comes from surrendering your life to God.  He must have been at peace, even knowing that his life on earth was ending, while recognizing that his eternity in the presence of the Lord was just beginning. 

What joy! What peace! What hope in Him!