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Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Daniel 12:2 (NLT)

On a lonely hill just outside of town stand three crosses. As the sky grew dark a crowd gathered. Some gathered in disgust. The Roman form of execution was too painful, too degrading, to harsh.

Others gathered in mockery. They threw profanity at the trio. It was about time they got what they deserved. The world would be a better place if more criminals were treated this way. Great deterrent, that death penalty.

Some gathered in curiosity-A sort of Bible time gawkers. They had no opinion either way on crucifixion or the trio hanging naked as the darkness descended.

A few gathered in somber silence. Right or wrong, good or bad, these were their friends, their siblings, their children. The crowd gathered at the middle cross seemed somewhat larger, more emotional. In fact, it seems the form hanging in the middle was drawing most of the attention that day. Rumor has it that he was completely innocent of the trumped up charges the Jews leveled against him.

One of the trio began to mock this counterpart in the middle. Even in his dying moments he remained arrogant, loud and angry. Ignoring his own guilt he yelled obscenities at this stranger in the middle.

The other person hung silent for a moment. Watching. Listening. Replaying the episodes of his life that brought him to this point. Finally, he spoke. “Jesus, have mercy on me.” The figure in the middle raised his head and looked with compassion at him. Painstakingly he spoke, “Today you will be with me…” and grace was born.

How could a God of love allow Jesus, the man in the middle to die such a horrific death for crimes he didn’t commit? Rewind the story a few thousand years. A man and woman listen to the deceptive words of Satan. Their decision to disobey God destroyed the balance of divine nature as well as a relationship with the Creator God.

Hell was never created for men and women. Hell was never created for innocent children of abuse, catastrophe or illness. Hell was created as the home for Satan and all his demonic followers. But the sin of Adam and Eve made it impossible for mankind to enter heaven. A sacrifice had to be made and that sacrifice was made complete when Jesus died and rose again.

Our Heavenly Father has no choice when it comes to dealing with sin. He can’t, by his own nature overlook anything that isn’t perfect. God is fair and just. Grace is neither.

What can be fair about a prisoner going to heaven because his last words were begging forgiveness? What can be fair about someone struggling with addictions and constantly receiving forgiveness for the same sin, over and over again? Nothing. It’s not fair. But it wasn’t fair that Jesus died for me either. There was nothing I could do to deserve forgiveness, yet he forgave me anyway. That’s grace.

God would give everything he has to keep you from living eternity in the shame and disgrace of hell. In fact, he already did that day on the cross.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father I thank and praise you for the reminder that I am completely and freely forgiven of my sin because of Jesus. I deserve nothing that you’ve given me and yet you did it all so lovingly. Empower me to live for you and to show others the way to life in eternity with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:5-6

I wonder how many times the scene of Jesus’ last breath played itself over and over in the minds of the Mary’s and the other disciples of Jesus that Sabbath day after the crucifixion. What was it like in the synagogue services the next day.

Remember. It was Passover. The city was full of people who had come toJerusalemfor the celebration. Many of them had no doubt heard Jesus speak. They had seen him heal the blind and the lame. They’d seen him cast out demons and raise people from the dead. Some of them may even have been the recipient of Jesus’ touch…and now he was dead.

There must have been a tremendous amount of fear. The Synagogue rulers had always been powerful. They had made rules that were impossible to keep. And now, if the Jews could kill Jesus, what could stop them? Who was next? Would this bring down the Roman guard against others? Even the Roman that watched Jesus die said “Surely, this was the son of God!”

In the homes and gathering places of thousands of Jews there had to have been confusion. So many had thought this was truly the Messiah, and now he was gone. Some may have celebrated. With ever one of these ‘religious zealots’ that came along they carried a threat that the Romans would come in and smash the uprising. Others were no doubt angry. Angry at the Jews for killing a good man. Angry at God for not protecting Jesus. Angry at Jesus for getting their hopes up. Anger doesn’t have to make sense. It only needs an object to attack.

Were the Mary’s at the Synagogue that day? I’ll bet they were. So were many other followers of Jesus. Maybe even a few of the disciples. They came to pray, to worship, to ask ‘why?’ Sabbath was so much more than a ‘Sunday’ in our culture. There was nothing else going on. It was a time of reflection. A time for families. And on this endless Sabbath, a day of remembering.

It’s no wonder then that early the next morning a handful of women made their way through the quiet streets ofJerusalemwith a few vials of oil. They went to remember. They went to worship. They went so that one more time they could say good-bye to their Lord and Savior.

But what joy would await them. Two shining angels. A rolled away stone. An empty tomb. An announcement that would become the battle cry of Christ-followers through the ages.

“We know why you came here this morning. You came looking for Jesus. He’s not here. He’s risen…just like he said he would.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? He did EXACTLY as he said he would. He still does today. Every promise will come true. HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you so much for dying for my sins. Thank you for the forgiveness, grace and mercy you make available to me. I give you all the honor, all the praise for you are God! Amen.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

A few months ago now, a friend of mine had a baby. As held that newborn I was once again amazed at the beauty of new life. The tiny little fingers. The soft, supple skin. The complete and total helplessness of this creation of God. Amazing.

My mind shot ahead. I’m a bit of a sap at times I guess. I thought of my own children and how every day became a new adventure in exploration and discovery as they grow older. Sometimes they get themselves in trouble. There are times when the ordinary and mundane to us is a complete and exciting adventure to them. And have you ever noticed how a little baby can turn even the most refined adult into a babbling idiot making all sort of gibberish to elicit a smile or a giggle?

I wonder if Mary thought about those things as she watched the events surrounding Passover the year of Jesus’ crucifixion. He was her first born. Together she had shared the wonder of new life with him. For him, a new life in a human body. For her the wonder of her very own newborn baby. The Bible says she treasured ‘all these things’ in her heart. The message of the angels; the events leading up to his birth; the visit from the strange nobility from the East; the tragic news of the slaughter of her friend’s children at the hands of a greedy, ruthless King.

Did she stand at the foot of the cross and wonder, “When did he grow up?” To a mom her first born is always her baby. Always holds a special place in her life.

There are a lot of things we don’t know about Jesus. Many events of his growing up years and his ministry that have been locked in the annals of time. Some perhaps far too mundane to even be mentioned. He was, to many after all, just a good guy, a great teacher, a friend who was closer than a brother.

Oh, but he was so much more than that! He was a king who never lost sight of the leper or the cripple. He was a gentle father who never forgot the true identity of the prodigal son or the woman caught in adultery. He was God and he came to earth to die for the undeserving and grant eternal life to the eternally hopeless. God with us. The true story of Grace. The true story of Easter.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. In light of your miracles and deity it’s so hard to remember that you were also a baby, a child, a man. You experienced all the tragedies and victories of life as I have. Thank you for giving your life so I can live forever. Thank you for taking my sin so I can live free of guilt. In your holy name I pray, Amen.

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)

“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31)

Throughout the Biblical account of the creation, whenever God finished one aspect of creation he would exclaim, “It is good”. There was, however, one time when he not only said “it is good”, he added it is ‘VERY good’. That time was just after he created mankind. The rolling plains and majestic mountains were good. The sea life and land life was good. But man and woman? They were very good. The crown of God’s creation. His masterpiece

We aren’t told how long it was before we failed God. Was it a day? A week? A month? No one knows. But a time came when man and woman made a choice to disobey God and act on their own wisdom.  Wisdom they were deceived into thinking was better and wiser than God’s wisdom.

Up until that time, God came in person to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. They were naked and not ashamed, completely open to God. They were perfectly comfortable with who they were, and God was completely open with them about life and goodness.

When sin entered the world everything changed except for one thing. The once fertile ground now grew thorns. Animals once tame became wild and dangerous. The shameless nakedness of man and woman was now covered physically, emotionally and spiritually. The joy of childbirth would be tarnished with the pain of labor. The only thing that didn’t change that day was God’s love for mankind.

Even though man would hide from him, God still longed for the companionship and open relationship he had with man. That’s why Jesus came. He came for the sole purpose of renewing a relationship that once was open but had now become distant.

Paul writes that Jesus came ‘so that we could be made right with God through Christ’. The word for made right is really the root word of ‘reconciled’. Jesus death and resurrection allows us to be reconciled to God. The word reconcile has its origin in a word that means ‘to make good again.’

Let that sink in. Because of Jesus, the once broken relationship we have with God is made good again! It’s not repaired. It’s not as though God is changing anything about him to stoop to our level. Jesus allows us to have the same relationship with God Adam had in the Garden of Eden. For now that means spiritually through his Spirit, but someday, physically as we spend eternity with him!

PRAYER: Father God. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Adam to be able to walk side by side with you in the garden. I can’t wait to find out what that is like. For now, I praise you and worship you because Jesus allows us to have the relationship restored to its original condition through the cross. Empower me by your Spirit to live in the realization of the fact that you long to have a passionate love relationship with me. In Jesus name, Amen.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10

Be careful what you ask for. To know the power of Christ, to be able to heal, to endure hardship, to sleep in the bow of the boat during a violent storm are all noble aspirations. Every one of them is something each of us would love to attain.

One can not bask in the glory of Christ unless one endures the suffering of Christ. Lest we romanticize the ministry of Jesus on earth let us not forget that many times the only place to rest his head was on the hard ground. He had no place to call home except for the homes of generous friends. Even his grave was donated to him by someone who he may have never met.

Other than a devoted few, his list of friends and followers was a revolving door of people who were looking for an earthly kingdom, who became critical of his alleged rejection of religious Sabbath laws, and the ungrateful that came for healing and, once made pure, were never heard from again. Oh, and the devoted few? They all abandoned him at the cross. Every last one of them.

And his family? On a couple of occasions they came looking for him. Not to follow him mind you, but to quarantine him in the safe confines of the carpenter shop. When his brothers talked about Jesus during his ministry the word ‘lunatic’ was frequently heard. Only his mother seemed to stand quietly in the shadows watching her son grow, minister and eventually die.

The church was no safe haven for Jesus either. He was scrutinized on every front. His motives were misread and misunderstood. He was accused of being possessed by the devil and an affront to everything the Jewish religion stood for.

What made Jesus different? There are perhaps many answers to that question, but one that comes to my mind is that Jesus always held before him the purpose for which he was called. He wasn’t called to be blessed. He wasn’t called to be powerful and respected. He wasn’t called to be a mighty leader. He was called to be a servant and die in the process. But along the way, he changed the world!

Although I shudder at what it might mean, I echo the prayer of the Apostle Paul. Regardless of what it may mean to me physically, emotionally, or socially, I want to know Christ. I want to know him in such a way that his power shows through me to others.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You showed us in your life that we will be faced with all sorts of trials and tribulations. I want to know you. I want to know your power in my life. I confess to you that even as I pray this prayer I’m nervous about what may lie ahead. Empower me by your Spirit to trust you as I forge ahead on this journey of life. In your name I pray, Amen.


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