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Behind Locked Doors

It is Easter morning.  Jesus, the hoped for Messiah is dead.  It is now the third day since he was crucified and buried in a sealed tomb outside Jerusalem.  The Easter message from Pastor Tim spoke to the very real emotions that Jesus' closest followers were experiencing as the dawn broke over that Sunday morning 2,000 years ago.  They had all hoped and believed that Jesus would be the Messiah, the deliverer promised by God through the prophets.  He would be the one to free Israel from the bondage of Roman oppression and establish God's new age of righteousness.  But now, all hope is gone, and no one felt that crushing weight of hopelessness more than Mary Magdalene.  Jesus, the one who had delivered her from demon possession, now lay beyond her reach in a closed tomb.  Early that morning, she went to his tomb but discovered that the tomb was opened and Jesus body was gone.  Confused and saddened beyond measure, she wept bitterly not even able to grieve and mourn for the one who had given her new life.  I cannot begin to imagine her sense of hopelessness at that moment.  But Jesus at that instant appeared and called her by name.  Hope for tomorrow was not beyond her reach because no tomb could hold the Son of God.  Jesus appeared in bodily form before her and comforted her.  She could now face whatever tomorrow might bring because her redeemer was alive.

The disciples were at that time in a room behind locked doors.  As known followers of Jesus, they were in a state of shock and fear that they would be hunted down and sentenced to death.  But Jesus then appeared behind the locked doors standing before them.  "Peace be with you" (shalom) he says to calm their fear.   Jesus shows them by his wounds that he is not a vision or ghostly figure but fully alive and risen from the grave.  Fear now turns to joy and Jesus tells them he is sending them out in the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his work on earth.

Last we have Thomas who had yet to see the risen Lord and wanted desperately to believe but needed proof.  Before we get on board the bandwagon to disparage old "doubting Thomas" let's think about the prevailing understanding of death in the ancient world.  No one comes back from the grave in Greco-Roman and Jewish belief of that time.  When you die you are dead, period!  Yes, you might have some phantom existence in Sheol or Hades, but dead people do not, can not come to life. The disciples together with Thomas are again behind locked doors when Jesus once more appears before them.  Again, he brings "Shalom", "Peace be with you" and has Thomas touch his wounds so he will have no doubt that Jesus is the first to be risen from the dead.  Furthermore he tells Thomas that those who have not seen as he has and yet believe will be blessed.  That's the church today, you and I.  Though we have not seen Jesus, we  have the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives and by that great gift, Jesus "lives in us" today.

Hopelessness, fear, and doubt.  These are emotions that can paralyze us and lock us behind closed doors.  Sometimes we just cannot see a way out.  But our savior is not some distant god out in the vast universe beyond our reach.  Jesus, who could not be kept by death in a tomb 2,000 years ago is the same risen Savior who can appear beyond our locked doors of hopelessness, fear, and doubt today.  If death and the grave could not hold him, he is fully capable of being with us in our most trying moments.  No matter what we are going through, that peace which passes all understanding can turn our hopelessness to joy, settle and calm our fears, and overcome our doubts giving us victory and assurance over the trials of this life.  As the old hymn states: "Because He lives I can face tomorrow, and life is worth the living just because He lives!"

 

 

 

 

Posted by David Jacobs with

The Euphoria of Hope

So, we used to own a minivan.  And we are not talking about these new luxury vans that basically have kitchens in the back.  No sir, at the risk of sounding like a bragger, it was a vintage taupe Ford Windstar with no air conditioning AND a VHS player.  Now, just before we bought said minivan, we bought (and by bought, I mean the bank bought it and let us pay them extra for it) a cute, brand new small SUV that I could zip around town in with my two-year-old in tow.  (That two-year-old is now almost 14!)  Enter financial guru, Dave Ramsey.  Well Mr. Ramsey got all in my husband’s head with witty mantras like “If you live like no one else now, later you can live like no one else.” Meaning get out of debt now, live below your means and enjoy the fruit of your wise and self-controlled living down the road when everyone else is in the poor house paying back the man for a life they couldn’t afford.  So, in an effort to remove debt we parted ways with that shiny new car and I made my peace with the less shiny debt free option. 

 Let’s just say the minivan wasn’t tempting any of our neighbors to “keep up with the Edwards” but it served it’s purpose.  And honestly, it didn’t take long to get used to not having a monthly car payment, so we drove the van for almost 9 years, until that fateful day when significant amounts of smoke started puffing out of the engine.  We were visiting family in Illinois at the time so we needed to find a mechanic to look at it quick in order to make the trip back home.  The mechanic shop we found was somewhat of a small town type shop and while I do not remember what had broken, I remember asking my husband how I was going to get back to my sister in laws after dropping the van off and he replied well “the mechanic said his mom is there and she can take you home.”  Seeing that I didn’t know the mechanic…or his mother, I don’t think I liked that option, so my faithful sister-in-law stopped doing the million things she had on her plate and rescued me from an introvert’s nightmare of 30 minutes of small talk during a car ride with a random mechanic’s mother.   We traded in the minivan for more reliable mode of transportation and that is the story of the taupe minivan.

So how does an old broke down minivan remind me of the hope of Easter?  Welcome to my brain.  You might not want to stay long.  For whatever reason, that minivan was always a tangible reminder of two things.  1.) Everything in this world, is in a state of getting older, deteriorating and breaking down.  2.) Because of the broken state of the world, putting our hope in things like careers, material processions, youthfulness, people etc. is like buying fool’s gold.  We think we are investing in something beautiful, valuable, something solid enough to hold our hope but as life chips away at its exterior luster, the integrity of the fool’s gold breaks down and its true worth comes through…it proves powerless, meaningless, useless. 

Biblical hope rests in something different.   We find a glimpse of this hope in the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry.  Holy week begins with Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem on a donkey, making his first public kingly proclamation.  The gospel accounts are rich with description, nuance, layered meaning and Old Testament connections.  Russ Ramsey in his book Behold the King of Glory describes the scene like this, “Amid the shouts of “Hosanna!” his followers looked like people drunk of the euphoria of hope.  What had become of their self-control?  Who did he (Jesus) think he was to permit them to praise him this way?”  Take a minute and imagine yourself in the scene, filled with the euphoria of hope as you read Matthew’s account.

“Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

These people are going wild as they enter the city with Jesus.  They are throwing their clothes on the ground and cutting branches to spread them out as a covering on the road.  The text says they were shouting.  They were not just talking or whispering amongst themselves, this was a large crowd of travelers cheering and crying out praises to the one who saves.  They were unashamedly celebrating the hope they had in Jesus to the point that the commotion and roar of the crowd was so intense that the “the whole city was shaken.  Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here?  Who is this?”  (Matthew 21, msg.) 

Now clearly, the crowd was a bit fickle and didn’t fully understand what kind of Savior they were celebrating.  But we do.  The canon of scripture is complete and by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can understand the truth of the gospel.    The truth of the gospel is that political domination was not what humans needed.  Our hearts needed to be rescued from evil first.   God had to give of himself, in the person of Jesus, as a sacrifice once and for all for us. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Jesus didn’t die for our mess, he died for our sin.  Do you want to know what is a mess right now?  My car. Currently, it has cracker crumbs, water bottles, glitter, baseballs and catcher’s gear scattered everywhere.  It sometimes stinks from boys dirty socks left behind.  That is a mess.  But it’s not a sin to have a messy car.  Do you know what is a sin?  Oppressing the marginalized.  Greed.  Injustice.  Murder.  Gossip.  Divisiveness in the church.  In some ways, we have made light of the seriousness of sin by giving it a much more palatable term.  Messy.   During Holy Week, we prepare our hearts to remember the darkest day of the year, the day we remember the brutal suffering of Christ.  The suffering that was the price for our freedom.  Just for this week, let’s set aside the word mess and call our transgression what it is…sin.  Jesus didn’t die for Tracy’s (insert your own name) mess, Jesus died for Tracy’s sin.  For every time, I chose pride over humility, greed over generosity, gossip over self-control, every time I chose something of this world over Him.  He died so that I might live and offers forgiveness in the place guilt. When I write it like that, the gravity of my sin awakens a deep hope and gratefulness for what Jesus, my savior has done for me. Through his suffering for my sin, he lovingly holds out hope to me. 

At the end of the story of the triumphant entry, the Pharisees were ordering Jesus to gain control of the crowd by rebuking them for their praises.  And “He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  As I journey through Holy Week, tracing Jesus footsteps through the gospel accounts, looking for connections to the Old Testament prophecies, I will reflect on the deep price that had to be paid for my sin with sobriety and quiet reverence and on Sunday morning I desire to be so full of hope and gratitude that when we celebrate the greatest victory the world has or will ever see, the euphoria of hope will be so overflowing there will be no chance of any stone singing the praises that belong in my own mouth.   Those stones can sing their own praises, thank you very much.  Will you celebrate big with us this weekend at WRCC as we unashamedly rejoice in hope we have in Jesus?   We will save you a seat. 

May God speak to your heart in fresh new ways this week.              

Tracy Edwards

Posted by Tracy Edwards with

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