Day 151 – Mark 16:19-21; Luke 24:50-53

Ascended, but Interceding.

Mark 16:19-21; Luke 24:50-53

And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them. – Mark 16:20 NLT

This is it. The end of the story of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus. But is it really? While we will wrap up the closing moments of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, He is far from done. His impact is far from over. He work is not yet complete. He finished that portion of God’s plan for which He had come – offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind and dying on the cross as payment to satisfy the just demands of a holy God. But He rose from the dead “and was taken up into heaven and sat down at the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Mark 16:19 NLT). Jesus returned to His Father’s side. He rightfully took back His place of honor which had been reserved for Him while He was obediently accomplishing the will of His Father on earth. Paul reminds us that when He came to earth, “he did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6-7 NLT). And when Jesus had “humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on the cross” (Philippians 2:8 NLT), God “elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names” (Philippians 2:9 NLT).

But what is Jesus doing now? What is His role at this very moment? Paul tells us, “Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 NET). He represents us before the Father. He is our representative before the very throne of God. And when God looks at us, He sees us through Christ’s righteousness. We are covered by His blood. Our sins have been paid for and forgiven because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven” (Hebrews 7:25-26 NLT). God listens to Him. He is like personal legal representative before the throne of God. When we sin, He speaks on our behalf. And we do sin. John writes, “My dear children, I am writing this to you to that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous” (1 John 2:1 NLT).

We can rest assured that Jesus is doing His job. He is not in retirement mode. He is far from done. In fact, He is preparing to return and fully complete what He began. But in the meantime, we have work to do – just as the disciples did. Mark tells us that after Jesus ascended, the “disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs” (Mark 16:20 NLT). They had work to do. They had a message to share and spread throughout the world. And Jesus was with them. He confirmed their words with miraculous signs. His Spirit accompanied them and empowered them. Jesus was busy continuing His transformative work in their lives through the ministry of the Spirit. As they obeyed His command to go and tell, His Spirit was busy transforming these men into powerful messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was molding them into the likeness of Jesus Himself. And that is what He wants to do in each of our lives today. Jesus is in the life transforming business. He is actively pursuing heart-change in the lives of His followers. He is continually saving us from sinful selves. He is praying for us. He is interceding with the Father on our behalf. He is preparing a place for us. And He is planning to return for us. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. The, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NLT).

Thank You Jesus, that You are not done. I am so grateful that You are my representative before God Himself. You have a place seated right next to Him and, while I am stuck here on this planet, You are speaking to Him on my behalf. You pray for me and plead my case for me before the Father. And You are some day coming back for me. I don’t know when it is, but it gives me hope and confidence that helps me make it in this world. Your work of salvation is not yet complete. There is more to this story than just Your ascension into heaven. As the angel told the disciples on the day You left them, some day you will return from heaven in the same way they saw you go. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

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Day 150 – Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:44-49

Go!

Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:44-49

“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:15-16 NLT

The Great Commission. These are the last words spoken by Jesus to His disciples. So they carry a significant amount of weight. After three and half years of ministry together, a gruesome death and His miraculous resurrection, Jesus is now leaving His disciples, but He had one last thing to tell them before He departed. It was a commission or charge. He told them to “Go!” He was sending them out as His ambassadors and emissaries with the message of the Good News of salvation through belief in Him. And they weren’t just to go to their neighbor, they were to take this vital message to the ends of the earth. They were to preach to all the nations. Think about what Jesus said. Give some thought as to just whom He is speaking to. These are the same 11 men who He had chosen three and a half years earlier. They were common men. They were uneducated for the most part. They were slow to learn and had missed out on so many of His important messages to them. Even after His resurrection, they still struggled with belief. But He was giving them a commission to act as His spokesmen and to take His message of salvation to the world. I can’t help but think that they felt overwhelmed at His words. They could not have been brimming with confidence at the thought of pulling off His command, especially in light of all that had just happened to Him. But Jesus was giving them authority – His authority – and they had seen what they could do with that kind of authority. He had sent them out before with authority to heal diseases and cast out demons, and they had returned reporting, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” (Luke 10:17 NLT). So they had first-hand experience regarding His authority and what they could accomplish with it. Jesus even suggests that their efforts on His behalf will be accompanied by miraculous signs, including the casting out of demons and speaking in new languages they didn’t know. Then He gave them two other “signs” that were a bit more spectacular or odd. He told them that anyone who believes will be able to handle poisonous snakes with safety and drink poison without ill effect. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and see them healed. Now we know that many of these signs took place shortly after Jesus ascended back into heaven and after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples proclaimed the Gospel in languages they didn’t know to the multi-cultural crowd who had gathered. Later on, they healed the sick. Paul, on one of His missionary journeys, was bitten by a poisonous snake and shook it off with no harm coming to him.

While there are those who want to use this verse as a proof-text to justify their believes in sign gifts and tongues, I believe Jesus is addressing two kind of belief in this passage. He said, “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16 NLT). At that point, Jesus is talking about anyone who responds to the Good News and believes. Their belief in the Gospel message would result in their salvation, and should be followed by water baptism. Refusal to believe the Good News would result in condemnation and eternal separation from God. Then I think Jesus addresses a different kind of belief. He looks at the disciples and says, “These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe” (Mark 16:17 NLT). At this point He is addressing the disbelief of the disciples. They can’t believe what He is asking them to do. They can’t comprehend how they are going to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. It all sounds impossible and inconceivable. So Jesus reminds them that if they will believe in Him and His promise of authority, their going will be accompanied by miraculous signs, just as they had experienced before. Jesus is not necessarily telling them that these are the specific signs they will see, but the kinds of signs that will accompany their efforts. Speaking in foreign tongues makes sense because they are going to be going to all the nations, attempting to minister in languages they don’t know. They will need to cast out demons just as Jesus had done, because spiritual warfare was going to increase, not decrease. They would find themselves in situations, like Paul, where they were in remote places and exposed to dangerous circumstances, facing everything from poisonous snakes to enemies who might try to poison them. Whatever happened, they were not to worry, but believe. They would have the authority of Jesus on their side.

These words of encouragement were needed. Jesus was leaving and He knew that things were going to get difficult for the disciples. He wanted them to know that just as belief precedes salvation, belief would have to precede their efforts at global proclamation. What He was asking them to do was impossible. They were ill-equipped and under-educated for the task. But they simply needed to believe, then go. He would take care of the rest.

Father, it almost seems easier to believe in order to be saved, then it is to believe and obey Your Son’s command to go and tell. We find it so easy to justify our inaction due to inability or lack of training. But Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go when they were ready or equipped. He simply said believe and go. He would take care of what they needed. He would be with them. We are to believe what Jesus told us to do and go and do it. Obedience requires faith. We have been given authority to go, so we must take Him at His word and do what He has called us to do. Faithfully. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 149 – Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-21:25

Believe.

Matthew 28:9-15; Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” – John 20:29 NLT

In the days following His resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to His disciples at various times. On one of these occasions, when Jesus had suddenly appeared in a room where the disciples had gathered behind locked doors, Thomas had been absent for some reason. And when he was told later by the other disciples “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25 NLT), he responded in disbelief and doubt. “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side” (John 20:25 NLT). Eight days later, he would get his wish fulfilled, when Jesus appeared to them once again. It’s interesting to note that they are meeting behind locked doors again, even though they have seen the risen Lord. They’re fearful of the Jewish religious leaders, who have accused them of stealing the body of Jesus. But Jesus appears to them yet again, and this time Thomas is there. Jesus knew what Thomas had said the last time and so He offers him a chance to satisfy his doubt. “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe” (John 20:27 NLT). Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment that Thomas must have felt as Jesus stood before him, offering him the opportunity to stick his fingers into the wounds in His hands and place his hand into the wound in His side? When Thomas had made his bold statement of doubt, it had been dripping with sarcasm. He refused to believe what the others had said. True to his nickname, “Doubting Thomas,” he could not bring himself to accept the fact that Jesus was alive. But now, the evidence was standing right in front of his face, and Jesus simple says, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe.” Jesus confronted his disbelief and lack of faith. He demanded him to become “Believing Thomas.” And as a result, all Thomas can say is, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NLT). To which Jesus responds, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29 NLT). Jesus knew that there were going to be many who would never have the privilege and honor of having seen the risen Lord with their own two eyes. He was going to return to the Father and His physical presence would be removed from this earth. But there would be many who would hear the news of His life, death and resurrection – and believe. They would hear the Good News and respond in faith.

Jesus went out of His way to assure His disciples that He had risen from the dead. He addressed their doubts. He assuaged their fears. He gave them evidence in order to eliminate their lingering doubts. John tells us that they “saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name” (John 20:30-31 NLT). John recorded all these events so that those who came after him might know exactly who Jesus was and all that He had done. He shared his eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus. He gave detailed witness to the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. He was given the benefit of seeing Jesus alive so that he might be motivated to tell others of the truth of Jesus’ claims. Jesus WAS the Messiah. He truly was the Son of God. He really had died on the cross for the sins of man. He did give His life and take on the sins of all mankind so that we might be restored to a right relationship with God. It was all true, and John went out of his way to put it in writing, so that we might believe. And Jesus calls to us today, just as He did to Thomas,
“Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

Father, it is so easy to doubt. It just seems to come naturally to us as human beings. Even after all Jesus has done for us, we can still so easily doubt the reality of who He is and what He had done. We can doubt that we have the forgiveness He died to provide. We can doubt we have the power He said He would make available to us through the Holy Spirit. We can doubt Your love for us, even though His death was the greatest expression of Your love. We can doubt He is with us, even though He constantly intercedes for us in Your presence. We can doubt He is ever coming back, in spite of the fact that He promised He would. Help us to not be faithless any longer, but believe. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 148 – Matthew 28:9-15; Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35

Believe It or Not.

Matthew 28:9-15; Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” – Luke 24:17-18 NLT

This is a wonderful story, full of irony, humor, and fascinating juxtapositions of sorrow and joy, defeat and victory, and tragedy and triumph. Jesus has risen from the dead and has begun revealing Himself to many of His followers. News about His resurrection has begun to spread, but it has been met with disbelief and incredulity. When the Jewish religious leaders were informed about what had happened at the tomb by the guards who were ordered to protect the body from being stolen, they couldn’t believe their ears either. This was the worst thing that could have happened. It was what they had feared would happen and they they had begged Pilate to post guards at the tomb in the first place. But rather than believe the guards’ stories and accept that Jesus had risen from the dead, they concoct a lie that accuses the disciples of stealing the body while the guards were sleeping. Think about that. While the guards slept, somehow the disciples rolled away a large stone from the face of the cave and then carried off the body of Jesus – all without waking the guards! And how would this admission of dereliction of duty look on the records of the Roman guards? Sleeping on the job would not be a career enhancer for these men. But evidently the story of an earthquake and an angel appearing and rolling away the stone sounded far too unbelievable too. And the fact that the guards fainted at the sight of it all would not exactly leave the guards looking good in the eyes of their superiors either. So they agreed to spread the lie, and it became the popular explanation among the Jews as to what had happened that day.

But meanwhile Jesus was living, breathing and walking about. He was revealing Himself to His followers. And Luke records His encounter with the two on the road to Emmaus. They were leaving Jerusalem and heading home. Their mood is one of sorrow, dejection, and disappointment. Their dreams have been shattered. Their Messiah is dead. And all their hopes of a restored Jewish kingdom and salvation from Roman rule have died with Jesus. Then suddenly, Jesus appears walking next to them, but “God kept them from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16 NLT). Here was the resurrected Jesus walking right beside them, but they didn’t realize it. So Jesus asked them what they were discussing and they respond with surprise at this individual’s ignorance of current events. “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days” (Luke 24:18 NLT). Unbeknownst to him, Cleopas was addressing his somewhat sarcastic remark to the very one to whom all “the things” had happened. So Jesus, playing dumb, asks, “What things?” Then they begin to tell Jesus all that had taken place. But notice what he says. “He WAS a prophet.” “He WAS a mighty teacher.” “We had HOPED he was the Messiah.” They had been told that His body WAS missing. These same individuals also told them that angels had appeared to them saying the Jesus was alive. But Cleopas and his friend hadn’t believed a word of it. Why? Because Luke tells us that when Jesus found them walking on the road, they had “sadness written across their faces” (Luke 24:17 NLT). Despite the fact that there was news that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb and that He had risen from the dead, they refused to believe. They were headed home in defeat and disbelief. So Jesus said, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 NLT).

Then Jesus began to unpack the Old Testament Scriptures, from the writing of Moses to all the writings of the prophets, showing them all the things concerning the Messiah. This was a comprehensive Bible study taught by the Savior Himself, and the focus of the study was Jesus. Later, when they finally recognized who it was who had been walking and talking with them, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn with us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32 NLT). Why did their hearts burn? What was it that lit a fire inside them? At that point they still didn’t recognize Him, but as they had the Scriptures opened up to them, they became convinced about who Jesus was and all that the Messiah had come to do. The written Word of God opened their eyes so that they could receive and believe in the living Word of God. Now, rather than going home, they returned to Jerusalem and found the disciples and told them about their encounter with the risen Lord.

The Word of God reveals the Son of God. The Old Testament gives us a vivid glimpse into the life of the Savior. He is represented throughout the writings of Moses and the prophets. His suffering, death and ultimate resurrection was prophesied. His crucifixion was predicted in vivid detail. His torture at the hands of the Romans was written about hundreds of years before it happened. His substitutionary death and sinless sacrifice were told clearly presented long before they ever happened. But all those things were overlooked or ignored by generations of Jews because they didn’t fit their concept of who the Messiah would be. But God’s ways are not man’s ways. He never does things the way we would. He had a plan that would make no sense to us. But it was the only plan that would work. It was the only plan that would satisfy His holiness and still allow Him to extend grace, love and mercy to those who had openly rebelled against Him. Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament predicted. The writer of Hebrews tell us, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3 NLT). God had predicted the coming of His Son. Then He actually sent Him to do what He had to do. And one day He is coming back to complete God’s plan. And the Scriptures reveal that part of the Messiah’s assignment as well. Believe it, or not.

Father, Your written Word is full of insights into the life and ministry of Your Son, and it’s not relegated just to the Gospels. His life and ministry is found throughout the Scriptures. Give us a desire to know Him better. Give us a passion for Your Word because it is in Your Word where we discover the truth regarding Your Son and His ministry, past, present and future. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 147 – Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18

Doubt.

Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18

She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them that Jesus was live and that she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. – Mark 16:10-11 NLT

There’s an interesting word that crops up in the story of Jesus’ resurrection. It is not one I have ever noticed before or would have expected. As we have seen, Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. The religious leaders considered His claims to be blasphemy and worthy of death. The sign that was hung above Jesus’ head on the cross by Pilate carried the nature of His crime: “King of the Jews.” But in spite of Jesus’ claims, the people refused to believe. The religious leaders refused to believe. Herod and Pilate refused to believe. So Jesus was killed, but now He is risen, proving that He was who He claimed to be: The King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But the majority of the people would still refuse to believe. And they were not alone. In the verses above, Mark records that when Mary Magdalene went to the disciples and told them all that had happened, including the fact that she had seen Jesus with her own eyes, they refused to believe her. She found them weeping and mourning over the death of their Master and Savior, but when they heard the good news regarding His resurrection, they were incredulous. It was impossible.

This response of disbelief was going to become routine before the day was over. Time and time again, the disciples would find themselves struggling with disbelief at the thought of Jesus being alive. Even though this was all in accordance with His predictions prior to His death. He had told them He was going to die. And He had told them He would rise again three days later. But now that it had happened, the disciples couldn’t bring themselves to accept the news. Later on, Jesus would rebuke them for their unbelief. After revealing Himself to the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory? Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27 NLT).

Their belief was based on ignorance. They didn’t know the facts. They were biblically illiterate and had missed the major point of what the Scriptures had revealed about the Messiah. But they weren’t alone. Their own religious leaders and the experts in the Law had also missed the forest for the trees. These men were highly knowledgeable of the Scriptures, but they too had failed to see the predictions regarding the Messiah’s suffering and death. They wanted a conquering king and a political savior. They weren’t looking for a suffering savior. They had no use for a martyred Messiah. So when news of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread, it was met with unbelief. Why? Because it was unbelievable. It was too good to be true. It was impossible. But when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus, she was in for a surprise. Because not only was the tomb empty, but her dead Messiah was alive and talked with her. I love the encounter between the two of them. Before she even recognized Him, Jesus asked her, “Dear woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15 NLT). Mary thought He was the gardener and responded, “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him” (John 20:15 NLT). As far as Mary was concerned, Jesus was still dead, and His body had somehow been misplaced. But then Jesus spoke her name, “Mary!” and immediately she recognized Him and fell at His feet. Her doubt was turned into belief. The impossible had happened. She had had a personal, intimate encounter with the risen Lord. And Jesus instructed her to go and tell the others His message. But they too would struggle with disbelief until they had the same personal, intimate encounter with Jesus. The word of another was not going to be enough. For their disbelief and doubt to be radically reversed, they were going to have to see Jesus face to face. And it is still that way today. We can tell others about our encounter with Jesus. We can share what we have seen and heard, but until they have a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus themselves, they will continue to disbelieve. But thankfully, Jesus is still revealing Himself to doubters today. He is still having personal, life-changing encounters with unbelievers and helping turn them into faithful followers.

I can tell what Jesus has done for me. I can testify that He is indeed risen and alive and active in my life. But it is not until You choose to reveal Yourself to the lost that they will truly believe. Thank You Jesus that You are still patiently, persistently revealing Yourself to a world filled with doubters and disbelievers. And thank You that I was one of them. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 146 – Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10

A New Day Dawns.

Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. – Matthew 28:1 NLT

Jesus was dead. His tomb had been sealed by Pilate and armed Roman guards stood at the entrance, in an effort to prevent the disciples from attempting to steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. A group of women who had been close followers of Jesus had bought spices in order to anoint the body of Jesus for burial. They got up that Sunday morning, the day after the Sabbath, with plans to anoint His body, if only they could find someone who would help them roll away the stone blocking the entrance. But when they arrived, they found that the stone had already been rolled away and the entrance to the tomb was wide open. Matthew tells us that this was the work of an angel of the Lord. He was accompanied by an earthquake and the very sight of him caused the Roman soldiers to faint. Not exactly news they would want to get out among their peers. But the women entered the tomb and found an angel, but the body of Jesus was nowhere to be seen. They were shocked and stunned. The first thought that ran through their minds was that the body had been stolen or moved. The last thing on their mind was that He might be alive. But the angel told them, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body” (Mark 16:6 NLT). He isn’t here! What a statement. So simple and obvious, but it contained so much power and carried so much weight. Jesus wasn’t where they expected Him to be. Not only that, Jesus was not in the condition in which they thought they would find Him. He wasn’t dead. He was alive.

As you read the four Gospel accounts, it can appear that there are contradiction as to just how many angels appeared and which women went to the tomb. But if you look and read carefully, you can begin to see that there are actually a number of events overlapping. In his book, The Christ of the Gospels, J. W. Shephard gives some insight into the chronology of events.

The order of the events of this memorable Sunday, the resurrection day, are probably as follows: the earthquake, followed by the descent of the angel, the opening of the tomb, and the resurrection (Matthew 28:2-4). The group of women came together and started for the tomb at the “very early” hour of “deep dawn,” while it was yet dark. Mary Magdalene being a nimble young woman, eagerly ran ahead and came to the tomb, finding it open. Immediately she ran back by the nearest way to inform Peter and John of this fact (John 20:1). The other women completed their two miles walk from Bethany to the sepulcher, arriving a little after the rising of the sun (Mark 16:2). An angel suddenly appeared to them and gave them an urgent message to the disciples (Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:5). Another party of women come a little later, and see “two young men” dressed in white at the tomb, and receive words of comfort and instruction (Luke 24:4). About 6:30 a.m. Peter and John arrive, John running ahead (John 20:3-10). Mary Magdalene coming a little later saw two angels (John 20:11-13). The other women had returned to bear the message to the other apostles (Luke 24:10). About 7:00 a.m. Jesus first revealed Himself to Mary of Magdala (John 20:14-18; Mark 16:9). A little later, He appeared to the company of women returning to the sepulcher, and sent them with the charge to the brethren to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:9). About 4:00 p.m. He appeared to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5), and from 4-6 p.m. to Cleopas and his companion on the way to Emmaus. Finally, in the evening, probably about 8:00 p.m., He appeared to the eleven, and others in the room with barred doors (Luke 24:36; Mark 16:14; John 29:19). Surely this was a never-to-be-forgotten day for the disciples. It made a new world for them, and for His disciples for all subsequent times.

What an amazing day! What an incredible turn of events. The unimaginable and unexpected had happened. Jesus had risen from the dead. And it really was the dawn of a brand new day. Things would never be the same for any of these individuals. The women were given instructions to go and tell the disciples what had happened. But their story wasn’t exactly well-received. Luke tells us that “the story sounded like nonsense” to the disciples. So they didn’t believe. But Peter and John finally decided to check for themselves and ran to the tomb. They found everything to be just as the women had told them. The body was gone. Jesus was not there. Something incredible had happened. And John ends his account with the words, “Then they went home” (John 20:10 NLT). It sounds so anticlimactic. But what else were they to do? They were in shock. Even though the women had even seen Jesus with their own eyes and He had given them the message, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there” (Matthew 28:10 NLT), the disciples weren’t really sure what to do. They were still struggling with disbelief and doubt. Could it all be true? Was it all really happening? This new day was only going to get better. Their doubt would turn into belief. Their sorrow would be turned to joy. Their heartache would be replaced with rejoicing. Because Jesus had done exactly what He said He was going to do. He had come back to life. And this was just the beginning!

Father, what a story. What a change in circumstances. How amazing and unbelievable must all of this been for the disciples. It was too good to be true. It was impossible and highly improbable. But they were about to find out that nothing is impossible with You. A new day had dawned. A new age had begun. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 145 – Matthew 27:61-66; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55-56

Dead and Buried.

Matthew 27:61-66; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55-56

So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. – Matthew 27:66 NLT

The two women watched as the body of Jesus was placed in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They silently viewed the rolling of the stone over the mouth of the entrance. Then they returned home to prepare spices and ointments to anoint His body. But they were prevented from returning to the tomb due to the coming of the Sabbath, which would have prevented them from doing any kind of work. But it’s painfully clear that these women were not expecting any kind of resurrection from the dead. Their hopes had died when Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross earlier that day. Their dreams were shattered. Their long-awaited Messiah was dead.

Interestingly enough, it was the Jewish religious leaders that had resurrection on their minds. They recalled that Jesus had once claimed that He would rise from the dead. “Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead” (Matthew 16:21 NLT). While this information had been shared by Jesus with His own disciples, news of His claim had obviously made it to the ears of these religious leaders. And the thought of it was like a nightmare to them. That was the last thing they wanted or needed. So they went to Pilate and appealed to him to place armed guards at the tomb in order to prevent the disciples from stealing the body and claiming Jesus had risen from the dead. Even the rumor of resurrection filled them with fear. So Pilate gave in to their request and placed guards at the tomb and sealed the entrance. They were going to do whatever they had to do to keep Jesus dead and buried.

But while the women were preparing the spices to anoint Jesus’ body and the guards were preparing to prevent the disciples from stealing it, God was preparing something altogether remarkable and earth-shattering. This was far from the end. Jesus was dead and buried, but far from finished. Something else had to take place to complete God’s grand plan. A martyred Messiah was not how this thing was going to end. A dead Savior was part of the plan, but not the culmination. There was more to come, and with the rising sun the next morning, something truly remarkable was going to happen that would shock the guards and the women.

Father, I love this part of the story. Just when things look their bleakest, You are at work behind the scenes planning something so incredible it’s hard for us to fathom it. While the religious leaders are worrying about body-snatching disciples, and the women are preparing body-anointing spices, You are planning the resurrection of Your dead Son to new life. What a surprise the morning was going to bring. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 144 – Matthew 27:57-6-; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37

Down to the Last Detail.

Matthew 27:57-6-; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37

These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of this bones will be broken,” and “They will look on the one they have pierced.” – John 19:36-37 NLT

The death of Jesus was a well-orchestrated event, planned by God Himself and implemented with divine precision and detail. Nothing was overlooked or left to chance. At no point in the proceedings was God ever out of control or having to hastily respond to the plans of men. From the moment of His birth, Jesus’ entire life was predetermined by God. Even the timing of His death was part of God’s plan. And every single event that surrounded His death, while chaotic in appearance, was methodically thought out and controlled by God. And it had all been predicted by God through His prophets, hundreds of years earlier. Isaiah, referring to the Messiah, wrote “He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isaiah 53:9 NLT). And we read in the Gospel accounts that Joseph of Arimethea, a rich man and member of the Jewish high council who had been secret follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for permission to take the body of Jesus for burial. Matthew tells us that Joseph placed the body of Jesus in his own newly carved tomb. God the Father was not going to allow His Son’s body to be placed in a common burial plot for criminals. He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb. The prophet Zechariah had written hundreds of years earlier, “They will look on me on whom they have pierced and mourn for him as an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died” (Zechariah 12:10 NLT). This was another Messianic prophecy, speaking of the one for whom the Israelites had long awaited. And we read in the book of John that the Roman guards, in an attempt to guarantee Jesus’ death, “pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34 NLT). And because the Jewish religious leaders wanted the bodies of Jesus and the two criminals who were crucified along with Him taken down before the Sabbath, the Roman guards broke their legs to hasten their deaths. But because Jesus was already dead, His legs were left intact. This was in direct fulfillment of the words of David found in Psalm 34: “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:20 NET).

John tells us that “these things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures.” The death of Jesus had been predicted because it had been predetermined. It was all part of God’s divine plan for redeeming a lost and dying world. It was necessary in order for man’s guilt to be dealt with and God’s wrath to be satisfied. All of these things happened just as God had planned them to happen. And John tells us that what he wrote in his account was “from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe” (John 19:35 NLT). There was method to the madness. There was a purpose behind it all. As gruesome and hideous as the death of Jesus was, it was necessary. It was the only way for God to deal with sin and still be able to save the sinner. Isaiah reminds us that Jesus “was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NLT). What Jesus suffered, God ordained. All so that we could be saved.

Father, what an incredible, amazing plan. I can’t even begin to understand it all. But the detail and the precision of it all is mind-blowing. This was not just some random act of violence or injustice. This was Your divine plan for man’s redemption being acted out in human history. Down to the last detail. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 143 – Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41; Luke 23:45-49

An Earth-Shaking Event.

Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41; Luke 23:45-49

The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. – Matthew 27:51-53 NLT

It’s hard for us to grasp just how momentous and significant the death of Jesus was. Each of the gospel writers tell us how His life ended. Matthew says that “Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit” (Matthew 27:500 NLT). Mark describes it this way: “Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37 NLT). Luke gives a bit more detail, recording that “Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46 NLT). Finally, John records that Jesus was offered a sponge soaked in sour wine, and when He had tasted it he said, “‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit” (John 19:30 NLT). In each case, we see Jesus succumbing to the torture and pain to which He had been subjected. His body finally gave in to all the abuse, and Jesus closed His eyes and died. But at that moment, when it appeared that everything was over and His life was ended, some incredible, earth-shattering events took place. Matthew tells us that at that exact moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in half, from top to bottom. But that’s not all. The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened. There were some significant geological phenomena that went on. Matthew goes on to tell us that the earthquake itself was so intense that it terrified the Roman soldiers who were overseeing the crucifixion. Jesus’ death was anything but normal or uneventful. It was spectacular and special because it signified a momentous change in the relationship between God and man. What is fascinating is that in the final moments of Jesus’ death, the leading priests, teachers of religious law, and the elders mocked Jesus, saying, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!” (Matthew27:42 NLT). But rather than save Himself, Jesus dies so that He might save others. He died so that we might live. And at the moment He died, something miraculous happened. “The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead” (Matthew 27:52 NLT). Jesus did not save Himself from death, but in dying, He restored these people from death. He delivered them from the grave. This miraculous sign proved that He was who He claimed to be. He really was the King of Israel, and even in death, He had power over the grave. As He hung lifeless on the cross, He brought life back to those who had been dead. And three days later, when He rose from the dead, these rejuvenated individuals would appear in the city of Jerusalem. In essence, they represented the “first fruits,” a symbol of what is to come. We don’t know if these people went with the Lord when He ascended, or if they stayed on earth. If they stayed on earth, they would have had to have died a second time, just as Lazarus did. But what we do know is that their restored lives were evidence of Jesus’ victory over death. He had truly conquered the grave. These people had been dead, but were now raised to new life, and they would appear to many who knew them, proving the veracity of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God.

When most men die, their story ends. Their influence dies with them. But Jesus’ death made a powerful impact on the world. It literally shook the earth. It shattered rocks. It opened graves. It raised the dead. It defeated sin and death. It satisfied the demands of a just and holy God. It made possible new life and a restored relationship with God the Father. It was a game-changer and it continues to impact the world today. Jesus wasn’t just another well-meaning martyr dying for a cause. He was the innocent Son of God, giving His life as payment for the sins of all mankind. His death was a powerful antidote to the curse of sin and the disease of death. What Jesus did on the cross struck a fatal blow to the enemy and eliminated the strangle hold he had on the lives and souls of men. It was earth-shaking, paradigm-shattering, and sin-conquering. Jesus had done His part. He had fulfilled His Father’s will, and He was able to say, “It is finished.” Now the rest was up to God the Father.

Father, no man’s death has ever had the impact that the death of Jesus did. Earthquakes, miraculous signs and resurrected lives accompanied the death of Jesus. Because His death was like no other. His death was effective and powerful. It wasn’t the end of something, but the beginning. Life as we know it was changed that day. The relationship between God and man changed that day. All because Jesus died. Thank You for sending Your Son as a sacrifice for me. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 142 – Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30

Access Granted.

Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30

By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. – Luke 23:44-45 NLT

Some of the last words spoken by Jesus from the cross were, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34 NLT). This took place at the most crucial moment during His entire ordeal. It was at this point that all the sins of mankind were placed on Him. The penalty and burden of all the sins of all time were transferred onto Jesus and His holy, righteous Father had to turn away. For the first and only time, God the Father and God the Son were separated. Their inseparable bond was broken. No longer could God look on Jesus and say, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” He could not look on His Son at all, because of the sins of men. This scene is similar to that in the Old Testament during the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Each year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed by God to select two goats. One was sacrificed as a sin offering for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. This first goat was slaughtered and its blood was taken inside the curtain into the Holy of Holies, where it was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. This would purify the Most Holy Place from the sins and rebellion of the people. Then Aaron would sprinkle the remainder of the blood throughout the Tabernacle, purifying it as well. The second goat, called the scapegoat, was kept alive. After having cleansed the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle and the altar, Aaron was to place his hands on the head of the goat and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. This act symbolically transferred the people’s sins onto the goat. It bore their sins – the sins of the entire nation of Israel. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, away from the presence of God, where it was left to die. This event had to take place every single year in order to provide cleansing and forgiveness of sin for the people. But when Jesus died, He satisfied the demands of God once and for all. The book of Hebrews tells us, “The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Instead, they served as a constant reminder of their sins year after year. But Jesus came to change all that. “For God’s will was for us to made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10 NLT). “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time” (Hebrews 10:12 NLT). Jesus, our scapegoat, took on all our sins and bore the penalty we deserved. He paid our debt with His own life – once and for all.

And when Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?, it was not cry of surprise or despair. He was not off guard by what was happening. He was actually quoting Psalm 22:1. That incredible Psalm goes on to describe the death of Jesus in amazing detail. “My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divine my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing” (Psalm 22:16-18 NLT). This moment on the cross, when Jesus was temporarily separated from His Son due to the sins of mankind, was all part of the plan. It had to happen. Jesus had to become our scapegoat. And when He had taken on our sins, an amazing thing happened. Luke tells us that at that moment, in the Temple, the heavy curtain that hung at the entrance into the Most Holy Place, was torn from top to bottom. This symbolic barrier between God and man, separating them from one another because of  the holiness of God and the sins of men, was ripped down the middle. No longer would there be a barrier preventing men from having access to God. There would be no more need for a sacrificial lamb or for blood to be sprinkled by the high priest on the Mercy Seat. When Jesus took on the weight, the burden and the penalty of our sins, He did so once and for all. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT). Jesus bore the penalty for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. He suffered separation from the Father so we could gain access to the Father. He died so that we might live. He suffered so we might be saved. So “let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 NLT).

Father, I can’t thank You enough for this incredible plan of Yours. That You would allow Your own Son to take on my sins and die in my place blows me away. I can’t fathom why You would do something so incredible. I know it was not because I deserved it. It was because of Your love. Rather than giving me what I justly deserved, You gave me what I could never have earned on my own – Your grace, mercy, favor and forgiveness. Your Son’s death provided me with access into Your very presence. The barrier is removed. Access has been granted. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org