Maunday Thursday 9th
John Ch 13 verse 38 “Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!'”
As we enter week three of ‘lockdown’ the novelty has clearly worn off, if there ever was one. All of us will be thinking ‘when is this going to end, how long will it be’? The reality is that we have to go through the experience of our present difficulties, to experience the freedom that normal life will bring, even though normal may well be different for many of us.
In Holy Week we look forward to the celebration of Easter Morning, and those familiar words, ‘Christ is Risen’, and the response ‘He is Risen indeed’. But in order to get there, we need to go through the betrayal, rejection and death of Jesus, we cannot have one without the other.
In our reading, Jesus is pointing out to Peter the darkness that he personally will go through, even though he has no comprehension of what this will mean. The inner turmoil that Peter experiences in his rejection of Jesus, in the crucifixion and when Jesus restores him [John Ch 21 verses 15 – 19], are all part of him becoming the disciple who would be so effective in the life of the early Church. So much so that in Acts Ch 2 verse 11, it is Peter who stands up and addresses the crowd on the day of Pentecost.
May this experience help us to realise what is truly important in life, and to put our hope and trust in the one who experienced utter darkness that we might experience glorious light.
Dear Lord Jesus, as we move through this week may we embrace the darkness of this familiar story, in the full knowledge that we are being changed to experience afresh your glorious resurrection.
Good Friday 10th
John 19:28 “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’.
A jar of vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant and lifted it to Jesus lips.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished’
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit.”
In other versions of Jesus’ death, we also hear that Jesus gave a loud cry and also said “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”
Recently I came to realise that although Good Friday is in many ways solemn and tragic, it is actually the beginning of the victory of love. I believe that in the words Jesus said “It is finished“, he is not saying the suffering and the pain is finished, but his victory over sin and death is finished. It is done! He has triumphed.
Yes, we have a period of waiting and we don’t see the resurrection till Sunday, but Jesus has already triumphed.
I was struck the other day when I was looking at a butterfly that when it changes from a caterpillar into a chrysalis it is as if it is dead, but it has done what it needed to do. It has eaten enough food; it has found somewhere safe and then it waits as it is transformed into something truly wonderful. But it is just in a period of waiting.
We are waiting on Good Friday for the truly amazing resurrection of Jesus.
We wait in certain hope. We wait in victory. Hallelujah!
Dear Father God, Thank you for Jesus’ death on the cross. Thank you for the pure love that drove him there despite the humiliation and pain along the way. Thank you that as we wait for his resurrection, we wait knowing Jesus has triumphed over sin and death.
Psalm 37:5-7 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”
Sometimes, and especially at the moment, our biggest decision is when to get out of the bed in the morning! Next decision, what to have for breakfast! Now what? More cleaning, more gardening, more reading, more sitting around……..??
Those who are working from home will then have a lot of decisions about their work. Then there are many people who are struggling with the lack of decisions to make, the only essential one at the moment being, stay at home.
So, it is hard sometimes to have the wisdom to do what is right when most things are put on hold for the moment. It is hard to commit our way to the Lord when we might be struggling with coping with boredom. We might think God has no interest in our little decisions during the day when people are dying in hospital and health and care workers are struggling.
Remember though, God our loving Father is interested in everything we do. He will lead us in our seemingly small decisions and remind us of His care at this difficult time. Be still in the Lord, be patient and commit every day anew to Him.
Lead us Heavenly Father. Reveal your love and care in abundance.
Easter Day Sunday 12th
I don’t know if you’ve noticed the abundance of Apocalyptic/End of the World themed films being shown on TV at the moment? Whether this is coincidence or reflecting the times and situation we find ourselves in who can say. Closer to home the most notable sign of the times we’ll all notice is the abundance of brightly coloured, lovingly displayed rainbows in peoples’ front windows up and down our streets. These often show the words ‘stay safe’ and help keep our hopes alive for a brighter tomorrow when the threat of infection subsides, and we can all go about our normal day to day lives.
Acts 10 verses 34-43 Verse 39 says: “We are witnesses to all that He[Jesus] did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree; but God raised Him on the third day…”
This verse makes me think that if Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead, as the Apostle Peter here and countless believers along with him bear witness to, then Jesus may well have been long forgotten. His followers would have all dispersed and gone back to their former ways of life. But the truth that we as Christians celebrate on this Easter Day, above all others, is that as the verse above proclaims and shouts out “but God raised Him on the third day“! This means everything: all that Jesus taught, said, did, demonstrated – were all fulfilled, verified and shown to be true by God through the power of the Holy Spirit raising Jesus to new life, after He was so cruelly crucified 2000 plus years ago.
Yes, these sometimes feel very much like Apocalyptic times we are living in today. But just as the hastily drawn rainbows in our windows remind us, we must not lose hope. But our hope today of all days goes far beyond just continuing to pray and hope for an end to the world’s current battle against an unseen virus which is having massive effects on so many peoples’ lives. Our hope looks further and is based upon the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. His rising to new life means forgiveness, healing and the gift of eternal life to all who put their trust Him. He is Jesus; the man, who was also God’s very own Son, the Saviour of the World. He is risen, Halleluiah!
And we shall reign with Him
For He lives
Christ is risen from the dead! [‘See what a Morning’ Stuart Townend]
1 Cor Ch 15 verses 1-11 (Click here) Verses 5&6: “…He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time…”
Please take time to read these 11 verses as they speak of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection on that first Easter which is so central because it is through these events in history that by faith we are saved and receive fullness of life today.
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener in this passage is in the verses quoted above-just how many of Jesus’ followers He appeared to before He finally ascended to the Father’s side after His resurrection. Our own ongoing faithful witness and call to pass on this ‘good news’ is therefore alongside and following in the footsteps of “such a great cloud of witnesses” [Heb 12:1]. Let us remember we are not alone, but part of God’s amazing, growing family: those here on earth and those who have gone before us to taste the glory that awaits all those who put their faith and trust in Him.
Lord, we thank you for the Good News of hope we have to share and celebrate this Easter. May your resurrection remind us of your power to transform lives. Help us to live in your resurrection life and power, and we pray that your Good News would be heard and received by many this day.
John Ch 20 verse 24 – 25 “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’.”
Doubt can be seen as being a negative, as if to doubt means that you don’t really believe after all. For most of my Christian life, I have valued the reality that to doubt is as much part of my faith as to believe is. That does not mean that in general, I doubt about whether this Christian faith is true, rather that I sometimes doubt about whether the way that we have come to interpret that faith is really how God intended. Doubt often reveals itself in questioning things, but in general knowledge is obtained by asking not just by accepting glibly. So, doubts that lead to questions that lead to being better informed, and therefore better equipped to live out our faith, are to my mind a positive.
We are also better at giving an answer for our faith if we have come to a conclusion by our own exploration. In our reading, Thomas is not present when Jesus reveals himself to the disciples, and therefore cannot believe in the resurrection, he wants hard evidence. But upon getting that evidence he immediately acknowledges Jesus as Lord; he clearly saw Jesus in a different way to the human he had shared the previous 3 years with, now he was Lord.
For each of us our experience of God is different, so our doubts and questions are different, but as we understand more about him, and experience his presence with us, may we proclaim him as Lord.
Dear Lord Jesus, give us answers to our questions, patience where there is a lack of clarity, and grace to accept the uncertainties, that we might know you as Lord.
John Ch 21 verse 4 “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”
There are several times in the Gospels where individuals do not realise that it is Jesus. When Mary meets Jesus at the tomb, and when Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water for instance. These are people who knew him well, but for some reason they failed to recognise him, maybe because they were moments of anxiety and emotional turmoil. But ultimately the revelation that Jesus really was there, and had been all along, brought peace and transformation to the situation.
In the midst of the situations that surround you, whilst you may not be physically aware of his presence, you can be assured that he never leaves us or forsakes us. That whilst being seated at God’s right hand, he is also right there with you now, and the peace that passes all understanding is there for those who with Thomas call him Lord.
Dear Lord Jesus, help us to recognise your presence in our situations, and to call upon your name in prayer, for ourselves and for others.