Monday, November 25, 2013

1 Thessalonians 4:1-6

The blued steel barrel and the rich, walnut-finish stock glistened as I picked up grandpa’s Remington 11-87, semi-automatic, 12-gauge shotgun. She was gorgeous -the perfect blend of wood and metal, a precision piece of equipment. Over the next couple of months, I learned how to clean her well, and how to store her in such a way that she wouldn’t be damaged. But the gun was not just a trinket to be stored on the shelf. She had a purpose. Guns go “boom!”
I spent the next couple of years with an experienced duck hunter, learning how to set decoys and how to perfect my call so that I could always reach my bag limit. Every time we went hunting, I would load up grandpa’s gun, and take her to do the precision bird-surgery for which she was created. When I took a horrible plunge into the river on an ice-cold morning, she plunged with me. On another occasion, when my canoe nearly cap-sized in the early-morning darkness of a rushing forest stream, there was my shotgun by my side. I kept her clean, and when it came time to harvest some ducks, she was ready to do her job.
That 12-gauge was created for a purpose. With the shout, “Cut ‘em all, Jack!” we would raise our guns to our shoulder, tracking the air-borne ducks this way or that, and with a “Blam! Blam! Blam!” that gun was accomplishing the very thing for which Remington had created her. The delicious smell of burnt powder would linger for a moment in the crisp swamp air, and the hunt would be over. After the hunt, I would sit on my front porch in my rocking chair and clean my gun once again before putting her away until the next week.
As we come to 1 Thessalonians 4, we see that just as my gun has a specific purpose, we as believers also have a specific purpose for which God extended His grace to us. Just as it would be unnatural for me to use my gun as a baseball bat or a sledge-hammer, it is unnatural for a believer to exist outside of his God-ordained design. God saved us, and now He calls us into a very specific purpose. As 1 Corinthians 6 says, “you are not your own, you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and your spirit, which are God’s.
In chapter 4 of his epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul tells the believers that they “ought to walk and to please God.” He goes on to say that “this is the will of God, even your sanctification that ye should abstain from fornication.” You were saved for a purpose. Peter teaches this same truth in 1 Peter 1:15, “As he which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (lifestyle).” Just as my 12-gauge is most perfectly fulfilling what she was created for when I am dropping ducks out of the air, you will most perfectly fulfill what God saved you for when you are living a life that is set apart from sin and committed to serving only His desires.

Food For Thought: Reread 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6. What are at least two specific areas that Paul speaks of in regards to a life committed to holy living?

Friday, November 22, 2013

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

“Your faith is lacking.” This phrase may sound a bit harsh or underhanded, but Paul was writing it from a heart of compassion and care. It was not an indictment. It was a loving admonition. The believers in Macedonia were under constant threat of persecution, so, Paul sent a letter to comfort them during this trying time. After offering encouragement, Paul began to offer up instruction to these young believers. In the end of chapter 3, this instruction and admonition comes in the form of Paul’s prayer.
But as Paul explains his prayer for the Thessalonians, he indicates that there is something wrong with their faith. How could he say this about these believers who patiently endured such hardships? Was their faith not strong enough through this season of adversity? They had been abused and even imprisoned for their faith. Now, Paul was saying that it wasn’t enough. What did he mean by this?
First, what he didn’t mean when he was telling them they needed to increase their faith-
Paul wasn’t telling these young Christians that they needed to “believe more.” They undoubtedly believed all they could. The testimony of their endurance amidst overwhelming difficulty was a great indicator that they believed to their furthest extent. It wasn’t that they didn’t “believe enough.” He wasn’t telling them to pull up to the faith station and stick the nozzle in the faith tank and fill ’er up. It wasn’t that they were lacking in quantity. Men like Jason were some of the most sincere believers the church has ever seen.
So then, how could they increase their faith? Pastor John Macarthur says it this way, “Faith is the ability to trust the truth.” The amount of faith that you possess is directly proportional to the amount of truth that you understand. Paul’s time of instruction at Thessalonica was cut short when the authorities tried to arrest him. Now, their learning had become stunted and incomplete. Subsequently, their faith was equally diminished. They did not fully know the truth of God. They did not fully understand the Scriptures, and this left them in a sort of spiritual childhood. Their lack of understanding had resulted in their “lack of faith.”
Paul would plumb the depths of God’s greatness and truth with them by way of pen and ink. He was not satisfied simply with the fact that they were converted. He wanted to take them into soul-liberating truth. He longed to build their faith to a level that it currently could not even approach, and that could only happen if he took them to the truth that could build their faith.
We have truth available to us in ways that far exceed the access granted to these first century believers. By way of technology and the web, ministries now share Biblical teaching that can take the average Spiritual baby and plunge them into the depths of God’s truth. It is time that God’s children get serious about God’s truth. Is your faith lacking? Perhaps it is because you are still in spiritual infancy. Dive deeper into your understanding of God and find the soul-satisfying, life-liberating, hope-giving, faith-increasing truth.

Food for Thought: Why did Paul mean when he said that the Thessalonians faith was lacking? How could they increase their faith?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:8

The accusation had been leveled by some dissenters in Thessalonica that Paul had abandoned them and would never return. The people who considered Paul an enemy tried to convince the believers that Paul was just another greedy charlatan. Their evidence as it seemed was that after he had shown up and preached his divisive message he had simply departed into the dark of night, never to be seen again.
If these scorners could not undo Paul’s message, they would seek to impugn his character. Perhaps it was because Paul didn’t meet their personal standards, or maybe because Paul did not do things exactly as they did, whatever the reason, their hatred for Paul was executed on the young believers. Hearing this news from Timothy broke Paul’s heart for his children in the faith.
In his letter to these struggling believers, Paul explained his own frustrations and his described his thwarted attempts to return to Thessalonica. In v. 18, he says “we would have come unto you…but Satan hindered us.” The word translated as “hindered” here literally has the idea of “tearing up the road.” Paul wanted to come to them, but Satan completely tore up the road and dug a ditch to prevent Paul from visiting the believers. Satan’s purposes were obvious. He wanted to undo the truth-believing Christians in Thessalonica, and one of Satan’s greatest tools in church demolition is disunity by way of misperception. While he hindered Paul from visiting, he sent his workers of iniquity into the church to explain Paul’s absence in the most horrible of terms.
He truly is a master deceiver, and it is no wonder that Paul points his evil work out here. Paul knew that when disunity arose in the church, it was not just because of sinful men. He knew that a “roaring lion” was prowling, hungrily searching for the one who was disgruntled enough to be devoured. Paul may not have been able to arrive in person, but he did the next best thing – he would write a letter of encouragement. It must have been refreshing to the Thessalonians to see Paul’s heart in his letter. All the lies were not true. Paul loved them. Paul had been seeking their best interest from the beginning. Dissenters and scorners were just the pawns of a dis-unifying Satan. True believers would encourage each other and overcome any frustrations through a long-suffering love for one another.

Food For Thought: Read Philippians 2:1-4. What admonition does Paul give there regarding unity in the body of Christ?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The stampeding hooves of war horses could be heard outside the thin, boarded walls of the Crawford farm house. Inside, two young brothers, thirteen and sixteen, cowered behind the furniture, frighteningly peering out at the soldiers through the tiny gaps in the walls. When Colonel Davie had sounded the retreat, these boys had sprinted through the woods to their cousin’s house with the hope of being out of sight before the British Dragoons could spot them, but they had failed. Immediately, the troops had surrounded the little farm house. And now the officer in charge of the dragoons shouted at the house, “Come out of the house!!” “If you don’t come out, we’ll burn it to the ground!”
At this, Andrew and his older brother Robert appeared at the farmhouse door. When they emerged from the house, two soldiers on either side of the door grabbed the boys, subdued them, and bound them. The forty mile journey on foot as prisoners of war was grueling, but that journey was just a glimpse of the horror that these boys would find in the cholera and smallpox infested prison camp that awaited them.
Elizabeth Jackson was already grieving the death of her eldest son, when a message detailing the horrifying capture of Andy and Robert reached her. Knowing full-well that prisoners did not last long in the prison camps, she departed immediately to negotiate for the release of her two remaining sons. She loved her sons, and would risk her own life for their safety. With confidence, this fair-haired Irish lady challenged the British commander for the release of her two sons. These were her children, and she loved them. She loved them more than her own life.
When we read of Paul’s love for the Thessalonian believers, we see that he loved them as a mother loves her own children (ch.2,v.7). It broke his heart to hear of the persecution and affliction that they were enduring, and would have given his own life if it meant saving them from this injustice. This is the care and compassion that Christians should have for one another. This is the self-sacrificing love of John 15:13 that Jesus lived out for us, and this is the love that John 13:35 tells us we should live out for one another. Paul loved the believers at Thessalonica, and we should love one another.
Although Robert would eventually succumb to the devastating effects of the smallpox, Andrew Jackson made a full recovery through the nurture and care of a self-sacrificial mother. Nearly five decades later, an entire nation would more fully appreciate the enduring, self-exhausting care of a mother when Andrew Jackson was elected to be the seventh President of the United States.
It is the call of true believers to love one another in this way. Through the hard and difficult circumstances of life, may we choke up to the bit and endure. With a pure love that withstands the attacks of the enemy, may we press on, that others might be helped, and that God might be glorified.

Food For Thought: Read John 13:35 and John 15:13. What two things do we learn from Jesus in these two passages?

Friday, November 15, 2013

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Years of labor culminated in 1516, when under the direction of Pope Leo X (the same pope who railed against Martin Luther five years later), a Dutch monk named Erasmus of Rotterdam cranked out the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. Over the next century this Greek text and its subsequent reproductions and revisions would become the anchor for the Biblical resurgence of the Protestant Reformation. 
This Reformation was unstoppable. It was an insatiable thirst for truth. It was a driving return to Biblical Christianity. This reformation was not a one-time anomaly. A fierce, raging tide of reaction always occurs when truth-malnourished people are granted access to the Truth. Truth is uncontrollably infectious, and while it may have challenged the status quo, by its very nature it brought millions out of the gloomy shadows of the Dark Ages.
Now, with Bible in hand, we celebrate the greatest Truth brought to us by centuries of a loving God’s Providential preservation. We can celebrate the grace of God as we turn to His wonderful, hope-giving, life-breathing text. That we, like the believers of 1 Thessalonians 2:13 can be transformed by the Spirit of God as we read the text, understanding fully that it is not merely “the word of men,” but rather the very “word of God.”
Peter gives the following textual confidence in his second epistle, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” What we hold in our hands is not the work of overly ambitious truth-twisters, it is the very testimony of eyewitnesses.
Furthermore, the textual evidence for these eyewitnesses is staggering, especially when compared to other ancient historical texts. For example, everything we know of the history of Julius Caesar’s conquest of Europe is found in a text known as the Gallic Wars. There are only 10 ancient manuscripts of this text that have been discovered, the oldest one dating back to the A.D. 900’s, nearly one thousand years after Julius Caesar lived (50 B.C.).
In comparison, there are over 5,000 ancient manuscripts (hand-written copies) of the New Testament. The original, inspired, eye-witness accounts were penned in the last half of the first century (A.D. 50-A.D. 100). The oldest manuscript fragments that have been discovered date back to c. A.D. 125, only 3 decades after the originals were written. We do not have a sketchy, unpreserved text. We have the most reliable text that has ever been composed through the history of the human race.
The preservation is supernatural. The preservation is Divine. God has not left His people without a Bible. Rather, He lovingly preserved His Word, and has used it to transform His church. Like the church in Thessalonica, we too should value the Scriptures. The preservation alone should indicate that this is not merely a book containing the “word of men,” but rather the very “Word of God.” Now, let’s learn to value it as such, and to listen to the voice of God as He speaks to us from His Word.   

Food For Thought: Read 2 Peter 1:15-21. What phrases does Peter use to describe the miraculous work of Divine preservation?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

The evening had set in, and the dancing flames of the candles flickered in the darkness. Jesus and His disciples reclined around the table, and Judas had already left to do his evil work. In the following few hours, Jesus would be arrested, beaten, and ultimately He would die. He knew this. But as He spoke that night, the disciples treated it like any other night. There was no extra importance on these words. If they had known He was going to die, they would have certainly leaned in and asked Him more probing questions. But that was not the case.
With hours of teaching remaining in His earthly ministry, Jesus became extremely clear in His commands: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This would be the marking characteristic of a believer: love.
Paul understood this ethic. He knew that loving others was expected and normative in a Christian’s life. In his letter to the Galatians, he said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” According to Paul, this love should be lived out. It should be the nature of every Christian. We should be lovingly caring for those around us, believer and unbeliever.
At times this perspective is steam-rolled by crass and unruly “proclaimers” of the gospel. Instead of following Paul’s admonition in Ephesians of “speaking the truth in love,” or Peter’s encouragement to share the gospel in “meekness and fear,” (literally gentleness and respect), these edgy and angry Christians celebrate their abrasiveness. This simply is not Christian.
Christianity looks like Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, “But we were gentle among you…being affectionately desirous of you…we were willing to have imparted unto you…our own souls.” This is what true Christianity looks like. That we, like Jesus, be known as self-sacrificial, not self-serving. That we, like Jesus, demonstrate unbridled love for those around us.
So what does your life look like? In the text today, Paul indicates that an effective gospel witness comes from a person who shares their own soul. Evangelism is not a calculated method whereby we follow a formula and reap an outcome. Rather, evangelism is such that we are sharing the gospel as we share our own lives. The exhausted life of Christ can be our example in evangelism: continually He reached out to those who did not yet believe, ultimately He gave His life that all might believe. May we become this kind of love-filled gospel proclaimer.

Food For Thought: Read Leviticus 19:18. What command do we find in this verse from the Law that Jesus later repeats in His ministry?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

The life of a Christian is a changed life. As Paul wrote to these believers in the province of Macedonia, there was one thing that he was certain of: (v.4) these people were God’s people.
After his visit with believers in Thessalonica, Timothy had brought the terrific report to Paul that in spite of persecution, the church was thriving. In the midst of a pagan culture, God’s chosen people were living up to the purpose for which God had saved them. Their faith was an evident one.
Now Paul began his letter to these fellow Christians, with a few reasons that gave him confidence that these believers were truly the ‘brethren beloved.”
1) They had received the explicit gospel. A 13th century Roman Catholic friar is often credited with the statement “Preach the gospel, if necessary, use words.” Whether or not Francis of Assisi said this does not change the fact that it is rather unbiblical. When declaring the gospel, words must be used. It is not good enough to “show the gospel in your life.” Jesus did not die a generic death, and therefore, his gospel is not a generic one. It is a very articulate gospel, and Paul and Silas had painstakingly delivered it to these ones who had believed it.
2) They had experienced a true conversion. Conversion is more than accepting something. Conversion is a changing or transitioning. The believers were no longer worshipping their idols (v.9). Now, like Paul, they were followers of Jesus. They saw the life of holiness that God had called them to as something that they needed, and had begun living in a way that was pleasing to Him. Their Christianity was an obvious one. They were not what Charles Sprugeon would condemningly call “secret disciples.”
Today, there are many people who claim the title “Christian.” I once heard Keith Green say it this way, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.” There will be greater indicators of faith in a Christian’s life than church attendance. Assurance comes to those who have a life that is marked by a faith in the gospel of Jesus. Furthermore, their life will reveal a conversion whereby they have come in full contact with the sanctifying Spirit of God.

Food For Thought: What does Paul say about the Thessalonians testimony in verses 7-8? What do you think that should tell us about our testimony?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

1 Thessalonians 1:1-4

“Abram, leave your country, leave your culture, leave your family, and follow me.”
The old Sumerian was called to leave everything that he knew and turn to a new God. This God was different than the gods of his father, Terah. But Abram obeyed the call of God. God had a design to rescue fallen mankind through a descendant in the family of Abram.
This was the first call of God on Abram (later to be called Abraham), and certainly would not be the last. We later find that this calling of God predicated Abraham’s faith, and ultimately culminated in his being declared righteous by God in Genesis 15:6.
Throughout Scripture, God consistently calls people to Himself. In Deuteronomy 14:2, Moses writes, “Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself…” The same thought is carried out in Leviticus 11:45 where God tells His chosen people that He rescued them from their bondage in Egypt, “to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” God continually says, “I chose you that you might worship and serve me with your lives. I saved you for a purpose.”
As you continue to the New Testament God continues to extend His saving grace for very similar purposes. In Acts 15:13-18, James explains the historic calling of God on His chosen people. It is not a generic call whereby He flippantly chooses some for eternal glory and others for eternal damnation. Rather, with Sovereign purpose, He calls men and women from every nation, tribe, and tongue that they might live holy lives of separation dedicated to His worship and His glory. He does not choose them simply for their bettered situation (although their situation certainly is immeasurably improved); He chooses them for Himself.
When we arrive at a text like Ephesians 1:4, that speaks of those who are “chosen in him,” this should not be a phrase that confuses or frightens us. Rather, understanding that God has been calling men and women throughout the entire history of the human race, we should be moved in confidence to understand that God truly does call people out from the ranks of humanity to fulfill roles of service to Him.
With this confidence, we read the opening of Paul’s epistle to the believers in Thessalonica. As Paul begins his letter, he sends the greetings of Silas (he calls him Silvanus) and Timothy along to the Thessalonians. As Paul recounts the testimony of the Thessalonians, there is one thing that Paul knows for sure about these believers. He knows that based upon the evidences of God’s grace, demonstrated through their faith, love and hope, they are without a doubt, “elect of God” – a chosen people set apart to God. Their lives demonstrated this truth. They were God’s people, and they lived in such a way that everyone could know it.

Food For Thought: Read 1 Peter 1:15-16. When Peter writes about the “call of God,” what does he say that calling should motivate us to be?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians

“WHERE IS HE?!” The enraged mob, filled with brutes and thugs, kicked open Jason’s door and dragged him out of his house into the torch-lit street.
“Www-where is who?” Jason stammered.
"PAUL, THE BLASPHEMER. WHERE IS HE?!” While a few men held Jason in the street, the others rushed into his house. The “lewd fellows,” as Acts 17 calls them, ransacked Jason’s house. While he stood bound in the street on this dark night in Thessalonica, Jason watched in brokenness as his belongings were crushed and smashed. They left nothing undamaged. The pottery was shattered, the garments were shredded, the couch and the bed were dashed to pieces. This night was a costly night for this man. What had he done?
He was dragged off to prison, where the accusations were leveled against him and a few other brothers. After posting bond, they were released to return to their homes, that by now had been pilfered for any remaining goods that were not damaged. What a costly night. All had been destroyed. What had been his crime? He had believed. He had become a Christian. That was all. The Jewish leaders had brutalized him for it, and the Roman authorities had played along.
Where was Paul? It was simply Providence that had kept Paul from being at Jason’s house that night. Word spread quickly through the night and came to Paul and Silas.
He had only been teaching for a few weeks. The church there in Thessalonica was literally, only a few weeks old. Now, because of impending persecution, Paul had to flee in the darkness of night. When would he return? How would the church ever be able to continue in sound doctrine? How would they ever mature? Having their spiritual father snatched from them at such a young age, would they ever thrive?
Scripture tells us that the church did continue, and that persecution in this church also continued. Paul would not be able to return to the young church any time soon, but word did come to Paul about the church. He must have been thrilled to hear that even though he was not there with them, they were continuing to grow in their faith.
After receiving a full update on the condition of the young church from Timothy, Paul decided to write a letter of encouragement and of doctrine to the believers in Thessalonica.
God loved the believers there in Thessalonica. They were His chosen people, and in His love, He had used His servant Paul to write this great letter to His people. God loves believers today, and in His love for us, He preserved His Truth in this first epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians. May we constantly look to Him as Author and Sustainer as we journey together through First Thessalonians.

Food For Thought: Read Acts 17:10-14. When Paul fled Thessalonica he travelled for forty miles to Berea. What happened in Berea after Paul arrived there?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mark 16:14-20 (John 20:19-23)

“Mary, you have been crying too much. Go home, and rest.”
The unbelieving disciples refused to accept the testimony of a woman. If Jesus was truly resurrected, He would show Himself to them, not some hysterical handmaid.
When the two travelers returned late that Sunday evening from Emmaus, their testimony seemed a bit sketchy.
“So, you walked with Him for how many miles before you realized you were talking to Jesus?”
The skeptical disciples were certain that these two would have recognized Jesus immediately. Perhaps there was someone out there pretending to be the risen Jesus, but they had seen with their own eyes His beating and execution. People didn’t make a three day recovery from the abuse of the Romans. The Romans had driven rusty spikes through His ankles. If He was recovering, He certainly wouldn’t be strolling down to Emmaus.
The stories all seemed too strange, so the disciples refused to believe. They had been known to be His followers, and their lives were in danger. Days of certain persecution were coming, and these disciples had bigger things to worry about and plan than whether or not some wishful dreams of a few overly-emotional disciples were true.
Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the middle of the room. Staring on in disbelief, the experience was highly personal for each of the disciples. All felt a level of surprise, but the joy of the moment was clouded by guilt and shame. Peter had sworn to Jesus just days before that he would never betray Him. Now, in the deepest part of Peter’s soul was a nauseous feeling that told him, “Jesus already knows what you did.” One by one they had all forsaken Him.
The shame of the previous days events blended with the embarrassment for their disbelief on this day. He had sent Mary Magdalene, and in coldness they had scorned and dismissed her claims. The two from Emmaus had testified so clearly, and these disciples had scoffed at what seemed like a far-fetched account. Now, staring into the eyes of Jesus, all of that reality came rushing back like a raging river of shame.
“Peace be unto you.” Jesus always knew the thoughts of the disciples’ hearts. He had not come to abuse them or to shame them. He had come to give them hope. He had made it clear that He loved them. They had nothing to fear. He would melt away their disbelief and replace it with confidence. These deserters would be given a second chance. These doubters would be given faith. Jesus was a loving, forgiving Savior.
He was alive. They were sure of it. They had seen it with their own eyes. They had heard Him with their own ears. The days of disbelief and doubting were past. The days of hope and purpose had come. Now, these disciples would become His ambassadors to the whole world. They would bear out His gospel, telling the whole world how that in His death He had brought new life to all mankind.

Food For Thought: Read John 20:19-29. What is the difference between the two appearing of Jesus to His disciples?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mark 16:12-13(Luke 24:13-35)

“He is risen!” With overwhelming joy, Mary burst into the room where the disciples were hidden. These skeptics who had spent the last few days in tears, and fear, and disbelief would not be swayed by the testimony of an overly excited woman. The more seasoned disciples dismissed her claims as an emotional breakdown. Mary had wept so much that perhaps she had a mental collapse.
But she had seen Him when she was in the garden, and she had the confidence of it. However, for the time, she was alone in the excitement. The disciples continued on in their disbelief. Later that morning, Luke 24 says that two of Jesus’ followers left Jerusalem and took a journey to a neighboring town, Emmaus.
As Cleopas and his friend walked down the path, they discussed the unbelievable events of the week. Jesus had arrived on the back of a donkey at the beginning of the week, had cleansed the temple during the week, was executed, and eventually buried. Now, it looked like someone had come had taken His body. They thought He would have saved Israel.
And as they walked, another one joined them on the path. “What are you guys talking about? And why are you so sad?” was the introductory inquiry. Without giving the stranger much thought the two continued on and told of all the events of the week. In Luke 24:21, they finished their story with, “And today is the third day, and now His tomb is empty. There is this one lady, who probably took His death harder than any of us, who is telling everybody that she saw Him alive.”
Eventually the three stopped for dinner. Gathered around the table, the stranger took the bread, and began to pray, “Father, in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” In an instant both men looked up at the stranger Who had come into their home. Breathing out a sigh of desperate amazement Cleopas looked at the face of the stranger, “Je-sus?” Immediately, He was gone.It was late in the day now, but these two had to get back to the other disciples. Mary had been right! Jesus was alive! He had come to save the world, and He just needed to suffer first. All along He had been fulfilling the prophecies, how could they have overlooked the ones about His suffering.
“He is risen!” with eyes of surety, the two burst into the room where the disciples were hidden. “We just saw Him on the road to Emmaus! We talked to Him, and we didn’t know it was Him, but then we stopped for dinner, and when He prayed…I know it was Him. Jesus is alive! Guys He is risen. The reason the tomb was empty is because He is risen!”
Suddenly, the room hushed, and all looked on in amazement.

Food For Thought: Read Isaiah 53:3-12. Isaiah wrote this 700 years before Jesus was born. Write out three specific parts of this prophecy that deal directly with what Jesus suffered on the cross.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mark 16:9-11 (Luke 8:1-3; John 20:18)

“Mary.” The years of darkness melted as the Master spoke to a girl trapped in the darkness of demonic bondage. The sound of His voice had shone rays of hope into her miserable life. Seven devils. Luke 8 tells us there were seven of them, and Mary Magdalene was their captive, until Jesus came along. This was the brightest day of her life. With a twinkle of hope in her eyes, she followed Him religiously. Wherever He and His disciples would go, she would be close behind. He had given her a new life, and all she knew was that she wanted to give back that life to Him.
Months later, she had followed Him back to Jerusalem, and the events of His crucifixion had unfolded like a horrid nightmare before her very eyes. With every blow and curse, the deepest part of her soul grimaced. And as He trudged His exhausted journey to the hill of execution, her eyes poured out streams of bitter sorrow.
The darkness had not yet lifted on that early Sunday morning, according to John 20, as Mary came to anoint the body of Jesus. She loved Him so much, and had brought the purest offering of thanksgiving for the One Who had cared so much in the hour of her need. Even in His death, she would be faithful to Him. Her eyes were still swollen from days of crying as she approached the tomb where Jesus had been placed.
Looking at the tomb, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Gone. The massive stone that had been rolled in front of the tomb had been removed. The tomb was wide open. The guards that had stood in place were no longer there. The entire place was vacant.
Horrified, she left the garden tomb, and returned to Peter and John. “They have taken His body!” Her broken-hearted distress revealed even to them that the events of this dark weekend were too much for this poor woman to handle. Her desperation turned to a shattered fountain of frustration, “How will we ever give Him the love that He deserved. They killed Him and now they have robbed us of even this! How will we ever find His body?”
After delivering this news, the devastated Mary returned to the empty tomb to weep and reflect on the missing body of Jesus. The One Who had offered hope and had given her liberty, where was He? If she could just see His face one last time. If she could just hear His tender voice one last time. But, no, they had taken Him. Now she knelt on the ground in front of the tomb as the tears of sorrow flowed once again.
That’s all it took. The darkness of the morning lifted. The rays of hope for her eternity shone with a renewed brightness as she beheld the face of the One she loved so much and heard His reassuring voice. He had not gone. They had not taken Him. He was risen.
This day would now be the brightest day of her life.

Food For Thought: Read John 20:11-18. What was the first thing that Mary did after seeing the resurrected Jesus? According to Mark 16:11, what was the disciples’ reaction? Do you think that Mary cared what they thought?