Daily Update #247

Today’s readings:         Psalm 8,  Acts 3:11-end

Today’s passage follows Matt’s from yesterday when he spoke of Jesus’ appearance on the Emmaus Road.    

Luke: 24:36
…….Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Luke 24:44-48
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.

On Palm Sunday, rather like an adult on a child’s bike, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, his feet just off the ground!     About the same time, the Romans with their military might arrived to take charge of things during the Jewish Passover festival.   The crowds, enthusiastically waving palm branches, hoped that in Jesus they had found someone to deliver them from the occupying power.

Meanwhile, around the Temple area the Jewish leaders were plotting how to get rid of Jesus for good.  They felt threatened by His popularity.

A few nights later in a garden, the unarmed Jesus handed Himself over when the Temple Guard arrived with their clumsy weapons to arrest Him.

The next day, following political manoeuvres by the Jewish leaders, the Romans efficiently despatched this public nuisance.  Obviously, He was no match for their combined power.

BUT three days later rumours of a resurrection were circulating among the disciples!

I think that most of us would relate to the struggles that Jesus’ first followers had in making sense of all that happened over that first Easter weekend.  It was a complete emotional roller-coaster.  They still had much to learn through tears and laughter.

No-one understood the concept of a suffering Messiah.   In spite of many Old Testament references (written hundreds of years earlier) attesting to Him and His sufferings, as well as the occasions when Jesus had tried to warn His disciples beforehand, they did not understand and so were unprepared.    Like many of us, when faced with something too painful to contemplate, they were in denial about it and taken by surprise when it happened.

Hard as it was living under occupation, they hadn’t understood that their real enemy was within them, hearts and minds given over to the dictates of the devil and not submitted to God.  Hearts that needed changing and redeeming.  People needed a Saviour.   

The world’s answer to problems is force…….political manoeuvres, military power, financial control, withholding of human rights, spiritual abuse.  Or on a personal level – relationship abuse, control etc. etc.   
Force is not the answer to our deepest problems.  It takes great strength of character sometimes to choose another way.  In the late 1980s the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special envoy, Terry Waite, was captured by Hezbollah militants and held in solitary confinement in Beirut for almost five years.  On one occasion, by accident he found himself in possession of a gun belonging to one of his guards.  He could have shot himself out of prison.  Instead he handed it back to its owner and stayed there.

Countless other Christians before and since have faced similar hard choices.

Jesus chose to submit to God.  His life involved complete trust and obedience – even to death on the cross.   He was a suffering Messiah who stopped at nothing in submitting to God’s will.   
Because Jesus trusted and obeyed –  God vindicated Him and raised Him up on the third day.    
Because Jesus trusted and obeyed –  He opened the way of forgiveness and salvation for penitent sinners.   
Because Jesus trusted and obeyed –  His witnesses were commissioned to take the message of hope into the world.  Many of them would die doing so.   

Where are we on our journey?  

Have we accepted that Jesus truly is God’s Messiah – the One who is able to meet our deepest needs by dying in our place on the cross?

Have we understood that there is free forgiveness for penitent sinners because of His death?  Or are we still holding onto things we shouldn’t?

Have we chosen to live God’s way, resisting temptations to conform to secular thinking and ways of doing things?  The choices for Christians are getting harder.  

It may be Southbourne or South Africa – have we responded to His commission to go and tell others about Him wherever He leads.  Even if the way involves pain and loss?

“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.”  
(Isaac Watts, 1674-1748)

Tomorrow’s readings:  Acts 4:1-12, Psalm 118:1-4, 22-26,  John 21:1-14