Devotional 123: That Deceiver

Matthew 27:62-65

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

It’s interesting to note that even after they’d gotten what they wanted, there was still enough fear in them to warrant asking for an extra seal around a tomb.

They thought He was lying, but even if the Apostles had taken the body, He would not have been seen again by anyone, and they would have been spreading a falsehood. Remember that after His crucifixion, there were graves opened, but none of the occupants came out until He was the first.

Matthew 27:51-53

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus had told the Sadducees, when they questioned Him regarding resurrection, which they did not believe in:

Matthew 22:25-35

25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

They had  all seen the signs and wonders, and lost the political and financial reign of terror they’d exercised over the people, establishing an uneasy peace with the Roman government when Jesus came into Jerusalem:

 (John 14-19)

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!

Subjected to stinging rebukes by this young upstart, in their fever to regain control, there was some fear yet in their hearts even after His death. The Apostles, being unlearned men, probably would not have been clever enough to carry out such a scheme, since they could barely understand what Jesus was saying without elaboration or being afraid.

He’d rebuked them too, for their lack of faith, when He appeared to them afterward.

Mark 16:14

The Great Commission

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

We have so many questions, that we like to think if we’d walked with Jesus Himself, there would be no doubt. Let us remember that in the words of the parable of the wheat and tares: “An enemy has done this.”

And while it is the Father’s will that none perish, and He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He did not spare His Son the pain of our deserved punishment, nor will He share His glory, nor will victory be to His enemies.

He has also said He’s put blessings before us as well, and we are to choose whom we serve. Joshua gave an emphatic answer, and we are warned that we will not be allowed to walk in two worlds, lest our praise be like lukewarm water to Christ, to whom all authority has been given, because He finished the work of His Father’s command.

It is the pride of mankind that exalts itself above the will of G-d, placing its hopes on the created, glorifying ever shifting ‘scientific’ discoveries that can’t begin to fathom or know the mind of an infinite G-d, even as we are in the process of upsetting the balance of the very systems designed to keep us alive as we exploit, enslave, and engage in all manner of vice, because our hearts are not set on Him.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11

All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

Death Comes to All

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

In their zeal to prove Him false, the Pharisees and Romans proved Him all the more true, and ran with the story they’d invented in the first place to discredit Him.  It’s like when Jesus told the people He’d healed not to make Him known, and they witnessed for Him and proclaimed Him anyway, and to a greater degree. His goodness is not to be contained within us, but we are prone to pride and sin.

In the midst of all this clamoring, what needs to be restored in our own lives, that will help us to endure to the end, that we might be saved, and that the Father’s wrath will not abide on us, and that we not die in our sins?

As we come to the season of renewal, resurrection, and the casting off of dead things from our past that yet hold us by the ankles, remember, it was the ‘deceiving’ Jesus, the one who obeyed His Father even unto death on a cross, fully understanding and embracing the nature of his ministry, says to us:

I tell you the truth…

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

In these times, we hold fast to Your words, and have seen the Father’s power at work in our own lives, and in the lives of our loved ones. Having done all we can, we stand today united in faith, in love for one another, carrying on the work as the path narrows, the world mocks and scorns, and punishes us. 

That we shall suffer with You that we might inherit with You, this too,You have said to us. As You are the final Prophet of the Living G-d, we see Your words unfolding, for there is no falsehood in You.

You have said to us You will reward the believers who endure to the end, should their works stand the test of the fire to come, and that we will answer for our words and deeds, for there is nothing that is unknown to You.

Help us, in these times of blindness and darkness, confusion and legalism, entertainment and glorifying of false shepherds who compromise Your Word to fill their coffers, to hear and know Your voice, that we not fall away into this fiery furnace of sin and lose You, for while none can snatch us from Your hand, You will open it to let us out should we desire to die, unbelieving in the wrath to come.

My Lord, let Your living water sustain us in moments of doubt, bless us with undeserved grace, give to us unmerited mercy, and let the Holy Spirit be patient with us, continuing to work the hard soil of our hearts and minds, and place the gentle yoke of obedience on us, when we once again turn back to You.

Indeed, the world has gone over to You, for You have overcome it.

Let it be done to us as You have said. We ask, in faith believing.

Amen.

Devotional 63: They Might Also See Lazarus

John 12:9-11

The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

Dead four days, and no Christ to speak Life to him.

When Jesus did arrive, Martha, lacking the centurion’s faith, not-so-gently rebukes Him.

Jesus cautions her on doubting His ability, and restores her to a path of faith in Him, and shortly after, her brother is resurrected, unbound, and restored to her and Mary.

The Pharisees, chained in the grave of laws of their own making, infamous for their hard hearts and earthly concerns, don’t rejoice, but plot to murder a man and friend of Jesus, simply because people believed on Him after that miracle, and slipped from their control and influence.

Lazarus was a daily reminder and testimony to the authority, power, and life changing ministry of Jesus: a life restored by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Promised One.

Are we also daily reminders and living testimonies to the hard-hearted?

Are we willing to be?

Once dead in our sins, now restored to Life with the seal of the Spirit on our souls, which we must now guard against the desires of the flesh for earthly things.

We are the called, and no one takes us from his hand, but we can wriggle free if we want.  We can stray from the path at any moment. We grieve the G-dhead daily, if not hourly, and our hearts are reminded in the watches of the night that the darkness is harder to walk in than the light.

Sin by daylight, repent by starlight? No, brothers and sisters, cling to Him always, in all things, and when temptations come, and weariness assails, and doubt soils our songs of praise, and our offerings are unacceptable to Him, consider this:

There was only one way out of the grave, and Christ has revealed it to us. His ‘great shout’, I believe, is the “Come forth!” on the last day, when those who’ve built their house on the Rock of Heaven, and follow the Lamb of G-d, will reign with the Prince of Peace in an eternal Kingdom with no sin, and our sun shall be the light of the Father, with a new Heaven and a new Earth, restored to purity, with Hell and evil and faithlessness, and all manner of sin destroyed.

Even through his grave clothes Lazarus saw, and stumbled toward the Light….

Let those of us who say we see and know walk in it, as we work out our salvation, and bear good fruit.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I struggle with my building on Your commands. Doubt creeps into my prayers, and Your delay in answering my prayers kindle in me a quiet resentment. “If you were here, my __________ would not have died.”

Help me to know that “Even now, He will grant You whatever You ask.”

Help me to be a daily reminder and living testimony to the glory and power of Your atoning work, that hearts may soften, minds will change, and people will see You in me, as I strive in my earthly heart to see You in them.

I would not struggle and fight to love my fellow man, Lord Jesus. I would not lay charges against those who curse and wrong me. I would pray for those who wish me harm and use me. I would have my rewards stored in heavenly places.

I would claim my crown to throw at Your feet, and live in the center of the Father’s will, doing the work I’ve been called to do.

Only abiding in You is it possible, for with G-d, all things are. 

Keep me from wriggling out of Your hand, pierced for the redemption of my soul, restoring me to You as my Brother, and walking with You as my friend, and serving You as my Messiah and King, for the Father has given all into Your hand.

I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.

Amen. 


	

Devotional 50: He Put Them All Outside

Mark 5:36-43

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated,“Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

I love the story of redemption through the cross, because it means that Jesus is resurrected, and that means those who believe in Him will be resurrected too, spotless and blameless before the Father.

Personally, I think the Resurrection doesn’t get enough attention. We have the hope of eternal life, and life means we must be raised. The power of the grave is broken, to the point where even the sea will give up its dead.

We read in the Word that Jesus could work no miracles where there was no faith, yet we’re told if our faith is the size of mustard seed, it can provide the spark.

In some ways this story parallels that of Lazarus: Jesus was ministering elsewhere when the death occurs, and He visits once he’s done ministering to the crowd. What’s different is that the closer Jesus gets, the thinner the crowd, until only His inner circle and the child’s parents remain as witnesses, whereas the raising of Lazarus was more public.

The way Mark puts this is almost humorous in verse 40: And they ridiculed Him. But when He put them all outside…” The juxtaposition is jarring, and there was probably nothing humorous about it, but Christ does not surrender His authority any more than the Father shares His glory. They left.

Jesus had no time for the faithless clamoring of useless mourning.

How bold they were to mock Him, knowing who He was, ‘knowing’ the child was dead.

But we’re not unlike them at times, even professing faith. We ‘know’ things that Jesus doesn’t about ourselves, our lives, our plans, our families…we are not as quick to submit to His authority in all aspects of our lives.

We ‘know’ it’s too late to start over, or the marriage is ending, or the delinquent child is never going to get it together….

We must begin to do with our own faithless behaviors what Jesus did to the doubters at the door: Put them all outside, and say to the things of G-d, “I say to you, arise.”

And like the little girl our Lord raised, we must feed those things in us of G-d that provides us with perseverance, and shut out that which distract us, taunt us, mock and abuse us by assailing us with the words and deeds of long ago. Give yourself something to eat.

Put them all outside, brothers and sisters, and as Jesus told Jairus: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Therefore I pray

Lord Jesus, help me to put outside all of the thoughts or feelings that are not tied into Your power to redeem me from sin.

Help me not to hear those who say “Don’t trouble the Teacher any longer,” so that I am not caught up in the noise of faithless fatalism.

Increase my peace in times of turmoil, my faith in the midst of trials, and my understanding in times of confusion.

Let me feel the presence of the Spirit as I enjoy the blessing of restoration.

Let me hold fast to the hope of being raised into eternal life in the Kingdom of G-d, to the cloud of witnesses after the Great Shout: ‘Come forth!’

I would not be among the faithless of the outer darkness who reject the Gospel because they ‘know’ there is no G-d. You say that in that time, as here, there will be weeping, for the killing of the soul is true death, and not merely sleep.

I would not be snatched from Your hand, even when I stray, so I ask Your forgiveness when I stood silent among those who ridiculed You.

I ask these things in faith, believing I’ve received, and for all my Brothers and Sisters who believe in You across the nations of the world.

Amen

Christmas Mom

*For my own mom, born on Christmas Day: Annie D. Holland 1934-1990 Rest in Jesus.*

CHRISTMAS MOM

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Beyond her song, Mary is silent, watchful, fearful, hearing words spoken about her son, her miracle child, who would change the world. Strange men smelling of sheep and the outdoors surround you and look at your baby with reverence, love and awe.

Day after day as she gathered with the women, did the older ones shun her, and the younger ones mock her? Did the men sadly shake their heads that she was allowed to remain among the people? Save for her visit to Elizabeth, we’re not really told what Mary went through, save the long journey to Bethlehem with a full belly, riding on the lumpy, hard back of a hairy animal for miles across desert country, before the frantic journey to Africa.

She endured with faithful obedience all that God said would happen. A woman of integrity, she did not turn from the path once she said, “Let it happen to me as You have said.” Indeed, her soul magnified the Lord to the point of singing…

Did she not sing “G-d exalts the humble’? She remained steadfast so that whatever they did or said didn’t cause her faith to break. She had seen the angel, and knew what G-d had told her.

And it was enough.

This Christmas, in our homes, may the bond between the blessed Mothers and their precious Children deepen in love, strengthen over time, grow in trust, and rejoice in gratitude for having one another, pondering in their hearts the wonder of it all.

Merry Christmas, Children of G-d.

Devotional 22: Do You Believe This?

John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Today we celebrate the Risen Christ, and though He was speaking to Martha, who had professed her faith that her brother Lazarus would rise on the last day, Jesus tells her that the power of G-d that granted Him life through the Spirit is ever with Him.

This little family believed in Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus therefore tells her that even those who’ve already died, if they believe, shall live.

It seems a paradox, but it’s not. We are admonished to seek G-d while He is near, while He may be found, while we are in the Year of the Lord’s Favor. Jesus tells us He would prefer if we were hot or cold, for the lukewarm He will spew out. That means He’s more involved with those who are cold than with those who believe ‘there are many roads, but they all lead to G-d.’ To their eternal peril, those paths lead to dead ends and outer darkness.

I read of gods who’ve said similar things that Jesus said, but none ever said “No man comes to the Father, but by Me.”

Jesus never wavered in His statements of identity, but the question is now put to a mere mortal about matters beyond her scope. “Do you believe this?”

It is a question that has resonated through the ages, and it is there in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our world spinning slowly out of control, as He said it would.

Martha had a decision to make, and she answered rightly:

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

On this Resurrection Sunday, what is our response to this question?

Let us count the cost of our answer, be willing to leave all, and take up our cross, so that we, like Christ, can say:

“It is finished.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I celebrate Your risen Presence in my life today. I praise the Father, that He allowed me to come to You, to come under the covering of your Blood, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I may enter Your eternal kingdom.

You know my weaknesses, and see my secret sins, and know the motives of my heart that are not in alignment with Your will, even now, after I profess to believe, and struggle to follow.

But Lord, underneath my unrighteous rags, I believe in the Atoning work of the cross, I believe in Your promise that I will live after I die, I believe that I will be reconciled to my Heavenly Father through You, His Son, and live eternally under Your perfect rule, and live out the ultimate purpose of all created humanity:

To glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever.

Resurrect a renewed and righteous heart and spirit within me today, Lord, celebrating that You are Risen.

You are Risen, indeed.

Amen.