Stop Doubting!

“A week later his disciples were in the house again,
and Thomas was with them.
Though the doors were locked,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”
(John 20:26)

Reflection:
The first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples, after His resurrection, Thomas was not with them.

It was to be a long week before his opportunity came, a week in which he might well have felt himself to be rather an outcast. He might have also wondered whether he had forever missed his opportunity. But such was the love and grace of Jesus that He presented Thomas with an occasion in which he could see and feel the reality for himself. Thomas was convinced,

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

It is always hard for us when others appear to have had dramatic personal experiences of God, or of something miraculous happening in their lives, or of God speaking to them in clear and certain ways – and we don’t. We might also feel like outcasts, excluded from God’s ‘inner circle’, and just not good enough. We can so easily give up or resign ourselves to living on the fringes of Christianity, as second class citizens – tolerated but not loved.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus did make Himself real to Thomas. Thomas was convinced and acknowledged the reality of Jesus person, resurrection and divinity. Jesus would not want any of His disciples, then or now, to be less certain than this. He did, however, indicate that not everyone would have the same visual experience.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

There are more ways of ‘seeing’ Jesus than with our eyes. He can reveal Himself to us in many ways. His intention always, though, as it was with Thomas, is that it should be in a way that is meaningful to us. He really does want us to believe and not to doubt. He wishes to establish a personal relationship with each one of His people one in which it is true that ‘My sheep know My voice.”

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real to us. As we soak prayerfully in the Scriptures, open ourselves in prayer, and seek to live His way that will happen. And, of course, we should pray that Jesus will become more real to us – not in terms of a blinding and frightening revelation such as happened to Paul, but in a quiet and deepening inner knowledge that He is indeed both with us and within us – always.

Response:
Trust the word and ask the Holy Spirit to give it life within you.

Prayer:

Come Lord Jesus and live within me, all of me – and help me to know and respond to You. Amen.

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(Picture: Easter Lily)

Love Me?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
(John 21:15-17)

Reflection:
Jesus never gave up on Peter, even with His foreknowledge of the denial. For Jesus both knew where Peter’s heart was, and also the potential of the man once the Holy Spirit was in his life. Unlike so many humans who judge Jesus did not base His opinion on one moment in time. He took a far longer and deeper view, influenced also by His insights into the heart of the person concerned. Like the potter Jesus knew and accepted that true craftsmanship took time and the preparedness to deal with any faults that might appear in the process. Jesus remained committed to Peter.

With incredible grace and love Jesus is described as raising Peter from the depths of sin and despair and entrusting him with a new life and purpose within His kingdom ministry. Where Peter might not have been surprised to have found himself discarded he instead found himself forgiven, accepted and included. He was not asked to promise any great commitment or results – there was only one question that Jesus wanted him to answer for both of them – “Do you love Me.?” Of all the questions that He might have asked this was the one that Peter could answer honestly and completely – for He knew that Jesus already knew the truth – “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.” It was all that Jesus wanted and needed. And the thrice repeated question and answer dealt with the three earlier denials.

All of us will, to a greater or lesser extent, experience failure and unfaithfulness in our lives – to ourselves, to others and especially to the Lord. The wonder of our relationship with our Lord Jesus is that He is always there with us, urging us to get up again, leading and empowering us through the Holy Spirit, and encouraging us to have another go at life. This is the life He has for us, in His way and with the revelation of His truth. He is the God of life, the resurrected life, and it all starts and continues with love – His love for us and ours for Him.

Response:
Today He holds His hand out to each one of us, inviting us to leave the past behind and to enter into a deeper life with Him – the God of the resurrected life.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your death and resurrection for me. Please help me to love You more and more and in that love to walk with You into the life that You have prepared for me – both here and in eternity – trusting You for all that I need. Amen.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

Take it personally!

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other,
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”
(Luke 24:15)

Reflection:
On the day of the Resurrection two of the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and towards the village of Emmaus – a journey of about seven miles. They were discussing ‘everything that had happened’ including the accounts of the empty tomb and the women’s report of ‘a vision of angels, who said He was alive.’ As they proceeded on their way ‘Jesus came up and walked along with them.’

How easy it is to be aware of great events and fail to appreciate their personal significance. Jesus ministry and death were important enough to occupy their thoughts and discussion. They were aware of the empty tomb and the angels report that He was alive. Yet they still walked away from the centre, presumably back to their homes, not appreciating the possible impact upon their lives of one of the most significant events in history. And, when Jesus appeared and walked with them, they did not recognise Him. It was only after He had been revealed to them that they could not wait to return to the others in Jerusalem, bursting with the good news.

We can fall into the same trap and fail to recognise the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, the personal significance of His life, death and resurrection and the personal reality of His presence in our lives.

The wonder of it is that the risen Jesus comes to find us with the purpose of revealing Himself to us – even when we are walking in the wrong direction.

Response:
Jesus is right with you – be aware of Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to be aware of the reality of Your presence – and not to treat You as an object of interest. Amen.

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From darkness to Light

“I have seen the Lord!”
(John 20:18)

Reflection:
Mary Magdalene’s breathless and breathtaking revelation to the disciples was beyond imagination. Suddenly the cross and the grave were to become not huge symbols of sadness and defeat but essential milestones on Jesus journey to glory. We are not called to always remember Him as a twisted, bleeding body on a cross, nor as an invisible sadness behind a gravestone. Instead there is now an empty tomb – and we are called to engage with Him as the glorious living victor over sin, death and evil.

Jesus had once called Lazarus out from the tomb and into life, and told those with Him to remove the grave clothes, setting him free from the embrace of death. Now He was calling His disciples out of the death they had suffered through His death, away from a fixation on His grave, out of the spiritual and emotional wrappings of grief and into the new life that He had prepared and won for them. As important as His death was, and still is for us, it is only fully understood in the context of His resurrection. He died for our sins and to remove the barrier between us and God – and rose to give us life.

Jesus calls each and every one of us today to come to Him. To come out of the dark tombs in which we find ourselves, away from the graves of love and hope, up from the sepulchres of sadness and sin, deserting the vaults of failure and despair. Not only has His stone been rolled away. The stones of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual crypts have been removed as well. It is the risen Christ now who calls to us. He does not call us to leave our prisons behind us to seek a new existence, He calls us to come to Him so that He, and He alone, can give us life – a life that is not found with or through any other person or thing.

We do not seek Christ now at His death. We do not weep at His grave. We find Him in the everyday gardens of our lives, in the rooms in which we live and the roads along which we travel. Christ is with us always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, a new journey has begun in Your death and resurrection. Help me to live out the freedom of Your forgiveness, the beauty of Your light and the depths of Your love – to the wonder of Your glory. Amen.

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Everlasting Arms

“The curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice,
 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last”
(Luke 23:45-46)

Reflection:
The curtain of the Temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. This was the curtain that hid from view and entrance the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of God dwelt. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, finally, the barrier had been removed through the birth, life and death of the Lord Jesus. The way to God was opened for anyone who would enter through faith in Christ.

Jesus then died with the loveliest of prayers on His lips.  Barclay tells us that this prayer from Psalm 31 was taught by Jewish mothers to their children for them to say as they prepared for sleep. Jesus added just one word to it, the word ‘Father.’ And as He sang it out so He sank gratefully into ‘the everlasting arms.’

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus had died.

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He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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It was Night

“It was now about the sixth hour,
and darkness came over the whole land
until the ninth hour,
for the sun stopped shining”
( Luke 23:44-45)

Reflection:
And now as events built towards a climax – and the death of the Son of God was near – creation was affected.

Darkness covered the land. This was highly unusual for midday. To be mentioned like this it must have been a deep and obscuring darkness, as if the blackness of a moonless night was imminent. Not only was the sun obscured but it seemed as if it was no longer giving off light. A chill would have been felt in the air as the temperature fell suddenly. People probably begun to hurry home in fear and in case a violent storm was approaching.

Jesus would have been almost alone now – except for the soldiers, His mother and close followers, His companions on their crosses, and perhaps a few others. As the Light of the world Himself began to flicker towards extinction so the light in the world seemed to do the same.

A terrible silence must have been heard and felt in heaven as the angels watched in horror. And no one would have wanted or dared to look into the face of the Father, watching the darkness of sin separate Him from His beloved Son. This suffocating blanket of sin was falling onto Jesus, being absorbed into Jesus – a darkness where there was no light, no hope and, very soon, no life.

Voluntarily and obediently, in terrible and agonising isolation, Jesus was dying under the weight and horror of it all.

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