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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Jesus Burial

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.
Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there”
(John 19:38-42)

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment”
(Luke 23:55-56)

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(Picture: Entombment of Christ – Titian – Louvre, Paris)

Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

Jesus .. remember me

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43)

Reflection:
More abuse was directed at the Lord. This time it came from one of the criminals crucified next to Him. How interesting that he knew enough to refer to Jesus as ‘the Christ’ and to infer that this Christ was to be a Saviour. How tragic that having come so close to Him he was still an eternity away.

In contrast the other man rebuked him, showing that he too knew enough to know that this Jesus ‘has done nothing wrong.’ And, acknowledging his own guilt and the justice of his sentence, he turned to the Lord and said one of the simplest and most profound prayers.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It is stunning in its truth and beauty. There was no attempt to excuse his past life or deeds – no referral to some good deed – no appeal for mercy because of his extreme suffering – no eloquent or passionate speech or motivation. There was just a very simple request, glorious in hope and faith in view of the fact that it was directed towards a dying man. And Jesus response is also simple, straightforward and breath-takingly wonderful.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

All this took place above the level of the crowds, the soldiers and the religious leaders. It was above the world that had rejected them both, for different reasons, but its impact was immediate and eternal. Here was a man whose destiny from the beginning of time was to die with the Lord Jesus Christ and then to live with Him forever. And yet if his name had been called out instead of Barabbas he would have at that moment been rejoicing that he was not on the cross next to Jesus the Christ.

How great and mysterious and wonderful is the grace and provision of God.

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(Picture: Artist unknown)

A moment’s care

“The soldiers also came up and mocked him.
They offered him wine vinegar and said,
“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself”
(Luke 23:36-37)

Reflection:
Again and again the mockery flowed over the Lord. The crowds, the religious leaders and now the soldiers. They had probably seen other kings fall away beneath the onslaught of the Roman legions. Now as the occupying power they had little interest in this so-called king rejected by his people and their religious leaders.

Matthew tells us that “sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.” (Matthew 27:36) There was nothing else for them to do except watch these three suffer and die and ensure that no one attempted to interfere or try to release them.

They would have watched the crowd as well. Perhaps they wondered at the triumphal scorn of the religious leaders, at the group of women huddled together and supporting each other – and particularly the older person in their midst. They would have noticed the cluster of men watching in haggard silence, devastated by some inner agony that may have puzzled them. But after all these were just another three criminals unfortunate enough to have been captured and then dismissed from life.

But these things happen. And as long as they don’t happen to us it doesn’t really matter ……….

However, one of them did give Jesus some of their cheap wine to ease His thirst. And that, much to his surprise, has never been forgotten. It never will be.

Such a strange group of people who reached out to bless Jesus. The woman who bathed His feet with her tears, the woman who poured her precious perfume onto His head and a soldier who gave Him a drink on the cross. Each one doing ‘a beautiful thing’ to Him – and always to be remembered.

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(Picture: James Tissot, 1886-94)

Forgive You

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”
(Luke 23:34)

Reflection:
There was only one person there who knew the truth of what was happening – and that was Jesus Himself.

There were others who should have known, but they either could not or would not acknowledge the truth. How could they have stood there and acknowledged that this man on the cross before them – whom many had had a hand in putting there – was in fact the eternal Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah? Yet Jesus had warned them in His parable of the Tenants.

  • “Then the owner of the vineyard said, `What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” (Luke 20:13)
  • “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. `This is the heir,’ they said. `Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” (Luke 20:14)
  • “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them.” (Luke 20:19)

Then there were the others –the crowd, the soldiers, even His family and disciples – who were not fully aware of what was happening in front of them. And so it fell to Jesus to say something into the situation, and His words are remarkable. No anger at the blindness and callousness of the authority figures, no rebuke for the fickleness of the crowds, no startling miracle or revelation to humiliate His accusers – just these simple words coming as a desperate appeal from His breaking heart of love. He asked His Father to forgive them just as He obviously already had.

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”

And none of us really know what it is that we do when we sin – when we choose ourselves above Him – when we choose our way instead of His – when we choose our pleasure and security over His will and trust in Him.

And still that remarkable prayer echoes down the corridors of history and hangs over each one of our lives today in such a loving and gracious blessing for,

  • “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25)
  • “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1)

How truly blessed we are.

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(Picture: Christ of Saint John of the Cross – Salvador Dali –
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow)

The Last Lap

“When they came to the place called the Skull,
there they crucified him,
along with the criminals
– one on his right, the other on his left”
(Luke 23:33)

Reflection:
Finally Jesus had arrived. Since before the creation of the world this was the place towards which His redeeming ministry had been pointed. However there were no laurel wreath and great acclaim awaiting Him. There were no crowds to cheer Him on like a long-distance runner finally entering the stadium for one last and glorious lap.

Instead he was stripped naked. His torn, bruised and bleeding body was fixed to the cross. Brutal nails were driven through His tortured flesh. There He was hung out to die in the cruellest fashion devised by man and reserved for the lowest class of criminal. This point was highlighted by the presence of His companions on their crosses. The tableau proclaimed that here was no lonely martyr – the victim of cruel oppression and blind hatred. Here He was ‘numbered with the transgressors.’ (Isaiah 53:12)

Peter Marshall envisioned it like this.

And so the crowd came to Golgotha,
a hill shaped like a skull, outside the city gates.

Only as the nails were driven in,
did the shouting stop.
There was a hush.
Most of them were stunned …. horrified …
Even the hardest of them were silenced.

Mary, the mother of Jesus,
closed her eyes
and stopped her ears;
she could not bear the thud of the hammer.

A group of soldiers took hold of the crossbeam
and lifted it slowly off the ground.
With each movement the nails tore
at the shredded flesh
in the wrists of the Nazarene.
The cross swayed in the air for a moment
and then with a thud
dropped into the hole prepared for it.

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