Easter is such a sacred time. The celebration doesn’t need to end. I know it hasn't in our hearts. I imagine once the hustle and bustle and the fuss and the muss is over, we can find a renewed space for deeper reflection.
For the last two Easters I added space to satisfy the sacredness of this holiday.
Easter 2019, I studied the words Jesus shared between the transfiguration and crucifixion. As I read the transfiguration account, something kindled my curiosity. God said, “Listen to Him!” Yes, with an exclamation mark. We don’t see many of those in the scripture. Whatever Jesus said following that, it must have been significant.
What He continues to speak to us today.
In his few days left on earth, Jesus was working about the Father’s business; performing miracles, dealing with sin in the church, using parables to teach about forgiveness, humility, and preparedness for His return.
Easter 2020, I did the same, and continued the celebration after resurrection Sunday. I followed Jesus’ journey between the resurrection and His final ascension. After the resurrection, he walked among the people once again. It became clear that people were no longer looking for him.
Jesus revealed, he is never far away.
He also made it clear that there was still work to do until He returns in the last days.
Would you like to join me in following Jesus through the Word? Let's explore what Jesus spoke to believers in His last days on earth just before the cross and after the cross.
We will discuss this journey in two parts, with the cross and resurrection as our pivot-point.
The transfiguration was Christ's appearance in radiant glory to three of his disciples, found in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2–3, Luke 9:28–36.
“...Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus . . .” a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:1-5
We can draw many theological points from this account. What stands out to me is what God spoke from the cloud.
Hearing God speak from a cloud was not a new thing and not a first-time experience for the disciples. At Jesus' baptism, they heard God say, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)
That was at the start of Jesus ministering.
Here, near the end of His ministry, God says the same thing, word for word, but added the admonishing phrase, “LISTEN TO HIM!”
What did Jesus say after this point, before the cross?
Before the cross
Jesus taught us about faith, how to live and love with humility, and how to believe and prepare until He returns.
'LISTEN TO HIM' – HAVE FAITH
Mustard Seed Sized Faith.
Vs19-20, After Jesus cast a demon from a boy, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we do that?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Faith Like A Child. Matthew 18:1-5
Vs1-3, The disciples asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Not only is our faith demonstrated through trust, loyalty, and humility (as a child), it is a requirement to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Where Two or Three Gather. Matthew 18:18-20
V19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Faith Without Doubt Can Move Mountains. Matthew 21:21
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt . . . you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”
We must have faith.
'LISTEN TO HIM' – HUMBLY LIVE & LOVE
Jesus spent a great deal talking about wholehearted devotion to God. He emphasized how a relationship with God is the beginning of everything and is foundational to our relationship with others. He also spoke about fruitlessness and condemned hypocrisy.
Specifically, these 21 things:
Never cause another to stumble. Matthew 18:6-9
Leave the 99 who are safe, to save the one. Matthew 18:10-14
Deal with sin and conflict in the Church. Matthew 18:15-20
Extend grace and mercy, and forgive – always! Matthew 18:21-35
Be humble, for the last will be first. Matthew 19:16-30, Matthew 20:1-16
Serve, always! Matthew 20:25-28
Maintain churches as places of worship and prayer, not marketplaces. Matthew 21:12-17
Repent and believe, not just religiously. Matthew 21:28-32
Produce fruit. Matthew 21:33-46
Love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. Matthew 22:37
Love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:39
Pay our taxes! Matthew 22:15-22
Practice what we preach. Matthew 23:1-12
Never shut the door of the Kingdom of heaven to those who seek it. Matthew 23-13
Never lead another person astray. Matthew 23:14
Beware of false teaching/Remember what is sacred. Matthew 23:16-20
Pay our tithes! Matthew 23:23
Exercise justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Matthew 23:23
Care for our inner selves before the outside. Matthew 23:25-28
Not just demonstrate outward righteousness, but to be holy. Matthew 23:27-28
Care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, convict, homeless. Matthew 25:31-46*
We must humbly live and love.
LISTEN TO HIM – “BELIEVE & PREPARE”
Many of His words before the crucifixion were to express His desire for everyone to have the opportunity to know Him and be prepared to join Him with the Father in Heaven, when the day comes. He told us to trust in God’s provision of salvation through Jesus and not in good works or religious service.
Repent and Believe. Matthew 21:28-32
To reject Him is to reject God. Matthew 21:42-46
All are invited, few are prepared. Matthew 22:1-14
Last Days Preparedness. Matthew 24
Jesus talked about the signs of His return and the end of the ages.
He emphasized that we must practice faith and obedience even in times of suffering and sorrow rather than focus on a timetable of events.
Personal Preparedness. Matthew 25
Keep your oil lamp burning, keep watch, because you do not know the day nor the hour of His return.
Other preparedness. Matthew 26
Jesus prepared His disciples for the trial, sentencing, and crucifixion.
Meanwhile, His enemies prepared their plans for taking Him.
A woman prepared His body for burial, and was honored.
Judas prepared to betray Jesus, and he committed suicide.
And Jesus prepared Himself in prayer, while the disciples slept.
Jesus cautioned the disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. Matthew 26:41
Jesus’ steadfast calmness and willingness to endure what faced Him reflected the preparation and results through His prayer battle in the garden. Matthew 26:47-56
Jesus urged us to prepare and remain diligent in service as we watch for His return. The unsanctified will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
We must believe and prepare.
After the resurrection, Jesus walked among the people once again. It became clear that people were no longer looking for him.
JESUS REVEALED, HE IS NEVER FAR AWAY.
The Women’s Report "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:8-10 The Guards’ Report "While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed." Matthew 28:11-15 I love this about Jesus! The first witness account of His return was women, whose testimony would have been inadmissible in court during that time. At the same time, the Chief Priests falsified their report, leaders whose word was valued. Who would you believe?
DON'T MISS WHAT HE HAS FOR US DURING THIS SEASON.
When things don’t go as expected or a hard season lingers, we often stop looking for Him.
In Luke 24:13-35, we follow the story of two men on their journey to Emmaus. They traveled heartbroken and full of sorrow for the loss of Jesus and their hope in Him as the redeemer. In their hopelessness, with downcast eyes, they failed to recognize Him when He joined them on their journey. They even walked and talked with Jesus about His very own death and rumors of His resurrection. In disbelief, focusing on their unexpected circumstances, they missed what He was trying to tell them.
Once at Emmaus, they invite him to stay for dinner. As the 'stranger' broke bread with them and reached to give it to them, they finally realized it was Jesus who was with them all along.
With renewed hope, they quickly returned to Jerusalem to share their story.
There is so much to learn from this story — One thing is clear; they weren’t looking for Jesus.
Our journey through suffering, whether it be loss, hurt, illness, darkness, shame, regret . . . a pandemic or quarantine . . . it can cause us to lose focus and we begin to feel very alone. We may even protest, ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me right now.’ Sadly, some turn deeply inward and believe, ‘I don’t deserve to be near to Him.’ With that, we stop looking for Him.
We may even disconnect from our world. With our eyes on our circumstances, we often miss what He is trying to impart to us on our broken road.
Continually seek His presence. Don’t miss what He has for you — to sustain you, to deliver you.
He’s always there. Lift your eyes.
WE ARE ENTRUSTED WITH GOOD NEWS.
We just shared about two travelers and Jesus on their Emmaus Journey. Once the two discovered it was Jesus with them all along, they quickly made their way to Jerusalem to share this good news with the other Disciples.
Jesus reassured his friends that he was not a ghost. In Luke 24:38-45, He ate with them and visited with them like before. The strongest evidence of his identity were the flesh wounds, which he revealed to them and invited them to touch and to feel as proof. He reminded them of the prophecies he was to fulfill, just as he taught them before the crucifixion.
Then He tells them something.
In Luke 24:46-48, he tells them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Like the Disciples, we can only witness what we have already experienced, and we must ask for a heart open to his presence in our lives.
Then we can boldly proclaim this good news.
A RENEWED HOPE.
The days following Easter were dark and confusing times for the disciples, but Jesus reassures them time and time again that He is never far away.
These words by Thomas Fuller are meant to be words of encouragement to those going through dark and uncertain times.
In John 21:1-14, we see the third time he visits them after his resurrection:
'"I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told the disciples, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” . . . but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered."' He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” John said, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” . . . he jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” . . . Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
This miracle-catch of fish blessed the disciples with a boat filled with fish. It also brought them a confidence that their Master was never too far away. After suffering loss, even with knowing he rose again, things were different now — unknown.
Their darkest moment met with the light of Jesus, the resurrected savior. When they focused on him, they received renewed hope and enthusiasm to embrace the days ahead.
THERE IS STILL WORK TO DO FOR CHRIST.
Jesus made it clear that there was still much work to do, until He returns in the last days.
Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave final instructions to the disciples before leaving things in their hands, at least until it is time for Him to return once again.
He didn't leave them alone or powerless.
In Acts 1:3-10, we read:
'“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."'
Would I have joyously awaited his resurrection? Would I have looked for Him? On Good Friday, I saw a number of posts that said, "And heaven started counting to three." We know that now. The disciples did not. They still didn't understand all Jesus said to them. In the last scripture above, we saw them ask Jesus. Verse 6, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus trusted the disciples with the gospel. The instructions He told them, He tells us today.
Let's go in power and witness. Until He returns.
Continuing the celebration.
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