Three Mary’s Point to Easter – Part 3

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). John 20:15-16 NLT

This third Mary, who we meet on our journey to Easter, is Mary Magdalene. Of her background we know only that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (Lk 8:2). Speculation beyond that runs rampant among the Hollywood crowd, but what the Bible does make clear is that this woman, followed Jesus. She along with a few other women ministered to the daily needs of Jesus and His disciples. Mary Magdalene also stood by His mother Mary at the cross. Like us, she was helpless get the religious authorities to accept Jesus or to alleviate His suffering on the cross, but on Easter morning, she along with other women came with spices to prepare the body according to their traditions. This was not only a demonstration of love and respect for the dead, but also a part of the grieving process. But it was not to be. The tomb lay open and empty! As they saw it, someone must have come as a final act of disrespect to hide the body. Little did they yet know the full and amazing truth of Easter. Yes, angels had met them, and told them that He was risen. Peter and John had even come and gone. But after they have all gone home, Mary stands alone and weeping outside the door of the grave. She does not understand what this all means. Are you there this morning? Have you read the story of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but have a hard time connecting to how that touches your life? Just like Mary, many of us have come looking for Jesus, but our hope comes not from gaining more information about His whereabouts. Hope and joy come from discovering that Jesus has come looking for us! He is looking for those who are looking for Him. The joy of Easter comes not from an explanation of the fact. Joy and faith come from the sound of His voice calling our name!

Word Wednesday-Turning the other Cheek

To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Luke 6:29 ESV

From my days in Bible college I still remember a message from Costa Deir, who was one of the more popular professors among us guys. Maybe we liked him because Costa had been a young professional boxer and grew up in the Middle East. His stories which both both intrigued and challenged us but were also sprinkled with a bit of humor. One day he related that after becoming a Christian he soon led another young boxer to faith in Jesus Christ. The story went that when their friends and fellow fighters heard of this they ridiculed them, especially about today’s verse. The day came when one of the others slapped him hard on one side of his face just to see how he would react. Quietly the young man turned his face just in time for a second blow to land. Then stepping back the newly converted boxer put his fists up and said in a calm voice, “I have no further instructions!”

Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by this command or how to put it into practice? I sure have! And while I won’t pretend to have all the answers, I believe we might begin by how we respond to being provoked on social media. There are some things being slung around on the news, talk shows and even football games for crying out loud that really irritate me! I have become more patient as I have grown older but scratch the surface just a bit and I want to assume that boxer’s stance myself and shout, “I have no further instructions!” It’s a good thing for all of us that Jesus did not. When this manly young carpenter, was blindfolded and bound and soldiers were striking Him on the face, He stood strong and took our punishment as silently as a lamb. He knew something that His enemies did not. He knew that by laying down His life He would not only find it again but that He would be able to give life to anyone even a dying thief, if they would put their trust in Him!

Loving in an Age of Hate

Seeing the news of yet another school shooting it is sadly clear that we are a long way from God’s plan for our lives. Some of us are overwhelmed with sadness, some are understandably angry and a few simply move on with a fatalistic shrug. But what should we do? How does God intend for us to face hatred? Jesus never says to hide from evil, or pretend it isn’t a reality. Instead He gives us a bold and revolutionary command.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 
Matthew 5:44 ESV

How in the world should we be expected to pray for these kinds of people? But, crazy as it sounds, in the midst of tragedy, there is nothing better than prayer. Prayer reaches the heart of God and brings His comfort down. Prayer helps us to remember that just as Jesus slept in the storm, God, with all of His resources is still with us in the center of chaos. Though all of our enemies may not be changed by our prayers for forgiveness, there will always be a Paul for every Steven and a centurion at the foot of every cross who will be touched. We need to remember in the midst or our indignation and sorrow that when we far from God and enemies of the faith, Christ died for us. What reason can we give to refuse His grace to others. I end today’s post with a song I wrote a few years back and recorded with a couple of the young people from our church. I pray that the words may bring comfort and hope to your hearts as you walk with the Lord Jesus through this dark time. He gives us hope and the ability to love others even in this valley and gives us the assurance that our Father’s home awaits us where we will live with Him forever!