Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Last Supper

Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy, is derived from the Latin word mandatummeaning "commandment."  It refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper:
  1. to love with humility by serving one another and
  2. to remember His sacrifice.
The Last Supper, like the Triumphal Entry I wrote about last week, is included in all four Gospels. I would like to list some things that stand out to me as I re-read these very familiar passages.
  1. In Matthew's Gospel, we see that for Jesus' last supper on earth, I believe that He purposely chose the Passover celebration (26:18). The Passover supper was to be a reminder to the Jews of their rescue from slavery in Egypt. Now Jesus was about to provide a way for all mankind to be rescued from their slavery from sin!
  2. Mark points out that during this Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was customary to sacrifice the Passover Lamb (14:12). After Jesus' death, no longer would anyone have to wonder where they would get a perfect lamb for the sacrifice. 
  3. In Luke, Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks and says to His disciples "Take this and divide it among you." (22:17) This cup, of the New Covenant, which represented His blood that was about to be poured out, is meant to be divided, or shared.
  4. John's Gospel says that "Having loved his own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." (13:1b) My NIV Study Bible Note says: "One feature of the discourse (in John's account of the upper room) is Jesus' emphasis on love. The word occurs only six times in chs. 1-12 but 31 times in chs. 13-17." How did He show love to His disciples? By washing their feet.  In 13:15-17 Jesus says: "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
As my husband has said repeatedly in his sermons, it is not enough that we go to church or even read about the Easter stories. We will only be blessed if we do what Jesus did.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Everyone likes a winner

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. The account of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with people spreading palm branches on the road for Him is recorded in all four gospels. (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12: 12-19) It is referred to as "The Triumphal Entry."

Why do we like this part of the story of Jesus so much? Perhaps it's because everyone likes a winner? Who doesn't like to be associated with someone who is receiving shouts of praise from the crowds? Matthew 21:10 says that "the whole city was stirred." In John 12:19b, the Pharisees said to one another, "Look how the whole world has gone after Him." All that excitement without any social media! Impressive.

Yet the one person who was not impressed was Jesus Himself.  In fact, He was weeping (Luke 19:41-42) because many of His own people failed to recognize Him. More than that, His own disciples would not understand the full meaning of what was taking place until later (John 12:16). Jesus knew there was suffering ahead. Then death. Then resurrection. I often find myself "stuck" wanting to stay in the Palm Sunday mode. I like it when I feel like I'm a winner. I don't like the thought of the suffering and death that lies ahead. So what got Jesus past being stuck in the Palm Sunday mode? Gethsemane. The place where He surrendered His will, once and for all. As Christ-followers, we can't get to our resurrection without going to Gethsemane too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The wilderness experience

I was going to write about something totally different, but was prevented from doing so. Instead, I felt led to write about the wilderness experience many of us have gone through or are going through.
  1. The wilderness experience happens to all true followers of Christ. After Christ was baptized by John, He was led into the wilderness for 40 days. (Matthew 4:1)
  2. A Christ follower can be full of the Holy Spirit and still be led into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1)
  3. Being led into the wilderness does not mean that you are not a child of God, or that He doesn't love you or that He is not pleased with you. It is just a necessary time for you. (Mark 1:11-12)
  4. There are promises made to Christ followers that will be fulfilled after this wilderness time. For the Israelites, their promise was that they were to be given the Promised Land. And they were; but not before they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years.
  5. There is a purpose for the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses tells the people of Israel that God led them into the wilderness to humble them and to test them to prove their character and to find out whether or not they would obey His commands.
  6. God wants to display His power and majesty to us, by first taking something away or "letting us go hungry" (Deuteronomy 8:3) and then feeding us with something much better!
  7. God does not abandon us during our wilderness experience. The same God that rescues us from "Egypt" (slavery to sin), and leads us into the wilderness, can also take care of us in it. (Deuteronomy 8:15-16).
  8. The wilderness experience brings us to the end of ourselves. We become humbled and realize that nothing we achieve is due to our own strength and energy. It is God alone who gives us the power to be successful. (Deuteronomy 8:17)
  9. We will come out of the wilderness just as the Israelites did and just as Jesus did. However, we must be on our guard for the devil is always looking for another "opportune time" to tempt us. (Luke 4:13)
  10. What I see in all my reading about the wilderness experience is that God's ultimate purpose, with love as a motive, is that we learn to trust and obey Him. If we refuse to do this, He considers it rebellion! (Deuteronomy 9:23)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spring Forward

I received an Email a few weeks ago from someone who had left our church body. I had been praying for guidance to know if I was to respond or not. Then, yesterday, it was a warm and sunny day, so I was able to take a walk outside. While winter hasn't completely given up it's foothold, there are definite signs of spring in the air! As I looked at the brilliant blue sky, saw the tiny buds on the trees, and heard the excited chorus of birds, my thoughts drifted to spring and Daylight Saving Time when we will all turn our clocks ahead - or - "spring forward."

Then I realized that I had my answer. Just as we leave winter behind and spring forward, I am to do the same with people or events in my past that will not fit into my future. Why would I want to bring any part of winter into spring? This is a new season! And not only is there evidence of that all around me in the physical world, there is evidence of a new season approaching in our church body and in our school. God speaks to us in many ways. Yesterday it was in the beauty and order of His creation. Hallelujah! What a Savior!