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READING: Matthew 27-28 – Roman Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection


These two chapters of Matthew contain much of the story of Jesus. The Jewish Council’s desire to be rid of Jesus fails. Pilate’s attempt to save Jesus fails. Jesus died with a cry of victory on his lips after suffering deep agony. Joseph’s giving his tomb to Jesus was rewarded with its return the third day. The women went to the tomb to anoint a corpse only to find He had risen. The eleven apostles were given a Great Commission and a promise Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. 

Pilate was amazed Jesus gave no answer to the Jews’ charges, realizing the Jewish leaders acted from envy and that the charges were spurious. It was a custom to set a prisoner at Passover. Pilate offered Barabbas instead of Jesus. The crowd wanted Barabbas. Pilate asked what to do with Jesus. They shouted, “Let Him be crucified.”  Pilate washed his hands of the matter and turned Jesus over to his soldiers for crucifixion as the Jewish leaders said, “His blood be on us and our children.” 

The soldiers were the most innocent of all involved. All they knew was Pilate gave Him to them for crucifixion. Crucifixion was not only the cruelest form of execution devised, shame for the crucified was a message to others. They mocked Jesus as king of the Jews, for that was the charge against Him. They gave him a crown of thorns and dressed him in a royal robe as they spat on Him and sarcastically said, “Hail, King of the Jews” while kneeling to Him.  

Psalm 22 is mixed into the crucifixion of Jesus, from his cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” to the soldiers drawing lots to divide his clothes among themselves. The Psalm also said that “He cannot save Himself.”. They challenged Him to come down from the cross and they would believe in Him. (We believe in Him because He did NOT come down!) At the end, as He gave up his spirit to the Father, He cried out, “It is finished.” In Greek, this is one word, and that word “Is the victor’s shout.” It is the cry of the Man who has completed His task, won through His struggle, and come out of darkness into glorious light. 

After the Sabbath, women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ corpse. They left with joy because Jesus was alive. They were to go tell his disciples to meet Him in Galilee.  

The eleven apostles saw Jesus in Galilee, they worshipped Him, but some still doubted. Then He said He had received all power in heaven and on earth. They were to make disciples from all ethnicities, baptize, and teach those disciples. Then He gave the energizing promise, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Those are still our marching orders. What am I doing about it? 

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PRAY FOR YOURSELF  

Our Father in heaven, I thank you so much for how both You and Jesus did for us. Your heart was broken by my sin on Jesus’ shoulders. His agony was matched with Your own. Again, I thank you and pray that I may never break your heart again. This is my prayer in His Great name, AMEN!     

MY PRAYER FOR YOU (and for myself)     

Father, God, again I pray that each who reads this will think deeply about what You did for our redemption. We may talk about the Jewish leaders and Pilate, but You orchestrated this entire thing. Jesus, after Gethsemane, willingly suffered and died for us. For this, we thank You. This is my prayer, for all who read this and for myself, in the Holy Name of Jesus, I pray, AMEN!

READING: JOHN 20-21 – JESUS’ RESURRECTION AND PETER’S RESTORATION


Mary Magdalene went to the grave early after the Sabbath. Seeing the tomb open, she ran to Peter and John; she said the body was moved. Peter and John ran to the tomb. John outran Peter and looked in the tomb. Peter went into the tomb and stared at the grave clothes. The clothes were there; Jesus was not. John went into the tomb, saw the clothes, and believed

When Mary Magdalene came back to the tomb, crying; she looked through the window and saw two angels. The angels asked why she wept; she said, “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they laid Him.” She turned around and saw a man, whom she supposed was the gardener. The man asked why she was crying, and she said, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where, and I will take Him.” Jesus said, “Mary!” and she said “Rabboni.” Then Jesus told her to tell his disciples he was risen and would be ascending to the Father. She did as He asked. 

The disciples were together in a locked room. Suddenly Jesus was among them and said, “Peace be with you.” He showed them His hands and feet. They rejoiced. 

Thomas was not present; they told him what happened. He said, “I will not believe unless I put my finger in the nail prints and my hand In His side.” The next Sunday, Jesus appeared again. He asked Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints and his hand in His side. Thomas fell before Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God!” 

John’s purpose in writing his account of the gospel was “That you may believe Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, and have life in His name;” more was needed, so he wrote a postscript. 

Peter said he was going fishing. Six others went with him. At daybreak they saw a man on the beach 100 yards away. He called out, “Cast your net to the right side of the boat.” They did and couldn’t haul the net in. John said, “It’s the Lord!” Peter swam ashore.  

There were 153 large fish, but the net was not broken. (Cf. Luke 5:1-11 where after a similar catch, Peter said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man – but Jesus called him to follow him and catch men.) After breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Do you agape me more than these?” Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know I Phileo You.” Agape is the love of God; Phileo is the love of friendship. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs.” Then he asked Peter again, “Do you agape me?” Peter said again, “Yes, Lord, You know that I phileo You.” Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus asked Peter, “Do you phileo me?” Peter was grieved that Jesus asked “Do you phileo” me; he said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I phileo You.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” 

Peter’s braggadocio is gone (see John 13:37-38); he is back in the fold.  

This assures us of forgiveness too, when we deeply repent. 

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PRAY FOR YOURSELF

Father, I rejoice in every line of today’s reading! It is the perfect ending to a tragedy. Jesus lives, and because of Him, I live. Thomas doubted, but he believed when he saw Jesus. This, and Jesus’ talk with Peter on the beach, tell me I can be forgiven as well. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN.  

MY PRAYER FOR YOU (and for myself)  

Our Father who is in the Heavens (God who is as near to us as the air we breathe), we cannot imagine the pain of Jesus in the hours He was on the cross! But the pain of the disciples turned to joy when they KNEW HE HAS RISEN. My prayer is that our belief in Him be stronger; the world turns Easter into an egg roll and Christmas into a revelry of shopping and booze. May we overcome the world and believe from the depths of our hearts is our plea! In the Precious Name of Jesus our Savior, we pray. AMEN.  

30 DAY STORY OF THE BIBLE #26


LUKE 24:1-53JESUS’ RESURRECTION AND ASCENTION

“He is not here, but is risen!” These words changed the world forever.

Can you imagine the joyful fear the women who first heard them felt? We’ve heard them so often our hearts seldom thrill as did theirs, but this was the subject of every sermon in Acts. Continue reading

Has God Abandoned Me?


I get questions. The following came to me through our church website, http://www.Plymouth-church.com.

I am a Christian and have been one since my conversion in August 1999, I was 27 at the time.  For the past four or so years I have been struggling with feelings of guilt and condemnation.  I have not been following after Jesus like I should and I am left feeling like a huge failure and am so ashamed of all the time I have wasted not serving and loving more for Him.  I know I am saved, but feel so lost some times.

It seems like the harder I try to turn this around the worse I feel.  I am happily married to a wonderful Christian man who just says that I am too hard on myself.  I want to run away from life and hide but know that is not the right thing to do.  I wasn’t raised a Christian so I lack a lot of guidance on how I should live, act, feel, etc.  I want to do the right thing but mostly I just feel like a loser.

Has God given up on me?  Has He changed His mind about wanting me?  I have heard it said that He will only give you so many chances and then will leave you to yourself.  Has He done this to me?  I pray a lot and hope that He won’t leave me here.  Surely He hasn’t brought me this far to leave me.  Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Desperate for Him,

R____

PS. Just as a reference I have been told that I am suffering from depression because I and my husband are unable to conceive and I have recently lost my mother.  Could I be depressed?

Could you be depressed? It is possible, but it is not possible for me to diagnose that without knowing you – and even then, I do not have the professional ability to make such a diagnosis.

You are right to say that God has not brought you this far to leave you. As Paul wrote to the Philippian church,

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.(Philippians 1:6, ESV)

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He went away from the Father (which it does not sound as if you have done), but the Father still ran to receive him back and to fete his return with the fattened calf.

You need to realize that even as forgiven people, we still need to continue to grow into the likeness of Jesus. That is not something that happens instantly at baptism. Even at the end of life, we will still be growing up into Him.

In Romans 7:15-24, even the apostle, Paul, expressed some of the same doubts and fears you have.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15-24, ESV)

Note that he called himself a “wretched man.” Yet, in the next verse, he burst into praise of God:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

In the next chapter, he continued by discussing how in Christ we are not condemned. Instead, we are moving toward full redemption from the practice of sin, even as we have already been forgiven of the guilt and delivered from the penalty of sin. Note especially Romans 8:26 to the end of the chapter:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:26-39, ESV – emphasis added)

It was not that he was content to go on serving the law of sin. He always sought to put to death that in him which was sinful. Yet, he recognized that in Christ Jesus, God accepted him by his faith.

You wonder if God will leave you to yourself after He has given you several chances. We are taught that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us (see Ephesians 4:32).

How many times are we to forgive? When Peter asked this of the Lord, he thought he was being generous by suggesting seven times. The rabbis taught that you would forgive three times, but not a fourth. Peter doubled that and added one for good measure. Jesus replied,

I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22, ESV)

I do not believe we are to calculate how many times we forgive – but are always to be ready to forgive.

God teaches us to forgive as he forgives us. This means he will always forgive one who comes home to Him.

Yes, there are those whom God gives up. These, however, are those who are refusing to retain Him in their knowledge and who insist on going their own way. You can read about them in Romans 1:18-31.

But What About My Feelings of Despair?

How then are you to deal with your feelings? It is by looking to God, not yourself. Do not adjust your feelings by looking at how many things you have done – but by looking at what God has done. As John wrote,

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20, ESV)

Note that John did not say, IF our heart condemns us. He said WHENEVER our heart condemns us. It sounds as if John knew that we would all face times such as you are facing – times when we look at ourselves and wonder how God could possibly accept such a one as I.

Yet, He does accept us because of His great love for us. It was His love that caused Him to send His only begotten Son that we should not perish. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us – and we were not even sinners who were seeking Him. We were enemies of God when He reached out to us. (See John 3:16 & Romans 5:5-8.)

That love, of course, finds its pinnacle in Jesus – in His life and His death. We must also see His resurrection as an expression of God’s love, for it is in the resurrection of Jesus that we find hope and assurance.

The Holy Spirit is also a gift of God’s love to be our Comforter and Guide. The Spirit is the seal God places within us to mark us as His own and to preserve us to the heavenly kingdom. (See Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-20; 1 Peter 1:3-5.)

We can have assurance because God’s promise is sure. He is faithful who has promised! He has promised and sworn with an oath (see Hebrews 7:20-25). Because of this, Jesus always lives to make intercession for us.

Ultimately, it is because Jesus is “Our Man In Heaven” (as one commentary on Hebrews is named) that we have confidence. In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Paul has this to say:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

This means that we have as our advocate in Heaven the very Son of God Himself – who is one of us and who gave Himself for us.

No, our assurance is not in ourselves and what we have done; it is in what God has done and is doing for us. Our response to what God has done is to love Him and serve Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We will make mistakes of weakness – but He remembers that we are but dust and is merciful.

Can we “fall away” from Him? Yes, we can – if we lose our faith and our love. (Doubt for the moment is not losing your faith, and forgetting for a moment that God is our strength does not cause us to fall away from Him.) I speak here of a deliberate turning away from God, not of momentary lapses in our devotion.

I hope these few words will be an encouragement to you in your walk with Him.

May the God of all comfort take you in His arms;

May the Savior who loves you, shepherd you;

May the Holy Spirit fill you with love, joy, and peace;

May you find encouragement in a church that builds you up.

And may God grant that the demons in your heart be expelled by His eternal love.

Amen

SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (26a): Jesus – Death & Resurrection, Pt 2.


The drama of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus is well known. Sandwiched by two gardens, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, powerfully presents the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our Savior.

Unfortunately, many look only at His agony and do not understand His purpose. He came to His death purposefully. Our previous post in this series ended with an excerpt from the following:

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for my sheep. I have other  sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. – John 10:14-18. Continue reading

QUESTION: Why Did God Wait?


I received the following question via The Question Box on our church webpage, where I have answered questions for the past four years. This is a question that could easily be sloughed off with a quick answer – but I believe it comes from an honest heart seeking to understand.

Why did God wait 25 years before giving Abraham a son?

The only honest answer I can give you is that I just do not know why God waited to bless Abraham and Sarah with the birth of Isaac. I do not know because God has not revealed it – at least not to my knowledge.

I can think of some plausible reasons why He waited, but I warn you going in that Continue reading

COMMUNION MEDITATION: He Is Risen!



He Is Risen!

The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.” – Luke 24:34

Can you imagine the joy in the hearts of the early disciples who uttered those words?

Luke had just spoken of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked with them, but they did not know Him. Their “eyes were restrained” (v. 16).

Jesus asked them about their discussion – and their Continue reading

SERMON: How to Stand Firm


Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends – Philippians 4:1.

As long as I can remember, I have heard sermons exhorting the church to be steadfast – or as the New International Version renders it, “Stand Firm.” We see frequent passages urging this on us – like Continue reading

SOUND DOCTRINE (7): We Will Live With Him


FAITHFUL SAYING (3): We Will Live With Him.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him.

If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. – 2 Timothy 2:11-13

This is the third “trustworthy saying” (“faithful saying” in the KJV) we will consider. Elders are to hold fast to the “trustworthy message” (very similar to “trustworthy saying” in the Greek) so they can exhort and rebuke with sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). Hence, these five “trustworthy sayings” are markers that identify “sound doctrine.”

Earlier posts looked at 1 Timothy 1:15 and 1 Timothy 4:9-10. Continue reading

SOUND DOCTRINE (5): Christ Came to Save Sinners


Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Elders are to hold firmly to the “trustworthy message” or pistis logos. Five times in Timothy & Titus, Paul introduces a “saying” with pistis ho logos. This is the first of them, and it is Continue reading

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