Resurrection Sunday, Celebrating Life, and Defeating Death

Thank you for walking through Holy Week with me. The final mortal week of the Son of Man started nicely, and just got worse. I’d say, I’ve never had such a rough week. But it ends well. That’s the spoiler here: it ends well for the King of Kings. And perhaps more importantly, He’s made it so it can end well for us, too!

Because of the approaching Sabbath, when the Savior’s body had been laid to rest, it was done in haste. So on the third day, which would be Sunday, Mary Magdalene and other faithful women returned to the tomb so that they could more appropriately prepare the body of Jesus for its final burial. As they walked, they pondered how they would do this thing. “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” Likely they didn’t know of the Roman guards standing watch at the tomb.

Imagine the shock when they found the tomb empty. An angel told them “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” They went and told some of the Apostles that the tomb was empty. It seems that the grieving women missed the important pronunciation that “he is risen,” for Mary was distraught.

She returned to the garden, and crying, was approached by men. They asked her “Woman, why weepest thou?” Her reply was full of despair: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” And another man asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Again, thinking this man to be responsible for the missing body of her Lord, she begged, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

In his single word reply, she must have finally recognized His voice: “Mary,” He said. Her tears of despair and sorrow changed in an instant to joy and unbelief as she declared in her happiness, “Rabboni!” Or, beloved Master.

It is perhaps instructive that He first appeared to Mary rather than His apostles. But we will leave it to this: He informed her that she must not touch Him yet, as He had not ascended to His father.

Later, however, as He showed Himself to His Apostles, He invited them to feel the wounds still in His hands, and still on His side. Doubting his own seeing eyes, it wasn’t until he had felt these wounds for himself the Apostle Thomas believed. 

Over the coming weeks the Master spent substantial time with his Apostles and disciples, teaching them and preparing His Apostles to lead His Church, and teach His gospel. But today, this Resurrection Sunday, finished the Atonement, and broke the bonds of death. Because He had never sinned, death held no power over Him. He was the first fruits of them that slept. And most importantly, because He lives, we will live again.

So today, this Easter Sunday, I raise my voice in praise for Him. I join my voice to the countless others who have sung it before me: Hallelujah! Praise to God in the highest!

Let us not forget His Atoning Sacrifice. Let us not forget His burden and trial in Gethsemane. Let us not forget His silence in the face of damning opposition. Let us always remember that the Plan of the Father recognized our sins; that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, the Savior, the Redeemer, and our Lord, to make a path for us to return to Him. Because He lives, we will live!

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Saturday, the Spirit World, Salvation, the Son of God, and a Call to Act

Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, and broken in Spirit, the disciples  and apostles spent the day mourning their fallen Lord.

Having died, just as fully as you and I will, The Son of Man’s spirit left His holy, but now lifeless, body. One must wonder where His spirit went in the days after His death. Fortunately, we have that answer: like all dead souls, His spirit went into the spirit world, wherin one awaits the resurrection. The Sinless one, burst the door between that prison and the spirit world, and entered paradise. So he had promised to the repentant thief, “today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Here he taught the deceased who would listen. Some assume that in this time, He had returned to the throne of His Father, but tomorrow, we will see, He affirms that he “[had] not yet ascended to [His] Father.”

Ever the Teacher, Christ ministered to both the spirits in paradise and those in prison. As Peter declared, decades later: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient…”

As the day of rest, the Sabbath is a day fitting for the Lord’s body to be unmoved and for His spirit to do the work of the day: bringing souls peace, joy, and preaching the Gospel of Christ.

So the day went by with little action, at least visible to the mortal man. But they prayed, and the mourned, and they mentally and emotionally prepared for the next day, when they planned to return to the Holy Body, and give Him the proper burial robbed Him by the short time on Friday.

So must we prepare for tomorrow. So must we pray, but our preparation is different than our brothers of the past. We prepare instead to celebrate the greatest day in human history: a needed relief from the day mourning the the worst in human history.

Yesterday I learned of something that grieves my soul. And I ask your help:

We know the barbarism currently falling on the followers of the Messiah in the Middle East. It has officially been labeled a genocide. Following the butcher of 15 million souls less than an hundred years ago, we as a people have vowed “never again.” Sadly, we have broken that vow, and stood by during repeated genocides and butcherings in the years following.

I served the Chaldean Catholics on my mission, though having fled this same persecution for their testimony, they were wary to accept to the Restored Gospel, as to them it felt like abandoning those left in their old homes. I am personally invested in these people. It is their families and friends who are now facing death in Iraq. Preparations have been made for over 1000 souls to retreat from the Islamic State, and to find new homes in safe counties. Our own country has refused these refugees, but a place had been found for them throughout Europe.

Following the deadly and dastardly attack in Brussels last week, however, the doors were shut for these people of the Cross: they are not being allowed to flee the death camps and beheading axe that they face now. They are literally in imminent peril. The symbol of the Arabic ‘n’ has been painted on the doors of the believers to mark them as followers of the Nazarene. This mark is literally a death sentence: “convert, pay the price of subjection, or die.” Most have died or fled rather than deny the testimony of the Lord.

The funds are there for their rescue, the homes are there for them to retreat to, these impoverished and desperate followers of Christ are ready and hopeful to leave; but the doors to their rescue have been shut.

So I beg you, as you prepare for tomorrow’s feasting, celebrations, and time with family; pray for a miracle. Pray aloud, pray with your families, and pray in your heart. The very lives of our brothers and sisters are at stake. Pray that the hearts of world leaders will be softened. Pray that the doors that were open will once again open in their behalf. For the love of Christ is charity, and it is not enough that we accept that love, if we don’t have it for others.

Pray, remember, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. For the love of God and His people, pray with me!

(UPDATE – 2018 – One fund, the Nazarene Fund, has worked tirelessly over the last 2 years, since I wrote this article; they had prepared to evacuate those 1000 people. The update they give is as follows: “We have surpassed that goal through evacuating a total of 8,202 people, providing housing for 5,462 people, and giving humanitarian aid to over 35,000. We confidently and proudly report that 95 rescues have been made to date. In 2017 The Nazarene Fund has focused on the task at hand, placing all efforts on the mission – to rescue, rebuild and restore people’s lives. Although much has been done, the work has just begun.”

(There are a few, too few, but some others who are working to rescue and stop the genocides still happening in the middle east against the Christians and Yazidis. While there has been good news, there have been many who have returned home to our Heavenly Father at the hands of murderers intent upon the complete destruction of all of the “people of the book.” There is still so much more to do.)

Conspiring in Darkness, and the Light of Truth

In the days leading up to the Festival of the Passover, the leaders of the Jews sought diligently ways to destroy their King. The decided to take Jesus covertly to avoid public knowledge of their treachery. It was while they plotted that the disenfranchised Judas, one of the Lord’s twelve announced Apostles, appeared to them. Asking for the price they would pay if he would deliver his Master to them, they promised 30 pieces of silver, the lawful price of a slave. He promised, in turn, to take them to him while he was away from the adoring masses. It was this betrayal that allowed the Savior to be captured at Gethsemane.

The coming days would show his betrayal to his Sovereign, and to his peers, but for now his evil, and the evil of the Sanhedrin where covered by both proverbial and literal darkness.

In order to not get ahead of myself, I won’t go into detail about the capture, yet. Instead, I want to point out that it was on this night, not later, that Judas betrayed his Lord. It was tonight that he made the decision to act; and it was tonight that he premeditated his murderous actions. From this point onward, even had he recanted his evil intent, and protected his King, he would have suffered the wrath of the leaders of the Jews for his failure. We will see, however, that he did not make that decision.

It is not without reason that this Wednesday has become known as ‘Spy Wednesday.’ And as this week leads to the darkest of days in the world’s history, surely it will come with the actions of evil men. And it is fitting that, though they sought to keep that evil hidden, even now we know them. The name Judas has become synonymous with betrayer, even nearly 2000 years later. 

“Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?””

It is the nature of man to seek to cover his sins. It is our desire to hide our evil from knowing eyes.

But the Lord knows everything, and all darkness will be exposed to the light and “everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

We must learn from the treachery of Judas that our sins cannot remain hidden. As we walk the road toward Galgotha this week, we must look inward and expose our sins to ourselves first; then we seek reparations to those whom we have sinned against. No secret will remain secret, no sin will remain hidden. As we follow the Redeemer let us heal the sorrows of those whom we’ve wronged. 

This week, let’s seek out those who hurt because of our choices, and seek forgiveness. If we’ve determined to sin, it’s not too late to choose the right. Today is symbolic of the decision to sin, but we are not bound by the choice of Judas, we must choose the King, and not the silver.