EASTER: Celebrate!

CelebrationOne day, when my son was about four years old, I was playing the sound track to the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. When Judas sang his haunting song, Mark asked, “Why is he so sad?”

“Because he helped some mean people arrest Jesus. When he saw those people were going to put Jesus on a cross and make him die, he was very sorry.”

Mark took that in. Suddenly, he brightened. “Then on Easter, Judas was happy!”

When I recovered from my astonishment, I realized Mark’s take on Easter was perfect. Even Judas–had he not already taken his life–could have been restored to gladness. Today, Jesus’ resurrection life still displaces all that is ugly and wrong in our lives and hearts. That’s something to celebrate!

Click to join the Resurrection celebration.

EASTER: The Clash of Light and Darkness

It appears I bragged a mite early about Kentucky weather. The past week has been the coldest yet, and the last day and a half have featured heavy snow showers. However, the daffodils are in full bloom, and they don’t appear to mind the snow. 🙂
Kind of like Good Friday. There was nothing but gloom and despair in the disciple’s hearts. But before the day was over, Father God rejoiced.
               

Sunrise over Cross

It was high noon, but an uncanny darkness gripped the land. At about 3:00 p.m., Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (verse 46). A short while later, he cried out again and yielded up his spirit to God. As he did, the earth quaked, rocks split, the veil of the temple was torn in two, and many dead bodies were resurrected.

At first glance, it appears that the darkness of those few hours and the cataclysmic events afterwards were a sign of the grief and anger of God as he watched His Son suffer and die. Yes, those three dark hours were no doubt a supernatural expression of God’s anger toward sin and agony over his Son’s suffering. But I believe there is another reason for the darkness. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” No wonder there was no light on the earth during those three hours. The Light of the World had taken on the darkness of sin.

What of the earthquake when Jesus died? Was it still part of God’s anger? Think about this: it is not reported that the earthquake caused any harm. It brought dead people out of their graves, alive. It also tore the thick veil of the temple.

Before this time, only the High Priest could enter through the veil into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.  But when Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (the plan of salvation had been accomplished), God, by means of an earthquake, tore the veil to the Holy of Holies. What a gesture! The Son took the sin that had separated us from God, and the Father threw open the door. His Son’s suffering had ended, and now his other children could come home.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18, emphasis added).

The Light had triumphed, once for all. Now darkness could no longer hold those who believe on Him.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

When Jesus entered the world, the night sky in a nearby field was flooded with his light. When he left, he took our darkness with him. Do we struggle with sin-consciousness? Low self-worth? Lack of confidence to be a mighty man or woman of God? He took that with him. We don’t need to take it back.          – Celia Willard Milslagle

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Adapted from Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation onGod’s Word by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.

 

 

EASTER: Dare to Look

When I opened up Office.com Images to find an illustration for this post, colored eggs, chickies, and cherry blossoms popped off the screen. Easter! Spring! Love it, love it.

Beautiful to behold. Unlike what came before Easter–the Cross. That is hard to behold, at all. But one day I did, and here’s what I saw.

Three crosses On the Cross

Read Colossians 1:21-22; Luke 23:26-46.

There’s a reason why the Cross is the primary symbol of the Christian faith. On the Cross, Jesus gave his life to redeem mankind from sinfulness and rescue us from the tyranny of the evil one. It was the turning point of history on this planet.

In remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, I have worn a cross around my neck, taken Communion, and fasted during Lent. But I never had the courage to look squarely at Jesus suffering on the Cross.

That is, until Cheri Brisbin, my “Life and Teachings of Christ” instructor, caused me to look. As she described the scene, I saw a Man big enough to bear the Cross and still support Peter, and the women of Jerusalem, and his executioners, and the thief on the Cross, and his mother…and me.

I kept looking at the Cross, and I wondered how Jesus’ sufferings and demeanor on that day affected his disciples. Peter had marveled when Jesus had said they were to forgive seventy times seven times. But after Calvary, I’m sure none of the disciples ever again wondered if that was possible: they saw Forgiveness incarnate, Love that could not be offended.

And then there was the matter of servanthood. Jesus’ washing of their feet was startling enough that the disciples probably finally got the picture that love and service were the ways they would have to operate to please him. However, that was insignificant compared to the demonstration of servanthood they were going to witness in the next 24 hours.

He gave his very life; and even in the midst of his agony he did not allow the pain to keep him from reaching out to the last few people who needed his encouragement and salvation. Truly, when we perform great labors of love and suffer for Jesus’ sake we are still like children helping their daddy: our work is small compared to his. He did, and still does, most of the work. And our part we can do with grace, because he’s right there to help.

I used to think that it was the strictly the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that made lions out of the disciples who had scattered like sheep at Jesus’ arrest. But now I can’t help but think that some backbone was put into them at the sight of Jesus taking the worst that hate and evil could dish out, behaving like a prince, and coming out a victor.

Instead of being afraid to look at Jesus’ agony, let’s look—and weep—but catch his love and his courage. In the light of the Cross, let us see the pettiness of sin and carnality and accept the grace to live as he did.                               Celia Willard Milslagle

9781425978358_cover.inddFrom Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation on God’s Word  by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.

 

 

EASTER: How Could He?

This Saturday, it will be time in the United States to set our clocks forward to Daylight Saving Time. In Kentucky, I have already spotted lawn care crews at work. Spring must be around the corner.

And . . . Easter is only four weeks away. My blogs during these weeks will be about the tumultuous events preceding and following Jesus’ crucifixion. I say “my blogs,” but only two of these essays are mine–the other two were written by my father in a devotional book we co-authored in 2007. . . . This week I’m sharing one of my father’s.

Judas

Judas’ Defection

Read John 13:18-20.

“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (John 13:24).

Jesus’ final Passover with his apostles in the Upper Room was one of the most sublime experiences of his life on earth. Yet in the midst of his jubilation, he had to deal with at least two very trying problems. The worst of these was the defection of Judas.

Judas’ betrayal has always been puzzling to earnest Christians.  How could a man who had walked with Jesus and worked miracles in his name turn against him? Some have argued that he always planned to betray Jesus and joined his company to learn his habits so he could do so. Others feel that he was predestined for this purpose and could not help himself.

The most likely explanation is that there was a gradual deterioration in his relationship with Christ and the other apostles.  He seems to have been somewhat of an outsider, the only disciple from Judea among a group of Galileans—men from the hinterland—that he probably considered uneducated and unsophisticated. He became dishonest, appropriating money from the common purse for his own use. He became critical of Jesus and took offense when the Master chided him publicly for his condemnation of Mary when she anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. The final tragedy was that he allowed Satan to enter his heart.  It was then he sought occasion to betray his Lord.

But Jesus did not give up on him! Even as he prepared to partake of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus made one final appeal. “Don’t do it, Judas!  Better never to have been born than to commit this deed!” It was too late for Judas. Satan had already taken control.

Should we not pause to reflect on this tragedy? A traitor is not made in a moment. Most people who abandon their Lord do it little by little, almost unconsciously: a little neglect here, a slip there, wounded pride, spite, anger – they can build up until Satan finds a way to lead us astray. But still the Master pleads. Don’t ignore his love and his call.

Are you ever tempted by selfish ambition, pride or jealousy to forsake your Lord or put him to the test? Beware, lest Satan finds a way to enter your heart and destroy your faith.

–F. Burleigh Willard Sr. 

From Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation on God’s Word  by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.

 

 

EASTER: Lent Madness

Lent Madness is the name of a zany website with a praiseworthy purpose—to acquaint the public with heroes of the Christian faith, a.k.a. saints. Before you go poking around on this website, catching up on all the inspiration, hilarity, and excitement you missed (this Lent season), check out the story of Margaret of Scotland. 

The reason I recommend Margaret’s story is because it illustrates this week’s theme: part of the process of learning your God-given identity is finding out who you are not. Click on Margaret’s name above to find out why it was a good thing that deeply religious Margaret did not follow her youthful desire to become a nun.