Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rejoice! He has Risen!

“May we never lose our wonder. May we never lose our wonder. Wide-eyed and mystified, let me be just like a child- starting at the beauty of my King... You are beautiful in all your ways.”

This song has echoed in my head all week. As I took the time to rest and listen to it on repeat today, my heart was humbled. Tears rolled down my cheek as I reflected on this day, the day after Jesus’ horrific crucifixion. This day that was the Sabbath day in Jewish history. I pondered in my reading of the account in in Mark whether anyone was allowed by Jewish law to visit Jesus’ grave on this “in - between” day? I can imagine the hopelessness that His followers felt. The Jews had grand plans for their Messiah to come as a mighty warrior. The Messiah’s followers had grand thoughts of continuing to follow this revolutionary (in thinking and living) leader. And now he is dead in a tomb. I am reminded of a verse in Proverbs that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Proverbs 13:12). I know this feeling. I can relate to the grief Jesus’ followers felt as they saw Jesus tortured, hung on a cross and then dead, wondering, “What now?”.

During this Holy Week, I recall my most vivid mental images from my amazing trip to Israel last year. It is a collection of these photos

From the top of the Mt. of Olives, Jesus travelled down into the garden.

In the Garden of Gethsemane: NEVERTHELESS...

Looking out from the garden you see the wall of Jerusalem
and the peak of the Islamic site, The Dome of the Rock, where the Temple once stood. 

A possible portrayal of what the stone in front of the tomb looked like.

Based on historical and geographic facts, this is the possible tomb where Jesus was buried.

And the Hope for all mankind lies in the truth of these words!

I can picture Jesus walking the downhill path from the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. As He prayed in the garden, He overlooked walls of Jerusalem and the Temple, knowing that soon He would be led, in mockery, to and through the city, to His death. Jesus felt the weight of this- And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). NEVERTHELESS...

As I have re-read the Easter story this week, I am also reminded of Jesus’ words in John 10:18: “No one takes [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down voluntarily. I am authorized and have power to lay it down and to give it up, and I am authorized and have power to take it back. This command I have received from My Father.” No one took Jesus by force- at any moment He could have called on all of Heaven’s armies… But because of love, Jesus chose to give himself up to death, in my place. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd who (voluntarily) laid down His life for His sheep.

The story of Easter makes all the difference! Without the resurrection, my faith would mean nothing. And therefore, just as Mary Magdalene ran from the empty tomb to tell the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”, I too proclaim the same thing! I have seen the Lord! I have seen that He rescues, redeems, and restores. I have seen the transformation of hope that is only accomplished by the presence of Jesus. I have seen that He brings peace that passes all understanding. I have seen that He gives freedom and joy. I have seen Him do the impossible! Though the enemy comes (and is here now) to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus has come to give life (resurrected life for you and me) and LIFE TO THE FULLEST!

May we never lose our wonder. May we never lose our wonder. Wide-eyed and mystified, let me be just like a child- starting at the beauty of my King... You are beautiful in all your ways!

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!