EVERYTHING CHANGED!

In an instant, death had arrived

A young man filled with great promise.  Lots of friends. Star of his basketball team. I can still remember the anguished wailing of his girlfriend. At the prime of life, in a second his life ended in a car accident. Sam was now laid out in a casket.  Everything changed.

HER CRIES FILLED THE AIR

In John 20:1-18, everything changed for Mary Magdelene.  She witnessed the darkness of the last moments of the Savior hanging in agony. Humiliated, tortured, and executed, He breathed His last breath.  “It is finished.” Her anguished cries filled the air. Everything changed.

DEAD FOLKS DON’T DO ALOT FOR THEMSELVES

Now is the time to pay her respects and give her beloved Rabbi the funeral He deserves. Tom Lynch, writer and undertaker, wryly comments: “As a general rule, dead folks don’t do a lot for themselves.  They can only have things done TO them.” But she discovers the stone sealing the tomb is rolled away! One heartbreak after the other.  Will it never stop? Mary cries, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

An odd duo races to the scene. John, the disciple who Jesus entrusted to care for His mother Mary.  Then there is Peter, the coward who denied ever knowing Jesus.  At the tomb the guys see the strips of linens the body had been wrapped in. Someone must have stolen the body!

THEY DIDN’T GRASP THE RESURRECTION

Ray Stedman comments, “One of the striking phenomena of the Gospels is the deafness of the disciples to the consistent revelations of Jesus concerning his resurrection. He had great difficulty convincing them that He was going to die in the first place. It was only as they saw the opposition closing in on Him that they realized His words were true. But even then, none of them seemed to grasp that every time He mentioned His death He also added that He would rise again on the third day.”

Mary Magdelene, overwhelmed with grief, peers into the tomb. An angel asks her why she is crying. She sobs: “Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him!” Resurrection has not entered her thinking, regardless of what Jesus taught.

Amidst her tears, Mary then hears the voice of the One Who she thought was the gardener.  He whispers her name, “Mary.” Everything changes.

NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME

Mary turns and cries, “Rabbi!”  She sees the risen Christ. The empty tomb is the monument which displays the victory over sin’s curse.  The final enemy has been conquered. Nothing remains the same.

ACTING AS IF GOD IS DEAD

So then, how do we choose to live? It’s easy to forget everything changed. “Martin Luther once spent three days in a black depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. ‘Who’s dead?’ he asked her. ‘God,’ she replied. Luther rebuked her, saying, ‘What do you mean, God is dead? God cannot die.’ ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘the way you’ve been acting I was sure He had!’(recounted by Ray Stedman)

ARE YOU STILL MOURNING AT THE TOMB?

“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!”  Is this how you choose to live each day with the Savior Who has risen?  Or, do you choose to be the one mourning at the tomb, all your dreams dashed with no power to face another hour? The good news of Easter is: everything has changed! The victorious risen Christ offers to share His life with you.  Your wailing can be turned to joy.  Everything changes with the risen Christ.

Want additional inspiration? Click for the testimony of Jerry Dugan

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME

What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers?

I was giving birth to our first son.  Labor was going into the 2nd day and I had enough.  At that time, Bill was working fulltime, going to college and also leading a ministry.  He normally was wiped out.  I remember screaming at him when he had the nerve around hour #20 of my labor to begin nodding off in exhaustion.  After all, it was all about me and not him.  Right?

HE TOOK CARE OF MOM

Then we come to John 19:17-27, the passage about Jesus’ last hours.  It should have been all about Him, not anyone else.  Right? Jesus is arrested, deserted, tortured, betrayed, listens to religious hypocrites lie through their teeth. Furthermore, he’s forced to drag through the streets the cross on which he will be murdered. He is hanging there with nails through His wrists and feet, the crowds jeering at Him, and the soldiers are deciding who will get His clothes. What does Jesus do? He takes care of Mom.  I think I would be thinking about everything that has just happened to me and the further agonies to come, yet, He takes care of Mom. It’s not all about His own pain.

THE BOND DEEPER THAN GENETICS

Does he entrust this task with his biological half-brothers? No, He totally entrusts this with His friend, John.  In Luke 8:19-21, Jesus makes clear that there is a bond deeper than genetics.  My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. If there is anyone who will faithfully take care of His believing mom, it would be the disciple who showed up at the cross and did not look away – the Apostle John.

WILL HE PROVIDE MORE FOR US?

Why is this an important distinction? John Piper writes: “Those who hear and do the Word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she (Mary). If he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs? If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation!”

THE FAMILY BEYOND FAMILY

This is both a huge responsibility and benefit for those who are part of the Body of Christ, the church. Our needs are met when we have left everything to follow Jesus. Paul said in Acts 20:28, Christ purchased the church of God with his own blood. Piper continues: “Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.”

TO CARE FOR THEIR OWN

A ground breaking prayer that Jesus prayed for both His disciples and believers in the future is recorded in John 17:20-23. He prays for complete unity among His followers, something that would shake the world.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. The product from such unity is the same type of care which Jesus on the cross entrusted John with regarding Mary.  This is what the church is supposed to do better than any other agency on earth – to care for their own.

CRISIS SHOWS WHAT WE HAVE BECOME

So, the question is, if you profess to be a believer, how are you caring for other believers? Bishop Wescott wrote, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards, they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.” What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers? Is it sacrificial love, the kind that will run to the very end? It is not all about you. It is about Christ.

WHILE YOU ARE WAITING

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.

Image of woman waiting

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Image of person in mudpit

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.

Image of Jesus walking alongside

He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 

Image of music

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

Image of many worshipping

Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

UNRAVELED

Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel.

Having lost my beloved job and all that went with it, my life – and I – fell apart. I experienced a four-year dark night of the soul.  My persona, the identity that I’d built to compensate for the inner sense of brokenness, crumbled. I began to look more deeply, mostly because there was no other option. I had to face the pain of my difficult and sometimes traumatic childhood. Whilst often desperate for some relief or solution, it became clear that this was a process of unbecoming, of unravelling.”  (shared by Fiona Robertson)

CHANGE IS PAINFUL

Have you ever felt that you are also becoming unraveled?  Maybe you knew that an upheaval process might eventually prove for the good, but in the back of your heart have you doubted? Change is painful. Maybe the worst type of change is when the rug is pulled out from under you and you didn’t even realize the rug was loose. In the process, we may actually need to be unraveled; to be taken apart at the seams.

THE “FEAR OF SCARCITY

I wondered why I become unusually upset during seasons of change. I came up with a term which seems to fit: “fear of scarcity”. When something is scarce, there is a shortage, a famine, a drought. In my life there are times when I have asked for help, resources, or even love from believers and the supplies offered (or not offered) have been scarce. I adapt to such a life by trying hard not to ask for “too much”.  This fear of scarcity in asking help from people can color how I also view God.  I believe that God loves the world, but hey, couldn’t He be just too busy or short-staffed to personally have time for me? 

LOSING RESILIENCE

Then begins my unravelling.  With the tumult of circumstances, I come to the end of my own resources.  Maybe because of age, maybe because of yet another major change, I lose my resilience.  Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel. I’m on the path to nowhere. I need God to unravel the knots I am in. Have I presumed that my God is too small?

GOD BREATHES TRUTH

Despite my fears of scarcity, God breathes truth into my soul. His perfect Word states: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:3-5) Regardless what my heart may feel, God sticks around for the hard work of reworking my life. He truly loves the unlovable and redeems the unredeemable. No matter what I think or how I feel, there is no scarcity with God. He has the strength, the love and the resources to unravel the largest knots which clutter my life.

HIS RESOURCES ARE ENDLESS

Do you also need to be unraveled? Are you tangled up in knots of fear? Please know that God has plans and knits together the most beautiful creations. You need not fear scarcity from the Father. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. Call on Him; His resources are endless. Allow Him to unravel at will – He can be trusted. Fear no more.