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Reflecting on Good Friday

When I was younger I had a problem understanding a major verse of the Bible. The verse that bothered me came when Jesus spoke in Matthew 27:46. He said, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The provided translations really struck me as odd. In the English Standard Version of the Bible just next to the words the rest of the verse says, “…that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” As a young man I thought the plea was a sign of surrender, giving up and lost hope on the part of Jesus. To me, as a young Christian, I thought many times, why would Jesus say this? It’s almost as if He was expecting God to save Him at the last moment or take Him off the cross? The Bible goes on to explain that those standing near the cross thought that Jesus was calling out to Elijah (Matthew 27:47). So, it appeared to me that confusion was not only present in my reading, but also in the understanding of the people there that day. At times when I read it, I felt that Jesus had truly expected a different outcome. At the time He was very close to death. The plea seemed to me to be a question to God, a wondering thought, of “Why didn’t You come save me from this death?” As I would learn later when I grew in my Christian walk, the verse and the plea had a much deeper meaning and one that we as Christians should not only cherish, but be thankful that we will never experience. As Christians, no matter what trials, tribulations, or even potential death we face, we will never face it alone. God is always with us as we are promised in Hebrews 13.5 and several other places we are told that He will never leave us or forsake us. This means that even in the worst of times we will not be alone. The meaning of Jesus’ cry though is that at the moment He was about to die, the time He should have needed God the most, God was not there. This may be shocking to think that God would turn His back on His own Son, but that is exactly what happened when Jesus cried out. For the first time in Jesus’ life, He felt no connection to God the Father. In Jesus’ own words, God had “forsaken” Him. He had left Jesus completely and utterly alone on the cross to finally die in agony and pain. The connection to God that had been so strong all His life simply vanished. Jesus, perhaps for the first time ever, was completely alone. It was so torturous to Him that it caused Him to cry out. The Romans had beat Him, humiliated Him, and were in the process of crucifying Him, but through all that He knew God was with Him. Now, suddenly, at the final moments when God should have been standing close in Jesus’ human heart and soul, God turned away. Jesus could not understand why at that moment and He cried out. It is something that we as Christians have been promised never to face – perhaps because it would be too horrible for us to stand. Continue Reading →

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The Often-Overlooked Redemption of The Resurrection

In a few short hours Christians across the Four States Area will start to wake up, prepare for church and then celebrate Easter Sunday. It is the most important day in Christian history. In fact, had it not been for the resurrection, everything else that makes Christianity what it is today would likely have been lost. It is logical to conclude that the birth of a Savior who simply lived, taught and died would not have prompted the celebration of His birth at Christmas. It is likely that had He not risen, that the importance of His lessons would have been long lost. In fact, it is likely that had He not risen, most of His followers would have stayed hidden away and denied ever knowing Him out of fear of suffering the same fate. Easter is the climax of the story of Christianity. It is the single most important event to the Christian because it confirms not only that there can be life after death in Christ, but it affirms that Jesus overcame that death, rose from the dead, and shared His victory over sin and death with the world. We will celebrate the risen Christ today, but all too often one very important key to the story is overlooked. The church will celebrate the risen Christ, but will sometimes overlook one of the key players in the story. It is often forgotten that Jesus disciples, the eleven left at this time, were hidden away. They were living in fear by the moment. They believed that at any minute the Romans were going to arrive, arrest them, and take each one to be crucified. In fact, crucifixion was often reserved for those who rebelled against Rome – in other words trouble makers, rebels, those going against Rome in such ways as promoting an overthrow of Roman rule. Since Jesus had been crucified, His followers would naturally assume that the Romans might want to make examples of all the leaders of the movement. Those leaders were the remaining eleven disciples. Those disciples were busy hiding, denying, and trying to figure out what the next day would bring for them. Simply put, they were too scared to go checking on Jesus’ grave. However, one of His followers was not afraid because she had already faced death and been saved from it by Jesus. She ventured to the grave and in doing so healed one of the greatest divisions between God and man that has ever existed. We are told in Genesis 3:6 that Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom and thus shared the fruit with her husband. Eve was deceived by the Devil in the garden. He convinced her that if she would eat the fruit of the tree, everything would be alright and she would have wisdom. He told her a half-truth as she did gain wisdom, but everything was not alright. Within a short time God came looking and found that mankind had disobeyed. This disobedience was squarely placed on the woman in Genesis 3:12 when Adam says, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (NIV). From that moment on, the blame for original sin fell squarely on the woman. The couple had been happy in the garden, but they were expelled. Women for ages would continue to live with the story of how “they” caused the fall of mankind. God knew that this was horrible guilt for all women to live with, so He provided a way out not only through the risen Christ, but through the symbolic gesture given on that first Easter morning. As the male followers of Jesus were hidden away, Mary Magdalene a woman who had so much sin in her life that people had been prepared to stone her before Jesus intervened (John 8:1-11), went to the grave. She found in John 20 that the stone had been rolled away and that Jesus’ body was gone. In what must have been an extreme panic, Mary ran back and told the others. The disciples then came, looked, and saw an empty tomb, but they were still confused and left. When the others had left, Mary was by the tomb alone and crying. A man approached her and she thought he was a gardener (John 20:15). Many people overlook the symbolic connection that God has allowed to occur at this point. The expulsion of Adam and Eve had taken place when they were removed from the garden. Mary is now alone in a garden that surrounds the tomb, a symbol of death, when she is approached. At first she does not realize that Jesus has come. Jesus could have appeared at any time. He could have appeared when the disciples had come, or to anyone else for that matter. He could have even gone to the disciples. Instead, Jesus chose to wait until Mary was alone. Once she was alone He appeared to her in the garden. Continue Reading →

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