Category: Inspiration

From Nothing to Everything

Posted by on 07/12/2017 in: ,

I look absolutely nothing like the rest of my family, sporting stick-straight blonde hair and blue eyes. My mother is a quarter Native American, my dad is an Irishman, and my sister is half African American. We always look like an odd bunch of people when we go out for dinner. I’ve even been asked by a waiter how we all know each other. I looked around the table at all our contrasting faces; “They’re my family,” I said.

Throughout my life I’ve been asked many questions about this characteristic, such as:

Do you wonder about your biological family?

If you could live with them, would you?

Do you really consider your mom to be your mom?

When you say dad… you mean your adopted dad, right?

Is it weird?

I honestly don’t mind the questions, but that’s probably because I don’t mind being adopted. Instead, it’s this one characteristic that brought about a deep understanding of God’s love for me—and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

You see, in Romans 8, the apostle Paul talks about adoption. He says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14-15, NIV).

From my personal experience and observation, I took a few key points away from this passage. When I watched my parents adopt my little sister, I saw them dedicate time, money, and energy so that they could leave the courtroom saying, “This is my daughter. I love her. She’s mine.” And it doesn’t stop there. They then embarked on a life-long journey of caring for my sister, teaching her and shaping her. God does this for us, too. We leave the courtroom with him, calling him Father.

My personal understanding of adoption speaks volumes into my understanding of God. But it is also so important to investigate the cultural understanding of adoption during the time of the apostle Paul. The Archaeological Study Bible explains that, in the ancient Greco-Roman world, “only free men (not women or slaves) could adopt, and the adoptee was often an adult rather than a child.” Additionally, an adoptee “took the adopter’s name and rank and became his legal heir.”

When Paul embraced the metaphor of adoption, he meant so much more than receiving a new guardian. Where an adopted child may learn the new family’s customs, share in the labor, and easily fit into the new societal ranking, a grown adult may not. An adopted adult would cling to their old ways. An adopted adult would struggle to transition into their new identity. But, despite these challenges, the adoptee is welcomed in, being brought from poverty to riches, from shame to honor, from slave to free, from nothing to everything.

We, too, can welcome this change in our identity. We can rejoice in the eternal relationship we have with our God. We can call him Abba, Father, and he calls us his children.

Interested in learning more about the archaeological, historical, and cultural information tucked inside your Bible? The Archaeological Study Bible contains over 500 articles and 500 full-color photos. Best part? It’s on sale right now.

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What are the characteristics of a godly man?

Posted by on 06/12/2017 in: ,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned  to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,  but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25 NASB

Until he became engaged to Mary, Joseph’s life probably resembled that of most other men in his hometown. No doubt he had business concerns and goals for the future—but nothing seriously interrupted his daily routine until Mary informed him she was pregnant. This was when his life changed rapidly.

The news was shocking to him, and rather than disgrace Mary, Joseph planned to send her away (Matt. 1:19). But God saw the confusion building within Joseph’s mind and sent His angel to guide him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (vv. 20, 21). From this point on, Joseph never questioned the Lord’s method or motive. He realized that the God of the universe had chosen him to watch over Mary and the Son she would have. He remained faithful not only to his wife, but also to the Lord.

Joseph showed courage by ignoring the ugly rumors swirling around town about Mary’s pregnancy; he valued God’s plan above what others thought of him. He remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit, demonstrated by his acceptance of His guidance. After the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to him, warning him of impending danger. Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they found safety until the threat passed (Matt. 2:13–15). As we look at the life of Joseph, we find that he was a humble man who honored God by obeying His Word. He remained consistent and content, and he could be counted on to follow the Lord, regardless of the personal costs.

How can you grow in your faith to become a godly individual? Begin by committing yourself to a consistent, daily walk with Christ. Attend a church where the Word of God is proclaimed as the standard of life. Make a commitment to God and to your loved ones that you will not abandon your devotion to Christ or to them.

You will gain a sense of godly responsibility when you stand up for what is right. A committed Christian is not easily swayed, but is filled with conviction, faith, and a desire to know God intimately. When Joseph had no one else to guide and comfort him, he turned to God and found the strength and love he needed to get through the most difficult of circumstances.

You will, too. Will you make Joseph’s spiritual commitment your own today?

Adapted from Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes. Add it to Your Library today!

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Pentecost: A Fulfillment of the Jewish Feast

Posted by on 05/31/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
—John 14:16-17 NKJV

The Feast of Weeks

The Feast of Weeks was the festival celebrated at the beginning of the grain harvest (Exodus 34:22). This was the feast at which the Hebrews offered their firstfruits of the harvest to the Lord at the tabernacle. It was one of the three major Jewish feasts, along with the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Exodus 23:14–17; 4:18–23; Deuteronomy 16:1–17).

According to Leviticus 23:15, 16, the Feast was celebrated for seven consecutive weeks beginning “the morning following the Sabbath day” of Passover. Thus comes its title, the “Feast of Weeks.” Later in the Old Testament this feast became known as “Pentecost” (“fiftieth”), since it was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover.

Pentecost

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled as described in Acts 2. On this Day of Pentecost came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, as Christ Himself had promised (John 14:16, 17).

The Orthodox services for Pentecost place their emphasis on the descent of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness. His descent means that the Mosaic Law, given by the Lawgiver and honored on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, is now transcended: “The All-Holy Spirit, who freely distributes gifts to all, has descended and come to earth; not as He formerly had in the Law’s dark shadow, shining in the Prophets, but now in very truth, He is bestowed in us through Christ” (Vespers, Thursday after Pentecost).

The worship services for Pentecost repeatedly emphasize how Old Testament prophecies of the Holy Spirit are fulfilled on this day. Two of the greatest of these prophecies are found in the Old Testament readings for this Feast—Ezekiel 36:24–28 and Joel 3:1–5. St. Peter directly quotes the passage from Joel in his exhortation to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21). A third reading—Numbers 11:16–17, 24–29—relates how the Lord commands Moses to select seventy of the elders of Israel, who, when the Spirit comes upon them, prophesy at the tabernacle. The comment of Moses regarding this event, “Would that all the Lord’s people might be prophets when the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29), is prophetic of the Day of Pentecost.

Excerpted from a study article in the Orthodox Study Bible.

How have you felt the Holy Spirit working in you? Please share below!

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Jesus, the Peace–Bringer

Posted by on 05/30/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
—John 14:27

Peace, shalom (shah–loam). Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning “to be complete, perfect, and full.” Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks. The word shalom occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament.

In Psalm 35:27, God takes delight in the shalom (the wholeness, the total well–being) of His servant. In Isaiah 53:5, the suffering Messiah was beaten to bring us shalom. The angels understood at His birth that Jesus was to be the great peace–bringer, as they called out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14–17).

Just as the saving power of His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to have peace with God (being made right with Him, Romans 5:1), the indwelling of His life and character through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is intended to help us learn to abide in the peace of God.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart” (John 14:27). Surrender to His will and submission to His Word will bring inner rest, as we allow the peace of God to “rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is to let God’s peace act as umpire 1) over decisions that would trouble you, 2) overruling doubts that would disturb you, and 3) overthrowing the Adversary’s lies that would defeat or deter you. Perfect peace is available when the heart and mind keep focused on God’s promise, power, and presence. Trust Him.

What troubles and doubts might you need to surrender to God today?

Excerpted from a “Kingdom Dynamic” and “Word Wealth” study note in the New Spirit–Filled Life Bible.

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Introduction to the Gospels

Posted by on 05/25/2017 in: , ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” —John 20:30–31

The English word “gospel” derives from the Anglo–Saxon word godspell, which can mean either “a story about God,” or “a good story.” The latter meaning is in harmony with the Greek word translated “gospel,” euangellion, which means “good news.” In secular Greek, euangellion referred to a good report about an important event. The four gospels are the good news about the most significant events in all of history—the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense of the word, since they do not intend to present a complete life of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:30; 21:25). Apart from the birth narratives, they give little information about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. While Jesus’ public ministry lasted over three years, the gospels focus much of their attention on the last week of His life (cf. Jn 12–20). Though they are completely accurate historically, and present important biographical details of Jesus’ life, the primary purposes of the gospels are theological and apologetic (Jn 20:31). They provide authoritative answers to questions about Jesus’ life and ministry, and they strengthen believers’ assurance regarding the reality of their faith (Lk 1:4).

Although many spurious gospels were written, the church from earliest times has accepted only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired Scripture. While each Gospel has its unique perspective, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when compared to John, share a common point of view. Because of that, they are known as the synoptic (from a Greek word meaning “to see together,” or “to share a common point of view”) Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, focus on Christ’s Galilean ministry, while John focuses on His ministry in Judea. The synoptic Gospels contain numerous parables, while John records none. John and the synoptic Gospels record only two common events (Jesus’ walking on the water, and the feeding of the 5,000) prior to Passion Week. These differences between John and the synoptic Gospels, however, are not contradictory, but complementary.

Each Gospel writer wrote from a unique perspective, for a different audience. As a result, each Gospel contains distinctive elements. Taken together, the four Gospels weave a complete portrait of the God–Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe.

Learn something new? Share your thoughts!

Excerpted from the Introduction to the Gospels in The MacArthur Study Bible.

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A Better Understanding of Biblical Joy

Posted by on 05/17/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel. 2 Chronicles 7:10 NKJV

3 Hebrew Word Studies on Joy

Sameach: The joy the people felt was more than just a spontaneous subjective emotion – it was rooted very concretely in all “that the LORD had done for David, Solomon, and for His people Israel.” Indeed, the Feast of Tabernacles was intended as a time of rejoicing for all the ways the Lord had blessed His people (Deut. 16:15). The people were filled with “great joy” at Solomon’s coronation (1 Kin. 1:40). Haman’s joy at his plot to kill Mordecai (Esth. 5:9, 14) backfired when he was executed instead, “and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad” (Esth. 8:15). But more often, joy is connected directly to God: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” (Ps. 126:3).

Simchah: This Hebrew word is one of several frequently occurring Hebrew words that express exceeding gladness of rejoicing. Like its synonyms, this word can apply to a disposition of heart (Prov. 14:10; Jer. 15:16). It is frequently set in a context of feasting (Neh. 8:12) and singing (1 Sam. 18:6; Ps. 137:3), as it is in a prophecy concerning God’s singing over Jerusalem (Zeph. 3:17). The word is also used for the senseless happiness of the enemies of God’s people (Judg. 16:23; Ezek. 35:15; 36:5), of the foolish (Prov. 15:21), of the lazy (Prov. 21:17), and of the hypocrites (Job 20:5). However, joy in the Bible is usually associated with the people of God who celebrate God’s blessing at a number of occasions – feasts, coronations of kings, victories in battle, and the dedication of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem (Num. 10:10; 1 Kin. 1:40; 2 Chr. 20:27; Neh. 12:27). In fact, Moses exhorts the Israelites to serve God with joy, so that they would not lose their blessing (see Deut. 28:47).

Gil: A somewhat rare form that is more familiar to us as rejoice (1 Chr. 16:31, Ps. 2:11; 21:1; 51:8; Prov. 23:24-25). In Isaiah, when the prophet has already declared he will rejoice, but wants to emphasize his response to God, this term offers that direct form of exultation.

Which Hebrew word would you use to describe the joy you feel about the Lord Jesus?

Drawn from word studies in the NKJV Word Study Bible.

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Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Posted by on 05/08/2017 in: ,

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us]. And lead us not into temptation [but rescue us from evil].’” Luke 11:2-4 AMP

The Lord’s prayer illustrates the variety of requests that one can and should make to God, as well as displaying the humble attitude that should accompany prayer. The use of the plural pronoun us throughout the prayer shows that it is not just the prayer of one person for his or her own personal needs, but a community prayer.

Your Kingdom come: The references here is to God’s program and promise. This is more affirmation that request, highlighting the petitioner’s submission to God’s will and the desire to see God’s work come to pass.

For we ourselves also forgive: The petitioner recognizes that if mercy is to be sought from God, then mercy must be shown to others. We need to adopt the same standard that we expect others to follow.

Lead us not into temptation: This remark is often misunderstood as suggesting that perhaps God can lead us into sin. The point is that if one is to avoid sin, one must follow where God leads. In short, the petitioner asks God for the spiritual protection necessary to avoid falling into sin.

Which part of the Lord’s prayer resonates most with you?

Find more content like this in the Amplified Study Bible. Add it to your Olive Tree library today.

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

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8 Marks of Authentic Faith

Posted by on 05/04/2017 in: ,

Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.

Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” But not even then did their testimony agree.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing.

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
— Mark 14:55–64, NKJV

Israel’s religious and political leaders wanted to rid themselves of Jesus, so they tried every means possible to convict Him of a crime. They paid an informant from among Jesus’ own followers, but he returned their money and declared the Lord innocent (Mark 14:43–46; Matthew 27:3–5). They orchestrated an armed mob to intimidate Jesus, but He kept His cool and restrained His followers (Matthew 26:51–54.). The leaders even presented witnesses to testify against Him, but the witnesses perjured themselves and contradicted each other (Mark 14:55, 56).

People tried to convict Jesus of a crime for which they lacked a shred of evidence. They failed because Jesus lived His life in plain sight. For every false accusation lodged against Him, there were countless examples of His love and moral perfection.

What signs of authentic faith do people see when they scrutinize our lives? Is it enough evidence to prove that our trust in God is real? The Bible suggests eight outward marks of authentic faith:

  1. We display the Beatitudes that Jesus described in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–16).
  2. We think with a transformed mind, we express genuine love, and we respect authority (Romans 12:1,2; 13:1–7).
  3. We overflow with love actions (1 Corinthians 13).
  4. We display the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22–26).
  5. We imitate Christ’s humility and look out for others’ interests (Philippians 2:1–4).
  6. We pray without ceasing, and in everything we give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
  7. We carry out works of faith and compassion (James 2:14–17), we control our tongues (3:1–11), and we speak wisdom (3:13).
  8. We hold to the truth about Jesus (2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4) and defend it (Jude 3).

As others study our lives for evidence that we are followers of Christ, how many of these marks do they see?

Drawn from the Apply the Word Study Bible Notes. Click here to add it to your library.

What challenges and successes have you encountered as you seek to pursue faith that is transformative and authentic?
Join the conversation below!

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

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Making Space for God

Posted by on 04/13/2017 in: ,

When I was a sophomore in college, I studied abroad in the British Isles for three months in a group led by four professors. We spent most of our time in cities: London to York to Edinburgh to Glasgow to Manchester to London again. Occasionally the subjects we studied—Wordsworth and Roman ruins—would take us into the countryside where we could reconnect with soft earth and silence. This trip laid the foundation for my later realization that I am a nature-loving, silence-seeking introvert. In cities, I would find parks and churches. Quiet spaces. Places that would lessen both the external hustle and bustle of the city and my internal noise as I tried to take it all in.

A month after I returned home from England, I was at a snowbound camp called Tall Timber living like a monk for a Christian Spirituality course during my school’s three-week January Term. After the relentless pace and variety of travel, the monastic schedule was jarring in its routine. Our days were anchored by a modified Divine Office, specific times of prayer and worship that define the day in some monastic communities. Our daily rhythm was this: worship, breakfast, lecture, personal study time, worship, lunch, chores, lecture, free time, worship, dinner, small group, worship, free time, and bed.

The days were full, perhaps even as full as when I was abroad. But there was suddenly freedom in the day that had been lacking on my study abroad sojourn. The freedom I felt was linked to the structure of our daily routine. Each activity had its allotted time, so there was time for fellowship and time for solitude. There was time for activity of the mind and activity of the hands. And most importantly, we had time for God through our personal study and journaling, through our small groups, and through the rhythm of worship four times each day.

As I reflected, the word finally came to me: space. We had space at Tall Timber, both physical space in that quiet corner of the world and mental space. Studying abroad had felt cramped. We lived in tight quarters in hostels, cities were crowded with people, and my mind was busy with processing the experience. Even spending time with God had been pushed into the margins. Time itself was squeezed to wring out every minute of every day. At Tall Timber, the strictness of our daily rhythm led to the space I craved to think and reflect.

I had another transition on returning to a regular college semester in the spring. The time at Tall Timber had been charmed; the demands of life were so physically and emotionally distant. Normal life could feel more like the pace of studying abroad than the spacious rhythms of Tall Timber. I learned that I had to be flexible with the structure I created for myself as life changed.

In the nearly 10 years since that quasi-monastic experience, I try my best to create a structure that gives me space: space for God, space for relationships, space for my own reflection. I’ve embraced the liturgical year, which has its own structure to help us attend to the story of Christ and our place in that story. The Lenten and Easter seasons are particularly meaningful for me because I take more time to journal and read Scripture. With Holy Week upon us, when we remember Christ’s suffering and death, I pray you’ll find your own space to be with the crucified and risen Christ.

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Reactions to the Resurrection

Posted by on 04/12/2017 in:

Taken from Feasting on the Word:

John 20:1-18
Pastoral Perspective

The narrative here seems almost two separate stories, that of the woman Mary and that of the two men, Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.

I call the disciples “men,” but the word that comes more quickly to mind is “boys.” There seems such a childish competition between them. When they get word of the missing body, they run to the tomb, but their racing is not presented just as a run to arrive: it is reported as a race, with care taken to tell that the “other disciple,” the one with whom the author identifies, outran Peter and got there first. He won the race, even though Peter, typically brash, was the one who forged first into the tomb. So yes, the common claim that Peter was the first of the male disciples at the actual site of the resurrection may have some truth, but only by a technicality. The other one, John, was really first, and the faster runner. Besides, he was the one whom Jesus loved. Perhaps I overstate the comic quality of John’s account here, but it is hard to ignore at least the suggestion of such childish, such boyish, competition between these two iconic figures.

The story of Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, has nothing of such comedy. Arguably, there is something of comedy in the classic sense in the confusion about Jesus and the gardener, but that is very different from the boys-will-be-boys rivalry that brings a smile of recognition at the footrace. What we have in the Magdalene story, rather, is deep and intimate emotion. Unlike the empty-tomb stories of the other evangelists, John’s account gives us just one woman, one who comes to the tomb alone. She comes out of her own desire to be where the body of Jesus is. She is bereft that he has been taken away, not just by death but by the disappearance of his body. She grieves, she yearns, she weeps. Her words are poignant, and we can feel the hurt and longing in them: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (v. 13).

Try as I might, I cannot help but hear a resonance of the Magdalene’s voice in Jesus Christ Superstar, that of the amazed and devoted lover of the man who has moved her so deeply. Volumes have been written on all that is problematic with that tradition of imagining Mary Magdalene, both as it has diminished her likely importance as an apostle in her own right and as it has played out as a paradigmatic male fantasy about women. This story, like other images of feminine devotion to a messianic male figure, is fraught with danger, with both a history of and a potential for misappropriation. Let the teller of the tale take care! Cognizant of such risk, however, I am moved once more by this woman who loves with such longing for a lost beloved. Lurid legends or prurient speculation about the Magdalene set aside, this does seem the depiction of an intimate and deeply embodied affection.

Is it not both curious and wonderful that these two stories—one of the boys and one of the woman, the comic and the passionate—sit here, one within the other? While we might opt to preach primarily from the one or the other, why not let both play upon us, reminding us that the encounter with the resurrection can be experienced differently by different people at different times, its music in different keys and danced in different ways?

The empty tomb found by the disciples is a place pregnant with potential meaning not yet understood. What it means is still unknown, but what it will mean transforms both past and future for the eager disciples who run to it. They see nothing within but empty wrappings, the leavings of one who left, and only later will they understand what presence that absence bodes.

Mary, on the other hand, has not raced with curiosity or hope, but has come to pay grief’s necessary homage to one she loved. When she looks in, she sees not only the emptiness but the angels who make the slab no longer a mere place of absence but a vision of the mercy seat and the ark of God’s presence (Exod. 25:17–22). Yet, after responding to the angels and telling her grief, Mary turns away from the tomb; even with angels, with religious symbolism, with supernatural promise and implications, it cannot hold her interest. It does not compensate for the reality of Jesus, does not dissolve her grief. He is not there, and she turns away. It is when she turns around that she encounters the one whom she seeks, in reality and not just potential. At first she does not recognize him—we may think of all the different reasons we also do not recognize our Christ—but he calls her by name. Then she sees and exclaims her greeting in return, “Rabbouni, my teacher.”

There is tenderness of affection here and the joy of a real presence, but there is finally that Noli me tangere and a new incompleteness: she may not hold on to him, perhaps not even touch him. He is going away, and as she seems to reach for him, he retreats from her. She will be his apostle to the disciples, but he does not stay to be held. That withdrawal is also part of the story.

There is much that may engage our reflection here, much familiar from our parish experience—comedy and devastation, symbol and realities, encounters and absences, the dance of nearness and distance in relationships—all of it laid out, not as the tired story of human life through the generations, but as it shines in the transfiguring light of the resurrection morning. May we preachers see it, and show it, so freshly new.

JOHN K. STENDAHL


If you enjoyed this excerpt & want more biblical insights for preaching & teaching, then consider adding Feasting on the Word to your Olive Tree library today.

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