Beyond the Cross: Conspiracy to misinform

According to Matthew’s testimony, after Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, the chief priests and Pharisees began to get nervous. They went to Pilate — the governor who had washed his hands in front of the angry crowd who cried out for Jesus’ death and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24) … “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.”‘ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.

“‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” (Matthew 27:62-66, NIV)

On the third day, while the guards were watching over the sealed tomb …

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:2-4)

When the guards emerged from their stupor and realized that Jesus body was missing from the sealed tomb, some of them went into Jerusalem and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened to them….

“When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’  So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.” (Matthew 28:12-14)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Matthew went on the say:  “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” (Matthew 28:15)

  Do you believe it?

Beyond the Cross: Many witnesses!

The “first day of the week” was a very busy one, according to Jesus’ closest friend, John. According to Jewish custom, that would have been the day following the Sabbath, which was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Here is a paraphrased timeline …

  •  “Early on the first day of the week,” Mary Magdalene, John (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”), and Simon Peter were the first to look into the tomb and verify that Jesus’ body was not there. (John 20:1-9)  John wrote: “He [Peter] saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first,also went inside. He saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8, NIV)
  • John and Peter went back to their homes, but Mary Magdalene stayed behind, crying. She saw two angels “seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.” Then she turned and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not recognize Him:

“Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

“She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!‘”

  • “On the evening of the first day of the week,” the disciples were behind locked doors because they feared retaliation from the Jews:

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

  SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Before His death on the cross, Jesus said this: “I am going away and I am coming back to you…. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:28-29)

Do you believe it?

Beyond the Cross: Doubting Thomas!

It’s tempting for Christians to get frustrated with non-believers. But the truth is, even Jesus’ closest friends — whom He told repeatedly that He would come back to life after three days after His death — had a hard time believing that such a thing could happen. That was especially true for one of the inner circle disciples in particular …

“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

“But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

(John 20:24-31, New International Version)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: 

“Jesus said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.‘”  (Luke 24:44-48, NIV)

Beyond the Cross: “I love you anyway.”

It’s hard for human minds to comprehend forgiveness. Jesus knew that. So He often used the power of carefully selected word pictures to get His message across. Here is how He SHOWED his unconditional love to the man who had THREE TIMES disowned Him in His hour of greatest need …

 

[After the resurrection]  

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.  This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

(John 21: 4-19, NIV)

 

Jesus would be a hard act for Peter to follow. But “following” is what Jesus expects His disciples to do.

Even though we WILL fail Him from time to time, Jesus wants us to remember that He offers forgiveness when we fall short. But He challenges us to keep getting up and to KEEP TRYING.

John finished the story and his testimony — the Book of John — this way:

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:24-25, NIV)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: According to historical records, John was the only one of the remaining Eleven disciples who did not experience a martyr’s death.

 

Beyond the Cross: “This same Jesus … will come back.”

Dr. Luke was a careful researcher. He must have interviewed numerous eye-witnesses to be able to write his account of Jesus’ life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. In the book of Acts, he began by bringing closure to the gospel that he had written “so that [we] may know with certainty the things that [we] have been taught”…

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ ” (Acts 1:1-11, NIV)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: He will be back. The angels said so.