The Cross, the Veil, and the Empty Tomb

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

When I think of Easter, three objects come to my mind…

~ the cross, the veil, and the empty tomb ~

 jesus-on-the-cross-for-us

For if not for the cross, my penalty would not have been paid. The broken blood oath of the covenant would not have been satisfied. It is only through the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed from the curse of sin.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

 torn

As Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and gave up His Spirit, the veil in the Temple, that separated man from the Holy of Holies, was torn in two. It was as if God, seeing the injustice of Christ’s death, rent His clothes in grief. And in so doing, He opened the way for all to enter into His presence. Now, boldly, we can come before the Throne of Grace, for the barrier of sin that separated us from God has been broken. The terrible gulf has been filled and we are reconciled to the Father.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 The-Empty-Tomb

Even as the sun was blotted from the sky and the earth was covered in darkness, God knew that Sunday was coming. Sealed for three days within the tomb, the Lord’s body lay, uncorrupted. Then with the dawn of that Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away–not to let anyone out, but to let those present bear witness–that indeed, Jesus had risen.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

 Where-is-Your-Sting

The tomb is empty! Death has no power over Him, the grave cannot contain Him. And now we have not just hope, but a Living Hope in Christ Jesus, the Risen Savior!

“O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57

Hosanna!

~ Susan

Advertisements

Lamb Selection Day – Palm Sunday

Passover LambIt is not by chance that our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is on this day. The events, as they unfold, are not by happenstance. The entire week is a well-orchestrated, choreographed enterprise enveloped in symbolism foretold by the prophets of old.

The week begins with a colt. Jesus gives instruction to his disciples to enter into the city and retrieve a donkey’s foal, for it is to be his transportation into Jerusalem. This colt, Jesus knew where to find it, and what is to be said to its master.

It is not because Jesus can not find a more suitable mode of travel. He can choose any animal He desires, yet the Savior of the world chooses this simple, humble beast. The donkey, you see, is to prove a point, for it is as the prophet Zechariah wrote,

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you;

He is just and having salvation,

Lowly and riding on a donkey,

A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

                                    Zechariah 9:9

Jesus comes to the city upon the back of this beast of burden in order to fulfill this prophecy. Not only that, but as he enters, the people recognize the fulfillment of scripture, even as the prophet had spoken, and shout with unbounded joy. This action by Jesus is understood to be His proclamation, that He is indeed, God’s promised Messiah.

Though the symbolism is not yet complete, for it is even known from which direction the Messiah would appear.

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east.”  Zechariah 14:4

It is from the Mount of Olives He will come, riding upon a donkey’s colt.

Jesus now arrives, having come just then, from this very garden. The actions of Jesus are anything but subtle, and they are not lost to the people. So they cry out as they understand what this entry into Jerusalem means, “The King is coming, and He is here!”

“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9

Even the shouts of the people are foretold, their very words proclaimed, recorded in the psalms, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 188:26)

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yet, all is not well, for the people are looking for a military deliverer, a king that will lead them in battle against the oppressive regime of the Roman Empire. As they wave their palm branches, the people shout, “Hosanna.” The branches represent the national symbol, waving their flag in support of the nation of Israel. The word Hosanna, not a cry of peace or religious fervor, but a symbol of rebellion as it signifies a call for deliverance from oppression. This joyous assembly is not singing praises to God, but is crying out for insurrection against an oppressive dictatorship. It is a battle cry.

However, Jesus has not come as a military deliverer, an earthly king to lead His people to war. He comes to reconcile His people to the Father.

It is for this reason that Jesus chose this particular day to enter into the city of Jerusalem. As He rides upon the colt, He enters the city with the lambs. Four days it is before the Passover, and this day is Lamb Selection Day. This is the day that the Passover lamb is to be chosen, the innocent sacrifice that will take the place of the first born. It is the tenth day of the month; on the fourteenth day, the Passover lamb is to be killed.

Enter Jesus, the perfect propitiation, to be chosen as their spotless lamb. Not a political liberator, but the King of all, whose kingdom is established by love and sacrifice.

Four days later, Jesus is with His disciples in the Upper Room, celebrating the Passover. Only this Passover is not like the others. Here Jesus puts Himself as the Lamb, His body and blood as the sacrifice. Then, the next morning, He is alone, upon the cross, His blood shed for the many that are now nowhere to be found.

And as the shofar is sounded, at the ninth hour, or three o’clock, the Passover lamb is slain, the lamb without blemish, given up for the people. It is at this very moment, upon a lone hill called Golgotha, that Jesus says, “It is finished.”

reflections on Christ - crucifixionJesus is the perfect Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Because of this single act of selflessness, all who follow Him are set free from the bondage of sin, liberated from the oppressive regime of the Enemy.

“Hosanna in the Highest!”

~ Susan

The Cross, the Veil, and the Empty Tomb

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

When I think of Easter, three objects come to my mind…

~ the cross, the veil, and the empty tomb ~

 jesus-on-the-cross-for-us

For if not for the cross, my penalty would not have been paid. The broken blood oath of the covenant would not have been satisfied. It is only through the blood of Jesus that we are cleansed from the curse of sin.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

 torn

As Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and gave up His Spirit, the veil in the Temple, that separated man from the Holy of Holies, was torn in two. It was as if God, seeing the injustice of Christ’s death, rent His clothes in grief. And in so doing, He opened the way for all to enter into His presence. Now, boldly, we can come before the Throne of Grace, for the barrier of sin that separated us from God has been broken. The terrible gulf has been filled and we are reconciled to the Father.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 The-Empty-Tomb

Even as the sun was blotted from the sky and the earth was covered in darkness, God knew that Sunday was coming. Sealed for three days within the tomb, the Lord’s body lay, uncorrupted. Then with the dawn of that Sunday morning, the stone was rolled away – not to let anyone out, but to let those present bear witness – that indeed, Jesus had risen.

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

 Where-is-Your-Sting

The tomb is empty! Death has no power over Him, the grave cannot contain Him. And now we have not just hope, but a Living Hope in Christ Jesus, the Risen Savior!

“O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57

Hosanna!

~ Susan

Lamb Selection Day – Palm Sunday

Passover LambIt is not by chance that our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is on this day. The events, as they unfold, are not by happenstance. The entire week is a well-orchestrated, choreographed enterprise enveloped in symbolism foretold by the prophets of old.

The week begins with a colt. Jesus gives instruction to his disciples to enter into the city and retrieve a donkey’s foal, for it is to be his transportation into Jerusalem. This colt, Jesus knew where to find it, and what is to be said to its master.

It is not because Jesus can not find a more suitable mode of travel. He can choose any animal He desires, yet the Savior of the world chooses this simple, humble beast. The donkey, you see, is to prove a point, for it is as the prophet Zechariah wrote,

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your King is coming to you;

He is just and having salvation,

Lowly and riding on a donkey,

A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

                                    Zechariah 9:9

Jesus comes to the city upon the back of this beast of burden in order to fulfill this prophecy. Not only that, but as he enters, the people recognize the fulfillment of scripture, even as the prophet had spoken, and shout with unbounded joy. This action by Jesus is understood to be His proclamation, that He is indeed, God’s promised Messiah.

Though the symbolism is not yet complete, for it is even known from which direction the Messiah would appear.

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east.”  Zechariah 14:4

It is from the Mount of Olives He will come, riding upon a donkey’s colt.

Jesus now arrives, having come just then, from this very garden. The actions of Jesus are anything but subtle, and they are not lost to the people. So they cry out as they understand what this entry into Jerusalem means, “The King is coming, and He is here!”

“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9

Even the shouts of the people are foretold, their very words proclaimed, recorded in the psalms, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 188:26)

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yet, all is not well, for the people are looking for a military deliverer, a king that will lead them in battle against the oppressive regime of the Roman Empire. As they wave their palm branches, the people shout, “Hosanna.” The branches represent the national symbol, waving their flag in support of the nation of Israel. The word Hosanna, not a cry of peace or religious fervor, but a symbol of rebellion as it signifies a call for deliverance from oppression. This joyous assembly is not singing praises to God, but is crying out for insurrection against an oppressive dictatorship. It is a battle cry.

However, Jesus has not come as a military deliverer, an earthly king to lead His people to war. He comes to reconcile His people to the Father.

It is for this reason that Jesus chose this particular day to enter into the city of Jerusalem. As He rides upon the colt, He enters the city with the lambs. Four days it is before the Passover, and this day is Lamb Selection Day. This is the day that the Passover lamb is to be chosen, the innocent sacrifice that will take the place of the first born. It is the tenth day of the month; on the fourteenth day, the Passover lamb is to be killed.

Enter Jesus, the perfect propitiation, to be chosen as their spotless lamb. Not a political liberator, but the King of all, whose kingdom is established by love and sacrifice.

Four days later, Jesus is with His disciples in the Upper Room, celebrating the Passover. Only this Passover is not like the others. Here Jesus puts Himself as the Lamb, His body and blood as the sacrifice. Then, the next morning, He is alone, upon the cross, His blood shed for the many that are now nowhere to be found.

And as the shofar is sounded, at the ninth hour, or three o’clock, the Passover lamb is slain, the lamb without blemish, given up for the people. It is at this very moment, upon a lone hill called Golgotha, that Jesus says, “It is finished.”

reflections on Christ - crucifixionJesus is the perfect Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Because of this single act of selflessness, all who follow Him are set free from the bondage of sin, liberated from the oppressive regime of the Enemy.

“Hosanna in the Highest!”

~ Susan

The Way to Holiness

Image courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2: 46-47

It began slowly, as a ripple through time. Only a few at first, just a handful of followers meeting together in homes, sharing bread, praising God. But as a ripple in water expands and covers the surface of the deep, so too this movement gained momentum, flowing freely over the face of the earth until finally it covered the whole, changing everything. From the first meeting in the Upper Room, until this present age, the church has dominated history as a source of meaning, proclaiming that “From Him, and through Him and to Him are all things.” – Romans 11:36

Believers were encouraged to live lives that were different and distinct from those who embraced the pagan culture around them. Yet this would not go unchallenged, for the Enemy could not stand silent as this Christian doctrine, this new movement, known as The Way, reached out and touched the hearts of man.

 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18: 19-20

The early church struggled from attacks outside its ranks, and sadly, even from within, as the Gnostics and Marcionites questioned the teachings of this new faith, even denying the deity of Christ. Yet from this struggle emerged the first ecumenical creeds as leaders within the church attempted to preserve the essence of the Christian faith. Unwilling to participate in the mandated emperor worship, Christians soon found their church persecuted. Nero, Domitian, and Diocletian were particularly cruel, collecting Christians, placing them in the Circus Maximus and the Coliseum for the entertainment of the masses.

Yet, we find that “the blood of the martyr has become the seed of the church.” – Tertullian.

Then in 313AD something happened that defied expectation. The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, instituting this doctrine as the national religion of the Roman Empire. So the saints rested from their trials for a time.

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4

As the church grew comfortable, church leaders gained power and prestige. Corruption entered into the ranks of the church. Schisms arose from within, the Empire split in two, and with it the church broke, separated by a wall of division. Disputes and disagreements emerged as the true message of the scriptures was lost to the Dark Ages of time. No longer was salvation a free gift, but a condition to be earned, or bought. Indulgences and acts of penance were seen as a means to work ones soul into heaven. Salvation was relegated to those who had the monetary means to deliver themselves from purgatory.

Then in 1517, a humble monk climbed upon his knees the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs, which tradition says Christ descended on retiring from the hall of judgment, where Pilate had passed sentence upon him. Here it was believed that at every step one could earn a year’s indulgence. So Martin Luther in hope, upon his knees, ascended the stairs, when he was startled by a sudden voice, which seemed as if it spoke from heaven, and said, “The just shall live by faith.” – (Wylie’s History of Protestantism)

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In that moment, his eyes were opened. So enflamed was his soul that he took a pen to parchment, he transcribed his 95 Theses, stating that salvation is free to all who ask, and nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg Church. For that he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

Even so, Light had dawned. Reformation had begun. From this first catalysts, sprung a myriad of reformers, bringing the people closer to the true worship of God. As a spark ignites a conflagration, the ideas spoken by these reformers burst forth upon the world, setting to flame the hearts of men.

 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mark 16:15-16

With the advent of the printing press, word spread, bringing with it the ideas of reformation, erupting into a war of pamphlets and debates. Suddenly, the populace had access to the Word of God and with that access, free thinkers rose to reform the corruption that had plagued the church.

The hearts and souls of mankind were liberated. The fetters that bound the individual, that barred the way to heaven, were lifted. Salvation was for all who asked.

Through the efforts of reformers such as John Calvin, followed closely by Jakob Arminius, and finally John Wesley, England and the entire world were swept by the fever of spiritual renewal. Traditions were put to question. A call was given to return to the true form of worship, the Upper Room kind of worship.

Methodism arose through the four-fold Christian doctrine of John Wesley. His theology stated that the Bible is the sole source of Spiritual instruction. He dismissed the manmade creeds, believing that truth was found only in the Word of God. Salvation was experiential; the work of the Spirit was to be seen in the changed life of the individual. His doctrine of Holiness spread, proclaiming a belief in prevenient grace, personal salvation by faith, the witness of the Spirit, and sanctification.

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:4-5

On his heels, the Great Awaking emerged, reaching out across Europe gripping the souls of the New World colonies. As this methodology of personal faith emerged from the 19th-century Holiness movement, Christians, unsatisfied with the confusing doctrines and divisions within the church, pulled together, reclaiming the simplicity of fellowship in God. Many evangelical groups arose as two themes dominated the awakening church: unity in holiness and a mission to the world.

 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

As we come to worship each week, let us cherish those that came before us, to enlighten and inspire us as we lift our hearts in praise to God. Let us return to the simplicity of the Way, gathering together in unity of spirit, in one accord as our forefathers have done. May we continue in this mission of unified believers, reaching out to those in need across the community, providing a place for believers to gather in unity of Spirit.

As instructed in the Great Commission, may we encourage one another to continue in good works, tirelessly and with renewed vigor and passion, extending our hand to the people in our neighborhood, bringing in the lost, lifting fellow believers continually, until all is fulfilled. Then may the Lord say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

~ Susan