May 31 “Risen!”

Risen!

Usually burial gardens were peaceful, uneventful places. Not that night.
The scribes and Pharisees remembered Jesus’ promise to rise again on the third day. At their insistence, Pilate ordered a Roman seal for the stone and a squad of soldiers to stand watch. No one expected a resurrection; they were worried that the disciples might steal the body.

Two Women Named Mary
As dawn approached and Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary went to the tomb to continue burial preparations. Perhaps they expected the soldiers to give them access. As they approached in the predawn darkness the ground began to shake and smoke escaped along the edges of the stone. A powerful angel descended from heaven, broke the Roman seal, rolled the stone away and sat on it. The squad of Roman soldiers fainted as they had learned to march, all in perfect rhythm.

This was their second earthquake in the last 3 days but despite experience in such things, the two Mary’s were afraid. Over the sound of the sleeping soldiers, the angel addressed the women,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.”

How does a human mortal process such news:

  • Roman soldiers prostrate on the garden floor,
  • A mighty angel in shining raiment, sitting on the stone,
  • An open tomb with light and smoke dancing inside?

They were speechless and afraid. The angel went on,

“Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead…”

Though they wanted with all their hearts to look inside the tomb—was Jesus in there?—they obeyed and ran to find His disciples.

Alive Again!
As they hurried away, Jesus met them on the road. They fell at His feet and worshiped Him. He repeated the command of the angel and sent them on their way. How difficult it must have been to obey that command!

Back at the tomb, the soldiers began to wake up, each afraid to tell what had happened. A broken Roman seal was punishable by death. When they realized they shared the same experience, they appealed to the Jewish leaders for safety from their superiors. The Pharisees bribed them to change their story and offered to intercede for them if their officers questioned them.

With Jesus in Galilee
Jesus had instructed His men to assemble on a certain mountain in Galilee. With them, a host of followers gathered there. Jesus appeared to them and most of them believed. No one knows all the things He said to them there, but Matthew records these final words:

  • He claimed all authority in heaven and earth.
  • He commanded them to go into all the world, tell His story.
  • He instituted water baptism as a sign of the New Covenant.
  • He insisted that they study and remember His teachings.
  • He promised to be with them all the way to the end of the age.
  • They obeyed, and those who believed in Jesus obeyed and so on to this day.

He Is With Us
The Jesus Story lives on. No lies could taint its truth. No cross could kill it. No tomb could hold it. When people of all cultures hear it, it somehow makes sense to them and they believe it. Why? The Jesus Story lives on because Jesus lives on, in heaven, in the earth, and in our hearts.

Scriptures:
Matthew 27:22-66; 28:1-20
On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Chapter 28
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the absolute Victor! You have conquered all my enemies and opened up a new and living way for me to draw near to the heart of my Creator, my Father. Every day, I celebrate Your resurrection! The same Spirit that raised You from the dead, quickens my mortal life every moment of every day. I believe! I believe! I believe in You as my Savior, my Healer, my Baptizer with the Spirit and my Soon-coming King! I want to walk in love as You did, touching people in Your name! I will keep Your story in my heart and on my lips! Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

Song:
I Love to Tell the Story
Words: Kate Hankey and William F. Fischer; Music William H. Doane

1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

Refrain:
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

2. I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own Holy Word.

Refrain

3. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it, like the rest.
And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

February 28 “Commission”

Commission

Some things are so very real, they can only be seen with eyes of faith.
With repeated appearances to those who had loved and followed Him, Jesus convinced them all that He was, indeed, back from the dead. He gently rebuked those who failed to believe the good reports from the first witnesses. After all, He had told them this was going to happen!

From other sources we know that He did meet with the disciples in Galilee. On one occasion He met with the Eleven and those wonderful women and convinced even the skeptical Thomas that he was back and His power was greater than ever. He could appear and disappear at will and could pass through walls without effort.

We cannot imagine the joy of the followers of Jesus to have Him back. But this was not the end of surprises. There were always surprises with Jesus! It seemed He wasn’t planning on staying. Later they would realize that He had come to earth to complete a two-fold mission:

  1. To show people what their God was really like, and,
  2. To redeem the sins of the world so that we could walk with God in this life.

That two-fold mission had been accomplished and it was time for Him to return to the throne room of God in heaven.

There was one more thing that He had to do: Commission His followers to continue His work in the earth. His story had to be told to the whole world and they, and those who came to know Him through their ministry, were the ones to tell it. He condensed the mission into a single statement and a promise:

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

“Gospel” means “Good News.”

  • In a world in the iron grip of Rome, Good News was needed.
  • In every epoch of time since the ancient world existed, Good News has been needed.
  • Any type of news rooted in man’s character will eventually be found to be corrupt.
  • Any message based on the intellect of man will present only partial solutions since the knowledge of mankind is inadequate.
  • Any hope of staving off disease that rests in man will itself be found infected with sin.

Death rules man as it always had until that day at the empty tomb. The only source of Good News is the Gospel of Christ.

The Power of the Holy Spirit
The Jesus story is not complete without the story of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not commission us to go out in our own power! He sends us the Holy Spirit to make us holy and empower us to be His witnesses. We should expect the demonstration of the Spirit when we tell His story. We will protected from harm as we go and signs will follow as we pass through this life preaching the Gospel. Demons cannot stop us for we can call on Jesus’ name. The sick will be healed as we pray in Jesus’ name. Wild animals and poison will not even slow us down.

Having spoken His final words to them until the Holy Spirit would come upon them and bring His words back to them as needed, He made His exit into the welcoming skies. Heaven took Him back and He resumed His rightful place at the right hand of Majesty on High.

What did they do then? They waited in Jerusalem until they received “power from on high” and they went out and preached His Story everywhere. The Lord was with them confirming the Word with miraculous signs. Amen.

Scripture:
Mark 16:14-20
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 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; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have heard Your call to follow You. I have obeyed that call. I hear Your call to tell Your story, to preach the Good News about You in every possible way. I will fear no demons or dangers, no sickness or setbacks, no opposition or lack of opportunity. I will follow and I will tell. I receive Your Holy Spirit to make me holy, Your power to make me mighty, and Your love to make me lovable. Use me, all of me, my gifts and my gaffs, my head and heart and hands to do your work. Thank You, Lord. Thank You.

Song:
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
Words and Music: H. Ernest Nichol

1. We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light, a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.

2. We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil and shatter the spear and sword, and shatter the spear and sword.

Refrain

3. We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us, and show us that God is love, and show us that God is love.

Refrain

4 We’ve a Savior to show to the nations, who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples may come to the truth of God, may come to the truth of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved