Jesus knows the world. He said to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” That is pretty obvious to us all. But then Jesus went on and said, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” Troubles will come to us all, but Jesus gave us a reason to again and again defiantly find reason for hope. Our strength is in Jesus who triumphed over everything. He is our courage. Jesus strengthens our hearts even in the midst of things that are troubling and challenging. Because of Jesus we are headed toward the city of God shining with the light of the resurrection—a city alight with God and the Lamb, a city with no night. Take heart! Jesus has overcome the world!
Every page of God’s Word proclaims in some way that God is Almighty and All Knowing. What is extraordinary about the Gospel accounts of Jesus is that they show us what almighty and all- knowing look like up close. Not only can Jesus see what will take place in the future, but He can also tell us what will really matter. Jesus could tell His followers to take heart and have hope because He confidently sees that goodness and truth will be triumphant. Knowing that by His resurrection to new life Jesus has conquered death, we have every reason to trust in what Jesus sees will be the way.
The cryptic language of the Book of Revelation tells us the “the Lamb will be their shepherd.” That tells us a lot about God’s ability to understand and sympathize with us. Almighty and Eternal God became one of us. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who loves us more than life. He fought for us and has won salvation for us. He promises us that no one is able to snatch us from our Father’s hand. This is our joy amid struggle and sorrow, and our confidence. The One who gave Himself for us has triumphed. With Jesus’ resurrection we celebrate the Lamb has become the Shepherd.
Would you expect Jesus to show up if you went fishing or to a barbecue? His closest followers were surprised that now triumphant over death Jesus would come to be with them in the same places where they had first met him. Now it was real. In our celebration of Easter we want to carry this sense of expectation: where will we see the spirit and character of Jesus? He is risen indeed!
Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Though we don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus in person as Thomas, the disciples, and many others did, we do have the privilege of seeing Jesus in the Word. We have the privilege of being touched by Jesus as His Spirit and personality live in on our world by the Holy Spirit’s work. Jesus came to His disciples who were hiding behind locked doors in fear. He still comes through the “locked doors” we may have and brings a blessed peace. As Easter has changed everything, let us live as His changed people—because Jesus is alive forevermore, so in Him we will live also!
Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His return to life is a fact of history that is unlike any other. In this we mark that the impossible actually happened. This event opens new realms of possibility. In Jesus’ triumph over death God gives us reason to hope for a new heaven and a new earth. God wrote into the historical record reason to believe in what seems impossible: life after death. On this day of celebration, as we revisit the empty tomb where Jesus had been buried, we behold a mystery that has been revealed. Out of pure and sacred love for us God has done the impossible.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem He was greeted with exuberance, praise, and loud shouts of celebration. So many had been touched by His warmth. They had been impressed by the miraculous things He had done. They were ready to call Jesus King. But it was also risky and dangerous for Jesus to enter through the gates of the great city. There were those who considered Him a threat. Just five days later Jesus will be crucified. Then it seemed as if darkness and doubt had won. Who in Jerusalem could guess that the celebration of this King was just beginning? The triumph would be His!
After a hard winter every sign of spring is a wonder. We relish every little hint. Isaiah the prophet encouraged his hearers to the expectation that “now it shall spring forth.” As Jesus drew closer to His death on the cross He encouraged hope in His followers that even now the wonder of renewal and re-creation was very close. In this season of Lent we seek this kind of trust, that we see the infinite mercy of our redeeming God always before us.
The story is not done until we get to the good part. That is how it works for us who are in God’s grace. If his goodness is not obvious today it is on the horizon. It may be surprising to any of us how easy it is to doubt this just when we might need such hope the most. God’s steady persistence toward goodness is the message of the Prophet Isaiah and is present in one of Jesus’ most well know stories about a son who is lost and yet found. The road leads to praise.
God’s grace is strong enough to sustain us against every fear, doubt, and in every moment of trouble. Who among us has not wondered why harsh, grievous things happen and how much more we can bear? To all of these things, our Lord brings His mercy and grace in the moments of our greatest struggles. From beginning to end, the Scriptures are testament to one basic truth-God is faithful, especially when we need the shelter of His Grace.
Jesus laments over those who are far from him. Looking out over the most spiritual city in all the world Jesus sees the emotional distance that is ours, everywhere. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . . How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34). The distance between us and God never deters His faithfulness to us. He is relentless in His pursuit of us, longing to gather us in grace and fill our emptiness. Jesus invites you to come to Him. During the season of Lent we can take on the challenge of naming the things that keep us at a distance from God. Together we pray to move a little closer to Him who longs to gather us together as the children of God under the wings of His strength.
Jesus goes out into the desert to fast and pray to prepare himself for what is ahead. Somehow He must show the world that He is the Son of God. Out in the desert the devil confronts Jesus with temptations hoping to derail the vital work of Jesus. For everything the devil throws at him Jesus answers by quoting the Word of God. With this simple faithfulness to His Father’s promises Jesus shows us who He is, The Son of the Living God.
The Day of the Transfiguration of our Lord serves as a transition time from the general ministry of Jesus to the very focused latter part of His life on earth and to the one-way journey to Jerusalem that brings Him to the cross. There is a sense of urgency at the time of the Transfiguration---something initially missed by Peter the disciple, who wanted to set up tents on the high mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. In dramatic fashion, Jesus reminded His disciples that staying in the glory on the mountain was not an option. The fulfillment of Christ's mission was down on the plain, among the people for whom He had come to sacrifice Himself. As we relive the moment of Transfiguration on the mountain we celebrate that God can sustain us through the dark, arduous valleys we encounter in life. Jesus alone has revealed the great glory of God which, through the eyes of the disciples, we are privileged to glimpse today, and which we will see forever in eternity.
Jesus taught many radical things. Today we hear two of His teachings that can seem nearly impossible: “Love your enemies” and “Judge not.” Left on our own, we think enemies deserve retaliation and words of judgment are often deserved. But Jesus wanted His followers to be inspired to make different choices after absorbing His spirit and character. Once we have seen His abundant mercy for everyone and experienced His love that is without any sort of judgement we are then ready to live out a love far greater then we could ever conceive of on our own.
Jesus understands that our lives will include ups and downs. There will be great days of joy, and there will be days filled with challenges. What Jesus wants us to embrace is a faith big enough to see that God is with us for everything. We can look for His goodness and mercy in the unfolding of any and every day. Jesus hopes that we will keep looking for Him at every twist and turn. God is with us for real life.
Jesus jumps into Simon Peter’s fishing boat and asks to go out into deep water. Peter was tired and reluctant. There was no one else who could have inspired Peter to go against his own inclinations and follow such a request. But once out in the deep water Peter and his crew caught such a large number of fish they now feared they might sink. Like Peter and his fellow fisherman God might ask us to go forward in directions that raise our fear and concern. But when we let God lead He will always be good and we will be blessed.
Sometimes a parent will catch their child getting a little too excited and need to ask them to use their “indoor” voice. Each of us have many different voices and we don’t always use them in an appropriate way. In contrast God has a lot of different ways in which He can speak to us, and He always gets it right. In our Gospel lesson we see Jesus teaching in the synagogue, healing a man possessed by an evil spirit, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, healing more of the sick and diseased, casting out demons. In each one of these situations He uses a different tone of voice. If we listen carefully God may use different voices with us, sometimes challenging us to live better lives, and then at other times comforting us with an accepting voice that says we are ok just the way we are. God can speak to us in a variety of ways. Are you listening?
When Jesus came back to His hometown as a young man his neighbors and even those who had watched him grow up could not see that He was the Son of the Living God. In our own age there are those who cannot see who Jesus is. It takes an open heart and an open mind to recognize who Jesus is. It takes reason and imagination. Most of all it takes the Holy Spirit to introduce us to the personality and character of Jesus. The Spirit can lead each of us on our own unique journey to see that Jesus is our Savior. Today we rejoice to be able to recognize Jesus as worthy of all our thanks, praise, and grateful worship.
Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine. It was the first of his many miracles and by it Jesus was revealing something amazing. Go to a wedding and you will probably feel like something sacred is happening. But it can be hard to define just what that is. By what Jesus did at this wedding He established that what is holy and sacred can be very real. Real enough to actually taste. God is really present now with us and that changes everything. God has this incredible ability to turn one thing into another. He can turn water into an eternal promise. He can turn bread and wine into His body and blood. He can turn a bad day into a good day. He can turn a hopeless situation into one in which we are blessed. He can turn death into life. We can always hope in God. He is the sacred and holy come into our lives.
There are so many voices all competing for our attention. Even when we don’t realize it, we are listening to the sounds of life that surround us. What do those voices say? What choruses do they sing? What refrains do they repeat? The voice we gather to hear this day stands in stark contrast to the multitude of others in our world. “The voice of the Lord is over the waters,” says Psalm 29:3. As He did for ancient Israel—and as He did for His only-begotten Son—our Father does for us today: He speaks over us words of life! At Jesus’ baptism the voice of the Father was heard from heaven. Today we celebrate the voice of God’s affirming love in our midst.