“Grace”: … simple elegance or refinement of movement
“Grace” (as defined in Christian belief): … the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in
the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings
21 or 22 years ago, I was employed by Double H Boot Company. It was the time of the Houston
Stock Show and Rodeo. Every year I stayed in a small RV park just south of Houston in my
motor home and drove my Jeep CJ-5 back and forth to the Astor Dome where the event was
held. For the whole period of the Stock Show, I worked in different booths (i.e. Cavenders –
Boot Town) and represented plus sold the Double H Boot line. After a few days of this, it begins
to get pretty old … but then again, one never knows what will happen next or who might walk
That really proved true one particular evening when I looked up to see President Bush (Herbert
Walker) and his wife Barbara, surrounded by an entourage of Secret Service, Press and
spectators walking toward where I was working. I left the booth and quickly joined the group
crowding around the couple. I am not sure how but I managed to work my way through the
group to where I was walking right beside the Bush couple. Next thing I knew, my mouth was
moving and words were coming out; … I was carrying on a conversation with George and
Barbara. For some reason, I gravitated to Barbara and it was as if we were visiting like two old
friends. This elegant lady wanted to know where I was from, who I worked for, did I have a
family and on and on and on. It finally (and regrettably) came time for me to give way to others
but before I left, …Mrs. Barbara Bush, … the one time, First Lady of the Nation, … put her arms
around me and gave me a BIG HUG! WOW!
I can still feel the warmth of this lady who was so unaware of just how wonderful and beautiful
she really was. She treated me with what I can only describe as “Grace”. Simple elegance,
refinement … and at the same time, projecting the free and unmerited favor of God.
Mrs. Bush was a perfect example of what is meant by projecting the face of Jesus in all that we
do and to all we encounter. By the out pouring of love that this Nation exhibited toward her and
her family at the announcement of her passing, I must not have been the only one who received
this picture of her.
Proverbs 4: 9: … She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of
Romans 1: 7: … To all who are … loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Thank you, Barbara. I look forward to visiting with you in the presence of our Savior.
Everyone goes through doubts in their faith from time to time. … Even Mother
Teresa had doubts. … She once wrote her spiritual director; … “Where I try to
raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very
thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it
brings nothing. I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and
coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”
Her spiritual director reassured her with the basic message; … “The fact that you
have doubts means that your faith is real.”
No doubts, … no testing; … and no testing, … no real faith.
Show me a faith that has never experienced doubt … and I’ll show you a day-old
faith, … or worse, … a pretend faith, … a fake faith.
At times, we may doubt whether God hears our prayers. … Sometimes we
question, when young children die … when an evil person seems to succeed in life,
… or we go through a difficult personal challenge.
Everyone has doubts … and they’re actually good for you … because they drive
you back to the risen Lord for answers.
Thomas gets a bad rap for his doubts. … He even earns a nickname: “Doubting
Thomas.” … Yet, Thomas was just as committed as the other ten disciples; …
perhaps even more so in some ways.
Just days or weeks before that first Palm Sunday, … Jesus told the disciples that
He had to go to Bethany, because His friend Lazarus was very sick.
Most of the disciples cautioned Him concerning this idea … because of all the
hatred being stirred up against Him in nearby Jerusalem.
Yet Thomas responded, in John 11:16: … “Let’s go so that we may die with Him.”
OK, … the guy’s a little pessimist … but we have to give him an “A” for bravery.
He was willing to stick his neck out and put his life on the line.
It was Thomas who responded a little later to Jesus’ assurances of Heaven. …
Jesus was telling His disciples, in John 14, … that he had to go away to prepare a
place for them. … Jesus told them they knew the way … but good old Thomas was
brave enough to ask the question on everyone’s mind: … “Lord; … we don’t know
where You’re going. How can we know the way?”
I’m glad Thomas asked … because this prompted Jesus to respond; … “I am the
way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:5-6; … this is great verse in our Bibles!
Yes, Thomas had his gutsy (if not fumbling) moments … but by the time Jesus
went to the cross, … Thomas, … along with every other disciple except John, …
had scattered to the four winds.
They were all cowering in fear … and self-preservation.
On that first Easter morning, the two Mary’s, … plus Peter and John encountered
the empty tomb … then Mary Magdalen faced the risen Lord.
Then, on Sunday night, ten of the disciples met Jesus face to face. … Christ spoke
right to their doubts as He showed them His hands and His side, … proving to
them it was really Him.
But where was Thomas?
We don’t know for sure … but can you imagine the shock he felt when the others
told him; … “We have seen the Lord!”?
Thomas is the original Missourian. … His reply; … “Show me!”
Let’s think about Thomas’ example as we, … like him, … go through our own
times of doubt. … How can we defeat our doubts?
Three ideas: …
1. Guard in our low times. … When we’re really down, … depressed, … “Just
stop the world and let me off” attitude, …don’t make any rash decisions.
For instance, … go out and buy a car, … decide to move, … quit your job, …
resolve to get married ... or better yet, … get divorced.
Give yourself some time to get through the low times before acting impulsively.
And so it is with doubts: … don’t give into them in the midst of your depression.
Just recognize them for what they are: … doubts. … OK, … you have doubts; …
I have doubts!
That just means we have faith. … Good job! … Your faith is more than your
Thomas was certainly in a down time. … His Lord had been crucified. … His life
was in jeopardy … and his hopes were dashed.
Maybe that’s why he was gone, … just grieving by himself.
We don’t know for sure but fortunately, he did not do anything rash.
Eventually he returned to his friends, … his fellow disciples, … which reminds us
of another doubt defeater: …
Guard in your low times … and: ...
2. Draw strength from others. … It was when Thomas was away that his doubts
held power. … Isolation magnified those doubts.
He missed Jesus’ visit because he had left his fellow believers.
Separate a coal from the rest of the fire … and what happens? … It goes out.
We need each other.
When we feel least like going to Church, … that’s when we need to be in Church
the most. … When we most want to hide in our home, … that’s when we need to
force our self to get out and be with others.
Together, we are the Body of Christ … and when one hurts, … the whole body
hurts; … when one celebrates, … the whole body celebrates.
Where two or more are gathered, Jesus is in our midst.
If we look at the post-resurrection appearances, … Christ almost always appeared
to groups of people, not individuals: … The ten disciples … then the eleven; …
the two friends on the road to Emmaus (we talked of them last Sunday); …
later to 500; … the 120 gathered at Pentecost.
Jesus seemed to honor groups. … We need each other to fight off the doubts.
Thirdly, … to defeat those doubts, … we need to: ...
3. Meet the risen Lord. … That’s what did it for Thomas, who then fell on the
ground and proclaimed; … “My Lord and my God!”
Scripture indicates he didn’t need to touch Jesus’ scars. … For him, … seeing was
believing, … as it was for all those other eye witnesses.
One argument for the certainty of the resurrection is that these people talked about
it and wrote about it … and even died for their beliefs!
This time in history it was a very dangerous time to express one’s faith in Christ,
… with a hostile, distrusting Roman government … and a cunning and protective
Jewish religious elite. … All but one of the disciples would end up a martyr, …
proclaiming the risen Christ with their very last breath.
Lee Strobel was, by trade, … a lawyer and investigative journalist; … according to
him, … two of the most skeptical career fields around.
As a devout atheist, … he set out to disprove his fiancée’s Christian faith, i.e., the
evidence that Christ actually rose from the dead.
In his research, he ended up becoming a devout believer, … proclaiming; …
“It would take more faith for me to remain an atheist than to believe.”
He wrote a book which recently become a movie, … “The Case for Christ.”
In it, … he talks about how people no doubt will lie … but people will not give
their life for a lie, … yet each of these disciples went to their death proclaiming
Jesus has risen.
What about us?
Jesus speaks directly to us in verse 29 when He says; … “Because you have seen
Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”
Isn’t that the essence of true faith, … to believe without seeing?
Someday we won’t need faith anymore … because we will behold Him … face to
face … but until then, … we put our hope in the risen Lord, … even when we
don’t have all the answers … and we trust that in the future, … He will reveal the
answers to us, … or possibly, … it just won’t matter anymore.
Meanwhile, … God gives us evidences of His existence every day.
We hear Him speak to our thoughts as we read scripture. … We see His beauty in
the creation … and His love through the kind hand of a friend or spouse.
We see His redemptive work as someone discovers hope, … meaning … and
We see His faithfulness day after day … as we know we do not walk this life
We are motivated by others following their faith. … We think of saints such as
Mother Teresa, who persisted even in the midst of her doubts … and consider
Thomas himself, … who tradition tells us would later help spread the gospel to
India, … where he would eventually give his life for his God.
So we resonate with the words of the Apostle Peter, … no doubt recalling this
particular event, when Thomas got to see his risen Lord. … Many years later, Peter
would write the young believers in 1 Peter 1:8-9: … “You love Him, though you
have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and
rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of
your faith, the salvation of your souls”
Let us pray:
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Thomas, … a real guy who had real doubts and
wanted evidence over blind faith. … Jesus, … thank you that you met him right
where he was … and thank you that you will do the same for each of us.
Help us to take care when we are feeling down, … to surround ourselves with
loving believers … and to bring our doubts to you, … the risen Lord, …
knowing that you are more than sufficient in all ways.
I recently read the legend of the king who decided to set aside a special day to
honor his greatest subject. … When the big day arrived, there was a large
gathering in the palace courtyard. … Four finalists were brought forward and from
these four, … the king would select the winner.
The first person presented was a wealthy philanthropist. … The king was told that
this man was highly deserving of the honor because of his humanitarian efforts.
He had given much of his wealth to the poor.
The second person was a celebrated physician. … The king was told that this
doctor was highly deserving of the honor because he had rendered faithful and
dedicated service to the sick for many years.
The third person was a distinguished judge. … The king was told that the judge
was worthy because he was noted for his wisdom, his fairness, and his brilliant
The fourth person presented was an elderly woman. … Everyone was quite
surprised to see her there, because her manner was observably humble, … as was
her dress. … She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the
greatest subject in the kingdom. … What chance could she possibly have, when
compared to the other three, who had accomplished so much?
Even so, there was something about her; … the look of love in her face, …
the understanding in her eyes, … her quiet confidence.
The king was intrigued, to say the least … and somewhat puzzled by her presence.
He asked who she was. … The answer came: … "You see the philanthropist, the
doctor, and the judge? … Well, she was their teacher!"
That woman had no wealth, … no fortune … and no title … but she had
unselfishly given her life to produce great people.
There is nothing more powerful or more Christ like, … than sacrificial love.
The king could not see the value in the humble lady. … He missed the significance
of the teacher. … Often we miss the value of those around us.
I think it would surprise us to know how often we miss the presence of Christ …
just as Cleopas and his companion missed the significance of the stranger on the
road to Emmaus.
So: … On the road to Emmaus don’t miss: ....
1. The significance of the resurrection: … It transforms us
Look closely at what happens to these two people as they journey from Jerusalem
to their home in the city of Emmaus seven miles away. … A stranger, … whom we
know is Jesus, joins them.
He asks them what they are talking about and they stop dead in their tracks.
They can hardly bring themselves to discuss it they are so saddened by the events
of the last three days.
Their friend, … their master, … their rabbi, … the one they describe as a mighty
prophet, … has been unjustly condemned to death and violently killed on a cross.
They say to their companion, … “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who
doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”
This would be enough to unsettle anyone but new and disturbing information is
being told. … Reports about his tomb being empty and the crazy notions of some
who say He is alive.
Listen to what happens next on that dusty road at the end of the day.
This is the part that intrigues me. … Jesus begins to interpret the Old Testament
and explains to them how all these details were spoken of by Moses and the
Prophets. … He opens the Scriptures to them. … He transforms their thinking.
They had no idea these events were supposed to take place.
They had concluded that Jesus’ mission had failed. … They now understand that
the last three days … was the plan all along.
Finally, … the two invite Jesus into their home. … He has dinner with them.
Again Jesus transformed the event.
There at that ordinary dinner at the end of the day, … this stranger takes bread, …
blesses it, … breaks it, … gives it to them … and their eyes are opened.
In that moment, … they were transformed!
Here’s an example: …
There’s a story about a young boy named Walter Elias. … Born in the city, his
parents one day moved out to the country to become farmers. … Walter had a
vivid imagination and the farm was the perfect place for a young boy and a
One day, … in the apple orchard, … he was amazed when he saw, … sitting on a
branch of one of the apple trees, … an owl. … He just stood there and stared at the
owl. … He thought about what his father had told him about owls: … owls always
rested during the day because they hunted throughout the night.
This owl was asleep. … He also thought that this owl might make a great pet.
Being careful not to make any noises, he stepped over sticks and leaves.
The owl was in a deep sleep because it never heard Walter Elias walking toward it.
Finally, … standing under the owl, … he reached up and grabbed the owl by the
Now, the events that followed are difficult to explain. … Suddenly everything was
utter chaos. … The owl came to life. … Walter’s thoughts about keeping the bird
as a pet were quickly forgotten.
The air filled with wings, … feathers … and screaming!
In the excitement, … Walter held the legs tighter … and in his panic, …
Walter Elias, … still holding on to the owl, … threw it to the ground and stomped
it to death.
After the dust settled, … Walter looked at the now dead and bloody bird …
and began to cry.
He ran back to the farm, … grabbed a shovel … and buried the owl in the orchard.
At night he would dream of that owl. … As the years passed, … he never got over
what had happened that summer day. … Deep down it affected him for the rest of
his life. … As an older man, … he said he never, ever killed anything again.
Do you see it?
Something significant happened after that event. … Something that Walter didn’t
miss. … Something which transformed Walter Elias, … something that redeemed
him from the pit of despair, … something that resurrected him, … something that
made Walter Elias into someone who we all have experienced in some way.
You see, … Walter Elias eventually changed his name to … Walt Disney; …
who created Mickey Mouse, … Goofy … and all those wonderful cartoon animals.
2. The significance of the resurrection: … It convicts us (v.32)
The two disciples, … when they had realized who Jesus was … and were amazed
at the great news, … said: … “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was
talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”
They had understood what all of the Old Testament prophecies were about …
and they had to grasp the fact that they were wrong in thinking Jesus was dead …
and that all hope was gone.
That is what conviction is all about; … realizing that we are wrong about
something … and believe in it enough … to change us!
The two disciples could have said; … “well so what Jesus is back from the dead …
but He is still not going to wipe out the Romans.”
They believed enough in the fact that Jesus had risen … and that He died for a
They accepted that Jesus was the only One who could save them from something
far worse than oppression from a government: … Oppression from Satan!
We all know of John Wesley; … he’s the founder of the Methodist Church.
John was an Anglican priest who was a very good man … but he came to a point at
which he also had a burning heart! … He was convicted that he was loved by God
… for who he genuinely was.
We should come to the point … to which we grasp that there is nothing for us to do
that will make a difference … but to repent and follow Jesus the Christ.
We need to look at how we REALLY live our life … and be able to turn from the
world … and follow Jesus.
Why are we here today? … Why do we come to Church? … What will we do
when we leave here?
Has the resurrection of our Savior, made any difference in our lives; …
are we convicted that Jesus is our Master … and that we should live accordingly?
Let our hearts burn also.
3. The significance of the resurrection: … It makes us witnesses (v.33)
YES, … we are transformed … and once we are convicted … there is no reason
that we should keep this conviction … to ourselves.
Once to two disciples had figured out that they had just met with the risen Lord, …
they got up … and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
It was dark … and they had already decided earlier that they should settle down for
the evening; … They didn’t really feel like walking any more.
Yet they got up … and walked the 7 miles (from here to Pittsburg) … to tell the
others the good news.
They had become witnesses.
What about us?
When we hear good news, … what do we do? … If I won a new car … or a great
sum money in a contest, … I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to keep it quiet!
Well, … we have heard the good news … and experienced it!
The resurrection has changed our lives … and should have convicted us!
We need to be able to go out … and tells others.
How do we do that?: … Well the first step is to live our lives … so that people (the
world) … can see we’re different.
That means that we don’t allow anything else to be our God. … Alcohol should not
rule our lives, … gambling (including the lottery) should not be our priority.
Power over others, which can result in abuse of women and children, … should not
be an obsession!
When the world looks at us, … they should see Jesus; … we should strive to be
like Jesus; … that is … the Way.
We cannot hide behind the mask of Christianity … and then live and think like the
secular society around us.
Saying kind words to people makes a difference; … reaching out to those in need,
… that is all being a witness to Jesus.
To finish this lesson: …
I want to challenge us today, … that we should not live our lives, … without
allowing the resurrection … to be a part of … that life.
That is Christianity; … resurrection, … power over death!
It must transform us, … convict us … and make disciples of us.
Today we will visit a most interesting woman who was prominent in the ministry
Mary Magdalene was a lady of which we do not have a ton of information.
The first time Mary is mentioned by name in the New Testament is in Luke 8:2
where we are told that Jesus had cast out seven demons from her.
Then we also see that she may have been a woman of means … because, in verses
2b-3 of Luke 8, … it is implied that she was one of many who were supporting the
ministry of Jesus with their possessions.
Mary Magdalene was present at the crucifixion, … watching as many of the
disciples were running away, … denying Jesus and hiding.
She, as we all know, … will be the first one to see the resurrected Jesus!
One aspect of her life that we need to shed some light on, … some scholars think
she is the woman who was tagged as a sinner, … a woman who was possibly a
lady of the evening, … that poured expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus and
wiped it off with her hair in Luke 7:36-50.
In Hollywood movies, … she has been depicted as a prostitute. …In the 2016
release of Risen, … her character is depicted in such a way.
This image was first established on Sept. 14, 1591, when Pope Gregory the Great
gave a homily in Rome that pronounced that Mary Magdalene, Luke’s unnamed
sinner, and Mary of Bethany were, indeed, the same person. … “She whom Luke
calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from
whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark,”
Gregory said in his 23rd homily: … “And what did these seven devils signify, if not
all the vices? . . . It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent
to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts . . .”
Now it is POSSIBLE that she was that woman; … but there is zero evidence that
she was such a woman.
Now if Mary is specifically mentioned my name … and all four gospels make it a
point to mention Mary as being at the tomb, … she must have been an important
part of the ministry of Jesus.
Also, add to the mix that she was the first recorded contact with the resurrected
Jesus; … we have someone who knew Jesus well.
Mary was a devout follower Jesus … but her story is not unlike that of many of us;
… we may walk with Him … but do we actually know Him?
Even though Mary experienced a miracle from Jesus … and most likely supported
His work, financially, … she had more faith in what she saw during the crucifixion
… than the words Jesus spoke during His ministry.
We too can fall into the trap of following Jesus … but not allowing ourselves to
fully trust and believe His words.
Please open your Bibles to John 20 together!
John 20:1–10: … On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb
early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the
tomb. 2 So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved,
and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know
where they have put Him!”
3 At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. 4 The two
were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first.
5 Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. 6 Then,
following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen
cloths lying there. 7 The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the
linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. 8 The other disciple,
who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. 9 For
they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead. 10 Then
the disciples went home again
I. Mary’s moment of discovery. Vs. 1-10
The crucifixion of Jesus was a trying time to say the least for the followers of
Jesus. … I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster people like Mary
Magdalene must have experienced while watching Jesus die.
Mark 15: 40 tells us that Mary and Mary the mother of James, as well as Salome
who was the mother of the sons of Zebedee, were watching Jesus as He died on the
This group of women were some of the most prominent female followers of Jesus.
They experienced, … saw … and heard so many wonderful words, deeds and
thoughts from Jesus.
Yet here they are, … watching the Romans kill Him with the blessing of the
AFTER revelation of the past three years, … to see it all seemingly end on a
Roman cross, … this had to be confusing to these women; … after all, …
wasn’t Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? … Was He not the Son of God?
Was He not sent by God?
All of the signs seemed to point in that direction.
Consider this, …, think of the exhausting tension in this narrative.
Is He … or isn’t He who He said He was? … They experienced, … they heard, …
they saw … and then they watched their hopes and dreams bleed out on the cross.
So Mary was a part of a group of ladies who were going to the tomb on Sunday to
properly prepare the body of Jesus.
As they are heading toward the tomb with their spices and according to Mark 16,
… the women were discussing how they were going to move the stone away from
the tomb, … so they could get in and finish preparing the body of Jesus for His
As they approach the tomb, … Mary sees that the stone is rolled away from the
tomb and she leaves her group and heads back into town to tell Peter and John that
someone had stolen of Jesus. (John 20:1-2)
Peter and John get to the tomb.
Once they investigate, … they leave … and then Mary makes it back to the tomb.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to believe that someone standing before
you is God in the FLESH?
Mary, in her heart, … wanted to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, … yet her
eyes told her that she was not seeing what stood in front of her; … that being Jesus,
once again, in the flesh
Mary’s message to Peter and John was not a message of hope and joy, … it was
one of despair.
She had no concept that Jesus was alive, … she had no hope that Jesus was alive
because her eyes and logic told her that it was not a possibility.
Mary discovered that her faith was not as strong … as what she saw.
II. Mary’s moment of devotion. Vs. 11-15
Mary tells Peter and John what she thinks happened, … then she heads back
toward the tomb totally unaware of what has been happening with the group of
ladies she left. … Mary is back at the tomb, even if Jesus was not the one whom
they thought Him to be, … she was going to get the body back and she was going
to make sure He was properly buried.
Even with her emotions on a roller-coaster, … even though she had to be let down
by it appearing as though Jesus was not the Messiah, … she was still fully devoted
Mary is outside of the tomb thinking that His body was stolen, … then she finally
looks into the tomb. … To her surprise there were two angels, … one at the head
… and one at the place where Jesus’ feet should have been.
She still does not get it … because what she saw happen to Jesus overrode any
possibility of a resurrection. … The angels ask her why she is crying … and she
goes right back to the stolen body story.
I want to break and ask: … What do we believe about Jesus …and how devoted
are you to Him?
At this point, Mary cannot believe Jesus is the Messiah, … yet here she is, …
at the tomb, … looking for the body.
She knows she loves Jesus, … and that drives her.
What drives us? … I mean Mary HAS to be disappointed that Jesus does not
appear to be who He said He was … or who she thought He was, …
yet here she is!
How many people just turn their back on Jesus when they feel He let
For Mary, … now would be a good time to walk away, … yet she does not.
How many people in the face of disappointment have simply walked
away from Jesus?
Even though she is in the presence of Angels, … she still does not get it!
It gets better!
She turns around and Jesus is standing before her, … yet she does not know it is
How can that be? … Well, when you are not expecting to see someone in a
particular environment or time frame, … you may not recognize them.
I have this happen all the time; … see someone in Walmart that I know from the
gym, … they’re in regular cloths rather than T-shirt and shorts; … I know I know
them, … speak to them, … yet it may be the next day before I realize who I was
Jesus asked her why she is crying; … she thinks He’s the gardener … and she is
pleading for the body of Jesus.
Then something happens! … Mary has not even allowed for the possibility of Jesus
John 20:16–18: … 16 Jesus said, “Mary.” Turning around, she said to Him in
Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.” 17 “Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus
told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell
them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your
God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the
Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.
III. Mary’s moment of enjoyment Vs. 16-18
She sees it is Him!, … She grabs onto Jesus and He asked her to let go.
Mary is the first to see the resurrected Jesus!
I cannot imagine what was going through her mind at this point, … the emotions
she must be feeling, … the issue of no longer having to simply take something on
faith, … Jesus is standing right in front of her!
Jesus is who He said He was … and who she thought He was!
Jesus gives her a mission to tell others that He is going to ascend to His God and
So, … Mary now makes another trip to see the disciples … to tell them the good
What a story she would have to tell for the rest of her life!
When she encountered the resurrected Jesus, … her life would never be the same!
TO CONCLUDE: …
Where are you … with Jesus today?
Even though we know Mary HAD to be disappointed, … that she had to be
disillusioned … and she had to be extremely saddened by the crucifixion, …
she stuck with being devoted to Jesus.
She received a gift … that we will not receive … until He returns … or when we
stand before Him after our time has passed on this earth.
We have the testimony of people like Mary Magdalene, … as given to us by John.
Jesus is still alive and well today … and He died and defeated death, … so we too,
… can defeat death and be with Him for eternity.
The question we have to ask our self; … are we going to gamble our eternity by
Mary could have … and logic probably told her to walk away … but she stayed
My prayer is that today may be the day … that each of us decide to, … at least, …
examine the case for Jesus.
When I gave my life to Jesus, … it changed everything.
God loves you no matter what; … as Mary finally recognized Jesus the Christ …
for who He really was, … let our vison be brought to that perfection!
These words are so often read at funerals that it seems odd not to have a casket and
flowers here before us. … They are preached often to assure the family and friends
of the deceased that the departed is in a better place, … a place assured from the
day of their acceptance of Jesus the Christ as their Savior. … These are, indeed,
words of encouragement … but they are not so much about our life after death …
as they are about our life after Jesus’ death.
It is about how we will live together as believers, … in light of the reality that
Jesus has died.
These were words meant as comfort for the disciples … as they are forced to
consider life without Jesus. … A time that Jesus has insisted, … over and over
again, … that they consider; … that they need to face!
Life, … as they know it, … will never be the same again.
They are faced with change that they neither welcome … nor for which they feel
Funeral words for us and no casket. … Yet words for us to prepare us for a post-
Easter life … in a world that seems hostile and unwelcoming.
Words for our life after Jesus’ death.
How do Jesus’ words speak to us and our world? … We know the same fear, …
the same disorientation as the disciples.
We live in a world of unprecedented change. … We may be tired of hearing about
it … but “change” is nothing new … and will not go away.
In the midst of the disorientation of change … we need something to give us hope,
… an anchor.
So we have these words; … “Your heart must not be troubled.” … and; … “I am
the way, the truth, and the life.”
Words are sometimes too easy … and not nearly enough.
We can only imagine how the disciples received these words. … Their lives are
turned up-side- down. … The glory years of teaching, … healing, … the crowds …
are now in the past. … The intimate times of the daybreak breakfasts at the
seashore, … quiet moments in the garden, … times with Jesus; … a faint memory.
The wheels have come off; … arrest and crucifixion of Jesus; … death …
and now they are huddled together in fear. … They have no idea how to continue,
… how to live, what should be expected of them, … what all of this can mean for
their lives … and their future. … “Your heart must not be troubled.” … Really!!
These words, no doubt, seemed meaningless. … They are troubled. … Jesus seems
so far away! … They feel so very much … alone.
We know how the disciples must have felt. … We too, are faced with unwelcomed
change. … The Church, … this Church, … as we know it is struggling. … We are
getting older; … the “good old days” seem long gone … and we are tempted to
huddle in fear. …
The words come to us; … “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God;
believe also in Me”. … We are tempted to say; … “It’s too late.”
We know fear and doubt. … Change has gripped our world for so many years now
… and not much of it has been good.
With the roller-coaster economy and oil price peaks and valleys, we have watched
towns die, … schools close, … hospitals down-graded, … down towns all but
deserted … and Churches close. … We long for the “good old days”, …
for stability … and the absence of fear. … We feel lost and look for a way out of it
all. … We know Thomas’ wonder and doubt, … “Lord, we do not know where
you’re going, … how can we know the way.”
We understand Philip who wants a road map: … “show us the Father, and that’s
enough for us.”
We want to cry out; … “Lord, we’re afraid! … Stop the change and give us some
And Jesus says; … “I am going away to prepare a place for you.” … but this is not
some over-the- horizon, “safe spot when we die” kind of place. … This is a
relationship with Jesus Christ that will go with us into whatever we will find in the
future. … Nothing that we know, … except the love of God in Christ Jesus, …
will be secure.
Change will continue … but we should not be afraid because Jesus is with us.
Jesus does not promise us easy sailing … but He does promise we will not be
Thomas Aquinas is reported to have said; … “If the primary aim of a captain were
to preserve his ship, he would keep it in the port forever.”
It is in the sailing of this life … that Jesus promises to be with us.
We will need to travel light, … letting go of whatever nostalgia would keep us
from traveling into the future with Jesus. … All that we might think will give us
security, apart for Jesus, … will only let us down.
When jobs, … health, … family, … wealth, … politics, … or whatever, let us
down, … all we can be sure of, … is that God is unchanging.
This is nothing new. … You have sung for years the words in the hymn, “Abide
“Change and decay in all around I see … O Thou who changest not, abide with
me.” (page 636)
In the midst of all that changes, … Christ assures us; … “you will live in the
presence of God, now and forever.”
Change can scare … but not destroy.
So how do we live? … We live as people … “on the way.”
Jesus said: … “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The way is a journey; … not a destination. … We are to live as people on a
The metaphor of “journey” has been a powerful image for all of humankind.
We see it in the Bible and in literature. … The “Lord of the Rings” is a journey
with peril, … the premise of Star Trek is to … “go where no one has gone before.”
All great religions of the world … describe themselves as journey.
Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life”; ... that is enough for our journey;
… our only guarantee.
We travel as a communal people, … seeking to include everyone …
because Jesus’ love includes everyone. … We need to make room for others.
Jesus is the truth because, … all we can really depend on, … everything that has
meaning for our lives … is blessed by Him. … Love is to motivate us.
Therese of Lisieux (last quarter of the 1800’s) said; … “through love alone can we
be pleasing to God, and my sole ambition is to acquire it.”
The “Way” is not about waiting for the time we check in to our reservation in that
“mansion just over the hilltop.” … The “Way” is about doing what Jesus had been
doing in our life today … and we are assured that we will do greater things.
Jesus’ ministry was a short three years or so and covered very little territory.
We are able to do much more. … We are to do what Jesus did: … feed the hungry,
… welcome the lost, … heal the sick, … lift up the oppressed.
This text is not about life after death … but about life in relationship with the One
who died for us.
This passage is about our life here and now, … seeking answers to those big
questions of life: …
“Will our lives make sense?
Will there be substance to them now?
Will life be absurd and pointless?
What is the meaning of it all?
What is to be believed?
What is it we must do now to go forward with our lives?” (Grant Gallup)
Other than the Bible, …Jesus does not give us a how-to manual of life … but He
does assure us that He will be with us, … that He is the way, the truth and the life.
The American poet W.H. Auden wrote: …
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
“I am the Way the Truth and the Life”.
Jesus says and we are invited to continue on the journey, … not knowing what the
journey may hold … but only that Jesus goes with us … and that is enough.
Happy Easter: … His death; … His resurrection; … your life; … your eternity!
PALM SUNDAY: THE BRANCH OR THE NAIL?
Luke 19: 36-38, Matthew 27: 15-17, 20-21
This is a life story shared by Jack Martin: …
My mother took us to church on religious holidays. She was not a religious
woman, but she liked to sing, only her singing voice was like that of a cat
crying. But at church she could belt out her favorite hymns and no one could
My sisters and I were too young to join the main congregation so we attended
a Sunday school service, held in a pre-fab building next to the church. There
were couches in there and beanbags, and like all Sunday schools, there was
mostly table tennis going on and a very enthusiastic young carer trying
desperately to interest everyone in the Good Word. Palm Sunday was my
favorite service because we were allowed to make palm crosses and build, in
small buckets, replicas of Jesus’s tomb. I loved making things and my tomb
took me the better part of twenty minutes. I molded it out of mud, found
pebbles, and covered the top in moss.
I then set about playing on my tomb with a Lego monkey, until my enthusiastic
caregiver, sensing a dip in my spiritual application, steered me to the
activities table where kids were making palm crosses and told me “ to just try
a few, for fun.”
There has only been one thing I have ever been good at folding – paper
airplanes. I tried my hand at a few palm crosses, got bored and set about
crafting five of the finest palm airplanes the world had yet seen
The caregiver was busy and I wanted then to show my mother the palm
airplanes. I snuck out of the pre-fab, towards the glorious sound of mother’s
caterwauling inside the church. I had my reservations about marching in
there, but I thought a display would suit the occasion, so I launched, one by
one, my palm airplanes across the singing congregation.
They sailed through the House of God, gliding gently, bathed in stained glass
light. The song ended, “The Lord has Come.” Most of the planes landed in the
crowd. But my best design found its way to the preacher’s pulpit. The old
preacher, good soul that he was, simply smiled, picked it up and threw it back
to me. It sailed across the crowd and I caught it neatly.
This morning, as many of you know, … today is Palm Sunday; …
The day, … taken from the Gospels, … where a whole city threw a parade for
Jesus. … As Jesus rode into the city, the people threw Palm branches in
anticipation of His coming; … Thus we get our word Palm Sunday.
This day marked a time of celebration where Jesus was worshipped and praised.
This day is Bittersweet for us because even as we read of the celebration, …
we know that Friday is coming; … The cross is coming.
We know that many in this same crowd will, … within a few short days, …
exchange words of praise to words of death. … Shouting Hosanna, Hosanna …
and then later shouting … Crucify Him, Crucify Him.
Today, … I want to focus our attention on two scriptures, … both which focused
upon Jesus … but with two different results.
If you have your Bibles this morning, turn with me to two passages, … one from
the Gospel of Matthew and the other from the gospel of Luke.
Turn first to Matthew 27:15. … Place your finger there … and then turn to Luke
The great and late evangelist, Billy Graham, has been quoted many times as saying
that the greatest mission field in our country today, … is in our local Church; …
the people sitting already in our Churches.
Now I am not sure whether this statement is true or not … but I do know that
many people know what to say, … how to say it, … even how to act in it …
but when the rubber truly meets that road, … there is no personal relationship with
Jesus Christ. … No salvation; … just empty words.
We see a perfect example of this in our two scripture readings this morning.
On Sunday, … Jesus rode into the city with the people shouting praises and
praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
On Friday they are shouting “give us Barabbas, … We want him, … Crucify
Jesus Crucify Him!”
Why the change?
Well there are many possible reasons … but one simple reason is that their words
did not match their heart. … They possessed a casual, … not a committed faith.
They had religion … but they missed the person Jesus. … So how can we have a
committed faith? … How can we be real and sincere? … Consistent in all that we
Well this morning, … I want to offer some keys to just such a faith.
The first Key is that a committed faith is not self-centered; …
it is Christ-Centered!
This sounds obvious … but we often miss it . …
In America, we tend to say to God; … “ Hey God, here is my calendar, here is my
agenda. … Now I can squeeze you in here or here.” … Pulling God out …
or turning to God … only when it is convenient or useful.
In the “Luke” passage, The people praised Jesus as He passed by … but many of
them praised Him for two reasons. … First, because of His miracles. … He healed
the sick, … raised the dead. …They praised Him because He was serving them …
and Second, … because they saw in Jesus a way to be politically delivered from
the Romans; … to be set free from Rome as Israel was set free from Egypt.
Their praise was tempered with the attitude of … “Jesus, … what can you do for
A few days later at the trial, they saw a beaten and disfigured Jesus, …A man who
no longer looked like a deliverer or a conqueror. … As words and gossip were said
about Him, … they bought into all the lies … and quickly changed their position.
For them it was all about … “Me, Me, Me!”.
There is a legend about an ancient village in Spain. … The villagers learned that
the king would pay a visit! … In a thousand years, a king had never come to that
village. … Excitement grew! …"We must throw a big celebration"; the villagers
all agreed … but … it was a poor village … and there weren’t many resources.
Someone came up with a classic idea: … Since many of the villagers made their
own wines, the plan was for everyone in the village to bring a large cup of their
choice wine to the town square; … “We’ll pour it into a large vat and offer it to the
king for his pleasure! When the king draws wine to drink, … it will be the very best
he’s ever tasted!”
The day before the king’s arrival, hundreds of people lined up to make their
offering to the honored guest. … They climbed a small stairway and poured their
gift through a small opening at the top. … Finally, the vat was full!
The King arrived, … was escorted to the square, … given a silver cup and was told
to draw some wine, … which represented the best the villagers had.
He placed the cup under the spigot, … turned the handle … and then drank the
wine … but it was nothing more than water.
You see, every villager reasoned; … "I’ll withhold my best wine and substitute
water, what with so many cups of wine in the vat, the king will never know the
The problem was, … everyone thought the same … and the king was greatly
Today, Palm Sunday 2018, … choose to honor our great King, Jesus Christ, …
by giving Him our very best; … Withholding nothing. … Giving Him our all!
A second key is that a committed faith is relationship driven.
Many of those who gathered to throw their coats and palm branches onto the street
and who shouted praises did so because it was the popular course to take at the
time. … At that one brief moment, … it became trendy. … Perhaps some began
doing it with sincere motives … but others soon did it because others were doing
Later at the trial, … shouting “crucify Him” … was the thing to do. …
In fact, … for a brief moment it was trendy … to make a mass murderer and
criminal … their hero when they shouted … “we want Barabbas!”.
In our own lives, … a committed faith comes only through a personal relationship
with Jesus Christ. … One where every day is fresh and new … as He personally
directs our steps.
In order to have a committed faith, … we must develop and maintain a personal
relationship with Jesus.
A third Key is that committed faith is not swayed or blocked by our personal trials
At the parade, it was trendy to offer praise. … Everyone was doing it … but at the
trial to speak out for Jesus was risky; … possibly even life threatening.
Many of us come to Jesus expecting everything to go Good from that point,
forward. … Maybe some slight “bad” … but not too much of it. …
So when the bottom drops out for us, … we often ask God Why? … Thinking it is
not supposed to happen this way.
If our faith is based on our situations or circumstances, … it will never be
committed. … It will always be casual.
In my life, … I have gone to many Christian events; … some in large stadiums …
where the praises for God rock the entire arena; … Where everyone is praising! …
When returning home, while everyone is still glowing from the worship, …
I think to myself, … “it is easy to do that at the event … but tomorrow, … we face
the hard task; … can you do that in a world that is not all praising; … in fact, …
a world that is mocking, … laughing … and is often angry”.
A committed faith takes the good with the bad. … Knowing that all we are ever
promised is that in the midst of both our good and bad; … Jesus will never leave us
nor forsake us. … He will stand with us.
A story is told of A little girl who, … while walking in a garden, … noticed a
particularly beautiful flower. … She admired its beauty and enjoyed its fragrance.
“It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. … As she gazed on it, her eyes followed the stem
down to the soil in which it grew. … “This flower is too pretty to be planted in
such dirt!” she cried. … So she pulled it up by its roots and ran to the water faucet
to wash away the soil. … It wasn’t long until the flower wilted and died.
When the gardener saw what the little girl had done, he exclaimed; … “You have
destroyed my finest plant!”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t like it in that dirt,” she said. … The gardener replied, …
“I chose that spot and mixed the soil because I knew that only there could it grow
to be a beautiful flower.”
God has placed us exactly where we are. … We must trust Him. … In the trusting,
… we eventually see that He is using our pressures, trials and difficulties …
to bring us to a new degree of spiritual beauty. … True contentment comes when
we accept what God is doing … and thank Him for it.
This morning, … is your faith casual or committed … as we approach this week
where our Jesus suffered incredibly for us. … In A week where our sins, …
past, present and future … were the nails that hung Him on that cross. …
Doesn’t Jesus deserve a second look. … Doesn’t He deserve total control of our
life? … Doesn’t He deserve a personal relationship with us?
This week of the cross, … consider it all. …
My prayer is that we will choose to give it all to Him!
Palm Sunday; … the day when the children usually lead off the worship service, marching down
the center aisle, holding up palm branches. It’s cute, it’s fun, it is somewhat educational, it is
even praise. We all smile and feel warm inside.
Do we dare remember that over 2000 years ago, this particular Sunday, Palm Sunday, marked
the initiation of what would also be remembered as Good Friday (an ironic term for me); … the
Friday that Jesus would be tortured, humiliated, made fun of, ridiculed … and finally His hands
nailed to a horizontal cross beam attached to a vertical beam with a spike hammered through His
feet into that post?
Is this what our mind’s eye sees when the children are coming down the aisle waving their
In the joy of the Easter season with its bunny rabbits, baskets, colorful eggs, chocolate, pretty
dresses and some young men even wearing ties for the first time crudely knotted … that Jesus
the Christ suffered more than we can even begin to comprehend … simply because He loves you
He died for you … so you can LIVE!
Your servant in Christ,
I have just read one of the longest scripture readings ever, from a pulpit.
I will have to admit, … after such a long and rich Gospel, … I kind of want to say
‘Amen’ … and sit down … but this reading contains a lot of food for thought.
In fact, I was planning to go one way with this sermon … and found myself taking
a total 180 degree different direction.
Today, … I want us to explore the meeting of Jesus and the woman at the well plus
the new life He promised her … and all of us if we follow His teachings.
During the course of His journeys, Jesus traveled from Judea to Galilee, by way of
Samaria. … Most Jewish travelers preferred to make a detour that could take days
to go around Samaria in order to avoid contact with Samaritans who were pagans,
of-a- since … and sworn enemies of the Jews.
This stereotyping by the Jews of Jesus’ day of the Samaritan woman … and all
Samaritans, … as unclean and to be avoided at all costs is a lazy way of lumping
together all of those who come from a certain class, … a certain occupation …
or a certain race; … attributing to each individual the same characteristics as the
group. … Although some traits may generally be true of a group, … it is not
specifically true of each person in that group.
Such stereotyping, … as prevalent today as in the time of Jesus, … brings with it
offenses against our fellow human beings that are cruel and repulsive to the
Prejudice; … Discrimination; … Segregation; … Stereotyping; …Racism.
Our society is quick to cry out against such behavior … as well it should!
(although most of the shouting is hypocritical) … Regrettably, … all of these
negative attitudes were as much a part of the Jewish and Samaritan cultures as they
are part of ours today.
Prejudice judges a person’s character by their outward appearance.
Discrimination deprives a person of the right to have all the benefits of the society.
Segregation robs a person of the right to belong fully to that society.
Stereotyping denies a person of the right to be fully the individual they were
created to be.
Racism cheats a person of the rights inherent at their birth.
Prejudice against anyone who is different, … divides, isolates, and ostracizes
It is the mark of an ignorant mind that perceives itself to be enlightened, …
who thinks they are better than someone else. … Prejudice has its root in an
ill-bred, faulty sense of reality … and leads to further ignorance.
1 Samuel 16:7: … “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance
or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the LORD sees,
for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.”
When we judge according to an outward appearance, … we are not seeing people
as God sees them.
Jesus took the direct route to Sychar, which was a town near Jacob’s Well.
Here, … in this little inconsequential village, … Jesus stopped, tired and thirsty, …
in the midday heat. … His disciples had left Him alone to go buy food.
Only a Samaritan woman was there, drawing water from the well. … Jesus did not
see the Samaritan woman as anything less than a human being.
In this time, every drop of water used in a household had to be carried from the
local well. … The well was the hub of every village. … The strong younger
women of the household normally did this task … but the Samaritan woman was
no longer young. … Scripture suggests that she was drawing water during the
hottest time of the day, … most likely because she wanted to avoid meeting other
townspeople. … She was probably considered a pariah because of her multiple
marriages and was an outcast because of this.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for something to drink … and here begins the
longest conversation recorded between Jesus and another person in scripture.
Given the role of women in that culture, … it is surprising that this conversation
happens with someone who was a woman and non-Jew. … The woman herself was
certainly surprised when Jesus spoke to her … because Jews and Samaritans
simply did not have anything to do with each other.
The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us just how much these two peoples
avoided one another, and how biased each was toward the other.
“From one man He has made every nationality” - Acts 17:26
One race cannot be better than another because all of us were born from the same
We are not given The Samaritan Woman’s name, which is not unusual in John’s
gospel. … As with other Biblical stories with no proper names, … this leaves us
the ability to insert our own name. … We could all be one of these persons.
Once again, we learn that Jesus was different from all other men; … He taught and
lived a life devoid of the prejudices of His culture. … Jesus never thought of the
historical division between Jews and Samaritans … and began talking to the
woman about ‘living water’.
But the Samaritan woman had a feeling that Jesus meant more. … She questioned
him. … Jesus explained that when people drink ordinary water, they get thirsty
again … but He knew of a water that gave an eternal quenching of thirst.
Needless-to- say, … this caught her interest, tired as she was of carrying water
daily. … She asked Jesus for some of this ‘living water’.
Jesus spoke to her as an intellectual and social equal … and she responded in kind.
Jesus told her that very soon none of the false rules that society had developed to
divide and hurt others would matter, … because the Messiah was coming …
and He would change everything.
In fact, He said: … “I am He (being the Messiah), … the One speaking to you.”
The story of the Samaritan woman, once again, … shows us that Jesus cared about
every person, … regardless of gender, race, or station in life.
This teaching, … that we are all brothers and sisters, … equal throughout eternity,
… is a great part of the ‘living water’ which He came to give us … and to bring
that love and caring for all persons into our lives is to drink of the ‘living water’.
The Samaritan woman was transformed by her meeting with Jesus, … just as we
all can be. … She believed Jesus was truly the Messiah, … the Anointed One.
She immediately repented of her past sins … and went back to tell her friends and
neighbors; … “He told me everything I ever did!”, … then how she met Jesus and
His offer of life-giving water.
In many ways, this story tells us that there is a well of grace ready to refresh all
souls parched by sin and suffering. … Jesus came to serve those who still need
both physical or spiritual healing. … He offers new life to all; … He came to give
‘living water’, … which is like a stream, that bubbling within us, … will pass from
us to other people as we share His love, … covering them in the spirit of Jesus.
The Samaritan woman does not appear in the Bible again but Saint Augustine and
most Biblical scholars later use this example to describe the spiritual thirst of the
human heart for goodness, … truth … and unconditional love; … that thirst is not
fully quenched until people are in the presence of God forever.
Take a few moments and think about: …
Are you thirsty for that ‘living water’?
What attitudes and cultural prejudices may be stopping you from fully
Are you ready to accept this ‘living water’, … making the changes in your life, …
great and small, … that will allow you to drink more fully?
Where can you find that … ‘living water’?
Are you willing to do what you must to receive the ‘living water’?
Are you ready to
“love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31)
Are you ready to accept that ‘living water’?
O Love, thou spring of life,
well up in me.
Gush up from deep within,
receiving, glad, and overflowing,
giving life, the breath of God
that mortal life nor heart cannot contain,
life rooted deep beneath the earth,
above the stars.
Run deep, pure water of your grace,
pure flow of living energy,
that I may flow with love
each day, each breath.
O Love, thou spring of life,
well up in me.
That is from Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, “Spring of Life”
Today is the first Sunday of Lent; … the annual period of reflection leading to the
joy and celebration of Easter.
We once again read about the baptism of Jesus, … and God’s affirmation that He
is His well-beloved Son. …
It surely helps to remind us of our own baptisms.
Our baptism is the first sacrament or duty that we share with and owe to Jesus.
Just as it was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, … it is the beginning of our life in
Christ, … requires us to follow His teachings … and to imitate His life.
It’s been so long ago for some of us that we may not even remember our baptism
… but that does not dictate that we cannot relive it each time we witness a baptism.
In that witness, … we have the opportunity to begin again … our life in Christ
repeating our baptismal vows in our heart and mind.
Certainly, … together as a family of Christ’s followers, … we commit ourselves to
try to live the life that Jesus taught.
We try, … however unsuccessful we may be at that task!
Pretty powerful stuff; … or at least it can be.
Lent is about being given the opportunity to start again, … to do better this time,
… to live up to the teachings of the Christ … and values that implicates.
As the Scripture continues, we are told that following His baptism, … Jesus went
into the desert for forty days.
He did not choose to do this willingly … but as you will note in the scripture, …
was driven out into the desert by the Holy Spirit. … He was cast into the
wilderness in order to prepare for His great work for which He had come to earth.
He didn’t go to a library, … He didn’t go to a spa nor the Mall; … He went alone
into a wilderness with wild beasts, … dust, … sand, … and debilitating heat during
the day, … cold during the night, … no food, … no water … for forty days of
fasting and prayer.
It was a demanding time, … it was a lonely time, … it was a time in which most
would have turned back and given up from fear, … doubt … or selfish
During these forty days and nights, … we learn that Jesus was tempted by Satan
1. When hungry He was challenged to turn stones into bread; … Jesus replied that
we cannot live by bread alone;
2. When in His solitude, He felt powerless, … He was taunted by Satan to have the
angels catch Him as He threw Himself from the temple pinnacle; … Jesus
reminded us that we should not tempt God;
3. When He was overcome by loneliness and weakness, … Satan offered Jesus the
kingdoms of the world with all its power and riches; … Jesus rebuked Satan, …
reminding us that we should worship only the Lord our God and nothing else.
In the desert, … Jesus sought the inner strength, … calm … and resolve to claim
His identity as God's child … and to let the rest of His life, … His words, …
His relationships … and His love, … even to the point of dying a painful and
unjust death on the cross; …
come from that identity … as God's beloved Son.
Jesus denied Satan’s three temptations and then told Him to go away (do you
remember the scripture: … “Get behind Me Satan?”)!
At that point, … He was ready.
Jesus comes out of the wilderness proclaiming that the ultimate battle is won: …
the reign of God had commenced!
Forty days and forty nights Jesus suffered and prayed in the desert; …
this is why we have Lent.
Anyone see a pattern of His forty days in the desert … and our forty days of Lent?
During those forty days, … Jesus was without food and water, … being tempted by
Satan to prove He was the Son of God.
It becomes clear that even though Jesus was baptized, … He (and we) do not get a
“get out of suffering” card … when we are baptized.
We will still have conflict and suffering.
Our baptism equips us both for the realities of the wilderness … and the work of
joyful proclamation … at the resurrection.
Through prayer and the grace of God, … we also, … will get through it.
We have now entered the desert of Lent on a spiritual quest of our own.
Lent is not a domesticated kind of pious self-improvement (giving up something
that most people think is good to give up, … at least for a time; … chocolate, beer,
cussing, … drop a few pounds and maybe look a little more like what our culture
thinks of as 'good,').
Nevertheless, … if we want to experience our Lenten quest fully, … we need to
realize that the mission we're on for these forty days is NOT tame NOR flippant !
Jesus left His family and entered a desert with wild beasts, hunger, bodily
discomfort and all the temptations of Hell. . . and angels.
I don't know about you … but I suspect that the reason the first thing out of an
angel's mouth is “don't be afraid!” … is because angels are often as terrifying as
any wild beasts (just ask Balaam!).
If we are striving to follow and be like Jesus, … we should make our Lent a time
of fasting, … reflection, … penitence, … searching … and prayer.
During our forty days of Lent, … we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves for
the triumph of the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning.
Jesus was alone … but we are not alone. … We have each other … (remember
that!) … and we also have something else for our journey; … the opportunity to
encounter God as Jesus did, … to wrap ourselves in God's Word to us that we are
His beloved children; … to claim that identity as Jesus did; …
the only identity that really matters … as a child of God.
Lent is not only forty days of centering and reflection, … it is preparation for truly
participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
It is about dying to an old identity (that one that keeps creeping back up on us) …
defined by our culture, … our traditions, … our habits … and even our families.
Being born into a new identity centered in the spirit of God.
It means dying to an old way … and being born into a new way of being; …
being centered in God!
It is about dying to our deadness, … that daily routine of our lives that we trudge
through, … oblivious to the needs of others … and the call of our Lord.
It is a time of reminding ourselves of God’s love … and God’s reality.
It is a time to be lifted out of our confinement, … removing those feelings of
burden and mortality, … of fear and doubt.
*How shall we spend these forty days of Lent?
How about forty days where we truly … open ourselves to God through prayer
and meditation … inviting God to live through us as never before;
*How about forty days where we examine ourselves, … our shortcomings, …
our judgments, … our arrogance and egos, … where we face who we are …
and strive once again to be all that we can be, … confident in the love and
acceptance of God;
*How about forty days in which … we remember we are dust … and to dust our
bodies will return … but with God’s grace, … our spirits will be transformed …
and we can live THIS life and THE LIFE TO COME more fully, … embraced in
God’s unending love to do His work through us.
So just as this last Wednesday, … Ash Wednesday, … we bore on ourselves the
ashes of the sign of the cross, … may we open our hearts, … admit our
helplessness to save ourselves … and accept the grace and forgiveness that marks
us as a child of God with a new resolve to be His body on earth.
Let us pray:
Dear God, … how you honor us by creating us in your image and giving us the gift
of life. … We want to live in a way that will honor You in everything we do.
We want to be like Jesus. … We want to see the image of Christ in the eyes of
everyone. … We want to be part of the gift, … the gift of the Holy Spirit that lives
in each one of us … and enables us to share; … to share love, … to share concern,
… to share service, … to be disciples.
Bless us on this day and every day with the opportunity to be like Jesus, …
to make a difference in the world that You have placed us on.
Dear Father, … when we are in the wilderness, … help us to experience Your
presence, … help us to know that we too are attended by angels … and that we can
come out of the wilderness into the world … and make a difference in Your name.
Heavenly Father thank you for the glimpse of glory, … a sneak peak, … a preview
of the resurrected life.
Everyone has insights, … experiences when the veil of commonness is briefly
rolled back … and we see into an object or a person or an event.
We see it, … him, … her or them, in a way we never saw it before.
We see it in a broader context than, what maybe, others seeing the same object of
our perception … do not see. … We might really see the beauty of a flower, …
a flower we had looked at a hundred times before … but now suddenly, … it is
extraordinary to our senses. … We may see the truth of something or someone, …
a truth that had, up till then, … eluded us. … We may grasp the goodness of a
person or an event, … a goodness others may not understand … actually perceive
All these experiences are insights into reality without the external appearances of
the reality being changed. … The change takes place in the person who is doing
Certainly the Transfiguration scene was an insight … but it was more than that.
First, … three people, … not counting Jesus, Moses and Elijah, … had the same
experience at the same time. … While that experience was an insight into the real
Jesus, … it was also a physical vision of an objectively changed reality, …
changed before their physical eyes … and not merely their faith eyes.
Since they would have been able to ask each other; … “Did you see what I saw?”
… and get the same answer, … we can conclude that this was an experience on
level one, … the level of earth, time, space, … the physical level.
Yet, at the same time, … the fact that they all heard the Heavenly Voice, …
the same voice and message Jesus heard at His baptism, … means that this
experience, … though physical, … was also a spiritual one, … one that entered and
affected their inner beings.
Clearly, this was a preview of, … a sneak peek at, … a sampling of the resurrected
That life will be physical in some yet-to- be-disclosed way. … What is disclosed,
is that our bodies will be transformed to fit the divine realm … but not so
transformed that we will not be able to communicate or to be recognized as the
unique individual that we are.
At the same time, … that life will be, … (what is the best word for it?); …
Supernatural, … spiritual, … physical … without being solid.
What is now perceived as “ordinary,” … that is, without glory, … will then glow.
There will be no need for insight then, … for reality will not be hidden …
but glorious, … radiant, … revealed, … obvious.
Here’s a big one!: … There will be no need for faith either, … for all will be seen
in all its dimensions, … simultaneously.
So, … for all their vision of reality of Jesus as it, … He, … really is, …
the disciples still need faith, … insight, … for the time being.
The three disciples had a religious experience, … one in which the monotony of
reality … took on a dimension of splendor, … everything was seen under a bright
light, … its hidden glory became visible to both the naked eye … and the eye of
Great as it was, … it did not last.
They got a glimpse of glory, … a sneak peek, … a preview of resurrected life …
but only for a brief moment.
Unfortunately, … they would have to come down from this mountain experience
… and live once again on the molehill of ordinary time.
In ordinary time, … they will learn they always have the Word with them, …
the glory of God contained in the mind and will of God.
The same glorious reality they experienced on the mountain, is present on the
molehill, … just as real and potentially powerful, … if they would but listen.
Seeing the divine is reserved for Heaven and very special earthly occasions …
but hearing the divine in the Word of God is always possible and available.
“Mountain” experiences, … “religious” experiences, … visual experiences, …
truth experiences, … cannot be fabricated. … There is no known method to
produce them. … They are gifts that are given to us at the moment … but they can
be remembered. … They can help us to know intuitively … the glory hidden in the
ordinary … and help to bring it out … but they cannot substitute for the Word …
which is always present and which needs to be brought out in actions and attitudes.
We sometimes pray for God to reveal himself visibly, … to confirm our trust by a
discernible emotionally felt sign. …
This story teaches that even if God did … and He sometimes does; … it would not
make much difference. … If we have a “mountain” experience, … remembering it
will make a difference. … It will strengthen our faith and our resolve as it enables
us to see the end game … but remembering the Word, however, … will do the
“Mountain” experiences are nice … but unnecessary.
Visions are no substitute for faith in the Word.
With the harsh realism of Jesus Christ, … we are to listen to Him and follow in His
steps, … confident that what the disciples saw, … the hidden glory that Jesus
always had, … we shall see and experience at the eternal Easter.
For God is always present and present everywhere. … Seen or not, … God was
always present in Jesus, … as Jesus is now in us.
Jesus was intensely, … always and everywhere, … aware of the divine presence
within Him, … even though we are not.
Awareness of the genuine God within Jesus, … formed His attitudes.
The same Jesus who was revealed in transfigured glory … is present in His
revealed Word … and is the same divine glory.
Extraterrestrial phenomena: … It is impossible to tell from this story just exactly
what happened. … We cannot tell how much is physical fact … and how much is
metaphor or spiritual fact. … That said, … there is no doubt that this is a story that
wants to say the “extraterrestrial” happened. … This was a sight … and not
merely an insight.
Such phenomena do occur and we simply cannot explain them. … Some simply
rule out the notion that reality exists on other levels than our own and deny even
the possibility that visions of other dimensions of reality can occur.
Yet even those of us who are open to these other dimensions, … know that such
visions or experiences do not really produce faith. …
They may and should strengthen faith … but not necessarily or automatically.
The three disciples in this account do not seem to have had any noticeable change
in their ability to put faith in Jesus after this vision. … In fact, it was only after
Jesus’ resurrection that they understood what they experienced … and only then
could they even talk about it.
Believers know that there is at least one extraterrestrial world, Heaven …
and most believers are open to the possibility that there are even more worlds out
there in space and even on earth. …
knowing what we now know through the study of psychology … we would say
there are even “worlds” within a person. … What believers also know is that such
discoveries will not affect faith or render faith unnecessary, … so long as we live
in this dimension. … Glimpses into other dimensions are wonderful … but it is
really the ever-present and available Word of God that really reveals the “inside”
of God … and our relationship with Him.
When the disciples came down the mountain and re-entered ordinary reality, …
“ordinary” as we perceive it, … the vision was gone … but the Word, …
Jesus, … was still present. … So it is with us.
The meaning of the Transfiguration: … The transfiguration, … like all truly
religious experience, … is both a real event … and an anticipation of future glory.
In this case, … it is an anticipation of the resurrection glory of Jesus, …
including our share in it.
It provided these three most intimate friends of Jesus with a glimpse of the, …
not yet historically, … risen Lord … to help them get through the upcoming rough
days, … the persecution over the horizon.
It assured them that despite apparent abandonment by God, … Jesus is God’s Son
and Servant. … He will be successful.
As a revelation of the hidden quality of Jesus’ life, … the transfiguration was a
guarantee not only of later glory … but also of the present quality and strength of
their own life when Jesus would be raised and be enabled to enter into them
through His Spirit.
This intense quality of life can, … will … and does … shine through in the life of a
disciple, … especially at prayer. …
However, it will never replace suffering in this life. … We can no more skip the
cross … than Jesus did, … even though we, … like Him at Gethsemane, …
would want to.
We can ascend the mountain to get eternal vision … but we must come back down.
All we really have is Jesus’ Word, … a living Word, … a Word we are called upon
to plant again in this world … now that Jesus’ bodily person has transcended to the
Trans: … “Trans” is Latin for “across”. … Whether we transfigure, … transcend
… or transform, … we go across one boundary into another.
We Christians still live within the boundary of time and space … but we have also
journeyed by identification and communion with Christ into the “boundaries” of
the realm of God.
Because we live in both worlds simultaneously, … our focus and attention shifts
back and forth … and can drive us a little crazy at times.
We do have our moments when concentration on God’s presence lifts us
temporarily out of this earthly world … but mostly they are but fleeting glimpses
of a later permanent experience of the glory of God. …
The presence of God is always there; … the “glory,” that is, … the felt presence of
God, … for now, … regrettably … is our “Coming back down the mountain”; … it
comes and goes.