Author: Larry Wall

Does JESUS still come today?  Let’s ask Joseph  Matthew 1:18-23:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).”

Have you ever had a spouse, a child, a friend, or a co-worker begin a conversation with the words, “You’re probably not going to believe this?”  If your reaction is anything like mine, then you are probably thinking, “you are right, I don’t believe whatever it is you are telling me.”

Come with me in your mind back to the conversation between Mary and her fiancé, Joseph.  “Honey, I am not sure you are going to believe me, but I have something I need to tell you.  You know how all of the scholars have been talking about this being the right time for Messiah to come?  Well last night, just before I got into bed an angel, Gabriel in fact, came and gave me a message from GOD.  He said that I had been chosen to be the mother of the LORD JESUS.  I told him that while I was flattered, this just wasn’t possible, because, well you know, we haven’t…  Well, anyway he said, no problem, the HOLY SPIRIT would come over me and I would become pregnant.  And guess what, I am.   Isn’t this exciting?”

You know what happens next, Joseph says, under his breath, “momma didn’t raise no fool”, and out loud, oh Mary, you are so right; I do not believe your story.  I care about you, in fact I love you, but this just cannot be.  I will see how I can take care of the problem that you have created.  But GOD stepped into Joseph’s life and revealed HIMSELF to him.  GOD said, “not so fast Joseph, she is telling the truth.  What she has told you is exactly what has happened.”  When GOD appeared to Joseph in the dream, everything changed.  Joseph took Mary as his wife and together they raised JESUS from birth, through the terrible twos, the teenage years, and into young adulthood.  JESUS worked along side Joseph in the carpenter’s shop and learned the value of work and what it means to be a husband and a dad.

Sometimes, JESUS comes in dreams and visions to clarify for us the road that HE has already mapped out for us, to help us make decisions that are in accordance with HIS prescribed will that is in HIS word.  HE already knew exactly the role that HE had for Joseph to play and HE came at just the right time to help Joseph comprehend that his life was part of the bigger story of redemption that HE had written from before time began.

If you have children, ask them about their dreams.  Some can be funny, some scary or absurd, but some can be from GOD to help guide them as they seek how they are to live.  Take time to pray and to thank GOD that HE can and does use dreams to help us walk in HIS way.

 

Does JESUS still come today?  Let’s ask Thomas  John 20:24-29:

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””

Have you ever been so disappointed by the circumstances of life that you have said in your soul, unless I can see, unless I can touch, unless I can use my senses I will not believe?  I think all of us have had those times, those disappointments, that pushed us into wanting, no demanding, a sign that HE is here that HE still comes and moves in our world today.  Today as we ponder HIS coming more than 2000 years ago, let us consider one of the disciples and his struggles with life’s circumstances.

What an interesting character, this disciple Thomas.  He is called doubting Thomas because of his statements here in John 20 where he indicated that unless he was able to put his fingers in the place of the nails and his hand into HIS side, he would not believe.  He said show me the proof that HE has risen and then I will believe.  Give me some hard evidence and then I will put my trust in HIM.  But he had not always been such a doubter.  In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus.  JESUS told the disciples that HE was going back to Bethany to see about Lazarus who had died.  The other disciples questioned HIS wisdom about going back into the area where the Jews had threatened HIS life.  But Thomas said, “Let us go also that we may die with HIM”.

What caused such a change from champion to doubter?  Why would he make such a strong statement, especially in the face of ten others who were saying that JESUS had risen from the dead?  We can only imagine what must have been running through his mind that day as he snuck into where the others were hiding.  But we do know one thing for sure, JESUS showed up in a real, senses overloading way in Thomas’ world.  HE didn’t rebuke him or belittle Thomas but instead said, here I am touch me and believe.

Will HE show up in our lives when we want proof?  Yes.  Will HE hold out HIS hands for us to put our fingers into, or bare HIS side for us to touch?  Will HE be offended by my request? No.  HE says try me and see if I am not good; believe me even when you do not see me.

If you have children:  Go outside and feel the wind as it blows.  Ask them where does it come from?  Where does it start?  Where does it end?  We need to realize that even when I cannot see or sense with my senses something that is occurring I still need to believe that it is still there.

 

Do you know what the bread and wine of communion point to? A book by John Stott titled The Cross of Christ helps us more fully appreciate the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. It expanded my understanding of the cross in profound ways. In his book , Stott unpacks the meaning behind communion and during this Holy Week I would like to share with you three lessons that communion teaches us.

  1. It teaches us about the the centrality of Christ’s death.

On the day before Jesus died he could have asked his followers to remember anything, but the one thing he asked them to remember regularly was his death. Communion reminds us of the significance of his death.

  1. It teaches us about the purpose of Christ’s death.

The Old Testament pointed to the need for blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Communion reminds us that the blood of Jesus provided forgiveness and it was the only way for forgiveness to be final.

  1. It teaches us about the need to appropriate Christ’s death personally.

Stott says “The eating and drinking are a vivid acted parable of receiving Christ as our crucified Savior and of feeding on him in our hearts by faith… For him to give his body and blood in death was one thing; for us to make the blessings of his death our own is another” (Cross of Christ p. 70). When we participate in this meal it becomes a personal expression of faith in what Christ’s death accomplished.

This Easter week, as we prepare to join at the table, let us meditate on and remember the purpose and power of the communion meal.

So often reconciliation involves me forgiving someone who has “wronged” me.  Whether the wrong was real or imagined, I am still called to forgive.  In Matthew 18:21-22 JESUS makes clear that we are to be people who forgive if we are to be HIS followers.  I don’t forgive seven times, but seventy times seven times.  This is unbelievable.

Surely JESUS miscalculated when HE told Peter that this was the expectation.  Have you not read the truth found in the old saying “If a dog bites you once, shame on the dog, if the dog bites you twice, shame on you?”  JESUS, surely YOU are not asking me to forgive when the same offense is committed over and over again.  YOU are not asking me to swallow my pride and give up my dignity and humbly forgive someone who really cannot be asking for forgiveness because he keeps doing the same thing to me.  These verses and expectations must not mean this.  But the wisdom from JESUS is different.  HE makes clear HIS expectation for us, but we twist and manipulate it so that we justify our unforgiveness and the lack of reconciliation that results.

Yet, the wisdom from above is so different from what the world has to offer.  The world says ‘I have worked all night and I have caught no fish.’  But JESUS says “let down your nets one more time,” Luke 5:5.  The world says ‘don’t get mad get even.’ But JESUS says “forgive and love your neighbors.”  The world says ‘never give a sucker a break.’  But JESUS says “I have come that they (all of the suckers of the world) may have life and have it to the full.”

 

So how often will I forgive and thereby be reconciled with my brother?  Seventy times seven or some lesser number?

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