Then [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that is was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” John 20: 14-15
On that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. The empty tomb led Mary to the conclusion that others had removed the body. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus when he spoke to her. I suspect that’s because the last thing she expected was for her Lord to be standing outside the tomb, talking to her.
Jesus had told his disciples about his death and also that he would rise three days later before any of it happened, but they couldn’t wrap their minds around it. God is always bigger than our expectations. How could it be otherwise? We are limited. God is infinite. Easter Sunday bears witness to the fact that death is not the end of the story, but leads to new life.
“Who is it that you looking for?” The risen Christ exceeded what Mary was looking for based on her prior human experience. Can we be open to Him exceeding our expectations?
Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to Your glory.
Reflection for sharing: Who is it that you are looking for Jesus Christ to be in your life today?
“You have stayed with me all through my trials; and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22: 28-30
Jesus doesn’t say he will share his kingdom with his disciples because they are strong, noble, or perfect. He shares it with them because he loves them and because they “stayed with” him. Jesus knew their faults and weaknesses better than they did.
At the Last Supper he was sharing his last meal on earth with his closest friends and followers. He had just told them he was giving his body and blood for them. He also said one of them would betray him. Instead of expressing concern or support, they accused each other and, perhaps in an attempt to defend themselves against blame, started to argue about which of them was the greatest!
Jesus never abandons us. We abandon him, often out of guilt or shame or a sense of unworthiness. We forget he is aware of our weaknesses long before we are. And he loves us anyway.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your love.
Reflection for sharing: When awareness of your own faults washes over you, are you tempted to give up on yourself? How can you remember that Jesus doesn’t love you because you are perfect; he just loves you?
With a loud cry Jesus died. Mark 15: 37
Apart from all else that could be said about his passion, what strikes me today is that Jesus cried out. I find it reassuring that—even though he rose to new life in victory—he wasn’t above crying out when he died.
Jesus told us we need to die to ourselves in order to follow him. We believe His promise that if we lose our lives we will gain them, but dying to self still hurts. We don’t have to pretend we’re above the pain. It’s okay to admit it.
Opportunities to give up self-will, in both large and small ways, are all around. Some times I miss them as I plug along on self-propulsion. Sometimes I’m aware of the opportunities but choose my own will anyway. Then there are the times when I let go of getting my way. I’m always glad when I do, but no matter how many times surrender works out well, my self-will always springs back up the next time. My “self” never goes down without a fight—even over the most trivial things.
During a hurricane some months ago, our house lost power for days. It got pretty cold. My husband was in another state on business and asked me to join him. I resisted for two days. I wanted to tough it out at home. Finally, I agreed to pray about it. After praying, I saw that there was no good reason for me to stay in a house without power—other than my own stubborn pride. I also saw that I wasn’t considering my husbands feelings. He was concerned but I was too centered on my resilience to see it. Why was I resisting in the first place? Because the blow to my ego hurt. I had to surrender my fear of being a wimp and taking the easy way out. Letting go of my pride enabled me to join my husband until our power came back on. Those days away together were a blessing to both of us: he felt relief, I felt warm, and our relationship grew stronger as I learned that I don’t have to exercise my will on general principle.
Prayer: Lord, grant us the courage to acknowledge our pain in letting go of self-will.
Reflection for sharing: When is it hardest to say no to your self will? How can Jesus’ example strengthen you?
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13: 3-5
Well aware of his own identity and his oneness with God the Father, Jesus performed the lowliest form of service possible for his followers. Jesus was completely secure in who he was and freely threw off any trappings of status to serve the ones he loved. Sometimes it is hardest to humble ourselves when we feel insecure and have to prove our worth to others or even to ourselves.
It can be just as humbling to accept service as it is to give it. Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. No doubt Peter felt unworthy. But Jesus was setting an example for all of us who want to follow him and convinced Peter to accept. Jesus had also set an example of receiving service when he allowed the woman to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. (Luke 7:38)
Being human, there are times we need to help others and times we need to accept help. Jesus is our model for both.
Prayer: Lord, help me know who I am in relation to You and so allow myself to serve and be served, according to Your plan for me.
Reflection for sharing: What gifts and talents has God given you? How can you use them to serve others? How can you learn to accept help when you need it?
Pilate called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man [Jesus] to me and said that he was misleading the people. Now I have examined him here in your presence, and I have not found him guilty of any of the crimes that you accuse him of…There is nothing this man has done to deserve death. So I will have him whipped and let him go.” Luke 23: 13-16
Even though Pilate found Jesus not guilty, he eventually gave in to the crowd who demanded Jesus’ death. After the crowd shouted him down three times, Pilate, against his own judgment and desire, gave in to the crowd.
Have you ever felt tremendous pressure to act against your own thoughts and beliefs? Have you ever given in to the crowd? We all probably have, at one time or another. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ passion, Jesus final words were, “Father! Into your hands I place my spirit.” Pilate trusted his well-being to the crowd. Jesus trusted his well-being to the Father.
Prayer: Father, help me turn my well-being over to your care today and every day.
Reflection for sharing: How can placing ourselves in God’s hands help relieve the tension of peer pressure?
For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me…they stare and gloat over me… Psalm 22: 16a; 17b
The Psalmist is not afraid to tell the Lord about his pain and fear in great detail. He continues to talk to God through out his ordeal even though he receives no apparent relief from his suffering. However, he does receive comfort and inner strength in the midst of his pain. The Psalm ends with an affirmation of the Lord’s ultimate victory.
The enemies that attack us can be from within as well as outside of us. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Even so, we can continue to turn to God for strength, guidance, and comfort.
Prayer: Oh Lord, my help, come quickly to my aid.
Reflection for sharing: Think of a painful or challenging time when you were changed from within and/or given the ability to cope. How can you use this experience to encourage others who are facing trials?
…[Jesus] cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11: 43-44
Jesus raised Lazarus to lif.e Jesus restores to life that which appears dead. New life doesn’t come without a death of some kind. Life isn’t always the way we would like it to be. Experiences of brokenness and loss are also experiences of death. But Jesus offers hope when all seems hopeless.
Prayer: Praise to you, Lord of Life.
Reflection for sharing: What are some ways you’ve been given new life after periods of loss or grief? In what ways do you need to die to your old self in order to be raised to a fuller life in Christ?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. Psalm 130: 1-2a; 7
The Psalmist begins by crying out to the Lord from the depths of despair. Even though he was mired in pain and hopelessness, he didn’t stop praying. The psalm begins with a desperate plea and ends on a note of confident faith, even though nothing had changed in the Psalmist’s circumstances. All that changed was his attitude, and all because he was not afraid to bring to the Lord his fear, sadness, and insecurity.
Sometimes we may feel we need to put our best foot forward when we pray. The psalmists don’t do that. They praise and thank God, but they also pour out their hearts in fear, anger, and sorrow. If we can’t share truth to the God Who is Truth, how can we ever share it?
Prayer: Lord, help me trust Your love enough to be honest with you.
Reflection for sharing: Why do you think the Psalmist trusted the Lord? How can you make this hope and trust your own?
One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. John 9: 25b
Jesus, the Light of the world, gave sight to a man born blind. Jesus freed the man from his world of darkness and the life of dependency it caused. Although many opportunities opened for him once his sight was restore, the man no longer had a reason to earn his living by begging. His healing brought with it major changes in his lifestyle.
New vision brings new responsibilities. This can be terrifying. The man in the story not only gained eyesight; he gained interior sight (insight) and was empowered to accept Jesus and his way of life. As we leave behind our areas of darkness, God will continue to give us the insight we need to live in the Light.
Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of my heart.
Reflection for sharing: What are the areas of darkness in your life today? Ask the Lord for what you need to be healed of this. Sit quietly and listen for His answer.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul…Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff–they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-2; 4
God meets us where we are. As a shepherd, David spent time in the fields, leading his sheep to refreshing streams. God revealed himself to David through images and expereicnes familiar to him: images of rest, refreshment, and nourishment. Even so, David recognized that the Lord’s blessings would not exempt him from the “valleys” of sorrow and death, but also knew he’d be strengthened and comforted by God’s presence with him in those valleys.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your comfort and strength in the valleys.
Reflection for sharing: How has God been with you in the dark valleys of your life? How has God restored and refreshed you?