Enjoy a Peaceful Smoky Mountain Retreat

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I’ll Be Back

Reflect on this summary of Jesus’ last days. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time”  (I Corinthians 15:3-8).

A creditable, available body of eye witnesses were still available to testify of having seen the resurrected Christ.

Many of those in the first century were so fully accepting of the fact of His bodily resurrection that millions of them died as martyrs rather than disclaim it.

If these people were not absolutely certain of the resurrection they would not have allowed themselves to be tortured to death in order to proclaim it as fact.

Among those who came to the tomb the morning of the resurrection was the Apostle John who noted the facial napkin. In that era it was thought that life did not leave the body for three days after the person died. A napkin was placed over the face of the “deceased” in the event they revived so they could blow it off and call for help.

Like a detective investigating a crime scene John scanned the chamber looking for clues. In that napkin he found a clue with a message. John reported the napkin was “folded together in a place by itself” (John 20:7).

It was the custom of monarchs that upon the completion of a meal they would crumple their napkin and leave it on the table indicating they had finished and would not be back.

If they were leaving the table with the intent of returning they folded the napkin and left it neatly in place.

In that clue in the tomb Jesus was saying, “I will be back.”

He said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.”

That is reason to REJOICE!

He left us with many unanswered questions, but not a single one is a “need to know” question. He taught us all we need to know to be able to follow Him. Our inquisitive nature will always have one more question than there is an answer. It’s a good thing. It is a stimulus to our faith.

In light of all the information He left us, what will be your response? Will you have the right answer to His definitive question? It was asked of Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Or, in old English, “Lovest thou Me?” Summarily your faith response embodies your answer. Answer it now with a truthful resounding “Lord, you know I love you” and spend the rest of your life proving it.

Day Eight Sunday: Resurrection

Matthew 28: 5 – 8, John 20: 1 – 23, Luke 4: 4 – 49

What happened on that radical resurrection morning was more of a miracle than it would be for the sun to rise in the west. He arose!

Two approached the grave concerned with the removal of the gravestone in order to prepare it for the final entombment. The stone, to them a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, was a pebble to the Easter angel who had moved it away.

The correlation of the Greek texts of two different gospels reveals the stone had not simply been tilted away from the cave. It had been moved away a great distance uphill. These stones customarily weighed about three thousand pounds.

When God does something He does it right. He can roll away any stone in your path to spiritual truth and maturity.

An angel messenger met the visitors with the most hopeful message. Matthew simply focuses on the message of one of the two saying:

The day of the resurrection was the day —– THE SON ROSE BEFORE SUNRISE.

The angel said: “Fear not!” The Greek verb tense used means “stop being afraid.” All His little cadre of friends could say was, “We had HOPED that He was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21). Their hope had died. When hope died fear was given birth. In the moment of death everything seems frozen to those grieving.

There was only yesterday – there was no tomorrow.

They were living on the wrong side of the resurrection. Today those who are still searching for some man-made, humanistic solution to our problem are living on the wrong side of the resurrection also. In the resurrection, the empire of joy, peace, and liberty was brought to light.

Biblical Christianity is a faith of promise, not of nostalgia. Its thrust and momentum is always forward. It moves inexorably into the future. It calls us to what lies ahead in Christ. This inspires and enables one to cope. This is the hope Easter inspires, there is reason to find out how to live through the resurrected Son of God who arose before sunrise.

Historian Arnold Toynbee, in his monumental work entitled,  The Study of History, devotes a chapter to saviors. He lists them in four categories:

The savior with a scepter —- the political savior.

The savior with a book —- the philosopher savior.

The savior with a sword —- the militant savior.

The man-god or god-man savior —- those of Greek mythology.

Professor Toynbee points out that each of these finally capitulates to the ultimate enemy, death. Politicians, kings, military leaders, philosophers all die. All of these demigods ultimately surrender to death. Then this imminent scholar concludes:

“When the last civilization comes to the river of death, there on the other side filling the whole horizon with Himself will be the Savior.”

If someone were to say to you they saw a dead man walking, you might think that person to be a candidate for residence on the “funny farm.” If five were to tell you that you might think it a joke. If ten bonded together with that story you might think it a conspiracy. If 500 said it, at the very least, don’t you think you ought to at least look in the coffin.

These did and so should we.

“Seen” as used in the texts means to behold. It can mean to comprehend. They had experienced the power of an elevating presence.

On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account:

HE AROSE.       

Day Seven Saturday: In the Tomb

Matthew 27: 62 – 66, Luke 23: 56       

The Pharisees asked Pilate for a guard to be placed at the tomb “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” (Matthew 27: 65).

Jewish leaders had asked Pilate for a guard to make certain the tomb was secure. Shortly before this Herod had disgracefully divorced his wife, the daughter of the King of the Nabataeans, Aretas domiciled in Petra. Aretas retaliated by engaging Herod’s forces in battle east of the Dead Sea. Herod’s forces suffered heavy losses in the battle. There were scarcely enough to keep the peace during the festival apart from Roman soldiers. In response to the request made of Pilate the scarceness of Jewish forces prompted Him to say, “You have a guard.” It is commonly thought he was giving them a guard.. However, it is more likely he was saying “You have a guard, your Temple Guard, use the guard you have.” This being true there were not members of Herod’s forces or Roman soldiers at the tomb resurrection morning, but Jewish members of the Temple Guard.

Jesus’ body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ’s body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus: “He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth” (John 19: 39-40).

Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community.

Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ’s death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (I Peter 1:18-19, NLT).

While his physical body lay in the tomb, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation.

At sundown on Saturday gloom had engulfed hope, death mocked life, angels wept and demons laughed, BUT Sunday is coming.       

Day Six Friday: Trial, Crucifixion, Burial (Good Friday)

Matthew 27: 1 – 62, Luke 22: 63, John 18: 28 – 19: 37

Before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus was subjected to the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. The mockery ended with several unlawful lawsuits. Jesus was unjustly condemned to death by crucifixion.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Jesus spoke seven final statements from the cross. His first words were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). His last words were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

About the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Jesus breathed his last breath and died.

By 6 p.m. Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross and laid it in a tomb.

A question lingering after the celebration of the resurrection relates to time, the time between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Having visited the Bible Land many times, I have always enjoyed visiting remote regions among the Bedouins who live today very much like first century life. Exact time matters little to them. I once asked the age of a certain child. The answer was: “Who knows? Who counts years, days, and seconds?”

Even in modern times different cultures record time differently. Before the introduction of Standard Time in the 1880s, different countries, states, and even neighboring towns, kept their own time with no attempt at consistency. Even though clocks, and later watches, are widely available, much of the world still today estimated their time by the natural rhythms of the Sun and Moon until late into the 19th Century.

Stonehenge in Britain was probably built to measure time. It measured the year by the sunrise and sunset angle on the horizon. It is possible to use other, easily observed, signs of the passage of days. The annual disappearance and reappearance of the stars has been used by many cultures. Natural signs such as the blossoming or fruiting of particular plants or the migrations of birds have also been used to mark the passing of the seasons.

In counting days and nights in the time of Christ it was done differently than today. In light of all this, it is easy to see why there are questions related to the issue of three days and three nights.

In the time of Christ any part of a day was considered a full day. That is, a “day” was not considered as a full 24 hour interval.

We consider a day as beginning at sunup followed by daylight with night coming after the daylight hours.

In the Jewish tradition a day began with sundown. The night (dark) was counted before the actual daylight.

Thus when the sun set on Thursday that was the night part of a new day, Friday.

Hence, Friday was one night and day,

Friday night at sundown day two began.

Saturday at sundown day three began.

This accounts as three days and three nights. To try to understand it based on our reckoning of time is not proper. It must be based on how days were reckoned in Bible times.

        The important issue is not how long His lifeless body was in the tomb, but in the fact it did not stay there, He arose from the dead to give life, eternal life, to all who engage in a form of trust of Him that involves responding to Him as not only Savior, but Master to whom they are obedient.

Day Five Thursday: Passover and Last Supper

The Last Week of Jesus’ Life

Note: The precise time line of Jesus’ last week is debated. Following is one respected timeline accepted by many final week scholars. The timing begins on Palm Sunday and ends on a Resurrection Sunday. Due to space constraints the following lacks details.

Matthew 26: 17 – 75, Luke 22: 7 – 62

From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. By performing this humble act of service, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another. Today, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their  Maundy Thursday services.

Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples was to teach them and us a principle.

The text does not contain a command that we should obey and actually engage in foot washing. Rather it intended to teach us much more.

He asked “Do you know what I have done to you?” (Vs. 12). Had it been a directive regarding washing feet He would not have asked this question. They knew what He was doing physically, washing feet. They didn’t know what He was doing, teaching humility.

In doing so He said, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done” (Vs. 15). Had it been a command to wash feet He would have said “do what I have done.” Instead He said do as I have done, that is, show humility in all of life. The operative word used was “as,” not “what” I have done.

Then, Jesus shared the feast of Passover with his disciples, saying: “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).

During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20).

After an extended and exhausting day in Jerusalem, Jesus went to a place well known to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was already too exhausted to climb the Mount of Olives and return to Bethany.

In the garden was a cave still in existence today. Jesus was in it when Roman soldiers came for Him. The text says Jesus “went out” to meet them. The Greek text means “He went out from within” to meet them. This further indicates He was within some enclosure, the cave.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed in agony to God the Father. Luke’s Gospel says that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, ESV).

Here Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus.

Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus’ trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.

We dare not join the ranks of Peter as deniers. Make this a day of recommitment.

The dawn of the tumultuous Friday had broken.