“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15 has much to say about the resurrection. At the heart of it is the bodily resurrection of Christ himself. It is because of the fact that God raised Jesus to life- declaring him to be the Son of God with power, that believers also can have the hope that they are not simply destined to be worm food. Instead, they will be raised to life on the last day though faith in Christ Jesus.
Although of course, everyone dies- Paul says that this should not cause us to grieve without hope- in Christ there is great reason for hope. Paul captures that poetically here- death has been swallowed up in victory, it has been defeated, and it has lost its final sting. Were as sin ushered in death, Paul says that though Christ we can know what it is to conquer death and for that there is reason to give thanks.
What about here and now as we await our death? Paul seems to think that here and now is profoundly affected by our future hope. He seems to think that if there is no resurrection there is very little reason for anything much really in the here and now- but because there is hope, beyond the grave, Paul encourages us and says stand firm. Don’t let anything move you because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
Grace and peace from Marcus
Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” A crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, grabbed Jesus and arrested him and all the disciples deserted him.
They went out to a place called Golgotha and nailed him to the cross. The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.
Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. They were very frightened but also they were filled with great joy. Matthew 27-28
Grace and peace from Marcus
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38)
When Jesus saw the crowds we are told that he was moved to compassion. He saw that they were sheep without a shepherd and therefore were vulnerable to attack and being misled- far from this inspiring anger and judgement; in this context it inspired compassion and concern. So he instructs his disciples; the harvest is plentiful, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out harvest workers. Jesus looks at the shepherd less mob and he immediately sees at least some of them as being ripe for the harvest, all that is needed is harvest workers ready to go and harvest a ready crop.
The problem at this point is not that people are not ready to hear, but rather that workers cannot be found to meet the ready harvest. So, Jesus instructs his disciples to that this situation is so dire that what is needed is divine intervention. So he instructs them to pray that God will raise up harvest workers, raise up people to take up the calling of following Christ and serve him. So friends, pray, pray, pray that God would consistently raise up people to work in his vineyard, to go in Jesus name and be a part of the Jesus mission. Of course, it at least a little interesting that immediately after this instruction- Jesus himself appoints 12 harvest workers. Watch out as you pray this prayer because the Spirit of course will no doubt knock on your heart first- calling you to go out in Jesus name and be a part of his harvesting work.
Grace and peace from Paul
“Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense of acceptability, joy, acceptance, hope and security is by definition our god- something we adore, serve and rely on with our whole life and heart.”- Tim Keller
We tend to think of Idols as giant statues that people (usually in far off lands) bow down in worship too. We can be self-righteous, and think to ourselves, how could anyone worship something made by human hands? But of course we, if we are honest must admit that our hearts are idol making factories. What does that mean? Well it means that idols are not just statues, but they can be those “good things,” that at moments in our lives become “ultimate things.” In general idols can be all sorts of good things-“family, work, romance, children, our religious zeal, our moralism, our reputation, our wealth, our gifts and abilities, they can be things we have, they can be things we must have, but they are generally good things that have become ultimate things. If we lose a good thing, it makes us sad. If we lose an idol, it devastates and ruins us. And the problem with anything but God being in the place of the god of our heart is that anything else will give way under the weight of worship and prove to be false. So how do we thwart the idolatrous tendencies of our heart? Well the answer is of course- God has done it, in and through the gospel. At the heart of every sin and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation, our justification, our righteousness and our redemption. Friends- Jesus is our hope, our future, our joy and strength- let us be a people, defined by our dependence on the Triune God of grace.
Grace and peace from Marcus
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. Mark 11:15
Can you picture the scene? Jesus was not authorised to do this, or was he? When his authority was challenged by the Jewish leaders he told them the parable of the naughty farmers at the vineyard. The main idea behind the parable is that although Jesus had God’s authority to do what he did, he would be rejected by the Jewish leaders and killed. Amazingly their rejection of Jesus was the means by which he would save all people from the sin of rejecting God.
Why does Jesus then quote Psalm 118? Jesus uses the image of the stone to represent the Jews rejection of his authority. The tradition story is that the capstone for Solomon’s temple was made at the quarry and sent to Jerusalem. Originally the builders misunderstood what it was for, rejected it and put it aside. When the most important stone for the whole temple was ordered by the builders, the quarry said it was already delivered. In fact,
‘the stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Mark 12:10
The most important stone in a building was rejected. We are no longer rejected by God because Christ was rejected for us.
Let us remember this as we think about Easter
Grace and peace from Paul
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