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

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

“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

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5)

We all, I think, have a capacity to be more aware of others faults than our own. Jesus is saying his disciples that they are to be slow to judge others, recognising the fact that God has been patient and gracious with us so we need to extend that same grace to others. He then uses the rather comical picture of a spec and a plank to highlight that we can easily find fault with others and be blissfully unaware of our own flaws and faults. Jesus says- before you make any comment to a brother and sister about their brokenness, look at your own heart and search and see if any fault lay with you. This for example is so important in conflict situations. When things “heat up” we can make all sorts of judgements about others, all the while doing some pretty broken stuff ourselves. So says Jesus, look at your own heart, test yourself and see. As the Peace Wise course says- “you are a hundred percent responsible for your part in a conflict.” So even if you are responsible for a relatively small thing, still it ought to be acknowledged, confessed and sort forgiveness for, before we do anything about our brother or sisters spec. May God grant you his grace in order that you might be a blessed peacemaker who walks in humility and love.

Grace and peace from Marcus