The Empty Tomb

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb – John 20:1

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On the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb she found the stone rolled away.  She went straightaway to let Peter and John know.  They ran to the tomb.  John got there first but didn’t go inside.  Instead, he stooped down and looked in.  He saw that the tomb was empty.  Only the linen cloths were lying there. When Peter reached the tomb, he went inside.

He saw the linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.  John entered the tomb saw and believed.  Then, the two disciples left and went back to their homes while Mary remained outside the tomb, weeping.  She had no idea what had happened to her Lord.  She believed that, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  By “They” she might have been referring to the guards posted outside the tomb although I’m not sure why they would have moved the body.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have had no reason to move it either.

This morning when I read this, it dawned on me that the folded linen handkerchief which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head disproved the idea that His disciples had stolen the body at night while the guards slept.  If that were true, they would not have had time to unwrap the body, neatly fold the cloths and then carry the body away.  And the fact that the disciples were assembled in a room, fearful of the Jews, also disproves the notion that they would risk being caught stealing Jesus’ body.

The empty tomb and folded cloths speak volumes of the resurrection of Christ.  Today, let us rejoice that our Lord lives and that one day He will appear a second time to those who look for Him, not to deal with sin, but to bring them to full salvation (Hebrews 9:28).

True Greatness

After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded – John 13:5

 

Jesus Washing feet Statue

Today, I watched the movie, The Gospel of John.  Before Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover on the night before His crucifixion, He did something none of the others expected.  Jesus got up from the table, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing. 

To say that the disciples were shocked would be an understatement.  They probably felt uncomfortable too.  This was their Master, their Lord, doing the work of a servant.  Imagine Jesus, the Son of God, getting down on His knees to wash their dirty.  

When the apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest, Jesus told them, “Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone’s friends.  But don’t be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant.  Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn’t it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant” (Luke 22:25-27).  Jesus was the greatest among them but He was a Servant to them.  This isn’t surprising because He said of Himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus explained to the disciples, Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest” (Luke 9:48, CEV).  Jesus demonstrated this when He washed their feet.  Still, Peter didn’t understand and when it was his turn to get his feet washed, he asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6)

Jesus answered, “You don’t really know what I am doing, but later you will understand” (Verse 7).

Peter’s response was,  “You will never wash my feet!” (Verse 8)

And when Jesus told him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Peter wanted Jesus to wash his feet, hands and head too.  He went from one extreme to the next.  That’s typical Peter.

When Jesus was done washing their feet, He explained why He did it.  “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am. I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet. I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you” (Verses 12-15, NKJV).  

In God’s eyes, true greatness is found in humility and in the willingness to serve others just as Jesus did.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

The Better Choice

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” – Luke 10:41, 42

Years ago, I had two choices–study my Bible or watch TV.  Unfortunately, I chose to watch TV. This happened after I spoke to my son about making better choices. Before putting him to bed, I read the story of when Jesus visited Martha’s house.

Martha welcomed Jesus before she was back in the kitchen, preparing a big meal for Him and His disciples. Her sister, Mary, however, went into the sitting room where Jesus was and sat at His feet. She listened as He taught the Word. Meanwhile, Martha was busy, distracted and stressed out as she tried to get things ready for her guests. I can just imagine her fuming and fretting because she was doing all the work.

After a while she marched out of the kitchen and approached Jesus, demanding, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Why did she go to Him instead of going to Mary directly? It’s possible that she thought that Jesus would get better results.

The way she spoke to Jesus comes across as rude but Jesus wasn’t offended. Instead, He chastised her gently. She was focusing on what was not important. She was distracted. Mary, on the other hand, had made the better choice. She chose to spend time with Jesus, listening to His Word instead of being in the kitchen. She chose worship over service. She put Jesus first. Jesus commended her for putting fellowship with Him above feeding Him.

Can you imagine Martha’s reaction to what Jesus said to her? How would you have reacted if you were in her place? Walk off in a huff, furious because Jesus was taking Mary’s side? Or admit that He had a point. She was getting herself bent out of shape, trying to get the food ready and Jesus was in no hurry to eat.

What do you think Martha should have done? I think she should have done what Mary did. Go and spend time with Jesus and listen to His Word. And when He was finished, then she and Mary serve the food together.

What things are distracting you? Is it work, blogging, texting, TV, household chores, church ministries? I encouraged my son not to be so distracted with playing that he neglects to spend time with the Lord. Like Mary, choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and don’t allow anything or anyone to distract you. Don’t replace worship with service.

 

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Sitting At His Feet

I wrote this devotion years ago and wanted to share it now.

One day I kept hearing the words, “Sitting at His feet, sitting at His feet.  There’s no other place I’d rather be, than sitting at His feet”.

I have often imagined myself sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him share the Word.  I think of the two sisters Mary and Martha.  How very different they were.  The Bible gives an account of what happened one day when Jesus visited them.  As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her.”

A lot of times we are like Martha fussing and fretting over things and not taking the time to spend with Jesus.  Just recently, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in doing the Lord’s work that I was neglecting Him.   I missed my early morning devotions with Jesus.  I missed sitting at His feet so I made a point of setting aside time each morning for Him.  When I sat at His feet, allowing His words to fill my mind, I was overwhelmed by what He had done for me on the cross.

The reality of what Jesus has done for me—for all of us sank in.  And like Mary I don’t want anything to take this away from me.  I don’t want the worries and cares of the world or the demands of my daily life to rob me of the truths I learn when I take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Martha had placed more importance on the preparation of dinner rather than on the guest while Mary had done the opposite.  The words Jesus taught were food for Mary’s soul—they filled her and satisfied her more than any dinner could.  Martha needed to partake in that spiritual food too.

Like Mary we need to take time to sit down and be fed by Jesus.   I can almost hear her singing the words, “Sitting at His feet, there’s no other place I’d rather be than sitting at His feet.”  Jesus invites you and me to leave what we’re doing for the moment and come and sit at His feet.

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Christ’s Suffering

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man – Hebrews 2:9

Today is a very emotional day for me.  The waterworks began this morning soon after I got up.  I mentioned the suffering of Jesus to my husband and he said, “He suffered all the way to the cross and even while He was suffering He thought only about you and me.”  As I made up the bed, his words hit home and the tears flowed as the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation dawned on me.

Yes, Jesus suffered that day.  He was beaten.  He was spat on. He was mocked.  He heard the religious leaders and some in the crowd call for Him to be crucified although Pilate wanted to release Him because he saw no reason for Him to be put to death.  He was treated like a common criminal.  He hung on the cross between two thieves and heard the people mock Him.  He witnessed His mother weeping uncontrollably at the foot of the cross and He felt forsaken by His Father.  That morning He was denied three times by Peter.  The night before He was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other disciples after they had all sworn that they would never leave Him.

He suffered indignity as He hung on the cross.  The Bible said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Yet, He remained on the cross, even though passers-by called for Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God and the religious leaders told Him to do the same thing so that they would believe in Him (Matthew 27:39-43, Jesus remained where He was for our sake.  He wanted to accomplish what He said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). 

Staying on that cross brought salvation into the world and eternal life to all who believe.  There was no other way for us to be saved except for Jesus to die on the cross.  He didn’t go through all that suffering just to abandon us to our fate.  A lot was at stake and hedged on Him.  He was sent into the world to save us and in spite of the agony He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if it were possible to take the cup away, He determined, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  He was obedient to the Father even unto death.

Even as He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus didn’t think about Himself.  He looked down on the people who were mocking Him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He promised one of the thieves on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, ““Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He promised this repentant sinner that one day he will enter the kingdom. 

He looked upon His mother as she stood next to the disciple John and He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, He said, “Behold your mother!” He was placing Mary into John’s care.  He was looking out for her.  And it said that from that hour, John disciple took her to his own home.  Even in His suffering, Jesus was more concerned for the well being of others.

What can we learn from all of this?  No matter what we are going through, we must continue to remain faithful and obedient to God and to minister to others.  Jesus suffered but the story doesn’t end there.  He died on the cross, was buried but as He promised, on the third day He rose from the dead.  He ascended to His Father after spending time with his disciples and is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And one day, He will return to take us with Him.  As we go through trials, suffering, pain and difficulties, let us look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Persistence

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It is easy to give up when we have been praying for something for a long time but it seems like God is not answering our prayers. We keep on asking Him for the same things but nothing seems to be happening.  We become discouraged and stop asking.

Jesus once told His disciples a story about a persistent widow.   Jesus wanted to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. `I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, `but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’ ”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?” (Luke 18:1-8)

God does not want us to give up just because we are not getting results. In His own time, He will answer our requests. If we really and truly want something, we will continue to pray about it. The widow really wanted justice so she continued asking for it and she got it. She didn’t get discouraged when she didn’t get it right away. The judge tried to ignore her but she persisted until she wore him out. God will grant us what we ask for. He will not keep putting us off like the judge.

Jesus wants us to keep the faith. He wants us to pray without ceasing. He wants us to be like the persistent widow. Don’t give up on God. He will answer your requests in due time.

 

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Christians Martyred in Nigeria

This is the latest Persecution and Prayer alert from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Sadly, a grandmother and two of her grandchildren were among those who lost their lives.  Please read this story and then visit the Prayer Wall and pray for her surviving granddaughter and the other survivors who have lost their loved ones.  Jesus warned that in the last days, there will be persecution (Luke 21:16-18). As His disciples, we will be persecuted just as He was (John 15:20).  The Bible says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  Lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer. We are encouraged to, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3).  But, we have a hope that no one can take away.  “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).    May these words bring joy and comfort to our hearts and the hearts of those who are going through much tribulation.

NIGERIA: Villagers Fatally Wounded by Gunmen

Sources: Morning Star News, Release International

Rose died trying to save her grandchildren.
Photo: Morning Star News

Last month, Fulani herdsmen attacked two homes in the predominantly Christian village of Hwak Kwata-Zawan, located near the city of Jos. The militants also raided a nearby compound consisting of Nigerians who had been initially displaced by violence elsewhere in the country’s Plateau state. The total number of fatalities resulting from the raids has reached 15, leaving many more in the community grief-stricken and emotionally wounded.

In one of the village homes, 57-year-old Rose Monday was killed while trying to protect her three young grandchildren from the gunmen. Two of the three children had unfortunately succumbed to their injuries. Their elder sister, five-year-old Anna, who miraculously survived, is receiving treatment in hospital for gunshot wounds. Rose’s daughter (the children’s aunt) added that their remaining relatives are consoled to know that one day they will all be reunited as a family with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other Christian home that was attacked belonged to Gyang Christopher Choji who managed to escape the raid uninjured. The 58-year-old believer explains that his family members had retired to their rooms when they suddenly heard gunshots at about 8:30 p.m. “When the shooting became intense, and we were under siege, I advised my family that we run out to save our lives,” he further testifies. “I was able to escape, but five members of my family were brutally killed by these gunmen.” The seven other victims that were killed during the raids were from the nearby compound housing.

The gunmen had apparently visited the area earlier that day to survey the village while most of the residents were at church. The militants even had the audacity to ask local children for water while planning their vicious attacks. The resulting raids have left an entire village in a terrible state of shock and greatly traumatized. Church leaders say the attacks of the Fulani herdsmen on their communities constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria. Additional reports and informative video documentaries are available at the Nigeria Country Report.

In an area of Nigeria that has experienced so much chaos and pain, may the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit bring the surviving villagers and family members greatly needed peace, healing and hope — along with the assurance that the martyred Christians so dear to them have merely been transported spiritually to their true home in heaven where they are now enjoying the glorious presence of our Lord Jesus in all fullness (2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43). May this truth be especially real for little Anna, as she recovers not only from the physical wounds she sustained as a result of the attacks but, even more importantly, from the emotional and spiritual trauma of witnessing the horrific loss of her loving grandmother and young siblings. Also pray that the calloused hearts of the Fulani herdsmen be radically transformed by the power of the Living God, helping them to realize the seriousness of their crimes against His beloved people prior to that time of reckoning — when they must stand face-to-face before Him on Judgement Day.

To post a prayer on behalf of Christians who are suffering terrible abuses and injustices for their faith, visit our prayer wall.