The Marks of Love.

We are continuing our meditation on the Lord Jesus, after His resurrection, appearing in the room where the disciples were eating (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). Here’s the passage again:

36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence (Luke 24:36-42).

When one considers all the evidence that the disciples had heard that day, why would they still doubt? Was it the lack of evidence? Was it a lack of faith? What causes people today to doubt the resurrection of Christ?

Many people do not try to find answers to the doubts that they have. For some, it is not just doubts; it is unbelief, which rests more in the will than the mind. They make a conscious decision not to believe. Unbelief is a sin when it is a choice of the heart. The enemy, Satan, is quick to sow doubtful thoughts and suggestions into our minds. We are presented with a choice as to whether we will listen to God’s Word or Satan’s doubts. If you have doubts, do not hesitate to examine and seek out the facts where the Gospel is concerned. There is evidence at every step for the Christian faith, but there is a point where one must cast themselves into the hand of God and choose to believe or reject the Gospel. Martin Luther said: “The art of doubting is easy, for it is an ability that is born with us.”[1]

God doesn’t have a problem with your doubts, but He does have a problem with willful unbelief that shuns the truth, refusing to reach a conclusion when presented with the evidence. Henry Drummond once said: “Christ distinguished between doubt and unbelief. Doubt says, ‘I can’t believe.’ Unbelief says, ‘I won’t believe.’ Doubt is honest. Unbelief is obstinate.”[2] If you lack evidence as to the faith, be sure that the Lord is near and ready to confirm you in your faith, if you are willing. If, in the deepest place of your heart there is openness to the truth, the evidence will come if you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Jesus manifested Himself in their midst, and twice we are told that He showed them His hands and feet (Luke 24:39-40). I wish I could have seen their faces as He had them look on His wounds. Maybe, one day we will be able somehow to view those marks of love when we finally get home! Luke notes the joy and amazement on the faces of the disciples as they took in all the evidence of the visible, bodily presence of Christ (v. 41). They must have wondered if what they were seeing was too good to be true. They felt the nail prints as He held out His hands to them while going around the room.

Have you ever wondered why the scars remained in the hands of Jesus even though His body was totally healed and resurrected? The marks of love remain for all to see. How wonderful that the God we serve bears the marks of love on His body.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 66 at this linkJesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-53). Keith Thomas.

[1] John Blanchard, Gathered Gold, Printed by Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Herts, England. 1984. Page 71.

[2] John Blanchard, More Gathered Gold, Printed by Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Herts, England. 1986. Page 79

A God Who Hides Himself

We are continuing our meditation on the resurrected Jesus appearing to two discouraged disciples as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). On this first day of Christ’s resurrection, why did Jesus appear in a different form to two discouraged believers? Why would Christ travel incognito? This is not the only time our God has hidden Himself from His people. On that same morning, Jesus had risen and hidden His identity for a short while from Mary Magdalene:

13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:13-18).

Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel (Isaiah 45:15).

Perhaps, these two disciples on the Emmaus road would have talked differently if they knew Who it was that was walking alongside them. They were able to share with Jesus and articulate why they were so low and disillusioned. The Word of God tells us that their blindness was of a spiritual nature and not a natural phenomenon at all. God has shown up incognito on several occasions in the Scriptures. For instance, Gideon spoke with the LORD without realizing to Whom he was speaking (Judges 6:22-23). Samson’s parents spoke to the LORD Who appeared as the Angel of the LORD (Judges 11:16-23). Abraham also had YHVH appear to him in form as of a man, described as the Angel of YHVH (Genesis 18:1). When the word LORD is capitalized it always means YHVH, God Himself. Most Christian scholars believe The Angel of the LORD to be a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus. He comes alongside us to bear our burdens, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

I wonder how many times the Lord has been walking with us, and we have not been spiritually aware that it was He. As Christ drew alongside of them, He took the initiative and said to them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (v. 17). Cleopas and his friend are amazed at Jesus’ question about what has been going on in Jerusalem. Their body language portrayed their incredulity. Verse 17 tells us that they were shocked to a standstill with their faces downcast.  “One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ ” (v. 18). Their hearts were low as they talked about their hopes and dreams for the future being broken and dashed by the crucifixion of Christ. The Lord often asked a question to draw out people. He said to them, “What things?” (v. 19).

Our God longs that we share with Him exactly where we are at in our faith. He knows us more than we know ourselves, yet He loves us more than we can ever realize. It’s not that God doesn’t know what is going on in their hearts and ours. He longs that we might talk with Him about our situation. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He is a good listener. I’m sure that Cleopas and his friend shared more than is written down for us, but the Lord did not reply until they unburdened themselves. He took the initiative to ask them to talk about why they were disillusioned. Their pain caused them to pour out openly with a stranger. When they were finished sharing their disillusionment, He replied by explaining to them the Scriptures. Today is a good day to unburden ourselves to the Lord.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 65 at this link, Jesus on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35). Keith Thomas.

Who Will Fall on this Stone?

We have been meditating on Jesus’ teaching of the Parable of the Vine-growers in Luke 20:1-19. The Lord taught that judgment would fall on the nation of Israel because of their rejection of the Messiah, the Son of God (Scroll down for previous meditations). The crowd’s shocked response to Jesus’ parable had Jesus explaining to them that He Himself was the One to whom the Psalmist referred to in Psalm 118:22, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’ (Luke 20:17). Peter the Apostle says a similar thing:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (1 Peter 2:7).

Jesus then went on to give just two options, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (v. 18). We are to be broken or to be crushed by the stone. What could He be meaning? Why would God want us to have a broken spirit? In what ways can a broken spirit be a blessing? Can you think of a time that God visited you in your brokenness? Did the experience make you more open to spiritual things?

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Only in our brokenness will we begin to rely and lean on Christ. Like the chief priests and elders of Israel, our pride and self-confidence keep Messiah at arm’s length. He will not force His way into our lives. His desire is that we come to Him broken of our selfish will. C.H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said: “When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and breaks him. We are but men, frail, feeble, and apt to faint.” Charles Swindoll comments on Spurgeon’s thought in this way:

I am intrigued by the word ‘broken.’ ‘It means, literally, ‘shattered.’ My sacrifice to God, according to Psalm 51:17, is a shattered spirit and a bruised heart. It is not until the pride of our heart is shattered that we will begin to understand the deep things of God.”[1]

We need to admit our weakness in order to be healed. It is better to let yourself be broken and humble yourself before God rather than letting life break us down because of painful choices. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9). We can fall on the stone in repentance, brokenness, and adoration, or the stone will fall on us, crushing us in judgment. That was the choice before the leaders of Israel who were listening. Peter the Apostle wrote:

4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:4-6).

When you are presented with the truth of Jesus’ words, you, too, must decide. Will you give His words room and let them enter your heart? Will you open the gate of your soul? We will all respond one way or another to the claims of Christ’s authority. In chapters 19 and 20 of Luke, we have glimpsed a different Jesus than the one, perhaps, that you have envisioned. We see His passion as He weeps in unrestrained, heaving sobs over Israel. We see His anger and courage as He cleanses the Temple and challenges the unjust authority there. We see His tenderness alongside remarkable bravery. What a wonderful Savior we have in our Lord Jesus!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I recognize Your authority as the Great I Am. Open my eyes to know You more. I want Your truth to flood my soul. I know that You have my best interests at heart and that there is nothing that I can hide from You. Give me fresh understanding of your Word and Your ways. Transform me through Your words of life. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

[1] Chuck Swindoll, Men of Action, What it Means to Be Broken, Spring 1996.

The Plan to Kill the Heir

We are continuing from yesterday (Scroll down for yesterday’s devotion) on the topic of the Parable of the Vine Growers. After talking about those that refused to give the owner His due of the fruit of the Vineyard, in the middle of the parable, Jesus said to them: 13“The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? After allowing the question to settle a few seconds, Jesus said, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (v. 13). When the Lord instead spoke of the Owner’s sending His son, perhaps many in the crowd suspected that was not a good thing to do. But Jesus carried on with a shocking statement: 14“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” All the people listening were bought into the story. Perhaps, the tenant farmers thought that, maybe, the owner of the vineyard was now dead and this was the heir coming toward them. This was their opportunity to gain complete control of the vineyard. Those that were listening to the story were not thinking or cogitating on the ramifications of what He was saying. They were emotionally involved in the story until, suddenly, He posed another question: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (v. 15). There were gasps in the crowd, “What should he do?” It was obvious to all of them. The logic was so sound—He should destroy them! I believe at that point Jesus stopped again and let the response come from the people before finally He said, 16“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” (v. 16).

In verse 16, the Greek word that is translated as heard means to see with all the implications what Christ was saying. They understood. It clicked. The full consequences of what the parable was about was brought home. That is why they responded with, “May it never be!” The Jewish leaders and nation would lose the authority they had abused. Jesus could foresee the judgement that was to come in 70 A.D., and He had a glimpse into the suffering that would come upon the nation, but this would not stop the forward movement of the Kingdom as Jesus said; “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). The Kingdom ministry was about to be released to all nations through the body of Christ, the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile.

Jesus carried on by saying, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’?” Their horror at Jesus’ words of judgment brought Christ to respond by reminding them of the prophetic word in Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” Many translations of the English Old Testament translate the Hebrew word Rosh Pinna into the word Cornerstone. According to my Logos software, the Hebrew word means: “head; hair; a person, individual; height, peak, upper end; beginning; topmost, outermost, best; leader, chief; value, total amount, sum.” When He came the first time, He didn’t fit the blueprint the builders thought they needed, so they tossed Him aside as wrong and rejected Him. They didn’t recognize Him. Later, much later, they will recognize Him for who He is, and give Him his rightful place as the capstone.

The capstone was what completed the building at the apex and brought the walls all together. In an arch or a temple, the capstone carries the weight of the two sides completing the arch. It is a logical thought that, just as the sides of an arch lean over onto the capstone, so the spiritual building that God is constructing leans all its weight on the capstone, Christ Himself. Does the building of your life lean on Christ? Have you constructed this spiritual building that we call life on the Rock of Christ or on the sand of your own opinions? (Matthew 7:24). The leaders may have rejected the Stone, but to us who believe, He is precious! Not only is He the Cornerstone of the spiritual building being built, but He is also the One holding the building together. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 22:13). Jesus is the beginning and the end! He is both the Cornerstone and the Capstone!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

 

The Resurrection of the Body

We have been meditating on the Rapture of the Church (scroll down to read that devotional). This same event that we call the rapture is the same event in a different passage of Scripture that we call the resurrection. At the rapture of the church our bodies will be instantly changed just as Jesus’ body was when He was raised from the dead. Paul writes to the church at Corinth about the same event of the dead being raised:

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

Notice this same event is preceded by the blast of a trumpet and the dead are raised. There are not two raising of the dead. The rapture and the resurrection are one and the same. Our earthly tent, this sinful body we all have in this world, will be changed instantaneously. We are told that this change occurs in “a moment” (v.52). The Greek word used is atomō, we get the English word “atom” from this word. It describes an atomic particle of a second—instantaneously we will be changed. Twice the word “changed” is used and only in this passage of scripture. The Greek word is allagēsometha. It means to change, alter, transform. Paul the apostle, before he tells us about this transformation, introduces this event by writing about what happens to seeds. Let’s try and understand what he is communicating. We need to go back a bit in the passage as he writes about the process of how we as Christians come to receive a glorified body:

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:35-42).

Paul uses the analogy of a seed. He says that a seed differs greatly from the plant that comes from it. He is saying that our physical body is but a seed that, when sown at the death of the body, will be greatly changed when this sinful age is over and the resurrection of the body occurs. Before we move on to talk more about the resurrection body, we have to talk about how this transformation comes about. We’ll do that tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Resurrection Body. Keith Thomas