Eastertide – The Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Eastertide is a new term for me. It applies to the forty days between Easter and Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. So let’s spend time reflecting on those days after the crucifixion.

We talked a few months ago about the way Jesus elevated the position of women from shame to honor. We see God doing that very thing again in the days after the resurrection—the women played a vital roll.

When Jesus breathed his last, the centurion . . .

. . . praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” Luke 23:47

Many of the men “beat their breasts” in a sign of anguish.

But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:49

They lingered to see what would happen next. It would have taken some time for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate to ask for the body, but the women were still there, waiting. Then,

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Luke 23:35

Why? So they would know where to come to prepare the body with spices and perfumes. Since the Sabbath was about to begin that Friday evening, they wouldn’t be able to do their work until Sunday morning.

Who were these women? They were those who had followed Jesus from time to time to help in the ministry, perhaps by caring for the people or preparing food for Jesus and his twelve disciples as well as other followers. Several women helped, but three were specifically named in Matthew and Mark. Perhaps these three served as  leaders.

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Matthew 27:56

Mark calls the second Mary, the mother of James the younger or as “The Chosen” puts it, James the short one. (big James and little James) The third woman is likely Salome, the mother of (big) James and John.  

Once Sabbath was over and true to their duty, the women went to the tomb early Sunday morning with their spices. It dawned on them that they would have trouble rolling that huge stone away from the tomb. To their amazement, they found the stone already rolled away, then they saw an angel with stunning white clothes. Luke tells us that the women “bowed down with their faces to the ground.” As with any angel appearance in the Bible, the first thing the angel must say is, “Do not be afraid—

“. . . for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead.'” Matthew 28:5-7

May that message continue to resonate with us long after our Easter celebrations. He is risen. He is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Praise

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We think of negative attitudes and positive attitudes. We understand the attitude of bitterness or envy, the attitude of kindness or encouragement. But praise? Is that an attitude?

I believe it certainly is, particularly when we feel praise and speak our praise to God. It’s an attitude that pleases God and resonates a one-of-a-kind joy with in us as well.

I was preparing to teach this past week on that glorious day when King David completed the plans for building the first Temple. David stood before the crowd of leaders, his son by his side. He spoke words of encouragement and direction to Solomon and handed over the plans. 

He said to his son,

“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, [Heart and mind—that means serve with all that is within you.] for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. [Yikes, even the motive in the heart!] If you seek him, he will be found by you.” I Chron. 28:9

Israel had accumulated much gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and valuable stones during David’s reign. David declared he would provide from his great store houses of resources for the new Temple. Not only that, he declared he would give tons (literally) of gold and silver from his personal treasures.

“Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?” I Chron. 29:5 

The leaders, commanders, and officials were so inspired that they also promised huge amounts too—willingly. David was so overwhelmed with joy that he burst forth with praise and thanksgiving to God, much like the many psalms he had written through the years.

Then David told the leaders to praise God as well. They lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and by the end, they fell down on their knees and finally lay prostrate, flat out, face down.

You may have experienced such demonstrative praise at a time in your past or at least felt emotionally moved. But what about your regular old Tuesdays or Wednesdays or the string of monotonous days we have had for a year? Has your enthusiasm for praise waned to point zero?

I challenge you to find a moment this week when you can be totally alone. Talk out loud to the Lord. Praise Him for His wonderful creation, the heavens, the stars and planets beyond our knowing, the sun to warm us, the beautiful blooming trees, the Forsythia spreading their yellow arms out to welcoming in the spring. Sing your favorite hymn or praise song. Sing it loud! Pour forth all the thanksgiving you can muster.

Fall to your knees, thank Him for the price He paid for you on Calvary, the pain and agony of taking on your sin. Then praise God for raising His Son from the dead, reminding us that we too will overcome the grave to join Him in paradise. Amen and amen. The Lord is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

The Hope of Spring

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

On the way to our subdivision, trees line the road and, in many places, form an arch over you—lush and green in the summer. But in winter, the dark, bare limbs reach out with eerie arms against cloudy skies. It seems all life is gone out of them.

We bear the cold winds and the dismal colors, believing full well that Spring will come. We’ve seen it over and over every year, so we have confident hope it will come again.

Sure enough, the weather gets warmer, the first daffodils bloom, and we know that Spring is coming. Soon, the forsythia waves its yellow arms at us.

Then, just as the daffodils begin to fade, the dainty weeping cherry bushes sprout their pink blooms. Suddenly pear trees and cherry trees join the pink and white display along with new lime-green  growth on trees and bushes.

Slowly leafy growth moves up the taller trees, then the red bud trees dress in their purplely-pink accents. It is glorious! The hope of life has come. Likewise…

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior! Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior! Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior! He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

How wonderful that we had a late Easter this year—just in time to put us right in the most beautiful Spring ever.

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

A blessed Easter Resurrection Day to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Easter – the Agony Begins

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

It is with a heavy heart that I approach these next two blogs, but it is necessary to appreciate the depth of His glorious resurrection. 

Jesus and the eleven leave the upper room, plod down the hill away from the city, across the Kidron Valley and part way up the Mount of Olives to a familiar garden where they often come for prayer. Jesus tells them to, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” (Matt. 26:36) and “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22;39)

Then He takes his inner circle (Peter, James, and John) a little farther into the garden and confesses to them:

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matt. 26:38

Do you hear His agony? He knows what is ahead. He has seen Roman crosses beside the road before as a warning to anyone who dares to defy Rome.  I often wonder, at what time in those years of ministry did he first realize the price He was going to pay. In this garden called Gethsemane (olive press), Jesus’ very soul is being pressed into submission.

We read Jesus’ lengthy 26-verse prayer in John 17. How did John know what Jesus said? Evidently at the beginning of this prayer, John was still awake and able to overhear Jesus in his agony. We hear much repetition in this prayer as may happen in some of our most agonizing prayers when we’re trying to express ourselves as many ways as possible over one particular issue. Perhaps as He speaks, His prayer grows louder.

Jesus longs for his close friends to pray as well, but Mark records that Jesus comes three times to the disciples and finds them sleeping. The first time he speaks directly to Peter.

“Simon, are you asleep? Could you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Mark 14:37-38

Yes, Peter, the spirit of denial is nipping at your heels.

We know that one of the things Jesus prays is:

“Father , if you are willing take this cup from me [the cup of suffering]: yet not my will but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

Luke tells us that Jesus’ praying becomes so fervent that he begins to sweat.

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:43-44

That, my friends, is more agony than I can imagine.

As you focus on the redemption plan God provided for you through Jesus’ sacrifice, meditate in these next days before Easter on what He endured for you. Move beyond your trite prayers, your pleas for all-things-me and give Him the praise and adoration He so richly deserves.

Sing:

Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

~ Joyce ~