Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday, peeps!

Happy Easter friends! 

For some people - a lot of people - Easter is about the bunny. I know you know what bunny I mean. The big, old, scary-looking-if-you-really-think-about-it, Easter Bunny. They expect candy. They expect hard-boiled eggs that are dyed in multitudes of color. They sing "Here Comes Peter Cottontail".

We make baskets for our boys as well but we have also, and more importantly, been teaching them that all these things is not what Easter is about. They know how Jesus was hung on the cross and died. They know that He was buried for a couple days. They also know the greatest thing. Jesus conquered death and rose again! That, my friends is what this Holiday is all about. Not about the candy, the bunny. It's not about searching for eggs in the Easter egg hunts. These are all fine and dandy, enjoy them. Please, please, please! Teach your children about Jesus and how nothing this world or things of this world could throw at Him can keep Him down.

Don't understand what I'm saying here? That's okay! It is time to learn probably the greatest TRUE story that you will ever hear! Do you have a Bible handy? Do you have a computer - oops! If you are reading this you have a computer. Open a new tab, type it in and go there. Look up Crucifixion. Look up Resurrection. Either one, or both. You should get some hits for Matthew. That is one of the 4 Gospels. Click on one and read away! "See" me, er, message me if you have any questions!

For those of you with no time, no Bible handy, I will share the story here. I like to share. All scripture quotes are taken from the book of Matthew.

(*I will capitalize the H in He, Him so you know when you see that, that I am speaking of Jesus or God the Father.*)

Jesus is the Son of God. The true Son of God. There is no other. He was born and lived for 30 years before He started to spread God's word to the people. (We celebrate His birth at Christmas. It's another Reason for the Season thing.) In about 3 short years, He had made enemies along the way. The Sanhedrin were the "holier-than-thou" type that is probably a big turn-off to Christianity to you. They didn't like Jesus. They sought for "evidence" of Jesus saying blasphemous things... whatever they could to find an excuse to get Him out of the way.  They didn't want Him around because it made them look bad. The people were too interested in this man who they thought just claimed to be the Son of God. Even if they thought that it was true, it didn't and wouldn't matter to them. They just wanted Him gone!

There were 12 men who were close friends and followers of Jesus. They are called Disciples. They knew that Jesus was (and is) the Son of God. They followed Him everywhere. They were lucky enough to hear His voice as Jesus shared God's word. Remember, this was way back before the first Bible was even written so there was no written word to just hand a copy to people.

Anyway, Jesus and The 12 traveled by foot, boat, even a donkey. They were out in many cities and finally were returning to Jerusalem. Entering through the gates of the city, was Jesus riding on a donkey. You may hear this day referred to as Palm Sunday (another special day for religious people). The people in the city would throw down palm leaves, hence the term Palm Sunday.

Back to it. The Sanhedrin were not happy and were becoming less and less happy. One of Jesus' close friends and follower named Judas Iscariot somehow ended up with the Sanhedrin telling them that the man he kissed the cheek of was the Son of God, Jesus and the officials would have Him arrested.

Jesus is in the garden at night, praying. He told Peter that "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me." He spent a very long time praying. The disciples grew tired and could not even stay awake to keep watch. "Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me? Yet not my will, but your will be done." (Matthew 26:39) He returned to His friends and saw that they slept. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" He asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

Again, Jesus went off a little farther and fell to the ground, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Again, He returned to His followers and saw they slept on. He went away and prayed the same thing for a third time. "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer." He tells His disciples.

Judas, one of His close friends came up to Him with a large crowd that was armed with swords and clubs. Judas walks up to Jesus and kissed Him on His cheek. "Greetings, Rabbi!" Judas calls out. This kiss was the signal to the men to arrest Jesus. "Do what you came for, friend." was Jesus reply to Judas. The men came forward and arrested Jesus. One of the disciples reached out and grabbed the sword of one in the crowd. He struck a man on the ear and cut it off with the sword. At this point, the disciple was told to put the sword back in its place. He tells them, if you live by the sword, you will die by it. Jesus knew this was the fulfillment of Scripture.

They led Jesus away to the high priest and following behind was Peter. The chief priests and the Sanhedrin wanted to find false evidence so they would have an excuse to hang him. Many people lied and came forward as "witnesses". Jesus kept silent as they asked questions of Him. They want Him to say if He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Finally Jesus answered. "You have said so. But I say to all of you: From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." At this, the high priest tore his close and said that He speaks blasphemy. The crowd calls for Jesus' death.
He was bound and taken to Pilate the governor.

When Judas saw this, he took the 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid to betray Jesus tried to return it to the chief priests, crying "I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood!" The priests and elders did not care. Judas threw the coins into the temple, went out and hung himself from a tree. The silver couldn't be used in the treasury as it was blood money so they used it to purchase a field where they could bury foreigners. This field is called Field of Blood to this day.

Jesus was taken before Pilate the governor. He was asked if He was the King of the Jews. He was asked if He heard the false testimony against Him. Jesus stood silent. Pilate had a custom as this festival to release a prisoner of the crowds choosing. They shouted for Barabbas to be released. Pilate knew why they had handed Jesus over. It was in their own self-interested and hate towards Jesus. Pilate's wife sent him a message telling him to having nothing to do with the innocent man because she had suffered greatly that day because of a dream. Barabbas was released to the crowd.

They were asked what should be done with Jesus? As one, the crowd  answers, "Crucify Him!" Pilate asks them what crime He had committed but they just called for Him to be crucified. Taking up water in his hands, Pilate washed his hands, "I am innocent of this man's blood." He tells the crowd. "It is your responsibility!" They answer, "His blood is on us and on our children."

Jesus was taken and flogged. He was beaten. The soldiers spat on Him. He was stripped of His clothes and they put a scarlet robe on Him. The twisted a crown of thorns and pressed it deep onto His head. The soldiers mocked Him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" They struck Jesus on the head many times with a staff. After this, they took the robe off of Him and put His own clothing back on. Then, they led Him out to be crucified.

Jesus walked, struggling for each step as He carried the cross. With each step, its weight grew heavier and heavier. He was weak from being beaten and flogged. He was lightheaded and stumbling from loss of blood. The soldiers forced a man named Simon who was from Cyrene to carry the cross. Up the hill to Golgotha, the place of the skull. The soldiers offered wine mixed with gall but Jesus refused it. (Gall = bile from an animal, I believe.)

They nailed Him to the cross and raised it up. Oh the pain Jesus must have felt, I cannot imagine. The strips of flesh hanging on His back from the flogging up against the wooden cross. The nails in His hands and feet as well as the crown of thorns on His head all caused Him excruciating pain. Above His head hung a sign that read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

There were two criminals who hung on crosses beside Jesus. They told Him to save Himself. They told Him to come off the cross if He was really who He said He was. People mocked Him as they passed, they said that if He was the Son of God He should get off the cross and save Himself and then they would believe Him. A darkness began to come over the land. Jesus cried out, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?)

The people thought He called to Elijah, a prophet from many, many years before Jesus was even born! They wanted to see if Elijah would come to save Him. Jesus said, "I thirst." The soldiers took a sponge and dipped into wine vinegar and placed the sponge on the tip of a spear. They offered this to Him. As some point a soldier stabs Jesus' side with a spear and blood and water ran out.

Sometime in the afternoon, Jesus cried out, "It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit." With this, He hung his head and died. A hush came over the crowd. Back in the city, the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and rocks split. The tombs broke open and many holy people where buried there were raised to life. They went into the holy city and many people saw them.

The soldiers guarding Jesus as He hung on the cross were beyond scared. "Surely He was the Son of God!" they cried. Among the crowd that watched the crucifixion were three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph (I think they were Jesus' half-brothers) and the mother of Zebedee's sons. As night approached Jesus was taken down and wrapped in clean linen cloths. A man named Joseph from Arimathea - a disciple of Jesus - took His body to be buried in his own new tomb. A big stone was rolled in from of the entrance.

The tomb was guarded to make sure it was secure because the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said that after three days, He would rise again. Pilate sent guards to make sure the disciples did not come to steal the body and pretend that Jesus had risen. So, the tomb was sealed and guarded.

Here is where it gets good.

The morning on the third day, there was a great earthquake as an angel from heaven came down and rolled the stone away from the tomb and sat on it. The guards shook and became still when they saw this man who was like lightning, wearing bright white clothes. Mary and Mary Magdalene came together to the tomb and the angel spoke to them. "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not hear; 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 and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him'. Now I have told you."

The women hurried to tell the disciples what the angel had said. On the road they met a man who greeted them. Realizing that it was Jesus, they worshiped Him. They were told again to go to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee. Off they ran!

The eleven remaining disciples (remember, Judas hung himself) went to Galilee to see Jesus and were told, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The disciples spread God's Word and all the things that Jesus had taught them, they now taught the nations.

This my friend, is the true Easter story. This is the reason Easter is celebrated. Somewhere along the way, years and years ago, it became more and more about the bunny and the candy and the big egg hunt. Like I said before, this is okay as long as you know and teach the true Easter story. Jesus hung on that horrid cross for you, my friend, and for me. He died in our place. He conquered death for us.

We are all sinners. Even once we become Christians - or Christ followers - we still sin. But, our sins are forgiven. God knows that we are sinners. It is what our flesh does. You can deny it, but it is still true. Everything we need to live a good and pure life, it is all written in the Bible. It is an adventure story, a love story...there are stories of heartbreak and heartache, triumphs and trials.

To be forgiven is a wonderful thing. All it takes is for us to confess that we are sinners. Confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness. It does take some courage but it is so worth it! Jesus wants us to be forgiven. He wants us to be free from Satan's grasp. That one only wants us to burn in Hell forever with him. He is a liar, a deceiver, a thing that has been defeated but doesn't fully realize it yet. Jesus' death and resurrection (return to life) took care of that.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world [me and you] that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish [we still die an earthly death] but have eternal life."

Eternal life in heaven, my friends. God is in heaven. We get to spend eternity in heaven, the most wonderful place that you cannot even imagine! Our earthly bodies will eventually die, but we will live forever with God.
Without Jesus you cannot get to heaven. Some people may tell you that you can get there by doing good things but that is false. I'm sorry but that is just not true.

If you want to learn more about Jesus and the wonderful stories in the Bible, pick it up. Open it and read it. I would suggest starting with one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. You will learn all about Jesus' birth, His teachings, everything.

If you truly believe in Jesus, answer that knock and open that door. He waits patiently for you. It's all up to you. When you open that door, life does not automatically become perfect. We still go through trials and tough times, but we aren't ever alone. Once you open that door, you become part of a family. A family of other believers who are there for you, to pray for you, pray with you, someone to talk to, maybe even help you through some trials. That's all part of being a Christian. We aim to live life like Jesus.

If this interests you at all, let me know! I'll pray with you. I'll cry with you if you need it because no one should ever cry alone. I know this post is probably painfully long, but I wanted to share the Easter story with you. You made it this far, (I hope) so you have to have some interest. Let me know your thoughts.

May God bless you and fulfill you.
God bless you, Happy Easter.