Easter

  • After The Empty Tomb

    The last marshmallow peep finally got eaten yesterday. It was the last bit of Easter left in the house except for the tiny shreds of Easter grass I keep finding everywhere, thanks to my 14-month-old son.  

    It’s amazing how quickly holidays can come and go, and then it’s back to the usual packed schedules and hurried rhythms of life. It’s so easy, some 2,000 years later, for the awe and wonder of the resurrection to fade to a comfortable complacency in the familiarity of grace. It can be hard to find a lasting way to relate to the story in a way that connects us intimately to the God of the Universe who gave Himself up for us. 

    But when I think about that very first Easter, I think it would have been impossible to shake the overwhelming experience that the followers of Jesus witnessed so long ago. After walking, talking, and eating with Jesus daily, it would have been so jarring to have Him suddenly gone from the ebb and flow of everyday life together. My mind is especially drawn to Mary Magdalene, grieving in the garden after Jesus died. 

    Here was a woman whose life had been completely transformed by the love of Jesus. She had once been demon-possessed, outcast, and abused by society…until Jesus. He healed her miraculously, restoring her health, her dignity, and her worth. From the moment of her transformation, she followed Him, helping fund His ministry and spreading the good news that the long-awaited Messiah was here to set free the captives and bind up the brokenhearted, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. She trusted and loved Jesus with her whole heart, mind, and soul. (Luke 8:1-3, Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-3

    I can’t imagine her heartache as she knelt in the garden next to His tomb the day after he had been so cruelly killed. The depth of sorrow she must have felt would be overwhelming. The Lamb of God had been sacrificed for the sin of the world, for all our sin. 

    There would be so much she couldn’t know yet, and I think that would have been the hardest part. Not knowing how to make sense of all she had seen and experienced. Not knowing what the future would hold. Maybe there was part of her still holding her breath, hoping for just one more miracle. 

    As she walked again to His tomb the next day, I imagine she had scarcely begun to allow herself to accept that He was gone, when she discovered that the tomb was empty.

    As she sobs by Jesus’ empty tomb, fearing that His body had been taken and that the only part of Jesus she had left was now truly gone, He appears, risen, alive and radiant! The miracle she had been hoping for had come. In her weariness and grief, she doesn’t recognize Him, until she hears Jesus’ voice calling her by name, “Mary.” (John 20:11-16)

    Doesn’t that just give you chills? I can’t wait to hear Jesus say my name someday. I think it will be the prettiest my name has ever sounded. 

    The moment Mary hears His voice she knows the miracle has come. Jesus is alive and standing before her, comforting her in her grief and dispelling every fear in her heart. 

    What Jesus says next is nothing short of incredible. He commissions Mary to go and tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead–to give testimony of what she had just seen and experienced. 

    He commissions Mary, a woman with a messy past, tear-stained cheeks, and eyes wide and wild with hope, to be the first gospel-bearer.

    Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells her that she is family now, saying, “I’m going to my Father, and your father, to my God and your God.” She is now a co-heir with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In one moment, Mary goes from despair to laying hold of a hope and a future that is unshakable. (John 20:17)

    I don’t know what else Jesus and Mary may have spoken about between verses 17 and 18. But what we do see is that in the very next verse, Mary sets out on her mission. If I were Mary, my legs wouldn’t be able to carry me fast enough.

    I can only imagine that she burst into the room where the disciples were gathered, out of breath, and overjoyed when she shouted, “I have seen the Lord!” 

    I would love to have witnessed firsthand Mary telling the disciples about seeing the resurrected Jesus. I can almost picture the joy spreading like a sunbeam across the disciples’ faces as the reality sets in that Jesus is alive. Death and sin have been defeated and eternal life with Him is now available to all people, for all time. (John 20:18)

    What Mary had experienced in the garden was incredible, but what was more important was that she shared it. She told everyone about what Jesus had done in her life and in the lives of those around her. She didn’t hold back but leaned into Jesus in her story. And because she was there through it all with Him, we have the benefit of knowing about it today. 

    Maybe you’ve had a moment like Mary, standing before the empty tomb, overwhelmed by despair, hoping for a miracle. Maybe you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pay the bills and buy groceries, or you’re waiting for a breakthrough with a child who is struggling just to get through the day. Perhaps it’s a marriage that is hanging on by a thread and you just can’t see how you’ll survive one more argument, or a health crisis that makes it hard to even get out of bed each day. 

    There are so many things in this life that can threaten to overtake us. But just like in the garden, Jesus always shows up. He never fails to come through. And we have the same divine invitation now that Mary did then: to stand with the empty grave behind us and behold the Risen Savior before us. 

    Every day, Jesus calls us by name and commissions us to tell the Good News that the story did not end at the cross. We too can speak of the places in our hearts that once were dead and are now alive through Him.

    We can have confident hope that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and empowers us to live out our purpose in Him. We are co-heirs with Christ, renewed by His love, redeemed, cleansed, and sanctified by His ultimate sacrifice. 

    That means that even if you are waiting for your miracle, praying for Jesus to show up in the middle of your mess, you can have hope. He never leaves us in our brokenness, but rather runs to meet us there, to love us and comfort us, and then calls us forward in faith to new life with Him. 

    So even though the Easter decorations are put away, and the daily hustle and bustle of life has resumed, my calling and commission, my purpose is the same: to be a Gospel Bearer. To tell of Christ crucified and raised again, and to share how He has written and redeemed my story. And like Mary Magdalene, once you’ve experienced the love of Jesus, you can’t help but shout, eyes wide and wild with hope, “I have seen the Lord!”

    Read more

  • Dinner With Jesus

    Life before the pandemic seems like such a blur. Not just because of how the world as we knew it completely changed, but because my own life changed so dramatically during the pandemic as well. While on lockdown, my husband and kids and I moved into a new house, had major job changes, and in case that wasn’t exciting enough, we also added a brand new baby to our family! 

    My parents came over to watch the kids and Jake and I drove an hour to a friend’s house for a French-themed dinner party. It was to be the first of several themed dinner parties with the group, with each night inspired by a place we had been or dreamed of going to someday. We were good friends with the host and his wife, but everyone else would be new friends in the making. I was excited and nervous, but most of all, I was totally pumped to be going to a grown-up function with my husband! 

    The evening was perfect. It was like something out of a scene from a romantic comedy. We all ate and laughed, listened to music, and played games. Everyone seemed right at home and everyone felt like they belonged, despite all coming from a broad variety of backgrounds and life experiences. It was the kind of evening that made you forget to check your phone, you were just having so much fun in the moment. 

    And perhaps I’m remembering it with slightly rose-tinted glasses because I know now what I did not then. It would be the last dinner with these friends for a long time. Just a month or two later, the world as we knew it seemed to turn upside down. 

    Even though we only had one evening with that particular group of people, my husband and I still remember it with such affection. There’s just something about breaking bread with folks that breaks down barriers and allows you to connect in a meaningful way. And the experience is one that lingers in your memory the way a sweet perfume hangs in the air. 

    Meals together have been significant from the very beginning. All throughout the Bible, God enters into covenant relationships with His people in order to rescue them. And one of the ways He keeps those covenant promises fresh in the hearts and minds of His people is through meals. 

    God called Israel to observe certain special meals throughout the year to continually remind His people of the covenants He has established with them. Time and time again, even though the Israelites fell woefully short on their end of the covenant, God remained faithful, pouring out His love and forgiveness on an undeserving people. The meals served as an intentional opportunity for God’s people to praise Him, be thankful, remember His love and goodness, and repent of anything that is separating them from life with God. 

    The Passover feast was just such a meal, and the Jewish people celebrated it every year with a symbolic supper of lamb, unleavened bread, and wine to remind them of the Exodus story and how God miraculously rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The lamb was especially symbolic because it was the blood of a lamb painted over the doorways of the Israelites that spared them from death, and from the final plague that convinced their captor Pharaoh to set them free. 

    The night before He was crucified, Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples. These poor guys had no idea that the world as they knew it was about to turn upside down. There was no way they could know then, what we know now: that this would be their Last Supper with Jesus for a long time. 

    But Jesus did, and He was about to introduce a new covenant that would change everything, once and for all. 

    When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

    Luke 22:14-20

    I can picture them all around the table, with the Passover feast spread out on the table, the smell of food and spices hovering in the air. In my mind I can hear the din of several conversations all happening at once, talking and laughing, remembering what the Lord had done long ago in Egypt and how He saved His people, and recalling Jesus’ miracles like that time He calmed the storm or raised Lazarus from the dead. I imagine John pulling up the seat right next to Jesus, scooting in as close as possible to hear what He would say and I can almost see Peter, laughing confidently, believing without a doubt that King Jesus would lead them victoriously through any battle.  After all, he saw Jesus walk on water and even took a few shaky steps of his own on the waves with Jesus. There was nothing Jesus couldn’t do. 

    I don’t think they ever could have imagined that Jesus would soon present Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Or that it would be His blood that would be poured out this time and His body that would be broken like the very bread He shared with them that evening. Had they known what was coming, I wonder if they would have lingered a little longer, or leaned in a little closer, hanging on every word Jesus said.

    Over a simple meal, Jesus invited His disciples to participate in the most incredible covenant God has ever initiated. A new covenant that would give life and freedom like they had never known. Jesus would be the ultimate sacrifice that would forever establish the forgiveness of sins and reconcile all people to God for all time. Through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, death would not just pass over us all, it would be defeated forever. The bondage of sin would be broken and eternal life in the Kingdom of God would be made available once again. 

    But the invitation wasn’t just for the disciples, it is for us as well. As Jesus broke the bread and passed the cup around to His disciples, He invited them to remember Him, knowing one day we would share in this meal and this covenant too.  

    As followers of Christ, when we take the Lord’s Supper, we remember and participate in the power of Jesus’ life. We celebrate this new covenant and are intimately connected to what God has done in the past, is doing now in the present, and will do in the future. The God that transcends all space and time wasn’t just picturing the 12 disciples sitting around that table, He was picturing you, and me. It was His love for us then and now that drove Him willingly to the cross, so we could gather around the supper table each week, and stand in His victory, love, and power. 

    We have been given access to the very same power that brought Jesus back from the dead and we are transformed and renewed to be more and more like Him. It is nothing short of a miracle.  

    And as wonderful as this meal is, it is not the final meal that Jesus has prepared for us. Jesus has promised that He will return and then He will invite people from every nation, tongue and tribe to dinner and we will sit at the table that He has prepared for us all and enjoy an eternally life-giving meal in His presence. 

    And when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we anticipate that final glorious feast. Shara Drimalla from the Bible Project says it beautifully, “The meal serves as a taste of what is to come—a taste of true life. As we practice this new covenant meal, may it stir within us hope for his return and thankfulness for who he is and what he has done.”

    So this Easter, pull up a seat close to Jesus, hang on His every word and remember what He has done. Sit in sweet fellowship with God’s people and invite others to join you. Laugh, share memories, and look forward to what is coming. Jesus is Risen and He is coming back again with an invitation to dinner.

    Read more

  • You Are Worth It

    Easter can be a perplexing time of year. It is both joyful and somber. With springtime in the air, Easter egg hunts, and church worship services, we celebrate the joy and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over sin and death. But there is also the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance that before the victory, God chose to sacrifice and Jesus chose to suffer. He took on our sin and paid the price for it. It is the most expensive ransom ever paid, and it begs the question, “Why would he do that for me?”

    Recently, I was sitting in the prayer room at my church with a friend who was wrestling with this very question. She was struggling to understand how God could love her this much, or that He would go to such lengths just to be with her. We were about to take communion together, and as she held in her hand the tiny piece of cracker and little plastic cup of juice that represent Jesus’ physical sacrifice, her sorrow was palpable.

    What she couldn’t see in that moment, is that she is worth it. God loves her so much that He dreamed of her, planned ahead for her, and created her for a purpose. Jesus willingly gave up His life for her because He believes that she is worth it. And He believes that you are too.

    God created you to know Him, love Him and have fellowship with Him. He calls you His daughter, and co-heir with Christ. He is proud to be seen with you and looks forward to time with you. If He had Facebook you’d be in his profile pic. If he had a fridge, your picture would be on it.

    After sin entered this world and separated us from God, His singular focus became to make a way for us to be with Him again. He has been working tirelessly ever since, pursuing you, loving you in every moment, good and bad. He gently whispers his promises and sings over you with love. (Zephaniah 3:17). In every moment, in every circumstance, he keeps on loving you, because you are worth it to Him.

    God’s love is not just lip service. “He demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is love beyond comprehension. He himself went to the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to bear our shame and take our sin. But He didn’t stop there. He rose from the grave, He conquered death and broke sin’s hold on us forever, so we we will never be separated from His love again.

    God’s passion and love for us for us led him to the cross for the purpose of redeeming us. When the ground shook and Jesus conquered death, He declared our worth right then and there, once and for all. Because of Christ, we can lean against the very throne of God as his beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole.

    I imagine the voice of our Heavenly Father, calling out, “I love you! You are my precious daughter and there is nothing I would not do for you. I went to hell and back to save you and I would do it again. There is no height, nor depth that will keep you from my love. There’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from my love. (Romans 8:31-39) In your darkest moments, when you are at your worst, you are worth it. In your victories and triumphs, you are worth it. I am here with you. I will guide your steps and guard your heart. I love you daughter. You are worth it.”

    Read more