Humor’s Tale of Hope

Only Matthew tells the story.

After Jesus’ burial, his enemies said to Pilate: “We remember [Jesus] said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised . . .  This last deception will be worse than the first.”

There’s a bit of humor here I think.  The eleven fled when Jesus was arrested.  They were nowhere to be found at his trial (except for Peter and John and one of them denied him).  They kept their distance at his crucifixion and locked their doors after his death.  Evidencing cowardice during his life, would they become courageous now that he was dead?

Another bit of humor is to be found in the word “secure.”  It occurs three times in three verses.  Christ’s enemies want the tomb secured.  Pilate gives orders to make it secure.  The tomb is made secure.  At least . . . as secure as it can be made.  It would appear even Pilate had a bit of insecurity about the security of that tomb.

Those who know the story cannot help but smile at all this.  Not even death can keep Jesus in the ground.

When the temptation to doubt creeps into your life – and it will – and the resultant fear comes hot on its heels, remember this one thing: the tomb is empty, just as Jesus said it would be.  Whatever is challenging your life, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead is looking out for those who are his.  There is no power that can foil God’s will for the life that trusts in Him. No matter how painful that trusting might become, whether the sun comes up tomorrow or not, a new day will dawn, because the Son is risen.

Thankfulness and Memory

My daily Bible reading today (Deuteronomy 25-27) concerned the “firstfruits” offering.  At harvest, a basket containing choice selections from the beginning of the harvest was to be prepared and offered to God.  In bringing the offering, the offerer was to say: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.  But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer . . . Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery . . . So the Lord brought us out of Egypt . . . He brought us to . . . this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me.”

Memory plays a huge part in thankfulness.  A hundred years after Moses, none of those reciting those words would have experienced the Exodus.  And yet, nothing for which they were immediately thankful would have been possible without those events of the past.

When we count our blessings, may we not just be thankful for the immediate, but also for blessings of the past that have brought us along the road to our present.  Parents will do their children a favor to recite those blessings in their prayers of thanksgiving.  It gives fuller meaning to the words of the hymn “‘tis grace that has brought us safe thus far,” and confidence to finish the verse with  “and grace will lead us home.”

The Beginning of the Gospel

The book of Mark opens with these words: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ the Son of God.” Why does he call it “the beginning?” Surely it means more than “this is the start of my book.” And what precisely is this “good news” (which is what ‘gospel’ means) that concerns Jesus Christ?

The next time we meet the word “gospel,” Mark says it is this: “The Kingdom of God is near.”

The good news then is that the rule of God has come into our world in a new way: through the person of Jesus. For the next eight chapters, Mark demonstrates his thesis: Nothing can stand in the way of the rule of God in Christ: Not illness, disease, misfortune, want – not even the powers of the spirit world. If you want to be a part of this kingdom of God, Mark says, you must turn from your past life, and live a life entrusted to the rule and power of God.

But why is Mark’s presentation the “beginning”of the good news?

Because the Kingdom of God is not just a “here and now” Kingdom. It is a waiting kingdom; one that looks forward to the return of Jesus in his Father’s glory (8:38), to his gathering the elect from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens (13:27), and to joining Jesus himself in a banquet of celebration (14:25). It is a kingdom whose fulfillment is as sure as its beginning for all those who repent and believe.