#92: From Sad to Happy

One of my early childhood memories of being in church centers around a hymn I called the “Sad/Happy Song.” It began with a slow, somber verse:

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

Then came a quick switch to the upbeat excitement of the chorus:

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 the saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Even as a child, I loved knowing that each sad verse would be followed with the joyful words, “Hallelujah, Christ arose!”

Jesus’ followers experienced a similar transformation from sad to happy. Last week’s post left them hurting and troubled—but the dark Saturday following His death was about to be overtaken by the joy of Sunday morning! Read More

#91: Between the Lines

You’ve heard the phrase, “Read between the lines.” It implies missing information, something more to be discovered with a closer look. From the end of Mark 15 to the beginning of Mark 16 we find just such a gap.

Mark 15:42 pinpoints the day of Jesus’ death/burial: “It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). . . .” The next marker on the timeline comes in Mark 16:1 which says, “When the Sabbath was over. . . ” A full day rests between those lines. What happened on the Sabbath—the day after Jesus died, the day before He arose? Let’s talk about it from the perspective of the Jewish leaders, the disciples of Jesus, and Jesus Himself.

Begin by reading Mark 15:1–16:3. Then for extra insight, read what two other gospel writers recorded in Matthew 27:62-66 and Luke 21:56—and add what Peter hinted at in 1 Peter 3:18-22. Read More

#90: The End of the Beginning

David Phelps, one of my favorite Christian artists, wrote an amazing song about the good news of Jesus Christ. Its chorus sums up the life of Jesus like this:

He was born of a virgin one holy night
in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star
singing praises to the great I AM.
He walked on the water, healed the lame,
and made the blind to see again,
and for the first time here on earth
we learned that God could be a Friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong
the angry crowd chose Him,
and then He walked down the road and died on the cross
and that was the end—of the beginning!

Thanks for joining me for today’s study in Mark 15 as we near the end of Knowing Jesus. Get your Bible and let’s share some scripture!

Read Mark 15:42-47, and its parallels in Matthew 27:57-61, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42.

Jesus was dead. Several of the women had been near the cross when He’d surrendered His spirit. The sky went black as Almighty God grieved.

The disciples had heard reports of inexplicable events around Jerusalem this day. One said the temple’s veil into the Holy of Holies had been suddenly rent in two from top to bottom exposing its sacred secrets. Another said graves had opened, releasing many faithful people long dead. All had felt the earth shudder and quake.

Judas was dead too, by his own hand. Matthew had confirmed that rumor.

The remaining Eleven were reeling. What now? Jesus’ body still hung on a cross outside the city. If they tried to claim it, they risked arrest themselves. But if they left Him there, the Romans would dispose of His body in a reeking pit near Calvary—or worse, the Jewish leaders might claim it to trumpet their victory.

Is this how the glorious adventure of the past three years was to end? They huddled in hiding in Jerusalem. Praying. Reviewing all Jesus had said, desperately seeking direction. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting, for what? They didn’t know—but somehow it felt right to stay together and wait.

Meanwhile, the issue of what would happen to Jesus’ body was on the mind of another disciple—a secret follower. Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and influential, a member of the Sanhedrin. He’d accepted Jesus as Christ but kept his faith quiet (Jn. 19:38). Now, however, he took a bold step. Going to Pilate, he asked that the body of Jesus be released into his custody.

Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus had already died. Death by crucifixion could take several days; Jesus had been on the cross for only hours. Pilate sent for the centurion who’d been in charge of Jesus’ execution and asked him to confirm that Jesus was indeed dead. Satisfied, he then gave Joseph permission to take Jesus’ body.

Joseph returned to the hill of Golgotha. “He took down the body, mangled and macerated as it was, and wrapt it in linen as a treasure of great worth. . . . We are here attending the funeral of our Lord Jesus,” commentator Matthew Henry wrote. Joseph’s colleague and (we can assume) fellow believer Nicodemus brought some burial spices and helped with the task.

Then they laid Jesus in a newly cut tomb—one Joseph had planned for his own burial. As a newborn Jesus may have had a poor manger for a bed, but in death He was laid with the rich, a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.

The Sabbath was soon to begin so Joseph had to hurry, but he knew some of the women were planning to properly complete the burial process on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath was over. He rolled a huge stone into a trench in front of the door (a system designed to hinder grave robbers from plundering the tombs of the wealthy) and sadly walked away.

Joseph had done his best to honor Jesus in what he surely believed was a final act. As he left the tomb he must’ve wondered, as did the Eleven, “What now?”

This wasn’t the end they’d anticipated. A solemn Passover Sabbath was about to begin. The Lord many of them had expected to be crowned king by week’s end was sealed in a garden grave.

They thought this was the end—but it was only the end of the beginning. Be sure to join me next Wednesday for the greatest news ever!

© Diane McLoud 2015

*The End of the Beginning, words and music by David Phelps ©2001 Soulwriter Music Co, Inc., Winkin Music (a division of Spring Hill Music Publishing, adm. by Gaither Copyright Mgt.) Take a few minutes to view David Phelps performing this great song at The End of the Beginning. Prepare to be thrilled!

#89: What Love!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

This beautiful American folk hymn is a passionate expression of what Christ Jesus did for us at the cross. Crucifixion Day had His love pulsing through every millisecond of it. Get your Bible and let’s honor Him together.

Read Mark 15:20-41. Parallel accounts are found in Matthew 27:32-56, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16b-30.

Many men didn’t survive the flogging Jesus had just endured (15:15). He was half-dead already. Then His executioners laid a rough, heavy cross on His raw back and pointed Him toward Calvary. Read More

#88: A Time To Be Silent

In the moral chaos of the 1960s, the Byrds released a song that became an international hit—a bit surprising because it was based on scripture. Have you heard it?
To everything—turn, turn, turn,
There is a season—turn, turn, turn,
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

Pete Seeger used Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 as the foundation, with its back-and-forth rhythmic lyric:
A time to be born, a time to die,
A time to plant, a time to reap,
a time to kill, a time to heal,
a time to laugh, a time to weep.

Seeger omitted only one biblical phrase from his song: “a time to be silent, a time to speak.”

Oh, how much we’d gain in righteousness if we learned the art of that phrase! Throughout this study, we’ve seen Jesus speaking and teaching in many different circumstances. Today, we’ll see Him keep silent. What can we learn?
Read More

#87: The Right Orientation

A few days ago, Jim was trying to describe for me a new route he’d found—a faster way to get to a favorite spot. I knew the intersection he was talking about. But he said to turn left where there was no road. I was sure that only a right turn was possible there. For several minutes we struggled to understand each other. Then we realized that he was picturing the intersection as if coming into town, while I was viewing it as going out of town. When I saw his perspective, I could follow his directions. The right orientation was all I needed.

Hold that thought while we do a quick glance back at Mark 14. Get your Bible and skim through the chapter, reviewing the chain of events we’ve studied over the past few weeks—
• from the ugly venom of Jesus’ enemies (including, sadly, Judas) to the beauty of His anointing by Mary
• from the Passover’s age-old Feast of Unleavened Bread, to the establishment of the brand-new Lord’s Supper—Communion
• from the disciples’ declarations of loyalty to Jesus, to their desertion—and in Peter’s case, denial—in His hour of need
• from Gethsemane where Jesus committed Himself to His Father’s will, to the home of the high priest where an illegal “trial” launched the unfolding of that will.

Now look through the chapter again, watching for indications that Jesus knew in advance all that was about to happen to Him. How many do you find? Read More

Praying Psalm 101

At this time of year we hear a lot of talk about New Year’s resolutions. Some of us make them, some don’t. Some of us love the accountability, some of us happily skip the self-imposed guilt! And we all joke about them because, the truth is, very few of us really believe we’ll see them through to the end of January—let alone the end of the year.

But there is a challenging psalm with resolutions worth pursuing. Check out this list of ten resolutions from Psalm 101 that lead us to authenticity as women of God. This psalm is a pledge of commitment, with the key phrase I will. In praying this psalm, we determine to glorify God from the inside out—not to earn anything from God, but to praise Him for the grace He’s already extended that has brought us this far.

So how can we honor Him with integrity and make 2015 a banner year? Let’s learn from Psalm 101.

1) I will praise God, not just mouth confidence in Him while privately questioning His every move. I will operate in a sphere of praise, letting His love and mercy calm my deepest fears. (v.1)

2) I will commit to blameless living in advance—faithful until He comes for me. 1 Peter 1:13 challenges, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled….” I’ll be careful not to let down my guard, just because I think no one’s watching. (v.2a)

3) I will walk blamelessly in my house. There’ll be no actions or possessions in my home that don’t honor Christ. My grandmother loved books. She had hundreds of them in her home, not one of which was unfit for my child-eyes to see. Her library was a reflection of her godly character. I want everything in my house to reflect godly values too. (v.2b)

4) I will guard my eyes and the eyes of my family. No “vile thing” (the Hebrew word means worthless things of satan) will be on my television screen, computer screen, or anywhere else in my home. I once heard a preacher ask, “If Jesus was physically present in the room, would you be grabbing the remote to change channels?” It’s a valid question because He is present, though unseen. When I guard my eyes, I also guard His. (v.3a)

5) I will avoid bad influences, choosing my closest friends cautiously. That’s not to say someone must be a Christian to be my friend, but I’ll avoid relationships that lure me into sin. 1 Corinthians 15:33 reminds me that “bad company corrupts good character.” (v.3b-4)

6) I will silence gossip. In my own mind, I’ll do my best to turn every negative thought into prayer. I’ll put a gentle but firm stop to malicious talk, rising to the victim’s defense. According to Proverbs 6:16-19, God hates destructive talk; so will I. (v.5)

7) I will learn from faithful people, choosing good mentors. I want to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:12) I also hope to be a good mentor, saying with Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) (v.6)

8) I will take a stand against lies—in public, at home, and in my heart. God is Truth; there is nothing false in Him. To the best of my ability, there will be nothing false in me either. I’ll battle for truth. (v.7)

9) I will begin each morning with new commitment. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), allowing me to forget yesterday’s failures and start today with fresh resolve to be His from the inside out.

10) I will protect God’s people. I’ll “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30), even if I must stand alone. (v.8b)

In another of his psalms, David prayed, “Give me an undivided heart.” (Psalm 86:11) Praying Psalm 101 helps focus us on being wholly God’s, undivided, with no part left unchanged by His grace. From the depth of our hearts to our relationships, our homes, our workplaces, and our public lives, may integrity be found, may God be honored, and may 2015 be our strongest year yet.

Praying for you as this new year begins!

© Diane McLoud 2014

#86: Let Grace Win

John Newton, author of the well-loved hymn Amazing Grace, became famous in England as a preacher and as an opponent of slavery—remarkable, for at one time he’d captained a large slave ship. His life was completely transformed by Christ, and he never lost his sense of wonder that grace—amazing grace—had been extended to him. When William Jay visited his weak and aged friend just before his death, Newton told Jay, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.” *

Those two facts are really all we need to know. Peter discovered the truth of them in today’s passage from Mark’s gospel. Do you have your Bible ready? Breathe a prayer for insight and let’s read. Read More

#85: Clinging To Truth

Have you been the victim of unfair treatment or, worse, of outright lies? There’s no hurt like it, especially when it comes from within the church, from those you thought of as fellow Christians and friends. How can you rightly respond when you’re the main course at your adversaries’ feast and truth isn’t on the menu?

Today’s study in Knowing Jesus can help us know what to do by watching Jesus in a similar situation. Read More

#84: Overcome By Love

Merry Christmas! Blessings to you and your family in this busy season. Thanks so much for joining me for Knowing Jesus. I’m honored that you’ve taken the time to be here, and hope this post will give you even more reason to celebrate the Savior! Let’s get right to it.

Open your Bible and read Mark 14:43-52. For parallel accounts, look at Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53; and John 18:1-11.

In dark Gethsemane, Jesus was trying to rouse His sleeping disciples for the third time. A sound that had begun off in the distance was growing louder: the sound of footsteps—many footsteps. Jesus urged His friends, “Rise up! Here comes my betrayer.”

A crowd carrying torches came into view. John’s gospel calls the crowd a cohort, a term used to refer to as many as six hundred men. Armed with clubs and swords they surged into the garden, a ridiculously large show of force against so few. According to John, Jesus—”knowing all that was going to happen to Him” and not surprised at all—made the first move, stepping toward the mob and asking, “Who is it you want?”

The leaders boldly stated, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Christ Jesus answered with two words: “Ego eimi.” I AM.

Do you recognize the term? Centuries earlier, when the Lord God appeared to Moses in a burning bush in the Sinai Desert and commissioned Moses to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery, Moses asked God a question. “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God responded, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ . . . This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15)

If you haven’t already (okay, even if you have!), look at John 18:6. When Jesus identified Himself by the divine covenant name for the Lord God, what happened? The sheer power of His name knocked the whole huge mob backwards to the ground! Can you picture the stunned company of soldiers, temple guards, and officials struggling to their feet, wondering what hit them? Freeze this frame in your mind; we’ll come back to it in a moment.

Judas moved toward Jesus saying, “Greetings, Teacher!”

As Judas’ lips brushed His cheek, Jesus cut through the pretense: “Judas, with a kiss you betray the Son of Man?” A kiss, the warm expression of friendship and respect, was instantly perverted satan-style into a Judas-kiss—universally recognized ever after as the symbol of betrayal.

Peter, maybe still groggy and certainly shaken, drew his sword and tried to come to Jesus’ aid. Swinging, he cut off the right ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. But Jesus commanded, “No more of this!” Touching Malchus’ ear Jesus healed him, then said to Peter, “Put your sword away—for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think that I cannot ask My Father, and He will supply me now with more than twelve legions of angels? But how then will the scriptures be fulfilled? Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Frame this instant right next to that of the power of His name, and you see love portrayed. With full knowledge of all that was going to take place, Jesus had both the power and the means to stop it right at the start. Yet, in the words of Charles Wesley, “He emptied Himself of all but love,” allowing Himself to be bound and led away.

Make no mistake. Jesus wasn’t overcome by scheming Pharisees, a betraying disciple, or a cohort of soldiers. He was overcome by love for you and me.

“Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.”
Charles Wesley

© Diane McLoud 2014