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Easter Sunday, Day of Surprise!

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Many people who doubt the truth of Jesus’ resurrection say something like this: “People in the first century were superstitious, simple-minded people, and they were much more likely to believe in a resurrection than modern people are today. So, probably something else happened, and they just wanted so badly for Jesus to live that they convinced themselves that Jesus was raised.”

But when we read the Gospels, a totally different picture appears. The early disciples were just as surprised then as we would be now.

The Gospel of Mark could hardly have used more words to describe ow surprised they were. Mark 16:5 says they were “alarmed.” The angel calmed them by saying, “Don’t be alarmed… You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”

Mark 16:8 says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”

“Alarmed.” “Trembling.” “Bewildered.” “Afraid.” Mark was letting us know that they were totally surprised by the resurrection. They never expected it. Jesus had plainly told them he would be raised (see Mark 8:31-32; 9:30-32; 10:32-34), but they reacted to those predictions with fear and disbelief, just as people would today. Yet it really happened!

And because it happened, world history is changed. Time is divided from B.C. to A.D., because of Jesus. Within five weeks, 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem were following Jesus, and within 300 years, the Roman Empire came under the sway of Christianity.

Best of all, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we don’t have to escape reality, we can face reality! So many people try to escape their painful lives by diversions and entertainment. But Jesus’ resurrection changes all that. The sick man doesn’t have to transport himself into the imaginary world of a basketball star who slam dunks the ball; the sick man knows that in Christ, one day he will walk on streets of gold! The unloved woman does not have to escape into a world of romance novels to imagine love; one day because of her faith in Christ, she will be in a place where everybody loves her and accepts her, and she will see the One who died and arose to save her.

Surprise! Surprise! Easter is not a myth at all. It really happened, and because it happened, we can face reality.

Saturday, Day of Waiting

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in the Gospels about what happened on Saturday. However, we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us that they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard.

We have all agonized waiting. Maybe you waited to get a job or get a promotion or get a date or get an important phone call or get a test result. Right now, the whole world is waiting—waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside. Many of you are sheltered in place, worried about your health, worried about your job, wondering when this will all end. This kind of waiting is very, very hard. This was how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. They wondered what was next, and they did not expect it to be good. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified.

The Hebrew word for “wait” in Isaiah and Psalms is a word for a chord, or rope. The idea of the word is that God has thrown us a rope, and asks us to hold on, because He has the other end. That’s why “wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is also translated “hope” or “trust.”

What’s more, you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine, because Christ arose!

That is why we who are followers of the Risen Christ can wait on this Saturday, because we are Easter Sunday people. We can wait on the Lord, for even when we don’t know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future—His name is Jesus, and He has already conquered sin and death and the grave and hell.  We can wait in the uncertainty of Saturday, because tomorrow is a certain Sunday!

Good Friday, Day of Sacrifice

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was crucified for our sins. The crowd cried “Crucify Him!” and so Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, did exactly that. They flogged Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is so important to our faith, that all four gospels describe it in great detail.

Mark records six times that Jesus was mocked: once by the Sanhedrin (14:65), twice by the Roman soldiers (15:18, 20), by those who passed by (15:29), by the religious leaders (15:31), and by the criminals crucified with Him (15:32). Six is the number of evil in the Bible. But Jesus overcame evil by his sacrifice on the cross.

Luke records that Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, and one of the criminals was apparently so moved by Christ’s forgiveness that he became repentant (Luke 23:39-43).

John records that as He died, Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Jesus paid the price for sin and won the victory over evil.

Matthew records that when the Roman centurion saw how Jesus died, the soldier declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
We call it “Good Friday,” because it was good for us, not good for Jesus. By sacrificing Himself for our sin, Jesus did what none of us can do for ourselves, and no religion can do for us. We can’t pay for our sins; we must trust in the payment already made by Jesus upon the cross.
British preacher Dick Lucas recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.
“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple?”
“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”
“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their rituals?”
“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”
“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”
“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.
And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, p. 45-46)

Because of Good Friday, it’s no longer about religion; it’s about a relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.
Good Friday, the day of sacrifice, teaches us to believe in the Christ who died on the cross, to find forgiveness and eternal life.

Thursday, Day of Blood Covenant

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Many things happened on Thursday of Holy Week. It is often called “Maundy Thursday” because John 13:1-17 records Him washing the disciples’ feet and giving them a command (Latin mandatum, French mande’) to follow His example. The other three Gospels, including Mark, tell how Jesus and His disciples observed the Passover, during which Jesus instituted the new ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Then they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus agonized in prayer over His coming cross. While in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and handed over to the Jewish temple police, who took Him before the Jewish Sanhedrin for an illegal night trial.
Many valuable lessons can be learned from Thursday, such as the example of humility and service in washing feet and the example of praying in God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. But let’s focus on the lesson about covenant and commitment.
In Mark 14:24 Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
We who follow Christ are called to enter into a covenant with Him. That means we make a commitment to follow Him. It is a divine transaction. Jesus pours out His blood; we receive Him by faith and commit ourselves to follow Him the rest of our lives. He made a complete commitment to us by dying for us; He invites us to commit to Him by living for Him.
While in college, Jim Denison was a summer missionary in East Malaysia. During one of the worship services, a teenage girl shared her testimony and was baptized in the simple bathtub baptistery of the church, which met in a warehouse. Denison noticed some worn-out luggage leaning against the wall, and asked a church member why it was there. The member pointed to the girl who was baptized and said, “Her father said that if she was baptized as a Christian she could never go home again. So she brought her luggage.” (The Book of Acts, BaptistWay Bible Study for Texas, 2000, p. 46). Now that, my friends, is entering into a covenant with Christ.
Thursday, the day of covenant, teaches us to commit to Christ.

Wednesday, Day of Rest

Article copyright by Bob Rogers

At first glance, it seems that nothing is recorded between Jesus’ day of confrontation on Tuesday, and Jesus’ celebration of the Passover on Thursday night.

While it is possible that Jesus did nothing much on Wednesday, a closer look at the text indicates that a couple of things did happen that day. Mark 14:1 says it was “two days” before the Passover. Passover would begin at sundown on Thursday night, so this means the events in Mark 14:1-11 were between sundown Tuesday and sundown Wednesday. Perhaps these things took place on Tuesday night, and Jesus really did do nothing on Wednesday. Or perhaps the events took place on Wednesday.  Either way, what happened next foreshadowed the ominous death of Christ on the cross. Mark 14:1-2 says that the Jewish religious leaders were looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus, and then verses 10-11 say that one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, went to the religious leaders and agreed to betray Jesus. What happened in between shows that Jesus knew exactly what was coming, and that it was all in God’s purpose.

Mark 14:3-9 tells the touching story of how a woman (often thought to be Mary Magdalene), anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. To show how expensive it was, it was worth 300 denarii, and Mark 6:37 said that just 200 denarii would be enough to feed 5,000 people. Some of the people there expressed indignation that the perfume was “wasted,” but Jesus said to leave her alone. It was after this that Judas went to betray Jesus. But Jesus knew exactly what was coming. That’s why Jesus said, “She has anointed My body in advance for burial.”

This should remind us that nothing spent on Jesus is ever wasted. We can never give to Jesus more than He has given to us. Isaac Watts said it well in his hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

As I mentioned earlier, it is very likely that the anointing happened on Tuesday night after sundown, not on Wednesday. If so, this would would remind us that something else is not a waste– a day of rest! It would mean that on the most important week of His life, Jesus took a day off! Jesus knew the importance of getting rest. In Mark 6:31, Jesus says, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Do you have a regular time when you turn off the TV, cell phone and computer, and just spend time resting, praying, reading God’s Word, and listening to God? The Ten Commandments include a command to take a day of Sabbath rest. It is never a waste to take that day to reflect, pray, and worship.

Nothing spent on Jesus is a waste.

Tuesday, Day of Confrontation

Copyright by Bob Rogers

Tuesday of the final week of Christ was a long and active day of Jesus teaching in the temple. On that day he had constant confrontations with the Jewish religious leaders. Everything recorded from Mark 11:20 through Mark 14:11 happened on Tuesday:

*the fig tree that Jesus cursed is found withered,

*the Jewish religious leaders demand to know what authority Jesus has to cleanse the temple and do all that he does,

*Jesus tells a parable about tenants in a vineyard that implies that the Jewish religious leaders have rejected God’s Son, making them so angry they wanted to arrest Him.

*They try to trap Him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar and about marriage in the resurrection.

*Jesus turns the questions around on them, and then proclaims to the disciples that every stone in the temple will be thrown down and warns them to be on guard against persecution, false prophets and false Messiahs.

Do you notice a pattern here? Jesus and the religious leaders are in constant confrontation. Finally, at the end of the day, we read that as the religious leaders were continuing to look for a way to arrest Jesus and kill Him, a woman anointed Jesus’ body with a very expensive perfume. Jesus knew where this was all heading, which is why He said that she was anointing His body for burial.


What an exhausting day of confrontation Tuesday was! From the beginning to the end of the day, it was full of conflict. Mark 11:28 records at the beginning of Tuesday the confrontational question of the religious leaders who were enraged by Jesus cleansing the temple: “By what authority are you doing these things?… And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 14:10-11 records at the end of Tuesday how enraged Judas Iscariot was, who apparently was so disappointed in Jesus for being a humble, peaceful, sacrificial Messiah, that Judas went to the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them.
The problem they all had, from the beginning to the end of the day, was an unwillingness to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. We may not like to think of ourselves as in conflict with Christ, but whenever we say to Him, ‘No, Lord,” we aren’t really making Him Lord. Are we willing to submit ourselves to Him, or do we continue to argue with Him?
Tuesday, the day of confrontation, teaches us to make Christ Lord of our lives.

Children’s book review: The Quiet Crazy Easter Day

The Quiet Crazy Easter Day by Jill Roman Lord (B & H Kids) is a 22-page, colorful children’s storyboard book that is perfect for the Easter season. The word “quiet” is crossed out in the title, because the theme of the book is how likely it was that all of God’s creatures rejoiced at Jesus’ resurrection.

Using rhythm and rhyme, the book book imagines how every creature, from ladybugs to ladies and eagles to angels burst into howls and shouts of praise. The book should be fun to read, and easy to understand, although perhaps one line could have replaced “distinctive” with a simpler word such as “special.” The illustrations by Kelly Breemer are bright, clear, and use a full range of colors that fit very well with the theme.

I highly recommend this book as a cheerful way to teach children the true meaning of Easter, while also teaching about different animals and the sounds they make.

Disclosure statment: I received a complimentary copy of this book upon promise of review. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Monday, Day of Cleansing

Article copyright by Bob Rogers

Mark 11:15-19 says that Jesus returned to the temple on Monday of Holy Week, and when he found the money changers and people selling animals in the temple complex, he overturned their tables, and ran them out, cleansing the temple.

Mark 11:12-14 specifies that Jesus did this on the day after Palm Sunday. He does it with authority, demanding that the house of prayer should not be turned into a hiding place for thieves. All of this buying and selling was going on in the court of the Gentiles, the only place that Gentiles were allowed to worship near the temple. So their merchandise was a distraction from others being able to pray.
Just as Jesus cleansed the temple that day, He wants to cleanse our lives today.
Psalm 24:3 asks, “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” The answer comes in the next verse: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol, or swear by what is false.”
Do my actions prevent others from worshiping God? Am I a distraction? Then I must repent and change my ways. For many Christians, the 40 days before Easter are a time of repentance and reflection, called Lent. Truly, for all Christians, Monday of Holy Week should be a day for us to take a hard look at our own lives, and ask ourselves if we are a keeping anybody from seeing Jesus, and repent.
Monday, the day of cleansing, teaches us to cleanse our lives.

Church signs attempt Easter humor

easter-bunny-rise

Easter is a happy time. After all, we’re celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, right? So it should be no surprise that during the Easter season, many churches try their hands at humor on their church signs. I say “try,” because some are failed attempts.
It seems that the Easter bunny is the favorite target of church marquees at Easter time. Some of the signs are cute, like this one:
“NO BUNNY LOVES YOU LIKE JESUS.”
Others are hopping mad at that pagan symbol, such as these:
“EVERY BUNNY KNOWS EASTER IS ALL ABOUT JESUS.”
“THE EASTER BUNNY DIDN’T RISE FROM THE DEAD.”
Then some are simply corny, like this one:
“HOW DOES THE EASTER BUNNY SAY ‘HAPPY EASTER’? HOPPY EASTER!”
My favorite bunny sign is this one:
“EVERY BUNNY IS LOVED BY JESUS”
Of course, church signs don’t just go after the bunny; they also remind us that Easter eggs don’t really relate to the resurrection, either. Read this one:
“EASTER IS MORE THAN SOMETHING TO DYE FOR.”
Then there are a few Easter messages directed at those who attend worship. Some are negative, like these:
“EASTER COMES ONCE A YEAR. HOW OFTEN DO YOU?”
“DON’T FORGET, JUDAS ALSO LEFT EARLY.”
Others are more positive, like this one:
“BEAT THE EASTER RUSH- COME TO CHURCH THIS SUNDAY.”
Personally, I think the best Easter humor is to focus on Jesus Himself. That’s why I like this one:
“YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN. HAPPY EASTER.”

Easter Sunday, the day of surprise!

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Many people who doubt the truth of Jesus’ resurrection say something like this: “People in the first century were superstitious, simple-minded people, and they were much more likely to believe in a resurrection than modern people are today. So probably something else happened, and they just wanted so badly for Jesus to live that they convinced themselves, maybe even had a hallucination that Jesus was raised from the dead.” (Never mind that many different people testified to seeing Him alive, even 500 at once, and mass crowds do not have hallucinations.) But when we read the gospels, a totally different picture appears. The early disciples were just as surprised then as we would be now.
Mark could hardly have used more words to describe how surprised they were. Mark 16:5 says they were “alarmed.” The word means to be both amazed and alarmed. The angel calmed them by saying, “Don’t be alarmed… You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
Mark 16:8 says, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
“Alarmed.” “Bewildered.” “Afraid.” Mark is letting us know that they were totally surprised by the resurrection.
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was hostile to Christianity and wrote books arguing against Christianity. Listen to what Celsus considered to be his strongest argument against the resurrection. He said that the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know that women are hysterical. Many of Celsus’s readers agreed. It was a major problem in ancient societies, because women were looked down upon; they didn’t give much credibility to a woman’s testimony.
Timothy Keller points out that if Mark was making up these stories, he would never have written that women were the first eyewitnesses. Yet we read in Mark 16:1 that it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome who brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body. No men came, despite all that Jesus had said about rising on the third day. And even the women were not expecting a resurrection; they just wanted to give Him a proper Jewish burial. The only reason Mark would write this, that no men were there to first learn of the resurrection, is because that’s exactly what happened.
It completely surprised the first disciples. They never expected it. Yet it really happened.
And because it happened, world history is changed. Time is divided from B.C. to A.D. because of Jesus. Within five weeks, 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem were following Jesus, and within 300 years, the Roman empire came under the sway of Christianity.
Best of all, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we don’t have to escape reality, we can face reality! So many people try to escape their painful lives by diversions and entertainment. But Jesus’ resurrection changes all that. The sick man doesn’t have to transport himself into the imaginary world of a basketball star who slam dunks the ball; the sick man knows that in Christ, one day he will walk on streets of gold! The unloved woman does not have to escape into a world of romance novels; one day because of her faith in Christ she will be in a place where everybody loves and accepts her, and she will see the One who died to save her.
Surprise! Surprise! Easter is not a myth at all. It really happened, and because it happened, we can face reality.

Saturday, the day of waiting

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Like Wednesday of Holy Week, nothing is recorded in Mark’s Gospel about what happened on Saturday, but we know about the day because Mark 15:42 tells us they buried Jesus before sundown on Friday, so they could rest on Saturday, the Sabbath. Nothing more is recorded until Mark 16:1 tells what happened on the first day of the week, which was Easter Sunday. (Matthew 27:62-66 does record that on Saturday, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, agreed to post guards at the tomb of Christ.) Saturday was a day of waiting, and wondering what would happen next. They had no idea anything good was going to happen the next day. They just had to wait on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Saturday, the day of waiting, teaches us to wait on the Lord. Waiting can be excruciatingly hard. For a couple of months, my family has been waiting to find out why my father had a spot on his lung that was discovered in January when he had another surgery. Finally, they ran the test on a Friday in late March and the doctor said the outside cells looked fine, but he could not tell if the cells on the inside were cancer, so he needed to send it to the lab and would have the results on Tuesday. On Tuesday, my parents called the clinic and they said they would have to call back, but the nurse never called back. All evening, my parents sat by the phone, and I kept calling to see if they had news. Mom said she was going crazy, sitting by the phone, waiting. They went to bed Tuesday, still not knowing if he had cancer. On Wednesday morning, the nurse called to say the doctor had been sick, but would try to read it that day and give her news. Later that day, the nurse called but got no answer because my parents’ phone wasn’t working. Finally, my mom drove to the clinic, and the nurse explained the good news: the doctor had studied the lab report, and dad had no cancer! Many of you can relate to that, because you have just about gone crazy waiting for something. Maybe you have waited and waited for that loan to come through; maybe you have waited for a test score to see if you passed your class or so you could get a job; maybe you have waited and waited for that guy you are dating to finally pop the question; maybe you have been passed over for a promotion but you’re waiting, hoping it will finally come; maybe you’ve waited and waited for your children to call you and come see you; maybe you waited for medical test results to come back. Waiting can be very, very hard. So you know how the disciples felt that Saturday before Easter when they waited. Maybe you waited but you didn’t get good news like my Dad got. Maybe you were turned down for the loan, failed the test, rejected by your boyfriend or boss or children. Maybe you got the bad news that it was cancer. The disciples who waited that Saturday were expecting bad news, too. They were expecting bad things to happen to them. After all, their leader had been arrested and crucified. But you and I know the rest of the story. We know that on Easter Sunday, they got news more wonderful than they could ever imagine. So as you go through difficult times, remember that as a believer in Jesus, you can wait on the Lord, when you know that even though you may waiting right now like it is Saturday, don’t forget that Sunday is coming!

Tuesday, day of confrontation

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Tuesday of the final week of Christ was a long and active day of Jesus teaching in the temple. On that day he had constant confrontations with the Jewish religious leaders. Everything recorded from Mark 11:20 through Mark 14:11 happened on Tuesday: the fig tree that Jesus cursed is found withered, the Jewish religious leaders demand to know what authority Jesus has to cleanse the temple and do all that he does, Jesus tells a parable about tenants in a vineyard that implies that the Jewish religious leaders have rejected God’s Son, making them so angry they wanted to arrest Him. They try to trap Him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar and about marriage in the resurrection. Jesus turns the questions around on them, and then proclaims to the disciples that every stone in the temple will be thrown down and warns them to be on guard against persecution, false prophets and false Messiahs. Do you notice a pattern here? Jesus and the religious leaders are in constant confrontation. Finally, at the end of the day, we read that as the religious leaders were continuing to look for a way to arrest Jesus and kill Him, a woman anointed Jesus’ body with a very expensive perfume. Jesus knew where this was all heading, which is why He said that she was anointing His body for burial.
What an exhausting day of confrontation Tuesday was! From the beginning to the end of the day, it was full of conflict. Mark 11:28 records at the beginning of Tuesday the confrontational question of the religious leaders who were enraged by Jesus cleansing the temple: “By what authority are you doing these things?… And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 14:10-11 records at the end of Tuesday how enraged Judas Iscariot was, who apparently was so disappointed in Jesus for being a humble, peaceful, sacrificial Messiah, that Judas went to the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them.
The problem they all had, from the beginning to the end of the day, was an unwillingness to submit to the Lordship of Jesus. We may not like to think of ourselves as in conflict with Christ, but whenever we say to Him, ‘No, Lord,” we aren’t really making Him Lord. Are we willing to submit ourselves to Him, or do we continue to argue with Him?
Tuesday, the day of confrontation, teaches us to make Christ Lord of our lives.

The Holy Ways of the Holy Days

The Gospel of Mark spends six chapters, one–third of the entire book, describing what happened in just one week. The fact that the gospel gives so much attention to the final week of Christ should tell us how very important that Holy Week was. There must be important lessons for us to learn from these days. So let’s review the entire week, and learn from God the holy ways from the holy days of Holy Week. Each day, starting with tonight’s post on Palm Sunday, I will share some thoughts on lessons we can learn from the events of Holy Week, from the Gospel of Mark.