Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Oh Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), I ask You to calm my heart and still my soul. In the quietness of this moment,
I focus my thoughts upon You. You are the God of peace (Philippians 4:9), You are the living water (John 4:10, 14), so like a pond receiving water from a river, I look to You as my upstream source of restoration.
As I abide in You, and Your words abide in me, may Your presence overflow me and make me as calm as pond water.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“Who will roll away the stone?” Mark 16:3
“Who will roll away the stone?” the women asked as they approached Jesus’ tomb. Their Savior had died, their hopes were gone, and their heads hang in despair as the question lingered in the air. Can you relate to that?
We have stones that need to be rolled away, too. Our way is blocked with giant stones with names like cancer and COVID-19, stones with names like debt and divorce, names like shame and sorrow, and the actual names of people like the crazy co-worker, the insane in-law, the nosy neighbor.
Like the women that first Easter Sunday morning, we too wonder, “Who will roll away the stone?”
In many ways, the message of Easter is like jazz music. Jazz music originated with African-American musicians in New Orleans around 1900, and it often expresses discordant notes of pain that are then resolved with the swing of sweet notes of joy.
Easter is like jazz music. The people loved Jesus for His compassion for the outcast, His inspiring teaching of love, and His healing of the sick. Imagine their despair when Jesus was arrested, flogged, spat upon, mocked with a purple robe and crown of thorns, beat upon the head, forced to carry His cross to Calvary, the Place of the Skull, and then the nails slammed through his hands and feet, and forced to hang there naked and suffering, No wonder Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It’s bad enough when you and I feel forsaken by God, but here was the Son of God feeling forsaken by God! That despair was shared by Jesus’ disciples. The disciples were hiding out in a room, afraid for their future, fearing they would be next.
But that was on Friday. Very early on Sunday morning, everything changed. The stone was rolled away, an angel in white clothes had bright news, that although they came thinking they would see a dead corpse, instead they saw an empty tomb, because Jesus was crucified, but now He has risen! The One who had been nailed to a cross was now raised from the grave, the One who had been whipped was now being worshiped.
His story was also their story. The wondering women had their stone moved, the shamed Simon Peter discovered that his Savior was alive. Notice verse 7 says to tell the disciples “and Peter.” The frightened disciples became bold preachers of the gospel.
What a crazy change in three days! No wonder they were overwhelmed with emotion.
Verse 5 says they were “amazed” and “alarmed.” Verse 8 says “trembling” and “astonishment overwhelmed them” and that they were “afraid.”
That’s why I say Easter is like jazz— it moves from discord to resolution, from pain to joy, and it requires a certain mystery and faith. Somebody asked Louis Armstrong what jazz music was, and he said, “If you have to ask, you don’t know!”
But you can know the Easter jazz. You can believe in Jesus Christ. His story was their story and it can be your story and mine.
The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 2:1, 4-6: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… But God, who is rich and mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ, even though you were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 51-52: “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
Easter does not mean that we will no longer have problems. The music of our lives will continue to have bent notes and broken cords. But because of His resurrection, the discord will be resolved with the sweet sound of hope for all of us who believe.
What stones do you need to have rolled away? What hope do you need to hear? Shh! Listen closely. I think I hear Jesus playing jazz!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I served as a Baptist pastor in Rincon, Georgia, I had the unique experience of putting on a white wig and an old robe borrowed from a Methodist, to give a dramatic presentation of the founding pastor of the oldest Lutheran Church in North America. The historic pastor’s name was Johann Boltzius, and his church was Jerusalem Lutheran Church, founded in 1734 in the Ebenezer Community in Effingham County, Georgia, some 30 miles north of Savannah.
School children came from all over Georgia to the retreat center at Ebenezer to learn Georgia history. They visited Savannah, and they also came to the old Jerusalem Lutheran Church, whose sanctuary was built in 1769, to hear me tell the story, in costume, of Boltzius who served a congregation that fled to the New World from Salzburg, Austria, in search of religious freedom.
After the presentation, students were given an opportunity to ask “Pastor Boltzius” questions. One day in March, a student asked me why it was so dark in the church. With a gleam in my eye, I explained that it was Lent, a season in which members of that church remembered Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Members of the church fasted, prayed, and thought of other ways to make sacrifices in memory of Jesus, and during this time, they kept the window shutters closed. In fact, on Good Friday, they came into the church and sang songs about Jesus’ death, and then blew out all of the candles and went home in total darkness. The students reflected on that quietly, and I paused. Then I waved my hand at the shutters and shouted, “But on Easter Sunday morning, they threw open the shutters, let the light in, and celebrated, because Jesus is alive!”
Whether or not your church observes the tradition of Lent, it is an important reminder of how any Christian can get ready for Easter, by first reflecting on the suffering of Christ. I encourage you to read the story of the crucifixion from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Spend time alone, silent, reflecting on it. Fast and pray. Think about your own sin, your own struggles, your own sorrows, and how the suffering of Christ forgives, redeems and renews you. Meditate on the dark, and the light will brighten you more when it comes. Like that church in Georgia that threw open their shutters, if we will remember how dark it was when Christ died, we will appreciate all the more how glorious it was that He arose!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
When I was in the seventh grade, Dad was stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, in order to attend a nine-month Army Chaplain’s School. Almost every family on the post was there because of a chaplain attending the school. That meant all of the kids were “preacher’s kids,” and all of the families were new, because we would be transferred after a year and a whole new group would come the following school year. The school year was 1970-71. We could see the twin towers of the original World Trade Center under construction across the Hudson River. I went to Public School 104, which was in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. It was a good school, with strict discipline and excellent academics.
Soon after school started that fall, we learned that on Wednesday afternoons they had “release time.” This was when students got out of school early and could go to their house of worship for religious education, if they wished. On that first Wednesday, all of us Protestant chaplains’ kids, being brand new, simply followed our Catholic friends down the street to their church and went to catechism. Then we returned to school in time to catch the Army bus back to Fort Hamilton.
Needless to say, the phones were ringing off the hook that night when we started telling our parents what kind of notebooks the nuns wanted us to buy for catechism. It only took one week for those chaplains and spouses to organize a Protestant religious education class for us to attend.
But what really got some parents rattled was what happened to my little sister Nancy and some of her friends during their first “release time.” Nancy, who was in second grade, and a few other Protestant chaplains’ daughters, went to the Catholic class but they missed the bus ride home. Their parents had the military police frantically searching the streets of New York for them. Imagine: little girls from places like Kansas, Texas and Mississippi, all lost on the streets of Brooklyn! When the girls were found, they didn’t know they had been lost.
Jesus said that he came to seek and save people who were lost (Luke 19:10). He told parables about a lost sheep, lost coin, and lost (prodigal) son, to illustrate how God goes to great lengths to find people (see Luke 15). Many don’t even know they are lost.
Ironically, my sister Nancy now lives in Brooklyn. She lives there with her husband Alex, and she rides the subway like a native. She doesn’t get lost there anymore; it’s her home. Likewise, when people turn to faith in Christ, they too are no longer lost. Like my sister, they have found their home at last.
(This story will be part of my upcoming book about taking a humorous yet serious look at the Christian life, called, Standing by the Wrong Graveside.)
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
A lady told me that her granddaughter visited her church and saw the large stained glass window picture of Jesus. She said, “Granny, your church has a BIG Jesus!”
What a great statement! Does your church have a “big Jesus”? Are the sermons Christ-centered? Does your worship lift up His Name? Do the leaders prayerfully ask, “What would Jesus do?” before they do what they do?
Christian, what about your personal faith? Do you have a big Jesus? He’s not a little bitty idol that you put on the shelf and take out when you need a little favor. He’s not mini-god for minor problems. He is the Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd, Great Physician, the Alpha and the Omega.
The apostle Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would have a big Jesus. Here is how he put it:
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. – Ephesians 1:19-23, NLT
Now that is a big Jesus! He is available to every church and every believer. How big is your Jesus?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Gospel of Matthew opens with the family tree of Jesus, from Abraham through Joseph and Mary. In typical Hebrew fashion, it lists the men, not the women, who “begat” (KJV) or “fathered” each son. Yet of the 42 generations listed, Matthew inserts references to four women other than Mary, the mother of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (who is only called “Uriah’s wife”). Why are these women mentioned?
Matthew is writing to a very religious Jewish audience, and by inserting these names in the genealogy of the Messiah, he is showing us two encouraging truths.
All our welcome. All of the women were foreigners: Tamar was a Canaanite (Genesis 38:6), Rahab was from Jericho (Joshua 2:1-22), Ruth was from Moab (Ruth 1:4), and Bathsheba was a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3). To a Jewish audience, he was reminding the Chosen People that God welcomes all people to follow Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the world.
He came to save sinners. Three of the women were notorious for sexual sin. Tamar seduced her father-in-law Judah (Genesis 38), Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 2:1), and Bathsheba committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11-12), which is why she is referred to by Matthew as “Uriah’s wife,” as a reminder of that adultery.
No wonder the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
I’m so glad Jesus’ genealogy included those four women, because it reminds me that He includes me, a non-Jewish sinner in need of a Messiah and Savior.
Charles Spurgeon said in commenting on Matthew 1:21, “The first link between my soul and Christ is not my goodness but my badness, not my merit but my misery, not my standing but my falling, not my riches but my need. He comes to visit his people– not to admire their beauties but to remove their deformities, not to reward their virtues but to forgive their sins.”
God the Father, who gave us Your Son,
What shall I render You for the gift of gifts?
Here is wonder of wonders:
He came down below to raise me above,
was born, like me that I might become like Him.
Here is love:
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.
Here is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated with the created.
Here is wisdom:
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him, and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God in flesh, to save me completely,
as man to die my death.
O God, as the watchful shepherds enlarge my mind,
to hear good news of great joy, and hearing to praise You,
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith.
In Him You have given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Adapted from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.