FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
The Gospel of Mark encourages us to pay attention to what’s missing on Easter. For example, consider the Roman Centurion charged with the terrible responsibility of carrying out the order of execution. This soldier knows how to follow orders. But, after beating, mocking, ridiculing and crucifying Jesus the Centurion discovers something is missing. His resolve to serve the Roman chain of command isn’t there in the same way. Upon witnessing Jesus death the Centurion, of all people, declares “This was God’s son.”
Another important person in the Easter story is Joseph of Arimathea who is a member of the Jerusalem ruling council. The council hates Jesus for religious and political reasons. They see him as a challenge to their own power and even a threat to national security. And yet, on the day Jesus dies Joseph asks Pilate for his body. At his birth it was Mother Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling cloths and laying him in a manger. But, at his death it is Joseph of Arimathea wrapping his body in a linen cloth and laying him in a tomb. He does this because something is missing. The hatred and rage he once felt is gone, replaced by worship and devotion. To be sure some important things are missing on Easter.
What about the disciples? You expect them to be present, but they are missing. Disciples then and now have to do more than talk. When 1st and 21st century disciples say “We will follow you to the death,” this must be more than talk. The old hymn asks “Where you there when they crucified my Lord?” The first 12 disciples are not; they are missing.
Some other disciples are present. In particular the two Marys and Salome and other women are with Jesus from the Galilean beginning to Calvary’s end. They see him die and where his body is laid. And early in the morning on the first day of the week they are there at the tomb. You have to love the women’s faith. They have no idea how to move the great stone so they can reach Jesus’ body. But that doesn’t slow their steps as they hurry to the garden. Because of their faith they go anyway.
The women enter the tomb and see a young man dressed in white. The women are scared so the angel says what angels say, “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus, but he is not here. He is missing!” The power of death isn’t strong enough to hold him. Jesus is missing from the tomb. He is raised from the dead by the power of the living God.
One more important thing is missing in the Mark’s Easter story, the ending. Most early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark simply have the women running out of the tomb. What kind of an ending is that? The truth is we get to write the ending to the Easter story by what we tell or what we refuse to tell; by how we love or withhold love.
The story continues through our willingness to forgive or our quickness to judge. We can flee from the empty tomb scared to admit anything of consequence has happened or we can come to our Easter senses determined to live a new and holy life. The end of Mark’s story is missing because the resurrection isn’t an ending; it’s a beginning. Easter is the beginning of a story that God invites us to finish by how we live, how we die and how we live again.
– Charnock is the Susquehanna Health director of pastoral care and volunteer services
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
The world teaches us that we need to exalt ourselves. The people that our children look up to are many times persons who always want to be the best. They strive to be No. 1 because power and money are what equates success. In an effort to achieve this money and success, we want our children to over-extend themselves. They don’t have time to grow up as kids. We groom them for success by pushing them beyond the limits of where they should be. After all, success is measured by what colleges are looking for, and colleges want to see volunteers and all kinds of activities plus the grades for a student to be the best.
Volunteering is a good thing, but not if we are volunteering to make the grade just to prove we are worthy of something. While volunteering can be very selfless, it can also be very selfish. It can be selfish if the motives are anything but an act that is out of a sense of love and self-giving without the desire to be repaid for what we do.
Over the years, I have been part of many volunteer organizations. I get frustrated when I find that while some are expected to volunteer their services, others want some form of compensation.
Yet Jesus teaches us that we are to humble ourselves to be successful. This is not just a concept that Jesus talked about. This is the way Jesus lived.
Philippians teaches us that we need to have a mindset like Christ, who, though he was God, did not equate himself with God the Father but humbled himself as a bondservant and came in the likeness of men.
A bondservant no longer owed his master any time; he had already earned his freedom, but yet he chose to continue to work for his master. Like a bondservant Jesus came to earth as a man and humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Jesus could have claimed Kingship, and the people would have followed. He could have called for an army of angels to come and defeat the enemy, but instead he humbled himself, as he calls us to do. While he is God, he did not remind the people wherever he went who he was. In fact, in the wilderness when he was tempted, he went beyond what we would have done if we had the power to do what we could have done. But that was not what he came here to do. He came here instead to open the door to the kingdom of God and set us free. He showed us that when we humble ourselves before the Lord, the Lord will exalt us to a level we would never be able to achieve on our own merits.
When Jesus humbled himself in completing God’s mission for him, then God exalted the name of Jesus above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven, those on earth, those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This week when we celebrate Holy Week, let us see that those of us who truly humble ourselves like Him are the ones who will someday be exalted, not by what we do or have done, but because of what the Lord will do with us and through us. AMEN
– Behrens is the pastor at the Loyalsock and Wallis Run United Methodist Charge.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
Re: John 20: 19-31
It is not yet Easter, but I got to thinking about the after-effect that Jesus had on the disciples. It took absolute proof of His resurrection to prove to them and motivate them to choose to publicly witness and tell everyone about who Jesus really was.
Today’s passage tells us how Jesus appeared among them as the disciples were huddled, fear-filled, in the upper room. They were expecting the “Temple Cops” to break in at any minute and arrest them. Instead, it was the Lord himself who came among them and, in effect, told them to get out and share God’s Truth with all they meet. They were assured that “The peace of God, which passes all human understanding, was with them.”
At this point in time, Jesus actually founds the Christian church with these words: “As God sent me, so I send you.” The community was not to waste time cowering behind closed doors. When we choose to intertwine our destiny with Jesus, are we too not to “Go Out”? Not to seek the uninformed and misinformed and those ignorant of God’s ways?
On Sunday morning, after all of the beautiful music is done, when the candles are extinguished, is not the church community supposed to become “Jesus, alive in this society?” We are charged to carry the message of what God is really like, as revealed in the life of our Savior, out to everyone we meet. Just as the disciples chose to do, are we not supposed to choose our destiny as His body on Earth? This is the choice that will shape the rest of your life!
Do you wish to experience chaos or peace in your life? Blessed are those who choose to believe and have faith in Jesus. Their witness to others will bring them God’s Peace – unknown to those who choose to live in chaos-flooding into their lives.
Every day we are faced with many choices. Our decisions will affect whether or not others will come to recognize who Jesus really is! Therefore, every day we must pause and not let our thoughtless words or acts dilute our faithful witness. Ask, “Am I choosing a destiny with Jesus?” Or am I deciding to go with the way of the world?
– Hague is an elder at Bethel Linden Presbyterian Church.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
The Word tells us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” In Matthew 18:3, Jesus speaks about becoming as little children. One might wonder how a person can teach and yet be as a little child. Jesus explained many important truths in parables, and yet they always were simple. He never set out to complicate things, but aimed for effectiveness.
He was on a mission to do the will of His Father. He wanted the world to know that He was here to fix what needed to be fixed because of the fall of man. God is just and holy, and any descendant from Adam could never have his initial status, so the only solution was found quickly in Genesis 3:15 as God spoke of the seed of a woman (Jesus) who was to come to make things right.
Later God gave Moses the Ten Commandments that showed where the mark was being missed and therefore the need for a Savior made clear. Jesus explained in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” and in Luke 24:27 it is seen that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Jesus not only taught by His Word, but also by His example, empowered by the Holy Spirit. He wanted His followers to copy Him in completing what He had begun, also through His Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). He provided for all aspects of living in His gift of salvation. Romans 5:19 shows the righteousness that was made available for all who ask (Romans 10:9-10). Matthew 8:17 explains the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:5 regarding sicknesses and infirmities. Ephesians 1:3 speaks of the blessings provided.
In Luke 4:18 it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. The summary of the commandments was given in Matthew 22:37-40, as He explained loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself. This is similar to what has been known as the ‘Golden Rule’ in Matthew 7:12, treating others as one would want to be treated.
The master plan of God has been laid out in His Word for all to see that desire to. To know the will of God is to read what He wrote. Led by His Spirit, we act on the Word: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Thus we teach others as He has taught!
– Balliet is the Eastern Regional director of John G. Lake Ministries in Williamsport.