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Looking for clues

About the author: Megan is wife to Jerry and mom to Shauny, Adelie, Wynnie, and Liesel. When she’s not brokering real estate transactions, she loves coffee, puzzles, new shoes, reading, traveling, and, much to her husband’s chagrin, listening to podcasts, which infiltrate most of my conversations.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. –Luke 24: 1-12

At Christmas we gave our girls the most elaborate, expensive gift we have ever given them: a Nintendo Switch. Neither Jerry nor I are much into video games, but we both have fond memories of our childhood consoles; I had the original Nintendo and Jerry had an Atari. It turns out a lot has changed in 35 years since Pong and Duck Hunt were released, so buying this Switch for our kids took more skill than we could muster making it necessary to consult with our 20 year-old nephew, Jake, in order to figure out what was what. Did we need 2 controllers? Or maybe we needed 4? What about the extra charger thing? Was the Animal Crossing version worth spending the extra money on?

After all that narrowing-down and deciphering, we then had to figure out which retailer still had stock of the Switch. It took two different sellers on Amazon and the buy-now-pick-up-later option at Target, but we were finally able to get everything needed. It was a lot of effort to finally get it under the tree, but worth it to us as we anticipated the girls’ joy when they realized their biggest Christmas wish had come true! When the day came and they opened it up, they squealed with delight…but not surprise. Apparently, they had expected this gift was coming and they presented Jerry and me with the list of clues they’d compiled as evidence.

We had some mixed emotions about this revelation. Certainly, all of their intelligence gathering proved they were excited about the hope of receiving this gift, but the element of surprise was all but eliminated. They were basically on to us the whole time! 

Looking at this passage, knowing what we know about Jesus’ ministry, we can certainly empathize with the two men in dazzling clothes who seem genuinely surprised at the confusion the women display. The men make it very clear the women have no business even being at the tomb because, if they’d been listening to anything they’d been told, they’d know the actual plan. Oppositely from Jerry and me, Jesus had not been trying to keep this a surprise at all! Instead, he had been talking about it with his followers all along: betrayal, torture, death, burial, and, best of all, resurrection.

It seems from this passage that no one in Jesus’ inner circle anticipated the resurrection about which they’d been told over and over again! According to Barclay, the use of the term “idle tale” would have been a term to describe the babbling of a fevered and insane man. Even the account of the women who had first-hand interaction with the empty tomb was inconceivable and crazy-sounding to those closest to Jesus. Oh that they would have listened to Jesus with the same eager ears of a child looking for clues about the items on his or her Christmas list!

Of course I would never suggest the gift of salvation is the same as an earthly gift like a Nintendo Switch, but how much are we Christians actually anticipating the fulfillment of God’s good news in our lives? Are we training ourselves to look for resurrected spiritual life among dead things (rules or human effort) or are we listening to the testimonies of even the humble, powerless witnesses to the Spirit’s presence? Are we, like the disciples, expecting to see the empty tomb or the resurrected Lord? Is our Jesus defeated or is he victorious and active in our world? Is there nothing new to experience in our faith or are we running eagerly in Jesus’ direction in order to see what he is up to?

It is absolutely no surprise to me that throughout his ministry Jesus continued to point to little children as the way of the Kingdom. They are endlessly excited about most things, but especially about events with mystery and suspense. What could be more mysterious than a king who comes to save the world by suffering? What is more suspenseful than the promise to rise again after death? Those closest to Jesus should have been just as expectant as a Deck girl on Christmas Eve, but they missed it and now we have the opportunity to learn from their doubt. If everything you had planned seems in jeopardy or things are confusing or seem dark, look for clues of what God is up to and run towards it to see it for yourself. You could be like Adelie and write down these evidences to look back over when your own doubt bubbles up. Even better though, you could be like those faithful women who believed the Good News and declared it to a desperate world in need of hope that Jesus is not dead, but alive!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
Forgive us for all the times we have forgotten your promises to us or have been blind to your holy ways. Thank you for Easter which reminds us that you never forsake us and your will is perfect. May your Spirit continually urge us on to look for you no matter what our circumstances look like, and may we declare those hints of hope to those in desperate need.
Amen.

Posted by Megan Deck with

Doing what is right

Editors note: We have spent this Holy Week reflecting on Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. The Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional says this about shalom:

In Israel, shalom is both a greeting and a farewell. When greeted by “shalom,” it is a form of hopeful blessing that you are filled with God’s perfect peace and well-being. It is a prayer that you will have health, prosperity and peace of mind and spirit. Shalom denotes fullness and perfection, an overflowing joy that moves from your innermost being and is expressed in the way you live your life and engage with others.

This definition can help us understand the depth of this word and gives us insight into how we can incorporate this peace from God into our lives. The following is an excerpt from the Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional for today, April 3, Holy Saturday.

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. — Proverbs 21:3

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. — Matthew 27:57–61

Proverbs tells us “to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” And Joseph, a man from Arimathea, did just that. He did a righteous, just thing in giving Jesus a proper burial. He didn’t think of what others might say about his selfless act nor did he worry about what his wealthy friends would say about giving a radical, itinerant rabbi who was mockingly labeled “King of the Jews” a place in a tomb that was to be for him when he died.

Like Joseph, God wants us to step out of the shadows and stand up for what we believe in. God wants us to do acts of selfless love. Anyone can stay comfortably in the background and give a sacrifice in silence. It takes true strength, courage and love to do the right thing. On this Holy Saturday, how is God compelling you “to do righteousness and justice”?

Lord,
Show me how to truly love those around me. Help me to step out of my comfort zone and give me the strength and courage to take action for what is right. In Christ’s name, I pray.
Amen.

This devotional was written by Ivy Lopido, Christian Brooks, and Donna Frischknecht Jackson as part of the Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional. Presbyterians Today is a general interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church.

Access Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional here.

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