June 13

John 20

Chapter 20 starts off with the empty tomb. In this account, Mary Magdalene runs to get Peter and John to tell them Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb, thinking someone had taken the body. The two ran toward the tomb, and John looked inside, seeing the linen burial clothes. The cloth used to wrap His head was lying by the burial clothes, but it was folded. My thoughts are that the angel that was there unwrapped His head first, folded the head cloth as He woke, and then helped Jesus out of the burial clothes. Perhaps the angel had a new garment ready for Jesus to wear as well.

Peter and John had not yet perceive the Scripture about Christ’s resurrection, but when they saw the empty tomb and unwrapped burial clothes, they believed. They returned home.

Notice that when Jesus was resurrected, He came back into His original physical body. The scars were still there; Thomas saw them.

Mary was still outside of the tomb weeping. She then looks into the tomb and sees two angels in shining white garments. They asked Mary why she was crying. She answered, “I don’t know where His body is,” still thinking his body was stolen. Then she turns around and sees a man standing there, thinking He was the gardener. She did not recognize Him, but she thinks that maybe this man moved Jesus’ body, asking where the body was.

“Mary,” Jesus said. Suddenly Mary realized it was a resurrected Jesus. She responds, “Teacher!” She must have hugged Him tightly, because Jesus asked her to let Him go, saying that He still had to ascend to the Father. Jesus knew His time was short before His Ascension, asking Mary to go tell the disciples He was alive again. Jesus wanted Mary to tell the disciples of what she had seen and heard because He planned to go see them. Perhaps He wanted them to have a heads up to prepare them for that evening when Jesus appeared to the disciples.

“Peace be with you” was the first thing Jesus said to ten of the disciples (Thomas was not there, and Judas was dead). It was a greeting, but He also wanted their hearts to be comforted. His appearance was different than before, so Jesus shows them His side and hands so they would believe. He tells them again, “Peace to you.” Then He talks to them about His commission to send them into the world.

Then Jesus breathed on them, or into them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” First, let’s recall Genesis 2:7 when God breathed into Adam, giving him life. Here, Jesus is breathing on or into them, giving them the new life of a recreated spirit. The disciples were the first to be born again. The Holy Spirit had not yet come for Pentecost; so the disciples were not “baptized in the spirit” yet, but they were saved. These are two different experiences.

As commissioned ones, the apostles were to go preach and teach the Gospel. If they received the message and asked for forgiveness, they too could be saved. In addition, when the apostles were mistreated, if they asked God to release them from the consequences of the mistreatment, God would forgive them. If they were wronged, but chose for those charges to remain against them, then those wrongs would have consequence.

Jesus appeared 8 days later to the disciples, but this time Thomas was with them. Where was Jesus during those 8 days? Perhaps He was around the disciples, but it isn’t recorded. Maybe Jesus was appearing to others as well, like Lazarus.

Jesus shows Thomas His side and His hands. We often call Thomas “Doubting Thomas” because Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed.” However, in verse 20, Jesus did the same thing to the other ten, showing them His scars. After seeing His scars, then they believed as well. Perhaps there is more to the story of Thomas that we don’t know, but I certainly don’t think the label, “Doubting Thomas” is appropriate. Thomas spent his life in service for the Christ, and was martyred for His faith and ministry.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There would be multitudes of people that would believe in Christ who never personally met Hm in the flesh. Thomas was one that actually went beyond his homeland, traveling into India as a pioneer with the Gospel. I think “Missionary Thomas” is a more appropriate title for this man of God than “Doubting Thomas.”

John then writes that he wrote things down so others would read and believe, not seeing, but reading and hearing their account of Christ’s life. He also states that JESUS DID MANY OTHER SIGNS IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS DISCIPLES. I look forward to hearing those other stories one day, but John’s account is sufficient for me. I believe his witness to Jesus’ life and ministry, and I am also a disciple of Christ. Are you?

If not, you can be. How? One, believe Jesus is the Son of God that was sacrificed and risen for our sin. Two, surrender your life to His Lordship and ask for His forgiveness. Three, confess His authority in your life. If you do this, God will change your heart and give you eternal life. We will forever be with the Lord!

Ezra 3-5

The return starts with unity, worship, and sacrifice. The first thing they do is build an altar. After giving God their hearts, then they start their work. This is a principle we can also apply in our lives. Before we start something new, acknowledge God’s authority and request His help. We can do this with new endeavors, with starting a new week with our church family, and even with starting a new day with our personal time with God.

Ezra writes about the reconstruction of the temple and restoration of temple worship. Those who were old men, who saw the temple before the captivity took place, wept to see the foundation of the second temple laid. Others shouted for joy. The sound of crying and joy were loud and unable to distinguish. What a glorious time in Judah’s history!

There was resistance to their rebuilding. Zerubbabel was the leader with the first group that came to Jerusalem to start the reconstruction. Enemies of Judah heard about the rebuilding and sent people to discourage the Jews and frustrate their purpose. For many years they continued to try to thwart Judah from rebuilding by going to the kings who had power and influence.

In chapter 5, God sends the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah to prophesy messages from God to the people, encouraging them to continue their work on the temple. The prophets were alongside them, helping them. It was a struggle to not only do the work; but also to stand against opposition.

Has God ever given you a vision to accomplish His purpose of starting or building something for His kingdom, and the enemy stirred up people to oppose you in order to stop God’s plan? It could be a ministry, a church, a business, a family, a school, or some other organization. You see, God’s plan for humankind is to work together, and together, we can do much more than we can do separated from each other. Satan is always at work to drain us of people and resources needed to accomplish God’s vision. However, God is faithful, even when people are not. In chapter 5, verse, 11, the Jews say, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” We aren’t serving ourselves or our own vision. We are serving God’s vision! Let’s put our eyes on HIM, and help see His vision come to pass in our communities!

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