RISING – Chapter 11

Hello, Peter! I had such a hard time waiting for this evening to come around again because it seemed like our talks were nearing a discussion of your closing times with Jesus. I am about to explode wanting to hear you talk of those times! I know that you knew all that Jesus went through as he was crucified. Were you there as he died? How did you and the other disciples handle such a horrible thing? And then, you witnessed the risen Jesus. I just would like to hear everything about that and feel so humbled to be able to hear it from you!

Welcome my young friend. I will share all of that with you as best as I can. I think it is important that we cover that tonight because I am getting a sense that we could be nearing our final time together!

Why? What have you heard? Have you been told by the guards that you are nearing some final action from your imprisonment?

No, it is more related to my prayer life and the Holy Spirit revealing what may soon be ahead. It may not be within the week, but it will likely come soon and unexpected.

What should we do? What should I do? Should I leave? I’m sorry I just don’t know what to say or do!

It’s okay. Be still. This is exactly where I want you to be this evening! Talking of our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection are exactly the right next things about which we need to be talking!

Last week we covered my denial and the challenge that it was to my journey with Jesus. In that night and the next days, I was deeply shaken. I did not go to the cross. I could not bring myself to appear before the Lord – let alone watch him die in part because of my own cowardice – or, at least, that was part of my sense of shame in those hours.

Much of what I share you may have already heard. I will not go into it in great depth, but just provide a reminder of the horror that he willingly endured.

I learned that Jesus suffered his horrible death courageously. He was tortured – whipped and beaten with rods by the Roman guards. They placed a mocking crown of thorns upon his head and forced him to carry his own cross through the streets to his place of execution. He carried his cross until he could do so no more. They grabbed a man from the crowd and forced him to finish carrying the cross to the place outside the city called Golgotha.

They nailed him to that cross and hung him there. He had lost a lot of blood through all that he had experienced. He interacted a bit through those hours with those gathered there.

He struggled and shared that he was thirsty. Little useful to assuage his thirst was offered by the soldiers.

There were two others crucified there with him and he interacted with them. I understand that one mocked him, but the other defended him and Jesus gave comforting words to the second man.

John was there. A few of the women were there, as well, including the Lord’s mother, Mary. She was an amazing person – not surprisingly, I guess. She could talk with Jesus as only a mother might. She was not with us often, but she was always welcome. I heard that Jesus asked John from the cross to care for her after he was gone and John was faithful in helping to carry out that duty until her death.

Jesus also cried out a quote from the Psalms, “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?” This passage arises in a Psalm that powerfully describes the difficult death of a man and yet moves toward a message of promise and hope. It has an uncanny aspect of describing exactly what happened to the Lord in his suffering. I believe it to be a powerful prophecy.

As Jesus died, he said, “It is finished!” He had, at great cost, faithfully and lovingly accomplished what he was called to do.

In those hours between the crucifixion and his resurrection we had no idea of what next steps needed to take place. We didn’t really know yet how powerfully Jesus had changed our lives. We were afraid, confused and aimless. We were in hiding and having conversations that people fearing for their lives must have. Fear is a dangerous source out of which to think and behave.

Should we stay in Jerusalem? Should we go to Galilee? Should we go to Egypt or some other foreign land? Should we slip away as a group or singly? What should we do about all that Jesus taught us? Did we still have a mission? Were we willing to die for that mission as Jesus had died? We were together in a house that we had found. Some never left while others drifted away at times in a need to be alone.

I can’t imagine what all was in your minds in that time! I can see how you would have feared for your own arrests and even executions since that was what happened to Jesus. Did you have any sense that you were about to encounter a risen Lord Jesus? Hadn’t he revealed his resurrection in some way to you?

As I said, fear does strange things to one’s mind, my friend. Group fear adds to the confusion. Jesus rising from the dead was not something we considered in any way. People in that house had witnessed his death. We knew that Jesus was dead. We were in no condition to analyze some of the things that he had said to us in our times with him about all that had taken place. Panic poured through us.

But then came the women from the tomb who had gone to ensure that his body had a decent burial. They brought incredible news. The stone had been rolled away. Angels asked them why they were looking for the living among the dead. They were charged to come and tell us what they had seen and heard. Jesus’ body was gone! We began to wonder about this. Could it be true? Had Jesus risen from the dead?

I had to see for myself what had taken place. I ran out to the tomb and John came with me. He was faster than I and arrived first. He peered into the empty tomb. But I just burst on in when I arrived. The linen wrappings were there and the cloth for his head rolled up in a separate place. I was still trying to make sense of it all. John came into the tomb behind me. He looked it all over and shared that he believed that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus had truly taken place!

We went back to the house to share what we had seen. It turned out that Mary Magdalene had followed us out to the tomb and stayed on. She encountered the risen Lord and came back to tell us all that she had experienced with Jesus.

The risen Jesus appeared to us twice in that house – that evening and a week later. His focus was to reinforce for us that he was truly risen and alive. He encouraged us to realize that his mission continued through us. He reminded us that his Spirit would be available for encouragement and guidance in the future.

Amazing! You saw the risen Lord!

Yes, multiple times! His reappearance the second week came with Thomas present among us. Thomas had not been there the week before and found our stories too difficult to believe. He had said that he would need to touch this apparition of ours – witness his scarred hands and feel the wound in his side to believe this resurrection took place.

That second Sunday evening when Jesus appeared, he stood before Thomas and invited him to touch his wounds. Thomas fell to his knees and, true to his word, cried out, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus went on to comment to Thomas something that involves you and other believers who were not given my opportunity to see him. Jesus said to Thomas, “Do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Jesus was speaking a blessing upon you my friend. Believe in the risen, living Lord Jesus. He died on that cross that you might know full forgiveness for your sin. He rose to new life that you might be given new life in him that begins now and goes on unto eternity!

I have come to learn that those two sentences are at the essence of the Gospel of our Lord – forgiveness and new life! I am trying to learn how to live each day with a deeper sense of the truth of those things.

At an earlier visit I shared with you that I had the opportunity to talk with Jesus on the Galilean lake shore. His triple charge to me there to feed his sheep has been an inspiring and blessed responsibility for me over these years. It was forgiveness and new life for me!

Not long after that Galilean discussion we saw him ascend into heaven. Just before the ascending he charged us to go out across the world and make disciples of all nations.

I have been led over these years to many places by the Spirit so that the Gospel could be shared. It is a key reason as to why you find this Galilean fisherman in Rome and now a Roman prison.

We are called to be Jesus’ disciples. We are to witness to the world, each using his or her gifts as the Spirit leads, and make disciples. Thus, our visits over these weeks – me discipling you and, as I have told you time and again, you discipling me – are a part of that calling!

I am so thankful and amazed at what I have heard and learned over these weeks. I need to leave, but I don’t want to leave. I will come back next week. I hope that we can talk again. I have so much more to learn from you about your ministry since that time! Again, I am so thankful for these times, Peter. I cannot express that strongly enough. If we don’t talk again, please know that I am a different person, a different disciple, because of all that you have shared!

The Lord willing, I will be glad to talk more with you. Now, go in peace and seek to be the person that our Lord is calling you to be.

 

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR PERSONAL CONTEMPLATION OR GROUP STUDY:

  1. For many, prayer is only an experience of speaking to God. Listening and discerning guidance from God is not as common. Yet, it is an important aspect of prayer. Peter discerned in his prayer time that his imprisonment and life were soon to come to an end. What might you do or practice in your own times of devotion to strengthen your ability to listen to God and not to just talk to God?
  2. Peter confessed that he could not bring himself to go to the cross. Guilt and shame prevented him from being present in the worst hours of our Lord’s life. One can sense his regret and his respect for those who were there at the cross. Have guilt and or shame ever kept you from doing something that you felt that you should do? If so, have you been able to get past that experience? How did Peter move on to become a leader of the early church when he had denied the Lord? Forgiveness comes up again and again in Christian teachings. It is a key phrase in The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus died on the cross that we might be forgiven. He rose again that we might know new life every day. What might you do to be sure that you are fully experiencing this Gospel forgiveness? What does the cross mean to you personally?
  3. Peter again spoke of the debilitating aspects of feeling fear. He shared how it had controlled the behaviors of the disciples for the days after the crucifixion and even after the resurrection. He even used the word “panic.” The first letter to John, chapter four, states: “There is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear.” It is interesting that this Bible passage connects love and fear – not love and hate. Love and hate have a relationship, but here the writer of John connects love and fear. It is an inspiring realization that as love increases, one’s ability to overcome one’s fears, to not be controlled by one’s fears, increases. How might an increase of love have reduced the fears of the disciples in those days following the crucifixion? To whom might that love been expressed? How could deeper love change our sinful feelings around attitudes and actions of racism, sexism, chauvinism, ageism, and any other ism that arises to make us fearful of someone different than ourselves and how they might threaten our existence and comfort?
  4. How would you answer the questions that the disciples experienced after the crucifixion and resurrection? What does the resurrection mean to you personally? How is God calling you to mission in the place that you live? Are you being called to something or someplace new? If so, what or where? How are you living out Jesus’ call for his followers to be disciples and make disciples?

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