Yet Filled With Joy

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.     
Matthew 28:1-8 (NIV)

Verse 1
Death is confusing.  We do not know how to handle the event of death.

Upon hearing of his royal bride’s death, Shakespeare’s Macbeth declared,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.  It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.v. 16-27)
Just picture the faithful New Testament women standing out by the hopeless tomb desperately calling for more – more than shadows signifying nothing.  Did they reason that all was lost?  Did they gather that Christ’s “hour on the stage” terminated with nails and stones?  No doubt their Sabbath was filled with grief and mourning.  They huddled by the tomb, that place where nothing of joy occurs.  That was to change!

Verses 2-6
The events of this text, once believed, change lives.  The conclusive view of death dies.  The problem, however, is that you and I struggle with more than death.  We also bow under the stresses and tragedies of life.  We may sing, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” yet our emotions and bodies don’t always join our song – even in the light of the Resurrected Life of Jesus.  We tragically forget the joy presented to us.

In 1876 Lewis Carroll, the creator of the Alice adventures, wrote a letter to children which calls for Easter Joy.  One sentence from his letter that we all do well to hear says,

“For I do not believe God means us to divide life into two halves – to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out of place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day.”  (
From this wise counsel and the remainder of the letter, I see a couple of principles that will help you and me to really enjoy the joy of Easter.
1.    He encourages us to “Rise and Forget”

“To rise and forget, in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark – to rise and enjoy another happy day, first kneeling to thank that unseen Friend, who sends you the beautiful sun?”
2.    He asks us to Rise and Rejoice
       A.    In the Present

“This Easter sun will rise on you, dear child, feeling your ‘life in every limb’, and eager to rush out into the fresh morning air – and many an Easter-day will come and go, before it finds you feeble and gray-headed, creeping wearily out to bask once more in the sunlight – but it is good, even now, to think sometimes of that great morning when the ‘Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings’.”

            Remember to enjoy the Resurrection today – now!

      B.    For the Future

“Surely your gladness need not be less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this – when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters – when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day”

            Rejoice in the coming day.

In 1990 my paternal grandfather died due to the effects of leukemia.  The night before his death as he lay on his literal deathbed, my grandfather told my father that he wanted to go home.  He was not speaking of his street address.  By those words he communicated that he was ready to see Jesus – his Lord and Savior. 

A week prior to that day, while fully aware of his condition, Granddaddy lay in bed telling his wonderfully funny jokes.  He even sent me on a mission to the local drive-up to retrieve an extra long hotdog with extra onions – foods his doctor discouraged. 

Even in the moments of his death, he took time to have fun and enjoy simple pleasures.  God wants you to rejoice in all situations, not because all situations are good, but rather because He is with you through each and every one. 

Many Christians live in fear, trapped and unable or unwilling to rejoice.  At the tomb the Marys would not settle for that option.  Notice their response to the angel’s instruction to have no fear.

Verse 8

Their fear did not vanish; yet still filled with fear, they left room for joy.

A Holy Week Reflection

It was the hour of a murder.  Tried illegally, beaten brutally, mocked incessantly, Jesus was taken to Golgotha.  Barabbas, whose name interestingly enough means "a son of a father," stunned by his luck, watched as the true Son of the Father suffered in his place. 

The road to Golgotha filled with anger and show.  Expressions of sarcastic honor and praise filled the mouths of soldiers and certainly more crowds.  The "Hosannas" of the previous week were completely gone by now.  Not even His disciples sang the tune.

Along the Via Dolorosa, Simon was the only person supporting Jesus; and he was not a volunteer.  He carried the cross of Jesus. 

The cross held Jesus between two thieves.  The accusers felt that served as an appropriate place.  And, indeed, it was; for while He did not belong there as a peer, He did belong, for the sin of those men, and all others, put Jesus there.  He accepted the cross for them, for you.

The burden of all that sin, a weight He had yet to carry, sank deeply into His soul.  In all His anguish, He called to the Father - the sin made Him feel rejection.  Yet, notice the faith - He still called Him God in His hardest moment.

Soon after, Jesus "breathed His last."  Death, true death, wrapped his ugly arms around the Lord and rejoiced.

I See The Monstrous Cross

I see the monstrous cross waiting for Jesus, and I call out, “Jesus don’t go!  Not for me, save yourself.  I don’t deserve you.”
Then I remember that He already submitted to death.  He did choose to go for me.
As I recall His death, I hear the words of His Father,
    “This is my Son, whom I love . . .”
Here conviction falls.
Holding my sin up next to that monstrous cross, I see that the former is the more monstrous.  While the cross is mere timber, my sin is composed of far sicker things.
    Hate lashes quicker than whips;
    Pride beats harder than clubs;
    Anger cuts sharper than thorns;
    Greed pains deeper than nails.
The cross did not choose to hold Jesus; yet I, through my sin, chose to burden the shoulders of the Son of God.
Dare I curse the nails and not the greed?
Dare I call anyone “the crucifier” other than me?

I, through my sin, killed the One whom the Father loves.
    “This is my Son, Whom I love . . .”
These words torment my soul.

Extra Days and Lost Hours

  • We leap. 
  • We spring. 
  • We fall. 
  • Every four years, we (as a global community) grant ourselves an extra day. 
  • With the exception of our friends in Arizona and Hawaii, Americans attempt to save daylight - whatever that means.

Steven Johnson, in his brilliant work How We Got To Now, extends a question worthy of our attention . . .

"Which measure of time will win out in the end:  our narrow focus on the short term, or our gift for the long now?  Will we be high-frequency traders or good ancestors?"  (p. 194)
As we approach Johnson's inquiry, we recognize an irony that we live.  While as a species, we have done quite well at measuring and calculating time, even with great precision, our track record in using time proves quite poor. 

I am struck with my own choice of words in the previous sentence.  I wrote of "using" time.  Should I not have chosen the word "enjoy" or perhaps "inhabit" or even "steward"?  But I chose "use."  Speaking for myself, I will confess my tendency to turn gifts into utilities.  Do you wish to confess the same?  What (Who) do you tend to use rather than steward?

  • Time?
  • Gifts?
  • Privilege?
  • Your friends?
  • Strength?
  • Your spouse?
  • Resources?

In the first book of the Old Testament Scripture, we are told that God entrusted the male and female made in His image to . . .

"Prosper!  Reproduce!  Fill Earth!  Take Charge!  Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."  (Genesis 1:28 The Message)

Be responsible.  Other versions of the Bible translate the Hebrew word radah as "rule" or "have dominion."  Any Christ-believer is a Christ-follower and, therefore, needs to follow His example. 
The King of kings rules and has dominion in a responsible manner.
We, however, struggle to rule even over our own emotions in a responsible manner. 
Is it any wonder that we allow ourselves in our areas of leadership and responsibility to slip into utilitarian dominion?

We live.        We lead.          We love.
We leap.       We spring.       We fall.

Be responsible!

The Other Six

“If Christianity does not relate to the realities of Monday to Saturday as experienced by the ordinary church member, then it is just another religion.”  (The Equipping Pastor, p. xiv)
R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins, the authors of those words, well-articulate the need for a connection between day one and the other six. 

Christ followers do not settle for a one-day religion.

On occasion, quite rare thankfully, a person knowing the nature of my vocation asks me in a mostly joking manner, “What do you do the other six days of the week?”  While the question suggests a less than impressive answer, it really is a good question for all pastors . . . and poets . . . and doctors . . . and teachers . . . and house painters . . . and dog catchers . . . and me to answer.  Any person who “gives” a portion of one day to God through participating in (or, at least, showing up to) worship, should answer the question, “What do you do the other six days of the week?”

So what would your answer be?

While I know that the inquisitors seek more a laugh than a response, I can still use the opportunity to reflect on an answer that I will share only with myself.  My reflection can be sharpened with the use of soome worthy reflection questions.
1) Did I sleep enough this week?
2) Did I exercise this week?
3) How did I show my love for my wife this week?
4) How did I show my love for my kids this week?
5) Did I pray more than fret this week?
6) Did I smile more than scowl?
7) Did I use my ears more than my mouth?

Notice that?

Notice that none of the seven questions ask much, if any, about any religious practices?  I advocate for personal prayer time, Bible reading, Small Group attendance, sharing the truth of Christ, and the like; and I encourage all who will listen to participate in such spiritual disciplines.  However, what happens when a person “masters” those four tasks yet fails to rest, show love, smile, listen, and genuinely care for their own health?  Does he really connect his one-day religion with the other six?  Does she really allow her faith to flourish?

Jesus said . . .

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment."     Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV)

Would I stretch His words too far if I paraphrased them as . . .

“Love the Lord your God with your Sunday,
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
and Saturday.”

 I think not.