The events of the past few days have certainly been difficult. Watching someone you are close to suffer the excruciating horror of crucifixion is enough to make even the hardest person’s emotions raw. For those close to Jesus, the grieving process had to pause a bit because of the Sabbath, but now that it is over, it is time to pick up where they left off earlier: visiting the tomb to ensure a proper burial. The Gospel writers tell us Jesus’ friends headed to the cemetery as soon as the sun was rising and the Sabbath was ending. Heartbroken, they didn’t want to waste any time.
John’s Gospel specifically tells us Mary Magdalene was the first to go and realize the tomb was empty. Mary thinks she’s going to ensure a proper burial, but she finds an empty tomb and neatly folded linens with no Jesus. What happens next shows us the compassion the Lord has for the broken-hearted.
John 20 records, “Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Mary is seeing something here that looks an awful lot like the Ark of the Covenant. Prior to now, the Ark of the Covenant, which represents the Lord’s presence, was only accessible in the Holy of Holies, and only one day a year by one person – the High Priest. But not now! The presence of the Lord is accessible to this heart broken woman.
She is not the High Priest nor is she in the Holy of Holies. She is a common person standing in a garden, outside an empty tomb, in tears because she doesn’t know what is happening. The person she cared about so deeply was ripped from her life, he was tortured to death, and now she can’t even make sure he has a decent burial because he is missing. Heartache is stacked on top of her heartbreak. Can you understand how she feels?
We are certainly not strangers to this pain. Heartache comes to us in any number of ways. The person we thought we were going to marry walked away from us. The child who should have outlived us didn’t. The husband who pledged his faithfulness was anything but faithful. The spouse of 50 years was ripped from our arms by death. The pain of a broken heart is not a foreign experience.
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I know how she feels. It is exactly how I feel today.” If so, please remember, you are not alone in this moment.
Mary’s story shows us we are not left to drown in the tears of our heartache. As she is standing there crying, Mary is not alone. John 20 continues, “She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. ” Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).”
Jesus does not leave Mary standing in the garden with tears running down her face. The tomb is empty, and Jesus is right beside Mary amid her heartbreak. He brings compassion and grace. He brings encouragement and comfort. Jesus brings himself to the heartbroken Mary, and he brings himself to those who are heartbroken today.
Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
When our hearts are broken, we can look to an empty tomb and find a Savior who comes to the heartbroken. Just like he was with Mary amid her heartbreak, he is with us amid our heartbreak. The same accessibility and compassion are present. Jesus does not flee from the heartbroken; he comes to us. Jesus is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those with a crushed spirit.
Because of an empty tomb, you and I do not have to be alone in our pain. We can allow the Lord to come close and rescue our crushed spirit.
I’ve been watching the series Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe spends time with men and women who have jobs considered to be dirty. Worm farmers, garbage collectors, and junk yard workers are just a few of the individuals Rowe follows. In one episode, he is working with a sewer inspector for the city of San Francisco. The inspector is tasked with finding weak spots in the sewer system. The work requires manually inspecting the underground tunnels carrying the sewage. It is definitely dirty; walking in raw sewage amid the rats and roaches is not the ideal place for a stroll. However, the work must be done. If the sewage system collapsed, it would cause havoc for the city. The inspector does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.
Jesus too does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.
Jesus’ Dirty Job
The excitement of the week was reaching its climax as Jesus and his disciples dined in the upper room. John’s Gospel tells us it was time for dinner, and Jesus got up to wash his disciples’ feet. We don’t know why one of the disciples had not already performed this ordinary act of hygiene. Perhaps they were focused on discussing the week’s events or they could have been arguing about who was the greatest. No matter the reason, this essential task was left undone. So, Jesus wraps a towel around himself and washes everyone’s feet.
This is an amazing example of Jesus’ humility. This dirty job was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the household. No one really wants to wash feet that have been in sandals all day. These feet have been on dusty roads plowing through manure and mud so it is vital they be cleaned, but who really wants to grab the pitcher and towel to clean them. It was a dirty and humiliating task, but Jesus does it. He’s not above the work or too good for it. He sees the need and does something about it. He’s not afraid to get dirty.
Don’t be afraid to get dirty.
The Bible encourages us to follow Jesus’ example of not being afraid to get dirty.
- Mark 9:35 says, “He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
- Mark 10:42-45 says, “42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Life can certainly be messy. Folks may have the “manure” of a messy past or the “mud” of guilt and heartache on their “feet.” Their “feet” are in need of washing, but they need someone to help them understand how to wash them. This is where Christ-followers come in sharing the Good News which can cleanse their “feet.” It may require humility; it may require patience, and it may mean a stroll through life’s messiness. As we drudge through the messiness, we can use Christ’s dirty jobs an example and encouragement.
Not only was Jesus willing to wash the disciples feet, he was willing to do the work of the cross. Scripture reminds us this was humiliating, painful, and outright torture. Yet it was essential. Jesus knew the need for the cross, and he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work.
In what ways is the Lord calling you to help someone wash their feet?
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Attend a wedding, and along with the decorations and beauty of love on display, you’ll probably hear this passage read, or at least, referenced.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says:
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages[b] and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
This passage certainly describes the type of love a husband and wife should have for one another, but it goes farther. It truly describes the type of love Christians should strive to imitate in all of our relationships. This passage does a marvelous job describing it, and the Gospels give us explicit illustrations of how Jesus modeled it.
On one occasion, James and John came to Jesus desiring to be called the greatest. They wanted Jesus to promote them to places of honor. His response demonstrates his patience.
The NIV Jesus Bible remarks, “Consider the passage in the Gospel of Mark in which James and John asked Jesus to do whatever they asked of him. They boldly asked—maybe even with a hint of demand—to sit on either side of him in glory. However, rather than chiding them for such brashness, Jesus spoke to them patiently (Mk 10:35–40).”
Jesus’ disciples felt Jesus was busy and would not have time to visit with some families who brought their children for Jesus to bless. Matthew records the disciples rebuking the parents and trying to send the families away, but Jesus showed them kindness. Matthew 19:13-15 says:
“13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.”
Jesus was not Proud
As he was approaching the time on the cross, Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room having a meal, but the disciples forgot to wash their feet. This was a dirty job, and it was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the home. Seeing the need, Jesus took it upon himself to wash the disciples’ feet. He was humble enough to perform this task. He did not consider himself to good to do it.
Jesus was not Easily Angered
According to the NIV Jesus Bible, “Jesus was not easily angered, either. The careful reader might immediately think of the Lord driving out the moneychangers in the temple. Clearly, these people angered the Lord. However, Jesus’ anger was not an easily triggered rage over something insignificant. Instead, love for his Father’s house consumed him (Jn 2:17).”
Jesus Delighted in the Truth
John 18:37 says, “37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
Jesus Never Gave Up and was Always Hopeful
Jesus continued following God’s path even though, for him, it became unimaginably hard. He knew the Father could raise him from the grave, so he laid his own interests aside to take up the interests of the world. He truly demonstrated love.
“Scorning the shame, he endured the cross for his people (Heb 12:2). This patient, kind, truth-rejoicing, protecting, trusting and persevering love kept no record of wrongs (1Co 13:5). Because of Jesus’ death, the amassed wrongs committed by the people of God were forgiven. The love demonstrated on the cross will forever remain unmatched (1Jn 4:10),” states the NIV Jesus Bible.
Is this the type of love you are imitating?
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Sometimes we feel insignificant as if we don’t even matter. In the vastness of the world, we are merely a face in the crowd or a number in the system, so we begin to wonder if we matter. Does anyone realize I’m here? Does anyone really care about my concerns and needs? Do I matter? Does God care about me?
The Bible teaches the answer is a resounding YES!
Jesus says in Luke 12:6-7:
6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins[b]? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
Think of Jesus’ words this way. Not one bird, though worth only a fraction of a penny, falls from the sky without the Lord knowing and caring, and our value is much higher. We do not have to fear the Lord does not care for us. He does! The Lord cares about us enough that he knows everything about us.
I don’t know how many hairs I have on my head, but the Lord does.
The Lord cares about us so much that he gave us the gift of grace. As you experience the vastness of the world today, remember, the Lord knows you and cares for you.
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Abraham and Sarah were well advanced in years. He has reached the century mark, and she is not far behind at 90. They had been promised a son, but the promise still hadn’t come true. Some visitors stopped by one day, and one of them brought a message to Abraham and Sarah.
The visitor told Abraham and Sarah he would return in a year and they would have a son. Funny, right? At least Sarah thought it was. She, who was well past child-bearing years, was going to have a son. Genesis 18 says she laughed to herself, and goes on:
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Things which seem impossible to us are very easy for God. The Bible teaches there’s nothing impossible for God.
- Matthew 19:26 says, 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
- Mark 10:27 says, 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
- Luke 1:37 says, 37 For the word of God will never fail.
Like Sarah, hearing of the seemingly impossible may cause us to laugh. Partially because we don’t see how it can be done, and maybe our laughter is a result of the slightest feeling of joy as we think of it happening. It has been said God smiles in these moments also. He smiles with joy as he goes about doing the work he does best – the impossible. How have you witnessed the Lord doing the impossible?
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The tomb was sealed. The Roman government sealed the tomb and placed guards outside to ensure no one messed with it. His opponents believed they had gained the victory. He was in the tomb, it was sealed, guards were posted, and it didn’t seem a dead man would want to get out anyway. They didn’t have the victory though, he did!
The Bible teaches Jesus rose from the tomb. The tomb couldn’t hold him as he is more powerful than death’s grip. He may allowed death to hold him down for a moment, but he certainly wasn’t out.
Jesus says in John 16:33, 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Life may push you and me down at times. The checking account balance may have us pushed down, but Jesus says we are not out. The lack of employment may have us pushed down, but Jesus says we are not out. The medical issues we’re facing may have us down, but we are not out. With Jesus, we may be down, but we are not out.
Jesus says we will have trouble, but we can have courage because he has overcome this world’s trouble. We may get knocked down for a moment or two, but we are not out. The next time life pushes you down, remember, you can have courage because Jesus has overcome.
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A good gardener knows how to care for a garden. She knows when to tenderly care for her plants. He knows when and how much to trim away. The plants in the garden are healthy, and they produce good fruit and beautiful flowers. A good gardener’s work is obvious when we look at a garden.
The Bible teaches God is the gardener of our life. John 15:1-3 says, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.” As the gardener, God compassionately cares for our lives so they become a beautiful part of his creation.
And, the source for our lives, according to John 15:5, is Jesus. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” It is in Jesus life is found and turned into a beautiful part of God’s plan.
As our life comes from Christ, the gardener trims away all of the unattractive parts to give room for the fruit of the Spirit to grow. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us what fruit will be growing. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
A life in Christ is a beautiful creation. That is not to say as it grows, it doesn’t have its ugly parts. We all know life is not perfect every day, but in Christ, it ends in the beautiful perfection of Heaven. How is the Lord making your life a beautiful creation?
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Jesus was close to Lazarus and his sisters. Lazarus was ill, so the family sent word to Jesus requesting he come and help Lazarus. Jesus does go and help Lazarus, but the Bible teaches he waited before going.
We know Jesus waited until Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days before helping. At this point, all hope had been lost. No one believed there was a chance Lazarus could be brought out of the tomb. However, the Bible records that is not the case.
John 11:23-25 says, 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus is getting ready to display his power over death. Life and death battled, and life won. Death’s grip could not hold Lazarus in the grave because of Jesus.
Because of Jesus, death’s grip cannot hold us in bondage. Jesus says he is the resurrection and the life. Ephesians 2 says it is in Christ we are made alive by grace. Jesus question to Martha is the same one he asks us, “Do you believe?”
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The sheep would graze all day, and when darkness fell, the shepherd would lead the sheep to the safety of the pen. It was usually an enclosure with rock walls and perhaps some thorn bushes across the top to keep predators from crossing the rocks. There was no gate on the enclosure; that is where the shepherd came in. The shepherd would serve as the gate blocking the opening. No one could go in or come out of the pen without going through the shepherd. The shepherd was the gate.
In John 10:7-10, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth. I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely, and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
The Bible teaches man longs to have a deep communion with God. There is nothing else capable of filling the void in one’s life except the Lord. There are many things which promise a rich and satisfying life, but they fail. Money taunts that it can buy happiness, but it doesn’t. The excitement of popularity and fame is soon replaced with weariness of always being in the spotlight. Chasing after a “perfect body” leads only to stress and anxiety. All promise to bring a rich and satisfying life, but the promise is hollow.
The emptiness left in one’s life without the Lord can only be replaced by the fullness of life he offers. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have a rich and satisfying life.” This life is not measured in material possessions, popularity, or good looks. It is measured in the fullness of life we experience by fulfilling our God-ordained purpose. It is measured in allowing the grace and mercy of the Lord to work in one’s life. The way in is Jesus.
As he says, “I am the gate.” He is the entry point to a rich and satisfying life, and he welcomes all who desire to walk through the gate.
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