We had no idea what following Jesus would demand when we started out. Oh, we thought we knew. We had hopes. We had great ideas.
We thought the Christian life meant that once we believed in Jesus, if we walked obediently, certain things would happen:
- God would bless us
- Protect us
- Put us at ease
- Basically dote on us as His children.
To some extent, we still expect that. But God wants to give us something greater than those things.
The world makes promises it can’t keep. It says the reason we’re unhappy is that we just haven’t found the right whatever yet. But if we keep looking, we’ll find it.
The right spouse, the right hairdo, the right salary, the right entertainment system, the right church, the right pastor, the right Bible, the right seminar, ad infinitum . . . ad nauseam.
You don’t have to be without Jesus to fall into the trap. Even those of us who do believe in Jesus can chase those shadows.
We may not know we’re looking for God. But we are.
Jesus had just dropped the bomb. At Caesarea Philippi, the Lord informed His star-struck disciples that He, the Messiah, would soon die and rise again. Amazingly, that didn’t hit them as good news.
To these men—who only understood the Messiah in terms of providing the good life of God’s kingdom—news of Jesus’ death came as a sucker punch to their dreams. It’s no wonder Peter blurted, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matt. 16:22).
Jesus’ reply should cause us all to pause and ponder:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Matthew 16:24
In wake of their confusion, Jesus took these disappointed disciples to a nearby mountain for a good dose of hope. They needed it.
As we struggle with our own disappointments, we can use that same hope today. We need it too.
Easter and Christmas always bring a slew of television specials claiming to find some new archaeological connection to Jesus. Most are hype and even attempt to discredit the biblical account.
But occasionally archaeology gives us a true connection to Jesus, and the results are tremendously affirming. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has devoted a small corner of the museum to archaeology connected to Jesus of Nazareth.
The good folks at SourceFlix.com put together a short video that highlights several of these archaeological finds that relate to Jesus Christ—and the Passion Week in particular.
I’ll also explain why they’re significant to us.
Every Sunday celebrates Easter. First-century Christians transferred the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. This year is special, for the days and dates of the Passion Week align with our calendars.
Because the Bible and history offer specific details, we know that Jesus Christ was crucified on April 3, AD 33.
It takes years for the calendar to roll around and allow for the exact dates of the Passion Week to align with our own calendars. This year it’s happening.
Here’s a simple chronology of the Passion Week’s events with the days and dates they occurred.
On Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem, He passed through Jericho. Leaving town, He would have walked between the palace buildings of Herod the Great, the king of Jews when Jesus was born.
The opulent palace straddled the ancient road Jesus traveled and connected to itself across a bridge that spanned the road. When Jesus passed beneath the bridge between the buildings of Herod the Great, He must have considered this paranoid king who tried to kill Him as a boy in Bethlehem.
Ironically, King Herod died in this Jericho palace while the true King of Israel lived to pass between its walls on His way to lay down His life.
As Jesus and His disciples leaned uphill toward Jerusalem, they walked a well-traveled road called the “Ascent of Adummim.” This wasn’t the first time Jesus walked this road.
Nor was it the first time He used it as a setting for teaching us a lesson.
As much as we wish it were otherwise, life has no easy answers to our struggles. Oh, I know, I know . . . God is the Answer. But what happens when the Answer doesn’t answer?
Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray.
But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see 3 lessons to help us understand why Jesus waits to answer our prayer.
Jesus performed more miracles in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee than any other place in His ministry. Standing on its shores, one can easily see across the shallow lake.
The hills to the east and west tower above the water. As cool air from these heights rushes down the slopes into the lake’s warmer basin, winds can whip up the surface of the water to deadly proportions.
A small craft, such as the one Matthew reported the disciples clung to during a stormy night, could find itself foundering in an instant.
In one day, Christ taught His disciples a simple truth we should never forget.
One of our greatest challenges is finding balance in the Christian life. Think of a person on a tightrope. There’s never a point where they just stroll across effortlessly. Balance requires continual effort.
Have you ever noticed that somehow Jesus balanced it all? The demands of His work and ministry left Him exhausted at times, of course—yet somehow He found time to get it all done.
Jesus perfectly balanced the demands of life—with the same 24 hours we have.
We don’t say it out loud, but often we expect that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems.
Of course, we know better—but we still lean on the side of expecting blessing for obedience.
The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations.