These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
In what sense did Mary see the Lord? As she stood weeping outside the tomb she saw with her human eyes someone that she mistook for the gardener. We shall see as we go through the following weeks that the risen Jesus was not recognised by his outward appearance. Something else was necessary. Jesus was actually recognised and known in the observer’s spirit.
As Paul would say, “the Spirit witnesses with our spirit …” (Romans 8:16). Thus it was not until Mary Magdalene heard her name spoken by Jesus, ‘Mary’ (v.16), that she recognised him. It must have been something about his tone of voice, or the familiarity of the way he said her name that witnessed with her that despite the conflicting evidence of her eyes, it really was her Lord and Master – “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher) (v.16).
No unbeliever is recorded to have seen the risen Jesus.
They may have seen him with their eyes but not known him or who it was. Only believers were able to recognise him. Today he can still be known in our spirit.
Our other senses may be riddled with doubt or uncertainty, but deep within ourselves we KNOW it is the Lord.
The risen Christ may not appear to our five senses yet we can know his presence with us and in us. And yet he also comes to us in or through other people who have his Spirit. He is especially evident when his people meet together in his name – “… there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20).
Thank you Lord that you rose from the dead. Help me to see you today even when you come in unexpected ways. Grant me the faith to believe. Amen.
“Demas, in love with this present world …” (v.10) RSV
Demas is not your best known character in the New Testament. He was one of Paul’s team of missionaries. What we know of him is a cautionary tale for us. In all the previous readings over these last weeks we have seen wasted or lost years effectively restored, but today we do not know what happened to Demas; his life is an unfinished story. It serves to remind us that we may be in the midst of wasting our lives. And the question is, what are we going to do about it?
Until Demas left Paul, because he had fallen “in love with this present world” (v.10), he had been a regular member of Paul’s team. In the letter to the Colossians Paul writes: “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you” (Colossians 4:14); he also mentions Mark, Epaphras and others. Demas was plainly one of Paul’s trusted workers. He is again mentioned when Paul writes his short letter to Philemon: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers (Philemon 1:24).
Even keen and committed Christians can lose their vision, their calling and their cutting edge. This can happen for many reasons: lust, laziness, neglect of spiritual disciplines, false teaching, etc. Demas seems to have grown weary of fighting the good fight. He wanted some of the pleasures that the ‘world’ could offer. The ‘world’ doesn’t necessarily mean immoral or sinful activities; it may simply mean that he preferred the innocent pleasures of this world, to the costly discipleship and the high calling to follow Christ.
Some of us may have let our faith slip over recent years. We are now in danger, not only of being lukewarm but of growing cold. Perhaps we didn’t realise it, but now the Spirit is beckoning us back. Our desire is to love God with “all our heart, soul, mind and strength” (Matthew 22:37). Now is the time to act. The past is past. Let us look to the future with our Lord – he will renew us.
Lord, resuscitate me from compromise and lack of spiritual edge. Restore my first love and commitment. Amen.
1 Who did not know that the Lord had departed from him?
“David … escaped to the cave of Adullam” (v.1) RSV
Now you might think that David, the greatest king of Israel never had a ‘Lost Year’ in his life. When he was young he minded the sheep and practiced using a sling. When still a youth he slew Goliath and became King Saul’s resident minstrel. And once he was anointed King he ruled with great charisma and success.
However, from his point of view he could well have viewed his years in the wilderness as lost years. He had been anointed King by Samuel while Saul was still on the throne (1 Samuel 16:13). Yet before long Saul was wildly jealous of David and feared that he was going to usurp the throne. He hounded him from pillar to post, so that David was compelled to live like a fugitive in the wilderness. During that time he accumulated a band of 400 malcontents (v.2).
It must have been very frustrating for David to have these ‘wasted’ years in hiding, while the incompetent Saul continued to reign. However when it seemed that God had delivered Saul into his hands in the cave of Engedi (1 Samuel 24:4-7), David spared his life; it was neither God’s time nor God’s way. His wilderness were not yet over. Eventually the time was right for David’s accession to the throne. Saul had been defeated by the Philistines and decided to end his life by falling on his sword (1 Samuel 31:4).
Those years in the wilderness and a fight for sheer survival were not wasted. God used all the experience and wisdom that David had derived from the experience. He had become a natural leader of men and had grown tough. He was now fit for the task for which he had been anointed.
God too will incorporate our past life and experience, however odd, or dull or wrong it was. He redeems all that we have gone through and transforms it into usefulness from now on. Praise God!
Thank you Lord that ALL THINGS word together for good to those who love you. Here am I, send me. Amen.
“… if I have defrauded anyone of anything …” (v.8) RSV
Zacchaeus, unlike the Prodigal Son, had not squandered his wealth, but had exponentially increased it. To some extent he was like our modern day bankers. His riches came out of the pockets of the people. He was a tax collector on behalf of the Romans, so he was doubly unpopular: i) because he worked for ‘them’, and ii) because he extracted far more tax than he should in order to line his own pockets.
As far as he was concerned he was a highly successful businessman, and yet he was to discover that he had been wasting his life. After his encounter with Jesus he learned the meaning of the proverb: “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36). He suddenly realised that his life was worthless. All he had achieved was materialistic and selfish.
Jesus had opened his eyes to re-evaluate his accumulation of wealth. He had given nothing away to charitable needs, and much of what he had gained was through defrauding innocent people. He wanted to make amends, to make a clean break and have a new start. He therefore announced (always a good thing, since there is no going back on it!), that “the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (v.8).
Zacchaeus’ repentance, like all true repentance, is not merely remorse or regret, it is a change of mind. He made restitution where possible, and would live a different life from then on. If we mean business with God, and we feel that we have wasted our lives in materialistic gain (say) then we too will need to repent, reassess our values and start to live differently.
Zacchaeus may have been financially poorer but he was richer within himself. He was alive. He had been “lost” (v.10), but he had now received “salvation” (v.9).
Lord I (and probably others too) had not realised that my life, though prosperous, was selfish. Forgive me and show me what I must do, for your name’s sake. Amen.
1 What did Jesus do and say to thieving traders in the Temple?