Do you know the place to go to when your Twelve becomes Eleven?

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.” (Matthew 28 v 16)

Do you see it? Do you see what is wrong with this verse?

It is the first time Matthew records it.

Eleven.

Judas has betrayed Jesus and has hanged himself.

The Twelve are no more.

The pain of seeing a loved one die; or a lover not love you anymore; a friend who walks away to another friend; we know this. Yesterday I spoke with a Pastor who felt like he had been stabbed in the back. He had been. The Twelve are eleven.

This band of brothers have denied, deserted their rabbi and are now on their way to that place.

Do you have a place, a room, your designated space away from it all?
When the last few weeks have been a whirlwind.
When you have denied, failed and run away from your Lord.
When you have become confused and cannot explain what has just recently happened.
When God has spoken to you and directed you but still you really don’t know what He is saying.
When you have no idea of the future.
When you cannot explain what is going on in your life.
Have you got somewhere to go to?
They knew the mountain. Amongst all the mountains around the Sea of Galilee they knew the one he was going to meet them on.

Jesus is about to commission them into the whole world but before he does that he needs to position them away from their defeat.

Today, whatever has happened to you, perhaps you feel a sense of injustice, life is unfair. Maybe you feel a failure.

Jesus would have you to go to a place, a chair, a room, a map, a hill overlooking your town and city, there is a place where the important person isn’t you. Where you can look over your Galilee and see how God has used you before and you can see the transformation of people’s lives that He has done. In that position He is preparing you to go again and realise that this life isn’t about you or what you gain or about the people you keep. They are all temporary. This life is about you following Christ and what He has done before He will do again. So get ready for your commissioning is here. Find that place again.

Conspiracy theories

The conspiracy theory on what happened to Jesus runs alongside the truth of the resurrection right to this day. Matthew is writing his gospel approximately 30 years after the events and running alongside the Church’s presentation of the good news of Jesus is this conspiracy of the stolen body. Even today amongst the Jews and especially Islam they believe that either Jesus never died on the cross or that this happened …

“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28 v 11-15)

The problem is no one has ever been able to find the body of Jesus!

Conspiracy theories are often easier to believe than the truth. To believe the truth then often that means you will personally be impacted in a way that is demanding of you. (If Jesus was resurrected then I was wrong about him not being the Messiah).

Conspiracy theories have to explain away compelling evidence and that takes faith. Some of the guards go and tell the religious leaders what had happened: the earthquake, the stone moved, the appearance of a brilliant light (angel) and the empty tomb. So it may be easier because it is less demanding however it is still asking for faith to turn away from the truth.

Conspiracy theories are founded on a position that must not be moved. The religious leaders have maintained throughout the last few years that Jesus ministry was satanically led. This is unmovable. They cannot be wrong for if they are then their position not just their belief is removed.

Conspiracy theories are risky. If the soldiers had truly fallen asleep then they are in danger of losing their own life (Acts 12:19). The religious leaders convinced them that that once again they could turn Pilate away from any judgment as they had done with Jesus. The leaders had a hold over the soldiers.

Conspiracy theories have holes. If the soldiers were asleep how do they know the disciples stole the body? These same disciples who had deserted Jesus had now come back to risk their life in breaking through the Roman guard, really?

Conspiracy theories are a fight for control. Those who have the power. Those who are in control. Those who call the shots. Those who have the titles. They don’t like it when the cultural atmosphere changes. They don’t want to lose their hold over others. They don’t want to be ordinary. They don’t want to be humbled.
From the virgin birth to the resurrection many will say it didn’t happen and for those who say it did, well, they just may face opposition from those who face losing the most if it is true.
If this is true then how does it affect me?
The story of Jesus challenges some, it is more than a story, it is a game-changer. Some will throw the board-game in the air if they don’t get their own way.
Christmas and Easter, the highlights of that story can be difficult times for those re-telling it and for those who feel they are more important than they actually are.

Conspiracists are still with us.

Go tell them, ‘I told you so!’

Ever heard that? Ever said it? ‘I told you so!’

Things Jesus didn’t say!

“Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28 v 9-10)

Jesus didn’t call the disciples ‘failures’ or ‘deserters’ though that is what they had done.

We are flawed but we are ‘brothers and sisters’ of Jesus.

Today across the world Christmas services will be held. People will be attending that perhaps don’t usually go to church. The prayer for today will be that they will meet Jesus, they will hear Jesus, they will worship Jesus, they will obey Jesus and they will be brought into the family of Jesus. No matter who they are or what they have done … brothers … sisters.

“Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2 v 11)

Jesus who knows everything about us is not ashamed to call us brother or sister.

“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).

So I’m not going to chastise you or shame you. I will reiterate the angelic message to obey. Here is your commission, ‘Go’ and in doing so you will go as my sibling.

Afraid yet filled with joy!

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28 v 8)

The soldiers had shook with fear and fell to the ground like they were dead. These women were also afraid but there was a difference. Joy had filled their hearts. At His birth there was fear and joy, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2: 9-10) Fear and joy at His birth and here at His resurrection. Whether at Christmas or Easter are we afraid yet filled with joy? Or have we become mild, quiet, respectable Christians? Has the Good News become just news? Where is the wonder?
God is frightening as thick clouds of darkness; He is a consuming fire; He causes the earth to shake by His lightning strikes; He forces mountains to shrink like burning wax (Psalm 97). Bear this in mind as you worship Him today. Or have we lost something?
Missionaries were showing the ‘Jesus’ film to a tribe in East Asia who had never heard of Him and had never seen a film.
Imagine again how it felt to see this good man, Jesus, who healed the sick and was adored by children, held without trial and beaten by jeering soldiers. Then came the crucifixion. The people could not hold back. They began to weep and wail with such loud grief that the film had to be stopped. The missionaries tried to calm them, explaining that the story wasn’t over; there was more. Then came the resurrection. Pandemonium broke out this time, but for a different reason. The gathering had spontaneously erupted into a party. The noise now was of jubilation, and it was deafening. The people were dancing and slapping each other on the back.
The missionary had to shut off the projector; this time he didn’t tell them to calm down and wait for what was next. All that was supposed to happen—in the story and in their lives—was happening.
(Ben Patterson, “Resurrection and Pandemonium,” LeadershipJournal.net)

May our hearts be filled with fear and joy as we go tell people of the life of God through Jesus!

What is important to you now?

“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.” (Matthew 28 v 7)

Jesus had told them they would see him in Galilee, “after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Matthew 26 v 32)

Throughout Galilee Jesus had driven out demons, healed and transformed people’s lives. The disciples were with him throughout. They had seen his ministry to, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16).

On reading and memorising these Scriptures the disciples would have realised that Jesus was the great light, he was the dawn for a dark land and he had come for the Galilee of the Gentiles.

Jesus had put down roots in Galilee, living in Capernaum. They had God on their streets, in their shops, in their synagogue and homes. God was there talking, laughing, in power performing miracles of healing and transformation.

The disciples would return to Jerusalem for the ascension on the Mount of Olives (Matthew doesn’t record this) but there is the assumption here that they know exactly where to go in Galilee. They were heading for a mountain (v16) though we are not told which one and so others speculate which one. But Jesus wants them in Galilee and it is all for the preparation of their commission to the world.

Jesus wants them to look again. To see what has happened, what he did amongst them, the testimonies of changed lives. They had to walk through again the moments of Jesus’ ministry. The teaching in the fields, in homes packed with people, in the tension of the synagogues.

We too need to look again. Perhaps even today. Look over your Galilee. What did Jesus teach you? What has Jesus shown you? Why does Jesus want you to look again? Why does Jesus want to meet you in the middle of all that again? What is He trying to teach you now about where your focus should be?

Jesus the Crucified One

The very worst is not.

This central message for the follower of Christ is that it is never as bad as it looks.

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28 v 5-6)

‘Jesus who was crucified’ …. What does that look like?

Defeated, silent, dead, grave, finished?

That’s what the women had thought.

But that day the angel said something different.

“…who was…he has…”A collision of understanding.

Jesus the Crucified One is not in that position, that state and not in that place.

Don’t write the dead off.

All that they were hoping for was to enter a tomb, but on that day they entered a resurrection experience!

The women had come to the tomb to honour the past, to share their memories of what had been and what could have been. Their walk was a walk of defeat.

But with God the very worst is not.

The power of the resurrection to change lives: Sheryl and Ben.

I had never met them before but yesterday I was privileged to sit for 6-7 minutes and listen to their story. Both had come from a life I had never seen or experienced except on some TV drama or film. An early life of despair and hatred of others and themselves. Finding themselves mixing with the wrong people who were equally in the same darkness or worse it led to them arriving into their own personal hell. Addicted, broken and dead to anything good there was literally no hope. Except sitting in front of me yesterday were 2 beautiful people who had passion and a purpose. They spoke with love and kindness towards others. They were truly changed people from the stories they told of themselves. How was that possible? These next 3 verses reveal how:

“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. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28 v 2-4)

It is the centre of what we believe. It is the offence of the gospel. It is why there is only one way to heaven through Jesus Christ. It is why Jesus is more than a prophet. It is why Jesus is the Son of God, God himself. It is why those who put their trust in him will never die but be raised to new life. It is what changed Sheryl and Ben’s life.

Jesus did not need an exit or an entrance. The stone was rolled away not for Jesus to get out but the disciples to get in and see.

The resurrection happened before the stone was rolled away.

It is time for a violent earthquake to take place. It is time to get out of the grave. There are more Sheryl’s and Ben’s in our world that need this experience. But what about you? It is time for a shaking of your life towards the circumstance that holds you.

What is in the way of you rising from failure? Of moving forward in God?

Don’t wait for what you think should happen before you make a decision. Decide now. Choose Christ now. Call out to God now. And as you do I believe God will do something remarkable in your life.

What was dead, dying in work, home and life will come to life again.

Whatever was hindering you will not be because the stone has rolled away

A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, “I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don’t believe in it.” Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, “If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God’s resurrection power do in a person’s life?”

The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It’s the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection.

Sheryl and Ben have a story of the power of resurrection to change lives and so do we.

Make sure what you are looking at contains the real picture.

What are the memories that come flooding back when you are at that place? Visiting the grave; playing that song; being at that place whether physically or visually or when the memories come popping up on Facebook of 1 year or 10 years ago; you are there again with that that person.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” (Matthew 28 v 1)

Mark and Luke have other women along with the 2 Mary’s heading to the tomb. In the Jewish culture a part day was seen as a day and so this was day 3.

That stone in front of the tomb says: You will never do anything again. You will never recover. You will always remember what you once had is gone.

But what they didn’t realise that though they went to look at the tomb the picture had radically changed.

They went to look.

The other gospels tell us they were going to anoint the body.

It is incredible to think that the disciples are not at the tomb waiting for Jesus to rise on the 3rd day. It is also hard to believe that the women who were there had their spices with them to anoint the dead body. No one was ready for the resurrection. Even though he had told them many times.

They went to look.

They had no idea that the stone had already been rolled away, that God did it and He did it so that they could enter the tomb and discover that Jesus had risen.

‘Today’ they went to look at a scene of ‘yesterday’ unaware that God had changed the picture for their ‘tomorrow.’

When we misinterpret or are locked into the picture then we are often standing in places where He is not and where our loved ones are not also.

Make sure when you go to look you carry the faith that is able to reveal a greater picture of the reality.

Man cannot create permanence when you are a follower of the Living Stone.

Never give up. Never say it’s over even when it looks like it is. For Christ is with you.

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” (Matthew 27 v 65-66)

God put himself in a dark tight room and allowed them to seal it shut.

The light of the world was entombed in darkness.

God allowed man to do his worst. Nothing is blacker than a grave or more permanent than a tomb.

But remember who was behind the stone, the Living Stone.

“He will be … a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” Isaiah 8:14
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.” Isaiah 28:16

“(Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him.” (1 Peter 2:4)

The costly new tomb was given for a costly life.

The rock that was cut held the solid rock.

The big stone sealed the Living Stone.

Now let us remind ourselves … we are people of tomorrow!

On the 3rd day God substituted Abraham’s son Isaac for a ram and rewarded his obedience.

On the 3rd day Moses was called to Mt Sinai to receive the commandments.

On the 3rd day God promised Hezekiah he would be healed and live a further 15 years.

On the 3rd day Esther went before the king on behalf of the Jews.

On the 3rd day Hosea says God will restore us so that we may live in His presence.

You may know the 1st day of pain.

You may know a 2nd day of nothing.

But we are people of Hope.

We are people of the 3rd day.

We are people of tomorrow.

Whatever is in front of you is not as secure as it makes out when the Living Stone is within you.

Sometimes it may feel it is getting worse than it gets better: but it is what is inside of your life that counts far more than the struggles you go through.

“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27 v 62-64)

The enemy secured what they thought was their victory.

The religious leaders were not observing what they taught which was one of the charges they laid at Jesus – keeping the Sabbath, “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.” That shouldn’t have happened on the Sabbath.

They were remembering the words of Jesus more than the disciples. The last thing on the disciples mind was stealing the body! They were not thinking about the teaching of Jesus, there was no expectation.

But here is the thought for those who may be struggling today:

The enemy of your soul will try and secure your defeat because of fear. Fear not in your humanity. The religious leaders knew the disciples were hiding and in no fit state to steal a body. Even if they could have done there would be no proof that Jesus was raised from the dead unless a body was produced. So what was really the fear of the religious leaders? They were afraid of the resurrection power of Jesus!

The enemy of our soul is still afraid that this same power that was at work within Jesus is at work in your life.

If only the disciples knew. They would of course come to realise this. But have we?

Do we truly understand that no matter the struggle the power of God is within us?