Away With the Manger! Frequently Asked Questions About Christians and Christmas

Scrinch

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? Sure, if they want to. It’s an awesome holiday. Jesus, Gifts, Family, Food….what’s not to like? On a serious note, this is a flawed question. There’s no “should” or “shouldn’t.” Contrary to what some would have you believe, this isn’t a moral issue; it’s a preference issue, but we’ll get to that a little later.

But isn’t Christmas a pagan holiday? Only if you’re a pagan! A day is just a day, and it is whatever you make it. This is a major question for some, and I don’t have time to cover it here. But here’s a good article on the subject. It brings out the point that Christmas didn’t originate as a pagan holiday; it merely coincided with pagan holidays.

What does pagan mean, anyway? Generally, it means one who worships other ‘gods.’ It can also refer to someone who is ungodly. For Christians, this means anyone who doesn’t worship the one true God, as revealed in the Bible.

Doesn’t the Bible prohibit Christmas trees in Jeremiah 10:1-5: Nope, it prohibits the creating and worshiping of idols. In those days, they made idols from the wood of trees. They cut a tree down, overlaid it with silver and gold, and called it their god. A Christmas tree is just an object; it’s not inherently good or bad. If you’re calling the tree your god and bowing down in worship to it, then you’ve got bigger problems than we’re discussing here. But if not, decorate your tree to your heart’s content.

Didn’t Christ instruct us to remember his death, not his birth? He did. However, we can’t make an argument against something based solely on lack of instruction. The Bible is silent on many contemporary activities simply because they didn’t exist back then. When we acknowledge Jesus’ birth, we do so in anticipation of his death. Christmas isn’t so much about the baby in the manger as it is about the Christ on the cross. He was born to die for our sins, and THAT’S the cause for celebration.

Christmas has become so commercialized; shouldn’t we avoid contributing to the madness? Yes, we should. Fortunately, we can celebrate AND avoid contributing to the madness. Don’t condemn something good because of others’ abuse of it. Keep Christ at the center, give gifts, and have fun.

Isn’t it a shame that so many people go into debt for Christmas? Yes it is; so don’t go into debt. Spend what you can afford. We should manage our money wisely at any time of the year, especially at Christmas.

But don’t you know that Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25? It is highly unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25 or even in December. We simply don’t know the exact date. But lack of certainty about Jesus’ date of birth is certainly no reason to condemn Christmas. We chose a date to commemorate the day our Lord and Savior entered the world, to commemorate the fact that he was born to die for the sins of the world.

I still think it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas. Do you really think Christians should embrace this pagan holiday? I think we should be led by the Bible’s specific teaching about holidays:

Colossians 2:16 -17: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Romans 1:1-7:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.

In summary….

  • If you choose not to celebrate Christmas, don’t judge the person who chooses to indulge
  • If you feel free to celebrate Christmas, don’t look down on those who restrict themselves
  • God accepts Christians even in their differences
  • God is your judge, not other people
  • Be ruled by your conscience and make up your own mind (Note, this applies to things that aren’t clearly labeled as sin)

So, if your conscience bothers you, don’t celebrate Christmas. But that doesn’t mean you have to ruin everyone else’s Christmas cheer. Don’t go around being a Scrinch (Scrooge/Grinch)…….or is Grooge better?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts (in love!) in the comments below.

Should a Christian Celebrate Halloween?

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Should a Christian celebrate Halloween? The topic has been vigorously debated, with strong opinions on both sides. The answer? Well, it depends. There really is nothing new under the sun — the early church disputed over holidays too. So let’s see what the Bible says.

What Do the Scriptures Say?

Colossians 2:6-15 is a great passage about our freedom from legalism because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Legalism is measuring your own or someone else’s spirituality by the ability to keep man-made rules. Note the emphasis on man-made. We’re NOT talking about things that the Bible clearly identifies as sin.

In Colossians 2:16, Paul gets specific. Since you are free in Christ, don’t allow anyone to judge you regarding the food you eat or the holidays you celebrate. This kind of legalism promotes a sense of self-righteousness, appearing to be spiritual while doing nothing to address the sin in our hearts (Col 2:20-23).

Romans 14:1-7 opens by admonishing Christians not to argue about doubtful issues, identifying those doubtful issues as food and holidays. So one person is a vegetarian; the other eats meat. One person eats pork; the other abstains. One person observes the Sabbath; the other does not. One person celebrates certain holidays; the other considers them pagan and doesn’t participate. Paul’s conclusion on these issues? It’s all good. It. Does. Not. Matter.

Let’s summarize the lessons found in Romans 14:1-7:

  • If you restrict certain things for yourself, don’t judge the person who chooses to indulge in them
  • If you are free in what you allow for yourself, don’t look down on those who restrict themselves
  • God accepts Christians even in their differences
  • God is your judge, not other people
  • Be ruled by your conscience and make up your own mind

Notice Paul isn’t telling people what to do (adhere to certain diets or not, observe certain holidays or not). His only concern is our attitude toward those who disagree with us. He forbids judging others by our own preferences. Christians must not compromise about anything clearly forbidden in Scripture, but they shouldn’t create additional rules and make them equal to God’s Word.

So, should you celebrate Halloween as a Christian? Only if you want to! The main issue is this: Can you participate without sinning? Can you influence others for good rather than being influenced by them?

The Case Against Halloween

Most Christians agree with the following statements about Halloween:

(1) Satanists claim the day as their own.

(2) Halloween has pagan origins.

(3) Christians shouldn’t dabble in the occult (i.e., ghosts, witches, etc.).

(4) Halloween has become increasingly unsafe for children.

(5) Many people use the day for lewd, fleshly acts.

These are all valid concerns, so let’s explore them.

Satanists Claim the Day

We give Satan and his minions far too much credit. They can claim the day all they like, but the last time I checked, Halloween is STILL a day that the LORD has made. So let’s rejoice and be glad in it! Why should we just hand it over to devil worshippers and pagans? Why not turn it around and use it for good instead of evil? Incidentally, this is the thinking behind celebrating Christian holidays on or around pagan holidays (like Christmas). They wanted to take back the day, and I say kudos!  Our months, weeks, and years are made up of the seven days that GOD created. Satan gets no credit here!

Halloween Has Pagan Origins

Yes, this is true. Since this is the most frequent argument against Halloween, let’s find out what paganism is and what that means to us as Christians. Paganism is the worship of something or someone other than the Christian God. This includes not only the deity worshipped, but the objects used in worship. Normally when you hear Christians speak against paganism, it’s not a warning against worshiping another deity. We’re all pretty clear that’s a no-no. What they’re talking about is not using or participating in the objects and/or activities associated with such worship.

In 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 and 1 Corinthians 10:18–33, the apostle Paul addresses the issue of taking part in things that have pagan origins. In both cases, Paul discusses eating meat that has been offered to idols. His conclusion? Idols are nothing; therefore the meat was offered to nothing. Eat it if you want and have a clear conscience, but don’t let your freedom cause another Christian to sin. Yes, those passages are about food, but Paul has elsewhere tied together the principles for food and holidays. Therefore the principles that apply to one also apply to the other.

Yes, pagans worshiped other gods on their holidays. They used some of the customs and decorations we find in the celebration of our holidays today.  So what? I can name several things the world has co-opted and used for evil — things like music, movies, and sex. It’s up to Christians to take these things back and make them good again. The customs and decorations are not evil in themselves. The problem is what they were used for….the worshiping of other gods. But we worship the one true God, and the important thing is that we honor him in all we do. Holiday or not.

Halloween Isn’t Safe for Children

Halloween has increasingly become unsafe for children — the world has become increasingly unsafe. When I was a kid, we freely trick-or-treated around our neighborhood, visiting the houses of both neighbors and strangers. It wasn’t really safe then, but it’s doubly unsafe now. So yes, do everything you can to protect your children. Do not let them go out alone or to the houses of strangers. But there’s certainly no need to deny your children the fun aspects of Halloween. Many churches now host programs on Halloween to keep children safe. There’s nothing wrong with pumpkins, candy, parties, or costumes in themselves. So if you want to, go ahead and let your children participate and allow them to have fun in a wholesome environment.

Christians Shouldn’t Dabble in the Occult

The Bible specifically forbids dabbling in the occult. That means we should stay away from Ouija boards, fortune-telling, séances, haunted houses, and occult-like costumes such as ghosts, witches, or vampires. However, it’s totally possible to participate in Halloween without indulging in its negative aspects. There are more than enough fun costumes available that don’t involve dressing up like a witch or a ghost — from celebrities, to Disney characters, to Bible characters — the sky is the limit. Go to a costume party dressed like a Biblical character or get some friends to help you dramatize a Bible scene. When people ask who you’re supposed to be, you get to tell them a story!

People Use Halloween as an Excuse for Lewdness

In a popular 80s song, rap group Whodini taught us that the freaks come out at night. Well, they also come out at Halloween. Wild parties, drug use, near-nakedness, and sexual immorality abound. So what’s a Christian to do? Well this is an easy one. Stay away from those things — and not just on Halloween! Skip the club, and don’t attend parties where the host isn’t a Christian and you don’t know what to expect.

To Celebrate or Not — That Is the Question

Many Christians who wish to participate in Halloween are made to feel guilty by their well-meaning, non-celebratory Christian friends. Well, I’m here to absolve you of all guilt. If you want to celebrate Halloween, do so with a clear conscience, knowing that you are still honoring God in whatever you do. In Christ you are free from man-made rules and regulations, and God is the only one you really need to answer to.

Now, despite our freedom in Christ, caution is still required. Having been fully convinced that celebration of Halloween is ok within certain guidelines, it’s only natural to want to share our convictions. Sharing is fine, but make sure your sharing doesn’t cross the line into convincing. You don’t want anyone trying to convince you that you shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, likewise you shouldn’t try to convince anyone that they should.

Now if you believe it’s wrong to celebrate Halloween, don’t do it. It’s a sin to do something that you believe is wrong, even if it really isn’t. But there are certainly valid reasons for choosing not to participate, so don’t feel guilty if that’s your choice. Don’t go against your own conscience, but don’t try to convince others to go against theirs either (Romans 14:21-23).

If you ask me, many Christians have it backward. They scream “don’t judge” about things that are clearly labeled as sin; meanwhile they get all bent out of shape about what holidays to celebrate and other doubtful issues that have nothing to do with morality. But don’t get me started — that’s a whole ‘nother topic!

Wherever you stand, here’s the key: If you’re an abstainer, don’t judge the participator. If you’re a participator, don’t look down on the abstainer.

~ C. Austin Tucker

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts (in love!) in the comments below. And if you’re celebrating Halloween, let us all know what you’re doing.

How Should Christians Respond to the Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling?

Supreme Court2 Timothy 4:3-4 says that the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather many teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and instead listen to myths.

That time has come. I’m grieved by the Supreme Court ruling, but it didn’t surprise me. The handwriting has been on the wall for quite some time. No longer will the body of Christ be able to sit quietly on the sidelines, but what should our response be?

1. Don’t act out in anger. God is still on his throne. Jesus did die for our sins and he was resurrected with ALL power. And no government ruling can supersede God’s authority. Grieve the decision; that’s an appropriate response. But don’t let it drag you into useless arguments. We aren’t going to win anyone over with rage, sarcasm, and insults. We need to continue speaking the truth. And remember that truth and love must co-exist; it’s not either/or. As Warren Wiersbe said, “Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.”

2. Read the Bible. We have become biblically illiterate. The Bible is a big book, so just going to Sunday service and/or Bible study isn’t enough. God gave us the Bible for guidance and sustenance, and we need to read it. All of it. Repeatedly. This will allow us to hear God speak, strengthen us for the trials to come, and remind us of God’s teachings. If we consider God our father, then we need to believe and do what he says.

3. Pray. Pray for our nation and its leaders, for the Christian body, and for our Christian clergy. Pray for the boldness to stand for what’s right and that God will forgive our nation for turning away from him. Additionally, pray for the salvation of the lost, and that we would be used as instruments to turn people back to God.

4. Stop compromising. Houston, we have a problem. A big one. We have become ineffective because of our willingness to compromise God’s Word. Matthew 5:14-16 says we are the light of the world and we should let that light shine before others. Instead, our light is getting dimmer and dimmer. And it’s our own fault. Here are the primary reasons we compromise:

A. To make sure we don’t offend. It seems we’re worried about offending everyone but God. But Matthew 10:28 says not to be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

B. To prove we don’t hate. The idea is being promoted that truth = hate. If we say, “Homosexuality is a sin,” we’re automatically accused of hatred. Well if we’re haters, then Jesus was the ultimate hater. Yes, he loved people. He healed them, fed them, and forgave them. But he didn’t hesitate to call out sin. His message wasn’t “I love you, so I’ll remain silent to spare your feelings;” it was “I love you. Now go and sin no more.”

C. To ensure we’re not judging. We have bought into the lie that judging is wrong. I submit to you that Christians better be able to judge between right and wrong! We need to do this first for ourselves and secondly to be able to help our Christian brothers and sisters. Let’s clear up this false teaching. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus is NOT saying don’t judge. He’s saying don’t judge if you’re guilty of the same or greater sin.

Judging sin doesn’t mean that we ride around on our high horse telling everyone they’re wrong. But it does mean not being afraid to speak up when the situation calls for it. It means being able to say X, Y, Z is a sin, without apology. Because we’re not saying it of our own volition, we’re only stating what God has already said.

D. To conceal our own sin. Within our own churches, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, and pornography is being condoned or overlooked. We’ve even got people in prominent positions who need to be sat down. The people who don’t want to be confronted with their sin fall back on “don’t judge me” or “nobody’s perfect.” But we need to clean up our own houses so we can effectively witness to others. And we need to hold our own marriages in higher honor before we worry about what other people are doing.

Be Bold for Christ

If you’re compromising your own beliefs in favor of the changing culture, then shame on you. I’m talking to you President Obama; I’m talking to all you Christian leaders on television; I’m talking to all the Christians in the trenches living life day by day. Stop compromising! Stop calling wrong right and right wrong. You’re on a slippery slope and soon you really won’t be able to tell the difference. How can we be light if we can’t properly identify what’s dark?

If You’re Struggling With Homosexuality

To my Christian brothers and sisters caught up in the homosexual lifestyle, I love you and I ache for you, because I know it’s hard. Sexual sin of any kind is the hardest to overcome for a Christian. But your first step is to acknowledge the lifestyle as sin. You can’t fix what you won’t admit. Don’t buy into the idea that what you’re doing is ok. Confess your sin and ask God to help you overcome it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You might have a continuous struggle, just as most Christians are prone to particular sins, but fight the good fight until the day you die. Don’t give up!

Enter the Narrow Gate

Matthew 7:13-14 says that the wide gate leads to destruction, but the narrow gate leads to life. We aren’t going to enter the narrow gate by giving in to popular opinion. I leave you with this scripture from Ephesians 4:14-15: We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Let us not be influenced by human cunning or clever lies. We must speak the truth in love, growing in every way to become more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

~ C. Austin Tucker

The Dog Ate My Bible – Excuse #3: “The Bible is Boring”

The Bible is Boring

Today’s post addresses a third excuse for not reading the Bible: The Bible is boring. However, many people don’t want to admit this. It sounds too unholy, perhaps even blasphemous. Surely lightning would strike them down if they confessed to such a thing. But the only way to solve a problem is to admit that there is one.

That being said, if you genuinely think the Bible is boring, you probably haven’t really read it! Pick a genre, any genre…the Bible contains drama, romance, history, mystery, horror, poetry, action, biography, suspense, etc. Even so, it’s true that some sections can be boring. Most people aren’t excited about reading genealogy lists, Leviticus laws, or tabernacle construction details. These sections of the Bible often slow people down and prevent them from making significant progress toward finishing the Bible.

The Bible is an acquired taste. The more you devour it, the more you will come to love even the parts most people want to skip. There are many ways to breathe life into the time spent reading the Bible:

1.  Read a new translation. Don’t limit yourself to a particular translation because of tradition or a sense of loyalty. You don’t serve man, but God, and he hasn’t handpicked a particular Bible translation over another. The best Bible is one you will read and understand.

2. Read a nontraditional Bible. Did you know that there are graphic and comic book Bibles? Buy a children’s picture Bible. If you have children, you can use them as a cover for your purchase. If not, surely you have nieces, nephews, kids of friends, etc. You get the idea.

3. Start a Bible reading plan or switch to a different plan if you’re already using one. There’s more than one order in which to read the Bible. An unconventional reading plan can revitalize your time in the scriptures.

4. Listen to a dramatized audio Bible like The Word of Promise or the Bible Experience. These Bibles feature popular actors and actresses reading different parts of the Bible, like a play.

5. Change your perception. Reading the Bible is not a chore to be completed or a task to check off the to-do list. It’s not a plate of vegetables that we eat because daddy will be mad it we don’t. We read the Bible because we love God and because, through his Word, he makes himself known to us.

6. Increase your understanding of the overall theme of the Bible. It may be boring you because you don’t understand how the books, chapters, and verses fit together. The more you understand about the Bible, the more interesting it will become. Many books are available that provide a birds-eye view of the Bible.

7. Skip the part that’s boring you. You’ll come back to it next time (You do realize that you will read through the Bible multiple times, right?). Don’t let a particular passage or section prevent you from moving on. The Bible police won’t arrest you if you decide to just skip Leviticus this time.

8. Enlist the aid of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes reading the Bible is about as interesting as watching water boil and other times it lights a fire inside you can barely contain. That’s the difference between letting the Spirit lie dormant and being filled with the Spirit. Pray for understanding and enrichment before reading the Bible.

Is the Bible boring you? You have many options, so take control and do something about it. One day you will be able to say with the Psalmist: Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalms 119:97, 103, 105).

Missed the beginning of the series? Read parts 1 & 2 now:

The Dog Ate My Bible – Excuse #1: “The Bible is a big book”

The Dog Ate My Bible – Excuse #2: “I don’t like to read”

The Dog Ate My Bible – Excuse #2: “I Don’t Like to Read”

I don't like to readThis is the second post in The Dog Ate My Bible series, and it addresses the problem of those who don’t read the Bible because they don’t like to read. Technology is mostly a good thing; however, with the increasing popularity of the internet, bigger TVs, and cool gaming systems, reading is becoming more rare. This is true even for those like me who love to read. It’s just easier to let our minds wander and surf the internet, watch TV, or play a video game. If you genuinely don’t like to read, you do have a hurdle to overcome when it comes to reading the Bible. Fortunately, you do have options. Here are four tips:

1. Listen to the Bible free at a site like Biblegateway.com. Many different Bible translations are available. Choose the book, chapter, and verse and listen directly online. The only downside is that you can only do this if you are near your computer or have an internet connection on your mobile device. This leads us to option #2.

2. Purchase an audio Bible. These can be quite pricey, but they are worth the cost. Browse your local Christian bookstore or search Amazon.com to check out the vast selection of audio Bibles. On Amazon you may be able to find them used. You can play the CDs in your car or load the content onto your MP3 player, making an internet connection unnecessary.

3. Watch movies about the Bible. There are a number of movies based on biblical stories. The difficulty is that many of them take liberties with the biblical content, either adding content not found in the Bible or leaving out crucial information. I’ve recently begun watching these movies to see what’s out there and plan to do a blog post in the future about my findings. Movies are a great medium to portray the awesome stories of the Bible, but I’d like to see more faithfulness to the biblical text. The problem with watching Bible movies is that, if you don’t already know the Bible, it will be hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Therefore, this step should combined with options 1, 2, or 4.

4. Just do it! Yes, even though you don’t like to read, read the Bible anyway. You may start out only reading 5 minutes a day and that’s fine. You’ll read more as you develop the habit. Sometimes you’ve just got to make a decision and get it done. Every day we do things we don’t want to do, but we do what’s necessary. Since reading and understanding the Bible is so important for spiritual growth, don’t you owe it to yourself to go ahead and do it? Even with all the other methods available of accessing the Bible, reading is still the best way of truly absorbing its information. It’s harder for your mind to wander when your eyes are glued to the page. You can also underline and take notes.

Until next time, happy reading (or listening or watching).

Missed part one? Read it now: The dog ate my bible and other reasons for not reading the good book

The Dog Ate My Bible – And Other Excuses For Not Reading The Good Book

Furniture, toys, and electronics often come with an instruction manual. Most of us don’t read it from beginning to end, though it would save time if we did. We’re more likely to refer to the manual only when there’s a problem. The Bible functions as an instruction manual for humans, and we often treat it just like any other manual—hunting for the information we want or need, and ignoring the rest.

Most Christians would readily admit the need to spend more time in God’s word but find it difficult to actually do so. In this series we’ll discuss common reasons for not reading the Bible and how you can avoid being hindered by them. Today we focus on a common obstacle to reading the Bible: The Bible is a big book.

The Bible contains:

  • 66 books
  • 1,500 pages (depending on Bible type and translation)
  • 1189 chapters
  • 32,000 verses (depending on Bible translation)

Regardless of how you slice it, that’s a lot of information to read. But while those numbers can make the Bible seem even more intimidating, they can assist you in successfully reading it.

Suppose you want to read the Bible in a year. Simply break the numbers down into manageable increments:

  • 66 books divided by 12 months = approximately 5 books a month.
  • 1,500 pages divided by 365 days = approximately 4 pages a day.
  • 1189 chapters divided by 365 days = approximately 3 chapters a day.
  • 32,000 verses divided by 365 days = approximately 88 verses a day.

In addition, the entire Bible can be read in 70 to 80 hours (depending on the translation). How long are you willing and able to read each day?

  • If you read an hour a day, you will read the Bible in approximately 80 days.
  • If you read 30 minutes a day, you will read the Bible in approximately 160 days (a little over five months).
  • If you read 15 minutes a day, you will read the Bible in approximately 320 days (about 10 months).

Yes, the Bible is big, but you can read it book by book, page by page, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, or hour by hour. If you need more structure, use one of the many Bible reading plans available. Until next time, happy reading.

Sunday Part 2 – The Post-Resurrection Appearances

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. She looked into the tomb and saw the two angels in white, sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

 “Why are you crying? He asked. Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you took him away, tell me where you put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She cried out, “Teacher!”

Greetings,” Jesus said. Then Mary grabbed his feet and worshiped him.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Tell them to meet me in Galilee.”

Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them all he had said to her.

When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jews. Suddenly Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

They were surprised and frightened, thinking he was a ghost.

Jesus said, “Why are you troubled, and why do you doubt? Look at my hands and feet. It is I! Touch me! A ghost does not have flesh and bones like I do.”

Even after he showed them his hands and feet, they still had trouble believing because of joy and amazement.

Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?”

They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it.

Then he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Sunday Part 1 – HE IS RISEN!

The Empty Tomb

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and the other women bought spices and perfumes to anoint Jesus’ body.

Very early on the first day of the week, there was a violent earthquake.  An angel came from heaven, rolled the stone away from the tomb, 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.

While it was still dark, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. And they wondered, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they arrived they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they didn’t find Jesus’ body. Suddenly two men in clothes that glowed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground.

One of the angels said, “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. But why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen just as he said. Look at the place where he lay. Remember how he told you, ‘The Son of Man must be arrested, crucified, and will rise on the third day.’ Go quickly and tell his disciples and Peter.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy.

The Guards’ Report

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the chief priests what had happened at the tomb.

The chief priests met with the elders and devised a plan. They gave the soldiers a large sum of money, and told them to say ‘His disciples came and stole his body while we were asleep.’

“We will keep you out of trouble with the governor,” they promised.

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.

The Disciples Hear the News

When the women reported all that had happened, the disciples didn’t believe them because their words seemed like nonsense.

But Peter and John ran for the tomb. John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He looked at the strips of linen lying there but didn’t go in.

Then Peter arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen, and he wondered to himself what had happened. They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

Finally John also went inside. He saw…. and believed.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Saturday – Guards Provided for Jesus’ Tomb

The day after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “while that deceiver was still alive he 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.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate said, “and make the tomb as secure as you can.”

So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Friday Part 3 – Death of a Savior

The Death of Jesus

At noon the sun stopped shining and darkness covered the land for three hours.

At 3pm Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”– which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”                                                                    

Some people said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

Immediately someone soaked a sponge in a jar of wine vinegar that was sitting there. He put the sponge on a stalk of hyssop and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.

“Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

Afterward, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Then he called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  He then bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Immediately the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.

When the centurion and other soldiers guarding Jesus saw the earthquake, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

The people who had gathered to witness the crucifixion went home in deep sorrow, but those who knew Jesus stood watching at a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It was Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath. Since the next day was a special Sabbath, the Jews didn’t want the bodies left on the crosses. After asking Pilate’s permission, the soldiers broke the legs of the two men who had been crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. So the scripture was fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken and “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus Claim Jesus’ Body

There was a man named Joseph from Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council. He had not consented to Jesus’ death. He was a righteous man who was waiting for the kingdom of God. He had followed Jesus in secret, because he was afraid of the Jews.

As evening approached, Joseph went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Nicodemus was with him. Joseph bought some linen cloth and Nicodemus brought a 75-pound mixture of myrrh and aloes. They wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in strips of linen, in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

There was a garden near the place where Jesus was crucified.  Inside was Joseph’s own tomb that he had cut out of rock, in which no one had yet been laid. Because it was Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. They rolled a big stone in front of the entrance and left.

Mary Magdalene and the other women sat near the tomb and watched as Jesus’ body was laid to rest. Then they went home and rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

TO BE CONTINUED