After Easter

Where will your path lead?

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:18-20

Yesterday we noticed that, in his resurrection and ascension, Jesus is with us even now, here, today. (I am so thankful for that, aren’t you?)

Today, I want to notice what was next — for the disciples and for us.

We talked about this a little bit already last week when we noticed the way Jesus prepared the disciples for life after life with him on earth. But in these last words he spoke to them before ascending into heaven, we learn a little bit more. 

Simply put, he asks them to make disciples. 

When reading through Matthew this time through, I really felt the fullness of what that charge meant.

Jesus spent three years with his disciples. He was with them day in and day out. He taught them about himself and about the nature of the kingdom of God. He answered their questions. He corrected their misunderstandings. He helped them practice the same things they saw him doing. 

He wasn’t asking them to evangelize with a few quick sentences or a few quick questions. 

He was asking them to be with people as he was with them.

Teaching them. Orienting them to a truer reality than the one they see around them. Showing them the nature of Jesus by their own lives. Answering their questions. Being present to them.

Life after Easter is about having Jesus with us here and sharing him — the fullness of him — with others. I so love that. It’s become what I most want to do.

He Is Risen, and He Is With Us


They called him Immanuel, which means “God With Us.”

For me, that has always meant the wonder of the incarnation — of God humbling himself into human form in Jesus in order to draw near, to be with us in our human experience of life, and to then die in order to draw us even nearer to himself. 

But this year, I’m thinking about the way Jesus is still, right now, with us. 

He is always Immanuel. 

Matthew records these last words of Jesus to his followers after the resurrection, just as he ascended into heaven: 

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:20

He is with us always. Even to the end of the age. 

Just as he was ascending into heaven, he tells his disciples he is with them always. It’s a physical impossibility for someone to be in heaven but also here on earth.

Unless you are God. Unless you have a Spirit by whom you come and dwell inside of man. Unless you have a Spirit whose role it is to remind humanity of all your words and teachings and to teach them even more truth — all things — than you taught while walking the earth. This is what Jesus says is true of the Holy Spirit: 

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. … But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

— John 14:23, 26

We have Jesus now, here. He comes and dwells with us. And we learn, through the agency of His Holy Spirit, all that is true and real in this life that God created. 

He is risen from the dead, and he is here with us now. Praise be to God!

The Women Who Never Left Him

Caring for the Christ.

Reading through the passion account in Matthew this year, I noticed the women. They’re faithfully there. 

On Friday, when Jesus was abandoned and ridiculed and scorned from every possible direction, hanging there on the cross, we read this: 

And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. 

— Matthew 27:55

I think about them standing there, from afar, looking on. What were they thinking and feeling? What might they have said to one another, standing there, watching it all unfold? 

They must have felt so helpless, so astounded and incredulous, so grieved. 

And then we read that they were there when Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in clean linen cloths, and laid it inside the brand-new tomb he’d recently hewn out of rock. It says: 

And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

— Matthew 27:61

In his death, they remained as close to him as they could get. They sat at his tomb. They watched. They wondered. They remained.

And on Sunday morning, as soon as the Sabbath has passed, they were there at the dawn of morning. They “came to see the tomb,” Matthew tells us. Mark’s gospel says they brought spices with them there, so they could anoint his dead body. 

The women take such care for him, I noticed. So attentive. So faithful and present, even after he died. 

It’s how they remained with him in his life, too.

Mary of Bethany (believed to be Mary Magdalene by the Catholic tradition) sat at his feet when he visited her home one time. Even as her sister Martha prepared the meal in the kitchen and got things ready to eat, Mary sat at his feet looking up at him, listening, learning, just being with him. 

On another occasion, that same Mary anointed his feet with expensive perfume as well as her very own tears, in anticipation and preparation of his death. Jesus remarks on every occasion that story is recorded in the gospels that it meant an incredible deal to him that she would demonstrate such love and care and sacrifice for him in his sorrows.

The women in Jesus’ life were so faithful and loving toward him. 

And it so moves me that, on the Sunday after his death, when they came to the tomb with the intent to anoint his body with their spices, our risen Lord chose to appear to them first. What grace.

He Hung There All Alone

Christ, for you.

As I was reading through the narrative of Christ’s passion in Matthew’s gospel last weekend, I was struck by the utter aloneness of Jesus. 

After spending three full years of eating meals, taking walks, listening to teachings, witnessing and performing miracles, enjoying friendship, and just doing everyday life with Jesus, his closest friends left him in an instant. Once the guards and multitudes arrived to take Jesus away in the garden, we read: 

Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. 

— Matthew 26:56

Except Matthew includes a little postnote about Peter two verses later: 

But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.

— Matthew 26:58

Really, Peter? You followed at a distance, snuck into a courtyard, hid among a cluster of servants — in order to see how it would turn out? 

It feels so sneaky. And that note about Peter really heightened my sense of Jesus’ aloneness in all of this. Even his closest friend could do no more than sneak around in the background on him, staying on the periphery. He wasn’t willing to come near. He wasn’t willing to be with Jesus. 

But then the aloneness just gets worse. 

Everyone in the high priest’s court testifies against him. There he stood, in the middle of all assembled there, while person after person brought their case against him. Then they took turns abusing him — they spat in his face, beat him, and taunted him, hitting him from behind and then goading him to prophecy who had done the hitting each time. 

The next day, on the day we observe today as Good Friday, the receding continued.

Against his better judgment, Pilate delivered the death sentence and then scourged him. His soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and crushed it into the brow of Jesus, then dressed him up in royal robes and mocked him. They, too, spat in his face and hit him on the head from behind with objects. 

Once Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers hung out at his feet on the ground below the cross and gambled with each other for his clothes. People walking by the cross wagged their heads at him and sneered: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. Save yourself!” 

Even the two thieves, the ones hanging on his right and left, abandoned him. The scriptures say they reviled him as they hung there next to him (Matt. 26:44). 

He hung there all alone. Everyone left him. No one could stand to be with him in his final hours. 

And then the world turned black.

"Will You Watch With Me One Hour?"


Today is Maundy Thursday. It’s the day in the church calendar that signifies the final night of Christ’s freedom.

On this night of his life, Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples in the Upper Room. During that meal, he gave thanks for the bread and wine and offered it to them, saying that it represented his own body and blood that were being given and shed for his followers. He also, as recorded in John 13, washed the feet of his disciples (the act that gives Maundy Thursday its name). 

And then he walked with them to Mount of Olives.

This is the place that holds the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus struggled in prayer on that last night of his freedom, asking God if he really did need to die. 

When going apart to pray, we see Jesus ask his closest disciples to sit and wait for him. When he comes back to them three different times, each time he finds them asleep. Grieved, he asks them:

“Could you not watch with Me one hour?”

Tonight at my church, we’ve been invited to participate in a prayer vigil that is being kept through the night. Kirk and I signed up for a slot at 3 a.m., and I’m just full of anticipation at the opportunity to arrive at my church in the dead of night and kneel on the ground before an altar of candles, sitting with Jesus in the silence.

Will I be able to stay awake with him one hour? I hope so. 

And I want to encourage you, if you are so inclined, to carve out an hour of time this evening to do the same. Create a space in a corner of your home for this. It doesn’t have to be a very large or particularly holy kind of corner. Just a space for you and Jesus to sit together for an hour. Maybe light a candle. Maybe sit with your journal to record the things you think about or pray during that time. Spend time sitting with Jesus in the silence and the darkness of night, waiting with him for the hour of his death that soon approaches.

If you do this, I’d love to hear what it’s like for you. 

Oh, Judas

Holy light.

This is a continuation of daily posts through Holy Week.

For some reason, I’ve spent more time thinking about Judas this Easter than ever before. He keeps cropping up everywhere.

I wonder about him. 

Did he know the religious leaders intended to kill Jesus when he agreed to hand him over to them? In Mark’s gospel account of the betrayal in the garden, we read that Judas told the multitude who came to seize Jesus, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely” (Mark 14:43). 

Lead him away safely? That doesn’t sound like the directive of someone who knows he’s leading a band of marauders who have blood and death set in their hearts. 

I wonder about Jesus, too. 

When Judas approaches Jesus in that moment of betrayal and greets him with that traitorous kiss, Jesus calls him friend: 

“Friend, why have you come?” 

— Matthew 26:50


Jesus knows why Judas came. Just 30 verses earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him and identifies Judas explicitly as the one. “Rabbi, is it I?” he asks Jesus. “You have said it,” Jesus replies. 

And yet he calls his betrayer friend and asks him why he’s come. 

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus is inviting Judas to face the truth of himself — that perhaps he knew Judas was detached from the reality of his actions. Even though Judas went directly to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for a fee of silver, he then asked Jesus if he was the one who would do it. Did he not know — really — what he had set himself to do? 

Did Judas not have the strength to see and own the truth of himself? 

I’m not sure he did. We know what happened after Jesus was condemned by the religious leaders to death. Judas feels remorseful, goes back to the religious leaders to try and make things right, is denied, and then goes and hangs himself. 

Oh, Judas. My heart breaks for you.

Last year in an Ash Wednesday service, I was led to consider for the first time what happened during those three days Jesus spent in Hades after he died. What did he say or do in his time down there? Did he preach the truth of his own good news to those already dead?

I hope so.

And then recently, my rector posed a new question: Did he encounter Judas there? 

If so, I wonder what their encounter was like. I can’t help but hope Judas bowed at the feet of Jesus and repented of what he’d done, then received the open, forgiving arms of Jesus welcoming him back into love.

Preparing the Disciples for What Comes Next


This is a continuation of daily posts through Holy Week.

After Jesus engaged in a truth-telling series of teaching with the religious leaders in Jerusalem, he spent time with his disciples. 

And what he did was prepare them for life after life on earth with Jesus. 

If you have a red-letter Bible and look at Matthew 24-25, you will see solid red letters all the way through. All of these red letters — the very words of Christ — are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples about what to expect about the end of time and how to live in the meantime, while waiting for it to come to pass. 

He’s teaching them how to live after he’s left them.

He begins by answering their question about the end of days, telling them how they will know those days are near. He prepares them for the inevitability of false prophets who will call themselves the savior in his stead. He tells them life will be hard. 

And he asks them, in all of this, to be faithful and trustworthy: 

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.”

— Matthew 24:45-47

This teaching to be faithful continues through chapter 25.

He tells the parable of the ten virgins — five wise and five foolish — who awaited the coming of their groom. What made five of them wise? Being prepared with enough oil to light their lamps through the night, no matter how long they were made to wait for the groom’s arrival. 

He tells the parable of the talents — a master who goes away for a long spell but leaves his servants with some resources with which to be creative and useful and fruitful while he’s gone. Those who were blessed upon his return were those who did just that: used what the master had given them to some good and fruitful end.

He talks about a division of sheep and goats — those who enter into glory (sheep) and those who don’t (goats). What marks the difference? Those who choose to love and care for others on earth, no matter their circumstance.

In all this, Jesus is teaching his disciples — and all of us who follow him — how to live until the end of time. 

Be faithful. Be useful for good with what you have and who you are. Be full of love and care and kindness and mercy. Until he returns to set all things right.

Enter Jerusalem, Enter Conflict and Strife

Cloud wonder.

This is a continuation of daily posts through Holy Week that began yesterday

It struck me this time more than any other time I’ve read through the gospel of Matthew that confrontation and strife first greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem. 

The first thing he did was cleanse the temple. Yes. I’d noticed that before. 

But this was the first time I’d thought about this being the temple. As in, the huge, monolithic structure that the people of Israel took years and years to build in the time of Solomon. As in, the place of intent and holy pilgrimage for all the Jews every year when they observed the Passover. As in, regarded with way more reverence than any local synagogue that stood in for the temple on behalf of the people throughout the rest of the year’s duration. 

Jesus came and cleansed that temple

I’m pretty sure that made no little mark on the city that week. 

He then proceeded to have it out with the religious leaders — the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even the Herodians. Every single one of them wanted a piece of Jesus once he got to Jerusalem.

And here’s what I noticed.

Even though Jesus had been confronted by the religious leaders throughout his three years of ministry elsewhere, this time it came on him like an onslaught. He’d no sooner finish answering one question than another group of leaders would approach him with another. 

I share in the Look at Jesus course that the gospel of Matthew is known as a teaching gospel. This is a gospel where we find long sections of scripture where Jesus teaches and teaches and teaches in long, continuous strands. Sometimes the people listening to that teaching are his disciples. Sometimes it is the multitude of people following him around everywhere

In this case, Jesus launches into a teaching discourse with his enemies. 

For three straight chapters, we see him very pointedly telling stories that liken those religious leaders to people who completely mess up — a son who tells his father that he’ll work the family vineyard but then doesn’t; vinedressers who are hired to work a landowner’s vineyard but beat, stone, and murder everyone in authority who comes on the owner’s behalf to check on the land, even up to the landowner’s son; the original guest list for a king’s lavish wedding feast who decide their own affairs are more important than the wedding feast and even go so far as to kill those who come to invite them to attend.

Matthew makes very clear that the religious leaders know what Jesus is doing in these stories — that he’s talking about them. They can read between the lines of the stories, and they’re furious. 

The conflict doesn’t stop there, though. 

Jesus then begins his long and famous diatribe against the scribes and Pharisees. Not only does he first warn the people against them in no uncertain terms, but he then starts in on them directly with numerous “Woe to you!” vindictives. 

The confrontations Jesus has with the religious leaders earlier in his ministry are tame compared to those he engaged in Jerusalem the very last week of his life.

It’s as though the fire has been turned up — way up. And it’s about to boil over.

Palm Sunday, and Entering Holy Week


Hello, loves. 

When I shared the 2012 dates for the Look at Jesus course earlier this year, someone asked if I intended the first offering of the course to start with Holy Week. Truthfully, no. It hadn’t crossed into my awareness at all that the first week of the course would coincide with the week leading up to Easter. 

I consider it a serendipitous oversight now.

And that’s because this weekend, as I’ve been reading the Gospel of Matthew in preparation for the start of the course this week, I have found it very special to be reading the details of the last week of Jesus’ life at the same exact time the worldwide church is observing that same event.

It was rather surreal, for example, to be reading along in the pages of Scripture earlier today and to suddenly find myself in Matthew 21, which depicts the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem — otherwise known as Palm Sunday.

Which is today. 

I’ve decided, in observance of Holy Week, to post consecutively here from today through Easter, using the posts this week to share things that have struck me about the passion week of Jesus as I’ve read through the pages of Matthew, in particular, this weekend. 

Like, for instance, that it wasn’t until Peter declared Jesus to be the Christ — the anointed one all Israel had been waiting to arrive — that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and his impending death.

Matthew records these words just after Peter confesses the truth of Jesus’ identity: 

“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 

— Matthew 16:21

In this, we see that Jesus knew his fate. He knew what awaited him in Jerusalem. He knew what had to happen. He knew what lay ahead.

But his disciples didn’t. Not until they’d professed him as the Christ, that is. Only then were they ready to learn what lay ahead. Even if they still didn’t fully understand it. Even if they weren’t really ready for it. Even if they would leave him once the persecution began.