by Viktor O
This morning the GAP group met at 6:45am in Heritage Park for a (rainy) sunrise service. I’ve always been quite fond of those. It was just a sweet time of worship, prayer, and a little devotion to start off a busy Easter day.
Huge thanks to Beth A for basically organizing the whole thing, Aaron P for leading the worship, Betsy C for doing the reading, and Sung for bringing coffee. Below is the devotion for those of you who missed out.
Sunrise Service Devotion
One of the most depressing days in all of history had to be the day in between the cross and the resurrection. Jesus’ disciples and followers had just been through some really great highs and were now in a huge life shattering low.
Just a week ago was the Triumphal Entry, Luke 19:37-38:
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
They’d heard Jesus talk about his kingdom coming, and after 60+ years of Roman rule and oppression they liked the sound of that. So the Triumphal Entry really made it seem like everything was going according to plan.
Fast forward one week…and their savior/messiah has been arrested, crucified, and buried. We’re told in John 20:19 that they were all gathered together behind locked doors ‘for fear of the Jews’. Here they are on a Sabbath, with lots of time on their hands, wondering what happened. I can only imagine their conversation was like:
What are we supposed to do now?
Didn’t he say he was going to establish a kingdom?
Will we be targeted next?
Lets focus in on one of the guys in the room, Peter. Some of you know that I love Peter, he’s by far my favorite disciple, because he was just so brazen, but more importantly he screwed up a lot. He’s the guy that’s bold enough to try walking on water in a storm and then immediately gets scared and sinks. He’s the guy that claims he will follow Christ to the death and then that very day denies him 3 times as Jesus prophesied. Peter has his highs and his lows.
But the reason I want to focus on Peter is because of probably his greatest moment, recorded in Matthew 16:13-17:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
There were all kinds of theories about who Jesus was. Some didn’t even make sense. John the Baptist was alive at the same time as Jesus…they’d been seen together. I never understood that one.
But then Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” And who speaks up? None other than Peter. He’s the only one who gets it. And boy does he nail it.
Ok, now we’re back in the locked room with all the disciples after the crucifixion. This time lets focus in on a lady named Martha. She, along with her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus, were close friends with Jesus. You may remember the story, but Lazarus had died, and it took Jesus 4 days to get there so both Martha and Mary had given up hope, even for a miracle from Jesus. When he finally gets there, they both say the exact same thing: John 11:21, 32: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
They truly believed that he could have healed Lazarus, but who has power over death? (Spoiler alert.) To complete the story, they take Jesus to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus cries out “Lazarus, come out”. And, well, Lazarus comes out.
But before he had resurrected Lazarus, in the middle of all the grief and commotion, there’s a really fascinating exchange between Jesus and Martha in John 11:25-27:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Jesus asks Martha a direct question “Do you believe this?” and she responds with a pretty extraordinary statement. Martha, like Peter, knew who Jesus was. Lots of people knew about Jesus but very few knew Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah.
OK, we’re back in the locked room again with the disciples after the crucifixion. As they try to process everything that happened that weekend, I’m sure they’re reflecting on everything that Jesus had said. And I’d bet that Peter and Martha had an especially hard time, recalling their proclamations that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. But here they were again, facing the same two questions from Jesus: Who do you say I am? Do you believe this?
Here’s the thing. I guarantee you that sitting in that room both Martha and Peter had their doubts. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been surprised upon learning about the resurrection. But. When they encountered the risen Christ, it changed everything. The resurrection proved that Jesus was not a madman. It proved that he had power over death. It proved that he was who he claimed to be. The Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. As we fast forward through the New Testament we see the church exploded. The apostles boldly proclaimed the Gospel and willingly laid down their lives, many of them martyred, for the Gospel. They had seen the risen Christ.
Finally, lets focus in on you. Each one of us. Because those same two questions are directed at us. There are many theories even in our present day about who Jesus is. Some say he never existed, others say he was just a good moral teacher… Who do you say he is? And do you actually believe this? Does your life reflect that reality? Would you stake your life on that truth? How many times have you denied knowing Christ this past year?
On our Easter invitation cards this year we had a quote from C. S. Lewis from his book Mere Christianity:
“You must make your choice: either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”