Posts Tagged ‘resurrection’

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 2 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

Over the weekend, my senior pastor (and my boss) lost his father to death. Although his dad’s death has been anticipated for a while now, it does not take away the shock of the finality of death. I can feel for Pastor Tim and his family. My wife can too. My mom passed away in November 2010 and Elena’s dad passed in March of this year. In each of these cases, death came almost as a relief. Each was ready to go meet Jesus and was just waiting around and suffering til the time came in God’s providence.

My mom passed away in November 2010 at the fairly young age of 70. Although the last six months of my mom’s life was like watching some other person occupy my mother’s body. Her mind had degenerated into dementia and she was not the mother that I had once known. She had become paranoid and delusional because of the dementia. She was in excruciating pain from her back (where she had surgery on various parts of her spine 4 times in the final 6 years of her life). Crippling arthritis made even the smallest move of her body difficult. It was difficult to watch my mother suffer both in mind and in body. It ripped holes in my heart watching her suffer particularly those last 6 months of her life. We had been anticipating her death those last six months. However, it was that last 6 days where she was at death’s door. We were ready for it. The Sunday before she died on Thursday we waited at the hospital ICU for her to pass on, but she fought it. She was a feisty woman all her life so she wasn’t going to die without a fight. Finally, the day came. Not long after I got to work on that Thursday, I believe it was, my dad gave me a call and told me that I needed to get to the nursing home as quick as I could. The hospice nurse had told him that the end was within hours.

I was able to get to the nursing home in the little town of Starr, SC (the town where my dad was pastoring a small United Methodist church on a part-time basis at that time) pretty quickly. It was the middle of the morning and the drive down from the Greenville area was pretty smooth as rush hour was over. When I got there mom was breathing heavily in labored breaths and was totally incoherent. Her body was simply functioning. Her mind had already checked out. It was just her soul still making things happen in her body. She did not respond to any stimuli. As the remainder of the morning progressed, the breathing was not as labored but the breaths were beginning to be further and further apart. I finally was able to muster the energy to hug my mom and whisper in her ear that it was OK to let go and go be with Jesus and to see her mom and dad and brother. And within the half hour after that, she just…just stopped breathing. And that was it. No grand cataclysmic event. She was there one second and then she was gone. It was a peaceful passing. She just stopped breathing and it was finished.

I am getting a little choked up as I write this because even though it has been almost 8 years now since my mother’s passing, I can get choked up by thinking about her if I let myself think on it long enough. I miss my mom. I really do. I miss dreading having to answer the phone because I knew I would be stuck on the phone for 30-45 minutes. I miss her being all up in my business. I miss her unique Carolyn Bowling way of loving me. Since she has been gone, I have come to realize that mom was the glue that held us together (my dad, my brother and me). Family get-togethers do not seem quite as special now. My mom made our family time seem special. I miss that. I miss her.

But the thing that always keep coming back to is that I know my mom was a believer in Jesus Christ. I know that she is now in heaven. I know that she has been spending almost 8 years, by how we reckon time on this side of eternity, praising her Savior all the day long. She is fully healthy now in heaven. She is no longer ravaged by dementia. She is no longer in severe back pain. She is experiencing joy immeasurable.

That’s the believer’s promise. That is what we have in store for us in heaven when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and have spent the rest of our lives making Him our Lord. No matter how tough things get. No matter how deep the valley. No matter the physical pain. No matter the troubling circumstances that we must go through in our lives, we will emerge on the other side on top of the mountain in heaven in victory for eternity. Eternity in heaven experiencing perfect joy and praising the Savior. That is how we as believers emerge from the valleys of this life is in the hope that we will one day be in heaven. Things may seem dark now on this side of heaven. You may be going through a valley that never seems to end but heaven is our reward.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that the Kidron Valley is mentioned for the first time in the Scriptures. The Kidron Valley runs below the southeast wall of Jerusalem, separating the city from The Mount of Olives to the east. It then turns southeast from Jerusalem and follows a winding course to the Dead Sea. The Kidron Valley is nearly always dry but does have a waterflow during rainy season. Here, we see the first reference to the valley when David and his people crossed through the valley over toward the wilderness. This strategic move would give them a way of escape if the forces of the rebel army of Absalom decided to attack the city. The people and the king wept bitterly during the move because it had such a depressing significance – they were abandoning the city without a fight.

Later Shimei was forbidden by Solomon to cross the valley on the penalty of death if Shimei did so (1 Kings 2:36-38). Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentions the wicked queen Athaliah was put to death in the Kidron Valley (see “Antiquities” 9.7.3). Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his crucifixion (John 18:1). Because of David’s sad crossing and Jesus’ sad crossing, the valley has come to symbolize suffering. We may have our own “Kidron Valley” to pass through; stay true to God, and he will stray true to you throughout your sufferings.

Each of us has hope in Jesus Christ. Once we accept Christ as our Savior and begin to grow in making Him the Lord of our lives, we have our eyes opened to one immutable reality. No matter how deep the valley or how severe the trouble, we have hope in a God that promises us deliverance. It may not always be on this side of eternity. Someone once said that “what’s the worst that could happen? I die and go to heaven? I can live with that!” Our ultimate prize is heaven as believers. That gives us comfort even in the toughest times. That gives us comfort when a loved one who was also a believer dies. We may miss them terribly but we know where they are. They have emerged from this valley called life into their victory on the mountaintop on the other side. Jesus gave us this hope through His resurrection. Death could not hold him. He arose from the dead to prove to us that He was our Messiah, Savior and Lord. He arose from the dead to show us that we have hope in everything that the Bible tells us. Jesus had His Kidron Valley moment but He emerged victorious in the resurrection.

So whatever you are going through including the loss of a loved one, take heart. Celebrate that there is a reward for being faithful to God even in the valleys of life. We have all eternity to celebrate with our Savior in heaven.

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Luke 24:11-12 — Have you ever heard a story that you just couldn’t believe. To compound it, the story comes from someone or several people in whom you by nature did not trust their testimony. That’s where the disciples find themselves in these two verses.

The first thing that we notice here is that is was two women to whom the resurrection was first revealed. That might not seem like a big deal to us in the 21st century where, at least in Western society, women have, for the most part, equal rights to men and equal access to the protection of the law. However, this was simply not the case in 1st century Palestine and most any society in history previous to this point. In first century Palestine where we find ourselves in this passage, women had little in the way of rights and little in the way of taking care of themselves financially. They were at the mercy of men. Women were considered hysterical and unreliable. It was so such this way that their testimony was not allowed in legal proceedings because of this perception. But, yet, the resurrection was revealed first to first century Palestinian women. So those that were considered the most unreliable of legal witnesses (just a shade above shepherds – to whom the birth of Jesus was first revealed) were the first to report the resurrection. Why in the world in a society where women were not given much merit would Jesus reveal his resurrection to women first? Couldn’t he as God in the flesh orchestrated more reliable initial witnesses? If this was all a fabrication of the church, why not have someone as respected as Nicodemus be the first to find the empty tomb? I think that this says much about the reliability of the gospels. The early church did not care that the first witnesses were women. They did care about being truthful. Sure, it would have been easier for it not to have been women who first saw the Risen Lord, but they wanted accuracy more than the political correctness of the day. The fact that women discovered the empty tomb and this fact was not washed over or covered up gives me confidence in the resurrection, the cornerstone of our faith.

Sure that is true in the long run, but Peter could not believe what he was hearing. After all, the testimony was coming from women. He just thought, we imagine in the day and time in which he lived, that the women were just so distraught that they had just imagined it all. After all, they were women! His understanding of women led him to believe that they were just upset because when women love they really love deep down in their souls. He felt they were just grieving enormously, as he would think in first century Palestine, in the ways that only women can. He felt that they had just let their hysterical female emotions get the best of them. The story initially seemed like nonsense to him. But then, Peter probably remembered how Jesus treated women with respect and allowed them to participate in his earthly ministry without reservation or complaint. So, Peter goes against his nature for the social time in which he lived, and goes to the tomb to check out the women’s testimony. He sees the empty tomb for himself. But still he was blown away by it all. What happened, he thought to himself. Someone stole our Master’s body?

Peter is not unlike us here. Even though Scripture clearly states and Jesus himself predicted his resurrection, when we hear about it the first time, we may need time before we can comprehend it. At first, we may think it is a fairy tale – the happy ending to a tale of murder and intrigue. We may think it is just something the church added later to make Jesus seem divine. They think that it is too incredible to be believed. They think it is a lie. Yet, these are the same people that think the universe just spontaneously created itself out of nothing for no apparent reason without the spark of an intelligent creator.

Many may think it is a nice story worthy of being believed because they would like to think Jesus was who He said He was, but just really do not believe it deep down in their souls. They avoid the subject of the resurrection so that they will not get mired in the debate because really they are puzzled by the claim themselves. These people may believe in an Intelligent Creator that started all this but yet they are not willing to believe that He is actively involved in man’s history. Thus, the resurrection is a puzzling anomaly in an otherwise brilliantly crafted collection of literature known as the Bible.

It is only when we encounter Jesus in a personal way through the Holy Spirit’s action in our souls that we are no longer incredulous about the resurrection. It is only when we see and accept that Jesus is the Son of God that the resurrection is no longer puzzling. It makes sense that the same Creator, that built a universe by His will and gave it His spark to cause it to be created out of nothing and be created for a purpose, can raise His own essence from the dead. We must admit to ourselves that we do not understand the mysteries of the universe. We must admit that we do not possess all knowledge. Each generation of mankind has thought that they knew it all and with each successive generation we find that what we held fervently as true is not (see world is flat folks, etc.). Therefore, our knowledge is limited. We can debunk the resurrection as being a fairy tale based on the knowledge level that we have in the 21st century, but there is a God with limitless knowledge and limitless power. He created the universe and He can then surely raise His Son from the dead. I may not understand how this happened physically, but I trust that it did. Until though, you accept the fact that we are not our own gods and do not know it all and do not know all the answers to life and come to our knees before Christ our Savior, the resurrection is puzzling, hard to explain, and maybe harder to defend.

Peter did not believe it at first and he was right there with Jesus day to day for three years and heard Jesus predict that He would rise from the dead. It is hard to believe. It takes faith more than anything else in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ to believe that He rose from the dead. But when we really walk down the path of life with Jesus as our Savior, we begin to see the validity of the resurrection. Jesus promised it. He did it. He is thus not a dead prophet to be admired like one admires Ghandi or Martin Luther King but a real King, a real Savior, and a living daily presence in our lives. The resurrection is my assurance that Jesus is with me daily. That is faith. Resurrection believed. Jesus with me daily.

Luke 3:21-22 — Why did Jesus allow Himself to be baptized by John The Baptist? He was sinless wasn’t He after all? There are several reasons. First, it is symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life.

First, it was symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus lived an earthly life (symbolic of Him prior to immersion in the water). He lived here among us as a human being. He know the life that we live. We have that in common with Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As we have discussed here before, Jesus understands the human existence. He lived it. The only difference between Him and us was that He was able to go through this life without sinning. We see in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus was tempted by Satan Himself during Jesus’ human existence but never failed, never sinned. However, His lack of sin does not mean that He does not understand our existence. He lived among us. The next step in the baptism process is the immersion in water. This is symbolic of Jesus’ death on earth. Being in the water symbolic of the time from Good Friday at sundown to sunrise on Easter Sunday morning when Jesus was in the tomb. Again, it is a reminder that Jesus experienced death just as we do. Jesus’ death was an excruciating ordeal on the cross. Jesus knew that physical pain that sometimes occurs as we die. He knows of slow agonizing death. He knows of welcoming His last breath. He knows that hour when the body gives up and shuts down and stops working. He knows of that moment when the life force stops. But that is not the end of the story with Jesus nor is it the end of story for us as His followers. The next step in the baptism process is the rising out of the water. It is symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection into new life, and a new body. He arose from the dead just as he arose from the death of the water. There is such beauty in this symbolism.

In another gospel, John The Baptist ask this same question. Jesus said that we must carry out what God requires (Matthew 3:15). The baptism thus was not about a symbolic rejection of sin, because there was no sin in Him. It was about carrying out God’s mission. Jesus was baptized because it is symbolic of Him taking on the sins of his nation and of all people. He was following Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses and Daniel. In His baptism, He again identifies with you and me and any who would believe in Him. He who was without sin was baptised. Again, He shows that He is willingly taking our place though He had no personal need to do so. He shouldered the sins of the world on the cross. He is doing it here as well. The sinless substituting Himself for the sinner. He is identifying Himself with those who are repentant. You will notice He is in the water with the penitent ones not up on the shore with the watching Pharisees. There are some today who stand on the shore and believe that they are righteous in their own right. Jesus does not stand with them. He stands in the mess of the murky water with us, the sinners. Jesus, the perfect man, did not need baptism as the symbolic gesture of rejecting our past life of sin, but He accepted baptism because He, as the Son on earth, was being obedient to the Father. His Father in Heaven was well pleased in the obedience of His Son and what it means to us.

The baptism is also an annoucement. It is announcing to the world that Jesus’ ministry has begun. It is public now. All the preparation is over. There is no turning back from the pre-ordained trajectory of Jesus’ life by the Father. Jesus’ baptism is saying to the Father, I am ready. Let’s do this. Prior to arriving at the Jordan, Jesus had been preparing for His ministry for 30 years. He was learning the human experience. He lived it from birth til now. No one could ever say that Jesus could not possibly understand what it’s like to be human. He did it for 30 years! He did not magically appear. People knew him as one of them. He was a tradesman’s son. He lived the life. He experienced joy, laughter, happiness, pain (physical and emotional). He was a child and knew what that experience was like. He was a teenager and knew what that experience was like. He was a young man learning to make a living in the world. He knew what that was like. He was now ready to end that portion of His existence with all that it allowed Him to experience and move on to the specific purpose for which He was sent. As Rafiki says to Simba, “It is time.” It is now time for the stakes to be raised. The game is on. It is also interesting to note that Jesus’ announcement of the beginning of His ministry begins in humility, on the fringes, in the dirty water, not in the main court of the Temple. He went to the river and identified Himself with those who were actually interested in repenting of their sins. This annoucement is humble. He submits Himself to John just as He submitted to the Father in everything He did. Jesus was so humble and obedient to His Father. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross because that was what God required of Him. It all starts right here.

Right here in this moment of baptism, we see our humble Savior saying to us, “I am with you.” I identify with you. I know what is like to be human. I know and understand it from birth to death. He knows how hard it is for us to not sin and how hard our very existence is. In this moment of baptism, He is telling us that He is taking on our sins – a theme that took him through the remaining three years of His life to the cross. The baptism and the cross are book ends to His willingness to take on the sins of His nation and the sins of the world. He loves us that much. His entire earthly existence was preparation. It was understanding of the human experience. It was all pointing toward taking on our sins. He came to give us an out from the condemnation that we deserve. The baptism was the beginning of the ministry. The crucifixion was the literal sacrifice. The baptism the symbolic one. Through His literal sacrifice on the cross, He did what God required to solve man’s sin problem permanently. But like the end sequence of His baptism ritual, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus came out of the water at His baptism. Jesus came out of the grave after his sacrificial death. He demonstrates to us that through Him we have conquered sin and death. We have promise of eternal life with Him through His resurrection. It all starts right here in the Jordan River. The ministry that changed the world begins here in the murky, muddy waters of the Jordan.