On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
John 11: 17-27
Jesus raising Lazarus confirms a few things for us. Firstly, when we die we do not just cease to exist. Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead which means Lazarus must have been somewhere to be brought back from. Secondly, Jesus has power over death and what happens after death. If he did not, how could he bring Lazarus back? Thirdly, Jesus knows what happens when we die and where we are going. How could he bring Lazarus back if he didn’t know where to find him?
Are these not pretty awesome things to have confirmed on Easter Sunday when we celebrate Jesus own resurrection?
Prayer: Father today of all days you are awesome! I don’t know what will happen, but I do know I can face it safely because of you. You really are an awesome God.
Action: At least a dozen times today, tell the people round you that God is an awesome God.
This Thought was written by Norman Smith
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
‘And breathe!’ This is one long and very repetitive passage. With it we end our 40 days of parables. On Day 1, David suggested re-reading the daily parable. I am going to let you off that suggestion today. I think we get Jesus’ point: God is everywhere, and everything we do needs to reflect that.
Biblical passages sometimes mark special memories. Matthew’s ‘Sheep and Goats’ was the theme at my ordination service. Jesus’ words not just to his followers, but to all the nations have been the foundation of my 44 years in ministry. Here on Holy Saturday, waiting for the Easter dawn, we take another look at our Lord’s final parable, in some ways a summary of what his teaching had been all about.
I see it now through the experience of being a grandmother. On most visits with my grandsons, I am bombarded by the times tables. There is nothing more exciting for a five-year-old than impressing an adult by repeating his numbers. This week it took me back to another memory, learning that multiplication table myself. It was hard work, and the repetition became monotonous. Then suddenly the process of multiplying was no longer something I even thought about. 2×2=4 was an instant calculation. In trying to make sense of this parable I realized the point of the repetition was to emphasize the importance of its content and then to fasten it in our brains so that we did these Godly acts naturally without even thinking about it.
As Jesus’ ministry began, he announced that he was on earth to bring good news. And then at the end he reminded us that this good news was all about hospitality, friendship and justice, the characteristics of Christian discipleship. Did I always get it right? Gosh no, but I always had the trust that comes with Easter. In just a few short hours we will be reminded again of God’s power to restore life and bring about forgiveness.
Prayer: Creator God, we thank you that Jesus taught us through parables. We have learned of your goodness and of your love. May our lives be so filled with the Spirit that we might naturally offer that same love to everyone around us. Amen.
Action: Begin to engage with or commit to greater support of an activity that offers help to anyone in need. Start with a kindly word or a pleasant smile (once the masks are off) then work your way to a seat on the board of a company needing to make ethical decisions in a hurting world.
This Thought was written by Caroline Lockerbie
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”
Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus’s death on the cross. Just as the son in the parable, Jesus was sent as a messenger by his father, only to be put to a violent death. Rejected by the very people he was sent to save. Is it not rather haunting that Jesus told this story before his death? Jesus knew what awaited him if he continued on the path he was on. And yet he did not run away or flinch from what was a terrible fate. “Not my will but yours.”
On the cross Jesus bore our sins for us, suffering alongside all of us. God willingly became a victim and in doing so joined in solidarity with all those who suffer. As terrible as the Crucifixion was, it is also the greatest example of love in history: God giving himself to us in an act of pure, sacrificial love.
Love transforms the cross from an act of human cruelty into God’s great act of redemption and restoration. God’s Love turned a senseless tragedy into a new beginning for humanity, a chance for forgiveness and a new covenant. Or in other words, the stone that the builders threw away became the cornerstone, the foundation of something much greater than anything they could ever have imagined.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, word cannot begin to describe what you did on the Cross. The heights of your love and the depths of your pain will always be a mystery to us. Help us to meditate on the Cross, to allow its painful glory to transform us from the inside out.
Action: Take some time to read one of the Crucifixion accounts (Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19) and try to sit with the sadness of the story. It can be tempting to want to rush forwards to the Resurrection as that gives the story a happy ending but try not to. Allow yourself to read the Good Friday story on its own. How does it speak to you today?
This Thought was written by David Moodie
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22: 1 – 14
Jesus was the culmination of many generations of prophets who had tried to point Israel/Judah back to God but failed. Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc., they all tried to connect their nation to God and succeeded for a while but ultimately failed. Jesus himself was disgusted at how the Pharisees would not respond to God’s call. They were far too interested in keeping the trappings of power to risk them. That is why he went out and spent time with the downtrodden, the outcasts and the rejects of society.
If you or I are more concerned about what we might lose than reaching people and seeing them come to God, then we have our priorities wrong. What in this world is more important than a soul being saved for all eternity? What are we hanging onto so tightly that frankly we can’t take with us anyway?
God is a gracious and generous God who holds out the gift of Jesus to any and all comers. However, people have to accept that gift and if they don’t then that is their choice but there are implications for that. Jesus makes that clear when talking of the person not dressed in wedding clothes.
The good thing is God’s grace appears to be offered unconditionally so even though someone might reject it today, it will be offered anew tomorrow. There is always hope.
Prayer: Jesus thank you for your generosity. I weep when I think of how many people in this world reject you. Thank you that every new day you hold out your hands and offer the gift of faith. Please help more and more people to see how good a gift it is and to reach out to take it.
Action: Pray for those you love who have not yet embraced God’s gift.
This Thought was written by Norman Smith
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
Spanish has given us the saying “mañana”. It means ‘tomorrow’, but as a saying it means, ‘an undetermined time in the future’. So mañana could mean tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or whenever.
It’s easy to procrastinate on things and think that there’s always more time. I can hold up my hand and confess that a few sermons have been finished late on Saturday evening (though never on Sunday morning!). We all kick the can down the road from time to time. But if we are not careful things can sneak up on us and we can find there is no time left. In the worst-case scenario we can let entire seasons of our lives slip past us because in our complacency we failed to act.
None of us want to live a life full of regrets. And so sometimes we need to turn mañana into today, to act boldly in the moment. It can be challenging, but like the wise young women in our story, it will mean that we are never caught unprepared.
Prayer: Living God, I am sorry for the times I have neglected things that are truly valuable or treated the days of my life as time to be frittered away. Help me to live my one wild and precious life in its fullest, embracing life in the moment with all it’s joys and challenges.
Action: What have you been putting off for mañana? Maybe today is the day to seize the bull by the horns.
This Thought was written by David Moodie
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Matthew 24: 32 – 35
Jesus instilled a sense of expectation in his followers. Before their generation was gone, they were going to see everything he spoke about and they did. He was crucified and rose again. The temple Herod has spent his life building was reduced to rubble 40 years later. There were wars, rumours of war and believers were persecuted throughout the Empire.
We live over 2000 years later and struggle with that sense of expectation. Do you really thing Jesus could come back any day or do you see it happening ever?
Their sense of expectation drove them to speak to everyone about Jesus. If he was coming back in just a few years they could not afford to wait or people might be lost when he came back. Each person they met, they might meet them only once and what would Jesus say if they didn’t talk about faith to them?
We need to recover some expectation in our lives. Granted, Jesus has not come back yet, that doesn’t change our responsibility to speak to others about faith. What if we never see them again, what if we never take the chance when it comes?
One of the reasons so few people come to faith today is we are so reluctant to speak about Jesus. What can we do to change this?
Prayer: Heavenly Father it’s much easier to stay quiet and not speak about you. I don’t want to be embarrassed and I don’t want to come across as a bit weird. If I am honest, I also wouldn’t really know what to do if people said they wanted me to lead them to faith. Help me to find enough courage to speak to one person every day this week about faith.
Action: Speak to one person every day this week about faith.
This Thought was written by Norman Smith
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
How are you positioning yourself before God today? The Pharisee in this passage exalted himself before God and compared himself with others. Comparison to others is not helpful. Either it makes us proud or it leads us to have low self-esteem. The tax collector in this passage does not compare himself to others. He takes a different path, he humbles himself and sees himself as God sees him as a sinner in need of God’s mercy.
Are you more likely to self-justify or repent? The Apostle Paul says ‘My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me’. (1 Corinthians 4:4). No matter how righteous we feel or how at peace we are with something we’ve said or done, this does not mean that we are right with God. The tax collector asks for reconciliation and he gets it. The Pharisee does not believe that he needs to be reconciled with God and so he is not changed by his prayers at the temple.
Thankfully every person in the world can meet with God in prayer and be refined as they call upon the name of Jesus. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9)
Prayer: God be merciful to me, a sinner.
Action: Take time in your prayers today to position yourself like the tax collector did and confess your sins to Him and thank Him for all that he is doing in your life through his grace and mercy.
This Thought was written by Paul Stevenson