Rising Up To Honor Christ Who Saves!

“[I]n your hearts honor Christ as holy….”

Most Christians, especially those who like apologetics, are familiar with the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:1 to “[be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….” I read this verse today, but the beginning of verse stood out for me today:

“[I]n your hearts honor Christ as holy….” (ESV)

Perhaps, this phrase stood out to me today because of my recent experience at a gathering on a bright, sunny and warm day. We were outside with neighbors, enjoying the turn of good weather, and I was very relaxed.

It was Easter. I had gone to church, but the poignance of the morning service had washed out in the sunlight and warm breeze of a lazy day. I wanted to hold onto and appreciate the significance of the day, but the pleasure of spring after a long, hard winter absorbed my attention.

I am reminded as I read 1 Peter 3:15 today that holiness means being set apart. A more literal reading of the Greek phrase might be as follows:

“Sanctify Christ in your hearts as Lord….”

The Greek word translated variously in different translations as honor, sanctify, reverse, worship, set apart, consecrate, dedicate, is ἁγιάζω (hagiazó). It means “to make holy, consecrate, sanctify”. It comes from the adjective, hágios, which means holy. It is a verb that means to make holy, consecrate, sanctify or to dedicate separate.

Thus, Christ is not simply holy. He is holy, of course, but we have to make Him holy in our hearts. We must actively participate in honoring, revering, consecrating, sanctifying and making Christ holy in our hearts. This is not a passive stance; we are called to be active participants in the process of making Christ holy and set apart in our hearts.

I was troubled in my heart the evening of our lazy Easter day. I went to bed troubled. I woke up troubled. I am still troubled.

This verse focuses the light of God’s word on my troubled heart: I was not actively participating in the holiness of Christ in my heart. I was a passive vessel after church the rest of that Easter day. I was passive, not active, in my heart to honor and revere Christ as Lord the rest of that day.

I am not beating myself up for this. Christ is my salvation. He alone is my hope. His gift of salvation is freely offered to me. It’s nothing I can add to, nothing I must strive to hold onto, and nothing in which I can boast.

Yet, my heart is troubled when I fall short of honoring Christ for what He has done for me.

I am not troubled for having enjoyed the day. All good things come from God. The warmth of spring after the cold of winter is a reminder of God’s love for us. We do well to enjoy the blessings of God.

We shouldn’t enjoy the blessings of God, however, as we are often tempted to do, in place of God from whom all blessings come. It’s easy, especially in the good times, to embrace the blessings while relaxing our embrace of God from whom those blessings come.

I believe I have been troubled because I failed in my heart to honor Christ well during the rest of the day after the morning church service in the way that I wanted to – in the way my heart desired to honor Christ, who died for my sins.

As I write this, I realize the danger of being the Pharisee here. I could beat myself up. I could do penance and scrub the outside of this tomb I call my body. I could polish it up so that my appearance to all who see me is whitewashed, but I would do nothing in the effort to drive out the darkness in me that would rather settle into the comfort of a lazy day than keep Christ sanctified in my heart.

Or, I could simply recognize that I need Christ all the more for having succumbed to the laziness that resides still within me. Christ is the Author and Perfector of my faith. Not I. So, I submit in writing this to Him who saves me to work in me to will and to act according to His good purpose.

The spirit in me aligns with God’s Holy Spirit to cry, Abba! Father! Save me from this heart of sin! Save me from the sin into which I so easily settle.

Stir my heart within me to rise up and honor Christ who saves me!

The Resurrection from the Point of View of Mary Magdalene

In the resurrected Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female. We are all one.

Mary Magdalene, Mary, & Salom walking up to the bright empty tomb of Jesus Christ early Sunday morning

Three days and two night ago, Mary’s entire world came crashing down. The earth opened up and swallowed it into an abyss of darkness and confusion, leaving only soul crushing grief, bewilderment, and emptiness.

She barely had enough time to get him down from that tree on which he had died. Fortunately, a very generous man offered a tomb for his body and helped her prepare the body before Sabbath began. (John 19:42)

The crash and whirl of those events that came upon them in a rushing torrent so quickly that they were overwhelmed, reeling, barely able to breath from beginning to end, ended with his death. The commotion of last minute burial gave way to the silence weight of yawning emptiness and overwhelming grief.

All the men abandoned him as their world began to unravel. The petty squabbling that broke up dinner the night before left Mary confused about what Jesus had been saying. Jesus was trying to tell them something important, but she could only remember bits and pieces….

Something about a cup… and pouring out his blood and…. It was all surreal. It was like Jesus knew what was going to happen. She could see it in his eyes. He was resigned to it.

All the mysterious things Jesus said during the exciting and hopeful years traveling from place to place with the Jesus played in her mind like an epitaph that would not end. The mystery had seemed poignant and momentous, but ominous. Through the looming darkness, the slight flame of hope sputtered.

Jesus wouldn’t let anyone try to defend him. He just gave himself up. He utterly gave himself over to them. It was painful to watch, but even  his weakness had nobility about it. She wept.

And those men who were always arguing about who was the greatest: they didn’t do anything. Jesus asked them to stay awake with him and pray, but they didn’t. It was like Jesus knew, but he couldn’t tell them. They were too dull to realize Jesus needed them!

They could have, at least, gone with him, but they left him! They knew what was happening, though, though they pretended not to know, not to care.  Mary even heard Peter say he didn’t know Jesus! After all the time they spent with him!

Mary and the other women would not leave him. They saw the whole, unimaginable thing. And John, at least he was there.

If it wasn’t for Joseph, who knows where his body would have ended up. Mary was grateful that Joseph owned a tomb nearby and even more grateful that Joseph and the others helped with the body (Luke 23:50-53), though Mary couldn’t help but wonder where they were when Jesus needed them. Maybe they could have stopped it.

They had no time to prepare him properly. It was the Sabbath, and night was upon them. The hours labored by. It seemed like Jesus lay there for an eternity through the night. everything weighed so heavily on Mary’s heart. She needed to get to him.

Joseph and Nicodemus came through with the spices and ointments for Mary to prepare the body in the morning. (Luke 23:56) She couldn’t sleep anyway. She was up before the dawn.

Tears came in waves. She could hardly see at times. The tears she didn’t manage to wipe way with the back of her hands, and in between they fell from her cheeks into the mixture of ointment and spices. She remembered wiping tears from his feet with her hair, and she sobbed.

Mary could not adequately express the depth of gratitude for Jesus for rescuing her from the demons that haunted and tormented her from her youth. She didn’t care what anyone thought. Nothing had been more precious to her than the ointments she collected… until Jesus set her free. She would have spent her entire life pouring her very self out for him.

She desperately longed to wind the time back.

Continue reading “The Resurrection from the Point of View of Mary Magdalene”

The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?

Easter is just around the corner so thinking about the Christian claim that a man from Nazareth in 1st Century Palestine died and rose from the dead three days later is a timely consideration. The accounts of this event don’t read like mere story or legend. They have all the characteristics of Greek biographies capturing historical accounts.

Many modern scholars accept the Gospels as part of the Greco-Roman biography genre (focusing on the similarities), while others find them uniquely Jewish (focusing on the differences). Central to this ongoing debate is the apparent intention of the authors to assert a factual, historical narrative.[1]

The difficulty modern scholars have with the text, which reads like biographical and historical accounts, is the inclusion of fantastical claims of miracles, the resurrection of Jesus and theological statements, many of which are penned as statements made by Jesus.

From the early to mid-19th Century, much of the biblical scholarship has leaned in a skeptical direction, and that inertia continued robustly into the 20th Century. That scholarly trend produced a skeptical consensus weighted toward a view for instance, that the Gospels, were written long after the events they describe, probably in the 2nd Century, making the resurrection and appearance of Jesus to his followers something akin to legend.

This thread of scholarship suggested that early formulations of the message of Jesus did not include his resurrection or appearances. These things were believed to have been added many decades and two or more generations after the events took place.

The 20th Century view began with skepticism and ended with a skeptical conclusion explaining the resurrection claim by the kind of embellishment that comes with the passage of time. This was the consensus view when I studied religion in the late 1970’s.

But one man, wrestling with his own doubts, took the facts the skeptics would give him and pieced together an analysis that does not square with the view that the resurrection claim is a later embellishment of what the first followers of Jesus believed. These “minimal facts” have changed the views of most 21st Century Scholars, even skeptical ones.

The Scholarly consensus has now changed on when the Gospels were written and on what the early message of the first followers of Jesus was. For instance, the scholarly consensus now agrees that all the Gospels were written in the First Century. Even skeptical scholars date the Gospels between 70 AD and about 95 AD. The scholarly consensus also agrees that the message included the death and resurrection of Jesus from very early on.

Continue reading “The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?”

Evidence of the Resurrection

 (c) Can Stock Photo
(c) Can Stock Photo

The resurrection is the centerpiece of Christianity. If Jesus did not arise from the dead, everything is for naught. If He didn’t rise from the dead, he would be just a man. If he was just a man, he wasn’t even a wise man (like Ghandi or Khalil Gibran); he was a madman or a liar because no wise man is confused about his deity.

Most modern scholars accept, at a minimum, that the people who followed Jesus in the 1st Century believed that He arose from the dead and appeared to them in his body after his death. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth, recounting a list of people who had seen Jesus alive after His death on the cross, including more than five hundred (500), some of whom Paul said were still alive.

Think about that: about 35 years after Jesus died, most of more than five hundred people who claimed to see Jesus risen from the dead in his body were still alive.

This is not proof that Jesus arose from the dead, of course, but we can’t just write it off either! Continue reading “Evidence of the Resurrection”