Thursday, June 27, 2024

Learn to Love Like Mary

“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.” – John 20:11

Despite her sordid past, Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus' resurrection.  

Early in His ministry, Jesus delivered Mary Magdalene from seven demons, and she was forever grateful. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much—sticking by Jesus' side through thick and thin. As Jesus hung on the cross, she was there on Golgotha. When Jesus was buried, she followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the graveside. On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene was there at the tomb. And for her love ... she was richly rewarded.  

When she first saw Jesus – possibly because she was blinded by her tears – Mary didn’t recognize Him. But everything changed when Jesus spoke one simple word: “Mary.” Hearing Jesus say her name, she immediately recognized the voice of her Shepherd. As Jesus taught in John 10: “I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me” (v. 14).

Then, when Mary went to embrace Him, Jesus surprised her by saying, “Do not hold on to me” (John 20:17). Instead, He asked her to let go of Him, go and share the news of His resurrection with the disciples. And how did Mary Magdalene respond to Jesus’ commands? With obedience. As difficult as it was to leave her Shepherd, Mary hurried to the disciples with the good news: “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).

Here are three lessons we can learn from Mary Magdalene: 

Lesson #1: If you have been forgiven much … love much. As Jesus said in Luke 7:47, after a sinful woman bathed his feet with her tears, “Her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” We don’t know much about Mary Magdalene’s past. We do know she had been possessed by seven demons, and Jesus had set her free and forgiven her sins. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much. Now, it took a LOT of Jesus’ blood to cover all of your sin, right? You have been forgiven much—so love much.

Lesson #2: Learn to recognize the voice of your shepherd. Christians often ask, “How can I recognize God’s voice?” Here’s how: Learn to tune your spiritual ears to Jesus’ unique frequency. You can do that by filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The better you know God’s Word, the more you will hear and recognize the unique voice of your Shepherd. As Jesus declared in John 10: “[The Good Shepherd] calls his own sheep by name … and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (vs. 3-4).

Lesson #3: It’s tempting to cling to Jesus and keep Him to yourself, but He has an important job for you to do. So, let go. Then go, and tell. Because Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so much, she was quick to do exactly what He asked her to do. She did it out of her deep love for Christ. And out of our deep love for Christ, you and I must do it too. Rejoice over your living Savior. And go tell the world!

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church, meeting Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. at 16209 Kamana Road in Apple Valley


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Like a Sacrificial Lamb

 “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.” – Isaiah 53:7

Before Jesus was sent to the cross, the gospels tell us that over a period of about six hours, Jesus was subjected to six different hearings and trials —three religious and three criminal. During the three religious hearings and trials, Jesus wasn't given a fair shake. Not even close! The religious leaders violated some eighteen different legal guidelines in order to unjustly convict Jesus of blasphemy.

Some of these trials were held at night, in secret. Trials were not to occur on the eve of a Sabbath or during any festival, but His hearings and trials occurred during Passover celebration. An accused person could not testify against himself; but the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus on His own words, not seeing a need for witnesses. And sentencing in a capital case was not to occur until the following day, but the Sanhedrin convicted Jesus and condemned Him right away.

How did Jesus handle these inexcusable violations? Like a meek, sacrificial lamb.

Jesus showed Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”

And when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Jesus turned the tables on him and put him on the defensive. Jesus didn’t really defend Himself against the false accusations. Instead, He took the opportunity to share a revelation with Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world…. And everyone on the side of truth listens to Me” (v. 36). It seems that more than anything else, Jesus wanted Pilate to be saved. That’s remarkable! But a baffled Pilate didn’t want to hear it.

From the injustice of these proceedings, we find these revelations about Jesus:

Revelation #1: As Jesus listened to His accusers’ lies, through His silence He showed Himself to be the willing sacrificial lamb. Jesus was an expert debater. He could have shot down every one of His accusers’ false accusations in seconds. But He chose not to, because it was the Father’s will for Him to suffer and die, so that you and I could be forgiven and live.

Revelation #2: As Jesus was questioned by Pilate, He was not a defendant who avoided the truth; Jesus showed Himself to be the truth who put unbelievers on the defensive. Throughout the gospels, arrogant unbelievers tried to put Jesus on the defensive by asking Him tough questions. But time and again, Jesus answered their tough questions with a few zingers of His own, which set them back on his heels.

Jesus used the last hours before His death not to save himself, but to save others. And praise God, that salvation is still available to you and me today.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church, meeting Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. at 16209 Kamana Road in Apple Valley.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Jesus Even Loved Barabbas

 But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’
– Luke 23:10

Governor Pontius Pilate must have been baffled as the Jewish leaders called for the release of the biggest thug on Death Row.

When Pilate interrogated Jesus – twice – Pilate didn’t find Him to be guilty of any capital crime. But the religious leaders refused to accept Pilate’s verdict. So, Pilate thought he had a foolproof way to get them to agree to release Jesus. In John 18:39, he asked them, “It is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the king of the Jews [or Barabbas]?”

Pilate strategically chose one of the most notorious criminals who was scheduled to be crucified that day: Barabbas, a convicted murderer who had taken part in an uprising. No one with an ounce of decency would EVER vote for a terrorist to be released into the streets. But to Pilate’s astonishment, the crowd shouted back in unison: “Don’t release Jesus! Give us Barabbas!”

Given the choice, they chose the convicted terrorist over Jesus. There was no excuse for what they did. But, ultimately, it was God’s will. 

All four of the gospels tell about the crowd calling for Barabbas’s release. Interestingly, not a single gospel writer mentions Jesus objecting — because Jesus didn’t protest. He actually wanted them to choose Barabbas instead of Him – because Jesus loved Barabbas. How do I know that? Because of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Think about it: “For God so loved [Barabbas] that He gave His one and only Son.”

When Barabbas allowed Jesus to take his place on Death Row, that was unimaginably unjust and unfair. But, strangely, Jesus chose to die so that Barabbas could live. And I believe that if you had been in Barabbas’s shoes that day, Jesus would have taken your place on Death Row. Because of His great love for you, He would die so that you might live. 

As Barabbas walked free, Jesus showed Himself to be our substitute on Death Row. Over the course of our lives, every one of us has lied, cheated and stolen. Like Barabbas, we have sinned thousands of times and earned our place on Death Row. Hell is the just punishment for our sin. But Jesus took our place. He went through Hell so you and I wouldn’t have to. He died so that we could live. How, then, can we help but live for Him?

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church, meeting Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. at 16209 Kamana Road in Apple Valley.