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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Country Flower Cart
Flower cart in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania

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"The Needed Rebuke"

"When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen" (Mark 16:9-14).

Our daily verses record the activities on Resurrection Day and Christ's various appearances. Notice the recurring disbelief among the disciples at the first resurrection reports.

They apparently had a potluck meal that evening. (I like potluck meals and it's sure a proven method for getting people out for a meeting.) As they ate they were surely discussing the events of the last several days and those reports from eyewitnesses regarding the empty tomb.

Jesus arrived among them and "appeared to the Eleven as they were eating." If I were writing this story as fiction I would have Jesus coming in, everyone jumping up to greet Him and giving each other high fives as they rejoiced!  But that's not what happened.

Rather, Jesus "rebuked them."  This may seem to us a strange way to greet them on such a joyous occasion. But they needed rebuke. Christ always gives us what we need whether we like it or not. The Greek word used is "oneidizo" ("upbraided them" in the KJV), and conveys a very strong and forceful rebuke. 

The basis of the rebuke was "their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen."  The KJV provides a more literal reading of "stubborn refusal" in using the phrase "hardness of heart" which translates from the Greek "sklerokardia."  You may notice both of these words in our English, certainly the kardia from which we get cardiology.  Hardness of heart is a dangerous condition physically, but even more so spiritually!

Amazingly, these are the same folks who just days earlier were gathered with Jesus around the table and pledging their undying loyalty to Him.  Over and over again He had told them that He was going to die and then rise again 
(Matthew 12:40, Mark 8:31, John 2:19). Now that it had happened they didn't believe!

Sometimes (perhaps often) we also need rebuke for our disbelief. We may not like it, we may even shirk from it or reject it. This rebuke may come from a conviction of the Holy Spirit or from another brother or sister, perhaps a pastor. The rebuke may be personally directed to us or we may receive it as we read or hear a message. This type of rebuke is a blessing.

For when we not only hear the rebuke but internalize it, the Spirit of God penetrates the walls that pride and unbelief have erected within our hardened hearts. They become softened, pliable, and teachable and we are better for it.

We serve a risen Savior and must keep the things that matter most before us. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is "of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The disciples sure got a powerful and effective reminder of this essential truth that first Sunday evening service!  And we have the wonderful benefit of having the entire record before us so that when we read of Christ's crucifixion we also know of His resurrection that follows.  Let us live each day in the power that comes from serving a resurrected Savior and declare today, Yes Lord, I believe!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we read the accounts in Scripture about our Lord's death and His resurrection three days later. He appeared bodily to many eyewitnesses in His divine, immortal body for forty days before He ascended to heaven.  It was written long ago and in a culture foreign to us in our modern world.  But Your Spirit quickens this essential truth to our hearts and it is imperative to our Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead and is very much alive today.  We accept it by faith and receive it into our hearts.  And one day, like the disciples, we too will see our Savior face to face.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
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In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"Never Gonna Lose My Way"  Video  A thoughtful song of commitment by the Oslo Gospel Choir.

"He Lives"  Audio  Selah

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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