Week 15, Saturday, John 20:19-25

 Easter Encounters

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to John 20:19-25

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus’ Easter Encounters – The 10 Disciples

The frightened 10 disciples were hiding behind closed doors when the risen Jesus stands among them. He must have known that Thomas would not be with them that evening, but He couldn’t wait to show himself to them. After all, they had been with him for three years, they had recently seen him being tortured, crucified and buried, and then the news – brought by women – that He was alive! Of course He wanted to reassure them, which is what happened. They were overjoyed to see Him. But then He gave them a command. It had two parts. The first was that they were to open their lives to receiving the Holy Spirit. The second was a command to forgive. Though it seemed like they had to do the first in order to be able to do the second! I wonder if we will ever fully grasp how integral forgiveness is to the Gospel – both the forgiveness of ourselves, and the forgiveness of others. It was important to the Risen Jesus.

 

Prayer: Hallelujah! You are alive, my Lord Jesus! And you show me in so many ways, again and again, your living Presence in my life. And while that is true you also want me to remember that in order to show your Life in me, I will need to forgive, and sometimes that forgiveness will break me. Just as through your brokenness you forgave the world that put you on the Cross. Come Holy Spirit, fill me with your love and power. It is only through your power that I can be an ambassador of your love to a world that needs you. Amen.

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Please look forward to Pastor Paul Georgulis’ devotions, based on Ephesians, that begin on Monday, April 20.


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Week 15, Friday, Luke 24:33-34

 Easter Encounters

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Luke 24:33-34

 [Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus’ Easter Encounters – Simon Peter

Its first hint is in Mark’s Gospel when the angel tells the frightened women at the empty tomb to “go tell his disciples, and Peter” that the risen Jesus would meet them (Mark 16:7). Paul also writes, “… (Jesus) was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve (1 Corinthians 15:4-5). Jesus would later ask Peter about his love (John 21:15f). However, this Easter encounter (…and has appeared to Simon, ie. Peter; Luke 24:34) has no details, just the mention that it happened. I can guess why Jesus met Peter personally. Luke records that after Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus turns and looks at him, and then Peter goes out and weeps bitterly (Luke 22:61-62). There is a “Godly sorrow that leads to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10), and Jesus knows the sorrow and pain of people who feel they have disappointed him. So it would be completely in Jesus’ character to go as the Risen Lord and show 3-time deniers that He still loves them, and still accepts all “Peters” with their tears.

 

Prayer: Just like Peter I have disappointed you often, Lord. Whether it was in my relationships or in my decisions I have acted as if you are not alive, or real. I was more afraid of what the world would think of me rather than living as a follower of the Risen Lord Jesus. Forgive me Lord. I know you will never give up on me – especially when I turn to you and allow your love to wash over me. As the One who overcame Satan and death, remind me that when I fall, all you want for me to do is to fall back into your grace, so that you can pick me up. Even when it is done again and again. Thank you for constantly offering your Resurrection love and power. Fill me afresh with your living Presence, my Lord and my God. Amen.

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Week 15, Thursday, Luke 24:13-33

Easter Encounters

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Luke 24:13-33

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus’ Easter Encounters – the two travelers to Emmaus

Sometimes when we are too close to something we miss the obvious. The two unnamed disciples travelling that 7-mile distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus had not yet understood who Jesus was, and why He had to die. It took an apparent stranger to show them how to “connect the dots” using all of their Scripture (the Old Testament) to do so. They were kept from recognizing the risen Jesus (v.16) because their immediate joy of seeing of seeing Him would have prevented them from seeing the whole picture that He wanted them to see. It was only later that they remembered that without them realizing it Jesus had set their hearts on fire with the Gospel (v.32). Could it be that we sometimes need to see Jesus and Scripture from a perspective we are not familiar (or comfortable) with in order to actually hear His voice? Maybe then we too will (re)discover the Risen Lord Jesus!

 

Prayer: Loving Jesus, sometimes who you are and what you’ve done as the Crucified and Resurrected Lord seem too fantastic for me. I read and even say I believe what is written about you in Scripture, but so often my life doesn’t reflect it. Sometimes it is as if I don’t really believe you died and were raised to life. Is it because I have not opened my heart to your entire Word? Forgive me for choosing those parts of you that I feel comfortable with, and neglect those that challenge me to a new life. Speak to me so that your Word may set my heart on fire too. I really want to know you of my Risen Lord! Amen.

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Week 15, Wednesday, John 20:11-18

Easter Encounters

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to John 20:11-18

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

That first Easter day Jesus met 4 times with humans/persons. I call them “Jesus’ Easter Encounters.”

Jesus’ Easter Encounters – Mary

Mary Magdalene was weeping, and her tears seemed unstoppable. Have you ever grieved so much that you can’t stop the tears? When we love someone deeply, and we are separated either temporarily or permanently from that person, we grieve deeply. Mary loved Jesus deeply because she had been the recipient of His great love and power (cf. I John 4:9). Jesus had healed her of seven demons (Luke 8:2) – and every act of Jesus was done because of love. He had released her from an emotional, psychological, and possibly physically damaging state that was more terrible than most of us can imagine. As she herself became a disciple, all she knew was His loving Presence. Her first loss was when Jesus died on the cross. The second loss of the mysterious disappearance of his corpse was almost too much for her to bear. Jesus knew this. Why else would he choose her to be the first human to meet as the Resurrected Lord? You can only imagine the love that filled that calling of her name, “Mary!”

 

Prayer: Resurrected Lord, was Mary that important that she would be the first to meet after you conquered death? But you always did choose the unimportant, the marginalized, the overlooked, to show your love. Is it because they more than others have opened themselves up to you to truly receive that love into their lives, and now they can’t live without it? It’s that same love with which you call each of us by name – especially those whose grief seems so inconsolable. I want to hear you call my name, Lord. And now it’s all the more special because you are alive and therefore the tears will only be temporary. Amen

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Week 15, Tuesday, Mark 16:9-20

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

 

Go to Mark 16: (9-20)

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

These verses are not in all the ancient manuscripts from which we get the New Testament, which is why most translations have it in parentheses. Yet, the heart of the message is not very different from the ending of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels. The time is just before Jesus ascends into heaven. But before he goes, he does two things: First, was his commission to his disciples (them and us) to take his gospel and share it with a world that needs the Good News of Jesus Christ. Matthew defines this sharing as actually making more disciples (=not just converts but followers). Second, he promises His Presence to be with us as we fulfill this Commission. Actually, Mark states this part interestingly: Jesus’ Presence will be made evident to us and others as we fulfill His command. His Presence and Resurrection power will be seen in our everyday lives, but those everyday lives will be far from ordinary – they will be filled with miracles of Grace. Does your life exude Jesus’ Presence by what He is doing in you, and through you?

 

Prayer: Holy God, with your Spirit in me you want me to be holy too – different for the world, special, separate, uniquely yours. Yet you want me to show this by the way I have your interests in my heart, your thoughts on my mind. You want me to love a lost and broken world like you do, and take your Good News as a living Message to them. Give me the desire that makes me want to live out your love, live through your power, and live sharing your Message of Jesus and salvation so that you may touch lives and transform them…just as you have transformed mine. May your Kingdom come, may your will be done, beginning with me. Amen.

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Week 15, Monday, Mark 16:1-8

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 16:1-8

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Hallelujah! The day, the event that the whole world, indeed all history was looking forward to was here. Easter! Resurrection Day!! For all those that live in fear of death, and/or grieve because of what death does to relationships – come the words of the angels: “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up” (v.6, Message). Yes, Jesus died, and that was a human tragedy beyond comparison. Yet he gave his life willingly, for our sins and brokenness. But death can no longer hold him; death is a defeated enemy. Jesus was raised from the dead – and that fills those that believe on him with hope. Resurrection takes away fear and softens grief, and replaces it with something that this world can never take away from the believer – Hope of a Heaven Life that begins even now…and continues beyond the grave. Jesus is our Example, our Life-giver, the One that leads the way.

 

Prayer: Hallelujah! Lord Jesus, you are alive. Now death has no hold over you because you have conquered death. When I am overcome by circumstances, or frightened or grieved by death, or feel cornered or discouraged by opposition, please remind me that the darkness brought about by all of those is not the end. Yes, Good Friday was a Day of darkness. But Easter’s come! You are the Victor, and when I put my trust in you, I am on the winning side! So I praise you my Savior and my God. Fill me with your Resurrection power that I may live every day with hope, courage, and to your glory. Amen.

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Week 14, Saturday, Mark 15:42-47

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 15:42-47

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus did have rich, religious and influential friends (some were secret followers as well). Two of them are mentioned at his burial – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (John 19:38-40). Where were they at the Trial? Were they afraid to speak up on behalf of Jesus? Or were they “shouted down” if they did speak up? The reality of both exists even today. However, what they did after Jesus’ death showed who they decided to finally identify with. Because asking Pilate for Jesus’ body, then preparing it, followed by actually burying him in the family burial plot was an open statement that they believed and belonged to this “Kingdom” that Jesus preached. Even though they hadn’t yet experienced Easter! Which tells me that it’s never too late (as long as we have breath in us) to come out as a follower of Christ, even if circumstances or our previous actions tempt us to think the opposite. That’s grace at work in us!

 

Prayer: Thank you gracious God for the hope you give me, that it’s never too late to live and show myself as your follower. When I look back at my life I know that there were times that I was either too afraid or ignorant or indifferent – and kept silent, when I should have/could have made the difference for you, Lord Jesus. And yet you don’t hold that against me, because you know my weaknesses, and frailty. But I don’t want to remain a “secret” and ineffective disciple any more. Fill me with your Spirit’s power and courage that I might be a witness for you, to your transforming grace; for your glory alone. Amen.

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Week 14, Friday, Mark 15:37-41

 Mark Devotionals

Go to Mark 15:37-41

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

At the end of six agonizing hours Jesus dies. But he didn’t go as one defeated. He dies “with a loud cry”. Most probably it was “It is finished” that John 19:30 records him saying just before he died. He had finished doing his Father’s Will as a human, as the Incarnate Son of God. He had finished making a “new” way to God the Father, so that now all could freely come to Him – Jews and non-Jews, sophisticated and ordinary, law-abiders and law-breakers, the (seemingly) religious and irreligious (and marginalized). This was visibly seen in the tearing of Temple curtain, and the Roman centurion acknowledging Jesus’ specialness. It was a cry of completion, victory, obedience. Would you and I be able to say that when our lives ended? Only one who has learned how to die, knows how to live.

 

Prayer: I look at my life and wonder if I have fulfilled the purpose you brought me into the world, Lord. And have I fulfilled the purpose for which you died for me? Your Word says that I have been “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20), and yet I continue to live mostly for myself. Forgive me, loving Lord Jesus, for not living totally through and for you. I want to live a “purpose driven life”; I want your purpose to drive me! And with my last breath may I too be able to say “I have done what You wanted of me”. I want to hear you saying to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant…” Come fill me afresh, Sovereign Lord. Amen.

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Week 14, Thursday, Mark 15:33-37

 Mark Devotionals

 

Go to Mark 15:33-37

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

A very probable timeline of Jesus’ crucifixion is: at 9 am he is nailed to the cross (v.25), at Noon the sky darkens (v.33), at 3 pm he cries out to his Father and dies (v.34-37). Six hours before Jesus, the 100% human, cries out to God in agony. Was the agony physical? Was it the result of the combined hatred of those that who unwittingly became instruments of Satan? Was it the utter loneliness caused by the betrayal, denial and desertion of those closest to him? Maybe. But that wasn’t all. For Jesus what hurt the most was the apparent turning away of his Father with whom he had an intimate relationship. For those moments on the cross when he literally “became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)” [an expression to mean that Jesus became saturated with/took on the entire sin of humankind, that it enveloped him]. And even a loving Father had to turn away because he was also a just and righteous God who hated sin and had to judge sin – and did so by letting his Son suffer on our behalf. And, to repeat what I wrote yesterday – it was all for you and me. My friend, know that Jesus knows your deepest agony; he was there. And he will be there to bring you out. After all, he’s paid for it!

 

Prayer: Lord, I didn’t think. I didn’t realize that even my darkest moments have been experienced by you, Jesus, in one form or the other. You understand my pain, my loneliness, my darkness, because you too went through all of them – and more! Forgive me for thinking that you didn’t care, that you didn’t understand. You love me so much that you are there when I need you the most, so that I will never have to feel as you did on the cross – alone in my pain. I will never have to feel that God has left me because you paid the price that I will never have to. All I need to do is ask, all I need to desire is you with all my heart. So come to me, loving and living Lord. Hold me close to yourself. Never let me go. Amen.

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Week 14, Wednesday, Mark 15:21-32

 Mark Devotionals

 

Go to Mark 15:21-32

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Mark is so simple in his telling, “And they crucified him”. No present-day media hype, no detailed descriptions to evoke emotions, just a line in his Gospel. But maybe people didn’t need details. It was an everyday reality; the Roman highways were lined with crosses reminding their subjects what awaited their radical opponents. People knew the long hours of excruciating pain that preceded death on a cross. So while Mark does want to record the event, and his readers would have understood his words, do we understand? Do we understand that Jesus took all this agony on himself because he loved humankind – you and me? Do we understand that even till the end the world around him jeered, mocked, and ridiculed him, and he refused to retaliate because they really “did not know what they were doing”? Do we understand that that is still happening, and his response is still the same? Do we understand that in reality “No one took his life from him, but he intentionally laid it down” (cf. John10: 18) … for us? Have we allowed this understanding to break our hearts so that he would make them anew (cf. Ezekiel 36:26)?

 

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart. Is it hard? Is it stubborn? Is it bitter? Is it marred by sin? Break my heart, O Lord, if that is the only way you can get me to respond to you. Give me a new heart, a heart of flesh; a heart that feels, a heart that is sensitive to your love, your words, your touch, your agony. Because I know that there must be agony in your heart as you see a world so broken and so in need of you. So make me new from within, daily, that I may respond to the world as you did – with love. Amen.

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