Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Tuesday: A Devotional Commentary

Daniel 3:8-28 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and brought accusation against the Jews. They answered Nebuchadnezzar the king, O king, live for ever. You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image; and whoever doesn’t fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don’t serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered them, Is it on purpose, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if you are ready whenever you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music to fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if you don’t worship, you shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his appearance was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain mighty men who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their pants, their tunics, and their mantles, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste: he spoke and said to his counselors, Didn’t we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered the king, True, O king. He answered, Look, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are unharmed; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace: he spoke and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the deputies, and the governors, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power on their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were their pants changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants who trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

Acts 13:26-33 Brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, the word of this salvation is sent out to you. For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they didn’t know him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. Though they found no cause for death, they still asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had fulfilled all things that were written about him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and he was seen for many days by those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. We bring you good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled the same to us, their children, in that he raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son. Today I have begotten you.’

Luke 24:36-48 As they said these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is truly me. Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they still didn’t believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. He took them, and ate in front of them. He said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Prior to the resurrection, Jesus' veiled His glory. He would perform miracles to help others but most of the time He used conventional methods of transportation such as walking. He wouldn't even create food to feed just Himself. After the resurrection, Jesus pops up out of nowhere to His disciples. He's not some sort of ghost, He's a real human being. He eats and drinks. But the limitations that we have as human beings do not apply to Jesus. Some argue that it would be impossible for Jesus to be truly present in the Lord's Supper because that would require His human body to be present in multiple places at the same time which would make it somehow not quite human. But the same would seem to apply to the times that Jesus passes through walls and appears out of nowhere. I certainly can't do that and don't know of any other humans who can. Even though the disciples saw Jesus standing right in front of them, it was far too wonderful for them to believe. Those who deny that Christ can be in multiple places at the same time argue that Christ is seated at the right hand of God. But where is that? Is He in some chair next to a giant hand? If you traveled far enough in space could you find it? God's hand is His power and God's power is everywhere.

Various church bodies deny that Christ could be present in the sacrament of the altar because it is just too wonderful and fantastic. How can the finite contain the infinite? But isn't that what actually happened in the incarnation? God dwelled as an embryo in the womb of the virgin Mary. That's pretty crazy. God died on a cross for your sins. That's even crazier. If I were god I would not suffer ridicule, be tortured, and killed for your sins.That's just not something reasonable gods do. Destroying everyone would make a lot more sense.

Despite all of the times that Jesus said that He would die and rise again, the disciples gave some sort of spiritual to it and thought that He could not possibly mean that He would literally die and literally be raised from the dead. They were utterly surprised and devastated by the crucifixion. They did not expect the resurrection. Even when Jesus is standing right in front of them they can't believe it. It's just too wonderful. It can't be true. Even though Jesus provides them with all of the proof anyone could ever ask for they do not believe.

How does Jesus respond? Does He damn them all for their unbelief? Does He go find better disciples who will pay attention and and actually believe what He says? Does He throw you into the Lake of Fire for all the times that you doubted that your sins are truly forgiven--that Christ's death is truly more than enough to pay for whatever horrible things you have done? Does He damn you for all the times you thought that this couldn't possibly be Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper?

Christ says, "Peace be to you. Your sins are forgiven."

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