Ascending Love: An Easter Story
20 Mar 2016
By: Katie Messer
“He was right.” Thomas recalled to himself. Still staring up into the sky, with the remaining ten disciples. Thomas continued, “I will forever sing Your praises, Jesus. Thank you.” Jesus of Nazareth had ascended into heaven after conquering death on a cross, just as the prophecies said of the Messiah (Psalm 16:10, Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:12, Daniel 7:13-14, John 14:1-4, John 16:16, John 16:25-28).
As the eleven disciples walked on the road back to Jerusalem from Bethany, following the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Luke 24:50), Thomas recalled the Passover within this whirlwind of supernatural events that had been the past three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry. For this year’s Passover, Jesus had rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt, which fulfilled the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). This year had marked their fourth Passover with Jesus. But, as they entered Jerusalem this year, they met a large crowd of people waving palm branches and shouting praises.
“On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that
Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT,” (John 12:12-15)
All were dressed in their best as they had come for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began immediately following. A gentle spring breeze carried the strong aroma of the pure nard perfume into the desert air, that Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with just the day previous in the town of Bethany (John 12:3). It was truly an entry of triumph. The arrest and death warrant from the powerful Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, was still active for Jesus (John 11:53 & John 11:57); but no one in that moment could think of anything but shouting for joy! The same people whom Thomas had see at the tomb of Lazarus just days before, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. At this, even more people ran to meet Him (John 12:17-18). “And Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'” (John 12:23 NASB)
Then, Jesus did something no one was expecting. He prayed to the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify Your name!” At that moment, Thomas, along with the other eleven disciples and all others around Jesus were startled as a voice was heard thundering from heaven! “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again!” (John 12:28 HCSB). With eyes wide, loud gasps and murmuring were heard all around. This was now the third time a voice had thundered from heaven to affirm the work and ministry of Jesus. The first was at His baptism (Matthew 3:17), the second was at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and now the third time was here at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover (John 12:28).
“Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes’ (John 12:30 NASB). The disciples further recalled that Jesus had insisted on washing all of His twelve disciple’s feet after the Passover meal (John 13:4-5). They also remembered the significance of Judas Iscariot being handed the bread dipped in wine, which announced him as the one to betray Jesus. Jesus had told Judas Iscariot to do what he was planning, and Judas ate the bread and left the room (Psalm 41:9). In retrospect, all had become crystal clear to the remaining 11 disciples (John 13:26-27). They spoke of the experience a foot washing, one of the most base and servant oriented tasks, from their powerful and prestigious leader, Jesus Christ. It was revolutionary to their thinking of leadership. Jesus also prophesied that Simon Peter would deny even knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed the following morning, and they recalled the agonizing moments before the sun would rise when this indeed happened (Luke 22:54-62 & John 13:38).
They then spoke of the time that followed the Passover dinner where the eleven of them traveled with Jesus, in the dark of night, across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39 & John 18:1). It was there that Jesus had asked them to pray and keep watch. Jesus prayed for this cup of suffering to pass, if it was the Father’s will. But surrendering His own will to the Father’s in order to glorify the Father, He accepted His brutal task (Luke 22:42). Then Judas Iscariot, for a little money, betrayed Jesus (Luke 22:5 & Luke 22:48). Within the olive grove, Jesus was arrested by the chief priests, officers of the temple guard and elders whom had heard Him preach in the temple courts day in and day out (Luke 22:52-53).
The eleven then recalled the lunacy that surrounded Jesus’ time before the high priest of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas (John 18:13-14), Pilot, Herod, and back to Pilot (Luke 23:1-25). The whole process was depraved and steeped in evil (John 18:28-40). The divine substitute for our sins, Jesus Christ, did not speak out to defend His own cause (Isaiah 53:7). Instead a murderer and known criminal, Barabas was released to the people, a Passover tradition, to ensure that Jesus would indeed be crucified (Luke 23:25).
The physical and mental violence that the body and mind of Jesus endured was so extreme that He was unable to carry His own cross to His execution (Luke 23:26). Yet, as Jesus finally hung upon the cross, in the place of the Skull (called Golgotha in Aramaic, John 19:17), amidst the vehement insults and demonic laughter mixed with wailing and mourning of the crowd, it was forgiveness and determined love that He continued to extend to all (Psalm 34:20, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 42:1 & Zechariah 12:10).
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18 & Luke 23:34 HCSB) An insulting sign written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, created by Pilot read “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). Although insults were hurled at Jesus until the final moment, it was His love and divine ability to extend pardon that allowed Jesus to pay the penalty for each of our sins—that we have all committed (Jeremiah 33:8, Romans 3:23 & Romans 5:12).
“But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)
After Jesus had given up His spirit, the sky grew black for three hours and the veil in the Holy of Holies within the Temple, was ripped from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split! People no longer needed to go to the Temple to be declared clean before a high priest, but now each heart could go directly to God through Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51, Luke 23:45 & Hebrews 4:14-16 & Hebrews 6:20)!
Oh, but the best was yet to come! The Lover and Creator of the human heart was not done. Freedom from eternal bondage was still yet to be shared with those He loved. The tomb was discovered to be empty on the third day, by Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women. They then saw two men at the empty tomb, dressed in glowing apparel that asked, “why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been resurrected (Luke 24:4-8)!” They ran to get the eleven disciples. While Mary Magdalene wept violently, thinking someone had stolen the body, Jesus appeared to her outside of the empty tomb (Luke 24:6 & John 20:11-18).
Jesus then appeared to His disciples (Luke 24: 44-49, John 20:19-23 & John 20:24-29). In His truest form, Jesus gently comes into our stories and meets us in our places of grief and doubt, then whispers assurance to our hearts that victory over all forms of suffering is found only in the mighty name of Jesus Christ (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 48:6 & 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). As we celebrate this Easter season, may our attention be brought to victory that is ours if we accept the ultimate act of devotion, through Jesus Christ’s example of ascending love (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Photo Cred: Sam Schooler
What is love? Is it s’mores on the beach at sunset? Is it a mountain vista overlooking acres of evergreens after a hike? Is it scuba diving through a shipwreck? Kayaking as the summer rays kiss your face? Climbing sand dunes? Skydiving? Author and blogger, Katie Messer, would answer that any interaction with God’s creation points to the infinite love of God. Yet, the place in which she sees God’s love most fully manifested is in the ultimate act of unabashed love by her Lord, Jesus Christ. She thanks God for her God fearing husband and their two children who share in these international adventures. “Mirrors to Window: Change your view to see God’s true romance” is a book of Katie’s own honest testimony of God’s radical rescue and redemption within her own life. “Blooming Beauty” is Katie’s official blog site. Check it out for encouragement in how to see and thank God through all circumstances of life. Why? Because you are worth it to an infinitely loving God.