Daily Devotional – April 14, 2020

To the Church in Exile,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s meditation is from Jane Gunningham.

Our lectionary reading is from Mark 16:9-20:

9Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

12After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

14Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20
And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Last time I shared a devotional with you, I mentioned that the story of the father who says to Jesus, “Yes Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” is one of my all-time favorite gospel moments. This time I was struck by the shockingly similar theme in a completely different sort of story. At every turn, the writer offers us a thumbnail of unbelief followed by a revelation of Jesus himself that leads to belief. First one, then two are trying to convince the broken hearted disciples that Jesus is alive; no dice.

From my point of view, post resurrection, with 2000 years of co-laboring with the Holy Spirit under our belts, a million voices explaining the good news of Jesus, seeing miracles of health and change in lives and cultures all over the world, I find myself thinking, of the disciples, “Come on guys!” It’s not as though Jesus hadn’t prepped them for a miracle; He actually told them specifically that he had to suffer, die and then would be raised from the dead on the 3rd Day.

Jesus actually sounds more than a little frustrated with the thick-headed, obstinate human skepticism of his closest friends, whose limited belief would have left Jesus’ body victim to some kind of conspiracy, rather than believe Him resurrected and walking around. The disciples are wrung out by the loss of their dreams, their fear of an uncertain future. They can’t muster up even the faith of a mustard seed, until Jesus physically shows up and confronts them.

They believed in Jesus on Thursday—but that belief was a pretty concrete thing, buoyed up by miraculous healings, triumphal entries, intimate moments where they were IN THE KNOW. Friday deconstructed all their certainties and assumptions, stripped them down to despair and mourning. Jesus sent them witnesses, but they needed help for their unbelief. So on Sunday night, Jesus shows up and offers them a concrete sign. Yes, he is alive, complete and resurrected. Right there.

Mark sort of skips over the next 40 days; he jumps straight to the part where Jesus lifts off for Heaven, and gives the disciples their game plan for the next phase of God’s divine intent: go everywhere and teach—even people who you don’t think will understand you, because the Holy Spirit is the universal translator. Touch people who are scary sick and contagious, because you believe Jesus still heals. Trust God to deliver the Kingdom of Heaven when snakes bite and our culture offers us poison to drink. Baptize the ones who catch the amazing, resurrected revelation of Jesus in our words and deeds, and watch the Holy Spirit work.

It’s a big, big task with lots of risks, and it takes believing…remembering that Jesus is alive, and the Holy Spirit is forging ahead in the middle of confusion, or fear or death. But the writer also reminds us repeatedly by the time we get through 10 verses that Jesus has walked the disciples through their unbelief into the astonishing YES of the resurrection, and He still walks with us too. Because God did raise Jesus, and He still loves us and helps us believe when things are just too dark and overwhelming to let us power through on our own. 

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Scatter as widely as ever you can the blessing which you get for yourself; the moment you find the light, and realize that the world is in the dark, run away with your match, and lend somebody else a light.”

Lord Jesus, our gloriously, astonishingly, miraculously alive brother, help us in our unbelief. When we lose sight of hope in the dark moments of our days, light the match in our souls. Help us to be alive, just as you are, now and always.  Amen.

Peace in Christ,

Jane Gunningham

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