Safe in the Empty Tomb

Written by: Tim Wood

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalm 71:3 ESV)

 One of my favorite places to visit in Jerusalem is Gordon’s Calvary aka The Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb was discovered by a British Army Officer, Major-General Charles Gordon in 1883. Gordon was looking at a rocky hillside on the northwest part of Jerusalem that resembled a skull. Since the word “Golgotha” can be translated skull, Major Gordon wondered if it might be site of biblical Golgotha.  His interest in this spot was heightened when he discovered an ancient cemetery very close to this hillside.  In this ancient cemetery they uncovered a tomb that would have been owned by someone very prominent.  After further excavation, he discovered that this tomb was in a garden. He wondered, “Could this be the spot of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?”  Although no one can prove it, much of what he discovered backs up the biblical record of Jesus’ resurrection.

As a result of Major-General Gordon’s discovery, the Garden was cleaned up and opened up to visitors. People have been coming to the Garden tomb from all over the world for more than 130 years. Today, it’s known as Gordon’s Calvary.

Over the years there have been many caretakers of the Garden Tomb. One of those was Solomon Mattar.  Solomon Mattar was a Christian of Arab ancestry. He was a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and a wonderful caretaker of this sacred spot. He passionately believed in the authenticity of the tomb. Christian leaders would visit from all over the world to visit the tomb and Mr. Mattar would give personal tours. Because of this, he became a friend to many of these leaders.

In June of 1967, the Six Day War broke out. Some of the most intense fighting took place all around this quiet garden. Gordon’s Calvary became the last ditch stand for the Jordanian army. Mr. and Mrs. Mattar were trapped in the crossfire.  Where could they go for safety? Their house wasn’t safe.  Their neighborhood wasn’t safe. They decided to find refuge in the empty tomb. The thick walls provided a safe shelter.  As long as they were in the tomb they were safe. Unfortunately, Mr. Mattar left the tomb to go to his house to get some food and water, and he was hit by a bullet and killed. Mrs. Mattar stayed in the tomb and was safe until the firing stopped.

The empty tomb of Jesus became a refuge for Mrs. Mattar.  What was true for her is true for us today. The empty tomb of Jesus, His resurrection becomes our place of refuge. Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Happy Easter!

 

When I See the Cross

Written by: Tim Wood

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

 What do you think about when you see a cross? Does it make you stop and think? We’re so accustomed to seeing crosses that we don’t even give it a second thought. However, we should deeply meditate about God’s work for us on the cross.

For most of us, it is natural to think about what we must do to be saved by God. But the cross tells us a different story. The truth of the cross tells me what God has already done to save me. It’s not what I must do but what God has already done.

This passage is Romans 5 tells us three thrilling, simple, yet profound truths about the cross of Christ.

First, the cross tells us that Jesus saves us by dying for us – “Christ died for the ungodly”. The cross reminds me that it took the death of Jesus to make me right with God. St. Paul instructed Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus died the death that I should have died to save me.

Second, the cross tells me that we didn’t deserve this saving work. We were helpless and weak to do anything about our relationship with God. The cross of Jesus is the power and provision of God for helpless people.

Third, the cross tells me that the death of Jesus for sinners is a demonstration of God’s love. How does God prove his love to me? The cross of Jesus. How do I know God loves me? The cross of Jesus. If God gave me his best when I was at my worst, what circumstance could ever make God stop loving me?

On the front part of our church property stands a white cross about ten feet high. Every time I see that cross I try to remember God loves me. God will never leave me. God gave me the greatest gift. When I see that cross I remind myself that I don’t have to do anything to earn God’s gracious favor, God gave me his grace by allowing Christ to die for the ungodly. Hallelujah for the cross!

What do you think about when you see the cross?

With God there is Forgiveness

Written by: Tim Wood

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:3-4 NIV)

 When I got into trouble at school (which was almost every day), my offenses were kept in a file called my permanent record. Supposedly, this was a file kept in the principal’s office that followed you and hounded you everywhere you go. If you changed schools your permanent record went with you. A permanent record never goes away. It’s permanent. It still exists today. I hope my permanent record never becomes public.

What if the Lord kept a record? What if the Lord marked iniquities? We wouldn’t stand a chance. We wouldn’t have any hope. We would all be sunk.

God doesn’t keep a record of sins because with God there is forgiveness. God chooses to focus on forgiveness rather than failure. The Bible uses a number of images to describe how God deals with our sins.

Isaiah 44:22 - I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.

Jeremiah 31:34 - For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Isaiah 38:17 - In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.

Micah 7:19 - You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 - As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Hallelujah! Praise God with whom there is forgiveness! Our sins are forgiven, forgotten, removed, buried and swept away. They can’t condemn us. They shouldn’t hound us. They should never stop us because with God there is forgiveness. Let that truth grip your soul, thrill your heart and renew your mind.

Why doesn’t God see our sins? Because He sees the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from sin. God didn’t overlook sin, He willingly laid it on Jesus so we can experience the freedom of forgiveness.

Prayer: God, we are deeply thankful that you don’t keep a record of sins. We acknowledge that with you there is forgiveness. AMEN!

An Eye-Opening Experience

Written by: Tim Wood

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.  (Psalm 119:18 ESV)

 An eye-opening experience is often necessary in order to see things differently. The area where I live and pastor has a serious homelessness problem. I spoke several times to Roberto, a homeless veteran near our church. He told me how he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after coming home from the war in Vietnam.  Hearing his story opened my eyes. I began to see the people afflicted by this hardship with new insight and compassion. I became a more informed and caring advocate for the homeless.

Hearing Roberto’s story was an eye-opening experience and it changed me. Seeing things differently causes us to do things differently. Psalm 119:18 is a simple but powerful prayer for spiritual illumination. The Psalmist prays for an eye-opening experience. It instructs us to ask God, by His Spirit, to remove the scales from our natural eyes so we can see with supernatural eyes. Spiritual truth cannot be comprehended in a natural way, but requires a supernatural understanding.

This prayer is an admission that God’s Word is not what needs to change – it’s me. I need to change. The Psalmist didn’t need new revelation, he needed his eyes to be opened.

We should pray this prayer every time we read the Word of God. When the Spirit of God and the Word of God combine to meet eyes that have been opened by God, wondrous things happen. The Word of God contains wonderful things for us, but we will never see them without God’s help.

Pray this prayer: “Lord, I need an eye-opening experience from Your Word today. Thank you for the wonderful things you have in store for me. Amen.”

 

 

Why are you following Jesus?

Written by: Tim Wood

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  (John 6:26 ESV).

 Simon Sinek has written a New York Times best-selling book titled, “Start With Why”. His premise is that inspiring leaders start with why instead of how. Start with why something is done a certain way rather than how it’s done. Sinek points out that we cannot assume people know why.

Jesus doesn’t assume anything; he knows everything. Jesus offers challenging words for the people following him.  He had just fed 5,000 families with five loaves and two fish. Many of the people who ate this miraculous meal followed him to other side of the lake. It was there that Jesus addressed the issue of why. “You’re seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

Some were following Jesus for self-serving reasons. People who were filled with urgent needs and knew that Jesus could provide. Some people were following for sensational reasons. The thrill of seeing the miraculous. The excitement of a mountain top experience. The emotional high of conquest.

Everywhere Jesus went he healed the sick, he exorcised demons, he provided for the needs of people. As a result, great crowds followed him, but why were they following?

What an inspiring question for us to ask ourselves – why am I following Jesus? Am I following for self-serving reasons?

One day Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Peter’s answer is why we follow Jesus. He’s the Christ. We primarily follow him because of who he is, not for what he can do. This noble reason to follow him goes past sensationalism, selfishness or emotionalism. It’s a deep recognition that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore worthy to be followed.

When we know why we follow Jesus, everything else falls into place. It’s not what Jesus can do for me, it’s who he is that brings lasting satisfaction to our deepest hunger.

Why are you following Jesus?