Complimentary StoryMarch 2023
Have you ever encountered something that was so impressive you have never forgotten it?
Something I will never forget is being among the 1.2 million men, (mall police report), that attended “Stand in the Gap,” a Promise Keepers, men’s conference in Washington DC, October 4, 1997. It opened with the blowing of the ram’s horn and in traditional Jewish ceremony as Messianic Jews explained that the event was, to the day, coinciding with a once in every 500 years that God calls men together to pray. Everyone I talked to had their story of how they could not, not be there. When the call was given to bow for the opening prayer, I heard a loud shuffling, I turned from my position near the U.S. Capital to observe a sea of men, back to the Washington Monument, 2 miles away, fall face down to the ground in humble submission to the Lord our God. That was just the beginning of the day-long event.
Another memory I’ll never forget was intercepting a tipped pass in a high school football game and running it half the field for the only score in a game that was, media covered as, “the Wisconsin high school football game of the week.”
I’ll never forget being present during the birth of two natural children or at the airport as Ozark Airlines delivered our 9-week-old adopted daughter. I will never forget the day I married my wife, Terry.
It is hard to forget the time something pushed against my back while I was bow hunting for deer, in a small tent ground blind. Soon the face of a large black bear was looking into the corner window, 2 feet away from my face. Yes, I screamed, well it was a “lower tone,” us men like to call it. The bear backed up several feet and stood up on its hind legs, showing how tall a 400-to-500-pound bear can look. Now there was lots of (manly) screaming! I am grateful the bear dropped to all fours and moseyed away, periodically looking back as if to say “what in the world were those, (manly), sounds coming from that tent?” To this day some of the accessories in my hunting day pack, are a fog horn, bear mace and a hand gun, in order of possible use.
One last memory I will share was when I was just entering teen aged years, a friend’s mother invited me and some more of her son’s friends to hear a speaker at an event center called, Soul’s Harbor. I don’t remember the speaker but I remember that it was the first time I heard someone speak in a language I didn’t understand, way down from the upper deck I was in and up toward the front of the packed auditorium. It was also the only time, ever in my life since, that I heard someone from the other side of the auditorium stand and interpret that message in the language we all understood so praise could come from everyone, as the interpretation was a Scripture that complimented the event speaker’s message.
There are many things that I have seen or experienced that I will always remember but I think there are some other people that saw something they not only remembered but that caused them to never be the same.
There were many men and women that followed Jesus wherever He went, while on earth, listening to His teaching and actually seeing the miracles He performed. Wouldn’t you like to have been there for that? I would have loved it. There is a theatrical account of that time period, where a question was asked of Bartholomew, “why do you follow Him?” (Referring to Jesus). Bartholomew pointed and said, “watch this,” as Jesus was holding a man with advanced leprosy. The leper’s physical appearance changed as healing transformed the man to his normal healthy appearance. Bartholomew bumped the questioning man in the arm and said, “that’s why.” I can only imagine, actually being present to observe the many miracles that Jesus performed and are recorded in the Scriptures.
Think of Lazarus, dead for many days, as his family watched him emerge from the grave, walking and alive. I would have dropped to my knees, speechless.
Among the men and women following Jesus I want to highlight some who were specifically recorded in Scripture as being present. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas and the disciple John. These followers of Jesus are specifically mentioned in the Gospels as being present and watched the crucifixion of Jesus. Most likely they had also been present during the cat of nine tails flogging that tore large amounts of flesh from Jesus’ body with every retraction. The blood loss would have been prolific as they watched and grieved at this gruesome punishment. The trip, on foot, of approximately 2500 feet or nearly one-half mile to calvary had to be unimaginable to watch, let alone for Jesus to endure. These mentioned people, and others, then watched the most horrific form of a death sentence, Roman crucifixion. The observers watched as nails were pounded through the wrists, or hands, of Jesus to pin Him to two beams of wood in the shape of a cross.
Can you imagine the screams of pain as huge nails were additionally pounded through Jesus’ feet? The cross was then hoisted to an upright position and the only way Jesus could breathe was to push with His feet and pull with His hands to lift Himself up to relieve the suffocating pressure inflicted upon His lungs. Jesus would struggle through this inhumane, gruesome, torturous death sentence for 6 hours before He died. To make sure he was dead, a Roman solder shoved a spear though Jesus’ side and into His lungs. I don’t think I can imagine how these people, who followed Jesus, listened to His teachings, saw the miracles He performed and loved Him deeply felt as they watched all this. They knew beyond any doubt, that their Friend, Teacher and a Man they deeply loved had been killed by the hands of expert killers and Jesus was undeniably dead. Some observed as Jesus was removed from the cross and placed in a rock tomb and the tomb sealed. Jesus’ lifeless dead body was laid to rest.
I have been an observer in the death of my mother, father and most recently my mother-in-law. There is no doubt in my mind that they were gone from this life, way before they were laid to rest in an earthen grave. I suspect you have experienced similar.
I ask you to think about something over the coming days. Try to envision being Mary Magdalene in the John 20:10-18 narrative. Mary knew Jesus was dead, she watched Him die. When Jesus appears to Mary, resurrected from the dead, she does not recognize Him. Why would she? No doubt she had seen “dead” before, she knew what death meant. Gone from this life. I can’t imagine thinking any differently than Mary. She saw Jesus, but did not recognize Him until He calls her by name, something she had heard, more than likely, many times. She recognized Jesus’ unmistakable voice. Can you imagine?!! Jesus was dead, Mary watched it happen, in all its gruesome details and here He is alive! Her reaction? She screamed out, “Teacher!” No doubt she jumped and ran to hug Jesus, but He stopped her. Absolute stunning shock had to be the most common reaction of all the people who observed Jesus’ crucifixion and one or several at a time they experienced Jesus, resurrected from the dead and standing alive in their presence.
Without a doubt the disciples were told of Jesus’ death. They all knew the Romans did not fail at killing a person by crucifixion. When Jesus appears, resurrected from the dead, and showed the disciples the crucifixion wounds in His hands and side, I think the statement at John 20:20 “the disciples were overjoyed,” may be understated. Probably flat-out ecstatic is a better picture. Thomas, on the other hand, wouldn’t believe such a thing was possible. When Jesus appears to him and says “stop doubting,” the Greek word used is very strong. It means a “no faith belief,” “a decision to not believe.” When Thomas touches the wounds on Jesus, the unbelievable becomes believable and he gasps, “My Lord and my God!” Imagine being in these peoples’ shoes! Jesus walked the earth for 40 days after the resurrection and appeared more times to the disciples and other followers. One group of 500 brothers at the same time. (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Many of these people saw Jesus die on the cross. All knew Roman crucifixion did not fail at killing the victim. Here was the Lord Jesus alive, talking, eating and fellowshiping with His followers. Something happened in all these eye witnesses. This Jesus was, in fact, and undeniably the promised Messiah. Their lives were forever changed. They went out to the known world to tell, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1).
What would happen in our life if we could catch the reality that, in actual fact, Jesus was the promised Messiah, His death on the cross brought forgiveness of sin for everyone who accepts and believes this for themselves. (1 John 2:1-2). Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating that believers and followers of Him will also rise to eternal life with Him. (1 John 5:13). Let’s think on these things as we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, for us, and celebrate the resurrection this Easter.
Perhaps we could catch the heart and passion of the last earthly person Jesus appeared to, Paul. The murderous Christian-hater was totally transformed by the resurrected Christ. From that time on, Paul worked harder than anyone else to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:10). An encounter with the resurrected Messiah will cause us “to never be the same again.”
Lynn Fredrick is the author of “Stand Firm,” a short program to use the divine power of God to transform your life.