Walking where Jesus walked, was for me a wonderful preparation for the Easter season. On our recent trip to the Holy Land, visiting the places mentioned in the gospels was a highlight but nothing compared to being in the place where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Beautiful churches have been built to mark the spot where these events took place and now people stand in line, sometimes for hours to visit these sacred sites where Jesus lived, walked and gave His life. The natural setting of the garden of Gethsemane with its hundreds – maybe even a thousand year old olive trees was a somber reminder of the Lord’s struggle as He faced His death in our behalf.
Of particular significance was the area known as the Garden Tomb overlooking a mountain which has the appearance of a skull, in keeping with what the Bible said of him being crucified at the place of the Skull. The natural beauty of the trees and flowers added to the reflective atmosphere of the garden and the tomb carved in the rock resembled so much the garden scene described in the gospels as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Walking through the garden one could see groups from all over the world remembering Christ’s death in worship, reflection, prayer and sharing of communion.
More important than knowing the exact place where it all happened is to know for certain that Jesus died and that after His resurrection He met people in a beautiful way at their point of need. There was Mary, standing outside the tomb weeping. We see her overcome with grief and hopelessness. She knew that Jesus had been crucified but now she faces the reality that his body is gone. She came to spend time at the tomb but looking in she finds it empty. Her only thought was that someone had taken Him away. Life seemed so hopeless to her. Then Jesus meets her in her pain and grief. Thinking it was the gardener who asked her for the reason of her tears she shared her concern that the body of Jesus had been taken away. It was when Jesus spoke her name that she recognized Him. What a moment of hope and joy! Jesus is still the same and wants to meet us as well in our moments of grieving, discouragement, pain or hopelessness during this Easter season. He calls us by name and says, ‘you are precious in My eyes and honored in My sight, and …I love you.” Isaiah 43:4
Maybe our need during this Easter season is more often like that of Thomas who struggled with doubts about the truth of Christ’s resurrection. He boldly stated his position when he said he would not believe unless he saw Jesus hands, felt the wounds from the nails and put his hand in his side. Jesus appears to Thomas and meets him at his point of need and says, “See the wounds and place your hand in my side” and then in tenderness encourages him to believe. There were no words of admonishment and scolding just encouragement to believe. Maybe we find ourselves facing doubts in some area of our life today. The risen Lord comes to us and lovingly encourages us to believe in him and to trust him with every detail of our daily life.
On our journey during this Easter season we may also find ourselves identifying with Peter who probably experienced the greatest failure of his life when he denied Jesus three times. We read how Peter wept bitterly after he realized what he had done. One can only imagine that sense of defeat experienced by Peter. But the story does not end there. Jesus seeks him out on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius where Peter was fishing. After pulling the fishing boat ashore with their catch of fish, Jesus singles out Peter and asks him three times if he loves Him and with each response assigns him to the task of caring for his sheep. Not only was it a moment of forgiveness and acceptance for Peter but it was also an affirmation of his call to service. Maybe Peter felt it was all over because of his denials but now Jesus calls him back to continue his tasks as a disciple. A second chance – overflowing with love and forgiveness. Peter’s need was great but Jesus met him just where he was at. Jesus is still the same. When we find ourselves facing the pain of failure, of having disappointed others and especially Jesus, then He reaches out to us with forgiveness and offers us another chance. As with Peter there is a new hope to begin again with the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.
Why did Jesus single out each of these three people? Each had a special need and Jesus touched them at their particular point of need. He had the right answer for each. For Mary the answer was hope that her relationship with Jesus was not ended, for Thomas it was evidence that he needed to believe and for Peter forgiveness was followed by a call to service. Today Jesus offers to meet us at our point of need as well. We too may be struggling with grief, doubt or failure. Or maybe our needs are entirely different but still he speaks into our life with the words from Philippians4:19
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The risen Lord waits to be invited:
” Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and He with me.” (Revelations 3:20)
And when we invite Him in He has a wonderful plan for our life.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you
will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
As Christ the risen Lord looked for Mary, Thomas and Peter to touch them at their point of need so He looks for us during this Easter season to meet our needs as well.