‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love~
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross~
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave~
Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours~
I tore the veil for you to come close~
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore~
You’re not far from home
You’re not far from home❤️
“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as He was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ, we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was IN Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Reconcile is a beautiful word. It means: to cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible.♥️
Almost a year ago, we had the privilege to go to the Holy Land. To walk where Jesus walked. A once in a lifetime opportunity. As May arrived this year, a flood of memories and emotions come back. 💜
So much has changed since then. I shared many pictures at the time, and I told myself I was saving the best for last, and then I never got around to sharing them until recently. I’ll share some more in this post.💜
I had a few favorite places. One was walking on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Imagining Jesus walking with his disciples on those same shores I was walking on was almost too much. The Shepherds’ Field was also a favorite, as I’ve always had a place in my heart for the outcast-which in biblical times the shepherds may have fit that description. And of course I love Christmas, so singing Christmas carols in the field where the Angel first announced the Good News was pretty amazing.♥️💚
The shepherds have always intrigued me. I’ve often wondered why they were chosen to be the first ones to hear the Good News. Were they just some nobodies on a remote hillside in a tiny town outside of Bethlehem? If we compared shepherds to people in our society today, would they be among those that no one cares to associate with? I’ve always read that they were considered social outcasts, that they were smelly and unclean, and had a reputation of being dishonest. Most think they were not at the top of the social ladder. That’s not necessarily how scripture portrays them though.
Regardless of their social status, there was a reason that God chose these particular shepherds to share the Good News with first.
It was a unique field.
They were unique shepherds.
It was a unique flock of sheep. 🐑
The fields were located on the outskirts of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem. There was something in those fields known as the ‘Tower of the Flock.’ One purpose for this tower was for the shepherds to have a better view of their sheep. It was prophesied years before that the announcement of the Messiah would be delivered here. One reason for this could be because this is where the ewes were taken to give birth to their spotless lambs used for sacrifice in the temple.
So this tells us these sheep were no ordinary sheep. The ones that grazed in these fields were reserved for one purpose–to be kept spotless until their death-and to be used as sacrifices in the temple to cover the sins of the people.
Anyone notice the symbolism yet?
The shepherds were fulfilling a very unique and sacred duty. There is a lot of significance in what they were doing the night of the Good News. Since they were caring for the lambs that would ultimately be used for sacrifice at the temple, they had to be spotless and meticulously cared for. The shepherds had to be extremely vigilant and aware of everything going on in order to protect these sheep.
The sheep were even wrapped in special cloths to protect them from injury. These were also the same ‘cloths’ that the baby Jesus was wrapped in when he was born.
So Mary didn’t just wrap baby Jesus in some random cloths she found lying around. Those cloths were provided for her from the exact location that the ‘sacrificial lambs’ were born.
Is any story ever boring when Jesus is involved? He’s ALWAYS in the details.
These shepherds probably never fell asleep on their job-because it was too important. So imagine their astonishment when the Angel broke their concentration and likely appeared on or near the Tower of the Flock (because of the prophecy telling this was where the news of the Messiah would be announced) proclaiming the news that the ultimate sacrificial Lamb was being born less than a mile away.🌟
I wonder if they made the connection that 33 years later there would be no more need for sacrifices. Because God was providing the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of the entire world. 💜
Is it possible that God started the process of freeing those shepherds from their religious box that night? The box of requirement. God was making a way that no longer required perfection like they previously thought.
Doesn’t the significance and detail that God uses in each and every story astound you?❤️
These shepherds likely had God in the box that believed that God required a perfect sacrifice from them in order to be holy.
I’m sure it took more than a moment to sink in, but what a burden must’ve been lifted from their weary shoulders that night.🌟
While in Israel, standing in those fields~I can’t imagine how the shepherds felt as they tried to wrap their minds around what God had shown them. I found myself looking up into the sky…no wonder they rushed to the manger. They needed to see this baby with their own eyes.
Jesus died for the devout and religious rule followers. To set them free from a life of required perfection and performance.💚
Jesus really was a Radical in his time. A Revolutionist. An Extremist even. His opinion was far, far away from the norm. He turned heads and drew crowds wherever he went. He was always hanging out with the socially unacceptable, and people who were shunned by society. God’s love in action for us to see.
He wasn’t afraid of judgmental glances and comments as people observed who he chose to hang with. He was too busy telling them how much they were valued, that the Truth of their being wasn’t shame, fear, or worthlessness. That they were honorable and loved, despite their actions. He was definitely the topic of many, many conversations. Even his disciples didn’t ‘get’ him sometimes. I love that his message was radical in that it placed everyone on equal ground-no hierarchical system that stated some were better than others based on status.
Jesus died for the woman who was deeply ashamed of her past. To free her from a desolate life of emptiness and condemnation.💜
We’ll see His genuine love for ALL people play out in the events on the cross as well.❤️
In addition to the Shepherds’ Field and the Sea of Galilee, there were many other places that come to mind. But my favorite of all was the Garden Tomb. Everyone’s favorite? Probably. I assume it’s near impossible for it not to be.
With so many sights and locations in Israel to cram into a small amount of time, it was hard to know what was authentic and what had been replicated.
So I was thankful that in the Garden Tomb they shared ample evidence of why this was one of the locations that they are pretty confident is the real deal.
The evidence that proves this location was over 2,000 years old and present at the time of Christ, is that it was also the site of a wine press. Archaeological experts were able to test the remains of the winepress, and it indeed dated back to the time of Christ. So if the archaeological experts are correct, the site was present when Jesus walked the earth.
Our tour guide then shared with us the unique layout of the tomb. All tombs of this time period had 2 chambers-the weeping chamber and the burial chamber. Usually, upon entrance to the tomb, one would enter the weeping chamber first, then go back farther into the rockface to the burial chamber which was directly behind it.
This tomb was different however. The two chambers were side by side-the weeping chamber on the left, the burial one on the right.
In the book of Mark, the Bible says that the women went “into the tomb, and saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side…” He said “Don’t be afraid. You’re looking for Jesus who was crucified…
“He is not here…” ♥
The fact that Mary saw the Angel sitting on the “right” side, tells us that this unique tomb was the same layout as the tomb of Jesus.
Imagine Mary’s astonishment as she thought back just 3 days earlier to the events of the cross. Such an event had to be permanently fixated in anyone’s mind, especially someone who was so personally acquainted with Jesus. I’m sure her mind raced as she replayed what was probably the worst day of her life. She had to have wondered if it even happened as she tried to process what she was seeing that morning in the tomb.
When our tour guide told us the detailed story of the crucifixion, I was fascinated by what I learned. The scene is a little less picturesque than what we typically picture~3 crosses on a hill, the middle one slightly taller with a purple cloth blowing in the wind. But there was a purpose: the Romans weren’t trying to paint a pretty picture. It was an astounding fact for me to discover that Jesus did not die on a hill like I have always believed. Nor did He die far away.
Coming to my mind is the timeless, treasured hymn that was one of my Dad’s favorites. Are you singing it too…? “…On a hill, far away, stood an old, rugged cross….” ✝❤️
I’ve always loved that hymn. Reminiscing back to the days as a little girl in church~I would join in and sing my little heart out with everyone as all of those timeless hymns were played.♥️ ⛪
I realized though that the image of the cross that was conjured up in my mind was largely inspired by the first line of that song. As a result, I grew up thinking that Jesus died on a remote hill faraway, based on the imagery described by the author.
Imagery definitely isn’t a bad thing, it’s what makes stories come to life as we reflect on them. We just have to understand that it’s based on imagination; someone’s interpretation of an event. Those opinions can then be passed down over centuries and presented as factual. Jesus wasn’t crucified on a hill, but rather on a roadside. And it wasn’t far away, it was in the center of everything.
I have a couple of reasons why this information was so pivotal for my journey. One is because the two locations are so vastly different. Dying a public death of this magnitude~in the center of all the hustle and bustle~ made me realize that Jesus likely experienced humiliation, shame, insecurity, rejection, fear, ridicule, and so many more emotions to the utmost extreme. Emotions that He knew we would experience too. 💔No wonder the woman at the well felt “safe” with Jesus. 💜
It’s one reason He came to earth-to experience life with us~and that includes an endless array of human emotions. It’s hard to identify with a person who has not “been in our shoes.” We can rest in the fact that every human emotion we walk through, Jesus has walked there too.
Another reason this impacted me was that it made me realize how I’ve relied so much in the past on man’s interpretation of things rather than discovering Truth for myself. For some, a hill versus a roadside may not be a game-changer. But there have been times in my life when Truth over opinion set the pace for a new beginning.
The mere fact that Jesus actually made it to the place where the cross would go was a miracle in and of itself, because most collapsed before they got to their destination. Why were criminals crucified by the roadside? It was an effort to draw more people to observe the scene, as well as an attempt to deter crime and make people afraid to break the law in any way. Crucifixion was meant to be an ‘in your face’ type of punishment.
Another misconception is that criminals had to carry their entire cross, but that wasn’t necessarily the case either. Instead, it is likely that they carried just the top horizontal beam, because the vertical beam was already in the ground at the execution site.
There were two other men who were also on crosses that day. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, I think we can assume they hadn’t won any popularity contests. Neither man had a good track record~ crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights.
What I’ve always found interesting is the fact that after observing Jesus in that short amount of time, one of the criminals recognized ‘something’ in him. And He recognized enough of whatever it was to cry out~
“Jesus! Remember me when you go into your kingdom.”
Jesus’s response? Barely able to catch his breath to speak at this point he said:
“Today, you will be with me in Paradise!”
The word ‘Today’ is interesting because Jesus was dead for 3 days, yet He told the criminal that ‘today’ he would be with him in paradise. After I was able to visit Jesus’s tomb, it makes it even more awe-inspiring to imagine what happened during that time.
Regardless, nobody knows exactly what took place in those 3 days, we can only speculate based on a few different scriptures on the topic.
But He was most definitely taking care of business. Light triumphed over the darkness of the grave. I believe he was putting death in its place once and for all~declaring His final and complete victory over the grave, death, and everything dark that tries to keep us in chains.
“Because Christ was raised from the dead, He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When He died, he died once-to break the power of sin.” Romans 6:9-10
We don’t have to be held captive by anything that Jesus has already disarmed and set us free from.
“We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died WITH Christ, we were set free from the power of sin. And since WE DIED WITH CHRIST, we know we also will live with him.” Romans 6:6-8
So we know what happened on Good Friday. And we definitely know what happened on Easter Sunday. But that Saturday? Or really the time period between his death and resurrection…was of paramount importance for those of us interested in living the abundant life. That day, “Death”~died. Death turned in the keys. Death handed over its power to the only One who could defeat it. The only Power who emptied graves. Death was put to death. Darkness completely drowned out by brilliant Light.
So we know that the thief had no good works or acts of service to bring to the table that day. He didn’t say a specific prayer. He also didn’t get baptized.
But we can conclude with confidence that he was in the presence of Jesus.
I suppose Jesus could’ve discussed all of this with him at a later time in Paradise…but I tend to think that conversation never happened.
Because 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us that Jesus wasn’t counting anyone’s sins against them. Not the criminals, nor any of the religious elite that crucified him.
“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)
So at this point at the end of the criminal’s life, his past was irrelevant. Everyone’s was. The cross had the final word.
Jesus died for the criminal who thought he was destined for failure his entire life. To set him free from worthlessness, guilt, and regret.♥
It’s also important to note that he said “Remember me.” Jesus knew exactly what he meant because he meets us exactly where we are.
He wasn’t shaking his head in disappointment at this criminal, nor rolling his eyes at his lack of Christian service. I also don’t think he was comparing him to the religious crowd who kept Jesus frustrated pretty consistently.
Can you imagine if Jesus brought a list with him of all the wrong things this guy did, prepared to inform him of how inadequate and unworthy he was to expect to be with Jesus forever? No. That would be absurd.
LOVE keeps NO RECORD of wrongs.
LOVE = GOD❤️
So~GOD keeps no record of wrongs.♡
Our sins are as far as the EAST is from the WEST. That’s a long way. (Psalm 103:1)
The cross had the Final Word. He said it himself~
“It is finished.”
But the best part..?👇🏽
It was finished for Him, it is finished for you too. What is ‘finished?’ Death and sin and darkness. He overcame death~both physically and supernaturally. The grave no longer had a hold on Him or any other person who had ever lived or would ever live. And since WE DIED WITH HIM, we also were raised to life with Him. He wasn’t going to leave us in the grave. He was making a new way of life for us.
“For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live.” Galatians 2:20
So since it was finished with Him, let it be finished for you too. That darkness you keep fighting-He’s already defeated it. It’s not who you are. He’s not mad. He’s not looking to punish you. He just wants more for you. He wants the best for you. As a loving Father, he always has our best interest at heart. ❤️
Jesus’s ministry was never inside the walls of the church. It was for people like the shepherds, the Samaritan woman, the thief on the cross. Those you won’t likely find in a religious setting. There was no religious setting, and “church” was hanging out with his disciples, and introducing people to who the Father was through just living and experiencing life with them. He was on a mission to find them and tell them the Truth of their being~to explain to them their worth and value, and how much they were loved. He has that same mission for you~to realize the Truth of who you are.
What Jesus accomplished on the cross was complete freedom for me and for you. To experience life being FULLY ALIVE. That’s always how it was meant to be. Don’t let death influence any part of your life.
The cross had the Final Word. He went to bat for me and for you to give us the opportunity for an abundant life-eternal life yes, but also abundant life-NOW.
Death is finished. Therefore Life~has just begun.
How quickly we forget the power
That’s running through our veins~
The kind of power that empties graves..
And oh my soul~
Remember who you’re talking to~
The only One who death bows to~
That’s the God who walks with you.
You know that if He did it then
He can do it all again~
His power can still raise the dead
Don’t tell me that He’s finished yet~
The cross is my beginning.💜✝