The Nature of True Apostleship
1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.
• In Christ, my heart is enlightened to knowledge of God and His glory. I proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and myself as a servant for His sake.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-12. Not many of us actually “preach” as the Apostle Paul says, whether for Christ or ourselves, but Paul’s point still stands. He did preach – but not for personal gain. His preaching – AND living AND sharing his life with others – was for Jesus’ sake. Paul’s heart was to serve not himself but His Lord Jesus – to the glory of God. Paul’s heart shined out what God originally shined into him: The love of God in Jesus.
Paul was but one disciple of many who would become servants for life, regardless of whether such serving included preaching or not. There is a deep (and potentially unsettling) challenge here for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: Are we “preaching” for self or Jesus? Are you serving self or Jesus? Are you shining for self or Jesus? Is your heart reflecting Jesus’ light or producing personal radiance? Don’t be afraid to check in with Jesus on this. Let Him enlighten you on the subject.
Father God, thank you for shining knowledge of Yourself into my heart in the person of Jesus Christ. Keep shining intensely into me that I may know You more and more. Then let that light radiate out from me as I serve those around me to the glory of Your holy name. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
The Empty Tomb
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Take time to take in John 20:1-18, one of Jesus’ resurrection accounts in the bible. At His request, Mary becomes a witness for Jesus, speaking to others about Him from personal experience. How does your personal experience fit into your witness about God’s love in Jesus Christ? Does Jesus have a request of you to speak with others about Him?
Converse with Jesus about your role as a witness of His love for you, about His sacrifice for people. Ask for help in identifying key parts of your story and how Jesus (and the Triune God) drew you to Himself. When you’re done with that, pick a person or two to share your thoughts with in order to practice being a witness for Jesus like Mary Magdalene.
Jesus, I will share our story with __(person)__ on __(day)__ at __(place)___.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We would never ask God to answer prayers for selfish motives, would we? We would never mask our sinful pleasures in a cloak of religious language or form, would we? Lord, unmask our motives that we might dedicate ourselves to your pleasure first – first and foremost.
Father God, during this week when we focus on being servant-disciples, I boldly ask that You show me where I am acting in self-serving ways. Where my attitude needs to undergo more change, I pray that You bring it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
~ Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul is praying that his readers (and hearers) would have their hearts enlightened. Most everyone wants to have a heart that is enlightened rather than left in the dark. Paul’s desired insight for the heart relates specifically to our calling in Jesus Christ. He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on God’s gifts in Jesus both now and in eternity. Here’s what he wants you to know:
But this is no ordinary, earthly power. No, this is an incomparably great power, none other than the one employed to raise Jesus Christ from the dead and place Him at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Paul wants us to know THIS power. He wants us to live under and through and by this power. In light of this life-giving power, let’s step into a prayerful re-centering around God.
Do you know the power Paul describes in Eph. 1:18-21? Do you believe that you have access to the same power that brought Jesus back from the dead? Do you believe that, as a child of God, you have access to God’s riches in Christ? Does your life in God bring hope regardless of present circumstances? Have you been living according to this power of God or have you been living in your strength? How would you know the difference?
Repent of any living out of your own strength. Repent of failing to access the power and riches given you through Jesus. Repent of losing sight of your hope in God and letting that hope unnecessarily get overrun by lesser concerns and difficulties.
By using a few agreements from God’s Word:
O God our Father, enlighten me (us!); Empower me (us!) by the strength used to raise Jesus from the dead, in whose name I pray. Amen.
God is selfless and humble, and his humility knows no bounds. Jesus did not draw a line and say, "this far, but no farther." Some of us may fear humility because we know we will only be willing to go so far. Not Jesus. He was not concerned about protecting his image - only about saving lost people. What a lesson we need to learn from that!
p.38, The Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot/Jones
What is God's response to our distrust and disobedience? The Bible is the love story of God's revelation of Himself in pursuit of wayward Humanity. This pursuit reaches its climax in the cross with the gift of God's Son Jesus Christ (Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 88).
God, Your selflessness and humility is embodied by Your Son, Jesus Christ, the exact representation of Your Being, as Hebrews 1:3 put it. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross and has now been exalted to Your right hand, glorified body and all. Now we, Your children, are the body of Christ in this world. Let us learn – let me learn especially – how to serve as the Lord Jesus served, humbly and selflessly. Amen.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
“As the Father sent me, I am sending you” Jesus told his disciples after leaving the grave behind (see John 20:21). The clear sense of mission that Jesus came into the world with – saving mankind through his death – was being passed on to his disciples. They were now being sent just as Jesus was, to bring God’s message of salvation in Jesus to a world in need. I cannot imagine that Jesus has communicated the current-day discipling crew “there is no more need to go.” Rather he is still sending his witnesses.
What is your testimony as a witness? What have you heard and seen relating to Jesus? The first disciples started in the town they were currently camped out in and went from there. But they went only after receiving the promised Holy Spirit. Let us do the same, starting where we are and relying on the promised Holy Spirit.
Father God, as you send us disciples into the world, remind us to start in the world right around us, our own “Jerusalem.” And teach us always to rely on the promised Holy Spirit – gifted to us in baptism and giving us direction daily. In the name of Jesus Your Sent One. Amen.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Yes Lord, bless us to us to do Your will and work in us whatever pleases you! I pray this for myself and… (yes, who else?)
Father God, bless us to become the servant-disciples You desire us to be in the world, in our communities, in our churches, and in our homes. In the name of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve, Amen.
Lord Jesus, individually, I pray that you give each of us a heart to know you (Jeremiah 24:7) and a desire for you above all things (Psalm 73:25). Help each of us to believe that we have a necessary place in the body, agreeing to work with each other united in Spirit and mission under your leadership. Let it be to the glory of God our Father. So I pray. Amen.
Dear Lord, may I realize afresh today what Your death and
resurrection mean for me, for others: Forgiveness, freedom, and the ability to walk with You through this fallen world into eternity. May I always find my satisfaction in You and Your humbling willingness to offer Yourself to me. In Jesus' name. Amen.
- Rachel Olsen