The Tomb of the Unknown Savior—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Lucy
It pointed out that Jesus’ enemies knew him better than his disciples. I thought about how well I know/love Him.

Originally published, July 17, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 13 & Matthew 27.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 27.63-66

“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Reflection: The Tomb of the Unknown Savior—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Christ’s mission and calling were a secret hidden in plain sight.

Jesus spoke about everything else in parables and spoke about his death in plain language, so perhaps we can forgive the disciples for not realizing that he meant what he said about his death literally.

Mary of Bethany may have been the only disciple who realized Jesus was about to die a sacrificial death, but it seems only his enemies remembered that Christ also promised to come back to life.

No one else seems prepared for Jesus’ resurrection as extensively as the chief priests and the Pharisees. Their concern is so urgent that they risk being made unclean for the remainder of the Passover week’s celebrations by going to Pilate on the Sabbath, the day after Preparation Day.

They outline the details of what they believe will be a conspiracy to fake a resurrection. (This is a conspiracy they will bribe the soldiers to maintain later.) Pilate grants their request, giving them a selection of the highest paid, best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world to guard a tomb.

Guarding the tomb of a penniless, itinerant prophet, with the equivalent of US Navy Seals might seem like overkill when the sneak attack you are expecting is from untrained tradesmen like the disciples, but the enemies of Christ knew how explosive his message was.

Fear of the political fallout of Christ’s message was one of the main reasons the religious elite had sought his death. For them, a violent, idolatrous, pagan government that allowed them to continue in power was preferable to following Jesus and losing their wealth and influence. In our heart of hearts we can certainly identify with their concerns.

When it came to Christ’s teaching about death and resurrection these corrupt men, who were Christ’s harshest critics, knew him better than his followers.

Jesus was a man even his closest friends didn’t fully know. He lay as a guest in a tomb belonging to a secret disciple. His followers, once considered so dangerous they were an existential threat to the state, scattered, abandoned him, and hid.

Jesus in the grave is the unknown savior. What happens next will change the world forever.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

Blessed be the Lord day by day, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens.
He is our God, the God of our salvation; God is the Lord, by whom we escape death. — Psalm 68.19-20

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 49 (Listen – 7:15)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Read more about The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along for themselves.

The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday

Read more about Supporting our Work

The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Azikiwe, New York
This devotional is one of the most impactful this year because of its simplicity. Self-reflection on our daily interactions and tasks causes you to be intentional, with how your time is spent; is it on yourself or through living out the gospel. This means even when I don’t want to, instead allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me. Surrendering to God’s will over my life, moment by moment.

Originally published, July 16, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 12 & Matthew 26.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 26.35
“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Reflection: Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Dying to self” and “carrying our cross” are biblical metaphors for self-sacrificial living, but sometimes they become a literal, lived reality.

Many sermons (mostly to youth groups) challenge believers with the stories of modern Christians who were killed while doing ministry or who refused to denounce Christ to save their own lives. These sermons ask, “Would you be willing to do the same?” 

These well-meaning sermons are intended to be inspirational. (And they are.) They don’t truly intend for us to follow these human martyrs, but to follow Jesus in the same, self-sacrificial manner they did. However, an unintentional lesson in these sermons is that the hardest or greatest thing we could do for Christ is to die in some violent way. We can unintentionally denigrate living for Christ by glorifying dying for him. 

The truth is that living for Christ in the mundane and ordinary is far more difficult than dying for him. Dying is momentary. Living stretches on. Paul recognized this, stating that he would rather die and be with the Lord, but it was better for all if he continued struggling and living for Christ. (Philippians 1.20-24) Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices. 

Peter gets a lot of flack for being the first, loudest, and proudest to declare that he would die for Jesus without following through later that night. But all the disciples did the same. May we have the passion of Peter and the disciples, yet retain the humility and wisdom of knowing that despite our best intentions we may fail.

Just like Peter, don’t many of us feel that we would give our lives for Jesus? Why then do we resist giving of our time for him in service, in study, or in prayer? 

It matters less what we might say about Christ when someone puts a gun in our face than what we do say about him to a friend who is hurting. It matters less how willing we are to give up our lives while sharing the gospel in a dangerous place than how willing we are to give up our rights, or give up our money, or give up our time when we are living in comfort.

In the end, it is what we do in life that makes the biggest difference for the gospel, not what we do in death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. — Psalm 89.14

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 48 (Listen – 7:31)
Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other.

Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Wake-up Call—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Mr. Dennis Makhandia, Kakamega, Kenya
The post came at a time when I was complacent with my faith and it was a stark reminder of what is expected of us as people who have been given the gospel

Originally published, July 15, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 11 & Matthew 25.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 25.44-46
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Jeremiah 11.11-14
11 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them. 12 The towns of Judah and the people of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes. 13 You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem.’
14 “Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.

Reflection: Wake-up Call—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

The three stories of Matthew 25 are connected, presented in series with an intentional theme. Last January we wrote:

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

The sin of neglect seems to be one that surprises each of the condemned groups and individuals in these stories. Pray that you may not be surprised.

During seminary days, while traveling on a ministry team on a long drive, someone suggested putting on a Keith Green album. The driver, a good friend, responded, “Oh good. I haven’t doubted my salvation in a while. Put it in.”

We all laughed but I will never forget it. Because, the truth was, and is, that we don’t often listen to music that challenges us. We tune in for encouragement.  We don’t often listen to sermons that challenge us. We tune out words of conviction.

This is bad news for us because when we tune out the voices correcting us for long enough, God lets us tune out. He allows us to develop spiritual cataracts and tunnel vision. He allows us to blow out our eardrums so that we can’t hear him anymore.

We need things in our spiritual lives to jar us out of our complacency and cause us to reevaluate our dedication to Christ. We need a wake-up call.

From the careless virgins buzzes an alarm: Take initiative! Don’t be passive about personal spiritual disciplines!
From the slothful servant rings a reveille trumpet: Be invested! Give your all to what providence invests in you!
From the goats, a clamorous claxon resounds: Serve Others! Serve the poor! Serve the hungry! Serve the outcast!
And from Jeremiah, we see the outcome of ignoring God’s calls—God will block our calls. “…I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.”

Don’t push “snooze” on the alarms sounding in these passages. Their intention is not to terrify us, but to guide us to action. His desire is for no one to perish, so open your eyes, open your ears. Attend to your spiritual responsibilities to yourself, to Christ, our master, and to those around you.

Music: The Sheep and the Goats (Live Performance) — Keith Green

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 42 (Listen – 3:44)
Psalms 18 (Listen – 5:47)

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 43 (Listen – 2:34) Psalms 19 (Listen – 1:52)
Jeremiah 44 (Listen – 6:10) Psalms 20-21 (Listen – 1:37)

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

The Tomb of the Unknown Savior

Scripture Focus: Matthew 27.63-66
“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Reflection: The Tomb of the Unknown Savior
By John Tillman

Christ’s mission and calling were a secret hidden in plain sight.

Jesus spoke about everything else in parables and spoke about his death in plain language, so perhaps we can forgive the disciples for not realizing that he meant what he said about his death literally.

Mary of Bethany may have been the only disciple who realized Jesus was about to die a sacrificial death, but it seems only his enemies remembered that Christ also promised to come back to life.

No one else seems prepared for Jesus’ resurrection as extensively as the chief priests and the Pharisees. Their concern is so urgent that they risk being made unclean for the remainder of the Passover week’s celebrations by going to Pilate on the Sabbath, the day after Preparation Day.

They outline the details of what they believe will be a conspiracy to fake a resurrection. (This is a conspiracy they will bribe the soldiers to maintain later.) Pilate grants their request, giving them a selection of the highest paid, best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world to guard a tomb.

Guarding the tomb of a penniless, itinerant prophet, with the equivalent of US Navy Seals might seem like overkill when the sneak attack you are expecting is from untrained tradesmen like the disciples, but the enemies of Christ knew how explosive his message was.

Fear of the political fallout of Christ’s message was one of the main reasons the religious elite had sought his death. For them, a violent, idolatrous, pagan government that allowed them to continue in power was preferable to following Jesus and losing their wealth and influence. In our heart of hearts we can certainly identify with their concerns.

When it came to Christ’s teaching about death and resurrection these corrupt men, who were Christ’s harshest critics, knew him better than his followers.

Jesus was a man even his closest friends didn’t fully know. He lay as a guest in a tomb belonging to a secret disciple. His followers, once considered so dangerous they were an existential threat to the state, scattered, abandoned him, and hid.

Jesus in the grave is the unknown savior. What happens next will change the world forever.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Turn to me and have pity on me, for I am left alone and in misery.
The sorrows of my heart have increased; bring me out of my troubles.
Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin. — Psalm 25.15-17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 13 (Listen – 4:11) 
Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 14 (Listen – 3:51). Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)
Jeremiah 15 (Listen – 3:49). Mark 1 (Listen – 5:05)

Read more about The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post lifted your spirit?

https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Living is Harder

Scripture Focus: Matthew 26.35
“Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Reflection: Living is Harder
By John Tillman

“Dying to self” and “carrying our cross” are biblical metaphors for self-sacrificial living, but sometimes they become a literal, lived reality.

Many sermons (mostly to youth groups) challenge believers with the stories of modern Christians who were killed while doing ministry or who refused to denounce Christ to save their own lives. These sermons ask, “Would you be willing to do the same?” 

These well-meaning sermons are intended to be inspirational. (And they are.) They don’t truly intend for us to follow these human martyrs, but to follow Jesus in the same, self-sacrificial manner they did. However, an unintentional lesson in these sermons is that the hardest or greatest thing we could do for Christ is to die in some violent way. We can unintentionally denigrate living for Christ by glorifying dying for him. 

The truth is that living for Christ in the mundane and ordinary is far more difficult than dying for him. Dying is momentary. Living stretches on. Paul recognized this, stating that he would rather die and be with the Lord, but it was better for all if he continued struggling and living for Christ. (Philippians 1.20-24) Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices. 

Peter gets a lot of flack for being the first, loudest, and proudest to declare that he would die for Jesus without following through later that night. But all the disciples did the same. May we have the passion of Peter and the disciples, yet retain the humility and wisdom of knowing that despite our best intentions we may fail.

Just like Peter, don’t many of us feel that we would give our lives for Jesus? Why then do we resist giving of our time for him in service, in study, or in prayer? 

It matters less what we might say about Christ when someone puts a gun in our face than what we do say about him to a friend who is hurting. It matters less how willing we are to give up our lives while sharing the gospel in a dangerous place than how willing we are to give up our rights, or give up our money, or give up our time when we are living in comfort.

In the end, it is what we do in life that makes the biggest difference for the gospel, not what we do in death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your name forevermore. — Psalm 86.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 12 (Listen – 3:06) 
Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other.

Readers Choice is your time to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year. What post challenged you?

https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

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