Friday, April 29


One last reminder for this week…He is still risen!

One week ago it was Good Friday and we were preparing to remember the sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross.  Just five days ago we celebrated the most incredible moment in human history – the Resurrection! 

I recall reading somewhere that the great artist Michelangelo once asked a fellow artist, “Why do you keep painting endless pictures on the one theme of Christ in weakness, Christ on the cross, and most of all, Christ hanging dead?” he asked. “Why do you concentrate on the passing episode as if it were the last work, as if the curtain dropped down there on disaster and defeat?  That dreadful scene lasted only a few hours. But for unending eternity Christ is alive; Christ rules and reigns and triumphs.”

Michelangelo was right (in a sense).  Even though the cross is vitally important because of the redemption that Jesus accomplished for us there, Christians should not emphasize His death to the exclusion of His resurrection.  I think that sometimes we tend to focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross without connecting that moment of sacrifice to the eternal promise we have in His resurrection.

Jesus once said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) The central tenet of our Christian faith this is not just whether we believe that Jesus died for us on the cross.  We must also believe that He rose from the dead.  The Bible says it this way: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

Saul of Tarsus believed generally in resurrection before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road, but he did not understand the power of The Resurrection.  He was a Pharisee, a member of the same Jewish sect that convinced Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus, and Pharisees believed in resurrection.  But the Paul we have come to know in the New Testament was more than a former Pharisee.  He was completely transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus.  He was an Apostle, one of just a handful of men who had seen Jesus after the resurrection and were sent to preach the “good news”.

Paul said, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-17) When we ask Christ to come live in our hearts, we are given the promise of resurrection. In other words, we are no longer dead to sin, but have the promise of eternal life.

Winston Churchill knew the significance of the resurrection when he said, “When a man steps out of his own grave, He is anything that he says He is, and He can do anything that he says He can do. The resurrection is not only good news, it’s the best news imaginable.”

Lord, You have the power to bring life from death. Thank You that through the resurrection of Jesus You have given me new life – Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, April 28


Oh yeah, by the way…He is still risen!

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said,  “Surely this man was the Son of God!”   - Mark 15:37-39

Mark doesn’t use a lot of words to tell us what is going on, but there is a lot of meaning packed into those few words.  The moment that Jesus dies, the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom.  Keep in mind that this temple curtain was no flimsy drapery, it was not a shower curtain.  The curtain which separated the Holy of Holies was heavy and thick, almost as substantial as a wall.  According to the Rabbis the curtain was a handbreadth in thickness, and woven of seventy-two twisted plaits, each plait consisting of twenty-four threads.  It was sixty feet long and thirty wide.  Two of them were made every year, and according to the Talmud, it needed three hundred priests to manipulate it.  The holy of holies symbolized the very presence of God and only the High Priest could enter there once a year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).  The people depended on the High Priest to make the acceptable sacrifices for their sins.  Look at what the writer of Hebrews has to say about how Jesus Christ has changed our access to God by His death on the Cross.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Such a high priest meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  
– Hebrews 7:25-27

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, 
- Hebrews 10:19-22

Jesus is our High Priest!
The Temple is His Body!
The massive curtain that kept us out has been removed!
The perfect sacrifice has been made!
We can come in now with confidence and assurance!
Do you grasp that?  We can come in!

Right here in this passage, Mark shows us the first person to “enter in” after the crucifixion.  His confession, “Surely this man was the son of God” is momentous because the very first line in the first chapter of Mark refers to Jesus this way, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  (Mark 1:1)  Up to this point, nobody had yet figured out just who Jesus really was.  Even Peter’s profession of Jesus as the Christ (Mark 8:29) proved to be a partial understanding until after the resurrection.  The first person to “get it” was a Roman Centurion!? 

The only person a good Roman would ever call the “Son of God” was Caesar himself, but this man gave that title to Jesus.  This Centurion would have been a hardened and brutal man, used to seeing blood and death.  But something about the death of Jesus so deeply impacted him that he was moved to confess the deity of Christ.  The Centurion had seen it all.  The loud cry of Jesus is unusual because victims of crucifixion usually have no strength left, especially when near death.  But Jesus’ death was no ordinary one, nor was his shout the last gasp of a dying man.  It was not a cry of defeat, but a shout of victory.  At the beginning of the crucifixion he was an unbeliever.  But he heard Jesus pray for him,  “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

It really is amazing to think about the fact Jesus’ disciples, who had been told by Jesus repeatedly that this would happen, were confused and they all fled in fear.  The religious leaders and teachers of the law, who studied the Scriptures daily, rejected the Son of God as they stood mocking Him in the crowd.  It is a pagan Roman soldier (and a dying thief) who “gets it” and “gets in”! 

Nobody is beyond the love of God!  Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done…The love and forgiveness of God is available to you through Jesus Christ!  His death has paid for your sin, and his resurrection from the dead promises you eternal life!

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, April 27


Just another reminder that…He is still risen!

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  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.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  “Woman,” he said,  “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.”  Jesus said to her,  “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic,  “Rabboni!”  (which means Teacher).  Jesus said,  “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them,  ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 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.        – John 20:10-18

On the morning of the Resurrection, Jesus didn’t want Mary to hold on to Him, why not?  I have often wondered about this passage in John’s gospel.  I have wondered why Jesus would tell Mary not to hold on to Him?  Is it a bad thing to cling to Jesus?  Aren’t we supposed to stay close to Him?

One thing is clear, Jesus didn’t mean that Mary was not to touch Him at all, because He told Thomas to touch Him and to see that He was the real thing (John 20:27).  He told her not to “hold on to Him”, but what did He mean?

Mary had experienced a powerful encounter with Jesus. But He didn’t want her to stop there.  Mary still wanted to hold onto Him.  Mary’s reaction was likely motivated by several things.  One is simply her loving devotion to the Lord.  Mary is overwhelmed by the events of the morning, and as her grief turns to joy, she naturally embraces Jesus.  Another motivation is Mary’s desire to restore the fellowship that His death had broken.  She had lost Him once, and she was going to make sure she didn’t lose Him again - she wanted to keep Jesus with her always.  But Jesus spurred Mary on and commissioned her to share with the disciples about His resurrection.  Jesus had not yet risen with God – He was still on the move.  He was essentially saying, “It’s not going to be the way it used to be.  You can’t hold on to Me in the old way.”

In loosening Mary’s hold on Him, Jesus was, in effect, saying this: “I know you desire to keep Me here, always present with you. I know you want everything to be just the same as before I died. But our relationship is about to change. I’m going to heaven, and you will have the Comforter in My place. You need to start walking by faith, Mary, not by sight.”

Jesus told us that it was better for us that He return to the Father. We, like Mary cannot cling to Jesus’ physical body, we need to know Him, and cling to Him through faith.  We do not need to physically hold onto the "man" Jesus. We need to embrace Him, through faith.  One day we will see Him face to face, but for now, we know with Him and we live in His presence by faith.

One of the biggest tasks we have as Jesus' disciples is to not cling to Jesus, not to hide ourselves away in a church and in the presence of the Lord at the expense of going to share His love with others.  We have a message of hope and forgiveness to share with others who are trapped in hopelessness and despair.  As His disciples, we are not to spend the majority of our time in “holy huddles”, but in out in the world, reaching the lost and the hurting and offering hope in the risen Jesus. 

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, April 26


Just in case you have forgotten already  - He is still Risen!

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.  But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.                                
                                              -       1 Corinthians 15:3-14

Many biblical scholars agree that the first few verses of this passage are an example of the earliest Christian creed.  A creed is a clear statement intended to be recited in order to teach and affirm certain beliefs.  Creeds were very important in the early church because only the wealthiest individuals could afford to own a written copy of Scripture.  Usually a church or group of churches would own a few copies of portions of Scripture.  The idea of a personal Bible was totally unheard of in the first century.  Believers would recite and memorize creedal statements together as a form of worship and as a way of encouraging and strengthening their faith in Jesus Christ.

The truly remarkable thing about the passage above is that it is entirely centered on the resurrection.  In other words, the origin of the Christian faith hinges on the historical reality of the resurrection.  Notice how specific Paul is in this passage.  He mentions names and numbers of people to whom the risen Jesus had appeared.  Then he goes on to say that most of them are still alive!  Why would he mention this?  Even in the earliest days of Christianity there were skeptics and doubters of the resurrection.  Paul is essentially saying that anybody who doubts can simply go and ask these folks if it is true.  How could Paul make such a statement in a letter that was going to be widely read and circulated if Jesus had not appeared to these people? 

The very fact that Christianity started and grew at all is evidence for the resurrection.  The philosopher and scholar William Lane Craig writes: “Even skeptical New Testament scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”  For Jews, the Messiah was viewed as a figure that would be triumphant and rule on David’s throne, not a figure that would be crucified and die.  The resurrection undid the catastrophe of the crucifixion!  The Messiah, who had died, is risen!  The resurrection validated and verified the claims that Christ had made about his own identity.  

The origin of Christianity rests solely on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Listen again to what the apostle Paul says about the importance of the resurrection.  “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

The early Christians clearly grasped the tremendous importance of the resurrection; they understood that everything about their faith depended on this singular historical fact.  Should we do less?  Let’s take a cue from our spiritual ancestors in the early church and affirm the fact that our Lord is risen and our God has conquered the grace every time we come together.  The resurrection is not something that we should remind ourselves of one Sunday a year, it the truth that we should celebrate and affirm every moment of every day that we live!

Jeff Frazier

Monday, April 25


Well, Easter is over with for another year.  Actually, it's not supposed to be, according to the Christian calendar, Easter is not just a day, it is a season, 50 days long.  But let's face it, most of us don't really celebrate Easter as a season.  We have one busy Sunday, and then a few more days of making ourselves sick with chocolate eggs and jellybeans.  Then it's back to normal (whatever normal means).  The day after Easter often strikes me as a little bit of a let-down.

Why does this happen?  For those in ministry, I can say that one reason may be the fact that we run around like idiots during holy week, planning a bunch of different services and events.  Easter morning is a marathon, and then we crash.  Perhaps you haven’t been a part of more than 10 services in 3 days, but all the same, I'm guessing you can relate to having a whole bunch of work go into something, and then, when it's done, feeling a little more tired than happy.  But besides the fatigue factor, I think there's a deeper reason for the day-after-Easter blues.

Easter is filled with the message of the power of new life, of death's defeat.  Jesus triumphs over his death and over ours, and it's a day full of hope and joy.  So we sing with all the joy we can muster.  We're full of alleluias as we get into the spirit of the day. "Christ is risen!" we say as we shake hands.  "Indeed!"  The resurrection seems true on Easter Sunday.  It seems possible to believe that things can be different than what they are.  The Easter vibes stuck with us through a nice brunch and family get-together, but then...Monday comes.  

There's the rub. In a lot of ways, we're still waiting for the resurrection, and it's hard to celebrate while you wait.  Even when we do experience little bits of the life of Christ growing in our souls, it's never a complete transformation.  We sing about resurrection but we also know that we're not there yet.  For all our Easter joy, we're still the same people that we were before Sunday.  We still have to go to a job that we don’t like, or we wish we had a job that we didn’t like.  A friend still has cancer.  There are still bills we can’t pay.  People are still hungry, and sad, and struggling with painful relationships, agonizing decisions, and a thousand other things.  No wonder the day after Easter can be a little bit of a let down.

I don’t think it was this way for the disciples on the day after the resurrection!  I don’t think they were sitting around depressed and bored when they heard that their master was alive, do you?

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.   – John 20:19-20

I have often thought about the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples, saying "Peace be with you."  And I have thought about Jesus showing them the wounds on his hands, and in his side.  You know, even Jesus didn't get rid of all his scars.

It's easy to fall into a pattern of wishing that faith would fix things, that God would intervene and immediately turn our confusion to clarity and our sadness to joy, and then feeling disillusioned when it doesn't work out that way, and wondering if there was something wrong with us... or with God.  It's a hard pattern to live in.  We want solutions, and when there aren't any surely it must be somebody's fault.

Perhaps the resurrection doesn't work in the way we expect it to work.  Perhaps we experience God's grace, and all the new life that comes with that, but we still have the same wounds and scars we did before.  Jesus is transformed in the resurrection, but no so much so that he loses his injuries - they just aren't killing him anymore.  Maybe that's how resurrection works in our lives, too.  We carry scars and wounds, but because of the resurrection, we know that they are not fatal.

Easter isn't supposed to magically change everything... it's supposed to remind us that everything has already been changed because of what happened on the third day!   

So let’s live this day with grace and courage, with patience and hope. The resurrection is real, even if it's not easy.

Jeff Frazier

Friday, April 22

Colossians 2:13-14
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The formal charge against Barabbas would have been sedition and murder. His sentence would likely have been death by crucifixion. Both the charge and the sentence would have been recorded in writing under the authority of Roman law.

Barabbas was guilty as charged; Barabbas was sentenced to crucifixion; Barabbas was a dead man. If there was one thing Rome, and Pilate as Rome’s representative, were good at – it was death.

When Barabbas heard his name called that Friday morning, his only assumption could have been, “It’s time to die.” He had seen crucifixions before. He knew that the charges against him would be printed on a placard and nailed to the cross above his head for all the world to see. His placard would read, “Barabbas: thief, insurrectionist, murderer.” That would be how he was remembered.

But that placard was never seen. It was never seen because the charges against him were cancelled. They were cancelled because another was nailed to a cross in his place. And as Jesus was nailed to the cross – so were Barabbas’s sins – and my sins – and your sins - nailed to the cross. “All our sins…” writes the Apostle Paul, all. How important is that little word! All. Not, most; or, some of; or all except the really disgusting sins; ALL.

The characters we have looked at in this sermon series (Witnesses: to the power of the cross): Peter, Pilate, Barabbas, the Centurion; all did things for which they were deeply ashamed. Peter denied he knew the Lord he loved. Pilate condemned an innocent man to death. Barabbas was a murderer. The Centurion had overseen the brutal execution of hundreds of men. To each of these men, Jesus says, ALL!

Each one of us has done, said and thought things fro which we are both guilty and ashamed. Maybe no one else knows – but we know – and we carry these “charges” around with us like the chains that bound Barabbas. To each one of us Jesus says, ALL! Every sinful or ugly thing that has attached itself to my heart – or to your heart – has been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. Cancelled. Completely gone. The chains have fallen from our hands and feet – we are free. We are alive – just as he is alive.

May you celebrate that freedom – that life – this Easter season!

Brian Coffey

Thursday, April 21

2 Corinthians 5:17, 21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

There is a legend that, following his release, Barabbas joined the crowd of people who followed Jesus to Golgotha. I find that easy to imagine – as Barabbas may have felt like he owed Jesus that much. I picture Barabbas hanging in the back of the crowd – trying to be as inconspicuous as possible – but still wanting to be there as the man who took his place was lifted up on a Roman cross.

I wonder what Barabbas would have felt and thought as he, if he, watched Jesus die in his place. Did he feel simple relief? Did he feel joy? Did he feel compassion? Did he feel pity? Did he feel guilty? Did he wonder how an innocent man could wind up on a cross while he, a guilty man, went free? Did he think about all the times he had watched the high priest offer the blood of a lamb as a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people? Is it possible that any or all of this could have swirled through his mind – either then or in the days that followed?

We’ll never know, of course, what Barabbas did or thought. I’d like to hope that, as the only person in human history who could say, literally, that “Jesus died in my place,” that Barabbas was spiritually reborn by his experience with Jesus. I’d like to imagine that Barabbas came to understand that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)” I’d like to know that Barabbas became a believer in – and follower of – Jesus of Nazareth; and that for the rest of his life he never tired of telling the story of how Jesus took his place on the cross and bore the punishment that he deserved! 

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter so much what Barabbas did with the story of Jesus, it matters what I do with Jesus. Do I know that he died in my place as well? Do I know that it was my cross, my sin, he carried to that hill? And, knowing all this, what have I done with my freedom?

How about you?

Brian Coffey

Wednesday, April 20

Romans 5:1-2, 6-8
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access into the grace in which we now stand.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possible dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It is often said that, “Timing is everything.”

Maybe something like that ran through Barabbas’ mind as it suddenly dawned on him that it was Jesus, not he, that was being led away to be crucified. What were the chances that his arrest would coincide so perfectly with the arrest and trial of Jesus of Nazareth? What are the chances that, when given the choice, the people would choose him, a thief and murderer, for release over Jesus, a respected teacher and Rabbi? What are the chances that the chains that bound his own hands and feet, would be removed – and placed on the hands and feet of the one some called, “The Christ”?

What are the chances indeed?

The Apostle Paul, writing a few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, wrote,

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

As he stood before Pilate, guilty of insurrection and murder, Barabbas was both “ungodly” and “powerless.” His “right time” was right then. If someone didn’t do something – he was going to be punished for his crimes and his sin.

Someone did do something. Jesus took his place.

Think of yourself at your worst moment. Think of a time in your life when you were, in word, action or thought, both “ungodly” and “powerless.” You were ungodly in the sense that your life, your actions, your thoughts were unpleasing to God or even yourself; you were powerless in the sense that you could not or did not control your own behavior or emotion – and could not undo the pain or consequences caused by your choices. Think of a time that you would most like to forget. Now remember that, at just that time; at just the right time, Jesus was there for you.

Brian Coffey

Tuesday, April 19

Luke 23:13-25
Pilate called together the chief priests and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released to them the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for; and surrendered Jesus to their will.

A year or so ago I was driving home very late one night, at about 3:00 am in the morning, from watching my son play a college baseball game in Indiana. I had driven 4 hours and was within a mile or so of my home when I saw the flashing lights of a police car in my rear view window. I glanced at my speedometer and saw that I was going about 44 MPH. I happened to be on a road where the speed limit varied from 30 to 45 MPH – and I honestly didn’t have any idea if I was on the 30 MPH section or the 45 MPH section. But when I pulled over to the side of the road, my headlights illuminated the sign that read “Speed Limit 45 MPH” about 20 yards ahead of me – which meant that, technically, I was still in the 30 MPH portion of the road! I thought to myself, “Give me a break! It’s 3 in the morning, I’m tired and I just want to go home!” The officer approached my window and asked for my license and registration. After a moment he looked back at me and said, “Are you PASTOR Brian Coffey?”

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or embarrassed that he knew who I was! I said, “Yes, that’s me.” Then, figuring his next question probably had to do with what I was doing driving around at 3 in the morning, I added quickly, “I’m coming home from watching my son play ball in Indiana…”

He said, “I’ve been to your church a few times – really enjoyed it.” Then he handed my license back to me and said, “Just be a little more careful next time – have a good night.” And that was it.

 Most of us know the feeling of relief when we realize that, although guilty of breaking the law by a few miles-per-hour, we were going to be warned, and not punished!

But consider another scenario. What if the officer had issued a citation to me that night – as I had deserved? And what if, at just that time, a stranger had pulled up behind me, stepped from his car and offered to pay my ticket right then and there – in cash? This is more than being warned and let off the hook. This is being guilty as charged, but someone else pay the penalty that I deserved. If that had happened, what would I have felt? Would I have felt relief? Gratitude? Would I have felt humbled? Loved? And how would I have used my “second chance”?

History does not tell us clearly what happened to Barabbas following his release. Some think he followed the crowd to Golgotha to watch Jesus’ crucifixion. Some think he went out with buddies and got drunk in celebration of his freedom. Some think he continued his insurrectionist activities and was eventually arrested again and put to death for his crimes. We just don’t know – but it is interesting to think about.

But the real question is, “What about us?” What about you? What about me? How will we respond to the gift of forgiveness? What will we do with our spiritual freedom?

Brian Coffey

Monday, April 18

Mark 15:6-15
Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

“What shall I do then, with the one you call king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Who was Barabbas?

The New Testament tells us very little about the man who was set free in order for Jesus of Nazareth to be crucified. Then again, maybe we know more about him than we think.

Here Mark uses two words to describe Barabbas that give us a clue. He refers to him as an insurrectionist and a murderer. Many scholars believe that this means that Barabbas was likely a member of a sect of Jews called the Zealots. The Zealots were radically committed to the Torah as the law of God and to the independence of Israel as God’s chosen people. They took the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me;” very seriously and both resented and distrusted other Jewish groups like the Sadducees and Pharisees for failing to lead the people of Israel in rebelling against what they regarded as the pagan interlopers of Rome.

I think it’s possible that Barabbas grew up in a devout Jewish home and that from an early age he heard the stories of heroes like Moses, Joshua and Gideon, men used by God to defeat the enemies of Israel. I think he may have seen himself and the Zealots as the spiritual descendants of these great leaders.
So the crimes attributed to him, insurrection and murder, were likely committed against the Romans and out of a passion to accomplish what he believed to be God’s will.

Barabbas was also someone’s son. Tradition holds that his full name was Jesus Bar-abbas with Barabbas being his family name. In Hebrew his name means, “Jesus, son of the father.” Some scholars suggest that his name is rather generic – for it could be said that every one of us is a “son of the father” – for every human being has a biological father. There is also the obvious irony that Jesus Barabbas, Jesus, son of the father, was released from his sentence because Jesus of Nazareth, who often referred to his Father in Heaven as “Abba,” died in his place.

And so Barabbas, whatever else he was, was a thief, an insurrectionist, and a murderer. He was likely a Zealot. He was a son. And he was condemned to die for his crimes.

But Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the one he called “Abba Father,” took his place. I believe the story of Barabbas is also my story and your story. In a spiritual sense, we are all Barabbas. That is, we all stand before God guilty of our own sin until Jesus steps in to take our place.

As you consider Barabbas’ story this week – as we look ahead to the Last Supper, Golgotha, and the Empty Tomb of Resurrection morning – try to see his story as your story. What does it mean that another has died in your place?

Brian Coffey

Friday, April 15


I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,  “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.  (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said,  “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)  When Peter saw him, he asked,  “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered,  “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  - John 21:18-22

This little exchange between Peter and Jesus at the end of John’s gospel has always fascinated me.  Jesus is telling Peter what lay ahead for him. (Have you ever wished that God would reveal your future to you?)  Jesus says that not only had Peter been forgiven, restored, commissioned, but now Jesus takes him back to the bold declaration which he made earlier in his life: "Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison, and to death" (Luke 22:33), and Jesus assures him that this is indeed what lay at the end of the road for Peter (perhaps we should be glad that God doesn’t reveal all of our future to us). 

Ancient historians indicate that Peter was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.  The Christian tradition is that he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.  Of course, before any of that would happen, Peter would also become a key leader in the early church in Jerusalem, write two books of the New Testament, perform several healing miracles, preach the first evangelistic sermon in church history, and be a part of the spread of the gospel across the known world.

The language that Jesus uses about being led where you do not want to go is also an allusion to the fact that Peter is no longer calling the shots, Jesus is.  Peter is no longer in charge of his life, Jesus is.  The self-confident and self-sufficient Simon is dead, and it is now only Peter who lives solely for the glory and purpose of his Lord and Savior.

And yet, there is still a little bit of the old Simon left lurking in his heart.  Look at what Peter says immediately following Jesus’ command for Peter to follow Him.  Peter looked around (why?) and saw John.  Then he asked Jesus about John’s future!  (again, why?)  Jesus immediately refocuses Peter on what really matters.  I love the way Jesus puts it.  Peter turns and asks Jesus about John and anything that Jesus might have to say about his future.  Jesus simply says, "...what is that to you? You must follow me?"  What a great question!  What a simple, yet powerful call!

It is a natural human thing to be worried about somebody else’s life and not our own.  We want somebody else’s career, we obsess over what others have, and we get worked up over the decisions that others make.  The truth is that we have more than enough to occupy our time just by trying to stay faithful each day to the life that Christ has called us to.  It is hard enough to live my life well; I really don’t have the capacity to live someone else’s life for them! 

The simple, yet profound command, "Follow me," has a cost that is paid differently by each one of us.  For Peter it was the Coliseum.  For John it would be the Roman "Devil's Island" of Patmos where John would receive the Revelation.  I don’t know where Christ will lead me and I certainly don’t know where He will lead you.  But I do know that wherever it is that He is taking me I am not going to get there (and I really want to be there) unless I am willing to follow Him.

Lord Jesus - there are so many ways for us to be side tracked and diverted from the path You have chosen for us. Help us focus on You and not see every trial as a roadblock. Teach us patience and fill us with Your grace as we follow You - Amen.

Jeff Frazier

Thursday, April 14


The account of Simon Peter’s reinstatement in John 21 has always moved me deeply.  The gentle yet direct way that Jesus recreates elements from the night of Peter’s betrayal tells us a good deal about the heart of Jesus for His followers, even those followers who stumble and fall along the way.  Read the passages below and the reflection questions that follow each one.  Try to put yourself in the place of Peter and imagine the Lord Jesus restoring you!

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.  “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said,  “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.             John 21:1-3

Why do you think Peter decided to go back to fishing?

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them,  “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”  “No,” they answered.  He said,  “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.   – John 21:4-6

What other Gospel story does this part of the story remind you of? (Luke 5:1-8)  Why would Jesus perform the same miracle for the same men a second time?

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,  “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say,  “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.  The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.   – John 21:7-9

Why did Peter leap out of the boat so quickly?  What do you think was going through his mind? 

What is the significance of the fire of burning coals on the beach?  (John 18:17-18)

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,  “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said,  “you know that I love you.” Jesus said,  “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said,  “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered,  “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said,  “Take care of my sheep.” 
                                                                                              -  John 21:15-16

If Jesus is God, and God is all knowing, then why does He ask Peter a question which He already knows the answer to?  What do you think Jesus is really trying to say to Peter?  What do you think Jesus is really doing for Peter?

The third time he said to him,  “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,  “Do you love me?” He said,  “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said,  “Feed my sheep.
                                                                                          –  John 21:17

Why was Peter hurt when he heard the question a third time?  What was going through Peter’s mind?  Was he afraid that Jesus didn’t believe him?  Did he feel like Jesus was trying to “rub it in” and make him squirm?

Why does Jesus ask the same question three times?  Hint: how many times did Peter deny him? (Luke 22:54-62)

What is the significance of the three similar commands of Jesus that follow each of the three questions of Jesus?  “Feed my lambs.  Take care of my sheep.  Feed my sheep.” 

This whole account makes it quite clear that Jesus is not worried at all about making sure that Peter is really sorry or truly remorseful for what he did.  Neither is Jesus concerned about making Peter grovel or beg to be taken back as a disciple.  Jesus seems singularly focused healing Peter.  Jesus knows that Peter will never be the man that He created him to be if still carries around the heavy weight of guilt, shame and fear in his soul. 

What about you?  What failure, what shame, what hidden fears, are weighing you down and holding you back from living the life Christ has called you to?  What do think Jesus wants to say to you?  What question would He ask you?  What command would He give you?  How will you answer Him??

Jeff Frazier

Wednesday, April 13


When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They replied,  “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  “But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered,  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied,  “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it…

…From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  “Never, Lord!” he said.  “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter,  “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Then Jesus said to his disciples,  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
                                                                                                      – Matthew 16:13-18, 21-24

Take just a few minutes and read the passages above through 3 times slowly…

What do you notice?  What strikes you about Peter’s interactions with Jesus?

In the space of just a few verses Peter goes from getting the question of who Jesus was exactly right to totally misunderstanding what Jesus was really about.

Think about this for just a minute.  Jesus asks a question, “who do you say I am?”   Peter answers it and Jesus tells him that he is blessed because he has been given spiritual insight straight from God.  That had to be a pretty good moment for Peter don’t you think? 

Next, Peter hears Jesus talking about how he is going to have to suffer and die and he thinks, “this is no way for the Son of God to be talking, I better remind Him of who He is supposed to be…”  Before the words are hardly out of his mouth, Jesus puts Peter in his place and tells him that he clearly does not understand what his Master is really all about.  How do you think Peter felt when he heard Jesus call him Satan?  My guess is that it was not such a good moment.

Apparently, one of the lessons we learn from the life of Peter, is that it is entirely possible even for a disciple to know who Jesus is and yet not understand what He is up to.  This encourages me, because I often feel like I fluctuate between faith and doubt, praise and pettiness, joy and anger, hope and fear far too easily.

The other day I was driving in my car and listening to a worship song called “By Faith” by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I usually listen to sports talk radio or country music when I drive.  However, a friend had given me this CD (I know, cds are old school now) and told me that this song was a great modern hymn.  Anyway, I was driving along and enjoying a beautiful early spring day.  It was a very real moment of worship and praise right there in my car on Randall Road.  I guess I wasn’t paying very close attention to how long the light ahead had been yellow when I went through the intersection, because the flash from one of those automatic traffic cameras totally surprised me.  You could say that in a “flash” I went from worshipping God to cursing my bad luck (not literally cursing but you get the idea).

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can go from praising God to, well, to the opposite!  This is one of the reasons that I love the stories of Peter so much in the Bible.  In many ways I see myself in Peter, one minute getting things right and the next minute getting it totally wrong.

Like Peter, we must learn that it is not the strength of our faithfulness to Him that matters, but it is the unbreakable strength of His faithfulness to us!

Jeff Frazier

Tuesday, April 12


Let’s be brutally honest, Simon Peter wasn’t exactly a great prospect for Jesus to choose as one the leaders of His church…

He was an uneducated fisherman (Acts 4:13, Matthew 4:18).
He was quick-tempered and impulsive (John 18:10, Matthew 26:50-51).
He was prone to break his word.  He made promises that he didn’t keep (Mark 14:29, Matthew 26:74).
He started things that he didn’t finish (Matthew 14:28-30).
He was prone to fear and doubt (Matthew 14:30-31).
He couldn’t always be counted on in a pinch (Mark 14:53-54).
He could be cowardly (Luke 22:54-60) and undependable (Matthew 26:40-41).
He couldn’t always control his tongue (Mark 14:71). 
He couldn’t always see the “big picture” (Matthew 16:23, John 18:11).
He was a narrow-minded racist (Acts 10:13-14, Galatians 2:11-14).

But then again on the other hand…

Jesus called him Cephas or “Rock” (John 1:42)
He walked on water! (Matthew 14:28-29)
He was the only one to give the answer to the question of who Jesus truly was (Luke 9:20-21)
He said that Jesus alone had the words of eternal life (John 6:68)
He was one of three disciples present at the transfiguration (Mark 9:2)
He wrote two letters of the New Testament (1 & 2 Peter)
He was filled with the Holy Spirit (acts 4:8)
He preached the first sermon in Church history (Acts 2:14-36)
He healed a beggar (Acts 3:6-8)
He stood up to the Sanhedrin, the very same group that put Jesus to death (Acts 4:18-21)
He was the key leader in the early church (Acts 3-6)
He performed many miraculous healings (Acts 5:12-15)

Peter’s problem wasn’t his lack of desire and zeal; it was how he employed these qualities that often got him into trouble. One of the reasons Jesus chose Peter was because he was a man of devotion, determination and passion. Granted, his passion was misdirected at times, but once Peter came to realize the power of his risen Lord, that same passion was channeled in a very constructive and powerful way.  Just as Peter himself would write in his second letter; His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. - 1 Peter 1:3

No matter what your previous background, the Lord can use you as a vessel in His service. Our faults can be molded and fashioned into virtue. Failure yesterday is not necessarily fatal tomorrow. Weakness can become strength.

The good news is—the Lord sees beyond what we are to what we can become. We see spiritual resumes that are tarnished by transgression, failure and neglect (Romans 3:23). We see sinners; Jesus sees saints. We see humiliation; Jesus sees exaltation. We see despair; Jesus sees a living hope. We see Simon the crumbling disciple; Jesus saw Peter the rock-solid leader who would help establish His church.

As C.S. Lewis wisely observed, "The truth about any of us is not what we think about God, but what He thinks about us."

Jeff Frazier

Monday, April 11


I remember several years ago having a rather intense conversation with my young son about the difference between real and pretend as it related to superheroes.  He was quite devastated at first to learn that Superman and the Hulk were not “real”.  For several weeks after that conversation, he would continually ask me about various heroes or characters by saying, “real or pretend dad?”  One night we were reading a story from his children’s Bible and he looked up at me and said, “Dad are they real or pretend?”  It was great fun to tell him that the amazing people he read about in the Bible were every bit as real as we are!

I think too many "grown-up" Christians quietly think of the people in the Bible the way they think of superheroes or fairytale characters.  It a common mistake for people of the modern age to fall into the trap of thinking that Biblical history is somehow different than “real” history and that Biblical characters are somehow less real than others we read about in historical books.

Peter has always been one of my favorite characters in the all of Scripture.  He is one of the most fascinating and vivd characters in the Bible.  One of the reasons that peter seems so accessible is because we know so much about him.  We have more details about Peter’s life and background than we do for any other disciple.  Here a few of the interesting details about the historical background for this man called Peter. 

Peter (also known as Simon) was one of the original 12 apostles. When Jesus called him to be an apostle, he was given the added name Cephas (Aramaic: "Cephas/stone," Greek: "Petros," which in English is translated as Peter).

And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,  “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas”(which, when translated, is Peter).  – John 1:42

Peter was originally from Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He was a fisherman with his brother Andrew.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said,  “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-20

Peter was married.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  – Mark 1:29-30

His home was in Capernaum. Capernaum is the fishing village that Jesus made his headquarters while he was in Galilee
(Matthew 4:12-13, Mark 1:21-34)  

In fact, at Capernaum, there are the remains of an octagonal church which was built in the fifth century (Byzantine period), and remained in use until the 7th century.  In 1968, archaeologists re-discovered the remains of a much earlier church underneath the 5th century church.  This earlier church had been built around what was originally a private house. One room of the house showed signs that it had been used as a meeting place from very early in the Christian era.  From the earliest times, followers of Jesus Christ believed that this house was the home of Simon Peter.

What’s the point of all of these fascinating historical tidbits?

Simply this – Peter was a real guy!  He was a living breathing, flesh and blood human being just like you and me! 

Here is the really great part…while Peter is long dead, His Lord lives!  The Jesus who called Peter to follow Him calls to you and to me still today!

Jeff Frazier