As a reading teacher, I have learned many new reading strategies that enable readers to stay focused as well as comprehend more deeply while reading.
As a Christian, I've noticed that these same reading strategies help me as I read the Bible.
Here are three strategies that might help you too. I'll share more on another day.
Visualizing what I read as I read helps me transform the words into a movie in my mind. I love seeing the characters of the Bible interact in my head. I love imagining their unique voices, facial expressions, mannerisms. They become real to me when I visualize them in their ancient, dusty setting.
Asking questions while I read helps me think about the text. Why did he say that? or What caused her to react in that way? When I ask myself questions, I start to get answers I never would have thought of without forcing myself to think more critically.
Making connections to what I'm reading helps me become part of the stories and not just an observer. When I am part of the story, my emotions run more deeply. I begin to have thoughts like, "that reminds me of the other day when..," or "if someone did that to me, I might...," or "I would be so scared if....."
Today as I was reading about what happened after Jesus died, I had a moment where all of these strategies came together and one little phrase popped out of a passage in a way it NEVER had before.
Here's what happened as I read.
I imagined Jesus hanging on the cross.
Just a body hanging between two dead criminals, clearly defeated in the eyes of the world.
The earthquake had ended.
The temple curtain had been ripped in two from top to bottom.
Many had fled the scene of the crucifixion, weeping in agony.
I'm sure some scoffers still remained, making light of the event and even taunting anyone who still stood nearby hoping for one last miracle from the King of Kings.
I'm not sure where all the disciples were at this point.
Maybe some were together praying and crying and asking questions about why this had happened and what they should do next?
I'm not sure where Mary was at this time.
Brokenhearted and overwhelmed with grief, I'm sure.
In the midst of all of this dark, sad quietness, someone's heart was being moved to act.
He couldn't bear the silence anymore.
And I'm thinking that guilt from his long-kept silence overcame his past fear of speaking out.
Suddenly, someone stepped forward and set in motion the next part of God's plan.
Someone who until then had been a secret follower of Jesus because he had feared the Jewish leaders (John 19:38).
Joseph of Armiathea, a wealthy and righteous man who was a member of the Jewish high council, had chosen to follow Jesus long before the day of the crucifixion and Luke records that he did not agree with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders.
And now, at a critical moment in history, when in the eyes of the world Jesus' connection to the power of God seemed unquestionably gone, Joseph had a choice to make.
Would he continue his secret allegiance to Jesus, hoping that somehow the message Jesus taught would somehow still hold true even in His death,
Would Joseph step forward because he could finally offer something to Jesus, a place to lay His lifeless body?
I love what it says in Mark 15:43,
"Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body."
That easily could have been the end of the road for Joseph, at least in his career.
He was publicly saying, "I love this man enough to give Him a proper burial. I believe in what He taught. I want this man's life to end with dignity and for His body to rest in peace."
I wonder how Joseph felt as He wrapped Jesus' body in a long sheet of linen cloth?
How would I have felt if I had secretly followed Jesus while He was alive, not standing up for Him as those around me screamed, "Crucify Him!"?
Would I be crying as I wrapped the folds of cloth around His beaten body?
Would I be singing to Him?
Would I be talking to Him, apologizing for all the times I could have stood up for Him but didn't for fear of the consequences?
Joseph took a risk, and I'm just thinking that as his life ended years later he was thankful beyond words for the chance to give back to Jesus a tiny portion of what Jesus had obviously given to him.
Hope, peace, comfort, the promise of eternal life.
Sometimes it takes a critical moment in life to give us the courage to take a risk for Jesus.
Sometimes it takes a nudge from a friend.
Sometimes it just takes being reminded that when Jesus hung on the cross, He hung there for you and for me.
This isn't just a fairy tale with a happy ending to make Christians feel good about life.
Read other books from history and you will see Jesus' life story told in them as well.
Click HERE to read some of these writings.
He was a real man who lived a real life and died a real death on a real cross.
Today, I'm challenging all of us to "take risks" for Jesus.
If you died today, whose life did you change?
If your friends died today, would they die in peace because Jesus was their Savior? If not, what could you do to help them find Him?
It's easy to get caught up in this world.
YOLO (you only live once) is a big phrase with teens today.
Because of this, some people feel that thinking about eternity seems like a morbid, disappointing way to live.
But the truth is, we don't "only live once."
We live twice.
And the choices we make in this life determine how we live in the second.
I am thankful today for Joseph of Arimathea, like I never have been in my life, because today I took time to stop and think about the example he set for all of us when he "took a risk" for Jesus even before Jesus had demonstrated His power to conquer death.
If Joseph could take a risk before the resurrection, surely we can take one today.
Jesus is alive!
I'm willing to risk everything to share that news with the world!
He is alive!