Being About Our Father’s Business
What should be our focus today? During the Days of Unleavened Bread festival in A.D. 31, the resurrected Jesus Christ delivered a profoundly special message to Mary Magdalene, one that is of utmost importance to us today. You probably read it during your personal Bible study a week or so ago. What is it?
As we read in the account of John, Mary quietly arrived before sunrise to the sealed tomb donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Jews’ ruling council (Mark 15:43). It was now the morning of the fourth day since Jesus had died by gruesome crucifixion, and Mary desired to honor the memory of Jesus by anointing His battered body with burial spices.
But she was openly shocked by what she found. Mary “saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1, English Standard Version). Alarmed, she breathlessly ran to tell Simon Peter and John the unbelievable news: the body of Jesus was gone. Both men dropped everything and ran back to the now-empty tomb to see for themselves.
Arriving in haste, the two disciples inspected the tomb. It was empty. There was no sign of a body anywhere.
Puzzled, the disciples didn’t know what to make of it. They simply “went back to their homes” (John 20:10, ESV), leaving the distraught and grieving Mary behind at the empty tomb.
Then an astonishing event happened. Sobbing, Mary stooped to look inside the empty open tomb for herself. There she recognized two angels, who asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (John 20:13, ESV).
As she explained her grief over not knowing what happened to the lifeless body that she planned to honorably anoint, she noticed another unexplained Figure nearby, whom she mistook for a gardener.
Suddenly everything came into focus. It was Jesus, come back to life!
Before she could come close to Him, Jesus gently stopped her: “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (verse 17, ESV). He had not yet been presented as the ultimate wave sheaf offering to God the Father.
Then Jesus delivered a marvelous declaration that profoundly impacts you and me. He instructed Mary: “Go to my brothers and say to them ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (verse 17, ESV, emphasis added throughout).
The personal connection here has now been ramped up. As were the disciples of old, Jesus is stating that we are now part of the very Family of God!
The resurrected Jesus was now “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29, New Living Translation), opening the door for God to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). The next verse in Hebrews sums up our new status: “now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11, NLT).
Now that we have completed the first season in the annual Holy Day cycle, we are to look to the coming day of Pentecost. The veil separating us from God the Father is torn asunder (Matthew 27:51) and we now have direct access to—as Jesus declared—our Father and our God.
What are we to do? As children of God, we are to be about our Father’s business! Each of us should be doing our part to demonstrate and proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. As does our Elder Brother, we are to be praying that the Father’s will be done here on earth and that He reveals that will so we can be directly aligned with it.
Over the past nine years, I have had the privilege of serving as President of the United Church of God, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Church and putting into action the policies developed by the Council of Elders. Now, even as my wife Bev and I begin to transition into a new phase of service to the Church, things are as busy and fulfilling as ever. I expect that to continue in many respects as long as Bev and I draw breath.
It is inspiring and encouraging to see that the work of the Church continues to move forward at a strong pace. God has provided a tried and tested team that is able to quickly create new literature and gospel outreach that provides hope and direction for a world essentially held captive by the adversary, Satan.
Here’s an example: in a matter of days following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we were able to assemble and design a new powerful Bible study guide titled Russia and Bible Prophecy, which details biblical truth about prophetic potential events. I mentioned its availability in a Personal column a few weeks ago. Now we have just mailed an up-to-date letter to more than 200,000 Beyond Today subscribers offering this timely information.
At the same time, some of the major improvements to the Church’s website are coming online. You may recall comments made in former “Personal From the President” columns that solicited your prayers for this massive project. As you may have seen Media and Communications Services operation manager Peter Eddington writing about online in social media, the all-new major technical search functionality is now active for UCG.org in each specific language!
That robust state-of-the-art search function will now make thousands of online articles, sermons, Beyond Today programs and content—and much more—easily accessible and categorized both for people interested in the truth and for our Church membership. Upcoming enhancements to functionality will also create vast improvements in how people can quickly find information that they are interested in and help us better engage and relate to those who find us online. You may not “see” these technical improvements in the “back end” of the website, but the experience you and others will have online will be substantially improved. Other improvements begun earlier, including a potential new visual theme for the website, continue to be developed.
As I prepare my commencement address for this year’s Ambassador Bible College class, I am encouraged to see that we already have admission requests that match our current class level and good expectations that next year’s class may be even larger. Many prior ABC graduates are already serving the Church and we expect future leaders to come from these classes. I already look forward to the privilege of continuing to teach the General Epistles course at ABC for next year’s class, returning once a week to the ABC classroom in the fall.
There is much in the Church of God today to be encouraged and inspired about!
As implied in Jesus’ statement, the very Father of Jesus Christ is today our spiritual Father. As we approach the day of Pentecost, the next step in fulfilling the plan of God, I hope for and ask you to pray for the advancement of the Church and its work, fulfilling the Great Commission.
That includes you as you demonstrate and openly live God’s way of life, being about our Father’s business!