Devotional for Easter Sunday, April 12

Read: Mark 16:1-7; Isaiah 53:10-12

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.  He has risen; He is not here…He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him.” (Mk 16:6b, 7b)

The women made it to the tomb just as the sun had started to shine.  Mark ensures that we all know that they did not go to the wrong tomb in the darkness.  They were at exactly the right place to find that the stone had been rolled away, the tomb had been emptied, and a messenger had been sent to tell them where to find the resurrected Jesus!

How could this be possible?  Death is a black hole with a gravity pull from which no one can escape.  

Unless…God, the creator of life, chooses to defeat death.

What evidence has God given us to know that Jesus’ death was different from all others?  How can we know that He was not just a martyr for what He believed? The answer is found in His resurrection! It is the Divine receipt, proving that sin and death are conquered.  Death had to release Him! The debt was paid in full. It is why Jesus’ last words are so significant to us: “It is finished.”

The resurrection is the very crux of our faith. It is at the cross where we see the infinitely high price God’s love would pay to purchase us.  It is at the empty tomb where we find the confident hope that God has proven to us that we are His own. 1 Corinthians reminds us that, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19-20)

Today, the once killed and buried Jesus now lives and is producing a new “offspring,” just as Isaiah foretold. This is where you and I enter into the story.  We are the ones who “by believing will have life in His name.” (Jn 20:31) Anyone who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus’ person and finished work will one day be granted a new and resurrected body. He whose voice spoke the world into existence will speak dead bodies into life. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us as imperishable and eternal bodies forever!  Each of us, like Jesus, will be recognizable and without the effects of sin. Only one person keeps a remnant of the difficulties of the first life. Jesus’ hands, feet, and side have kept His crucified scars not as an imperfection, but as an eternal trophy that demonstrates His victory! AMEN!

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn that proclaims the truth of what we celebrate on this Resurrection Sunday. 

Consider singing it in your home today (or listening on YouTube) as a family and begin this day in celebration!  

    Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!

    Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

    Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

    Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

    Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

    Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

    Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!

    Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

    Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

    Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

    Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

    Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

    Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!

    Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!

    Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

    Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

    Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!

    Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!

    Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

    Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

    King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!

    Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!

    Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!

    Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

We’ll “see” you in church this morning, separated in body but united in love, spirit, and VICTORY!

Devotional for Saturday, April 11

Read: Isaiah 53:7-9

Silence.  

After a brutal and loud Friday, this day possessed the silence of the grave that now contained Jesus’ body.

Can you imagine what the thoughts of His family and friends were?  All of their hopes were gone. The kingdom Jesus taught them of now seemed like it was all just “pie in the sky.” It would have felt like everything died with Jesus. I am sure that many might have wondered… “Was Jesus really who He said He was?  It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

  Many times you and I can feel like we live in a perpetual Saturday between the crucifixion and the resurrection.  We feel the pain of sin, wrongdoings and injustice. Even today our worldwide pandemic is a reminder: This world is fallen and broken.  Sin and its consequences are very much like the waves in a storm—violent, unpredictable, and threatening. As we go through today’s difficult circumstances, sometimes we can feel like the disciples must have felt then, asking, “What now?  When will God act? Does He see? Does He know? Does He care? Is He really who He said He was?”

The people then did not know what we know today:  Sunday was coming! God was about to accomplish an amazing victory that no one saw coming, and it would affect the entire world! But in the meantime…these people would be perplexed. At times, so are we.

However, we must remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10. We are… afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

 The silence of that Saturday was deafening, but a change was coming…

Devotional for Good Friday, April 10

Read: Mark 14:53-15:47; Isaiah 53:4-6

Under cover of darkness, a kangaroo court convened early in the morning.  Justice was not the issue—but a predetermined plan to strike Jesus down, and not slowly.  This was meant to be a lesson to anyone looking on to never challenge or bring out the truth to the religious leaders of the people.  This was an act of vengeance, as well as a lesson to any looking on. They were envious, and wanted any honor or respect that Jesus might have been given to be stripped away completely. When Isaiah prophesied that this one would be stricken, it began at the hands of God’s own people. They were like the vineyard workers of Jesus’ parable that sought to take the vineyard for themselves, killing the owner’s son (Mt. 21:33-44).  Today was going to be a day of death. 

It was horrific.  Piercing. Crushing. Chastening. Bloody. Humiliating. All without sympathy, but only mockery and derision.  Others’ spit mixed in with Jesus’ own blood. His body placed naked before all to see, incurring shame. And yet…with great irony we’re told here of two men who stated they could not find Jesus guilty of anything deserving of this wrath.  The first one was his judge (Pilate) and the other His executioner (centurion).

Upon a cross, Jesus uttered a cry:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  But Isaiah knew why, and prophesied the reason: because the Lord had caused the iniquity of us all to fall on HIM.  

He was the substitute. The sacrifice that was to be given on behalf of the guilty, that He might bear their guilt…and shame…and punishment.  It was a substitution that could demonstrate love in a way superior to any other. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) But…we were His enemies!  Who would be a substitute for an enemy? Thus this substitution was one of the most powerful demonstrations of love because it was of a kind that only the Divine One could accomplish and grant. No man or woman could sacrifice like this for an enemy. 

Taken down, his body was rushed to a tomb that a rich man had purchased for his own eventual burial. There was no time to grieve or to pay respects.  No time to fully prepare the body in an honoring way. No time for his friends and family to find some sort of closure with a decent funeral. Instead, he was laid out in a tomb that would allow his corpse to dry out, eventually leaving nothing but bones that could one day be collected and put in a box to be put into a smaller grave. So a linen cloth was wrapped around Him, with spices laid out to help overcome the scent of the decay that death brings.

And yet…unbeknown to the watching world, this was all in accordance with the plan of God.  “The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” Salvation is free to any who would look upon Him and believe, but the events of this day show us salvation was not cheap.

For more, watch The Bible Project video “Sacrifice & Atonement.”

Devotional for Thursday, April 9 

Read: Mark 14:12-52;  Isaiah 53:1-3

Thursday was Passover. The people of God would remember how they had been delivered from the angel of death in Egypt.  It was a time when each home had been “passed over,” but only when, by an act of faith, the blood of an innocent lamb had been spilled and spread (in the image of a cross) across the door frame. 

Now, 1500 years later, Jesus ate this memorial meal with His disciples, and afterwards let them know that this was the last time they would get to do it with Him in person—at least until they would partake it in the kingdom to come!  That declaration had to have excited them…to think about a coming kingdom where they would co-rule! A time when Rome’s rule would finally be cast off and they could live and worship in the freedom of their forefathers! But that excitement was squashed when Jesus said that they would all abandon Him shortly.  

Peter could not fathom that. “I will never deny you!”  

After an agonizing time of prayer, pleading and grieving before His Father, Jesus was prepared.  This was the reason for which He had come to the earth. His face was set like flint for the first of many types of suffering, starting with the pain of betrayal. 

His appearance was such that no ordinary soldier or person could have identified Him.  He looked…plain. The authorities that wanted Him dead needed an insider to give Him away, for they could not have known how to discover Him in a crowd. Judas would do it.  He had agreed to sell out Jesus for the price of a slave—30 pieces of silver.

This betrayal showed Judas’ heart as one that in the end despised Jesus.  How painful must it have been for Jesus to have been surrendered under the guise of a mark of love and endearment—a kiss.

And then all of His disciples fled. He was alone.  Even Peter deserted Him. Peter now discovered that his mouth and declaration had written a check that his will and fortitude could not cash.  This abandonment by the disciples had been prophesied by Isaiah. The Servant would be forsaken by men, even His friends.

The despising…and the rejection…had begun.

It was no coincidence that all of this would begin on a Passover.  This was going to be the initiation of another exodus! Instead of being freed from slavery unto a nation, this was to create a deliverance from sin and death. A substitutionary lamb was going to be sacrificed and His blood spilled.  His death would enable God’s wrath to “pass over” those who—in faith—would place themselves under the blood of an innocent one, slain on their behalf.  

Have you placed yourself under that lintel—that crossbeam—that possessed Jesus’ blood?  Salvation from sin is not a work that you accomplish on your own. Just like Peter, you might think, “I can do this.  I can accomplish what is necessary for the Lord.” But you cannot.

The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world has been slain.  Now, as an act of faith, you stand underneath God’s acceptance of Jesus’ blood.  That is the only way that the wrath of God can actually pass over you and your sins to see you saved.

Devotional for Wednesday, April 8 

Read: Mark 14:1-11; Isaiah 52:13-15

Jesus is just a short walk from Jerusalem in the small town of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. It was here that Lazarus had been raised from the dead—a powerful miracle!  Every time people saw Lazarus, they would be reminded yet again of the mighty power of God through Jesus. God the Father had already been working to exalt His Servant, the Son. (Isa 52:13)

But there were plotters (Mk 14:1-2, 10-11).  People who did not believe, and wanted to destroy anything that gave testimony of the power of God such as a resurrected man, or the One who had the power to resurrect.  It was these plotters who would lead the charge to ensure Jesus was not just eliminated, but destroyed beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14.) 

There was one who was different. This was a woman who had an expensive gift.  In some way, she must have understood what the others could not—that this Jesus was more than merely a man.  She might not have fully understood His deity and purpose—that He would be the ultimate high priest, sprinkling the nations with His blood.  Did she know in that moment that the body she was anointing possessed the only blood that could atone and cover their sins? (1 Peter 1:2)

We don’t know.  However, we do know that this woman, Mary, would exalt Jesus with her gift of perfume.  It was a demonstration of faith in action; an act that will be remembered for eternity. 

Jesus is the preeminent One. Even though some do not know or recognize Him today, eventually all will. Until then, you and I are very much like Mary and Lazarus. We are redeemed, and will one day be resurrected to be with Him forever.  Until then, we too will live by faith that is demonstrated by our acts of obedience and service unto Him.

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