Easter Sunday – April 9, 2023

Read Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 1:1-11

Today, all over the world, people are celebrating the greatest comeback story ever told – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!!!  

Yet, this is not a story. It was a real event that literally changed the course of history and began a movement that has transformed the lives of billions of people during the past 2000 years. Without the resurrection, we have the story of a great teacher who was falsely accused, and ended up dying on a cross. With the resurrection, He solidifies His teaching that He was not just a great teacher. You see, on numerous occasions, Jesus claimed to be God. (Mark 14:62, John 18:5-6, John 8:24, 28)  The Messianic title Son of Man and the words “I am” were known by all of the Jews as titles reserved for God Himself, so on the day when He rose from the grave, He proved this once and for all! No one has ever raised from the dead, it is not natural. Resurrection from the dead is a supernatural occurrence and reveals that Jesus is truly who He said He was. Not a great teacher, who did a lot of great miracles and died as a sacrifice, but THE RISEN LORD!  Because of the resurrection, we who believe in His name will also not die but will have everlasting life! (John 3:16)

While a resurrection from the dead can not be scientifically proven, if you put the case on trial, the evidence is so overwhelming that no one who gives it an honest investigation can walk away and deny its validity. In order to say that the resurrection did not happen, a person would have to deny evidence that is beyond explanation any other way. Thousands of skeptics have tried to disprove this event, and all who were honest in their evaluation of the evidence, came to one conclusion: It happened. When you come to this verdict, you have no other choice but to put your faith in Jesus as God and this in turn changes everything! You read His teaching differently, knowing that everything Jesus taught was God’s instruction for man. You desire to obey, knowing that what He did – dying on the cross for you – was done out of a great love for His creation. See, the reality of the resurrection makes everything make sense! 

All four gospel writers record the resurrection. Each of the writers gives the details of this event from different angles, but there is no debate on whether it happened or not! The Bible and history learned from extra-Biblical literature makes the case for the resurrection rock solid. First, consider the disciples. Remember yesterday they were hiding out, afraid to come out in public for fear of arrest, but after this day, they are completely changed. They go from fearful followers to fiery preachers almost overnight. They preach about the resurrection with such confidence that no warnings of beating, imprisonment or death can deter them. You see, something changed them and there is no other logical conclusion except that they must of come face to face with the risen Lord. When you have an encounter with the risen Lord, you are a never the same again! Then, there is Paul. Paul was a zealous persecutor of the early church until one day he meets the risen Lord. His whole life and mission changed on that Damascus road, and He boldly preaches and writes about the reality of the resurrection for the rest of his life. Also, Jesus’ brother, James, who did not believe Jesus was the Son of God before the resurrection, becomes a believer and important leader in the early church! (1 Cor. 15:5-7). Change like we see in these men is not natural. It is only possible because of something supernatural – A man rising from the dead! 

Another important aspect of the resurrection is the empty tomb. Unlike the majority of famous people throughout history, there is no grave to visit for Jesus Christ. A trip to Israel won’t take you there because the tomb was empty!  The Pharisees and religious leaders floated a rumor that the disciples stole the body, but think about it, these men were hiding out in fear just hours before the tomb came up empty. What would have caused them to come out of hiding, fight off a Roman guard and move a giant stone? It is not logical, and also doesn’t explain why almost all of them eventually died a martyr’s death. Why would they die for something they knew was a lie? Additionally, during the days that follow Christ’s resurrection, if they had stolen the body, the Romans would have found it and held it up for all to see. Jesus appeared to over 500 people after His resurrection. The gospels were written while these people were still living, so if the resurrection had not happened, someone would have said so, but that is not what happened. Instead, billions of people  have believed in the resurrection and have changed lives to prove it. Christianity is a movement that has been attacked throughout the past 2000 years, but nothing and no one has been able to stop it because the truth can not be silenced! It happened, and because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this world has never been the same! 

The resurrection was a miracle! The greatest miracle of all time and isn’t that what we are all longing for? A miracle? There is so much suffering in this world: brokenness, injustice, bondage, loneliness and fear to name a few. But, VICTORY is what this day represents! This one event was a game changer ending satan’s plans once and for all! So many people who call themselves Christ followers are shackled by sin and unable to break free, but Peter’s words are true: “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.” (Acts 2:24). Death had no hold over Him, and it has no power over us who believe anymore. In fact, the power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in us through the Holy Spirit! “ The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Rom. 8:11. Because of the Spirit’s power, we can overcome sin’s grip on us. As we daily yield our lives to Him, we can experience victory on a daily basis!! I pray that we can truly understand the truth of what the power of the resurrection means! This prayer from the apostle Paul is my prayer for us as we learn to live and experience this power that is ours through FAITH!

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Let’s rejoice; let’s celebrate; He is ALIVE and His Life gives us both abundant life on this earth and eternal life in heaven!

To God be the Glory; Great things He Has Done!


The Week Before….Saturday April 8, 2023

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Read:  Matthew 27:59-66; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53-54; John 19:39-42

Holy Saturday or “Silent Saturday” as some people call it is the seventh day of the Holy Week and many see it as the day that Jesus “rested” from His work. For the Jews in Jesus’ day and even devout Jews of today, Saturday is the Sabbath, a time to rest from all work. Indeed, one of the last phrases uttered by Jesus on the cross was “it is finished”! His work on earth was indeed finished as His plan to “give His life as a ransom for many” was complete! Because His work was completed on the cross, “in Him[we also] have been made complete” as the apostle Paul explains in Col. 2:10.

From the scripture standpoint, there is very little specifically recorded about this day, but there is a lot we can infer based on several scriptural passages. The burial probably happened right at the end of Friday before the Sabbath which began after sundown. Typically, Romans were in charge of the body even after death, and their custom was to leave the body of a criminal on the cross for days to rot and be eaten by wild animals to serve as a reminder to others of what happens when a person goes against the Roman government. The Jews, however, didn’t want any bodies left up during Sabbath and especially during the season of Passover, so they had asked Pilate to have them removed.

After Jesus was confirmed dead, Joseph of Arimathea along with Nicodemus, both Pharisees and secret disciples of Jesus, (John 19:38) went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, in order to give Him a proper burial. A detail about Joseph is that Luke records that he “had not consented to [the] decision and action of the other Pharisees (to have Jesus crucified) and was “looking for the kingdom of God” which further supports his “secret” belief that Jesus was more than just a teacher. It is also astonishing that the fate of even the executed corpse was in Pilate’s hands. Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead according to Mark 15:44 because usually, crucifixion was a long, agonizing death, yet Jesus was dead in a few hours. His death was confirmed, however, by careful examination of eyewitnesses (John 19:31-36), and Pilate gave his permission for Joseph to take the body.  No doubt, the removal of Jesus’ body was a physical and emotional experience for Joseph and Nicodemus. The Bible says that they wrapped the body in strips of linen with seventy five pounds of spices (myrrh and aloe) which was the burial custom of the Jews. Before they could wrap the body, it would need to be prepared. This means that all of the foreign matter would have to be removed from the body, and then it would be washed. Preparing the bloodied and bruised body of Jesus knowing He was innocent must have been difficult for these men who didn’t follow Christ openly while He was alive. Yet, they are the ones who take care of his body, and the disciples, who were always by His side during His earthly ministry were no where to be found. I daresay that there were other Pharisees who believed in Jesus in secret – and many more will definitely believe after tomorrow!

We need to take a quick moment to discuss the women. Luke records that when Joseph took the body to the tomb, “the women who had come with him (Jesus) from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spice and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandments. (Luke 23:55-56). The women would have probably included Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Joses, Salome, mother James and John and many others. These same women were present at his crucifixion (Luke 23:49), his burial and his resurrection – eyewitnesses to the miraculous events. The fact that the Bible records this is remarkable because women’s testimonies were not admissible in a court of law, so if Christianity were a man-made religion, having women as such important parts of the story would have been a terrible idea. If you want people to believe in your new “religion” you would have definitely NOT included women as important players in the “story”!

Jesus’ burial is an important part of the gospel. (I Cor. 15:3-4) References to His death, burial and resurrection will be used over and over by the disciples in the coming days. The fact that Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb is a fulfillment of prophecy: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:9) The burial fulfills several predictions that Jesus made about Himself: (Matt. 12:40, 16:21, Mark 9:31, 10:33-34, John 2:19) His burial proves His death. Some religions and people who do not believe in the resurrection claim that Jesus didn’t really die but actually survived the crucifixion. A Roman crucifixion was not survivable but beyond that Pilate would never have given permission for His body to be taken unless he was certain, beyond any doubt, that Jesus was truly dead. Yes, Jesus died physically and His burial provides further proof.

But before we look any further into the events of this day,  let’s be clear about about what Jesus was doing on this day! He is not just wrapped in the linen cloth that Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Him in, sleeping! The gospel writer Luke describes Jesus’ final moments on the cross like this: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23: 46). This particular passage contains some important information. First, it solidifies that while Jesus’ physical body died on the cross, His spirit was very much alive! In fact, His spirit was committed into the hand of the Father which is exactly what happens when Christians die. The spirit of a person goes on living in the presence of God; absent from the body; present with the Lord ( II Cor. 5:8). Another important proof that Jesus’ spirit is still alive is found in His conversation with the thief on the cross. Jesus tells this man who recognizes that Jesus is NOT just a man in Luke 23:43, “today you will be with me in paradise”. Yes, Jesus’ work of redemption was finished on the cross, and now He awaits the Big Day!

Behind the scenes, an event that we do know happened after the crucifixion is recorded in Matthew 27:62-66. The chief priests and Pharisees pay another visit to Pilate asking for him to secure the tomb because Jesus had said that after three days He would rise, and they were worried that the disciples would steal the body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. You have to wonder what Pilate was thinking about this desperate group of religious leaders who couldn’t seem to be satisfied by anything! Pilate tells them you have a guard “go make it secure”. Not only did they set a guard but they also sealed the tomb. A quick note about the Roman guard and seal. The Roman guard was sixteen men strong governed by very strict rules. Each member covered six square feet of space. There was no sitting, leaning or sleeping allowed. If this were to happen, the guard would be beaten and burned in all his clothes and the whole unit would also be killed because of the one guard’s failings. The Roman seal placed over the tomb authenticated that the tomb was occupied and Rome stood behind the seal. All of these precautions should have given confidence to the religious leaders that this menace, Jesus, would not bother them anymore! Of course, it is almost Sunday and well, they will discover that nothing can hold Jesus down!

What were the disciples doing on this day? Mark 14:50 tells us that when Jesus was arrested, ”they all left him and fled.” In John we read that they were hiding behind locked doors for fear of being arrested. Mark indicates in 16:10 that they were mourning and weeping. All of this tells us that disciples were not walking around Jerusalem or going on with life as usual. They were grieving, afraid and keeping themselves hidden for fear of being arrested because of their connections with Jesus. You can imagine their sadness. This incredible teacher that they had just spent the last three years was just killed. They had believed that He was the one who was the promised Messiah but now He is gone. Although He had told them over and over again what was going to happen (Luke 13:33; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22; Mark 8:31), they didn’t really understand it. Based on all of the times that Jesus had told them that He would have to suffer and die but would then come back to life, you would think they would be excited, sitting on the edge of their seats waiting. However, there is nothing in scripture to indicate that these disciples were awaiting His resurrection. In fact, the disciples’ fear and lack of boldness after Jesus’ crucifixion is one of the reasons that we know the resurrection was real! Their radical change after the events of Sunday is a pivotal point in history!

As disciples of Jesus, what are you doing today? Since we have the benefit of scripture to follow, we should be living in anticipation. We KNOW what happens tomorrow, so there should be no fear, timidity or “hiding” for us! Much like advent, awaiting the birth of Christ, we should be eagerly awaiting the events that will come tomorrow, with the faith and excitement of a little child! Additionally, we can rejoice and ponder the reality of what yesterday means. His death fulfilled the wrath of a Holy God for our sins. His blood poured out offers us forgiveness once and for all. His righteousness becomes our righteousness: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” II Cor. 5:21) In fact, this truth should propel us forward and motivate us to share the amazing reality with others! We should be looking for opportunities to invite people to church and to experience the LIVING savior!

Additionally, today our focus should be gratitude! What He did for us should cause us to offer up prayers of thankfulness and praise! We have been given an amazing gift, even though we don’t deserve it! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Today is a great day to give thanks!

Rejoice, Reflect, Share and Thank… tomorrow we CELEBRATE!


The Week Before…Friday April 6, 2023

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Read Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 23, John 18-19

On the Christian calendar, today is the day that is traditionally referred to as Good Friday or Holy Friday in many other countries. This is the day set aside to remember Christ’s crucifixion, yet, the mention of crucifixion seems like anything but “good”! So many bad things happened to Jesus on this day, that the word good seems out of place. So, why is the word good attached to it? To get a fuller understanding and appreciation for why this day is so significant for Christians, we need to look deeper into all that transpired on this day over 2000 years ago!

This day actually begins early in the morning. To be more accurate, Jesus never sleeps. After spending some very intimate time with His disciples in the upper room for the Passover meal last evening, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. A study of Christ’s life shows that He regularly prayed, but this prayer was different. It was the most heart wrenching prayer He has prayed thus far. In His humanity, He is in mental anguish over what is about to happen. The suffering that He is about to endure is known to Him and He cries out to God:“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. … And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44) This cup that Jesus speaks of is the cup of judgement. The physical suffering will be nothing compared to the great agony of having the Father turn His back on Him as He is judged for the sins of all mankind! He knows this is required, but in His humanness He must wrestle for a time with this. A sweet side note found in the gospel of Luke, explains that at the end of this soul racking prayer “there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him”. (Luke 22:43) This is a comforting glimpse at the work of angels bringing comfort to Him in his time of great need. Yet in the end, of course, He submits to the Father’s will, which is a beautiful example of surrender!

The next event is the betrayal of Judas, as he brings the religious leaders to arrest Jesus. While Judas’ betrayal is expected and even fulfills prophecy, the experience of being betrayed by someone close to you couldn’t have been easy. Besides Judas’ betrayal, He will experience the denial of Peter, one of His closest relationships. When we experience painful relationship situations, let us remember that our Lord understands and knows the pain of betrayal, abandonment and rejection! Also remember that both Judas and Peter suffer as well, Judas bitterly faces the reality of his actions and Peter weeps over the depth of his sinful choices. While Judas’ remorse leads him to hang himself, Peter’s pain leads Him to repentance and ultimately, restoration, showing us that sinful actions will always lead us somewhere. Some people choose to become paralyzed, despondent and miserable as they look at their failures and stay there falling into a deeper hole of bitterness, anger and brokenness, but others, like Peter, allow the experience of failure to lead them to admit their sin and receive the forgiveness that Christ offers!

The events that occur next are a series of informal and “formal” religious trials, three to be exact, but none of these trials follow the standard rules set up by the Jews for a “criminal”. They provide no evidence in Jesus’ favor which would be the regular protocol despite the numerous miracles He has performed in front of them. Instead they twist His words, make up evidence and even flat out lie in order to support their bogus claims against Him. Along with this sham of a trial, they also verbally abuse Him, mock Him, blaspheme against Him and beat Him. They knew He was guilty of nothing, yet they were determined to get rid of Him because of their own pride and self-centeredness. Because they are not allowed to actually execute anyone, they take Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and then to Herod. Despite all of their accusations, Pilate finds Jesus innocent as does Herod.

Pilate is interesting because history tells us that he was an evil ruler who regularly showed no mercy to the accused, but according to the gospel writers, he tries to release Jesus, finding nothing worthy of death. This is quite remarkable. A man who wasn’t religious at all is more merciful than those who claim to be religious! Unfortunately, this is sometimes true in our world today, people who claim to be Christians show less mercy to people they dislike than the irreligious! As some who are far from God have said, “I have no problem with Jesus, it is the Christians that I don’t like”.  Let’s never be guilty of showing less mercy than the lost world! 

Pilate tries to appease the Jewish leaders by ordering Jesus to endure a brutal Roman scourging, but he is unable to convince the Jewish leaders to accept his innocent verdict and in the end succumbs to their demand to have Jesus executed. These corrupt leaders even incite the crowds to cry “crucify him, crucify him” in a frenzied roar thus forcing Pilate to give in. Pilate isn’t innocent of Jesus’ blood, but Jesus himself tells Pilate, “you would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore, he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)  

The powerful truth that this quote clearly reveals is that Pilate, Herod and the religious leaders had no real power over Jesus’ fate despite what it may seem. In fact, Jesus has already revealed this in an earlier teaching when He told the disciples,” I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18). These leaders will definitely be held accountable, but don’t believe for one moment that they were in control! God allowed all of this to carry out the greatest rescue mission ever!

The climax of this real drama happens next as Jesus goes to the Place of the Skull called Golgotha to be crucified! The gospel writers don’t go into depth about what the crucifixion was like because everyone during that day understood the brutality and torture of a Roman crucifixion. Designed to produce a slow and unimaginably painful death, the crucifixion was one of the most humiliating and horrific forms of execution to ever be used by any civilization. This is what our God endured for us! While on the cross, Jesus speaks very few words, but what He does say is monumental. The most incredible are the words, “Father  forgive them, for they know not what they do.” On the cross, in incomprehensible pain, Jesus prays for His executioners! He intercedes on their behalf which while this is hard to imagine for us; it is precisely why He is there! He came to die for the sin of ALL mankind! Sin put Him on the cross, but what keeps Him there is LOVE.

The LOVE displayed on the cross this day in 33AD is why this day is called GOOD FRIDAY! You see, justice is a concept we all understand.  The Jews knew this. For 1000’s of years they had been offering sacrifices for breaking the laws because sin demands payment. In all cultures through the ages people have created systems for how crimes are paid for. We all know this. When someone breaks a law, a consequence must follow. When someone owes a debt, it must be paid. We all believe that no one should get away with a crime, there must be justice. Sin is the great crime that we have all committed. Sin against a Holy God is a debt that must be paid! The message of the cross is that  instead of God demanding us to pay this debt, He does it Himself. He leaves heaven, He humbles Himself to become like us; He gives up the glory of heaven to experience temptation, loneliness, rejection, grief, and unfathomable pain to take our place. Someone has to pay and He willingly does this for us! Is there any greater example of love than this,“That someone lay His life down for his friends”!

Good Friday means that for all of us who accept Christ’s substitutionary death for our sins, we are rescued from the prison of our own sin and are debt free! This is the freedom we really long for, and this is the freedom we have because of Jesus!  This is really GOOD NEWS!



The Week Before…Day 5 April 6

Read Matthew 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–30, John 13:1-20

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday as some refer to it, is the day that Jesus celebrated His last Passover with the disciples. This event is most often called the Last Supper and is the event that instituted the Christian sacrament of Communion. Many churches have a special communion service on this day to commemorate this event. At this meal, Jesus reiterates His purpose using visual symbols that would be central to the church that was about to be born. At this meal, Jesus also predicts Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial and teaches about true greatness. After the meal, Jesus prays in the garden of Gethsemane where he is arrested by the religious leaders and carried off to begin the longest night of His life.

At the beginning of the day, Jesus sends His disciples, only Peter and John, to prepare the Passover meal. A couple of quick points here is that the way Jesus does this indicates that He knew the Jewish leaders were about to come for Him, so He needed the preparation and place of the meal to be secretive to avoid arrest before the meal was done. By sending only Peter and John, He kept the location of the meal secret from Judas who was looking for a quiet place, away from the crowds, to turn Jesus over to the religious leaders. Another reason for only sending Peter and John is that only two people were allowed to go to the killing of the lamb because of the law and for practical reasons. Based on historical documents, there were 1000’s upon 1000’s of lambs slaughtered during a two hour window, so as you can imagine space was limited!

The process by which they would have prepared the Passover would have gone something like this: Peter and John would purchase an approved lamb and take it to the temple to be slain. They would then go to the place where it would be held and roast the lamb and make sure all was ready for the meal.  In the Jewish calendar, a new day began at nightfall, so Wednesday nightfall to Thursday nightfall was the day of preparation for the Passover meal. The Passover meal itself included: 1) Roasted Lamb  2) Bitter Herbs  3) Unleavened Bread  4) Fruit Sauce  5) Four cups of Wine. The meal would have been shared after sundown that evening (Thursday nightfall to Friday nightfall).

In the original Passover, the blood of the lambs had been applied to the homes of the Israelites in Egypt to protect them from the outpouring of God’s judgment upon the Egyptians (Exodus 11-12). Matthew alone records Jesus telling his disciples that His time is at hand on the morning of the day on which the Passover lamb was sacrificed. This is a good place to mention that up until this time, Jesus consistently told the disciples that His time had not yet come, but now the time has come. From the place that they would have the Passover meal to the arrest to His eventual crucifixion, God Himself is in control down to the last detail! While He will suffer a horrific death, Jesus’ death is not a result of a series of unfortunate events out of His control. On the contrary, everything is a part of His plan, His plan to save the world!

While we can assume that the actual Passover meal was taken in the traditional way, the reason taking the meal this night was so important was because Jesus needed to use elements from this meal to symbolize what He was about to do and what He wanted them to do in the future to commemorate this event. As He takes the unleavened bread, He holds it up and tells them, this is “my body”. Unleavened bread is used during the Passover because it represents the Israelites leaving Egypt so quickly that they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. However, in the gospels, Jesus actually uses leaven to describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Bread without leaven actually suggests the idea of something being without hypocrisy- real, genuine.  In John 6:35-51, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life that has come down from heaven and anyone who eats of this bread will live forever…” As Jesus breaks the unleavened bread on this night, He reveals that He is the REAL sacrifice that will be given for all men!

With the cup of wine, He gives new meaning to the covenant that Israel has had with God for all these years. In Israel’s covenant with God, blood has always been required for the remission of sins. The blood of the Passover lamb represented God “saving” the Jews from death and rescuing them from slavery. Now, as Jesus takes the cup, He explains that a new covenant is being established between Israel and God: “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matt. 26:28)  This new covenant that He is establishing with Israel was prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-33), and on this night, Jesus announces that this prophecy will be fulfilled as His blood is poured out for all!

A quick note here about blood. For devout Jews, blood has always represented forgiveness (Lev. 17:11). All the way back to when God established His first covenant with His people, blood was the means by which men’s sins were forgiven. But many people struggle with this concept of blood. They are horrified by the thought of blood and don’t understand, but as John Phillips states in a commentary, “Sin is a radical and terrible reality that calls for a radical and terrible cure”. If you struggle with this, consider what David Guzik says, “Modern (unbelieving, Biblically ignorant) people think that sin is remitted (forgiven) by time, by our good works, by our decent lives, or by simply death. But there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, and there is no perfect forgiveness without a perfect sacrifice.” Our forgiveness required a perfect sacrifice, and only Jesus fulfills those requirements! Revelations 5:9 confirms this truth:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation”

As we reflect on the events of the this day, may we truly understand the significance of the practice of communion and what each element represents. May it never get old as we come to the table remembering our Lord as He willingly came to the cross!

While this last meal with the disciples held monumental significance for the disciples and for us as believers today, one very important event that we can’t leave out is detailed in John’s gospel:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him…12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 3-17)

This account of Jesus washing the disciples feet just hours before He goes to the cross is almost too much for us to comprehend, the God of the universe stooping down and taking the form of a servant. Of course, this is what the incarnation is all about. God becoming a man, stooping down to become like one of us, so that He could show us what true LOVE looks like and to set an example for how we can live! He could not be more clear! True “greatness” is found in humility and service to others. While most of us have heard this story, I am not sure we truly understand the full significance of this in 1st century AD.  Make no mistake, this was not the action of a typical ruler. Leaders and rulers would NEVER serve their subjects. In fact, all throughout history, this has never been the posture of those in power. This is why this scene and the one that will happen less from 24 hours from now is so remarkable. In Mark 10:45, Jesus defined his purpose: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” but today through washing their feet and tomorrow as He goes to the cross, His purpose is fully illuminated!

Willingly placing ourselves in a position of humility is not the normal way we operate as humans, in fact, our default mode is to strive for “greatness” by pushing our way to the top. We long for significance in the world’s eyes by getting more degrees, a better job, a bigger house, more stuff, or praise from men. Yet, our Lord defined significance through taking up the towel! His example should challenge us, convict us and, ultimately, change us!

If we are followers of Jesus, serving others is not an option. He led the way! We need to understand that life is NOT all about us. In fact, serving is the behavior of a true disciple!

Paul explains it this way:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Tomorrow we will read all about the power of the cross, but today, let’s focus on the Towel!

(Phillips, John: Exploring the Bible Series: An Expository Commentary)


The Week Before….Wednesday April 5

Photo by Megapixelstock on Pexels.com

While weddings are a celebration event, they are, in their essence, a time for declarations of love as the bride and groom exchange their vows before an audience of family and friends. As my son and his fiance exchanged their vows this past week, their love for each other was more than evident. In fact, of all of the beautiful parts of the day, this aspect is one that I will forever cherish! Their love for each other radiated through their smiles and tears as they said their vows to each other as if no one else was in the room. Of course, love is more than just vows on a wedding day; it is a commitment to choose to love, unconditionally, “from this day forward”, and they will spend the rest of their life learning the power of this type of love!

As Jesus lives out His final week, love is always the theme!

Read Matthew 26:3-16, Mark 13-14, Luke 21:5 – 22:6; John 12:1-8

Holy Wednesday is referred to by some as spy Wednesday and by others as silent Wednesday. Of all of the days of the Holy week this one differs the most in the timeline. While we can’t be sure of all of the specifics that occurred on this day,  What we do know is that tomorrow Jesus will celebrate the Passover with the disciples and the next day He will go to the cross. With this information, we can surmise a few probable events.

The name Spy Wednesday refers to speculation that this was the day that Judas confers with the chief priests and officers to turn Jesus over to them. We know from previous days’ events that these leaders have been seeking how to arrest Jesus. They are desperate to get rid of Him and this has all intensified since Jesus’ triumphal entry on Sunday. Remember on this day, Jesus allows the people to worship Him as the Messiah as He enters on the “foal of donkey” just as it was prophesied. He has been teaching every day, mesmerizing the people with His powerful words that reveal His authority. In fact, His teaching is so powerful that people are flocking to Him, “hanging on His every word”. Luke 21:37-38 tells us that “every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him” which leads us to assume that He is continuing to teach on this day as well.

Taking the traditional interpretation of Spy Wednesday, we will take a look at the Jewish leaders plan aided by Judas to arrest Jesus.  One of the interesting aspects of this event is the time; it is the time of the Feast of the Passover. Because of this, Jerusalem is packed with pilgrims who have come to the gather in the city for this all important festival. Many scholars estimate the numbers to be very high, 100’s of 1000’s. This fact alone raises the dramatic tension in the city. Large numbers of people made the potential for a riot much higher and not only were the Jewish leaders aware of the probable results of a public arrest, the Romans were also on high alert knowing that the large number of Jews could mean a possible uprising against them. One of the reasons we can assume that Rome was concerned is because of the presence of Pontius Pilate and Herod in the city.  Typically, these two leaders ruled from Tiberius and Caesarea, but this week, they are here in Jerusalem for this Passover festival, presumably, to oversee the peace.

With the temple courts packed with enthusiastic pilgrims all seeking to hear the great teacher, the Jewish leaders recognize that arresting Jesus would undoubtedly provoke a riot. They are very aware that Jesus’ popularity will lead to a public protest that would  subsequently draw the Romans into the mix. This is why when Judas comes to offer to expose Jesus privately for 30 pieces of silver, they jump on the chance. Judas, being one of the twelve, is the perfect traitor. He knows the habits of Jesus, he is privy to intimate details of His whereabouts at all times, and as John tells us, Judas “was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6)

Despite his love of money, it’s difficult to understand why Judas would do this horrible act. He had walked with Jesus, seen Him do miracle after miracle, heard His mesmerizing teaching, experienced His supernatural compassion but at the end of the day, he never saw Jesus as anything more than a potential way out of Roman oppression; he wanted a “savior” but he had no interest in a Lord. The hard truth is that Judas didn’t really KNOW Jesus, not because he didn’t have the chance to, but rather because he didn’t want to! Since it was prophesied that Jesus would be betrayed, some might say that Judas didn’t really have a choice, but make no mistake, he had a choice. God is not a puppet master; He is a loving Father who allows us to choose to love Him. Judas had a choice and he chose to betray the only person who loved him with an everlasting love!

Sadly, this is the state of many who call themselves Christians. They don’t really KNOW Jesus, and this is obvious because of the way they live their lives. They might even choose Jesus as “savior” but trusting Him as Lord does not fit their agenda. Betrayal can happen in many ways. A couple of synonyms for the word betrayal are faithlessness and duplicity. Most of us would never ever see ourselves as a “betrayer” but is it possible that we struggle with faithfulness and loyalty to Christ. Do we always stand up for the truth no matter who we are around? Do we obey even if it means we are left out? Do we act one way when we are around our Christian friends and another way when we aren’t? Do we want Jesus to be our Savior but aren’t willing to give Him the total Lordship of our life? Make a decision to live as a faithful disciple. We always have a choice! 

Let’s take a look at another person in Jesus’ life that made a different choice. We read about her in Matthew’s gospel: 

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)

The timing of this event is up for debate. Matthew places it after a mention of the Jewish leaders plotting to seize Jesus, but this quite possibly is a flashback to an occurrence that John places on Saturday before the triumphal entry. Regardless of when it happened in the week, this examples serves as a stark contrast to Judas’ betrayal!

Simon the leper was most likely a man whom Jesus had healed who had become a follower.  The woman is Mary of Bethany whose brother was Lazarus. You may remember Mary as the one who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and worship while her sister Martha ran around preparing food (Luke 10:38-42). When Mary anoints Jesus, it is clear that she has insight into who He is and why He has come. Kings and priests were anointed, so anointing Jesus is more than appropriate!  In fact, her anointing His body was a sign of worship proving she saw Jesus as more than just a great teacher! Jesus calls her act a “beautiful thing” and praises her actions, but He acknowledges that this is not just a ceremonial anointing but rather a preparation for His burial! What is quite remarkable is that the disciples don’t get it! They are indignant that she would “waste” this precious perfume that could be used for the poor. This perfume is expensive, so her act cost her something. Yet, when you consider what Christ will be giving up in just two days, this perfume is nothing.

Mary is often referenced as the one who loved extravagantly; she wasn’t worried about what she was giving up, she chose to pour out this costly perfume on Him with complete abandonment and sacrifice. Although He won’t be buried for two more days, this woman’s uninhibited, unashamed act of love serves as a balm for Him as He approaches the day of ultimate suffering. She prepares Him for burial by loving Him greatly!

As we reflect on these final days of Jesus’ life on this earth, consider if you are willing to give up what is “costly” to you to truly worship Him!  True love does require sacrifice, yet how many of us are willing to give it “all” to follow Christ? Consider what Jesus’ says in Luke 14.

Luke 14:26–33 (ESV): 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Jesus made it clear that if we want to follow Him, it will cost us something. Mary understood this, but the disciples didn’t get it yet! It will take them a few more days before it all makes sense. In many ways, Mary’s pouring out of the precious perfume is symbolic of the “pouring out” that Jesus will do because of His great love for us! Because of this extravagant, priceless act we will gain eternal freedom from sin and death, healing from the pain of this world, riches unimaginable, and everlasting peace! So, doesn’t He deserve our wholehearted worship this season and every season? As we think about Jesus during this blessed week, may we be like Mary; let us choose to love Him with the same sort of deep emotion and surrender! Consider letting go of your worries, fears, doubts, anxiety, busyness and worldly desires, and focus only on Him!

May we truly love Him extravagantly!


The Week Before…..Tuesday April 4, 2023

One of the most special parts of weddings are the speeches. During both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception people close to the bride and groom typically honor them with words of love, affirmation and encouragement. In the recent wedding on my son, these moments were truly some of the sweetest. Words spoken by friends and family can be so life-giving to a young couple at the beginning of their journey as husband and wife, but just imagine the power of Jesus’ words during His last days leading up to the cross. While the disciples may not have fully realized it at the time, they will recall them in the days to come and will be strengthened and challenged to live them out as they begin their journey as disciple makers in the early church!

Read Matthew 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44; Luke 20-21

Holy Tuesday is the third day of the Holy Week and while not all churches have services on this day, a study of the gospels shows that Jesus did a lot of teaching this day! There is no doubt that many important conversations happened and that Jesus wanted to solidify some important truths in the minds of His disciples because He knew they would need them once He was gone! A close look at these conversations can also give us direction as disciples living in the 21st century!

As Jesus enters Jerusalem this morning, He heads to the temple.* The temple is where Jesus set up His ministry while in Jerusalem, and this infuriated the religious leaders. The main reason for this is clearly, jealousy. You see, every time that Jesus was around, the people flocked to him. When He healed, they were in awe. When he spoke, they listened. Not only did they listen, but they were enthralled by His teaching. Words and phrases such as “astonished”, “marveled”, “hanging on his every word”….are used by the gospel writers. Over and over again, His actions and words proved His power and authority, yet the Pharisees could not stand it nor accept it. Why? Because He offended them. He was the “stumbling block” that the “builders rejected” (Acts 4:11). Ultimately, He threatened their power!

When He enters the temple this day, the religious leaders are still reeling from the previous days’ events. His clearing of the temple was followed by a time of healing and teaching (Matthew 21:14-17), where the people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”. The Messianic titles poured out in praise to Jesus caused the religious leaders to become indignant, prompting them to begin questioning Him. Their goal was to trick Him and cause Him to say something that would incriminate Him, so that they can arrest Him, but alas they could not! In fact, Jesus showed His ability to use logic and reason to shut them down! They questioned him about His authority, His obedience to the laws of the land, the resurrection of the dead, and His answers not only silenced the Pharisees, but the Bible says they “marveled” at his words! 

The hypocrisy of these religious leaders who claimed to serve God was too much for the Son of God to just overlook. During these confrontations at the temple this day, He calls out their behavior through a series of parables that are clearly meant to reveal the coming judgement on the Pharisees and religious leaders. Matthew records the “seven woes” message that was directed toward them to serve as a warning of what was to come. Jesus’ ongoing chastisement of the Pharisees’ attitudes and hypocritical behavior should cause us as believers to reflect on our attitudes.  The sin of pride was rampant among the Pharisees, but sadly, many Christians suffer from this as well. Looking with judgmental eyes toward others, comparing our actions with theirs can lead us to a pharisaical type of attitude. We can begin to think we are better than others, trying to use our “good” works to prove our worth. Yet, just as the religious leaders failed to recognize their own depravity, we too can forget that “there is none who does good….not even one (Psalms 14:1-3).

Although Jesus had many confrontations this day, there are a couple of very important conversations to note. One is the conversation recorded in Matt. 22:34-40.

When one of the Pharisees, “a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

In this one verse, He sums up our purpose! Love God and Love People. Although you have most likely read these verses on numerous occasions, you may not have ever realized that this conversation was toward the end of Jesus’ life. To know that after all of the teaching He had done, and Old testament verses He had quoted, He sums everything up in these two verses. He wants them to know this THESE are the ones which matter!

*An interesting note here is that during the 1st century AD, people did not “love” their neighbor. Serving others was not a Roman behavior nor an attitude of the religious leaders. The concept that Jesus was suggesting was radical in his day, but would be a crucial part of the church that is about to emerge in a few weeks! Not surprising, this is still a command we need to be reminded of in 2023! We live in a world where people often are “too busy” to notice those around them who need a helping hand. In order to follow Christ’s command, we need to be intentional, looking for those who have needs and scheduling time to roll up our sleeves and “love our neighbors!” . Giving and Serving is one of the most Christ honoring behaviors we can do!

One other important conversation happened when Jesus watched the people putting their money in the temple treasury and notices a poor widow who gives her two coins which is all she has. Her behavior becomes an object lesson for the disciples as He tells them that her offering was more than all of the others, although she gave the least. This is in stark contrast to the self-righteous Pharisees He has just addressed, whose large gifts were done for show. Many of the parables He has been teaching this day deal with the topic of who will be accepted into the kingdom. The religious leaders believe that their status as ancestors of Abraham and position as “keepers of the law” are their ticket to heaven. However, Jesus’ message is clear. The kingdom of heaven is not for those who think they deserve it, but it is for those who know they do not!

As you reflect on all of these conversations from the scripture today, consider an important truth. First, what is your own attitude toward your sins. The Pharisees were quick to point out the sins of others but did not seem to see their own sins. Their hypocrisy was an abomination to God and Jesus made sure they knew that. If you are honest, do you sometimes struggle with a Pharisaical attitude? Do you fall into trying to seek your own righteousness through your own “keeping of the law” – checking off boxes, comparing your “good” behavior to others, practicing obedience without a relationship? We have to remember, that No matter how hard we try or try to look like we have it together, we are NOT good in our own abilities.

Remember that THIS is why Jesus came! THIS is why He will go to the cross at the end of the week! We are all sinners and can never be “good” enough on our own; we need a Savior! Today is a good time to remember this! Today is a good time to ask Jesus to give you the right attitude! Today is a great time to put your faith in His goodness! 

**Let me share a little more information about chronology again as it relates to the different days and events during Jesus’ last week. When we read all of the different gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke), we may question the timing as we notice the different order of events. For instance, in Matthew it seems that some things happened on the same day, whereas in Mark, events seem to be occurring on the next day. Since there is rarely mention of specific days of the week until we get to Friday, we have to look at all of the gospels along with other historical records and background information to put together a timeline. With this in mind, it is helpful to understand that all of the gospels have different authors, therefore, different perspectives and priorities in the way they write. We are making inferences, in many cases, on which specific day an event or conversation happened. We also have church tradition which provides some framework for a timeline. Despite the apparent differences in some of the timing in the gospels, we discover that each account gives us different details that can help us understand the other account a little better and, in the end, we can make an educated guess on the chronology. For the most part, this devotional follows the traditional timeline.


The Week Before….Monday April 3, 2023

One of the things that makes a wedding beautiful is the flowers. The flower decor along with the bouquets were just exquisite in my son’s recent wedding, a reminder of the beauty of love and the life my son and daughter-in-law were about to begin! Living things, whether they are flowers, trees, or people are meant to blossom, produce fruit…When Jesus heads into Jerusalem on the Monday before, He comes across “living things” that are not “doing” what they were made to do. These encounters provide some powerful life lessons for His disciples and the others who will come into His presence today. Let’s take a look at the powerful messages from God’s word!

Read – Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48

Reflection– On the traditional calendar, this is Holy Monday. Even though many churches don’t have any special services or remembrances on this day, there is no doubt that Jesus was busy, and his actions give us insight into what were some of his most important messages during these final days!  

In Mark 11:11, after the triumphal entry on Sunday, the gospel writer, Mark, explains that Jesus went out to Bethany to spend the night which was often his custom when visiting Jerusalem. One interesting point to understand is that Jerusalem was crowded during this week, in fact, extremely crowded since it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread-Passover celebration and Jews from all over had come to the Holy City to participate. Some scholars estimate upwards of two million people could have been in and around Jerusalem during this time. This would explain one of the reasons that Jesus would not stay in Jerusalem at night. The other was that Bethany is where his good friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived, and so that would have been a comfortable place for him surrounded by friends during this final week.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem that Monday morning the first recorded activity was an encounter with a fig tree. Jesus was hungry and looked for food. The fact that Jesus experienced physical “hunger” reminds us of his humanness. In His deity, He would not have been hungry, but in his humanity he was. When He sees a fig tree with leaves but no fruit on it, His next action is surprising; He curses it and it withers immediately. You see, this type of fig tree only produced leaves when there was fruit on it, so it was truly an imposter. It looked “fruitful” but had nothing to show for it.

All throughout the Old testament, the metaphor of a plant (fig tree, vineyard, seed, tree) is used to describe Israel.  Many prophetic words describe the fate of Israel’s disobedience and lack of fruitfulness ( Isaiah 5:1-7, Ezekiel 17:1-10, Hosea 9: 10-17). Because of this fruitlessness, Israel ended up in captivity twice (Assyrians and Babylonians). When Jesus curses this fig tree. on this day, it is another clear sign that Jesus is no mere man. Only God could curse the fig tree and cause it to wither and produce no more, and this immediate pronouncement of judgment was very instructive for the disciples. This was the state of Israel at the time, and in a tangible way He was demonstrating that hypocrisy had no place with His people. Having an appearance of godliness (leaves) without the fruit was just like the Pharisees and religious leaders, and this was further proof that judgement was coming for them. The disciples are truly taken back by this bold move by Jesus and ask him how this could happen? Rather than giving them an explanation, His response points them to faith and to prayer and alludes to their future role in the kingdom of God (Matthew 21:33-44). 

The message of the fig tree to the disciples is a message to us as disciples today. As we live our lives are we just giving an appearance of godliness? More specifically, during this Holy season, do we just “look religious” or are really focusing on Christ Himself? A very important point here is that trees don’t produce fruit, they yield it. They don’t try really hard to make the fruit, they are fruitful as they obtain the nutrients from the soil. In other words, having a lot of religious activity is not a sign of fruitfulness, but staying rooted in the soil of God’s word will bring forth fruit in our lives. Our righteousness is not based on us, it is based only on His power. Every time the Israelites disobeyed and and turned to other gods, they stopped yielding fruit. We should recognize that God truly desires for us to live authentically, yielding fruit that comes from a heart focused on Him, because the consequences of hypocrisy are great!

The second event that happens this day is the cleansing of the temple. This is the second time that Jesus has had to exercise His authority when it came to the activities going on in the temple. Referencing two Old Testament passages, He reminds them of the purpose of the temple, what it is and what it is NOT.  Isaiah 56:7 says that the temple is to be used as a “house of prayer” which is very different than what the moneychangers and those who were selling sacrifices were doing. They were making a profit, driven by greed rather than a heart to pray for the nations. In Jeremiah 7:11, God pronounced judgment on Israel for the evil they had done, turning His house into a “den of thieves”. Not only were they making a profit off of selling the sacrifices, they were essentially robbing the people.

Two important thoughts should be considered here. First, using His authority in this way, Jesus really revealed who He was. Remember the day before He rode into town in humility on a colt, today He is exercising His Kingly authority by cursing the fig tree and driving out evil. Jesus, God in the flesh, made His identity clear. Jesus showed us that God is a God of peace but also of righteous judgment! He is a God of Love and a God who demands Justice!

In just a few days, Easter services will happen all over the world in various sorts of venues – everything from beautiful cathedrals to crude huts and in some areas even”underground” gatherings. Easter, in fact, is typically the one day that many will come to church even if they don’t any other day of the year. To celebrate this glorious day with other believers in a corporate setting is a powerful experience! Yet, consider this: God no longer dwells in a temple made by man, but rather in our hearts! With this in mind, ask yourself: are you prioritizing holiness and prayer? In other words, what is the state of your temple today? Is it clear of greed, jealousy, envy, selfishness, pride, and other self-focused (fruitless) thoughts or are you in need of some “de-cluttering”? Do you need to turn your life back into a place where God is at the center- where He can be honored in your every day life? As we come to worship this Easter (and every day for that matter) let’s remember that the “temple” of God is a place where God should be glorified! It’s not about us! Let’s recommit our “temples” to the one who “bought” us with His own blood!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (I Cor. 6:19-20)

Additional Historical background information https://vimeo.com/crosswaymedia/fdojmonday


The Week Before: Palm Sunday-April 2, 2023

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

April 1, 2023 was a special day in the life of the Adams’ family as we celebrated the wedding of our oldest son in a beautiful venue in Atlanta. There were tears, laughter, hugs and smiles all around as the bride and groom exchanged vows and pledged their love to each other in front of a lawn of witnesses. Weddings these days can be such stressful events with all the planning and preparation that goes into getting ready for the big day. For this wedding, the planning phase was approximately one year. During this time there were moments of excitement as well as times of stress and frustration but the prevailing emotion was hopeful anticipation! As the bride and groom (and their families) awaited the big day, and the calendar got closer to April 1, the excitement heightened. The week before was especially filled with a variety of different sentiments but when the day arrived, pure exuberance filled the air.

Today, April 2, as I ponder the events of this last week leading up to the wedding, a culmination of all the pieces that beautifully came together into one joyful expression of love, I can’t help but wonder about the “week before” the Resurrection. All the moments that led up to the victorious, joyful and celebratory moment of the Resurrection were no doubt filled with a myriad of emotions for Jesus.

In the religious world, today, Palm Sunday, is the beginning of the week referred to as the Passion week or the Holy Week and is a time for both reverence and celebration. Join me this week as we walk through this Holiest of weeks which I am entitling “The Week Before” and take a look at how JESUS faced this incredibly long and difficult week that would end with a CELEBRATION like none other!


Read Matthew 21:1-11 and Luke 19: 28-40

Reflection: Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus entry into Jerusalem for the final time.  He entered Jerusalem on Sunday* for the last time in what is known as the “triumphal entry.. Exactly one week later, he has the ultimate “triumphal” re-entry into the world through the Resurrection! In between these two events, Jesus experiences a multitude of emotions.

The significance of this whole event cannot be overstated. Up until now in Jesus’ ministry, He has shut down all attempts to hail Him as king in an open and public way. Over and over, He has told the disciples that His time had not yet come. When those who had been recipients of miracles wanted to spread it around, He told them to not make it known But today is different. Today is the day He allows them to worship Him as king!

Why is this day different?  First and foremost Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel. In fact, the passage in Daniel is very specific about the date that the Messiah will enter into Jerusalem. (Dan. 9:24-27). When studied closely, the day Jesus enters fits the specifications described by Daniel to a tee. The fulfillment of prophecy doesn’t stop there. In Zechariah 9:9, written 500 years before this event, the Messianic prophecy involves how the King will come: “lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Psalms 118:25-26, another Messianic prophecy, is fulfilled by the peoples’ shouts of “Hosanna, hosanna.”

The fulfillment of these prophecies is profound because the statistical probability of Jesus fulfilling even one is quite remarkable, but there are three in this one event. During the whole week, prophecy after prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus, which, is a mathematical impossibility, giving solid evidence for the validity of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God.

Another reason why this day is so profound is the way that Jesus comes: “on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” His entrance in this way emphasized His humility, as one who came to bring peace not the sword, as a humble servant rather than a conquering king.  While Jesus deserved all the honor given to any earthly king and exceedingly more, He rejected this sort of reception and chose a less “showy” sort of display of His royalty. He did allow them to worship Him, but it is clear that He allows this because His “time had come.”This praise especially would be the catalyst that caused the Pharisees and religious leaders to finally arrest Him, thus fulfilling more prophecy. Everything about this day was calculated and planned by God to fulfill His ultimate plan of redemption.

A final thought to consider as you reflect on this day: only a few days from this one, the crowds will be shouting a different sort of message: “crucify, crucify.” How could this happen? I think it is because they didn’t know Jesus as Lord. They praised Him because of what they “thought” He was – a king who would set them free from Roman oppression But He never promised that, and in fact, told them that was not His plan! (Luke 19:11-12)

I guess the question for you and I is, do we “really” KNOW Him as Lord? As you approach this week, can you join in the cry, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and really mean it? Although “hosanna” may sound like a declaration of praise, it is actually a cry for salvation. It essentially means, “please, save us.” As the people shouted this, they wanted “salvation” from the Romans, but what Jesus’ would bring is something so much more wonderful. His sacrifice a few days from now would give them salvation for eternity, but they didn’t understand. They wanted salvation on their terms rather than trusting in the God who had always been eager to “save.” Do you understand who He is or do you want Jesus on your own terms?

If you do understand why He came, then this day should be a day of rejoicing over the reality of who He is, a king to be worshipped, in fact, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS! (Phil. 2:10-11)

Ask God to help you gain a deeper understand of Jesus’ deity. He came to this earth to live as a man, but make no mistake, HE was no man! He was and is the LORD OF ALL!

*For the sake of historical accuracy, I need to state that the chronology of the events of this week are up for debate. First, the gospel writers did not necessarily write everything in pure chronological order. The Roman and Jewish calendars differed quite a bit, so this could account for differences in the timetable among writers and historians. Some believe the triumphal entry actually happened on Monday while others hold to the traditional Sunday entry. If it is on Monday, then the other days would also have a slightly different focus, particularly Wednesday. From Thursday on, there is little debate. In the end, being overly dogmatic about the chronology of the events of this week doesn’t serve any practical purpose. For the sake of consistency and clarity, this devotion sticks with the traditional calendar but acknowledges that there are other plausible views on this timetable.

Here is an interesting video put out by Crossway Media with some extra historical facts about what was happening on this day – A.D. 33


Purpose Problem?

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I recently had a conversation with a young man who was sharing his journey through a very dark season. His story is not very different from many people in our world. He was lost, confused and empty. Without direction, he turned to illegal substances and ended up at death’s door a couple of times. He is now not only free from this place of lostness, he is thriving!   Thankfully, this young man had not gotten to the point of a crippling addiction, but he was nonetheless directionless. His turning point came from a conversation with a counselor who was discussing his substance issues with him. The counselor’s words were direct and powerful: “you don’t have an addiction problem, you have a purpose problem”. What this young man needed more than anything was purpose. He needed to know why he was here, what he was supposed to do; he needed a reason to get up every morning! For this young man, these words were life-giving and helped him turn everything around! 

This problem of having no purpose is a real issue for people all over the planet. So many just wander through life without true direction without a sense of purpose or meaning, but this was never God’s plan. In fact, since the beginning of time God had a purpose for each of us. We were created for a purpose, by a God who intentionally gave us life. But the truth is, many of us have no idea what our purpose is. Sure, we may have a job, be “living” our lives, but is living aimlessly really a life worth living? I, for one, am not satisfied with that type of life. I want more. Maybe this is where you are today. God has much to say about our purpose, but a great place to start is with the truth that God’s purposes always prevail! 

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. Isaiah 46:10-11 

I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I feel an incredible amount of peace because when I feel purposeless, I can turn to a God who has a plan and be assured that not only will His plans come to fruition, but He chooses to use men and women (like me and you) to “fulfill” His purpose!

So, this is where you must start when you are searching for your purpose–with God! He will not only “fulfill [His] purpose, but He is the only one who can truly fulfill you! If you have found that you feel empty, lost, dissatisfied and longing for more, maybe you have a “purpose problem”. So, the answer is to seek the God who has the solution to all the problems you will ever have!

For a few more verses on God’s purposes read Jeremiah 32:19, Job 42: 2, Proverbs 16:4, 20:5, Psalms 33:11


Go and Do Likewise

Several years ago a hotel chain launched a very successful ad campaign that brought the budget hotel into the mainstream. The byline of this popular advertisement was “we’ll leave the light on for you”! The message was simple. We want you to stay with us because we will treat you like a part of the family. The phrase was warm, welcoming and made travelers feel like it was a place that would be just right for a short stay. 

While this phrase is just an invitation to book a room at a hotel, the phrase is one that I can’t get off my mind. You see, this past week we said goodbye to a man who embodied the sentiment behind this phrase. In fact, from the first day I met Rodney Brooks (Rod) 32 years ago until the last time he gave me a hug, I felt invited, accepted, welcome and loved!! He was just like that. But It wasn’t just me who felt this way, it was everyone who ever came in contact with him for longer than a minute felt the same way. He had a way about him where he treated everyone the same and as if they were the most important people to him. Of course, I know he had his favorites, but you never felt that way when you talked to him. He genuinely cared, and saw beneath the surface what a person was thinking or feeling. You knew this because of the questions he asked. He was never impersonal or general, he was specific and intentional. 

What was it that made Rod so special? Hands down it was his relationship with Jesus Christ. No doubt, you will rarely meet a more genuine man of God. He emulated loving God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Living for the Lord was his lifeblood, his purpose, his calling. Sure, he was a successful businessman, running a construction company for many years, a solid leader in the community and a faithful minister in his church, a loving husband of 35 years and incredible father and grandfather, but it was his love for the Lord and dedication to sharing him with anyone and everyone that made him a stand out among men. What was so incredible about his witness was that because of his authentic life marked by giving, serving and loving everyone, people who heard his testimony took it to heart. He modeled the life of a Christ follower in a way that made others want to be just like him! There was not an ounce of hypocrisy in him and I guess that’s one of the most inspiring things about him. His funeral was a packed house with people from all walks of life coming together to celebrate a life well lived and one that will certainly leave a hole that will be impossible to fill. 

So how do we process and move on from a loss this monumental? At the funeral there were numerous verses shared that reflected Rod’s life. They were all appropriate and perfect, but for me, this is the lesson I learned from Rod. It is found in Luke chapter 10 – the story of the good Samaritan.  Verses 10-37 are packed with truth, so I recommend reading it, but let me sum it up. When a Jewish man was traveling and was attacked by robbers and left for dead, no one came to his aid but rather avoided him and passed on the other side, until a Samaritan, who was actually an enemy of the Jews, stopped to help him. He took care of his wounds, paid for a meal, a place to stay, in other words he helped him back on his feet. This is Rod. He never met a stranger and a person in need was never a bother. (this is true about his wife, Cindy, as well). All of this passage is true about Rod, but the phrase that gets me is verse 37. This is where Jesus said unequivocally, “go and do likewise”!  Jesus used the story of the Good Samaritan to give us a model of how to truly love our neighbor, and God gave us Rodney Brooks to show us an example for our time! 

How can we honor this man’s legacy? We can follow his example of loving people, welcoming everyone, giving generously and being genuine in our actions and words. In fact, living more like Jesus kind of sums it up and that’s exactly what Rod would tell us to do!

So, while his loss is deep and wide, I know he is with his Savior and I think he is saying, see you soon, “I will leave the light on for you”!