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Resurrection Sunday: Jesus is Raised from the Dead
Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-13; Luke 24:1-43; John 20:1-29
The culmination of all of these days leading up to Resurrection Sunday should result in the unfettered release of all our built up anticipation. This is the day that we really rejoice because without the resurrection, there would be no hope for eternity. Christ had to die to pay the penalty for our sins, but this alone does not deal with the inevitable outcome of our mortal bodies that we will also eventually die. Jesus, by His own power, rose up from the grave, conquered death, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This is the culmination of the gospel, the good news that we can be restored, not back to the Garden of Eden, but to a greater and eternal Kingdom where we are made joint heirs with Christ to rule and reign with Him forever.
The account of Jesus’ resurrection should bolster our faith as we think of the many eye witness accounts of the risen Christ. Even the story of Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Lord should encourage us. After many, including all of the other ten apostles, had seen Jesus alive, Thomas is adamant that he will not believe until he sees with his own eyes and touches Jesus with his own hands. When Jesus enters the room where they were all waiting, He is gentle with Thomas and makes this grand proclamation, knowing that He is about to return to heaven, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
It is easy for us to judge Thomas, just as we have judged the rest of the disciples and everyone else that seemed to miss the plain teachings of Jesus, but we have to realize the real struggle that we all have in coming to faith. Paul tells us in the epistle to the Romans that we actively, ‘suppress the truth’ even when it is plainly manifested in front of us. (Romans 1:19) Pilate used a clever dodge when he asked Jesus a very philosophical question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Truth was standing right in front of him and he could not acknowledge it.
Let us take today, to not only rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and all that it means for those of us who have faith in Christ, but also to thank God that He has given sight to our blind eyes and life to our dead spirit so that we might see and believe in the way, the truth, and the life.
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Saturday: Jesus is Buried
Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42
The day after Jesus died would have been extremely quiet. For everyone who attending Jesus’ trial and execution, there would have been an uneasy feeling. Even the centurion, tasked with crucifying Jesus, was astounded by Jesus. (Matthew 27:54) The Bible does not tell us what happened with the disciples after Jesus died. For fear of their own lives, they probably kept themselves hidden. There was one follower of Jesus who was not embarrassed to show public loyalty. Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and requested Jesus’ body for burial and just as Jesus had come into this world wrapped in swaddling clothes in a rented manger, so He would end His life wrapped in burial clothes in a borrowed tomb.
The Pharisees were not satisfied with their gruesome victory. They went to Pilate and complained that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead, and they did not want Jesus’ disciples getting any ideas, so they set up a guard over the tomb. Ironically enough, the Pharisees remembered Jesus’ teachings, while His disciples seemed to forget what He had just told them days before.
As we reflect on this quiet day, maybe it would be best if we take some quiet as well to reflect back on the stories leading up to Christ’s death. Not only had Jesus claimed multiple times that He would have to die and rise again, but the whole of the Old Testament was leading up to this point where the Messiah would come and save the world. Did the disciples really think that God’s plan could be thwarted by a few corrupt leaders? How often do we forget that God’s plans are always perfect and that He will always keep His word?
In many ways, we are still living in this Saturday. Sure, the resurrection has brought us to newness of life and the Body of Christ continues its work through the Church, but we are still in a time of waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled. Fortunately, we have a hopeful anticipation based on the promises of God that we can be certain He will fulfill.
Let us spend today looking forward to that glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
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Good Friday: Jesus’ Death on the Cross
Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-37
The day that Jesus suffered, bled, and died would forever be known as ‘Good Friday.’ To an outsider of Christianity, this may seem morbid and repulsive, but for those of us who know the value of what was accomplished on that cross, we can say as Paul says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
While many Christians will spend this day beating themselves up thinking about the details of Christ’s suffering, we are provided a new perspective on how we ought to think of the cross. When we come to communion, which Jesus instituted for His followers the night before He died, we take time to reflect on how Jesus’ body was broken for us, just as He broke the bread. This is where we confess our sins and remember the wrath of God which was poured out on Jesus on our behalf. When we get to the picture of Christ’s blood, we no longer sorrow, but rejoice that God has made provision for us to be cleansed and forgiven, no longer deserving the wrath of God.
So, just as Jesus and the disciples would have concluded the Passover meal with a joyful song of praise, let us spend this ‘Good Friday’ rejoicing that “It is finished!”
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Maundy Thursday: The Day Before Jesus Died
Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-11
It is interesting to note how Jesus spent His final day with His disciples. This would have been a traditional day during the Passover week when the people of Israel would have gathered together to remember how God had provided salvation for them from slavery in Egypt. The details of this story shout off of the pages for those of us looking back into these events with Jesus and His disciples, but it was not so clear to anyone else at that time.
There are so many details to cover in this text that I simply want to rush ahead to the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane. After washing His disciples’ feet, sharing the Pass-over meal with them, and praying over them for their safety, Jesus travels out to a garden to pray for Himself. All He asks is that His disciples watch and pray with Him, but they do not recognize the importance of the time and they quickly fall asleep. Three times Jesus returns to them, but they do not seem to understand the importance of His request.
What is still very difficult for us to understand is the amount of suffering that Jesus was going through in this moment. Yes, Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man, and it is in His humanity that He was crying out to His heavenly Father in agony, knowing that there was no other way to save mankind. Luke tells us that an angel came to strengthen His spirit (Luke 22:43), but there was no earthly comfort for His flesh. There would be no relief for the physical suffering that Jesus would have to face. He would feel every blow, every thorn, and every muscle ache as He gasped for air.
Let us not think for a moment that we could rise above the level of the disciples. No one could comfort Jesus during this time. He had to face our penalty on His own. This lonely road was necessary because there was no one who could walk with Him. So instead of looking down on the disciples for failing to grasp the gravity of what was happening, let us instead take this somber time to reflect on why Jesus had to suffer alone.
Just as Jesus asked the disciples to watch and pray with Him, let us take this day to truly reflect on the details of these events leading up to the cross and pray to our heavenly Father in gratitude that He made a way through His Son for us to be saved when there was no other way.
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Wednesday: The Council to Kill Jesus
Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16; Mark 14:1-2, 10-11; Luke 22:1-6; John 11:45-57, 12:9-10
The Gospels give us very little detail to the events of the fourth day of Passover. We know that Jesus made his trek back into Jerusalem and continued to teach, which further infuriated the Pharisees. That night they gathered together in secret and plotted how they could kill Him, but they knew that they could never take Him publicly and they would need a foolproof plan to quickly eliminate Jesus. There would be no turning back once the ball was in motion.
As much as the Pharisees feared Jesus, what they really feared was losing control of the people. Jesus had been building a following of avid disciples for three years. The Pharisees sought every possible way imaginable to trap Jesus. They sent their own disciples to ask Him about the most controversial issues of the day, hoping that Jesus would falter and the people would turn on Him.
In our day, it is easy to disassociate from the Pharisees because we like to side with the hero of the story, but the reality is that when the Pharisees finally placed Jesus on trial, there was no one to defend Him. Even though Jesus fed thousands on the hillside, healed hundreds, and entertained cheering audiences, the Pharisees still had more followers and they were willing to lie and cheat to get their own way.
Before we categorically disregard the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, let us take into perspective what would happen if Jesus were to show up on the scene in our time and culture. Jesus probably would not take to the airwaves, but his attackers would be on every mainstream news media. Jesus would want to speak at your Church, but the critics in the audience would take the whole fellowship hour to discredit what He said.
Let us take this day to reflect on how easy it is to follow the loudest voice instead of listening to that still, small voice (I Kings 19:12) that God uses to speak to our spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Let us take our time to read the details of how Jesus taught and responded to the Pharisees in His teachings and His rebukes.