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The Final Week: Resurrection Sunday

The Final Week: Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection Sunday

Today’s Reading: Matthew 28:1-20


It’s likely that if you grew up in church this story has become familiar. After all, this one moment in time is the linchpin for our entire Christian faith. I would even guess that you’ve heard this story so many times that you’ve lost the sense of wonderment you once had. I pray the next few paragraphs will restore the awe and amazement this account deserves. 

But before we jump ahead to death made alive again, it is necessary that we go back….back to the garden. 

Genesis 1 & 2 paints a picture of Adam and Even dwelling in the Garden of Eden with God. Adam and Eve lived in the garden and God was there with them. Adam and Even could see God. They could hear God. In the garden life was glorious. There was never anything sad and never anything bad, stressful, hurtful or unnerving. Today we live in a world filled with brokenness, hurt, sadness and heartache so I have a hard time imagining a world that is only full of joy and happiness but that is exactly what the garden was. 

Once sin entered the world Adam and Even were forced to leave the garden and every human born after that point would be separated from God’s perfect place because of sin. Mankind would, from then on, live in a world jammed full of wretchedness, depravity and sorrow which is exactly where we find ourselves today. Our own sin separates us from the holiness of God and the perfect place where He dwells. 

On the cross, Jesus took our sin. As the once and for all sacrifice, He took the punishment we deserved so that we could inherit the righteousness of Christ. However, as staggering as that reality is, that isn’t the final word. 

Revelation 21:1-4 tells us that Jesus is coming back. The day is coming where once again God will dwell with His people. He will restore the beauty of His creation and His people will walk with Him and talk with Him. We will behold His glory and see His face. 

Because Jesus died and rose again we know that those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ we will one day dwell with God in His perfect place. 

Amidst all the usual Easter tradition and celebration, let us not fail to remember that because Jesus got up from the grave, we will one day dwell in His presence for eternity in a place of complete joy and happiness.

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Final Week: Holy Saturday

The Final Week: Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27: 62-66


Five verses. We only see this particular aspect of the story in the first of the four canonical gospels. Not only do we see it just this once, we are only given five brief verses to summarize the entire scene. The brevity of the description leaves me wanting more.

Darkness has covered the land during the daylight hours. The curtain of the temple has been torn from top to bottom. The earth has shaken with a violence so powerful the rocks were split. The body of our Lord lies mutilated and disfigured inside a stone cave. Jesus Christ…the Expected Messiah is dead.

I imagine those who truly believed Jesus was the long awaited Conquering King were now dejected and dismayed beyond all comprehension. Just a few days before they were waving branches and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and now the lifeless body of The One they praised is incapacitated.

Yet even in His death, we see His immeasurable power.

The Pharisees and chief priests have seen all this take place. They know full well that Jesus is indeed dead. Their mission has been accomplished yet we see their fear and restlessness illuminated in these five verses. They come to Pilate in a desperate attempt to remind him that Jesus said after three days He would be raised to life again. It’s almost as if they’ve realized their grave mistake and this is their last ditch effort to save face. Orders are given to make the tomb as secure as possible and a guard of soldiers are set to keep watch over the tomb.

We have the privilege of reading this story from the other side. We know that throughout history, no amount of human effort has ever thwarted the plan of God. This situation is no different.

The Final Week: Good Friday

The Final Week: Good Friday

Good Friday

Today’s Reading: John 19:1-30


These verses bring about a great feeling of mournfulness. The reality that Jesus died is hard enough but examining the details and being reminded of the cruelty He endured before His death is unsettling at best. Not only was He stripped, mocked, beaten and spit on but while these things took place, His earthly mother looked on. (John 19:25-27)

The little baby she once felt gently kicking her tummy was now mangled beyond recognition. The toddler whose chubby fingers she held as unsteady legs learned to walk was now before her, gasping for breath. The hair of the little boy she lovingly ruffled was now drenched in blood and matted to his forehead.

I can’t help but mentally put myself in the place of Mary and my heart aches. My thoughts spiral out of control and I begin to feel a sense of sorrow and hopelessness. The moment breeds helplessness. Like an actor gone off script and drastically altering the story end. It feels like this wasn’t supposed to happen. I want to stop reading so my mind will cease to create mental images of the scene but I push through the grimness of the verses because I know John 19:30 is right around the corner.

“he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

In this moment, Jesus is every bit as in control as He has been in the days before. He isn’t a helpless victim being acted upon out of cruelty. His life wan’t viciously taken from Him at the hands of unmerciful sinners. He is the Lord and He is in complete control. In these horrific moments He was literally sustaining the very breath of the men who were nailing Him to the cross.

Do not allow the tragic details of Good Friday to cause you to forget Jesus is Lord! As a beautiful display of His love for us and an act of complete obedience to His Heavenly Father, He willingly surrendered His life. And while His appearance is currently far from majestic, our story is far from over.

The Final Week: Maundy Thursday

The Final Week: Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Today’s Reading: Mark 14:12-26


Today is Maundy Thursday. Taken from the Latin word Mandatum meaning “command” or “mandate.” In John’s account of the day Jesus gives his disciples a new command on the night before his death.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

I’ve read these verses many times but recently saw them through a different lens. Here we see Jesus at the Passover, sharing a meal in an upper room with His disciples. When we read another account of the same story in the book of John we see Jesus give the new command to His disciples.

On this night the disciples have had a meal with Jesus. (Matthew 26:26) Jesus has shown the full extent of His love for them. (John 13:1) As an act of service, Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples. (John 13:5) The disciples have prayed with Jesus (Matthew 26: 26) and sang worship songs with Him. (Matthew 26:30)

There is no doubt in my mind that the relationship between Jesus and His disciples runs deep. His love for them is on full display throughout the pages of scripture. But we must not forget that Judas (the one who betrays Jesus) is counted among the group. Jesus loves Judas deeply. Jesus serves Judas with humility. Jesus calls Judas “friend” in Matthew 26:50 and Jesus ultimately lays down His life for those He loves.

Christ knew all along that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Judas would hand Him over to the chief priests for a measly thirty coins. He knew that Judas would eventually become his enemy and yet He loved Him. This is the kind of love I can’t wrap my mind around yet it is also the kind of love Christ calls us to.

Who are you in conflict with right now? Who is making your life hard? Who in your life has done you wrong? Who has hurt you? May God grant us the grace to love our enemies well just as Christ displayed His love for those that would hurt Him.

The Final Week: Holy Wednesday

The Final Week: Holy Wednesday

Holy Wednesday

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:6-15


If I were allowed to only choose one verse in scripture to deem my favorite, I would choose Luke 7:47 everyday of the week.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47

As a young girl I loved this story but as a grown woman, I find the simplicity of these verses strangely profound. The image of Jesus relaxing with His closest companions intrigues me in light of the fact that He knows His earthly life will end in the next two days. However, for me, the focal point of this story is the woman and her unassailable devotion to the Lord.

Having lived in Middle Eastern countries for years, I know this culture well. Whenever gatherings like this take place, men and women are segregated. Men would gather in one house, location or room and women would gather in a completely different location. The idea of a woman entering the “men’s room” is mind-blowing. But the story becomes even more staggering when you realize this woman not only entered a room full of men, she entered a room comprised of religious leaders and disciples.

I have no doubt that all eyes were on her as she entered. She then took the alabaster flask and broke it open. John 12:3 tells us the fragrance of the ointment filled the house, drawing even more awkward attention to her unwelcome presence. Yet despite the unwanted attention and the demeaning stares, she continued to anoint her Lord. Her willingness to go against social, religious and cultural norms to make it to the feet of Jesus is powerful testimony of the love she had for her Savior.

May we be a people that pursue Christ and worship Him wholeheartedly despite how it is perceived by the world around us.


The Final Week: Holy Tuesday

The Final Week: Holy Tuesday

Holy Tuesday

Today’s Reading: Math 21:23-27


Upon reading this passage I am immediately taken back to my childhood. Sitting criss-cross applesauce on the cold floor, gathered around a flannel board as the Sunday school teacher pulls out an Americanized cartoon cutout of Jesus. She sticks the cartoon Jesus to the board and begins to surround him with a large crowd of felt cutout people, eagerly waiting to hear the superlative words that are coming from His mouth. In my seven year old mind, the crowd is gathered out of anticipation. I always thought this story was a picture of the wisdom and majesty of Christ and a crowd of people eager to hear what He has to say when in fact, that isn’t the complete story.

Jesus spends the entire day in the temple and indeed a large crowd has gathered but their chief purpose isn’t learning, it’s interrogation. We see in today’s reading that the chief priests, scribes and elders (the religious leaders of the day) have joined forces together and are coming to Jesus, confronting Him in the midst of a large crowd. They demanded to know what kind of authority Jesus had to be driving out the vendors in the temple court, teaching the people inside the temple walls and accepting the, “Hosanna” praises of the crowd just days before. They then asked, “And who gave you this authority?” which was an indirect way of saying Jesus had no authority at all because they had not given it to Him.

On this day I begin to feel the tension mount. Although I know well the victory that is to come, my stomach knots as I read the historical account of the heightened animosity. How ironic that the very ones who should have been the greatest promoters of the Messiah were, in fact, the greatest opposers of the Messiah.

Today is the last time we see Jesus teach publicly as a free man. He will soon bear the full weight of the Father’s wrath. In the days ahead He will be “delivered up according to the foreknowledge of God” and be “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) Everything seems to be spiraling out of control as if evil will momentarily get the upper hand, but God is sovereign over all the moments and directs the spirals for His glory.

The Final Week: Holy Monday

The Final Week: Holy Monday

Holy Monday

Today’s Reading: Mark 11:15-18

Jesus Clears the Temple


 

As a school teacher, one of my many jobs is to quite a noisy crowd so when I read this passage my mind is immediately drawn to the authority of Christ. This scene takes place in Jerusalem during the time of Passover meaning thousands of pilgrims had come to the city to celebrate the week long festival and commemorate Israel being brought out of Egypt. (Exodus 12)

The temple was the place where people would come to pray, worship and offer sacrifice to the Lord. Seizing the opportunity to make a little extra money, vendors had set up tables in the temple courts for people to purchase sacrificial animals. It reminds me of the popcorn vendors at the circus. “Cattle! Cattle for sale!” The problem being…this was the house of the Lord, a holy place of worship set apart for the people of God. I equate it to the idea of someone trolling up and down the aisles during church service selling Bibles & worship albums. The scene is nauseating.

Jesus enters and upon seeing the merchants hawking their wares the authority of Christ is put on display and the vast crowd turns its attention to Him. He fashions a whip out of cords and uses it to drive out the animals. (verse 15) He turns the tables over and coins go sailing through the air while rebuking the men for turning a place of worship into a convenient store. His full power is on display.

John 1:29 tells us that Jesus is the lamb of God but I can’t read this story without being reminded of Revelation 5:5 where Jesus is called, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” We do serve a God who is gentle, long suffering, kind and patient but we also serve a God who is strong, powerful, authoritative and dangerous.

-HE is the one no army can stand against.

-HE is the one no enemy can defeat.

-HE is the one that overcame death.

-HE is the final authority.

The Final Week: Palm Sunday

The Final Week: Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday

Today’s Reading: Matthew 21:1-11


This passage begins with Jesus at the height of his Earthly popularity. News of Him raising Lazarus from the dead had gone viral and just as we do in the 21st century, a crowd had gathered to see firsthand what all the hype was about. The anticipation built as the electrified crowd began to take off their coats and lay them on the ground in honor of the long awaited king. Others began cutting Palm branches from nearby trees and waving them in the air as a symbol of victory. (Revelation 7:9) Their king had finally arrived and the intensity of the crowd could  be felt as their plea for help rang throughout the dusty streets, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”*

The mental imagery brings visions of fanatical celebration yet when we read the same story again through the eyes of Luke, two chapters later (Luke 19:28-42) we are given new information. 

 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” Luke 19:41

In the very midst of this messianic celebration we get a glimpse of Christ taking the first literal step toward his impending death.  And, while we can’t forget his deity, we often forget his humanity. We forget that He experienced all the emotion of one robed in flesh. He wept over Jerusalem showing his compassion for the guilty city and His strong sense of the evil that was to come, yet out of obedience to His Father, he pressed on, knowing full well the horror that awaited Him in the coming days. 

What an interesting paradox. The crowd crying out for a warrior king yet all the while, failing to understand that this was the Servant King-brandishing a weapon so powerful that it would overcome death. 

Today as we sing our, “Hosannas” may it remind us of the cruel cross that Christ willingly walked toward and cause us to celebrate the death HE overcame once and for all. 

*Taken from the Hebrew word hoshi’a na & the Greek word (h)osanna which means “Save!” and is a literal cry for help. 

The Final Week

The Final Week

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

In an effort to turn my own heart towards the beauty of Holy Week, I’ve written eight devotions to walk our family through the final days of Christ in the flesh. Each devotion has a Scripture reading for the day, a short devotion to accompany the reading as well as a family worship guide designed for families with young children.

Tomorrow I will post the first of eight devotions and continue to post one a day until we’ve celebrated Resurrection Sunday on April 21st.

I pray my efforts will draw our attention to the beauty of our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Happy Easter!

Embracing the Wait

Embracing the Wait

Our youngest recently celebrated his fifth birthday. The grandeur and revelry I firmly believe should accompany any birthday celebration failed to exist.

He gave hilariously detailed instructions outlining his ideal celebration.

No party. No cake. No birthday song. No decorations. He simply requested lunch at Chili’s because they have tablets on the tables for guests to play.

In my 14+ years of mommydom I can’t recall a more effortless birthday celebration. #momwin

He was delighted to get money in the mail from his grandmothers and immediately wanted to search Amazon for the fishing pole he’d dreamt about.

He chose this one and I promised to order it later that week because I had other things I needed from Amazon and wanted to order them all together.

The next day his affection for the superior online fishing pole was replaced by a desperation to have a fishing pole right now. Despite my numerous attempts to convince him to wait, he caved and spent his birthday money on a cheap, plastic, Spider Man fishing pole. 

Less than 24 hours later the Spider Man fishing pole was lying on the floor, broken and no longer useful. I was bothered by his unwillingness to wait on something better. If he’d only been patient for the Amazon delivery he would have had a fishing pole that was far superior to the cheap imitation he insisted on having.

I climbed high up on my mommy soapbox and began to gently explain to my five year old why he should have waited. I reminded him that his new fishing pole was now broken and useless because he was unwilling to wait on something far better.

I needed him to see the foolishness of his decision so my well crafted mommy lecture was in full swing when I felt the Lord gently remind me, that I’m not that different from my five year old.

I don’t like to wait. I like to take matters into my own hands and solve problems myself. When the Lord doesn’t move as quickly as I’d like or in the way I need Him to, I am tempted to cave in desperation and settle for a cheap imitation of something far better.

“O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8)

Waiting can be grueling. It can be all the more difficult when there are no guarantees that our waiting will ever end in this life. Desires we have, prayers we’ve prayed for so long or news we’ve been waiting to hear can tempt us to be impatient, discouraged, to worry or  to wonder if God really cares. But….

“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” -Charles Stanley

Running ahead of God and choosing not to embrace the waiting season can seem like a good idea in the moment but often times can leave us with a fishing pole that’s broken and useless when a much greater option was on the horizon.

I don’t want the broken fishing pole, I want what’s out on the horizon so today I choose to embrace the wait.