I just wanted to take a quick minute on this Easter evening to thank the many Wildwood artists (young and older) who donated their skills to illustrating the art for the Lent Devotionals this year. For the past two months, we have been blessed daily by their gifts. Join me in praising God for how He used their contribution to focus our hearts on Christ in the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
I would also like to thank the staff of our children’s ministry, most notably Eileen Winfrey and Brooke Harrison for their role in curating and collecting this art and posting it each morning. THANK YOU!
Death is the great equalizer.No matter where you are born, no matter how much money you have (or don’t have), no matter what language you speak, no matter how healthy you are today . . . ALL will taste death.The two common denominators for all of humanity are (1) being made in the image of God.(2) we will all die.These are two realities we have to deal with.The ironic thing is that at some level BOTH of these commonalities scare most people to death. Our fear shows up in our questions:
Who is God?Can I have a relationship with Him?
How do I avoid death?AND, what happens to me after I die?
These questions keep many up late at night.BUT, at the resurrection of Christ, BOTH QUESTIONS are answered . . . for all people!Jesus is God, so He can be known . . . and further He WANTS to be known.Jesus also triumphed over the grave, showing us the way to eternal life.The resurrection is the historical event that answers some of our deepest fears.Because of that it is somewhat ironic that in Mark 16:8, the author tells us that the disciples first emotion related to the resurrection was fear.However, empty tombs can do that to people initially.Eventually, though, empty tombs fill our hearts with hope and life and (most importantly) . . . JESUS Himself!
Question of the Day:What are the biggest fears you have in life?Is death one of them?How does the resurrection of Jesus answer our fears concerning death?
Rather than allowing Jesus’ body to hang dead upon the cross for several days, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus in a nearby tomb.Pilate granted this permission and Jesus’ body was buried by Joseph.In the process a Roman centurion, Joseph, and Mary Magdalene and another Mary all were able to see and confirm the fact that Jesus really died.This is important.Jesus did not just pass out or fall asleep.He died and was buried.The picture of Christ’s burial is echoed in Romans 6:3-4 as the Apostle Paul reminds us that all of us who have placed our faith in Christ identified with Jesus in His burial.If we trust in Christ, that means that all we have done that is worthy of God’s wrath and judgment was also buried with Christ!We are free from that body of sin.
Question of the Day: Is there any sin from your past from which you desire to be set free?How does faith in Christ make this freedom possible?
The anguish that Jesus went through on the cross was multi-faceted.The physical pain and torture of Roman crucifixion was a brutal way to die physically.The public humiliation and ridicule he went through would have been a trial emotionally.The abandonment of His disciples would have been a blow relationally.But at the moment of His death, Jesus cries out revealing the depth of His suffering SPIRITUALLY.Jesus cried out to His Father God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”This quotation from Psalm 22, demonstrated the full reality of Jesus death.In judging sin on the cross (and in a mystery hard for us to understand) there was a separation in the fellowship of God the Father and God the Son as the full wrath of God for mankind’s sin was revealed.Jesus real death paid the real penalty for our real sins.The spiritual weight of that moment is hard for us to comprehend.
Question of the Day:Do you regularly remember that our sins have consequences?Do you regularly remember that the “wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)?”Are you trusting in Jesus death on the cross to make the payment that your sins deserve?
It is sometimes difficult to be loving or patient.In fact, it is somewhat “human” to be easily irritated or selfish when we are sick, hungry, tired, or in pain.Knowing that about ourselves, we can better understand the situation with the thieves on the cross who were crucified with Jesus.One of the thieves thinks only of himself and lashes out against all around him – including Jesus.The other thief, however, remarkably defends Jesus and addresses Him with respect and faith.Jesus receives this step of faith from the thief and (in spectacular fashion) encourages, comforts, and cares for the repentant criminal by offering salvation.Jesus response is even more remarkable when you realize that the thief had NOTHING to offer Jesus, and Jesus was dealing with unfathomable mental, physical, and spiritual pain.
Question of the Day: What does the thief on the cross tell us about what is necessary for us to receive eternal life?
After hours of trials, ridicule, and beatings, Jesus is finally sent to the cross.People sentenced to crucifixion would be required to carry the crossbeam of their cross to the site of their execution.In His exhausted state, Jesus collapses under the weight of the crossbeam, so the Roman officials “draft” Simon of Cyrene to carry the crossbeam for Jesus.This is a powerfully symbolic moment.The one who was guilty was supposed to carry the crossbeam to the crucifixion site.Simon carrying that cross is symbolic of all of humanity.It was our sin and our guilt that Jesus was dying for.Simon of Cyrene’s role in this story helps drive home this point for us.As the Hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” says, “It was my sin that held Him there.”
Activity of the Day: The brutality that Jesus experienced on the cross was endured because of OUR sin, not His.Take some time to confess your sin to your heavenly Father today.
On His way to the cross, we have seen Jesus rejected by almost everyone.Judas betrayed Him.The disciples either denied Him or ran away.The Jewish religious leaders had Him arrested.Herod didn’t know what to do with Him.Pilate eventually consents to His crucifixion.In today’s passage, we see soldiers mocking Him with fake tribute and insult.All this brings to mind Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah in Isaiah 53:3-5 – “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”
Question of the Day:Have you ever felt rejected or deserted?Jesus knows how you feel!No one has ever suffered the way Christ did for you and me.He can relate to us in our sorrows.
Barabbas was a murderer.He was someone who was guilty of a crime, and someone who deserved death as a punishment.However, the Jewish people chose to have Pilate release Barabbas (the guilty) and have Jesus (the innocent) punished.This exchange is a great picture of what Jesus offers to you and me.Jesus, the perfect and innocent Son of God, offers to die in the place of you and me (sinners worthy of God’s judgment.)
Question of the Day: Do you realize that you are a sinner deserving judgment from God?Have you ever placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ who has offered to take the penalty that you sins deserve?
Pontius Pilate was accustomed to pronouncing judgement over people.As the leader in the Roman government, he would have issued verdicts and orders of execution many, many times.It is not hard to imagine that most men who were brought before him would have begged for their lives.Jesus, however, was not “most men.”Pilate was fascinated by the fact that Jesus stood mostly silent before Him in the face of serious charges.Jesus’ silence before this human judge drove home the point that the “right time” had come and He was willingly laying down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Question of the Day:Though His captors used force, they did not need it.Jesus had more than enough power to force His freedom and more than enough logic to be His own defense attorney before Pilate.But Jesus remained silent because He knew that He was headed to the cross to die for you and me.What does it tell you about Jesus that He willingly laid down His life for you?
Most of us remember our failures.We have an amazing ability to recall the full emotion of times we have been lacking.Can you imagine the sting that must have overcome Peter the moment he realized his failure in standing for Christ.The next 72 hours must have seemed like an eternity for Peter as he pondered the death of his Friend while being crushed by the fact that his last association with his Savior was swearing that he never knew the Man.Praise God, however, Friday’s failure would be overtaken by the grace of Sunday morning.
Question of the Day:What are some failures (or sins) in your life that weigh heavily on your heart?In Jesus remember . . . there is hope for forgiveness and new life!