How do you prepare?
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus. Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping it with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.” John 12:1, 3
“Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.’” John 12:7
Today is the Monday before Easter. What was happening over 2000 years ago?
Jesus was having dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. These three siblings regularly hosted Jesus in their home. The four of them had experienced great moments of faith, grief, and miracles including the resurrection of Lazarus.
This is a week of grief and mourning for the Jesus-follower. Preparing my heart and mind is very important to me. This is a week of somber expectancy. I can’t celebrate Easter Sunday until I’ve reflected on the fact that an innocent man took on all my horrible, selfish, evil, sinful thoughts and acts and was killed on my behalf.
A few years before my Grandpa died, I discovered that he fasted and prayed for days leading up to the resurrection. I was inspired. Every year since The Passion came out on DVD, it has been our tradition to watch as a family. Our small group will meet and pray throughout the church this week.
If you knew you were going to be brutally tortured and murdered, what would you be doing the days leading up to that? Jesus had dinner with His friends. Mary was sacrificing a year’s worth of wages to worship her Savior. This is a week to draw closer to the cross. Jesus took your place. Jesus died the death that you deserved to die.
How will you prepare your heart and mind?
2 Samuel 12:13-14
“Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the word of the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”
This has always been such an interesting part of scripture to me. As you might know, this interaction comes directly after Nathan, a prophet of the Lord, confronts David about the sins he’s just committed by sleeping with another man’s wife and then having him killed to try and cover up his first mistake.
As much as anything else in this entire story; this has always preached to me the most about how sin can cloud your judgment and you can so easily begin to make excuses and justifications for your sin.
David has committed adultery and murder, and he still doesn’t get it at first; he’s still confused as to what Nathan is getting at. We can get so deeply trapped in our sins that we lose sight of how we’re to live for God. We get pushed farther and farther away from God’s will and it becomes harder and harder for us to see the way we should go or the ways we should live.
Confession isn’t usually something we talk about in the church anymore. It seems a little “outdated” or traditional for our liking. I think it’s extremely important for us to confess our sins as followers of Jesus. We can make excuses for our own sins; we can trivialize them and keep pushing them in the backseat. We all need to set up healthy places and people in our lives where we can really confess our sins. Find someone in your life, if you haven’t already, that you can trust to know the worst of you, so that they can speak grace over your life and call you to be your best.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. ” John 11:25-26 ESV
When the first grandchild was old enough, my parents started the annual Easter egg hunt on their farm. Each grandchild has 16 eggs to find in an appointed color. Once they graduate from high school, they switch from being egg hunters to egg hiders and they also find out it is way more fun to hide the eggs for their cousins than to find them! My youngest son is the lone hunter this year and the rest of the family has been planning and scheming of great hiding places for a couple of weeks. It should be a lot of fun – well, at least for us!
How do you celebrate Easter? Maybe you have spent some time planning for Easter egg hunts, candy for baskets, new clothes and a big dinner. There is nothing wrong with these things unless we let them take priority over celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and take away from teaching our families the significance of what God has done for us through Jesus.
Eggs are found, candy and meals are consumed, and new clothes become old. God’s sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross will never get old or fade away. Because of His resurrection and victory over death, if we believe, we also will live forever with Him. Now that’s worth celebrating!
Why not begin preparing for your Easter celebration by reading and reflecting on one or all of these passages over the next week:
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7.17
The image of the Shepherd-King is one of my favorite images of Jesus. As we’ve studied Psalms, these two images seem to get sandwiched together again and again. The New Testament authors follow suit, often depicting Jesus as both Shepherd and King.
Maybe my mind is polluted by Hollywood movies (actually, I know that to be true), but most images of kings are hard-hearted, cold, warriors whose main mission is conquest and accumulation of riches. They go from the battlefield to the feast table and live for conquest and fleeting pleasures.
This Shepherd-King is extremely different in how He “guides” to “springs of living water” (John 4). There are echoes of Psalm 23 and John 10 in this image. Imagine a King not bent on self-accumulation but on guiding and giving his best to his flock.
Then, there is the powerful line about “wiping away every tear from their eyes.” When I was a kid I would let my emotions run free (we stop doing this as adults, for better and for worse). Often those emotions would result in tears – tears of anger, tears of sadness, tears of joy, etc. Once a tear started to stream down my cheek, one of my parents would scoop me up or gently drape their arm over my shoulder and softly wipe the tiny droplet off of my cheek.
To think about a King with all cosmic authority and power wiping away every one of our tears is an image I cannot shake. I long for the day we meet our Shepherd-King.
What’s the first image or thought that comes to mind when you think about Jesus? AW Tozer says that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. What image or story creeps to the forefront of your mind when you hear the name, Jesus?
“Victory in Jesus”
“’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-56
We had a loss in our family recently. One of our younger members. The sting of death is very real to us as we face the sadness of being parted from the one we love. For some, death has even more of a sting because it feels like the end. It feels final – like it won and we lost. But our verse today reminds us that death doesn’t have that kind of sting anymore. It’s not the end. It’s not the winner. Jesus died, just like our loved one, but death couldn’t keep him dead. He conquered sin and its resulting death at the same time. He lives again and chooses to give us that same victory of life if we believe. And because of this we have hope. Hope that this isn’t the end of our story as we live. Hope for life after death with Jesus.
And Paul shouts joyfully, “Thank God!” (Or at least I imagine him shouting joyfully, since this is something to be excited about.) So how will you, today, thank God for the victory He has given to you over sin and death?
Joy & Wonder
Read: Luke 24:35-49 in the New Living Translation (NLT) – Read it again out loud
Think: What would you say if someone asked you to tell your story today? Would it include encounters with Jesus? Luke says that the people stood there startled and frightened and in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. To encourage their faith and calm their fears Jesus ate broiled fish in front of them, he showed them his hands and feet, and he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Where is there fear or doubt in your life? Have you brought that to God to clear up? To bring peace?
Pray: Use the below prayer as a guide and go beyond what’s written to simply converse with God.
Father, lately I’ve been fearful and doubting in these areas… I believe in you God, help me in my disbelief. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, empower me to walk as Jesus walked, so that I could bring peace and encouragement as Christ did. I love you God.
Live: Talk with one of your close friends or family members today and ask them, “How have you encountered God lately in the Word, in prayer, in a trial or event, or in community?” Listen intently and ask follow up questions. Be engaged. Don’t look at your phone or around, look them in the eyes and look for ways to encourage their walk with God in that conversation.
I Am Poor and Needy
“For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” Psalm 109:22
In our culture, we don’t enjoy thinking of ourselves as being “poor or needy.” In fact, we use that term to describe someone that takes too much of our time. Synonyms to this word are disadvantaged, destitute and underprivileged. All of these terms are negative characteristics in our eyes.
Understanding the great gaping hole that exists between you and your need for a Savior is paramount in your Jesus-following life. We need God. He is our total help for our total need.
For the past four years, I’ve taken a missions trip to New York City. Each day, we go to a different area of the city to pray and share Jesus. One day, we may be in Washington Square Park next to NY University talking with philosophers. The next day, we may be next to Wall Street talking with millionaires. The next, on a street corner in the Bronx, talking to those that financially have nothing. I must admit, I’d always rather talk to a person in the Bronx than on Wall Street. Why? Because wealth by the world’s standards has a way to cover up our desperate need for a Savior.
We like to cover our need to be rescued from our sin with the stuff that this world offers. Maybe you cover it with your job, your kid’s lives, your house, your clothes, your entertainment, your education, or your wealth.
It’s easier to see Jesus when you have nothing blocking your view of Him.
We are poor and needy. We need a Savior to rescue us from our sin every day.
What in your life is covering your desperate need for a Savior?