What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word Easter? It is probably things like…Easter Bunny, eggs, chocolate, candy, and baskets, right? But that is not what Easter is all about. Easter is all about how Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead!
The Bible says that this is the most important thing:
3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples. He betrayed Jesus by leading an army to Him. Some people did not believe Jesus was the Son of God, so they paid Judas to lead them to Jesus. Since the Romans were the only people allowed to kill prisoners, the leaders told them about Jesus claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God!
The leaders thought if Jesus was the Son of God, He could save Himself. He could have called an army of angels to save Him, but He knew that dying on the cross was the only way for us to be saved.
After beating Jesus, Roman soldiers gave Him a crown made out of thorns, made fun of Him, and made Him carry the cross they nailed Him to. Even though Jesus was perfect, He chose to die on the cross to rescue us from our sins.
Three days later on the first Easter, Jesus rose from the dead!
Mary and some other women went to the tomb to wash Jesus’ body. When they got there, though, the stone was rolled away from the tomb, and Jesus was gone. There was an angel that said, “Do not be afraid; Jesus is alive!” Mary ran because she was scared and confused. Then, she saw Jesus! He told her to tell everyone that He was alive again! He is still alive today and will always be alive!
By dying and raising from the dead, Jesus made everything new. It is almost like the world was starting all over. Everything sad could be happy. And, one day, all of the sadness will – POOF! – disappear right out of the world when Jesus comes back again!
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 Corinthians 15:3-5, 12-20
I think that Saturday’s title in Holy Week is quite misleading. “Black Saturday” sounds so terrible. But only one Saturday in the last nearly 2,000 years could be called “Black Saturday” – the one when Jesus was actually in the tomb, when the Savior of the world was dead in the grave.
The good news for us is that no Saturday – or any day for that matter – has been the same since! As we read earlier in the week, the borrowed tomb has been returned! Jesus is the only person in history to walk out of His own tomb, and, since He did, death, hell, and Satan have been defeated.
So, today, I want you to contemplate the resurrection. Tomorrow will be busy and exciting – the first Easter for a gathering of the church since 2019. As sad as it is to say, we could miss Jesus – the resurrected King of kings – in all of the hullabaloo of the holiday. May it not be so for us!
Let us use today’s verses to meditate on King Jesus and the power of His resurrection:
- (v. 3) The gospel – good news – of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection is supposed to be of “first importance” in our lives.
- (vv. 3-4) Everything that Jesus went through was “in accordance with the Scriptures”. It all happened exactly as God had planned it from before the beginning.
- (v. 14) Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the basis for our faith.
- (v. 15) Belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a non-negotiable belief for Christians. Not believing in the resurrection means not believing in Christ.
- (vv. 16-18) If Jesus stayed in the tomb, our salvation would be in there with Him. Every other religion has faith in a dead man. Our resurrected Savior continues to save and redeem!
- (v. 19) Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we have a hope that endures and lives. Hope is more than an idea or a belief; hope is a Person, and He is alive!
Today, we have a chronological reading of the events that took place on the first Good Friday from all four Gospels.
No commentary, no devotion – only His Word to describe what our sin cost and the unparalleled depth of His love.
John 18:1-2 —
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
Mark 14:32-45 —
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”
45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.
John 18:4-24 —
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.
15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17 “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
Matthew 26:57-68 —
57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”
Luke 22:54-62 —
54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Mark 15:1 —
1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
John 18:29-38 —
29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32 This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
Matthew 27:15-25 —
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
Luke 23:23-25 —
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
John 19:1-16 —
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face.
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Mark 15:21 —
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Luke 23:32-43 —
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
John 19:25-27 —
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Matthew 27:45-46 —
45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
John 19:28-30 —
28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Matthew 27:51-52 —
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Luke 23:47-49 —
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
John 19:31-37 —
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
 These passages have been quoted from the NIV84.
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30
Thursday before the cross was marked with fervent desire, great betrayal, insecure arguments, foot washing, and anguished prayer. Of course, one would expect a roller coaster of emotions on the eve of the Son of God’s death.
The anticipation of a thing can often be worse than the thing itself, but, unfortunately, that was not the case for Jesus the Messiah. He knew exactly what was awaiting Him in the coming hours, yet He said, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
That emotionally charged Thursday before the cross found Jesus and His apostles celebrating the Passover meal. During that last supper, the Lord gave instructions that would unify the people of God for all time. By using the timing of the Passover, Jesus reached all the way back to Exodus and the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. He also unlocked the secret of the New Covenant, prophesied by Jeremiah, to those who drank of the cup after supper. The New Covenant, in His blood, is the one covenant for all God’s people – “for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12). Jesus also stretches forward throughout the entire church age by giving believers the mandate to “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). Jesus brings all His people together.
Thursday before the cross was the night that Jesus taught His apostles about the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit. His teaching on that night is the most extensive teaching on the Holy Spirit in all of God’s Word. Jesus fearlessly juxtaposed His own departure and death with the arrival and work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go the Counselor will not come to you. If I go I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
Jesus is the perfect model of grace under pressure, and He did not shirk His responsibility to teach His people about the Holy Spirit, who would continue His ministry in His place: “The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26). Jesus is our Teacher, especially when the lesson is costly.
The Thursday before the cross is often called Maundy Thursday. It is called this because Jesus, before He was mocked, tried, and crucified, commanded His people to take love to a whole new level. Love has always been a great virtue in the Scripture, but never had the bar been raised so high as when Jesus said,
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
To love as Jesus loves is the highest ethical standard in the universe. Jesus, facing His final hours, stands firm as our Commander and King and declares a life-giving mandate that has changed the world. All that has been done – and all that will be done – through the inspiration of the love of Jesus will be the shining glory in the crown of our great God and Savior. Jesus is Lord. And His law is love.
Thursday before the cross demonstrates why Jesus is so worthy of our worship. The Son of God did not seek out selfish indulgences or hide out in isolation, pouting, on the night before His death. Jesus chose to unite His people, teaching them to rely on the Holy Spirit, while raising the ethical bar of love through the roof.
Jesus is awesome!
Will you worship Jesus today? Will you look at the One who set Himself aside for you and say, “Thank you, Lord! Help me obey your command, Lord! Unite Your people, Lord!” It is Thursday before the cross. Follow Jesus!
1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.Luke 22:1-6
Here it is, Wednesday, midway through the last week of the Jesus’ life here on earth. It began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with crowds proclaiming: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) The chief priests and scribes were not pleased with this. Then, Jesus headed to the Temple to clean house, not with a broom but a whip, driving out animals and turning over tables. To say the least, the chief priests and scribes were really unhappy with Him. And we have seen that Jesus’ teaching in the temple and at Simon’s house showed the true colors of the chief priests, Pharisees, scribes and, well, let us just say everyone, especially the religious leaders. It was to the point that they “plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him” (Matthew 26:4).
And we have seen the entrance of Judas Iscariot into the events of Holy Week. What was it that caused Judas to seek a way to betray Jesus? What do we know about Judas?
He is named among the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:4). His father was Simon Iscariot (John 6:71). He was referred to by Jesus as “a devil” (John 6:70-71), referencing his coming betrayal. He was a thief (John 12:6). Ultimately, there is not much information on possibly one of the most infamous people in all of history.
We have already seen that it is likely that the root of his betrayal of Jesus was simply the love of money. Remember, Judas was the one who was indignant that the expensive perfume was poured out on Jesus rather than being sold to feed the poor (John 12:4-6). And any money that was given to Jesus’ ministry was in the money box that Judas kept and profited from.
Here is the truth of the matter, whatever his motives: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Judas had a heart problem. His heart was tied up in money – a thief left in charge of the money box. That heart problem – just like in each of our lives – made an easy target for Satan to tempt Judas. Certainly, Judas was aware that the religious leaders were looking for a way to kill Jesus. The religious leaders began much earlier in Jesus’ ministry, “but the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him” (Matthew 12:14). This was while John the Baptist was in prison. It was no secret that the religious leaders had a hatred for Jesus.
We are told in James 1:13-15 several important things to keep in mind regarding Judas: 1) God does not tempt, 2) each person is tempted when lead by his own desire, and 3) desire brings sin and, ultimately, death. Judas became the instrument of Satan, enticed by his own desire to have riches here on earth. To be precise, thirty pieces of silver (about five weeks of wages) was all Judas’ loyalty cost the religious leaders (Matthew 26:15).
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Judas did not begin following Jesus with a desire to betray Jesus. Somewhere along the line, his own desires got the best of him. How hard is it for us to not also fall in step with Judas? Each one of us reading this has desires of our own, desires that can lead us to follow God with our whole heart. We also have desires that can lead us into destruction.
The question for each one of us to answer as we live each day – and, particularly, through this Holy week – is this: what will I do with Jesus? Will I follow Jesus with my whole heart? Will I believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead and confess Jesus as Lord? Will I choose to submit my desires to Jesus and follow His leading?
We are standing on the edge of the abyss, just a step away from choosing wrong. Choose well. Choose Jesus.
1 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill Him. 2 “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”
3 While He was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on His head. 4 But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor. And they began to scold her.
6 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. 7 You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”Mark 14:1-9 (CSB)
It is Tuesday. Jesus is two days from His arrest, three days from His body being beaten and nailed to a cross, and five days from returning the borrowed tomb. And where do we find Jesus? He is reclining at the dinner table with friends, having His body prepared for burial, while His enemies dream up a CIA-style plan to take His life. Did you catch the irony? Jesus’ enemies are dreaming up a plan to take His life, but His body is already being prepared for burial!
Let us take a look at these two seemingly-contradictory scenes. Mark begins by laying out how secretive the chief priests and scribes were being in concocting a plan to arrest and kill Jesus (vv. 1-2). Picture your favorite spy movie: plans being drawn up, people training and being put in place, equipment being ordered, and every detail planned to a “T”. The perfect plan is put in place and…BOOM! The trap is laid, and the person gets caught. Of course, several things go wrong in the mean-time with the main character nearly being killed three or four times.
The difference here is that the main character is the One being sought and is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The chief priests and the scribes know this because they do not want to put their plan in action during the festival “so that there won’t be a riot among the people” (v. 2). Very cunning indeed….
Now that we know what is going on behind the scenes, let us see what was happening in the foreground. Jesus is at Simon the leper’s house and is enjoying a meal among friends. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simon, and His disciples are there (John 12:1-3). They are reclining at the table when, all of a sudden, Mary pulls out a vial of pure nard, breaks it open, and pours it on Jesus’ head and feet (v. 3). She begins to wipe His feet with her hair (John 12:3).
The perfume she anoints Jesus with would have cost her a year’s worth of wages. It was expensive, pure, and left a wonderful fragrance all throughout the house. Everything about this scene exclaims Mary’s humility, devotion, and worship in the presence of the King of kings. Each time we encounter Mary in the Scriptures, we find her at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38–42; John 11:31–32; 12:1–8). What a great example Mary leaves for believers! Unfortunately, her example did not rub off on everybody.
In verse 4, we find some of the people “indignant” with Mary’s “wasted” charity. John tells us the main instigator is Judas (John 12:4), and John 12:6 tells us that Judas “didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” Much like us, Judas’s temptation did not start with betraying the Son of God but with little compromises and sins. For him, it started with taking a little money off the top here and there. His love of money began to grow to the point he was upset when he lost a chance to steal more (vv. 4-5). Eventually, his love of money would lead him to betray the Son of God (Mark 14:10).
We know that “the love of money is A root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). I add emphasis to the word “a” because there are several roots of evil. Galatians 5:19-21 give us a glimpse of these, saying that “the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.” Each of us are affected by one or more of them.
Yes, we are all affected by one or more of the works of the flesh, but look at how Jesus brings these seemingly, contradictory scenes together. He says, “Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her…? …[y]ou always have the poor with you…you do not always have Me” (vv. 6-7). In a few simple words, Jesus rebukes the evil, praises Mary’s worship of Him, and puts the entire situation into the correct perspective! He explains that Mary has her priorities straight – the poor will always be here to be ministered to, but Jesus is about to fulfill His mission and ascend back to the Father.
You see, Jesus had but one mission when coming to earth, and that was to save us from our sins. In verse 8, Jesus says, “she has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial.” Although the chief priests and scribes are plotting ways to kill Him, and others arguing over a lost opportunity to steal, Jesus is singularly focused on His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.
The completion of Jesus’s mission on earth is but a couple of days away, but YOU need to understand that YOU – saving your soul – is His mission!
We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and have all earned death because of that sin, but “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). All you have to do is call on His Name today to be saved: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Whether you are a chief priest, a scribe, or a Judas, you WILL BE SAVED and enjoy Him forever if only you will repent of your sin and believe in Him! “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)!
If you are a Mary, remain at the feet of Jesus, rest in Him, and enjoy Him forever!
12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those who were selling doves. 13 “It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
14 The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”
17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where He spent the night.Matthew 21:12-17 (NIV84)
Jerusalem was a busy place. Thousands had traveled there to celebrate Passover. The city had overflowed into the surrounding communities, and, again, there was no room at the inn. Jesus left the city at night and stayed in Bethany. But, in the morning, he returned to everyone’s focus, the Temple.
The Temple of God in Jerusalem was high and lifted-up, literally. It stood on a hill, and, as you approached its walls, you went up. As you entered each court you went up. The highest place was the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle where God’s presence appeared. There, one could find peace and forgiveness and hope. But, unfortunately, that was not what Jesus found when He entered the temple that day.
He found a marketplace where they were changing money and selling animals intended for sacrifice, not realizing the perfect sacrifice had just entered the Temple. What was Jesus’ reaction?
So He made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.John 2:15 (NIV84)
Jesus was indignant. His Father’s house was to be a place of prayer and worship, and they had turned it into a den of thieves. In His righteous anger, He kicked them all out. Then, He continued ministering to those in need. He healed the blind and lame who came to Him while the praise of the children rang out saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David”.
We no longer have the Temple in Jerusalem. It was destroyed nearly 2000 years ago, but we still have Jesus. And we have His church, the body of Christ, who meets to pray and worship and serve. But what about the temple? Well, it has become new – in fact, we are the temple.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV84)
How does that make you feel? Is God’s temple in you a house of prayer? Were you aware that God’s Spirit lives in you?
As we approach Easter, it is a good time to consider God’s temple in us. Maybe, there are some things that need to be driven out. Or, maybe, someOne is to be let in.
From the first dramatic demonstrations of Jesus’ miracle-working power, the crowds wanted to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:15). Their intent, of course, was for Him to be a king of their own liking who would fulfill their own aspirations of deliverance from the yoke of Rome. But the Lord consistently refused to be that kind of king and perform that kind of deliverance. His coronation processional into Jerusalem the day before was marked by simplicity rather than pomp – humility rather than splendor. He was not accompanied by influential dignitaries and a powerful army but by unarmed, powerless nobodies, just as He had predicted.
18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death 19 and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!”Matthew 20:18-19 (NIV84)
Jesus did not come as a military, economic, political, or social savior from injustice and oppression. These are not man’s greatest problem; our greatest problem is sin. Jesus came as the spiritual Savior from sin and death.
He would soon demonstrate that “He had come not to reign but to die, not to be crowned but to be crucified, and not for the purpose of delivering Israel from the power of Rome but of delivering all men from the power of sin.”
His second coming will deal with all those other problems, but, before He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords, He had to come as Savior.
So, I leave you on this Monday of Holy Week to consider something for yourself: is He my Savior?
 John F. MacArthur Jr., Matthew, Volume 3, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 266.
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”Matthew 21:1-11
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.Revelation 3:20
It’s Palm Sunday – the anniversary of what is known as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is how Jesus’ last week on earth began, with people shouting “Hosanna!” and praising Him while celebrating His entrance into Jerusalem. The city streets were packed and overwhelmed with crowds of people waiting for His arrival.
This is usually the way that Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter) goes for the Church. For most of my lifetime and many years prior to it, it has been the busiest time for churches – Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday, in a typical year, would see crowds cheerfully gathering in church buildings, dressed in bright, pastel colors, and joyfully singing and celebrating the Resurrection. But this past year has been anything but typical.
2020 saw church buildings empty or nearly empty on Easter Sunday. At Christ Community, we gathered in the rain with services led under the front porch and people praising through cracked windows or huddled under umbrellas; it was the best we could do to gather (separately) at the beginning of the pandemic. We then hurried home in fearful anticipation of the coming storms that knocked out power for many and damaged homes for others. It did not feel like Easter. But, maybe, that was what we needed to truly grasp what it means to cry “hosanna” to the King Jesus as we await His second coming!
This may seem overly simplistic, but we have had a unique opportunity to truly grasp the need for Easter, and, specifically on this Palm Sunday, to live out this out. “Hosanna” is an Aramaic cry/shout of praise. It means “Help! I pray!” or “Save! I pray!”. Somewhere through the passage of time, that cry for help or salvation became a cry that meant “praise be to God!” Think about it: God’s people cried out to Him for help and salvation, He helped/saved them time and again, and they praised Him out of a spirit of thanksgiving. This happened enough in their history that it formed part of their culture so that their cries for help transformed into shouts of praise.
That is what we needed for Easter 2020 and every other day, week, and year of our lives. It is what we need today.
If we have learned anything this past year, it is that life is precious, and that time spent together is too. We cannot look to Capital Hill for salvation or trust in a stimulus. We need to look to the hill called Golgotha – the place of the skull where the celebrated King died for in our place. We need to trust in the Savior who answered the cries of “Help us, we pray! Save us!” in the form of “Hosanna!”, even when the people knew not what they were saying. After all, He knows what we need, and only He can carry us through because He has been through it Himself.
God is clear in His Word that He has made a Way for us (John 14:6) so that we can be saved from our sins. If we trust in Him as Savior, He takes our sins and trades it for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is quite a trade off!
There is perhaps no greater image for God inviting us to Himself than that of Him standing at a door and knocking (Revelation 3:20), especially coming out of a year when many of us have neither visited others nor received visitors ourselves. But, our whole lives have been interrupted by a virus, we need to rejoice in the fact that Christ is, in fact, immune – it cannot kill Him because He has already died and risen from the grave!
So, on this Palm Sunday, I invite you to look toward the coming of the King. This time, He will not be riding a donkey into a crowded street. No, this time, He will come in all His glory and resurrected divine splendor and bring His people home. But there is good news for us even while we wait: He has promised that He is with us “always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:24).
Cry out to Him – “Hosanna!” Call upon His name and pour out your heart saying “Help me, I pray! Save me!” And know that He hears you and will save all who cry out to Him (Romans 10:13).
Easter is almost here!
The week leading up to Easter is known as Holy Week, starting Palm Sunday and featuring days like Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We have produced a seven day devotional reading guide to help you focus your hearts on King Jesus and His death and resurrection.
This reading guide is an opportunity to spend time reading God’s Word and meditate on what He has done for us! You can access the reading guide below, free of charge:
Thanks, God bless you, and Happy Easter!
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