Good Friday, April 15, 2022

Today, we have a chronological reading[1] 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.

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.

John 18:1-2

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.

Mark 14:32-45

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.

John 18:4-24

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?”

Matthew 26:57-68

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.

Luke 22:54-62

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.

Mark 15:1

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.

John 18:29-38

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!”

Matthew 27:15-25

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.

Luke 23:23-25

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.

John 19:1-16

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.

Mark 15:21

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.”

Luke 23:32-43

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.

John 19:25-27

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?”

Matthew 27:45-46

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.

John 19:28-30

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.

Matthew 27:51-52

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.

Luke 23:47-49

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.”

John 19:31-37

[1] These passages have been quoted from the NIV84.

Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022

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!

Holy (or Spy) Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 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.

Holy Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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. “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

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. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor. And they began to scold her.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. 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. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. 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!

Holy Monday, April 11, 2022

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 it’s 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.”[1]

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?

[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., Matthew, Volume 3, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 266.

Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

     “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.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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).


Holy Week 2022

We are happy to be able to provide Bible readings and devotions for Holy Week in conjunction with Christ Community Church in Grenada, MS!

Click on the link for each day below to access them:

Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022

Holy Monday, April 11, 2022

Holy Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Holy (or Spy) Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022

Good Friday, April 15, 2022

Black Saturday, April 16, 2022

For the KiddosThe Resurrection Story told by a kid for kids!

Songs for Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022

Here are our Scriptures and songs:

  • Scripture | Matthew 21:6-11

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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.”

  • Scripture | Hebrews 9:11-14

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

  • Offertory | His Mercy is More

If you have not been gathering, consider gathering with your church family again. Various variants are still issues in this prolonged pandemic, but prayerfully consider gathering in the 10:00 Bible study where there is plenty of room for social distancing and one could slip out before the worship crowd comes in for the 11:00 service.

Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here:
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I hope this week’s Bible study finds you well and safe. As I write this today, I am at home, sitting and writing where I can see out my window. Torrential winds are going to come, or they will not. A massive thunderstorm may come, or it may not. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”[2]

Jesus spoke those words as a close to the greatest sermon ever to be recorded, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). There are two reasons why I think they have come to mind right now: 1) I am trying to organize my thoughts to continue walking through the Christ-centered hymn in Colossians 1:15-23, and 2) I am a bit scared. The first reason is obvious as it is what I am doing now. The second is for many reasons. If the forecasted weather comes through, it is likely that my home could be damaged or the home of family, friends, and neighbors could be damaged. More than that, my family is with me here now, so, if the wind and the rains come, I could lose one or all of them. Yet somehow, I continue to sit here and type.

That somehow is faith – faith in the One who “upholds the universe by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), the One through Whom “all things hold together” (v. 17). And, thinking about what we are studying today and all that we have studied previously, faith is essential in understanding how it all works together. We are jaded and skeptical by nature, and it takes faith to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is in His Word. It takes faith that is birthed out of the belief that we are sinners in need of a Savior – belief that He is the only Savior, “our blessed hope…, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us” (Titus 2:13-14).

We began walking through what we are calling the Colossian hymn last week. Verses 15-17 lay the foundation for everything we are looking at today. Verse 15 tells us that Jesus is God and, rightfully, has all authority, dominion, and power. Verse 16 illustrates how there is nothing in all of Creation that can remotely hope to attain to His power and glory; in fact, all creation finds its beginning and continuation in Him. And verse 17 clarifies that everything He created is still held together by His power.

Today, we will tackle verses 18-20 and see how last week’s verses point us to the reconciliation of God and sinners like you and me.

Diving In

And He is the head of the body, the Church. (v. 18a)

One of the aspects about Jesus and beliefs about Him that I believe is often overlooked is what those beliefs mean to those who believe them versus those who do not. First and foremost, it must be understood that, while we hold that the Word of God is important and the truths it holds are of the utmost importance, God’s Word is true whether we believe it or not. For the Church, His Word is where we find everything that can be known about Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But, for the unbelieving world, it seems like foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The beginning of verse 18 helps us to see how this Colossian hymn fits into the lives of believers. Those who are saved are part of what is known as the Church, or the body of Christ. Simply put, Jesus is the head of the Church; He is, ultimately, its sole leader and guides it through His Word and His Spirit.

Look at the “and” at the beginning of this verse; it points us back to verse 17 which says that “He is before all things” and “in Him all things hold together”. The “and” here in verse 18 tells us that, just as He is set over all of creation and is actively holding all of it together, it is the same in the Church. Look at the way that Paul describes it to the church at Ephesus: “…we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The church at Colossae – and our churches today – need to remember this! We are not the necks that turn the head. Christ, the head, is in the lead. The image created here is a body with members (parts), so if we find ourselves following something else (idolatry), we can no longer call ourselves part of the Church as we have dismembered it by severing ourselves from it. There were false teachers seeking to do that in Colossae, and there are those today who seek to tear down and ravage the body of Christ (1 Peter 5:8-9, Matthew 7:15-19, 2 Peter 2).

We would do well to look to the head, to Jesus, and remember His words from Matthew 7 that we looked at earlier: the wise man, the man whose house is not washed away in the torrents of the storms, is only wise because he “hears these words of mine and does them” (Matthew 7:24).

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. (v. 18b)

I write often about how we have no ability within ourselves to save or to receive glory. But Jesus is worthy of His titles, not just because of His status before the foundation of the world, because He continually proves Himself to be worthy. To say that He is “the beginning” points to Him being the origin of everything we know, but to say that He is “the firstborn from the dead” highlights what He has done for His Church.

I recall David Platt recounting a conversation between a Christian missionary and two religious leaders, one Muslim and the other Hindu. They were concerned that some of their people were forsaking Islam and Hinduism and following Christ. They presented the missionary with a metaphor they believed would convince the missionary to leave the territory so that everyone could just keep on believing what they were before he arrived. They were in agreement that religion can be understood through the metaphor of a mountain. Life is man’s journey up the mountain trying to get to god in his lofty paradise. There are many paths, they argued, to get up the mountain but that the destination was the same. They felt quite confident in their presentation until the missionary told them that Christianity was not at all like that. Christianity, he told them, was different because man was completely and utterly unable to make it up the mountain, and God, rather than condemning them for their inability to make it to Him, came down the mountain and made a way for man, basically carrying them up the mountain to be where He abides. The religious leaders were disappointed and left to continue trying to make it up the mountain.

Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead” because, in Christ, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He lived a full and sinless life on the earth despite encountering all the temptations we do (Hebrews 4:15). And “for our sake God made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) – that is, He died the death we deserve to make a Way for us (John 14:6)! More importantly, He did not stay dead but “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! He is “firstborn from the dead” because death could not hold Him, and His Life is the source of our eternal life!

That is why He is “preeminent” – supreme, sovereign, superlative! Paul illustrates this beautifully in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[3]

He has always been worthy because of Who He is to everything that exists. He remains preeminent because He never changes and proves Himself again and again. That’s good news!

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. (vv. 19-20)

We have already seen that Jesus is fully God in verse 15, but here we see an example of why that is so important: reconciliation.

Reconciliation means “to restore harmony or friendship between two entities formerly divided”.[4] When we use this word in the present day, we use it to describe a relationship where some wrong done by one of the parties has caused a rift in the relationship and the rift is somehow healed. It could be as simple as two friends allowing a misunderstanding to come between them and, upon clearing the issue up, reconciling and renewing their friendship. It could also be used to describe a married couple deciding to stay together and weathering the storm of some indiscretion or issue that could have ended the marriage. In the case of God and man, we caused the rift; our sin did the dividing.

Romans 5 does a better job than I ever could painting the picture of God’s love despite our sin and what His desire to reconcile cost Him:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.[5]

Our sin made us enemies of God. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. Now, I know this is a scary prospect (not to mention very unpopular), but it is necessary to understand what He did for us – and why it is so important that in Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”.

You see, God would have been absolutely just if he had wiped the slate clean when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-13). He could have smoked them right then and there and been done with the whole lot of humanity in one righteous and just smiting. He did not have to rescue Noah and his family from His wrath in Genesis 6. He would be totally righteous and just if He would have not forgiven me of my sins or reconciled me to Himself. I am a sinner. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. But instead of being only righteous and just, He provided a means for reconciliation that would not compromise what is right – He decided on grace, mercy, love, and propitiation. God Himself paid the penalty for the sins of the world on the cross (1 John 2:1-2).

There is a price to pay for sin. It has a cost. It is different than merely declaring that the stormy sea be calmed because He has already laid out penalty for sin all they way back in the beginning – death. Yet Jesus, in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, cancelled the “record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” and set it aside, “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God did it all!

Think on it like this:

“…[A]n altered relationship now exists between God and sinners by Christ’s interposing sacrifice on behalf of fallen humanity. The point of the reconciliation is that God, for Christ’s sake, now feels toward sinners as though they had never offended him. The reconciliation is complete and perfect, covering mankind both extensively and intensively—that is, all sinners and all sin. The cause of rupture between God and sinners has now been healed, a truth wholly independent of humanity’s mood or attitude. While sinners were still the objects of God’s just wrath, Christ, in full harmony with the gracious will of his heavenly Father, interposed himself for their sakes, for the restoration of harmony.”[6]

Or as the hymn of old[7] put it:

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Bought me with His precious blood.”

All I know is that He could have poured His wrath out upon me but loved me instead. He could have made war on me as His enemy but instead made peace “by the blood of His cross”. That kind of love at such a cost as “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19) is worth singing about. More than that, a God like that is surely preeminent because there is none like Him in all of existence.

Wrapping Up

I keep thinking back to Jesus’ words from beginning of today’s Bible study (Matthew 7:24-27). They came to mind because of thoughts of wind and rain, but Jesus was talking about so much more. He says that we will either build on a bedrock of faith – a foundation that is not determined by our own ability or strength but His, or we will build a foundation determined by what we can (and cannot) accomplish on our own. He says that His words – listening to Him and, most importantly, obeying what He tells us – ensure that when the rains, floods, and winds come – and they will, the foundation of His Word will never fall away. Those who build on Him will not fall because they have been founded on the rock!

Look at the beautiful words of the hymn “Be Still My Soul”[8] (1855):

“Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He lived below.”

What amazing truths are held in those lines! He has rebuked storms, telling them to be still, and He has allowed storms to rage. He has parted a sea, piled a river into a giant heap, and walked across water like it was solid ground. There are many who are skeptical of such things, but I believe them. I have faith, and that faith is rooted in my rejoicing that I am a sinner who has been reconciled to God by the blood of His cross. Without Him, there is no hope. Without Him, I am just dead in my sins. The more I read of Him in His Word, the more I see my sin. And, the more I see Him for Who He is and me for who I am, I am thankful and humbled that He would love one such as me. The storm is still raging outside my window, and the storms of life still rage as well. But the words of the Colossian hymn – words that proclaim a God who died yet lives, a Messiah who took the wrath I deserve while giving me love and grace – giving me hope. I pray they do for you also.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] ESV, Mt 7:24–27.

[3] ESV, Php 2:9–11.

[4] Barbara E. Bowe, “Reconciliation,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1112.

[5] ESV, Ro 5:6–11.

[6] Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1113.

[7] “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words & Music: Public Domain

[8] Franz Dickerson | Joel Chernoff © 2002 Galilee of the Nations Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

Refresh & Restore — March 24, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here:
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I have started this week’s Bible study over and over in my head.

Have you ever set out to complete a task and realized that you are woefully inadequate for the task? That is how I feel about this section of Colossians. It is magnificent. It is glorious. It is full to the brim of amazing truths about Jesus. The more I study it, I find myself praying along with the tax collector: “Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

The more I learn of Jesus – the closer I get to Him, the more I learn about myself. He, of course, does not change, but my perception of Him grows the more time I spend in His Word. The greater my perception of Him becomes, the worse I realize I am. The more grace I experience from Him, the more I realize the dangers of my sin. Understanding the cost of His sacrifice illustrates how woefully in debt I would be had He not redeemed me.

The good news (for me and for you) is that He is not dependent on the skill of anyone to make Him great. He already is. He does not need me to be eloquent or convincing. He is worthy. And I get to simply point you toward Him.

The Greatest Hymn Ever Written

This passage has long been one of my favorites. Every time I read it, it is like drinking ice-cold water when you are parched and hot. It is refreshes me. Looking at and processing how big and great – how preeminent, supreme, and sovereign – He is gives me indescribable relief.  

The general consensus of many theologians, writers, and preachers over the centuries is that this passage was a hymn in the early church. Since it is recorded in Scripture and all Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), this hymn is perfect. This hymn does not sing about the Word or what the Word says. This hymn is part of the Word! That, in and of itself, is enough to make it beautiful, but the way that it testifies to Who Jesus is adds depth and beauty that no human mind could think.

This explains why singing songs of the faith (“psalms” – singing Scripture, “hymns” – singing doctrine or what the Bible teaches, and “spiritual songs” – singing testimonies[2]; cf. Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) are important: they help us carry our beliefs, our theology, from our hearts and minds to our mouths.[3]

There are many beautiful modern hymns that help us communicate deep truths about Jesus. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (1680) highlights His care and strength:

“Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriends you.”[4]

“How Great Thou Art” (1949) illustrates His greatness by reminding what He has done for us:

“And when I think that God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin”[5]

And, more recently, “In Christ Alone” (2001) reminds us to hope in Christ alone:

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand”[6]

But, as beautiful as these songs are, they are not enough. Theology is important – sound theology is very important, but it all pales in comparison to Jesus. And the Colossian hymn – if it helps you to think of it that way – in 1:15-23 is better than the sum of every lyric of every worship song ever written about Jesus because it comes from Jesus Himself, the Word of God. He is more noteworthy than every note ever sung or that will be sung in worship of Him. Let’s dive in and seek to know Him more as we embark on today’s passage.

Diving In

In the last devotion, I tried to illustrate why Paul begins with this section on Jesus: to lay down the essential Truth of Who He is before he deals with the issues of false teaching that plagued the church at Colossae. There is false teaching today that still attacks Who Jesus is – Who the Bible proclaims Him to be. So, I want to be as careful as I possibly can – more carefully even than usual with my handling of this passage.

I always seek to take each passage (whether in my writing or while preaching/teaching) and treat it with the same care that Ezra did when they read from the Law – the Scriptures – for the first time when they came back home out of exile: “They read from the book, from the Law of God clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). On that day, all of Israel stood and listened. They were attentive to the Word because they had starved without it in exile. Dear, Sojourner, we are in exile, too, for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Let us walk through this hymn together, verse-by-verse, looking at what is clearly seen, giving a sense so that we may understand our reading – that we may see Him.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (v. 15)

There are two descriptions of Jesus in this verse that are very important: “image of the invisible God” and “firstborn of all creation”. They run parallel to each other to help build our understanding of Who He is.

When I see the phrase “image of…God”, my mind is drawn back to the Creation account in Genesis:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

I love the language in that passage. If you look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the original language of Colossians, the word for “image” is the same. It’s the word eikon (pronounced and similar to our word icon). That word is used in other places in the New Testament when Jesus asks whose “likeness” is on the Roman currency (Matthew 22:20) and later on to describe the “image [or statue] of the beast” in Revelation 13:14.

Basically, this is the word used to describe a picture (2D or 3D) that represents something real. The eikon is a visible representative of the real thing. It might be helpful to think of the icons for apps on our phones or computer screens. Think of how broad and vast the internet is, yet all you need to do to access the web is to click on the icon. It seems to simple to look at Jesus on the terms of an app, but there is Scripture to back this up. Hebrews 1:3 is a beautiful picture of this as the author writes that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature”; Jesus is the literal embodiment of God’s glory and possesses God’s nature because He is God! Jesus said as much Himself in John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and 14:9 (“Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father”).

Man was created in the image of God, but that image was disfigured by sin in the Fall. That is the reason that in salvation God begins restoring that image. How does He do that? In salvation, when the old flesh is replaced with “the new self” we begin being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] Creator” (Colossians 3:10), to “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). It really is a beautiful picture of God’s grace! He creates man in His image, but man tarnishes that image by continual sin. Rather than ending mankind, God made a Way for us by coming to earth in the Person of Jesus, living a sinless life, dying the death we deserve, and raising Himself from the dead that we can have eternal life in Him (John 1:14, 3:16, 14:6; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He, “the image of the invisible God” gives the most beautifully visible representation of God – His love and His justice, His mercy and His wrath – making visible the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” – may He receive “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

The second phrase in this verse describes Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”.

This phrase has been used to present all kinds of false teaching throughout church history and even today. People try to take this and twist it to say that Jesus is a created being, that He is God’s firstborn. You can look back at the lists of Scripture in last week’s devotion or look throughout the Word for yourself. To say that Jesus is created is align yourself with people like Arius or modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons and not align yourself with the Jesus of the Bible who has always been, even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

To understand why Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”, you have to understand the context. For example, God tells Moses to explain to Pharaoh that Israel is His “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22). God was not saying that He was the literal father of the nation of Israel. He was referring to the status, the position of a firstborn son. All right and authority over everything a father had – the best of the estate and all status that comes with it – went to the firstborn. This matches with how God spoke of David in Psalm 89:27 when he said that He would “make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of earth”.

To say that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation is to say that He is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords. It shows the authority He had on earth – that He has today.

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. (v. 16)

Look at the way that the verses in this hymn build on each other. Jesus, being the “image of the invisible God” establishes Him as God in flesh; His being the “firstborn of all creation” establishes His authority. Now, we see that He is the source of all that is, all that has ever been created! We have already traced Him being the image of God back to Genesis 1:26-27. But His presence at the dawn of creation can be traced back even farther. In fact, nothing can be traced farther back – He predates time and the existence of everything we can see!

Genesis 1:1-3a – the beginning – shows us the magnificence of God in His Trinity:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said….”

We see the Father and the Spirit clearly. The Son shows up in the speaking – the Word. That’s also where we see His authority. He says “light”, and light shines days before any source of light is invented!

We already looked at Hebrews 1:3 to affirm Jesus as the eikon of God. Now, we see it affirm His bringing all that exists into existence. He, being “the exact imprint” of God’s nature, “upholds the universe by the Word of His power”! That same voice that brought things into being is the very same power that keeps everything together. That creative power keeps the earth spinning at just the right speed, keeps it orbiting the sun at just the right distance and rate, and keeps it tilted at just the right angle to make all of life continue.

John 1:1-3 puts all of this together more beautifully than I could hope to explain:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

All of creation, everything we can see on earth and all that we hope to see in heaven, everything from the majesty of the mountains and vast oceans to the microscopic atoms that are working below the surface of them all, all of it exists because of Him. There is no throne of man, vast dominating empire, or ruler – earthly or spiritual that can lift a finger against Him because they all originate from “the Word of His power”! Everything that is, was, or will be was created through Him. And everything that is, was, or will be belongs to Him – is “for” Him.

Verse 17 ties verses 15 and 16 together eloquently: And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Just as our Bible study title suggests, Jesus is over all, and He is all. And, just as His words were enough to light up the darkness in the beginning, they are enough to keep all of creation together. They are also better suited to tell us Who He is; in Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Wrapping Up

I plan on continuing to walk through this passage a few verses at a time. Nothing could serve our time together better than in “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

It is my prayer that I grow closer to Him in the writing and you in the reading. If you don’t know Him, I’m thankful to get to introduce you to Him.

I want to close out with some beautiful words about Jesus that, although written in the fourth century by Gregory of Nazianzus, still hold truth today:

He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He who is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His fullness.[7]

Hallelujah, and amen!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] This breakdown of the terms from Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 draw on conversations with pastor friends of mine many years ago and has evolved and grown over the years. I am not entirely sure where this particular breakdown came from, but the group effort and community of faith have been foundational in my understanding of this.

[3] This is also why we need to be vigilant in singing songs with good theology because they are saturated in God’s Word. I plan on writing on this more at a later date, but in the meantime, you can look at the Songs for Sunday section of the website for examples of looking at the Scriptures represented by songs sung in corporate worship.

[4] Catherine Winkworth | Joachim Neander, © Words: Public Domain; Music: Public Domain

[5] Stuart Wesley | Keene Hine, © Copyright 1949 and 1953 Stuart Hine Trust CIO Stuart K. Hine Trust (Administration: USA All rights by Capitol CMG Publishing, except print rights for USA, North, Central and South America administered by Hope Publishing. All other non USA Americas rights by the Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of World –

[6] Keith Getty | Stuart Townend, © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

[7] Elliot Ritzema, 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).