Holy Week 2017

It is customary in many churches to exchange an Easter greeting to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. One person would proclaim, “He is risen!” while the other person would respond, “He is risen indeed!” While we are not sure when the church began to adopt this practice, we know that it has been in circulation for quite some time and is based upon Luke 24:34, “The Lord has risen indeed…” This is not simply a greeting but a declaration of a very important truth: Jesus truly has risen, giving him victory over sin and death, and therefore, is crowned as the sovereign King over all creation.

Brothers and sisters, as we seek to gather this morning to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, let us enter into his presence with gladness. For King Jesus has finished the work, conquered our sin, and has truly given us hope in this life. Let us come into his presence with trembling and fear, for he truly is the sovereign King for whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess as Lord. Let us come into his presence with reverence and worship, for he alone is the God who can save, rescue and redeem helpless sinners.

He has risen! He has risen, indeed!

[20] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. – Mark 2:20

Referring to himself as the bridegroom, Jesus notes that his disciples do not fast because his currently with them, but that they will later fast when he leaves. Why is that? In the work of Christ, we see that he has fully accomplished the work of redemption on our behalf. He has taken the punishment that our sin deserved and given us his righteousness freely as a gift. The work of redemption is complete and Jesus stands as the supreme, sovereign king over all creation even now. So why does Jesus call us to fast after his ascension?

We fast as a physical symbol of our yearning for the consummation of Jesus’ work. We fast as a physical symbol of yearning and longing for Christ. The physical pain of hunger reminds us to seek him in prayer and to cry out for his return. Even though we have experienced the first fruits of our salvation, fasting can make us yearn and long for the fulfillment of that salvation. We fast not because we haven’t tasted Christ’s presence, rather we fast because we have tasted Christ’s presence and we eagerly desire to know him more through the forsaking of food for a season.

As a church, we would love to fast from food (if you are able) corporately from Saturday evening until we partake of communion Sunday morning. This will give us a chance as a body to pursue Christ through prayer and fasting, crying out for his full and final restoration, while also truly tasting and seeing the Lord’s finished work in the elements of communion. Would you join us this evening in this fast? Would you hunger and thirst for Christ as you fast? Would you pursue Christ with ardent passion this evening? Would you celebrate the work of Christ in communion Sunday morning?

Before reading this devotional, please read John 20:30-31

I love the way that chapter 20 ends after the resurrection. John notes that Jesus has accomplished many signs that have not been recorded. Other accounts note that Jesus walked on the earth for 40 days after his resurrection before ascending into heaven. John includes an important reason why he includes the signs that he did though, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). So why is the resurrection and the subsequent signs recorded? So that you may have believe in Christ and have life in his name!

Apart from the glorious resurrection of Christ, we all remain enemies of God and worse, we remain dead in our trespasses and sins (see Ephesians 2:1-4). But in the Gospel, in the resurrection of Christ, our death ridden souls are resurrected to life through the miraculous work of Jesus. Let us believe today that Jesus’ work, his glorious resurrection, actually can and will produce life in us; that by believing that he is the Christ, he truly saves us and revives us back to life.

How did the story of Jesus’ resurrection spread globally by a small band of untrained, uneducated men? Through the power of both the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the disciple’s transformed lives. In fact, one of the defining ways the Gospel permeated the pagan Roman empire was the character and ethic by which the early church lived. Many were drawn to the Christian religion because of the church’s love for one another, their care for the outcasts, and their unwavering commitment to Christ in the face of opposition.

Although a tad cliché, it nevertheless remains true: the resurrection changes everything. The disciples were once ridden with fears and doubts, and the resurrection of Christ has given them confidence and boldness to proclaim Jesus, even to their death. These men, after seeing Jesus rise from the grave, have been radically transformed in both their conduct as well as their mission. These men now live ethically for Christ and missionally for Christ—so that every tribe, tongue and nation may know of the great love with which Christ has loved us. In other words, the resurrection of Christ naturally gives birth to resurrected lives in us—lives marked by the ethics of the Kingdom of God.

Before reading this devotional, please read John 20:11-18

Have you even stopped to consider the insanity of the claim of Christianity? A man rising from the dead? A man, once crucified by Roman soldiers, now appears healthy and full of strength three days later? His body literally shut down—his heart stopped beating, his lungs ceased to fill with air, his blood stopped pulsing through his veins, and now stands as a fully functioning human being to others? The claim is absolutely absurd—unless it is true!

The early church placed a heavy emphasis on the resurrection of Christ and for good reasons. The resurrection proves not only Jesus’ deity, but that he truly conquers over our most fearful enemy: death itself. No power, no kingdom, no force can thwart the sovereign rule of Jesus’ reign. The resurrection is the objective proof of Jesus’ defeat of the kingdom of darkness as he ushers in a new kingdom—the kingdom of God! This is why Paul says if the resurrection has not happened, we are to be men most pitied. But if the resurrection has truly happened, we should be men and women of the utmost hope and courage, knowing that Jesus sovereignly governs and sustains not only our lives, but also the entire cosmos. Believer, rest in the sovereign rule of Jesus as he governs and sustains all things.

Before reading this devotional, please read John 20:24-29.

Sometimes in church circles we give Thomas a hard time for doubting in the resurrection of Jesus. But can you blame him? Dead men do not come back to life! Sometimes we are far too harsh on the biblical characters for their lack of faith (hidden in that assumption is that our faith is great!). What can we glean from Jesus’ interaction with Thomas’ doubts? Jesus engages Thomas where he is, acknowledges his doubt and reveals himself as the risen Messiah.

Perhaps many of us even doubt today whether or not Jesus has truly been raised from the dead; others of us doubt his love and care towards us; others of us doubt his sovereign reign over all things. Whatever it is, we all bring our own expectations and doubts to Jesus. Could we this week lay these doubts at the feet of Jesus and believe that he will not only meet us where we are, but perhaps even reveal himself as the risen Messiah even in the midst of our doubts? Could we pray boldly that God would deepen our understanding of his love, shatter our doubts under the weight of his presence, and truly give us a picture of his sovereign rule?

Could this become a prayer for a friend, coworker, neighbor, or family member that does not know the love of God? Could we pray that God would meet them in their current state, acknowledge their doubt about God, and truly reveal Himself as the risen Messiah? Would you take time this week to intentionally pray for a certain individual, that God would reveal himself as the loving and sovereign King who has come to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

[1] Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [3] So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. [4] Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. – John 20:1-4

Imagine you are one of the disciples who has followed Jesus for three years. You have left your vocation, your family, your hometown—you have literally left everything to follow Jesus. Three years into your journey with Jesus, things take a turn for the worst. Your Messiah, the one you have been following, has been killed and literally, all hope has been lost. Sitting with the other disciples, wondering how this could happen and how to begin picking up the pieces of shattered expectations, Mary Magdalene walks into the room and proclaims, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…”

Notice Peter and John’s (the one whom the Lord loved) response to this news: they run to the tomb for hope has come again. For these disciples, no better news could have come from Mary—the tomb is empty, our Messiah is alive! And even though we have the full story at our fingertips, can we approach holy week with this same excitement? Can we run to the empty tomb knowing that our Savior has risen from the grave and therefore given us great hope in this world? Can we run with zeal, passion and vigor into the presence of Jesus? Church, let us celebrate this week the death of Christ and let us run headlong into the glorious hope in which the resurrection of Christ brings.