Reflections and Prayers for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter

PALM SUNDAY Luke 22:63-71

They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You say that I am.’ (Luke 22:70)
Why was Jesus crucified. Why did the Elders and Chief Priests conspire and pressure the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to put Jesus to death. When he had cleansed the Temple, Jesus had said ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ” So why when Jesus was on trial before the High Priest did Caiaphas jump from that statement immediately to the question, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God?”
The issue was not destroying the temple. This was not a revolutionary threat. The issue was rebuilding the Temple. Because every Jew was waiting for the Temple to be rebuilt. Not by human hands, but to fulfil God’s prophecies for the End Times. Every Jew was looking forward to the day when the Temple would be renewed, by God Himself.
Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
Every Jew was looking forward to the day when the Messiah God’s chosen Saviour would come and God Himself would come and rebuild the Temple. So now we can understand the reaction of the High Priest to Jesus’s words.
“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!
By claiming that He would rebuild the Temple in three days, Jesus was indeed claiming to be God and that he would fulfil the prophecy of Malachi 3. And then Jesus goes on to speak about being seated at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven. And that was a clear reference to the prophecies in Daniel 7.
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
So again Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah coming on the clouds of heaven. This is why the chief priests and elders were so angry. That is why they accused Jesus of blasphemy – because he was indeed claiming to be God. And that would have been blasphemy, except of course because what Jesus was claiming was true. He was God! And IS God! And always will be God! By that revelation, Jesus signed his own death sentence.
But in fact Caiaphas had been planning to kill Jesus even before that. Back in John 11 we read how Jesus raised Lazarus back to life. When they hear of this, the ruling council of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, began to plot to murder Jesus. And Caiaphas had said this in John 11:50-52
You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.
So we read that Caiaphas the High Priest had decided that Jesus had to die to protect the Jewish nation from the Romans. Caiaphas was ready to sacrifice Jesus to save the people. Caiaphas did not realize how true his words were. Not only would Jesus save the Jews from the Romans – more than that, he was the Saviour sent from God to save his people from their sins.
We recall the duties of the High Priest in the Jewish system of sacrifices. We recall almost a thousand years of worship in the Temple at Jerusalem and hundreds of years of worship in the Tabernacle before that as laid down in the books of Moses. The most important duty of the High Priest fell each year on the Day of Atonement. On that day, just once a year, only the High Priest was permitted to enter that most sacred of places, the Holy of Holies, and offer the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. This year it would fall to Caiaphas as High Priest to offer the greatest sacrifice, the sacrifice of Atonement. Not on the altar in the Holiest of Holies in the Temple, but on the cross of Calvary. That sacrifice would be Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. That was the mystery of God’s salvation, God’s cosmic masterplan.
Hebrews 9:26 …. But now Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. … 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people;
Bearing shame and scoffing rude. In my place condemned he stood.
Sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Monday Luke 23:1-7

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’ (Luke 23:4)
Jesus was innocent. And Pontius Pilate knew it! Jesus admitted that he was King of the Jews. But that didn’t worry Pilate at all.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
Pilate tried to pass the buck. He sending Jesus to the Jewish King Herod, but that was a waste of time. Even Herod couldn’t find anything that Jesus was guilty of. So Pilate had to face the Sanhedrin again.
14 … “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.
That wasn’t working. So Pilate offered the crowds the choice – to release Jesus or Barabbas. But the chief priests and teachers stirred up the people so that they called for Barabbas to be freed and Jesus to be crucified!
22 For the third time Pilate spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.
So the gospel records show that Pilate did try hard to get Jesus released. Sadly Pilate was the Roman Governor who would do anything for a quiet life. He just wanted to keep the peace. Pilate wanted so much to let Jesus go free, he tried every way he could think of to release Jesus. Perhaps Pilate didn’t try hard enough to get Jesus released. Perhaps he didn’t really try at all. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing! To turn a blind eye. To wash their hands of the whole affair, which is where we get that figure of speech.
Matthew 27:24 … 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!”
But Pilate did recognise that Jesus was entirely innocent of any charges! Jesus had done nothing wrong. Pilate could not find any crime that Jesus had committed. Jesus did not deserve to die. Jesus was innocent.
Even Pilate’s wife recognised this. Matthew 27:19 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.”
The thief on the cross next to Jesus recognised Jesus was innocent. Luke 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
The apostle Peter knew Jesus better than most people did. And Peter knew Jesus was innocent. In 1 Peter 2 we read this. 1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
Jesus was innocent. And Jesus had to be innocent. Because his death was much more than the death of a misguided martyr. Jesus’s death was the very heart of God’s cosmic masterplan for the redemption of the world. Jesus gave up His life to be the sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
In the Old Testament system of sacrifices the sacrifice had to be pure, spotless, unblemished. And that was the kind of sacrifice Jesus was. Jesus died in OUR place, for us, so that we could escape the slavery of sin and the punishment sin brings. The innocent is crucified so that, just like Barabbas, just like the thief on the cross, the guilty go “scott free.” But for the blood of Christ to save us from all sins, for that sacrifice to be effective, Jesus Himself had to be innocent.
2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
THERE IS A GREEN HILL FAR AWAY, Outside a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified, Who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell, What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us He hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven, Saved by His precious blood.
Would you take the punishment for somebody else? Give up your life for somebody else? I don’t think I would. Perhaps for close family I might. But for a stranger? For an enemy?
MY LORD, WHAT LOVE IS THIS That pays so dearly,
That I, the guilty one,May go free!
Amazing love, O what sacrifice, The Son of God given for me.
My debt He pays, and my death He dies, That I might live, that I might live.

Tuesday Luke 23:6-25

(Pilate) 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 23:25)
Pilate had said of Jesus, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” So Pilate himself knew that Jesus was innocent. But to give himself a way out without losing face he made the suggestion that he might pardon Jesus rather than Barabbas the convicted revolutionary. But that didn’t work.
But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’
I am sure that Pilate was just as sad and angry about letting Barabbas the convicted revolutionary walk free as he was about condemning Jesus to death. Barabbas lived when he should have died. Jesus died when he should have lives. Truly Jesus took the place reserved for Barabbas on that middle cross. And that gives us a picture of the significance of Jesus’s death for all of us. Jesus has paid the death penalty we should all pay.
Jesus said in Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
Jesus’s death was a ransom, the price to be paid to buy a person’s freedom. And this was all in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. …
8 … For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
10 … the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
11 … by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Just as Jesus took the place of Barabbas, he has taken our place, suffering for our sin.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
Guilty vile and helpless we. Spotless Lamb of God was he.
Full atonement, can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Wednesday Luke 23:26-38

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Luke 23:38)
In theory the Jews might have been allowed to stone a man to death for certain religious crimes. But they could not execute him by crucifixion – only the Romans could do that. And that was the death which the Jewish leaders had decided was appropriate for Jesus. The punishment of a revolutionary. But Pilate isn’t convinced. As we follow the story across the four Gospels weu can see that Pilate went in and out no less than eight times between the Jewish leaders outside and Jesus inside as he tries to reach his verdict. And one thing is very clear from all these discussions. Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent and did not deserve to die. That was the reason he tried to pass the buck back to the Jewish leaders in the first place.

In the end Jesus was crucified. But it is interesting what charge was written on the inscription on the cross. “This is the king of the Jews”. Jesus was convicted for claiming to be king. But not the kind of king Pilate was used to dealing with, as John’s Gospel shows.

John 18 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. ‘Your own people and chief priests 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 Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

The Jewish Leaders had told Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be King of the Jews. The other Gospels tell us that that was what the trial in front of Caiaphas had all been about. If Jesus was claiming to be a king, that could be seen as a threat to the tight grip the Roman Empire had on Israel. So it mattered whether Jesus was actually a king or not.
36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

My Kingdom is not of this world. It is not like other kingdoms. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, which means exactly the same as the Kingdom of Heaven, more than 50 times in the Gospels. The kingdom of God does not refer to some place where God is King. Rather the Kingdom of God is talking about God’s reign as King, the things God does as King, God’s Kingly Rule. So Jesus is a King, but not the kind of king Pilate would recognize.

But now my kingdom is from another place. Actually, “from another place,” in the New International Version is not a particularly good translation. What Jesus says is “my kingdom is not from this place.” “My Kingly Power does not come from here.” The Message puts it very well.
“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”

The fact is that the question of what kind of King Jesus is was actually irrelevant, as Jesus goes on to explain.

37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’
38 ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate.
Whether Jesus was or was not a king in human terms was not the point. The important thing was that Jesus came to reveal the truth. In John’s Gospel eternal life comes through knowing and believing the truth. The truth that it was Almighty God who created the earth from nothing. The truth that human beings have cut themselves off from God by rejecting him and rebelling against him. The truth that only Jesus Christ the Son of God can bring us back to God again. This is the truth. Jesus Himself was the Truth. He said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).
Jesus is the truth who brings us eternal life. John 8 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
What is truth? asked Pilate. Jesus the Way the Truth and the Life became a human being. Jesus came to reveal the truth about God and about eternal life. But human beings rejected that truth, which is the whole reason why they nailed Jesus to a cross. The inscription was correct. Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews, and more than that, the Messiah, the Saviour that God had promised.

MAUNDY THURSDAY Luke 23:39-43

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ (Luke 23:42)
Scourged and mocked, nailed to a cross, crowned with thorns, on the point of suffering an agonizing death, here we see Jesus speaking some of the most wonderful words he ever spoke. Not to the religious leaders, not to his own disciples, but to a complete stranger, the criminal hanging on the next cross. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” ( Luke 23:43)
Is there anybody that God can’t forgive? Is there anybody that God won’t forgive? There are none so wicked that God would never forgive them. On the cross we see Jesus praying for those who were torturing and murdering him. Praying not that they be condemned and punished, but that they be forgiven. Father forgive them! However evil we are – however much we have hurt God and rejected God, however many of His laws we have broken, we can be forgiven. NO-ONE is too wicked. Our sins may be very great – but God’s mercy is greater! If those very people who crucified Jesus can be forgiven, so can we!
Some people think “I’m not good enough for God – I’ve nothing to offer God”. But none of us can earn or deserve our forgiveness. That thief on the cross had nothing to offer God. But forgiveness is NOTHING to do with anything we can offer God!! It’s not about repaying God by living a perfect life full of God works once we are forgiven. It’s all about GRACE, just grace!
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see
When we sin – receiving the punishment we deserve would be justice. Not getting what we deserve would be mercy. But getting what we don’t deserve – eternal life, the hope of heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit, getting all these blessings we dont deserve – that’s what the Bible means by grace.
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.
And that’s what this thief receives – amazing grace! I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. A man judged unworthy to live amongst men is called to eternal life in the presence of Christ in glory. That’s grace!
But notice this. Jesus answered HIM. YOU (singular) will be with me in Paradise. The promise was only for that one repentant thief. Not for any of the others there. The thief could not do anything except repent, believe in Christ, and confess his faith in Christ to save Him from his sins. That is all any of us have to do. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
But in fact we can see at least SIX things in these four short sentences which show us that this thief was repentant and did indeed have saving faith.
1 He feared God! “Do you not fear God?” It is absolutely right that we mere sinful disobedient mortals should bow before the eternal Holy God.
2. He recognised he had done wrong. We are getting what our deeds deserve.
3. He recognised he deserved his punishment. We are punished justly,
4. He recognised Jesus’s holiness. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
5. He recognised Jesus as King! Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. This thief recognised what the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers refused to accept – that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews, bringing God’s Kingly rule to earth.
6. And this thief cries out for help. “Jesus, remember me.”
Here is the scandal of grace. That a prisoner on death row, or a lifelong sinner on his death bed, can cry out to God and find forgiveness and assurance of all the blessings of heaven. Today you WILL be with me in Paradise.
So is there anybody that God can’t forgive? Is there anybody that God won’t forgive? Well, there is just one kind of person who God can’t forgive. It is the person who doesn’t want to be forgiven – who never asks for forgiveness! So which thief are you like? The one who never acknowledged his guilt and died condemned? Or the one who reached out for mercy in his dying hours and died forgiven?
Not the labour of my hands Can fulfil thy law’s demands.
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone. Thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked come to thee for dress. Helpless come to thee for grace.
Foul I to the fountain fly. Wash me Saviour or I die.

GOOD FRIDAY Luke 23:44-49

The sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:45)
Why did Jesus die? We praise God for the forgiveness which Jesus bought for us on the cross. It’s so amazing that God should rescue us from the eternal judgment we deserved! But Jesus accomplished so much more on the cross than simply our forgiveness. “Forgiveness” wasn’t an end in itself. Rather it was the means to much greater ends. We read in Mark 15:38 that at the very moment Christ died, something else quite amazing happened. “The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
The curtain, or veil of the Temple, was not a curtain of fabric. It was a great wooden panel over thirty feet wide and sixty foot high! It kept the people and even the priests out of the Holy of Holies, the central area of the Temple where God was believed to be especially present. The curtain of the Temple was there to keep people from seeing God – because the Old Testament is very clear that whoever sees God will die! Only one man, the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, the most holy place. And that only happened once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest offered a unique sacrifice for the sins of the people. (See Hebrews 9:1-7)
But at the very moment that Jesus died, the curtain of the Temple, that symbolic barrier into the presence of God was broken open, not by human effort from the bottom, but by an act of Almighty God, from the top. As Jesus took away the sins of the world, so he removed the barrier which had stopped human beings since Adam and Eve from coming face to face with God.
Because of course the real barrier keeping us all out of God’s presence was not a wooden curtain or veil, but the barrier of human sin. A.W.Tozer wrote of our “self-sins”: “self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self- admiration, self-love, and others. Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us.” And the cross of Christ indeed dealt with the problem of self – the problem of sin.
Now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people (Hebrews 9:26-28)
Romans 323 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
At the very moment when Jesus was offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, “The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
It was as if God was from that point on inviting everyone and anyone into the Most Holy Place, to meet with Him – not just the High Priest, not just once a year, but everybody, always, forever. We can all experience a new closeness to God – a new intimacy with God. And the curtain in the temple wasn’t just opened for a while then closed again. It was torn in two, broken open forever! “The way to God is open – with boldness we draw near!” Jesus died so that we can come into God’s presence, so that we can become God’s children, so that the Holy Spirit of God can enter into our lives and share with us Christ’s resurrection life. Praise God!
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,” (Heb 10:19-22)
WITHIN THE VEIL I now would come, Into the holy place, to look upon Thy face.
I see such beauty there, no other can compare; I worship Thee, my Lord, within the veil.

Saturday Luke 23:50-56

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. (Luke 23:55)
Today is Holy Saturday. Nothing happened today except that the followers of Jesus mourned his death and grieved together. So let us spend today quietly reflecting on their sadness. There is nothing more to say.

EASTER DAY Luke 24:1-12

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:5-6)
Is there life after death? Can we really go to heaven? Only somebody who has died and returned to life can answer those questions. And here is the glorious message of Easter! The wonderful good news that after dying on the cross on Good Friday, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Day! Jesus Christ is alive. And because He has died and is now alive again HE can show us the way to heaven.
On that first Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. He was dead and he was buried. Sealed in a tomb by a great seven ton boulder! But then on the Sunday when a group of women went to the tomb, strange things were happening. The stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty! Dead men don’t walk! But Jesus wasn’t there! The tomb was empty! And then there were the two angelic messengers. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? What an amazing incredible wonderful statement! That Jesus who had died was alive again! 6 He is not here; he has risen!
That had been God’s plan from the beginning. Jesus had told his disciples he would return to life again. But they hadn’t understood him. The truth was too wonderful to believe! But now, just as he had promised, the angels announced that God had raised Jesus from the dead!
The tomb was empty. Jesus’s body had gone. The disciples didn’t take it – they were as surprised as anybody that the tomb was empty. The Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders didn’t steal the body – if they had they would have just produced the body again and stories about Jesus rising from the dead would have ended before they started. Jesus’s body had gone! But then we have more than the account of a few women about the message from the angels to assure us that Jesus was alive again. During that day Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the the apostle Peter. He appeared to two of His disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus. And that evening He would appear to all of the apostles.
Jesus had died. Jesus was alive again. And so we don’t have to be afraid of death. Because Jesus’s resurrection opens the door of heaven for us! Listen to the wonderful promises Jesus made to His disciples.
John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. …. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
We know that there is life after death. We know what happens after we die! Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for everybody who believes in Him, so that we can be with Him in glory forever. We KNOW there is life after death – and we know how we can go to heaven. Jesus Christ is alive – He is risen from the dead. And because he lives, we will live also. That is the good news of Easter. “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?”

THINE BE THE GLORY, Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won!
Angels in bright raiment Rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes Where Thy body lay.
Lo, Jesus meets us, Risen from the tomb!
Lovingly He greets us, Scatters fear and gloom.
Let the church with gladness Hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth, Death hath lost its sting.
No more we doubt Thee, Glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without Thee: Aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors, Through Thy deathless love;
Lead us in Thy triumph To Thy home above.

Monday Luke 24:13-35

Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:26-27)
We cannot know why those two disciples did not recognise Jesus when he appeared to them on the road to Emmaus. I was not just the poor light of dusk – surely they would have known it was Jesus from his voice. Perhaps they were simply overcome with grief. Certainly they weren’t expecting to meet Jesus again. But then Jesus calls them foolish and rebukes them for lacking in faith. They had refused to believe the testimony of the women that Jesus was alive. And then he opened up the Bible to them for them to understand all the prophecies foretelling his death and resurrection in the Old Testament.
But if these prophecies were obvious, the disciples would have believed immediately Jesus when he rose from the dead and Jesus would not have needed to explain to his disciples on the Emmaus Road, and then again in the upper room, that the Scriptures showed it was necessary for the Messiah to die and rise again? Nobody had expected the Messiah to be the Suffering Servant, the servant King who would lay down his life as a ransom for many in fulfilment of Isaiah 53. And it is the same with all the prophecies concerning the resurrection. They are there – but nobody saw them coming.
The one thing that the Old Testament does clearly promise about the Messiah was that his rule would be eternal. The reign of the Messiah would never end. He would rule forever. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The Messiah would be a priest like Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4) Hebrews 5:5 says Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Melchizedek was a mysterious figure who appeared out of nowhere and met with Abraham in Genesis 14. But Jewish mythology regarded Melchizedek as a very special priest – one who could not die but would live forever. And if the Messiah was a priest like Melchizedek, then the Messiah would live forever too.
The expectation that the Messiah would never die was very clear in Psalm 16, a Psalm like many others which originally was taken to apply to King David, but then applied to the Messiah. The Messiah would not be abandoned to the grave – his body would never see decay. So Peter uses Psalm 16 when he preaches about Christ’s resurrection on the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ (Peter is quoting Psalm 16:8-11)
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
The apostle Paul uses the same argument in Antioch in Pisidia in Acts 13:32-37 quoting Psalm 2. The Messiah would not die – but he did die! The Messiah would reign for ever – but He died – so to fulfil the Old Testament promises it was NECESSARY that the Messiah should come back to life again. Because there was a death, there had to be a resurrection!
And that promise was also already there in Isaiah 53
10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors
Along with the cross, the resurrection is also a wonderful fulfilment of so many Scriptures. What a wonderful plan of salvation – the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world, dies on the cross to the pay the penalty for our sin. Laid in a stone cold tomb – only to rise again to eternal life, victorious over death and all the powers of evil. Jesus is alive!
This story reminds us that it is possible still to fail to recognise Jesus Christ when he is right there, right at hand, even in the same room! There can be times when we fail to recognise Christ when He comes up and walks along the road of life alongside us! Perhaps in the bad times when everything is going wrong and we feel that God has deserted us?
Some people today may be finding it hard to enter into the joy of Easter. It is hard to sing joyful hymns if we have sad hearts, grieving hearts, worried hearts, scared hearts. But the resurrection is not only good news when things are going well in life, when we are feeling strong and successful. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is even more good news when we are feeling weak and powerless. Those are the times when it is good to discover that Jesus is alive and risen for us.
For Cleopas and his companion, in that one instant, all their lack of understanding and lack of belief and lack of expectation were swept aside. They didn’t just understand that the Christ had to rise from the dead. They didn’t just believe reports that Jesus was alive. We have seen the Lord. Those two disciples knew for certain that Jesus was alive! May all of us encounter the Risen Jesus Christ in our lives today!

I serve a risen saviour, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer.
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way!

Tuesday Luke 24:36-49

Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ (Luke 24:39)
Some people have suggested that Jesus did not really rise from the dead. They think that the accounts of the resurrection point to some kind of spiritual experience shared by the disciples, but they deny that Jesus was raised from the dead bodily or physically in any sense. They are not denying that Jesus is alive but they think that this new life of Jesus was spiritual rather than bodily.
In contrast, Christians throughout the ages have wanted to emphasise the historical event of Christ rising from the dead and that this resurrection was physical and not just spiritual. But there are a number of Scriptures where it is very clear that the Risen Jesus had a physical body, which was in some ways the same and in some ways different from his previous physical body. We saw that in the way Jesus was revealed to the two disciples in their home in Emmaus.
Luke 24:30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
In his resurrection body, Jesus was able to break bread and pass it to his disciples. In the same way today’s readying speaks of Jesus being able to eat.
Luke 24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.
Before that Jesus had encouraged his disciples to touch him.
Luke 24:39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
John’s Gospel speaks of the occasion a week later when Jesus appeared to the disciples especially for the benefit of Thomas.
John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
And John 21 tells us how Jesus prepared a breakfast for his disciples by the side of the lake.
John 21 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.

For the disciples, these were not merely spiritual experiences that Jesus was alive. They were encounters with Jesus in his physical, yet more-than-physical resurrection body. This distinction is important for two reasons.
Firstly, the bodily resurrection of Jesus contradicts any suggestion that the resurrection appearances to the disciples were all just hallucinations. People touched the Risen Jesus. He broke bread and handed them food. He ate food. Especially since a number of disciples shared the same experiences, those could not have been hallucinations.
Secondly, the bodily resurrection of Jesus tells us about the new life we have as Christians and our hope of heaven. Many people have a mistaken idea about what happens to us when we die. They think that when our body dies there is a part of us called the soul which lives on and goes to be with God in heaven. That is the picture many Christians have of life after death. Disembodied souls floating around on clouds with the angels. But that is not our Christian hope. Our Christian hope is much more wonderful than that! We believe in the resurrection of the dead. Because the Bible tells us that one day our own bodies will be like the resurrection body Christ had.
Philippians 3:20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
The apostle John says the same. 1 John 3:2 We are children of God now, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. This is our Christian inheritance and our Christian hope. Because he lives we will live also. And we will also have resurrection bodies like Christ’s resurrection body.
Paul teaches the Corinthians about this glorious hope.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Think about Christ’s NEW resurrection body. It was physical – Jesus could touch and be touched and eat and drink and break bread. At the same time the Risen Christ was not limited by time and space. He could enter rooms through locked doors. His body was physical, but not limited by the physical. In the resurrection WE will also have bodies like that! Jesus’s body was not merely brought back to life. That happened to some of the Old Testament heroes of faith at the hour when Jesus died. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:51-53). But the same had happened to Lazarus, and the widow’s son. They just returned in the bodies they had died in. That was not resurrection. That was just resuscitation. Resurrection is different. Resurrection is being born anew to eternal life – with eternal bodies like Christ’s resurrection body which will never die.
Just as Christ was raised from the dead, the new life we receive from him is like HIS new life. We will have bodies fit for heaven, not earthly bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-41). Paul continues,
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
The new body will be free of the limitations of this earthly body. No tears. No suffering. No pain. No death. No decay.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
So God will remake us in the image of Christ in His glorious resurrection body. Like we are now – but free of our limitations and imperfections. Free from the consequences of sin.
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
We can only have picture language to understand this. We die and our earthly bodies may decay. But one day, God will raise us back to life. Same memories, same thoughts, bodies similar in many ways but actually more glorious bodies, transformed to be more like Christ. And to us in our new bodies, we will not be aware of time having passed. It will be as if we have blinked at the end of this life, and when we open our eyes we will be in God’s presence, in glory, on the new earth God has promised to create.
THIS is our Christian hope – the happy certainty of the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life. Our new bodies will be more like our present bodies than most of us imagine. And life in glory will actually be MORE SIMILAR to life in this world now than most of us expect! We have lived like Adam with the likeness of the man from earth. One day we will be transformed to share the likeness of the man from heaven. THIS is our glorious hope!

Wednesday Luke 24:49-53

I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ (Luke 24:49)
When Jesus spoke to His disciples just before his Ascension to glory he promised that they would be his witnesses. The gave them the commission to preach the Good News. And he promised them the power of the Holy Spirit, power from on high.
The New Testament speaks around 100 times of power. The word we translate as power there refers not to the strength of men and women, but to the almighty power of the almighty God. And when Jesus promised to his disciples “power from on high” THAT is the kind of power He was talking about. The Greek word in question is dunamis and from that root we get two significant English words. The first is dynamo – which generates electrical power. The second is dynamite – the explosive. Jesus promises to give his disciples the power of the Holy Spirit, dunamis, the dynamo and the dynamite of the Christian life!
And we see that power from on high expressed in at least three different ways in the life of the early church.
1. Power in miracles of healing and deliverance. In Luke’s Gospel especially we see this aspect of the power of God at work in the ministry of Jesus and in his second volume the Acts of the Apostles we see those same miracles in the life of the Early Church.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles…. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
2. Then in the early church we find power in proclaiming the gospel boldly and effectively – power to be witnesses for Jesus.
3. We also see power to live a victorious Christian life. This aspect of the power of God comes more obviously from the only Old Testament appearance of the phrase “Power from on high” in ISAIAH 32:14-18
14 The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland for ever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
15 till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever.18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling-places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
The work of the “Spirit from on high” or the “power from on high” promised in Isaiah is the renewal of God’s chosen people, rebuilding and restoring them. It brings the blessings of salvation: peace and prosperity, justice and righteousness. And it also brings repentance – refining and purifying God’s chosen people. And that is the work of the Spirit in the lives of Christians.
Eph 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
Life won’t always be easy for Christians. But we can be assured that God’s power in us can accomplish immeasurably more than our human efforts ever could. We have God’s power from on high at work in us!
Samuel Chadwick (1832–1917) wrote “To the church, Pentecost brought light, power, joy. There came to each illumination of mind, assurance of heart, intensity of love, fullness of power, exuberance of joy. No one needed to ask if they had received the Holy Ghost. Fire is self-evident. So is power!”
The dynamo and the dynamite of the Holy Spirit are God’s gift to every Christian. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in the life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else. The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want.”
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

(c) North Springfield Baptist Church 2020 – peter@pbthomas.com

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