Passage: Luke 23:26-49
Key verses: Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Entire courses are taught at universities just to try and explain Jesus’ work on the cross. The atonement is not easy to understand, but it is simple. God came down to earth in human flesh, lived a sinless life, and then died as the one true spotless sacrifice that could take away our sins. Without this one truth, all the rest falls apart.
Jesus took on our sins. Read that again. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, took on our sins upon Himself. He took our punishment, bought our redemption. That is the only reason you and I will ever see heaven. It’s not because of how many good deeds we did or how nice we are. It’s because we were bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. Let that sink in. Weep over the fact that it was necessary.
My sins nailed Him to that cross. Your sins drove those spikes in. Our rejection of God killed Him. And He chose to be there. As the one, true, all-powerful God, He could have ended this any way He wanted. But He chose the cross. He chose suffering in our place. Because He loved us. Even before we existed. That’s the truth of the cross.
Passage: John 18:33-40
Key verse: John 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
After He had been betrayed by one of His closest friends, Jesus was sent to trial before the leaders of both the empire and the kingdom. Tossed back and forth between Herod and Pilate, Jesus remained quiet and did not defend Himself, though at any moment He could have burst out of His chains and ascended into heaven or done some other sort of miraculous act. He acted in complete humility, though He was a king.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords stood on trial before earthly leaders as corrupt as they come, as though they had any real right to judge Him. As though they had any authority over Him. In an instant, Jesus could have put them in their place, but He remained quiet. Then, when He chose to speak, He revealed His purpose.
Jesus came to bear witness to the truth. He came to reveal God to man. He was and is the true image-bearer of God. He is the image of the invisible God, come to earth as a lowly man. He gave up His rights to a kingdom on earth to fulfill His real purpose. A purpose that involves a heavenly kingdom, far beyond anything Herod or Pilate could ever imagine.
Passage: John 17:1-26
Key verse: John 17:1:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Before the creation of the world, Jesus was. Before time began, Jesus was. And then, the Eternal One who holds all things in balance did something extraordinary – He stepped into time and took on human flesh. He gave up all the glory of heaven so that we could know God. He gave up many of His rights as God, but one thing He did not give up – His love for us.
While on this earth, Jesus loved His own just as He loved them in heaven. In His last hours, He prayed a beautiful prayer, first for His close followers and then for you and me. He knew He was betrayed, He knew He would die, and He knew that you and I would sin against Him. But He prayed a high priestly prayer for our joy in Him, our unity in Him, our sanctification in Him.
Then Jesus gave us an idea of what salvation is all about. He died that we might be where He is, that we may see His glory and therefore glorify the Father. This was the plan before time began. He’s always loved us, before we even existed. And though we have sinned against Him, He chose to die in our place, taking our sins onto Himself, so that we can experience eternal life with Him. Oh what love He has for us.
Passage: Luke 22:54-62
Key verses: Luke 22:61-62 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
After all Jesus had done for Peter, how could he deny his Lord? That’s the question we all ask, isn’t it? How could this man who walked so closely with the Son of God deny even knowing Him? But the truth is, Jesus did more for you and me than He did for Peter and even we deny Him. The real question is: How could WE?
At the time of Peter’s denial, Jesus had yet to suffer on a cross, taking on the sins of the world, dying that we might have reconciliation with God. But in our time, He has already paid that price, finished that purpose. We have all the more reason to give Him the praise due Him, but instead we sometimes choose our own way and leave Him out of the equation.
The good news for Peter is that Christ still died for him, despite his denial. Later, He even gave Peter a chance to redeem himself (John 21:15-19). The good news for us is that He did die for our sake and we’re still able to call on Him. Just like for Peter, our denial is not the end of the story. Right now, at this moment, we can follow Him.
Passage: John 13:1-20
Key verse: Matthew 26:21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
No one, in the history of mankind, ever experienced the level of betrayal that the Son of God did. Would you agree? Nothing you’ve ever faced comes close to His time on earth. Yet look at how Jesus dealt with those who betrayed Him, denied Him, abandoned Him, falsely accused Him, beat Him, tortured Him, and killed Him.
In light of the fact that Jesus knew all things before they occurred, John 13:1 is particularly powerful. Knowing full well how His own disciples would treat Him, He “loved them to the end”. Wow. Park there for a minute.
With all knowledge that Peter would deny Him, that Judas would betray Him, and that the rest would run away, Jesus knelt down before each of them, taking on the role of a servant, and washed the feet of each man.
What right on this earth do you and I have to be unforgiving toward anyone who’s wronged us? We have to be amazed at this action and attitude by Jesus because He of all people did have the right to judge and withhold forgiveness. Can we follow His example?
Passage: Matthew 26:26-29
Key verse: Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Long before Jesus’ earthly ministry, God made a covenant with His people (Exodus 24:8). In Christ, that covenant was fulfilled and a new covenant was made. No longer would the Lord’s people be forced to make sacrifices upon an altar. Once and for all, the ultimate sacrifice was paid. Jesus was sent to be the only sacrifice that could ever truly cleanse us of our sin. He is the spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Before being led off to die a horrifying death, Jesus ate one last meal with His closest followers. Here He gave them a picture of what was to happen, whether they understood it or not. His instructions to them were to remember Him through the practice of taking communion, the Lord’s Supper. The bread is symbolic of His broken body that was sacrificially given for our sake. The wine, His blood, that poured out as He was tortured in our place.
As Easter approaches, reflect on what Christ gave so that you and I can live free and in communion with God. We have life because He gave His, let’s remember all that entails regularly and practice that remembrance with others.
Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
When it comes to missions, every Christ-follower has been given one. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 is for all of His people. Go and make disciples. This is the mission for every one of us.
We don’t all go about that mission in the same manner, however. We’ve each been given our own talents and abilities that best suit us to do certain tasks in the big plan. Some of us are better at certain things than others, but we’re all still called to make disciples.
An interesting bit mentioned by the Apostle Paul is that God gifted His people with some people in particular that He wants to lead and to train. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers are all set apart to equip the rest of the body for ministry. All are called, but some are chosen to build up the body through special assignments. What’s your job that fits into the mission of God?
Ephesians 4:9-10 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
How low are you willing to go for someone else? For those you love, you’re likely willing to sacrifice your time, your money, and maybe for some even your life. But would you go even further than that for someone else? What about someone who doesn’t even know you?
What Jesus did on your behalf is unfathomable from a human standpoint. He went beyond dying for your sin. He took on all of your sin, even though He had none of His own. He was in the Kingdom, high above the earth and everything else, but He chose to lower himself and come all the way down here to be with us, to show us who God is, to pay the ransom that we owed.
No matter who you are, the truth is this – you would never descend so far as Jesus Christ did for you – not for anyone. It’s not even possible. He left the heavenly realm and became a person like you and me. He emptied himself of His prerogatives as God (Philippians 2:7). He went from King of Kings to servant of all, just because He loves us. That same love is what led Him to the cross and it remained after He rose from the dead and ascended back into His rightful place in heaven.
Ephesians 4:7-8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
Of all the gifts given to us as children of God, there’s nothing more incredible than the gift of God himself. He extended to us, in the form of Jesus Christ, a relationship with Him. Nothing we could ask for could be as great as this.
Grace has been offered, though not all will reach out and receive it. But for those who do, the experience of reconciliation with God, of His mercy by not pouring out His wrath on us (which we deserved), and His grace that led Jesus to the cross in our place, cannot be matched by any other thing in this world.
If you’re the recipient of God’s grace, you know peace. You know what love really is, you have felt the release from bondage that once held you. You know how it feels to live under no condemnation and no more slavery to sin. If you’ve known God’s grace, you know eternal life and you know you’ll never die.
This wonderful gift came with a price. Jesus Christ willingly laid down His own life on that cross in your place and mine so that we might know the grace of God. According to His gift of His own life was God’s grace measured out. The abundance of grace shows the abundance of love that led Jesus to the cross. What an amazing gift.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The Apostle Paul makes it a point to speak an awful lot about unity within the Church throughout his letter to the Ephesians. His efforts should not be overlooked. It’s obvious that unity is very important.
Many Christians think that they can live out the life of a Christ-follower apart from belonging to a church family, but in reality things were never designed to work that way. There is one body – and a body can’t fully function without all of its members. It was designed that way. There is one Spirit. We’re each indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but it’s not just for the purpose of solo living.
John Calvin once stated boldly that “those who separate themselves from their fellow believers estrange themselves from the kingdom of God.” He also said, “if we are not one body and one spirit, we are not fit for that inheritance.” This is strong wording, but it truly captures the nature of Paul’s letter and why he’s so adamant about talking to these people about unity. There is not Christianity, no Church, apart from that unity. Embrace your fellow Christians, flaws and all, because they’re your spiritual siblings and you need them as much as they need you.