Palm Sunday - Hosanna in the Highest - Matthew 21:9
Matthew 21:9 says, “The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” A week before Resurrection Sunday aka Easter is known as Holy Week or Passion. It begins on Sunday where many churches celebrate Palm Sunday … the day Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt and people proclaiming, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” It is a time of praise as we recognize Jesus is worthy of all our praise.
One of the ways we praise Him is through song. There are two kinds of songs – horizontal and vertical. The horizontal songs communicate to others the goodness and greatness of our God. We are giving a ‘testimony’. Powerful songs like Amazing Grace that tells others of God’s greatness, grace and glory are horizontal because they are a testimony of God’s goodness. Psalm 103 is a horizontal psalm because all through it, it tells us about the goodness of God saying “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.” But there are other praise songs that are vertical where they communicate to God how awesome and wonderful He is. Unlike the horizontal songs which are about God, these songs are sung directly to Him. Songs like Great Are You Lord are songs where we communicate our love, devotion and praise to Him. Psalm 104 is a vertical psalm because it is communicating with God saying, “…You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty” (Psalm 104:1)
The Bible tells us multiple times in Psalms to “Sing unto Him a new song” (Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 149:1). As in our relationships with people, we need to keep it fresh and new. A new song can be one we recently have heard or have learned; but it can also be one we make up. Our voice does not have to be the greatest – Psalms 98:4 tells us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. God created our voices and He simply wants to inhabit our praises. Jesus began the model prayer with praise when He declared, “Hallowed (Holy) is your name.” (Matthew 6:6). When we sing praises to God, our attitude changes as we begin to realize the goodness and greatness of God. My focus ceases to be on me, my circumstances or what is going on around me. My focus gets centered on God. We can block everything around us out as we put our attention on who God is, and the vastness of His character and power. He is the God who made this cosmos and yet knows every detail of our lives down to the number of hairs on our head. His love and might are far beyond anyone’s comprehension. When I sing, my demeanor begins to change. I begin to have a confidence – not in who I am, but in God. I begin to have joy for I realize “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Dear God, today I choose to praise You with all my heart! I choose to declare “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!” I praise You for You are worthy of all praise, glory, honor and power and there is no other name greater than Yours! Amen.
Now let’s go live the transformed life in praise!
Why Jesus Had to Die - Romans 3:19-26
Romans 3:25-26 says, “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness…for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” As we approach the death of Jesus Christ, I have asked myself, why did Jesus have to die? I understand that Jesus died for my sins. But why was death necessary. Why couldn’t God just simply forgive us and move on. What made the death of Jesus necessary for the forgiveness of sin?
In Romans 3, Paul had just declared there was now a new way to God apart from the Law. Romans 1:17 says, “…but the righteous man shall live by faith.” Faith is this new way to God (Romans 3:22). This faith puts everyone at the same level. Previously, everyone understood the way to God was through living according to the Law (given through Moses in the Torah). God’s righteousness demanded utter perfection to the law. It was the only way we could have relationship with God. But the law does not bring us into relationship with God, but instead it makes us aware of our sinful self. God’s righteousness is so holy, He cannot stand sin – anything short of His glory. God’s character cannot tolerate sin, and because sin taints the holiness of God, His righteousness demands punishment for sin. “The wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23). It is the only acceptable punishment.
Therefore, Jesus had to die as a propitiation for sin meaning Jesus made the payment to atone or cover our sin. There was no other way God could demonstrate His righteousness than through this payment. This act of God substantiated and authenticated His righteousness. We can forgive without any cost because we are imperfect. We have messed up so we overlook it. But God’s righteousness was so holy, He cannot overlook even the smallest of sin. We underestimate the holiness of God. We don’t understand the seriousness of sin. This is why so many don’t understand the true significance of the cross. The only way God could be just and righteous in His character was to punish sin. For God to maintain His holy and righteous character, He had to do more than just overlook sin – He had to punish sin. And God through His love and mercy provided a way to punish our sin through Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:4-6 says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging (stripes) we are healed. All of us like sheep have now gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Jesus became sin for us and God demonstrated His righteousness by punishing sin through death on a cross. Jesus never experienced sin and its consequences until the cross. That is when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Thank You Jesus for dying on the cross. I recognize it was God’s righteousness that demanded payment for sin. Help me to see sin as You see it and walk in the righteousness You provide. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life!
Jesus in the Last Supper - A Picture of Servant Leadership - John 13
John 13:5 says, “Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” At the last supper with His disciples, Jesus modeled servant leadership. If anyone was not to wash the feet, it was Jesus. The washing of people’s feet was the responsibility of the lowest in status, and Jesus was the highest. He was the rabbi. His feet were the ones to be washed. Why others did not take the responsibility is not given in Scripture – perhaps the disciples thought they were higher than the other disciples in the room or perhaps there was a servant who forgot. But nonetheless, Jesus got up from the table and washed the disciples’ feet. The disciples didn’t know what to do. Here they want to demonstrate their worthiness but Jesus was greater than them. In a culture where honor and status is a virtue, why would Jesus humble Himself to the status of a servant? They still didn’t understand that life is more than our status.
To be a true servant leader requires a bold humility. Jesus was not trying to prove who He was – He was God’s Son and He knew it. He knew why the Father had sent Him and where He was going. Jesus had a confidence that did not require other’s approval. Jesus’ boldness caused others to wonder who was this man that spoke with such authority? But this same man was not seeking glory, but was about the Father’s business. When I can get to the point that what others think of me does not matter – not because I am full of myself, but because I fully understand my relationship to the Father and who He is – I can be used by the Holy Spirit in greater ways than I could on my own. It means being empty of myself. It is not to put myself down. It is to realize that I am God’s creation. And when I can empty myself of pride, greed, selfish ambition, and plain ole selfishness, then I can be filled with all of God. Jesus put this way in Matthew 16:24, “…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” When I realize this life has nothing to do with me, it is about God and His kingdom and His glory, I can be used as He desires. This gives me a boldness to do things I would not otherwise do.
To be a servant does not mean I give everyone what they want or what they think they need. Jesus focused on what the Father had Him do. As Jesus was washing their feet, they began to understand, “…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant…as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28). This bold humility comes from living out of surrender and obedience to the Father and His will. It is not about me, but all about serving the God of creation and living for His glory.
Jesus, thank You for Your model of servanthood. Thank You for coming to give Your life so I can have eternal life. I choose today to empty myself so that I may be filled with Your Spirit. Flow through me I pray. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life!
Jesus in the Garden and His Prayer - Eternal Life - John 17:3
John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This chapter is unique in that it is totally dedicated to a prayer between Jesus and the Father. No other chapter in Scripture records such a prayer. Within this prayer Jesus’ goal is giving God glory. His primary objective is to accomplish the will of His Father. He intercedes for those whom the Father has placed in His life that they may be able to accomplish the Father’s will in this world. He asks for their protection from the evil one. He asks for their joy to be full. He asks for them to be sanctified (to be made holy) in the truth of His Word. He asks that they may be one with the Father and each other. He asks the Father those things that the Father may be glorified.
Jesus wanted His disciples to experience eternal life. But what exactly is eternal life? For many, eternal life is about where I am going to be after I die. But there is much more than my place of residence after I die. Eternal life is both in the hereafter and now. It is more than a place of residence. In verse 3, Jesus defined eternal life: “… that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life is knowing God intimately. We come to know God as we learn about Him, spend time with Him, experience Him as we follow Him, and see Him work in our lives and the lives in people around us. We come to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. To know Him is to love Him passionately with all our being. Everything in my life is about Jesus. All I think, say and do is about living a life that reflects the glory of God. There is a difference between knowing about something and knowing something. Jesus doesn’t want us to just know about God, but truly experience God to the fullest.
When I do think of heaven, it has to be more than streets of gold, or this magnificent city on a hill that never goes dark. Heaven is more than seeing friends and family. Heaven is about being in the presence of God forever. But God doesn’t want me to be in His presence only then, He wants me to be in His presence now! When I think of heaven and being in His presence, I realize there are some things absent in heaven. Heaven has no sin, no lust, no pride, no greed. So if being in heaven and in His presence is absent of those things, I must rid myself of those things here and now if I am going to dwell in His presence. Each day, I must choose to confess those aspects of the flesh that will keep me from dwelling in His presence and from operating in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. God then fills me with His Spirit and I can experience eternal life now.
Dear Father, I want to experience eternal life today. I want to love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength. Cleanse me of the impure thoughts and selfishness. Help me to abide in You and be filled with the Spirit. Amen. Now let’s go lived the transformed life!
Jesus Before Pilate - The Defining Question For All - John 19:16
John 19:16 says, “So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.” Pontius Pilate – the fifth prefect (also known as governor) of the province of Judaea under the Roman Emperor Tiberius from AD 26/27 to AD 36/37. Of all the prefect of Rome, he is the most well-known. And the reason he is the most well-known has nothing to do with the Emperor, but with a man from the small town of Nazareth. He is known for making one decision. Life is interesting like that. We can recall many people in history or we know of and they are known for one thing. This one thing defines their entire being. For Pilate, his one questions is “What is he going to do with Jesus of Nazareth?” As Jesus stands before Pilate, Pilate cannot find fault with Him. His wife, terrified from a dream from the night before, warned Him to have nothing to do with Jesus. He tried to pass Jesus off on Herod, but Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate tried to find ways to release Jesus, but the political pressures from the religious leaders and the cries of the crowd proved to be too much for Him. He handed Jesus over to be crucified.
The question before Pilate is the same each of us must answer as well. What am I going to do with Jesus of Nazareth? It is the question we will be ultimately known for. Am I going to ignore Him and hope He goes away? Life is okay and I really don’t want to deal with sin or this Jesus. I don’t want to face the fact of my mortality and I may have to change. I know I need to and I will one day, but right now I want Him to go away. Interestingly, as much as I want it to go away, I keep having it thrown back to me. Or am I going to listen to my friends and give into the pressures of this world? I want the popularity, the prestige, and the power. And if I give my life and commit my life to Him, what are they going to say or do? I may no longer be held in high esteem. I will not be able to continue living life as I do now and I am well-liked, respected and people want to be where I am. Or am I going to accept who He says He is – the Son of God? Am I going to accept what He did – die on a cross to take away my sin and rise again to give me eternal life? Am I going to ask Him for the forgiveness of sin and commit my life to Him and repent of my sin? Am I going to allow Him to be Lord of my life? Each person must answer these questions. I answered these questions by asking Jesus Christ into my heart and committing my life to Him. It doesn’t matter what others say or do, He is my God and I will serve Him. That was my choice – and each man and woman must make that same decision – what are you going to do with this Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only son who came to die for you.
Jesus, I recognize I must decide what I am going to do – I choose today to make You Lord of my life. I choose to follow You. Now let’s go live the transformed life!
Good Friday: The Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth - John 19:30 and Matthew 27
John 19:30 says, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Good Friday – it is an odd statement. What’s so good about Jesus dying? The Son of God who never committed a single sin was crucified. He was beaten with a whip. A crown of thorns – huge and painful where pressed in on His head. The robe that was place on Him after His beating was ripped off Him making the bleeding and pain begin again. Nails were driven through His wrists (considered to be a part of the hand) and above the ankles piercing the nerves creating excruciating pain. He was nailed to a cross between two robbers – a place of shame. His shoulder was likely dislocated and the crucifixion made breathing extremely difficult. Worse was being separated from His Heavenly Father as He became sin for us. Finally, a sword pierced His side where blood and water flowed indicating He died of a broken heart. Within the Greek they have verb tenses like we do – past, present and future. But they have another tense we do not have in English – perfect. The perfect tense was not used often and was used for very specific purposes. The tense was an action totally completed but the effects of that action were ongoing. When Jesus uttered the Greek word translated, “It is finished”, He used the perfect tense. Jesus was saying sin’s debt has been paid once and for all – I completed it; but the effects of this payment will be for all eternity. We can live in the knowledge that all our sins – past, present and future – were paid at the cross.
When Jesus died on the cross, Matthew 27:51 says, “And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.” This veil is what separated the inner court and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where the glory of God dwelled. It was sacred and only the great High Priest could enter. Ordinary man could not go in. But when Jesus died, the fact the veil was torn top to bottom and not bottom to top demonstrated it was God who tore the veil announcing that man can now come into the presence of God – not because of anything we have done, but because Jesus is our great High Priest. Hebrews 4:14 and 16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Johnny Hart, the creator of the B.C. shared in one of his comic strips a cave man sitting under a tree writing on stone tablet: “Now, who can call ‘Good Friday’ good? – a term too oft misunderstood – you who were bought by the blood of His cross, you can call ‘Good Friday’ good.”
Thank You Jesus for dying for my sins; for being my Great High Priests; for making provision that I may come into Your presence through Your shed blood. Thank You for making ‘Good Friday’ truly good. Amen. Now let’s go live the transformed life because of His death on the cross.
Resurrection Sunday: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ - John 20
John 20:19-20 says, “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” The disciples had been hearing the news all day, “The tomb is empty.” “Angels were at the tomb asking why were we looking for the living among the dead.” “I saw Jesus myself.” It was chaotic, mind-blowing, surreal. Could this really be happening? Did someone steal His body? Is this a trick among the Pharisees? Are Mary and the others seeing ghosts? Could it be He is alive? What to think? But then, Jesus is right there in their midst. This Jesus who died on a cross, who had thorns in his brow, who was nailed to a cross, who had a sword thrust into His side, He is right here! Jesus Christ is alive!
Jesus is risen indeed! What an awesome realization that Jesus Christ is alive. This one event, this one fact changes everything! He is not dead. The grave could not hold him. Death was defeated. The Savior of the world conquered death. He is alive and He reigns forevermore. It is in the resurrection we have hope. Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the only man in the world who has ever lived, claimed to be God in the flesh, was killed in making this statement and rose from the dead. This is what makes Christianity so unique and special. No other religion can boast in a risen Savior.
Sometimes people ask all the wrong questions about God and trying to ask if there is anything to Christianity. Many of the questions skeptics ask are the same no matter what religion they are studying. So the best question to ask is what faith is true and how can I know it is true? It is seen in the resurrection. Imagine being God of the universe for a second. You have all these people on the planet earth trying to figure out which religion is true and which are false. There are many claims, but you want to show mankind your Son Jesus is the truth, what would you do? God in heaven sent Jesus and while on earth performed many miracles, fulfilled prophecies from hundreds of years earlier and taught like no one else they had ever heard. But then God allowed His Son to die while declaring He was the Son of God. But then God the Father raised Jesus from the dead – conquering the one thing no one else could do. The resurrection proves Jesus Christ is God’s Son and only way to the Father.
If there was no resurrection, our faith would be worthless and we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). But it is the demonstration of God’s power through the resurrection we have hope. Everything here demonstrates “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
Oh God, thank You demonstration of Your power through the resurrection. It is in You, I have my confidence, my hope, my trust. You who defeated death offers me salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ and it is in Him I have my faith – My RISEN SAVIOR AND LORD! Now let’s go live the transformed life – because I have a risen Savior!