The celebration of Easter is a well-known story with which most of us are familiar. But the life of the disciples after Jesus had risen from the grave and ascended to heaven was far different than what they expected.
After Jesus atoned for the sin of mankind on the cross, He breathed His last on the cross and gave up His spirit. The heavy veil inside the temple tore from top to bottom.
The veil in the temple was made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen with images of cherubim angels worked into it by skilled craftsmen (Exodus 26:31, 36:35). It was hung before the Holy of Holies as a barrier to keep people out of God’s presence.
The presence of the cherubim on the veil symbolized the guardian role the angels played in the kingdom of God. The cherubim were not the popular image of a child-like angel known as a cherub. A cherubim guarded the tree of life after Adam and Eve sinned with a flaming sword to keep them away from it. The cherubim woven into the veil symbolized angels guarding the way into the sanctuary of God within the Holy of Holies. It was God’s way of saying, “Stop! No way!”
So the veil’s primary function was to separate the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies. Only once per year, on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:11-28), the high priest was allowed beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice for the people’s sin onto the mercy seat which rests on the Ark of the Covenant which held the tablets with the Ten Commandments.
The veil was a physical and visual barrier protecting the priests from the lethal presence of an all-holy God. Access to God was strictly prohibited because of His holiness. But at Jesus’ death, God tore the veil from the top to the bottom, because now God no longer separated Himself from mankind. Rather, He now offers Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Instead of God saying “No way!” He now says, “One Way!”
Now, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have not only permission to enter into God’s presence (Hebrews 10:19), but we can do so with confidence. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. On this day of atonement Jesus became our Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed for the sin of the world and all who trust in His finished work on the cross may now come freely into the very presence of God.
Jesus has ushered in a new covenant and inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth. Before Jesus’ death, the disciples thought that the kingdom of God would function basically the same way the world’s kingdoms functioned. So, James and his brother, John, came to Jesus with a request in Mark 10:37, saying, “Grant that we may sit one on Your right and one on Your left in Your glory (Your kingdom).”
These disciples thought Jesus was going to reign as King over the people of Israel in that day and they wanted be His two best vice-regents. In their minds they would have power, authority and rule over others in Jesus’ kingdom.
The world’s kingdoms teach that those who have authority will rule over other people and will be served by the people. But Jesus taught that the people of His kingdom will be despised and rejected by men and will serve those who despitefully use them. Scripture gives us the words of Jesus in Mark 10:42-44: “Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.’” (NASB)
As Christians who serve God now beyond the veil, we are the servants of all. Because even Jesus, who is the Lord of glory, did not come to be served, but came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.
Let’s eagerly serve our King Jesus this Easter and always by serving others, even if it’s only through reaching out to others online, sending a card, making a call, or lifting them in prayer. Jesus deserves all glory, honor, and worship, and serving others in His name is truly an act of worship. One day we will co-reign with the Lord when He establishes His kingdom fully on earth. But today we can, and must, give Him our praise, our worship, and our service, which He so richly deserves!
I pray you are doing well! My family and I are praying for you! I was asked to prepare a blog post as it relates to our Easter theme of exploring the kingdom of God. I hope these reflections encourage you in the Lord.
The coronavirus has massively altered significant aspects of the world these last few weeks, including our lives in Southern California. Nevertheless, during difficult times, God wants us to remember Him! He wants us to seek Him (Psalm 34:10), to sing praises to Him (Psalm 96:1), and to meditate on Scripture (Psalm 1:2). Remember, Jesus said that we live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Knowing this, I would love to share two verses with you, to focus our eyes on Jesus:
Matthew writes, “Jesuswas going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).
Matthew’s Gospel is his eyewitness account telling the Jewish people that Jesus was the promised Messiah! These verses say so much about Christ.
First, we see that Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom everywhere He went. The “gospel” (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον) means “good news” (concerning Christ, forgiveness, the way of salvation, and eternal life), and “of the kingdom” (τῆς βασιλείας) means the eternal rule of the everlasting kingdom of God. Can you imagine Jesus telling people that their sins could be forgiven, that the kingdom of heaven was in their very midst, that He was the way, the truth, and the life and no one could come to the Father but through Him? What a radical proclamation!
Second, Jesus healed everydisease and every sickness. Notice that Jesus wasn’t working on a vaccine and He wasn’t waiting on FDA approval for a life-saving medication. He simply went out and healed viruses, cancers, incurable sicknesses, infections, and the like. Praise the Lord! Do you know that He heals today?! But remember that Jesus’ ultimate focus was not on miracles, but to preach the Gospel of the kingdom (Luke 4:43), to die on the cross to take away our sins (1 John 3:5), and to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Third, when He saw the people distressed and dispirited without a shepherd, He had compassion on them! Why? Because He loved them!
Today, Jesus still wants the same good news to be shared! He still wants to heal! He still has compassion on the distressed, dispirited, and the lost! He loves you! He regards our helpless estate because He shed His own blood for our souls! My precious brothers and sisters, keep your eyes on Jesus! There are so many souls who don’t know about the risen Christ, the significance of the cross, and the power of the resurrection. Would you consider proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to the people around you? When the time is right, consider being an ambassador for Christ in a way you never tried before. Maybe you could start a YouTube channel during this time or post a video on Facebook sharing your faith or a song you wrote. Or simply invite a friend or family member to watch the Easter service online. May God lead you to do amazing things for His glory!
Ask the Lord to fill you even more with the Holy Spirit, then step out in faith, and see what God will do!
Focus on the Family has provided a really informative mini-lesson series on Easter. It is a great way to explain to your children the amazing love Christ has for us. And how God, in all his infinite wisdom, had a plan in place to save us because He loves us too much to see us perish.
Are you a realist? Do you need to see all the facts before you make a decision? That was the way it was with two men who were walking on a road to the town called Emmaus. Luke’s account of the resurrection in Luke 24:1-49 focuses half of its attention on Jesus’ meeting with two men who were walking on the road to Emmaus that resurrection Sunday. We know that one of the men was named Cleopas. As Cleopas and his friend were walking, suddenly Jesus approached them and began to walk with them. They did not immediately recognize Jesus because God prevented them from knowing it was Him. Jesus asked them what they were talking about and Luke tells us they stood there looking sad.
Luke 24:13-17: “And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’ And they stood still, looking sad.”
They had been followers of Jesus and now their dreams of overthrowing Rome and establishing a new Jewish kingdom were over. These men viewed Jesus as a prophet who could perform mighty miracles and healings, and they shared with this stranger how Jesus had been crucified and buried in a tomb. But they also shared how some of the women who went to the tomb that Sunday morning had told them that the body was not there. They also claimed to have seen some angels who told them that Jesus was alive. Even Peter and John confirmed that the tomb was as the women had said it was. But Cleopas and his friend did not really believe what they had heard. They were realists and, wanting to see it to believe it, they demonstrated they had a lack of faith and found the resurrection too difficult to believe.
Jesus then spoke to them with some harsh words. He said: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Then Jesus began to instruct them with the teachings of Moses and all the prophets. He explained how the Old Testament spoke about Him and pointed to Him as the Messiah. Then to confirm what He said was true, He suddenly revealed Himself to them and their eyes were opened to recognize Him. After this, He simply vanished.
The Scriptures reveal many things. They teach us about theology and who God is. They instruct us on how to live a God-honoring life. They comfort us with words of encouragement when things are difficult. But we must never forget that both the Old and New Testaments point to Jesus as Savior and Lord. The ultimate question from this portion of Scripture rests in whether you believe this to be true. These two men had a lack of faith. All the evidence was there. Jesus had spoken like no one else. He had performed countless signs and wonders. There were eyewitnesses and even angels who attested to His resurrection. Jesus Himself showed them that the Old Testament Scriptures testified that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and yet these men were foolish and slow of heart.
How to respond: Do you believe and trust God’s word that testifies that Jesus is the resurrected Lord who takes away the sin of the world, including yours? If you do believe this, spend some time thanking Jesus for His incredible sacrifice and the life you now have as a result. Reflect on the fact that death is not an end of life, but merely a transition to our home with Christ. If you don’t believe this, today is an opportunity to respond to Jesus’ invitation to confess your sinfulness before God and accept the forgiveness that is offered in Jesus’ name. Today, may we all proclaim the glory of Jesus, believing that He is risen; He is risen indeed!
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 ESV). I know that this verse is found much earlier in the life of Jesus when the shepherds came to see Him as a newborn and shared with Mary and Joseph all that the angels had told them about this baby. From this verse, though, we see that Mary was one who ‘pondered.’ To ponder means to meditate upon, to consider something deeply and thoroughly, to weigh carefully in the mind. How many times in the next 33 years would Mary ‘ponder’ something about Jesus? Perhaps she pondered as she watched Him in the still of the night as she held Him to her breast. Maybe she pondered as she watched Him take His first step or say His first words (likely mama or dada in Aramaic). Surely, she pondered when she and Joseph found Him in the temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve after He had gone missing for three days! There He sat among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. Everyone who saw Him there was amazed at the depth of His understanding (Luke 2:47). His parents, too, were said to be amazed (Luke 2:48).
Did Mary, at this time, recall those things spoken to her by the angel Gabriel? Did she remember the words spoken by Simeon as He blessed Him as an infant? Did she ponder those words relayed by the shepherds as spoken by the heavenly host? There was probably some heavy pondering going on within her at this point.
On the day that we know as Good Friday, Mary stood in eyesight and earshot of the cross. Had she just seen Him flogged and scourged? Her heart must be heavier than can be imagined. This is her Son, her Child, her Baby. And yet, in her heart, she also knows Him as Messiah. As she stands there now, she sees Him bleeding and naked as He hangs between thieves as if a common criminal. How can this be? As she looks upon Him with a mother’s heart, there are no recorded words spoken by her. Speechless anguish undoubtedly flooded her. Uncontrollable sobbing perhaps?
Jesus sees her nearby and offers comfort to her, even at this moment: “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27 ESV) A tender moment in the midst of the grief…yet something else to ponder.
We know on that day at the sixth hour (noon) the sky goes dark until the ninth hour (3 p.m.). He is still alive, struggling for breath. What must have gone through Mary’s mind during these three long hours? Maybe she prayed silently as some shouted, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35 ESV). Maybe she relived portions of His life. Maybe she looked on with a mother’s desire to wipe His brow and to provide any level of comfort she could.
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this He breathed His last’” (Luke 23:46 ESV). It was done. At this moment it must have felt, in some ways, like she also had breathed her last. Was she relieved that His agony was over? Did John wrap his arms around her and lead her away to his home (and now hers)? Would she lay her head down this night and ponder? We know for Mary this most excruciating day would find her just days later joyful again as she would see Him risen. All the pondering would begin to make sense from the original proclamation of the angel Gabriel to the stone being rolled over the tomb. As we reflect, as we ponder this Good Friday, may we find assurance in its significance – in what makes it good. Whether we find ourselves on this day feeling blessed or facing excruciating circumstances, may we not forget that our joy remains because of His death on that cross as we have risen to newness of life on the very day we believed, and will most certainly rejoice when we stand before Him ‘on that day.’ How to respond?
How might you have responded to the events of Friday if you were one of His disciples at the time? Ponder what you know of His life, from His birth, through His years of ‘ordinary’ life in Nazareth, to His three years of public ministry, including His teaching and His miracles. What might have happened to all the hopes and dreams you had placed on Jesus as you watched Him flogged and crucified?
The Last Supper, the meal that Jesus had with His disciples the night before He was crucified, was the Passover meal eaten by the Israelites for centuries (verse 15). This festival was the highlight of the Jewish calendar year. It both remembered and celebrated the deliverance of the Jewish nation from slavery in Egypt. It was a time of national rejoicing, especially for those who were able to be in Jerusalem at that time. To say that the city was crowded with Jews from all over the Roman Empire would be a huge understatement. The city would be packed with those who made the pilgrimage for the festival. For Jesus’ disciples, there was an intensity to this particular night that was caused by what had taken place when they had come into the city but tempered by the words Jesus had spoken to them about His impending death. The Passover meal looked back to the past but also spoke of what the Lord would do with the coming of the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Jesus told His disciples that night that He would never eat the Passover meal again until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (verse 18). The fulfillment that Jesus spoke about would be found in the resurrection of all of God’s people, including us. This includes the hope of being completely delivered from sin and its effects. How to respond? Spend time looking back, reflecting on the fact that you, too, were delivered from slavery to sin and given new life in Christ because of His great sacrifice. Thank Jesus for His willingness to die for your sin. Thank Him for the life you now have in Him. Also, spend some time thinking about what is to come…the time when we will eat with Jesus in the fullness of His kingdom, enjoying life in His presence, with sin, pain and death defeated. By