He’s Alive!

Matthew 28:1–3; Mark 16:1–20; Luke 24:1–49; John 20:1–31

Just this week I watched a program that featured an interviewer on the streets of New York who was asking random passersby what holiday was coming up this weekend. More than 50% of the people had no clue. They gave answers such as Memorial Day, Father’s Day…even the Fourth of July! Some did say Easter, but, when asked to explain what Easter was, only about three of the many people interviewed gave answers that spoke of the Resurrection.

At first that short segment made me laugh at some of the answers given, but only for a second. Sadness moved in quickly. How could the most important event in all of history not be clearly understood by more people?

The resurrection of Jesus is central to the celebration of Easter, but less than half of adult Americans link the two. The Barna Group found that only 42% of adults tied Easter to the Resurrection. Adults aged 18 through 25 did the worst. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said, “The Easter holiday in particular still has a distinctly religious connection for people, but the specifics of it are really fading in a lot of people’s minds.” And this research is six years old, so the figure is likely less than 42% now.  Source: The Houston Chronicle, March 18, 2010

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? What does the Resurrection mean to you and me?

Jesus said “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” John 11:25–26.

The Resurrection is the heart of Christianity, the pinnacle—the high point—of all events that occurred concerning the Church and every Christian!

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead:

  • Testifies of the immense power of God himself. One writer said it this way: “To believe in the Resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death” (see I Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty and power over life and death.
  • Confirms Jesus’ claim that He is “…the way, the truth, and the life…” as He states in John 14:6. Jesus had told the disciples in advance that He would rise again on the third day after His death. Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said…” Matthew 28:5–6 (see Events on Resurrection Day below).
  • Offers new life in Christ right now! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” John 3:16–17. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” I Corinthians 15:1–4.
  • Gives us hope for the future. “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” John 14:18–19. The good news is that those who are in Christ can expect their own resurrection from the dead and life with God for eternity. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
    I Corinthians 15:55.

You can’t keep the God-Man down! “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said…” Matthew 28:6.

Events on Resurrection Day

  • Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome go to the tomb (Mark 16:1–2; Luke 23:55–24:1)
  • The women discover that the great stone that had sealed the tomb is rolled away (Luke 24:2)
  • The women draw near and see the angel (Matthew 28:1–5)
  • Mary Magdalene goes to tell the disciples that the Lord’s body is gone (John 20:1–2)
  • Peter and John arrive and see the empty tomb; Peter goes in, then both depart (John 20:3–10)
  • Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb weeping; she sees two angels and then Jesus (John 20:11–16)
  • The risen Christ bids Mary Magdalene go and tell the disciples that she has seen Him (John 20:17–18)
  • Mary (the mother of James) and the other women who have taken the prepared burial spices to the tomb are perplexed (Luke 24:1–4)
  • The women see two angels at the tomb and hear their message (Luke 24:4–7; Matthew 28:6)
  • The women leave quickly to tell the disciples that Jesus is risen (Matthew 28:7–8)
  • On their way to find the disciples, the women are met by the risen Christ (Matthew 28:9–10)

Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus to…

  • Mary Magdalene – John 20:14–18; Mark 16:9
  • The women returning from the tomb – Matthew 28:8–10
  • Peter later on Resurrection Day – Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5
  • The disciples walking to Emmaus in the evening – Luke 24:13–31
  • The disciples (except Thomas) – Luke 24:36–45; John 20:19–24
  • The disciples a week later (with Thomas present) – John 20:24–29
  • Seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberias in Galilee – John 21:1–23
  • The disciples at the mount called Olivet and the Ascension – Acts 1:3–12
  • The apostles and 500 believers – 1 Corinthians 15:6
  • James – 1 Corinthians 15:7
  • Paul near Damascus – Acts 9:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:8
  • Stephen outside Jerusalem – Acts 7:55
  • Paul in the temple – Acts 22:17–21; 23:11
  • John on the island of Patmos – Revelation 1:10–19

Source: Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Handbook, revised by Gary N. Larson, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984, pp. 397–398.

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Worship together, enjoy this special day, and share the good news with others!

— by Pastor Greg Joyner

Dead and Buried!

Matthew 27:62–66

I’m thinking back to one of the times when I wanted to hang out with my next-oldest brother and his friend. They were around 11 or 12 years old, and I was maybe 6. Why I wanted to camp out with them I have no idea, but I did and they let me.

Well, there we were, only about 100 yards from our house under a barn shelter. Yep, we were set – campfire, hot dogs, chips, and scary stories. And the scary story part is when I sure wished I wasn’t there. They would tell stories, and with each one I became – and honestly I think they did, too – a little more afraid. Then wouldn’t you know it, just as one of the stories was leading up to the scary part, we heard something thrashing around, and it sounded nearby and big. We all three became very quiet. I know now that my brother and his friend were just as afraid as I was. We didn’t know what the sound was or what to do about it; we froze. Then, underneath that barn shelter and echoing off the tin roof, we heard a loud “Mooo!”

All three of us ran as fast as we could to our house. It was crazy frightening, and to think we were so spooked when it was just one of the cows that had gotten out and made its way to the barn. Darkness and not knowing can mess with you. It sure did mess with us that night. As I think about Jesus’ disciples on that dark night of His death, they must have been afraid and confused.

We can laugh at the fear that struck us three boys that night, but for the disciples it was no laughing matter. They had scattered when Jesus was arrested and had spent Saturday hiding in fear of being arrested themselves (Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–23). They were confused, afraid, and seemingly hopeless.

Matthew 27:62–66 is the only biblical reference we have that tells what happened with the authorities that day. The chief priests and Pharisees visited Pontius Pilate and asked him to set a guard before Jesus’ tomb. They remembered Jesus saying (as we read in John 2:19–21) “…Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jewish religious leaders didn’t want to take any chances of Jesus’ disciples stealing His body and saying that Jesus had risen from the dead, or of Jesus himself resurrecting and coming out of the tomb, so these wicked leaders did everything they could to prevent it. But we know they couldn’t! The grave couldn’t hold Jesus and Roman soldiers couldn’t stop Him!

We know the rest of the story. Up from the grave He arose! And tomorrow, Resurrection Sunday, and every day afterward, we celebrate just that – He is risen! Jesus lay dead in a tomb after suffering cruel beatings, mocking, and death on the cross for our sins, and I can’t help but be very grateful. He took my sin, my selfishness, my pride, my lack of compassion, my greed, my guilt, my shame…and He buried it! Wow! Sin – dead and buried! Oh, what a Savior!

“Dear God, Help me today to be more forgiving. Help me to remember how You completely forgave me. Help me not to bring up sins again – not to myself, or to other persons, or to You. Help me to truly forgive – to reckon sins and wrongs as dead and buried. Thank You for giving me full and complete forgiveness. Only in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

— by Pastor Greg Joyner

What’s So Good About “Good Friday”?

Matthew 27:1–66; Mark 15:1–47; Luke 22:66–23:56; John 18:28–19:37

Years ago, a powerful story was told about a mountain-area school that had a hard time keeping a teacher. It seems there was a group of big, rough boys who took pride in running the teacher off. The biggest and roughest of them all was named Tom.

A new young teacher won the boys over, however, by letting them write the rules for the school, which were very strictly enforced with a rod. For example, cheating would be punished with five strokes of the rod and stealing with 10 strokes, both to be given with the offender’s coat off.

Everything went well until one day Tom’s lunch was stolen. A frail little boy in hand-me-down clothes that were too big for him admitted his guilt. The school rules demanded that he be whipped. When the teacher called the little fellow up front, he came whimpering and begging to leave his coat on. The pupils insisted he obey the rules and take off his coat. When he did, a deathly silence settled over the room, for he had no shirt on and his emaciated body looked like skin stretched over bones. The teacher gasped and dropped the rod. He knew he could never whip that little boy.

Suddenly, big Tom strode up and stood between the two. “I’ll take it for him, Teacher, for after all it was my lunch he stole.” He shrugged out of his coat. At the third blow, the switch broke, and the teacher threw it in the corner and said, “That’s all. School dismissed.” The frail little boy laid his hand on big Tom’s arm and through his tears said, “Thank you, Tom, it would have killed me.”

Who could help but be moved to gratitude by someone willing to take your place, take your punishment, suffer your consequences? That’s exactly what Jesus did for us on that Friday of Passion Week, often called “Good Friday.” He took our place and received our punishment for sin. He did what we could not do. He was our substitute. He suffered cruel pain and hung on a wooden cross until His death.

Why is it referred to as “Good Friday”? What was done to Jesus definitely was not good (see Matthew 26–27; Mark 14–15; Luke 22–23; John 18–19). Why not call it “Bad Friday” or something similar? Many suggestions have been given as to why it has been officially termed “Good Friday.” Regardless of the origin, however, the name “Good Friday” is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as cruel and terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

As mentioned in the introduction to this group of Passion Week devotional messages, early Friday morning, after Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was abandoned by His disciples and endured false trials, condemnation, beatings, and cruel mocking. Then He was forced to carry His own cross and was crucified on Golgotha (The Place of the Skull) along with two prisoners who were convicted thieves. Before sundown that day, Jesus’ body was placed in a borrowed tomb.

Seemingly anything but good happened that day. Jesus was falsely accused, beaten, mocked; one of His followers betrayed Him and another denied Him. Good Friday is “good” because, as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday! The wrath of God against sin – my sin, your sin, the sin of the world – was poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and His shed blood on the cross, we would have no hope for salvation and eternal life in heaven. Jesus willingly took our punishment, God’s righteous wrath against sin, so that we could receive His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and have real, lasting joy. Think about it. Jesus endured the cruel death of the cross on Good Friday, knowing that it would lead to His resurrection and our salvation! One commentator says that Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so good. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Remember: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

Think about sacrificially serving someone today. Let this be a day when you do something for someone else that perhaps that person couldn’t do for himself or herself. And remember the sacrifice of our Savior as you serve that person.

“Dear God, I really don’t have adequate words to say ‘Thank You.’ That’s really what I want to do today – thank and praise You for salvation. Thank You for forgiveness, for Your mercy, for Your love and compassion. Thank You for being my substitute. Thank You for the joy of salvation. Help me to live a thankful and sacrificial life today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

— by Pastor Greg Joyner

A Great Way to Remember Him

Matthew 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–23; John 13:1–10

Surf the Internet and you’ll find many sites that claim to offer ways to help improve your memory. You’ll discover memory techniques, memory tests and quizzes, and supplemental “nutrients.” For me, I’ve found that certain events in my life, mostly emotional ones, cause me to remember more readily and vividly than anything.

I recall the last days spent with my mom before her passing. She had been in the hospital from having pneumonia and afterward was in a rehabilitation facility to grow stronger. Although my family and I lived eight hours away, I felt this sense to go and see my mom again. So we left on a Friday in the late afternoon and drove down to stay with family and spend time with Mom the next day. Even our son, in his first year of college, had a friend drive him up from another state to meet us for the weekend. We enjoyed the better part of two wonderful days with Mom. She was, as always, sweet, pleasant, and thrilled to have us visit. One of the things my mom loved for us to do when we were together was to read the Bible, and we did during that visit. We read most often from the Psalms. She loved it and so did we. What a great memory!

We left to return home on Sunday afternoon, and I remember my family’s sensing that we might have seen my mom for the last time on this side of heaven. One of my sisters called me the next day, Monday, to let me know that Mom had passed. Of course it was sad news, but I was also very thankful that I had enjoyed the previous two days visiting with her. That was almost 10 years ago, and I still remember the room, the setting, and the time we spent reading to her. Today I can’t read certain Psalms without remembering Mom. I’m sure you have similar memories of loved ones, be they family members or friends. Those times are cherished moments burned into our minds, never to be forgotten.

On this, Thursday, the fifth day of Passion Week, Jesus and the disciples prepared for the Passover Feast (Matthew 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13). As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of the Passover by giving His body to be broken and His blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. During this last supper, Jesus established The Lord’s Supper, also called “Communion” (Matthew 26:20–30; Mark 14:17–26;

Luke 22:14–30; John 13:21–30). Jesus told His disciples and all followers thereafter to do this in remembrance of Him. The Lord’s Supper is one of two ordinances we regularly observe today in the local church.

During this last supper, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of humility and service, thereby setting an example that we should love and serve one another in humility (John 13:3–17). If Jesus, God in the flesh, is willing to serve, we as His followers also must be servants. What a powerful reminder of how we are to live the Christian life (Philippians 2:1–11).

“Dear God, Help me today to be a better servant, to more reflect You in my life. Help me to honor and represent You by seeking to serve others as You served us. Help me to have Your mind today, to be humble, to think of others and not be selfish. Help me to be tender and compassionate toward others today. Thank You for humbly serving us. In Jesus’ name I ask these things, Amen.”

— by Pastor Greg Joyner

Be Still and Know that He Is God

Mark 14:1; John 12:1; Psalm 46:10; Isaiah 2:11, 17

I recall a time when I was in my early teens working on a farm, and one requirement was to finish bringing in the crop before the forecast rain came. All of us workers began at 6 a.m. and we didn’t stop, other than for a lunch break and a couple of snack breaks, until 10 p.m. I was totally exhausted by the end of such a long day. I was so tired that when I did go to sleep all I could hear, even while sleeping, was the sound of a tractor. All night I heard the putt-putt-putt of that engine. I was, if there is such a thing, too tired to rest.

Wednesday was the fourth day of Passion Week and is sometimes called “Silent Wednesday.” The Bible doesn’t say what the Lord did on that day. Some Bible scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of the Passover. Some say this is the day when a woman anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume, as described in Matthew 26:6–13, Mark 14:3–9, and John 12:1–11. This day is traditionally thought of as the day Judas conspired with some local authorities to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14–16).

While we may not know absolutely what Jesus did on this day, it’s fascinating to consider that Jesus spent His final quiet day with those dearest to Him. It was a day to rest, reflect, and also anticipate. Those are great things for us to do regularly as well. And today is a great day to take some rest and reflection time as we prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday. As I learned so well as a young man, you can become too exhausted to produce or appreciate. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Why not set aside time today for some extra minutes in your Bible, in prayer, and in meditation. Catch up with some good friends who will encourage you and whom you can encourage in the Lord. Attend Wednesday-evening Bible study and prayer service. Purpose that you will take time today to remove the distractions, adjust your busy calendar to allow a time of silence and solitude with God, and rejoice in the fact that we worship a risen Savior!

“Dear God, Thank You for rest and solitude with You. Thank You for moments of refreshment from having spent time in Your Word, time in prayer before You, time in personal praise of You. Thank You for the reminder that You are able to do anything but fail. Give me sweet fellowship with You today. May I allow time to just enjoy Your presence today. Thank You, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray, Amen.”

— by Pastor Greg Joyner

Truth and Consequences

Matthew 21:23–24:51; Mark 11:27–13:37; Luke 20:1–21:36

Back in the day, as some say it, there was a game show called “Truth or Consequences.” The premise of the show was to mix the original quiz element of game shows with wacky stunts. On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question or a bad riddle correctly (usually an off-the-wall question or riddle that no one would be able to answer correctly) before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded. If the contestant could not complete the “Truth” portion, there would be “Consequences,” usually a crazy and embarrassing stunt that would have to be performed by the contestants.

On Tuesday of Passion Week, the Pharisees and Sadducees tried a type of truth or consequences game with Jesus that backfired. He knew the answers and He also knew their heart motivations. These corrupt religious leaders aggressively confronted Jesus about where He got His authority. They wanted to trap Him and create an opportunity for chaos and unrest. Instead, Jesus saw right through their scheme and pronounced harsh judgment upon them through several parables, including that of the two sons (Matthew 21:28–32; Mark 11:27–33; Luke 20:1–8), the wicked farmers (Matthew 21:33–45; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19), and the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1–14).

In addition, the Pharisees and Sadducees angrily questioned Jesus about taxes to pay to Caesar, the resurrection, and the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:15–46; Mark 12:13–37; Luke 20:20–44), as well as about marriage in heaven. Jesus answered their questions with further questions and exposed their hearts to the point that they became even angrier with Him. Jesus pronounced judgment on these leaders, calling them, among other things, hypocrites and “blind guides” as well as “whited sepulchers that appear beautiful on the outside but inside are filled with dead men’s bones and uncleanness” (Matthew 23). This passage contains Jesus’ eight “woes” spoken against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13–36).

On this same day Jesus spoke of the poor widow who gave all she had. Jesus noted that she gave sacrificially, not out of abundance, as the rich had done (Mark 12:41–44; Luke 21:1–4).

That Tuesday afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem due east of the Temple. That was where Jesus told about the future as He delivered what is known as “The Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5–36). Jesus described the destruction that would come to Jerusalem (which happened in 70 A.D.) and the end of the age. He used symbolic language about end-time events, which included His Second Coming and the final judgment.

So for you this Tuesday before Easter, have you chosen truth or are you willing to accept the consequences of your rejection? Luke 19:41–44 says Jesus mourned the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Him. They had refused God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ. In John 14:6, Jesus describes himself as being the “truth,” the only “way” to the Father. We should take time today to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for providing such a sure way to the Father. And we should live lives that reflect the fact that we belong to the Lord.

“Dear God, I come to You today with a thankful heart for all You have given me – salvation, forgiveness, grace, mercy. I could never thank You enough. Today, please help me to live a life that reflects a sincere heart of gratitude. Help me to live for You and not for myself. Help me to have a Colossians 3:1–2 heart today to ‘…seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God’…‘set [my] affection on things above, not on things on the earth’…honor and please You more in everything I think and do today. In the wonderful name of Jesus I ask these things, Amen.”

– by Pastor Greg Joyner

It’s a Great Day for a Clean House

Matthew 21:10–17; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–48

I recall some years ago taking my son with me as I made a house call to someone who had recently visited the church. During the drive, a discussion about God’s forgiveness came up. My son was 11 or 12 years old at the time and trying to understand as best he could how to grasp the concept and describe it. I was trying to explain it the best I could. As we were riding along talking and enjoying the time (or at least I was, and hoped my son was as well J) he gave this illustration in his own words: “It sounds to me like God’s forgiveness is kinda like Him taking a vacuum cleaner to our hearts and cleaning everything out.” To me, my son’s illustration made more sense than how I was trying to explain it, and I remember it to this day. It made me realize then and it reminds me now that I try to make things too complicated at times.

My son’s illustration helps me when I think of what I’m calling Day Two, the Monday after Palm Sunday and prior to Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During Sunday through Wednesday of Passion Week, Jesus spent each night in the town of Bethany, just 2 miles east of Jerusalem on the opposite slope of the Mount of Olives. He probably stayed in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. One of the events that occurred on Monday, as described in the Bible, is Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple the second time. The first cleansing Jesus made is mentioned in John 2:13–17. In Matthew 21:12–13 we read, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, but true worship had been replaced with merchandise and the sale of goods.

Another event that happened that day, shortly before Jesus arrived at the Temple, was His cursing of the fig tree (Matthew 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14). From a distance, the fig tree looked promising and gave the appearance of producing fruit, but, upon closer examination, in reality it did not have any fruit. The two events were related in the sense that the Temple was for true worship, and true worship produces genuine and substantive fruit. Neither was happening, and Jesus “called them on it.” He cursed the fig tree and it became barren. He cleansed the Temple of the merchants because of their interference with and interruption of the true worship of God.

As we think about having our hearts prepared for Easter, today is a good day to ask God to search our hearts and cleanse us of any unrighteousness – to help us not have just the appearance of serving Him but have hearts that are pure and sincere toward Him. After all, the apostle Paul describes our bodies as the temple of God in I Corinthians 6:19–20. We were bought with a price, and we are to glorify God in our bodies. We can’t glorify God with “dirty” hearts.

A good prayer to pray today comes right from Psalm 139:23–24. Don’t rush into this prayer. Honestly think about it first. When you think about the words and sincerely desire God to answer your prayer, you will be dramatically changed for His glory. Will you join me in sincerely praying this prayer today? Ask God for personal forgiveness and cleansing that you may be prepared to worship Him in sincerity without interference or interruption. And from that worship you will produce genuine and substantive fruit that may abound to your account.

“Dear God, I pray as David prayed in Psalm 139 and ask You to ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Thank You for cleansing me and making me a clean vessel to serve You purely today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

– by Pastor Greg Joyner

The Day Hope Rode into Town

Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 1:1–11; Luke 19:28–44; John 12:12–19

When I think about hope, many things come to mind. One is when I was around 8 years old and growing up in rural North Carolina. I come from a large family by today’s standards – 10 children – and we enjoyed a nice balance of five boys and five girls. My dad was a sharecropper, so we lived on small farms that basically our family members and, on occasion, a few hired helpers could handle.

We didn’t have lots of gadgets, toys, or excesses, so any small “extra” that came our way was thrilling! Christmas was always special, no matter how lean it may have been. I recall an uncle and aunt who always would arrive faithfully on the Saturday before Christmas with a car full of “extras” – things like fruit, Twinkies, hostess cakes, Brazil nuts, and the like. We would watch in anticipation for their arrival, and when we saw the car coming we’d run out to meet them with great excitement!

I know it doesn’t seem like that big of a thing now, but to me, and to all of us kids, then it was BIG. In fact, I remember the expectation that came with that annual visit. It brought me great hope! It brought hope for something I enjoyed, anticipation for something I often didn’t get until that visit. Yes, with that many kids and our varied ages and experiences, we had many “faces” in the crowd. And we had many expectations and anticipations among us. To me, personally, on that day hope rode into town in the back of a station wagon. It was delightful and brought me great joy!

Imagine with me Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry. The day Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem also was a day of great hope. He rode into town on the back of a donkey’s colt just like Zechariah 9:9 predicted He would. The crowds ran to greet Him, to welcome Him, and, yes, to worship Him. They cried aloud “Hosanna!” (“Save now!”) just as Psalm 118:25–26 said they would. It was truly a day of great hope and celebration. Jesus’ entry to the holy city, Jerusalem, neared the culmination of a long journey toward Calvary. Jesus had come to save the lost (Luke 19:10). It was the time and the place for our hope of salvation, announced by Jesus’ arrival as prophesied.

There were many faces in the crowd that day. Many welcomed and honored Jesus with their shouting and praise. “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9). But not all were true believers. This same crowd that on Sunday hailed Him would also cry out on Friday for Him to be nailed to a cross. They praised Him on Sunday and denied Him on Friday. On Palm Sunday they said “Hosanna in the highest” but on Friday they said “Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22–23).

Of all the faces in the crowd that Palm Sunday, some of the people could be described as:

• Committed followers – Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 21:6–7; Mark 11:4)
• Confused (Matthew 21:10–11)
• Pretenders (John 12:37)
• Simply curious (John 12:17–18)
• Outright opposed to Jesus (Luke 19:37–39; John 12:42b–43).

The Bible tells us that Jesus mourned them (Luke 19:41–42).

The question for everyone on this Palm Sunday is: Which one are you? Are you a committed follower of Jesus Christ? Has the hope of salvation become truly and personally yours? Or are you like one of the many others on that Palm Sunday…confused, a pretender, simply curious, or someone who outright opposes Him? Is Jesus rejoicing over your acceptance of salvation found only in Him or is He mourning your rejection? Is your worship of Him genuine and true or is it shallow and convenient?

If you are anything other than a true disciple of Jesus Christ, my prayer is that today is the day when He makes a triumphal entry into your heart, that you receive the gift of salvation so freely offered by Jesus Christ, and that you have a Palm Sunday to remember and cherish.

Here’s how to know for sure:

1. Realize and admit you are a sinner – Romans 3:10, 23
2. Realize that a price must be paid for your sins – Romans 5:12; 6:23; Revelation 20:14–15
3. Realize that Jesus paid the price for sin – John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3–4
4. Repent of your sins and ask Jesus to save you – Romans 10:13; Luke 13:3; Romans 10:9

You may want to express your trust in accepting the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life this way:
“Dear Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner and I do believe that You died in my place so my sins can be forgiven. I repent of my sins. Thank you for forgiving me of all my sins. I also believe that You rose again so that I can have eternal life now. Thank you for loving me so much to make this possible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

– by Pastor Greg Joyner

Passion Week Devotional

“Passion Week,” also known as “Holy Week,” refers to the time period from what we call “Palm Sunday” (the day of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem) through “Easter Sunday” (also called “Resurrection Sunday,” the day when Christ rose from the tomb). On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey (a colt), and the crowd welcomed Him with shouts of “Hosanna” (meaning “Oh save! Save now!”), as prophesied in Psalm 118:25–26 and Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Week involved several memorable events, beginning on Sunday with the triumphal entry/arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, as prophesied. He was riding on the back of a donkey’s colt, and received praise and acclamations from the crowd as King of Israel. Yes, the people hailed Him on Sunday, but things changed by Friday as many in the crowd sought to have Jesus nailed to the cross. Jesus didn’t fit their image of King or Messiah.

Here are some great questions for everyone to think about while preparing for Easter Sunday: Who is Jesus to you? Is He Savior? Is He Lord? Or is He something else to you? What happened when you were confronted with the real Jesus from the Bible? This question is not referring to the TV or movie Jesus but the Living Word of God in the flesh. He is the one and only Savior of the world. Jesus is our living hope. What did you do when confronted with God’s Son, Jesus?

Let’s look at some events in Jesus’ life that happened during Passion Week:

  • On Monday, Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem for the second time in His earthly ministry (Luke 19:45–46) and cursed the fig tree (Matthew 21:12–22).
  • Tuesday was the day when many priests, scribes, and elders, and in particular the Pharisees, consulted together about how to take Jesus and kill him; these were the religious leaders that Jesus warned the people about. Also on that day, Jesus predicted future events including His own return to earth someday.
  • No specific event on Wednesday is mentioned in the Bible concerning Jesus; that day was likely one of rest before He faced false trials and eventual crucifixion.
  • Thursday included the Passover celebration and the event known as “The Last Supper” that Jesus and His disciples observed together in the upper room. Jesus prepared both himself and His disciples for His death, giving new meaning to the Passover meal and instituting “The Lord’s Supper,” one of two ordinances of the church today; the other ordinance is “Baptism.”
  • Early Friday morning, after Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was abandoned by His disciples and endured false trials, condemnation, beatings, and cruel mocking. Then He was forced to carry His own cross and was crucified on Golgotha (The Place of the Skull) along with two prisoners who were convicted thieves. Before sundown that day, Jesus’ body was placed in a borrowed tomb.
  • Throughout the day on Saturday, the Sabbath, Jesus’ body lay in the tomb.
  • On Sunday came the resurrection! The angel seated at the entrance to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed proclaimed, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.…” (Matthew 28:6).

These seven days are referred to as Passion Week because during this time Jesus Christ truly revealed His passion for us in His suffering and dying for our sins. He suffered on our behalf to make available salvation – the forgiveness of all sin – to give to us something we could never achieve for ourselves. We should show our passion for Jesus in our grateful worship of Him this week and in our proclamation of His gospel – the good news of salvation – always!