Palm Sunday, APRIL 14
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21.1-11
And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
There are two aspects of this passage that reveal the Father’s heart to reconcile the world through His Son. First, we see Jesus preparing to enter Jerusalem to be crucified. He comes to the Mount of Olives (v. 1), which is significant in God’s plan for redemption. The very place where he enters Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world, is the very place, according to Zechariah 14:4, where He will make his triumphal entry for His second coming. The Mount of Olives is also where Jesus gives the disciples the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, and then ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-12). With great joy we rest in the fact that Jesus has not only come, but that He is coming again to make every wrong thing right, and to reconcile everything in heaven and on earth. We can exalt in the redemption of our spirit, soul and body because of His triumphal entry into our hearts.
Secondly, it is awe-inspiring to realize that the Triune God strategically planned every intricate detail of our reconciliation; even down to the very donkey and colt Jesus would ride on for his entry into Jerusalem. Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies through His life, death and resurrection. Though the prophecy fulfilled in verse five of this passage may appear benign, it is a significant part of the Father’s plan to reconcile humanity to Himself. It is through this prophecy that Jesus officially presented Himself to Israel as the Messiah. Although many in Israel were expecting Him to deliver Israel from under the rule and reign of Rome, Jesus was called to deliver all of humanity from sin and death. Jesus walk among us as a humble king who is acquainted in every way with the brokenness of humanity. We did not need a leader who was great and powerful, yet distant; we needed a Savior who knew our weaknesses and had the power to bring us back into right relationship with God. Jesus displayed this perfectly in this passage. It is because of His life and the life we live through Him that we can boldly cry out to our Heavenly Father. Our only response to such a great love is, “Hosanna in the highest; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
Holy Monday, APRIL 15
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21.12-27
“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!? They were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “’Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
—Matthew 21:14-16 ESV
My older brother Tito is mentally handicapped and lives at home with my parents. His favorite ministry is none other than Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and it is the backdrop of any time we spend together. He has never had an understanding of Jimmy’s indiscretions and just enjoys worshipping alongside the ministry. Tito lives in a world where his limited capacity to grasp sin brings the ability to enjoy things like worship without being burdened by a carnal optic. Over many hours together with Tito, I have moved from a place of castigation towards Jimmy Swaggart and his very public scandals, to a place of recognizing my own indiscretions and my brother’s blindness to them. I have ultimately come to enjoy the worship from my brother’s perspective while learning a lesson about what Christ has done for me.
In Matthew 21:12-17 we witness the second time Jesus purged the temple. As I read through this passage in scripture, Holy Spirit causes me to reflect afresh on the underlying theme of how the people of Jesus’ day abused the temple and perverted its resolve. Jesus wanted to restore the true purposes of the temple, and He did so in part by purging it of ungodly practices and then healing the blind and lame. I am thankful that Jesus purges my temple when I need it. I grew up never truly able to overlook offenses. Fast-forward 30 years and I find myself faced with a lesson on reconciliation and a reflection on my own life. As Jesus highlights my inability to forgive and purges me of it, He is then able to demonstrate His true intention for my life, which is to follow Him without encumbrance.
In Matthew 21:18-22 we find a hungry Jesus in front of a hypocritical tree that represents something that it’s not—a fruit bearing tree. He later uses this opportunity to talk to the disciples about authority and forgiveness. As we read from the vantage point of Mark 11, we learn a lesson on forgiving others so that we may be forgiven. My own hypocrisy in focusing on someone's sin and not my own has been a stumbling block in my walk with Christ. Like the tree that bore no fruit, He sees through any facade I try and present. Jesus desires that I reflect on what I represent to Him while focusing on my own walk and the price He paid to be close to me.
In my life-long walk with Christ, reconciliation has been about understanding God’s mission to bridge the divide of sin. Reconciliation is what Jesus accomplished at Golgotha. There on the cross He bridged the divide of sin through His sacrifice. Removing my carnal lenses and experiencing worship through my brother’s eyes taught me a lesson, one that I try to carry to other parts of my life and to pass on to my children. I find it easier to forgive others because of what Christ did for me through reconciliation. Our walk is long, and there will be many challenges along the way. Walking with Jesus and seeing the world through His eyes makes the journey easier and more fruitful.
Holy Tuesday, APRIL 16
SCRipture reading: Matthew 21.28-25.46
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
—Matthew 25:40 ESV
Jesus is headed toward the cross, literally paving the way for the ultimate reconciliation. But first He sits with his disciples on the Mt. of Olives teaching them truths about God that they, and we, can apply to our present life. Within our timeline, in these passages we find Jesus set to release the power of the cross into human experience. From God’s perspective within His timeline, Jesus has been crucified since the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). But just what is the power of the cross? It is first and foremost reconciliation. When we embrace this reconciliation by receiving His gift of salvation, He invites us into much more than just honoring His matchless sacrifice. The reconciliation of the cross invites us into total transformation, from death to life both now and forever.
As you read the New Testament, ask yourself what was it that kept people from recognizing Jesus and His Kingdom? Was it their un-renewed mind, their ways of thinking, believing and understanding that kept many from the full revelation of Jesus Christ? Those same ways of thinking can also keep us from experiencing the full effect of reconciliation with our heavenly Father, i.e. the full effect of the cross, i.e. the full revelation of Christ in us. For every instance where our ways are not in agreement with His ways, we are invited into an exchange—our way is reconciled to His way and transformation is realized. This very exchange is the purpose for the cross and the fruit of it.
Consider Matthew 25:34-40. The King (Jesus) is welcoming two groups of people, the sheep (those who have shown love to God’s people) and the goats (those who have not shown love to God’s people). Jesus is making eternal decisions seemingly based on “right” behavior. The sheep did the right stuff to the right people at the right time. But, wait, Jesus just spent the last few chapters chastising the Jewish leaders for prioritizing outward behavior and missing the more important stuff. Certainly, the way in which He operates is different from the way of the Jewish leaders. Is it possible that Jesus is identifying the sheep, not as those who act generously or lovingly, but as those who have become generous, become love? Having become love, they love well. Considering the parables Jesus had most recently shared, perhaps the sheep’s right behavior is the effect of wearing a wedding garment (22:12) and having oil in their lamps (23:7, 10).
So where does one find a wedding garment or oil for one’s lamp? These are both gifts of righteousness (Rom 5:17) to be found tucked away within His gift of salvation, forming the foundation to experiencing transformation. His righteousness is the wedding garment of Isaiah 61:10. Grace, reigning through righteousness (Rom 5:21) can remove any “way” within us that hinders our experience of reconciliation. We simply have to make the trade as He encounters us on our journey. It is an intentional exchange: fear for love, lies for truth, crooked for straight. In this way, grace, working through righteousness, produces the oil in the lamp that makes ready (Rev 19:7) His bride. The experience of reconciliation is the oil in the lamp. As we experience reconciliation, we experience being like Him. Every Kingdom reality that He has planted in our hearts will flow from becoming like Him. Having become love, we will love well.
Today, embrace His Presence and intentionally say yes to His gift of righteousness—put on the wedding garment. Let it do its work.
Holy Wednesday, APRIL 17
scripture reading: Matthew 26.1-16
“But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.’” – Matthew 26:10 (ESV)
In this chapter, we find both the plot and betrayal of Jesus set into motion. This betrayal is engaged by those who observed him and by one closest to him. Whether chief priests or Judas Iscariot, the story is the same: betrayal is a human experience we all undergo. Very few of us can identify a life without betrayal. This pain might have happened through a family member, a friend, a loved one, or a complete stranger. Regardless, there is very little to remove the possibility of betrayal.
The famous author, C.S. Lewis, indicates you could avoid betrayal; but the cost would be selfishly withholding yourself from loving others. He says, “Lock [your heart] up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” And I think this is the case for each one of us when it comes to being betrayed. We fear the betrayal so much we find ourselves calloused to the love we so desperately desire. When we avoid the risk of betrayal, we avoid the possibility of love.
In this moment with the disciples and Jesus, we find our selfish calloused selves mirrored in the story. Our reaction would be similar to theirs if someone ripped off the callousness and fear of betrayal and stepped into the possibility of love. This woman dared to bring her whole life before Jesus and refused to believe he would offer anything else but trust. The alabaster jar broken and poured out is an offense to our hardened hearts. Our disbelief and disgust reveals we are not much different to the priests and betrayers of Jesus. We are offended by reckless abandon. It’s not safe. It’s not smart. It’s not to be displayed in private, much less public. Only pain is possible, never love. To be known for our unrighteous lives and still give everything we have it too difficult. We love ourselves too much and what others think about our love, knowing it would never be enough.
This is why we betray one another, we never believe what we do is enough. We never believe we are enough. But this is what the woman of Bethany illuminates for us. It is our brokenness and our willingness to love unrestrained which collapses the fear of betrayal. What is this so-called power she wields? Why does it make her renown in the earth? Why was Jesus so keenly aware of her actions?
His words seem to reveal the importance of this verse: “she has done a beautiful thing.” Jesus’ awareness of beauty helps us understand why loving trust is important. Beauty reveals the power of process and the result of surrender. Beauty demonstrates the unrestraint of love. Beauty prepares us to push past our walls preventing betrayal and opens us up to receive the goodness of trust. Ultimately, beauty calls us to the power of vulnerability. And as Lewis resolves in his quote about love and trust, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” The woman’s vulnerability displayed beauty which disarmed our fear and opened up our ability to trust.
Maundy Thursday, APRIL 18
scripture reading: Matthew 26.17-46
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
—Matthew 26:26-29 NIV
The final week of Jesus’ life is unfolding in the fullness of God’s time, with the Son busy about His Father’s business as He prepares Himself and those He loves for the magnificence of the cross. O, how He longs for his beloved to understand the great yet unfathomable gift of reconciliation that is about to be freely released. The greatest love mankind will ever know is about to be given so that we might be made ready to give it away. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8). But there are things to attend to before the hour of victory arrives.
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus gathered His beloved disciples together for a meal. Much happened around that table that night. What was lost in the Garden was about to be restored on the cross. But first came the meal. The betrayer was released, the denier was identified, and the Lamb of God revealed. And a most glorious invitation was issued— “Come gather together around the table often and remember the sacrifice of my body and blood as you eat the bread and drink the wine.”
The Lamb of God, slain before the foundations of the world for the redemption of mankind sat with His closest companions on the night before his greatest agony and found comfort at the table. One can only imagine the depth of his suffering. In his “now and not yet state,” fully God and fully man, Jesus knew the crushing weight of the sin of all mankind. It drove him to his knees in the garden, there in the midst of his beloved disciples. Yet he went to the cross for the joy set before him, fully aware that in the fullness of time we would all sit together again at the great banquet table for the magnificent marriage supper of the Lamb.
Just as Peter found reconciliation as he shared a meal with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias, we too can come to the table of Jesus Christ and be restored and reconciled to God and to our fellow man. Jesus is the repairer of the breach. His great gift came with a great price, and for each of us there is also a great price—He wants all of you. And in return you get all of Him. “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17).
As you prepare to be surprised yet again by the beautiful Gospel, to receive the fullness of the Good News, what things do you need to attend to before your hour of victory arrives? Take a few moments to come before Almighty God and confess your sins, and then rise with gladness and thankfulness of heart rejoicing in the great gift that is Jesus Christ.
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me … You are familiar with all my ways … Where can I go from your Spirit? Where Can I flee from your presence? … Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
—Psalm 139:1; 3; 7; 23-24
Good Friday, APRIL 19
Scripture reading: Matthew 26.47-27.26
Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
— Matthew 27:14
When Jesus was brought before Pilate He didn’t fight back although He had the power to do so. Matthew 27:14 (The Passion Translation) says, “But Jesus offered no defense to any of the charges, much to the great astonishment of Pilate.” Instead Jesus relied on God, our strong Defender, to carry out His purpose, which is reconciling us to the Father. He peacefully obeyed the Father, doing what He was called to do. The Son of God could have walked away from His accusers. He could have fought His way out of the crowd, or even disappeared. He could have called on legions of angels who were always at his disposal (Matt. 26:53) but He did not. Instead, Jesus chose the cross knowing that His suffering and death were for our reconciliation, healing, salvation, and deliverance. The “bad guys” didn’t force Him to the cross. He endured the cross because of the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). He obeyed the Father because of us—we are the joy set before Him!
For the past year, the preschooler I nanny has asked me endless “why” and “how” questions about Jesus and the cross. When we see anything that resembles a cross: from a crucifix in a church to the back of tow trucks with cross shaped beams, he frequently wonders, “Why did the bad guys put Jesus on the cross?” Over and over I explain that the bad guys didn’t force Jesus to die like the criminals of that day. Instead, Jesus chose to die on the cross. His surrender to the Father and His sacrifice are key elements in the story. Today, on Good Friday, as we remember Christ’s death on the cross by reflecting upon the scriptures describing the events that lead up to His death, we can learn much from His willingness and imitate His demeanor. We are after all called to “…be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…” Eph. 5:1-2 (NKJV)
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit desired reconciliation between God and humans. Col. 1:20 (TPT) says, “…by the blood of his cross, everything in heaven and earth is brought back to himself—back to its original intent, restored to innocence again.” Jesus peacefully surrendered to the Father, relied on the Defender, willingly suffered, and forever changed our lives. Ultimately, Jesus’ obedience on Good Friday gave us an opportunity to be reconciled to God every day, no matter what we’ve done.
We are children of God because of Jesus’ choice to obey the Father and die for us. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t count our sins against us. His love holds no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13). We are restored to innocence again because of the finished work of the cross. As we imitate Him, we too can walk in love, trusting our Defender with peace-filled obedience, doing whatever He calls us to no matter how difficult, because He is the joy set before us!
Holy Saturday, APRIL 20
scripture reading: Matthew 27.27-60
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said,
“Truly this was the Son of God!”
On Holy Saturday we find Jesus on the cross, hanging there—His body mutilated and bloody, recognizable only by the crown of thorns on His head and the sign on His cross that read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” The mournful silence of the very few who came to be with Jesus in this moment was quickly disrupted by the insults of those who passed by and the sneering comments of the lofty religious upper echelon while they watched their years of planning come to fruition. Jesus the Son of God hung on the cross surrounded for the most part not by friends but by those we would call His enemies. For three hours He hung there. Then, all of a sudden around noon a deep darkness set over the whole earth and Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” ...followed by a loud cry as He gave up His spirit. The now complete sacrificial offering that took place on the cross that day restored connection and friendship with God in such a way that a full comprehension of what took place will be experienced and unpacked for all eternity.
Jesus our peace, laid His body on the table making Himself the meal in the presence of His enemies (Psalm 23). His sacrifice ended the turmoil, the enmity between God and man, restoring the friendly relationship between us as He reconciled us to God. The fruit of this now restored and fully accessible friendship immediately manifested in the earth as the cry of His completion pierced the darkness like the dawn—“It is finished.” The chasm between heaven and earth now bridged by the release of our Saviors blood in “the temple not made by human hands” (Heb. 9:23-26). The earth began to quake as a heavenly vibration tore the veil of religion from top to bottom, exposing the lies and limitations of a systematic approach to God. Rocks shook, cracking open, prophesying that the hard hearts of man would now be responsive to the restored relationship between heaven and humanity. Men who were once known as “holy” were resurrected from the dead and appeared to many signifying the relationship restored on the cross is not only for us but breathes new life into friendships that we thought may never happen giving us the ministry of reconciliation.
As we ponder that day on Golgotha, the Saturday Jesus was in the grave, let us be encouraged that immediately following His obedient death there was reconciliation not only in the manifestations previously mentioned, but to those who were His enemies—“the centurions and those who guarded His body...said, Truly this man was God’s Son.” Incredible! These men who oversaw His death, who gave the orders to pound the nails into His hands and feet, suddenly knew Jesus to be exactly who He claimed to be. O, how I pray that us, the Bride, would grasp the power of our obedience. Surely, in the same way that our Bridegroom’s obedience shook the earth and created peace for all, our obedience to Him can and will do the same in our lives and in the lives of others. In obedience, our oneness will be unveiled to our enemies that they might say, “Truly He is the Son of God.” Jesus our peace offering came as a man and offered Himself as the Lamb so that all might become who we are created to be—friends of God.
Resurrection Sunday, April 21
reading: Matthew 28
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Imagine the shock the women experienced as they arrived at the tomb on Easter morning. Filled with anguish and sadness, an unexpected supernatural encounter awaited them. Although looking for Jesus, instead they encountered an angel “whose appearance was like lightning.” “He is not here, for He has risen” the angel declared. What an astounding declaration! Suddenly sadness flees and expectancy enters their hearts. Jesus has risen! Though crucified, He has defeated death itself, breaking through time, redefining it as He sets up His Kingdom plan on the earth. With one act, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies in a way no one could have ever imagined. His mercy instituted a new covenant reconciling all of humanity to the Father. Seeing it with their own eyes, these two women could not deny Christ’s resurrection power. Can you imagine? Little did they know that resurrected life had just begun.
When Jesus left the tomb, He did not just disappear from the earth. Instead, He made Himself known in resurrected flesh because He still had a very important job to do. He needed to pass the baton, to commission His disciples. “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples…” In His power, Jesus can do everything alone, but He chooses to extend the invitation to follow Him in intimate relationship so that we may partner with Him to advance the Kingdom of God on the earth. He died and rose so that we might join Him as ministers of reconciliation in a world desperate to know Him. We are His hands and feet in the earth. With the promised Holy Spirit living on the inside of us, we are ambassadors of resurrection life, partners in the ministry Jesus begun. This is Good News!
In His death, Jesus demonstrated His unconditional love and desire for us to be with Him for all eternity. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father until the day of His return. From His heavenly throne Jesus calls us to live in the same power and authority that He Himself walked in while on the earth. We are called by the living Christ to spread the Gospel—to proclaim and demonstrate His resurrection and to fall in love with Him. His resurrection equals fullness and wholeness for us and for those who step into our lives today. It means we are reconciled to the Father in intimate relationship. He is no longer far off. He is near to us thanks to the finished work of the cross. Just like the women who arrived at the empty tomb on Easter morning to be greeted with the good news that Jesus is alive, may you also receive the Good News that He is risen and then go forth and partner with Him in the power of the Spirit to advance His Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
special thanks to susan thompson
for her incredible job editing these devotions.
And we are very grateful for our contributing authors:
Palm Sunday - Marcus Harris
Holy Monday - Joel Fernandez
Holy Tuesday - Gina Green
Holy Wednesday - Ps. Jason Peaks
Maundy Thursday - Susan Thompson
Good Friday - Betsy Herman
Holy Saturday - Ps. Jordan Shimon
Resurrection Sunday - Cathy Harris