Sunday Devotional: Mark 16:1-8

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him.  Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.  They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”  Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away.  When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.  But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’”

So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.”  (Mark 16:1-8)

Today is Resurrection Sunday.  Today is the culmination of all that transpired during Holy Week.  Today is the day we celebrate that there is an empty tomb.  Today is the day we celebrate that Jesus was resurrected.

Even some nearly 2,000 years later, it is something that is simply amazing.  Death could not keep Jesus in the tomb.  The hope of salvation rung out and stepped out of that tomb.  We who follow Him now can follow Him into new life.  He paid the price for our sins on the cross.  Now we get to celebrate in the new life that we have and that will culminate in His return.

It was a shock to those followers who came to the tomb to see there was no body.  They were astonished.  I imagine if we had been there that Sunday morning that we would’ve had the same emotions and thoughts.  It took a while (and several visits from Jesus himself) for it to really sink into their hearts and minds that Jesus had truly risen.  And for us, it may take a long time for it truly to sink in what all it means for Christ’s death and resurrection.  But the good news is that God is patient with us and loves us.

Today (and everyday) let us celebrate Christ’s resurrection.  Let us celebrate the hope that has come from His death and the new life that has come from his resurrection.  He is Risen!

Sunday Devotional: Matthew 21:1-11

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.  If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”  (Matthew 21:1-11)

Today is Palm Sunday.  This day recognizes the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem prior to his death and resurrection.  It is both a reminder of His Glory as well as what is to come for Him.

Everything surrounding his entry into Jerusalem both was prophesied and also foretold the future.  It was prophesied in that He would ride into the city on a donkey, not a horse as a king would normally ride into a city.  But it does foretell in his return (as prophesied in Revelation) that He will triumphantly ride in on a white horse.

His disciples that were with Him shouted praises and sung joyfully entering the city.  It is an interesting contrast between the beginning of the week and how joyful the disciples were to the end of the week and the sadness that had taken them with the death of Jesus.  But the great reminder of for us today is that just as Jesus was triumphant entering Jerusalem on that day, He is still triumphant today.  And one day He will return triumphant riding on a white horse to fully establish the kingdom of God here on earth.

Sunday Devotional: Ephesians 2:11-18

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:11-18)

Paul, in this letter to the church in Ephesus, like many of his letters to various churches wanted to encourage and exhort his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here he wanted to remind them of what brings us all together and that’s Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.  At one time the Gentiles (non Jews or the “uncircumcision”) were far away from God and the promises that God gives to His people.  There was no hope.  However because of Jesus Christ and what He has done, He made a way not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.

Because of Jesus Christ, we can not only be reconciled to the Father but we can be reconciled with one another as well.  Jesus brings peace to those who were “far off” and to those who were “near”.  All have the opportunity to be reconciled and to be at peace.

This week, let us be reminded of this great news.  We are not left without hope.  We have hope in Jesus Christ.  We are not left without peace.  We have peace through Jesus Christ.  And we get to share that message with the world to everyone.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 22:31-32

“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

During the night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared the Passover meal with the disciples and gave what would be His final words of instruction before He would be arrested and killed.  In the middle of sharing with His disciples. Jesus looks at Peter and tells him what will happen to him.  Later Jesus tells Peter that before the rooster crows three times, Peter will deny Jesus.  Here Jesus is telling Peter (and the disciples as a whole) that Satan wants them.  Satan wants to sift them like wheat.  He wants to cause trouble in their lives.

But Jesus tells them that He has prayed for them and He tells Peter that when he repents (from denying) to “strengthen your brothers.”  Even in these short verses, there is truth.  We will have to deal with tough times.  We will mess up and fail.  But the great news is that Jesus is praying for us.  He is interceding for us with the Father.  He is able to do that because of His death paying the cost for our sins and His resurrection being at the right hand of God.  And when we fail, we can repent and turn back to Him and He accepts us.  As well, we have the opportunity to strengthen and encourage one another as we all go through various trials and tribulations.

This week, let us give thanks that Jesus has prayed for us.  Let us be grateful that when we mess up, we can repent and turn back to God.  And let us encourage one another and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday Devotional: Ephesians 5:1-2

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, wanted to encourage and exhort the people there (as he would at all the churches he helped to plant).  In this part of the letter, he wanted them to be “imitators of God”.  In the verses just prior, Paul said to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

To imitate God is to show grace and mercy.  God has shown grace and mercy to us through His son Jesus.  Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life as a sacrifice for us even though we did not deserve it.  He loved us so that we wouldn’t have to remain in sin but that we could be forgiven of our sins and adopted as children into the family of God.

This week let us walk in love.  Let us be imitators of God.  Let us show grace and mercy to others.  Let our words be spoken with truth in love.  And let us share the good news of Christ to a world that needs to hear this good news.