How easy it is for us to gloss over Easter and fail to give proper honor and glory to our Lord and King. Easter is a time for believers to celebrate and remember Jesus’ great sacrifice, His work on the cross, and the abundant mercy and grace afforded to us because of His great sacrifice.
As we approach Easter Sunday, it’s good to take time to examine and prepare our hearts for such a celebration. Let’s pause to allow the Holy Spirit to nudge and nurture our souls and rekindle the fire within our hearts-a fire that often becomes dulled by the sins of the world surrounding us in our daily lives.
Allow these readings to help you position yourself in a way that will be honoring to the Savior. I am praying these devotions will lead you to experience the presence of Christ with fresh eyes, with wonder, and with reverence.
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals-one on His right, and the other on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” -Luke 23:34
What a beautiful word-forgiveness. We all want access to it. We all need it to enter the presence of God. And that access is denied if our sins are not atoned for by the precious blood of Jesus.
The first of those seven words of Christ should cause us to pause in His presence, humble ourselves in prayer, and lay our sins on the altar.
The Old Covenant brought forgiveness through the blood of slain animals. The New Covenant brings forgiveness to us through the blood of Jesus. It is in that forgiveness we stand in the presence of Almighty God, blameless before Him.
Take a few moments and meditate on the sacrifice of Jesus. Thank Him for the gift of forgiveness.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43
Seeing ourselves for who we truly are is the first step to repentance. The second thief looked at Jesus, the Holy Son of God, and the comparison was shocking. At his own crucifixion this criminal could no longer continue covering his sin or depravity; the reflection he saw of himself through the eyes of the true Savior caused him to admit his sin and guilt.
Without hesitation or condemnation, Jesus’ words were a soothing balm for this man’s lost soul. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise-the place of Jesus’s presence. Complete cleansing and justification, through the blood of Jesus, that was this man’s deepest need in his darkest hours. That has always been man’s deepest need. We may not all be thieves or murderers, but we are all sinners. Our hearts are darkened by sin and depravity, and when the Holy One looks upon the unsaved soul, He sees sin-no matter the kind.
Christ-the Living Water-cleansed the thief’s heart as he drew near to the cross. This man could not enter the door of Heaven without being washed clean by the blood of Jesus.
But what does this mean for you and for me as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection?
The Son of God-Jesus-cleanses our hearts once and for all, and the Word of God cleanses our hearts and minds daily. As we are cleansed by the washing of water through the Word (Ephesians 5:25-27), we are saturated with truth, immersed in God’s grace, and drenched in His glory.
Ask God to cleanse your heart of any unconfessed sin and thank Him for His Word that washes us with truth daily.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. -John 19:25-27
Provision. What a loving and sacrificial act of kindness Jesus displayed to His mother as He hung on the cross. He desired for Mary to be well taken care of, so He arranged for her provision prior to His death.
Being a part of a family holds much more value than simply housing and food, although those things are certainly necessary for survival. The fellowship and care that comes from belonging to a family is what’s most important. Within the walls of family, we find the presence of those who love us, the promise of protection, and the provision of life-sustaining care.
We see this legacy of provision displayed by Jesus throughout the Bible.
Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that those who would believe in Him would have everlasting fellowship and communion with Him on earth and for eternity. Jesus’ broken body on the cross is our only access to this fellowship with God through His Son-the Bread of Life.
Jesus was God’s provision for us. He is faithful. He is our provider. He is our access to the forever home of God, our Father.
Thank God for His provisions, for His loving care for you and those you love, and for His provision of salvation through His Son, Jesus
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:45-46
The curtains of heaven closed and the radiance of God hid from the world for a time. And then came Jesus’ words of agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Not that God had actually forsaken His Son; He loved His Son, and He loved and approved of the sacrificial work that Jesus chose on the cross for mankind. No, God did not close the curtains of heaven because He wanted to forsake or abandon His Son. He closed the curtains of heaven because He cannot look upon sin.
Sin and God’s presence do not co-exist, for He is holy. But in mercy He sent His Son, Jesus, to cover the darkness of sin with the radiance of His glory.
Jesus, the Light of the World, came to dispel the darkness, and His work on the cross was as a flashing light alerting mankind to His mercy and grace that would redeem the world. He stepped out of heaven’s radiant light into the dark world of sinful man, making a way through the darkness. Jesus-the Way-maker. Jesus, the Holy One full of light and life.
With Jesus, there is always a way. Even in the darkest of dark, the light of Jesus’ presence envelopes the darkness, illuminating the path toward heaven’s throne.
In darkness, there is fear and frustration. Things are cold and our sight is limited in dark places. We hide things in the dark, and we can’t find things in the dark. But light a candle in a dark place and the room becomes warm. The glow from the burning embers casts out fear and anxiety, and unveils that which was once hidden. Jesus does this for those who believe in Him. He illuminates our hearts, making our paths clear, our sin evident, and eases our fears.
Though the sky faded black as night, Jesus lit the world, guiding all who would come to Him to the Most Holy Place-that is heaven-where the very presence of God dwells. In these magnificent moments of grace, the light of Christ was the only light in the world. And He, once and for all, dispelled the darkness.
Pray for yourself or someone you may know who feels forsaken by God. Pray for those you know who suffer from fear, anxiety, depression, or pain. Ask God to shine the Light of Life on the difficulties they face and dispel the darkness.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” – John 19:28
Do you know what it’s like to thirst for God? Do you know what it feels like to be so in need of the presence of God that your soul feels parched and dry? Have you ever found yourself in such a deficit spiritually that you longed for just a drop of the promise of God’s presence?
Jesus, the Living Water, as He hung in the heat of the day, high on a wooden, bloodstained cross, cried out, “I am thirsty.”
Could His cry for thirst have come not only from a physical need, but also from a place of spiritual longing for the presence and power of God the Father, missed by Jesus as He entered into the last moments of His life?
I believe the deepest longings and frustrations of our hearts stem from a parched soul–a soul that cries, “I am thirsty,” yet fails to tap into the One who gives freely of His power and presence, so our thirst can be quenched and satisfied.
Jesus said, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John 4:14
Pray for a hunger and thirst for God’s presence in your life and the lives of those you love. Pray for a hunger and thirst for His Word, and for an unquenchable desire to commune with Him through the gift of prayer.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
Nowhere in history do we find a more powerful, yet grace-filled statement.
Tetelestai! It is finished, it has been accomplished, it has been paid, it has been fulfilled.
These words of Jesus signified to the world that what the Father had required of the Son had been completed-without error or variation. There was perfection and satisfaction in Jesus’ work on the cross. No prophecy had been left unfulfilled. Nothing would or could ever taint the finished, paid, and perfect sacrifice of Jesus.
As the past, present, and future sins of the world were heaped upon our Lord, the Old Covenant became null and void by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
In the last moments of His life, Jesus hung high on the precipice of earth and symbolically He hung high in the temple as well.
Jesus’ body was the veil. Just as the veil was rent in two from top to bottom at His death, so Jesus’ body was the flesh-torn so that you and I no longer stand accursed and accused under the Old Covenant Sacrificial system. Rather we stand redeemed and reborn under the New Covenant with our Savior.
Think of that imagery. The renting of the veil from top to bottom gives further confirmation that its tearing came from the heavenlies. God saw the finished and perfecting work of His Son on our behalf, and He knew that Jesus-our Great High Priest-victoriously claimed full access into His presence on our behalf as He defeated sin and death. The veil separated earth and heaven’s throne, and Jesus-the Way-maker, the Justifier, the Substitutionary Sacrifice-bridged the gap between God and man. Separation would no longer prevail. Jesus’ torn flesh and blood would allow us to forever enter into the very presence of God.
In the last moments of His life, Jesus declared, “Tetelestai!” “It is finished.” This was not a whisper of defeat, but rather a shout of victory. With this declaration, Christ gloriously awaited the moment when earth and heaven would meet, and the reconciliation of God and man could be accomplished. The work was complete. The New Covenant established and secure. An earthly priest was no longer needed to make a sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all, and we became the recipients of God’s presence always.
Thank God for making a way for us through His Son, Jesus. Ask God to make a way for others you know who need to know and believe in Him. Ask God to make a way through any areas in your life that seem impossible. Then praise Him for His faithfulness, His goodness, and His grace.
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
With His last words, no longer is the curtain pulled back for us to gain a mere glimpse. No, the curtain no longer separates but rather unveils the Most Holy Place, drawing us into the throne room of God.
With these words, Jesus becomes both High Priest and sacrifice. He walks into the Holy of Holies where God’s presence and power dwell, offering Himself as atonement for the sins of the world.
Let’s take a moment and savor the final words of the Savior on the cross.
Jesus said His last words in a loud voice. His was not a death rattle of defeat. But rather, just as Jesus cried “It is finished!,” with victory, He shouted with boldness, “Father, I give you my spirit.” Death did not defeat Jesus; Jesus defeated death. With willingness He handed His Spirit over to God.
Then, as Jesus said, “Into your hands,” He placed His ransomed life into God’s hand. Jesus made the exchange. Jesus bought us with a price by placing Himself on the Altar of Sacrifice and into the hands of the One who rules and reigns.
But the story of redemption does not end there. No, the reason we can celebrate isn’t because Jesus stepped over the torn veil and into the Holy of Holies. Redemption is found in the tomb where Jesus became the mercy seat for a moment. Then on the third day all the power and glory of heaven enveloped that tomb and Jesus lived again!
Praise and thank Jesus for the redemption He bought and paid on your behalf. Ask God to open the floodgates of Heaven this Easter morning and fill His Church with His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of those who are lost and bring redemption into their lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to move afresh and anew in your own heart this Easter.