Posts tagged easter
By Olive Tree Staff: Molly Van Ryn
I still remember the first Lent that I was really considered old enough to give something up on my own. It was jr high, and like just about everything at that age it quickly turned into a contest. For weeks lunchtime conversations revolved around Lent: who was giving up the hardest thing, who had been successful the longest, who had fallen off the wagon and whether they were going to try again. Most people gave up some sort of food, like candy or soda. Some brave souls even went so far as to give up television, to exclamations of “No way! That’s so hard! You’ll never make it!”
I don’t remember what I gave up that year, or whether I carried it through until Easter. But I vividly recall the jockeying for position. The people who were giving up something that was perceived as more difficult exuded a sense of smug superiority, only to be replaced by people who had picked something easier and stuck with it. I learned a lot of lessons from that about setting realistic goals, but hardly any about being in relationship with God, or what the season of Lent is actually about.
Since then, my relationship with Lent has evolved. There was the year that I realized that not all Christians participate in Lent in the way that I always had. I was just beginning the long journey of understanding how many ways there are to be Christian and starting to take ownership of the path I had chosen. This was the year that I first did Lent as a conscious choice, instead of just as something that everyone did. Then there was the year I came to the conclusion that I could add a spiritual discipline to my life, such as a more dedicated time of prayer in my day, instead of picking something to give up. It was immensely freeing to have this whole other set of options I hadn’t considered before. It really helped me to focus on the idea that Lent isn’t about getting rid of bad habits, a sort of 40 days of self-help, but an opportunity to grow closer to God and focus on preparing myself for the celebration of His passion.
I look forward to Lent these days. It’s no longer about picking the most difficult thing I can think of. I don’t feel particularly comfortable anymore telling people what I’ve chosen to do for a given year, unless I want them to help keep me accountable. But there is something very meaningful to me in having those 40 days of discipline set aside each year. It is an annual reminder to evaluate my relationship with God, to dust the cobwebs out of the corners of my prayer life and be mindful of ways in which I am not prepared to receive the gift that was offered on the cross. It gives me a reason to set aside resources that I might otherwise consider indispensable to the other areas of my life, a boost to drop the excuses I surround myself with. And I know that there is a community around me, waiting and anticipating as Easter approaches.
The community outreach events are completed. The music hit home. The preaching connected. Lives were changed forever. Everything you’ve worked towards and focused on the last several weeks has come to fruition. Now what?
You knew this moment would happen, but the hustle and bustle of preparing for the most important service and sermon of the year consumed your every waking thought. Now it’s Easter Monday and the next Sunday sermon is only 6 days away. Maybe you had the forethought to plan the next series, but haven’t had the time to actual prepare.
Not to worry. There are plenty of themes to discuss. Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm and get the ideas flowing:
Consider your Easter Sermon. What was the main point (beyond the obvious)? What are some secondary points that could be used as a sermon series? Could you take the bullet points from your Easter sermon and create a series of sermons to drive the point home? Were there things you left unsaid because of time constraints? Perhaps you can take that sermon and use it as a launching pad into the next few weeks or months. You spent a lot of time preparing for that Easter sermon. Use those resources to your benefit.
Consider your Calendar. What is coming up next on the calendar? Some of the obvious answers would be Pentecost Sunday and Mother’s Day. But what else could you bring a biblical perspective to? What about Tax Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Memorial Day? Okay, maybe Tax Day is a stretch. Take a look at your local calendar as well. Is your church celebrating a significant event? What is going on in your community in the upcoming weeks and months? What can you point out and use as a bridge to your community?
Consider your Context. What are the issues going on in your community right now? Are there social justice issues that need to be addressed from a biblical perspective? Are there positive outcomes in the local government or law enforcement that you can affirm? What are the heart concerns of the community? How can you speak to these issues? Take a few minutes to feel the pulse of your context.
Consider your Church. How’s your church doing? Are there aspects of disunity, bitterness, or un-forgiveness to be confronted? On the other side of this, who do you need to say “thank you” to? Who needs to be encouraged, affirmed, strengthened, and appreciated for all the hard work they did on Easter Sunday? How can you champion the volunteers in the nursery, Sunday school, small groups, greeters, ushers, worship team, and all of the various aspects that it takes to make a service happen?
Consider Christ. Perhaps the most overlooked sermon prep tool is prayer. How is Jesus speaking to you? What is Jesus saying that needs to be preached? How can you point people to Jesus and use their felt needs as a starting point? We have to remember that Christ is more concerned about people than we are. It’s easy to fall into the trap that we alone are responsible for bringing the Word of God to people. However, it’s Jesus who said that He will build His church (Matthew 16:15). Let’s remember to ask God for His help in bring His Word to His people.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he fulfilled prophecies that had been made hundreds of years before. His entrance was greeted with the laying down of palms and shouts of ‘Hosanna’.
Hosanna was a cry of hope from an oppressed people living under Roman rule and it means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’. They had been waiting generations for the Messiah and he was finally here! Just a week later Jesus would save them, but not in the way they ever would have imagined.
He wasn’t a King like David whose rule and reign was only for a limited time. He is a King forever, and his life, death, and resurrection are just as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago.
In an age where we have continual access to the news from around the world, it only takes a moment to see that the shout of hosanna is still needed. At this moment there are people living in poverty, oppression, and hopelessness. While they may not say the word hosanna, they are certainly in need of saving and many do cry out on a daily basis for some glimmer of hope.
What do you need to be saved from?
You may or may not live in a country where you are oppressed by a ruling party like the Jews were. You probably aren’t waiting for a king or savior to come and make things right for you and your family. You may actually have all the food, shelter, and security you need. But this cry of hosanna may still be one that you can relate with. When were separate from God – our creator – we can have all the things of the world and still be as lost and hopeless as ever.
Jesus was the only one who could fulfill the cry of hosanna. His saving supersedes circumstances and physical needs and reunites us with our creator. It’s this kind of saving grace he displayed on the cross. We didn’t deserve it or earn it but he so desperately loves us that he died to save us. His was and is the only answer to the cry of hosanna.
As you remember Jesus resurrection this weekend be reminded that the saving grace of Jesus has the power to change everything!
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- Jesus in Luke 19:10
By Olive Tree Staff: David Mikucki
Jesus’ followers were convinced that He was the coming King—the Messiah of Israel who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. All His disciples were severely disappointed when the unthinkable happened: Jesus was crucified. The coming, conquering King had come and didn’t seem to have conquered. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah? If He wasn’t, then… now what?
That’s the backdrop for Luke 24. With Jesus dead, His followers were distraught. They were on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened, trying to sort through it all—still unaware that Jesus had been raised. Jesus met them on this road, but He kept them from recognizing Him (Luke 24:17). To them He was a stranger passing on the road. They told this ‘stranger’ that they thought Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They said that some of their friends were telling what they thought were fairytales about Him rising from the dead.
At this point, Jesus says something that shocks everyone. He tells his followers that the prophets said all of this was going to happen: the Messiah would suffer and then enter into His glory. No one expected the Messiah to suffer! Who expects a King to suffer? Jesus says the prophets expected it. Then in Luke 24:27, He explains the things concerning Himself from Moses and all the prophets. Jesus went to each book of the Bible and explained all the things about Himself (see also Luke 24:44).
People these days have a lot of different ideas concerning what the Bible is about. Jesus has His own idea. The Bible isn’t a book of rules we have to follow in order to go to heaven (John 5:39). It’s not just a bunch of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not just a bunch of neat stories. Jesus said the Bible is about Himself. Humanity’s biggest problem is that we sin our whole lives and then we die and enter into judgment. The Bible teaches us all we need to know about our Savior—the King who suffered and died in our place and rose from the dead three days later to make us right before God and give us a new life like His.
One of the last things Jesus did before He ascended into heaven was to tell us that the Bible is about Him! Jesus is our Savior—the only Savior—and He says that all of Scripture points us to Him: the One we really need. When we study the Bible, let’s remember that it’s all about Jesus.
Olive Tree has got some great resources that explain Jesus in parts of the Bible we might not have expected to find Him. Here are some of my favorites…
- Gospel Transformation Bible Notes by Crossway
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Free!)
- Christ in the Old Testament by Charles Spurgeon
- Christ in the Passover by Rose Publishing
- Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale
I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically this year with one of The Bible Study App’s reading plans. Right now, I’m reading the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper. I’m struck again by Jesus. At the last meal they would have together before the cross, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, takes off his robes, wraps a towel around himself and washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20). I’ve read this account that’s only recorded in John’s Gospel dozens of times. Yet, like the Holy Spirit often does, this passage was made anew as I read it recently.
Here’s what struck me: Judas was heavily influenced by Satan (if not possessed) at this point (Luke 22:36, John 13:2), but Judas was present for Jesus to wash his feet. I find this humbling and encouraging. What?!? Yes, encouraging. Why? Because even though Jesus KNEW Judas was going to betray Him, Jesus served him. Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart. He knew the betrayal was coming. Jesus knew the anguish that was coming. The beatings, the scourging, the agonizing walk to Golgotha, and the ultimate torture, the cross. Yet, even in this moment of humbling Himself, Jesus washed Judas’ feet, this man Judas who was pivotal in fulfilling the Scriptures and prophecies about the Suffering Servant. Jesus humbled Himself and SERVED His greatest enemy.
I don’t know about you, but I have trouble serving my closest loved ones. I find it difficult to humble myself, to serve, and to put others’ needs before my own. I can’t fathom putting a backstabber’s needs in front of my own.
At the same time, that is what I am. I am the backstabber, the betrayer. I am the one who put Jesus on the cross. It is my sin that put Jesus there. How many times have I turned from God’s grace to live, act, be, and do what I want for my own selfishness? But Jesus served me by going to the cross. This is humbling because of my sin, but encouraging because of how much Jesus loves me. Even though Jesus knows me, He served me. Even though Jesus knew that I would betray Him, He went to the cross willingly.
John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Here is my example. I am to serve, love, and do for others like Jesus did for me. I am to put down my own needs, my own pride, and serve others, even those who will betray me. Even those who will turn their backs on me. I am to love and serve as our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ loved and served me.
Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
It’s easy to read this passage and think “How in the world did they NOT recognize Jesus?!?” But taking into account what they said, I can appreciate what they were going through. They were sad, hurting, afraid, and confused. And Jesus kept them from recognizing Him.
A few days ago I ran into a former co-worker. It had been over a year since we connected, so there was a lot to catch up on. After the initial questions of “how are you doing” and “it’s so good to see you” small talk, the conversation turned to our former workplace. She left about nine months after I did, and gave me some insight on how things went. Hearing some of the stories, change, and “occurrences”, I was again reminded of the goodness of God and how I often have my eyes closed to the reality of Christ and His direction in my life. A renewed sense of the sovereignty and grace of God swept over me during our conversation.
I don’t always recognize Christ in my daily life. From my everyday encounters, to those monumental life events, do I truly open my eyes to see Jesus? In times where my family is sick, finances are tight, or work is stressful, do I remember to look for Christ? Fortunately, Jesus gives us “breaking of bread” reminders to gently lead, guide, and direct us.
Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
Like these two disciples, I need the jolts, nudges, and reminders to open my eyes to the risen Christ. Thankfully, Jesus “interprets to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” and leads us by The Holy Spirit to open our eyes.
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I am thankful that Jesus makes Himself known through everyday events. It’s up to me to proclaim the risen Christ to others and remember that “The Lord has risen indeed!”