Easter Reader 2017

Matthew 26: 1-5 - Life out of Death
21st March 2017

These verses tell us of Jesus saying to his disciples that in two days, He would be crucified.  Virtually at the same time, the chief priests and elders met together and plotted how they could arrest Jesus in some sly way but not during the Passover, in case there was a riot.

These two situations came to pass.  Jesus was arrested at night, through the treachery of Judas.  After His arrest He suffered cruelly from the religious and secular authorities and was handed over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified with two robbers, one on the left and one on the right.  On that cross He paid the price for our sins.                                       

What did the robbers make of this?  One of them said to Christ, “aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us”.  But the other robber rebuked him “Don’t you fear God?” he said, “since you are under the same sentence, we are being punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Jesus answered him “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise.”  At that moment he received life (eternal life) out of death (Christ’s death).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are historical facts.  He is alive today and will hear the call of any who come to Him and commit their life to Him.

                                                                                                                                                                               

Alex Campbell

 

Day 2: Matthew 26: 6-17 - Love Outpoured
22nd March 2017

Love is indefinable, it can never be explained, but is shown by attitudes and actions.

 

We do not know the identity of this woman, but her act of devotion will always be remembered.

 

How can we show our love to the Lord Jesus?  He is longing for our heart, mind and will to be given to Him. 

 

When we give Him our all, our lives are enriched and we look forward to that day when we shall see Him face to face.

 

                Take my love, my Lord I pour

                At Thy feet, its treasure store

                Take myself and I will be

                Ever only, ALL for Thee.

                                                                                                                                                                               

Gillian McKenzie

Day 3: Matthew 26: 14-16 - Judas, the Great Pretender
23rd March 2017

As one of the chosen followers of Jesus, Judas was exposed to the same teaching as the other disciples. He saw the same miracles and was involved in the same ministries. Judas spent three years with the Lord Jesus Christ yet ultimately disowned Him and died lost. In contrast, the other eleven disciples were used by God in amazing ways. Their lives demonstrate the truth that ordinary people can be used for the Lord in extraordinary ways.

 

Judas was the most successful hypocrite of all time. He played his part so well that no one but Jesus knew that he was a fraud and a pretender. Judas was as common and as ordinary as the rest of the disciples, so much so that he never stood out from the rest. He hid behind the camouflage of hypocrisy and no one but Jesus ever knew it.

 

This passage reveals Judas as he hatches his plot to betray the Son of God into the hands of His enemies. We need to hear and heed the lessons that come from the life of this tragic character. Judas’ life teaches us two basic truths.

 

1.  The purposes of God will always be accomplished, despite what anyone may try to do. 

2.  It is possible to be near Jesus and to associate with Him closely, yet still not believe in Him and be lost.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Rowan & Janet Parks

 

 

Day 4: Matthew 26: 17-30 - The Last Supper
24th March 2017

To gain a better understanding and blessing from this passage read the accounts of this event in Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-20 and Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Even go back to the Old Testament record of the institution of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Exodus 12 & 13.

1. The obedience of disciples: Having asked the Lord where they could prepare the feast they immediately follow His instruction. They knew it was Passover time in Jerusalem and no doubt were concerned that they might not find a room in the crowded city. However, having been obedient they found the man (with a jar of water in Luke’s account).  Note here God’s provision. He knows our needs (Philippians 4:19).

2. The institution of the Lord’s Supper or the Breaking of Bread. In the Gospels, the Lord instituted the feast. In the Acts the early church practised the feast. In 1 Corinthians 13 The Apostle Paul develops the doctrine of the feast.

At Bellevue, it’s our privilege to Break Bread on a weekly basis. The disciples made preparation for the feast, and weekly the table is prepared for us. How important it is that we do not become too familiar with ordinance. Pray that we might come fresh with a deeper understanding of what our Lord endured at Calvary. We need to prepare our hearts before we sit at the Lord’s Table. Prior to the service read and meditate on Scripture. The Psalms can be particularly helpful in this connection. May our times around His Table this Easter season be special.

                                                                                                                                                                       

Neil & Barbara Innes

Day 5: Matthew 26: 31-35 - Failure, but restoration…the cross, but resurrection!
25th March 2017

For two days, Jesus has shared with His disciples what is about to happen. Jesus predicts His betrayal (Matt 26:2, 14-16, 21-25), His death (Matt 26:2) and His burial (Matt 26:12). After that astonishing last meal together, where Jesus explains what His death will achieve, Jesus makes His most painful prediction yet: “You will all fall away on account of me” (Matt 26:31). But just as they could not accept that one of them would betray Jesus, so now they cannot accept that before the night is through they will all fail Him. Peter, who protests the most, will fall the hardest.   But Jesus is not finished with His predictions. The Lord focuses not on their failure, but on their future restoration: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Matt 26:32). Beyond the cross lies resurrection; beyond failure lies restoration.

Many of us are crippled by our failures. The shock and the reality of what we have done imprisons us in the past and denies us a future. Jesus sees our sin and shame and guilt yet promises us restoration. Christ’s cross deals with all our failures. Christ’s resurrection declares we can start again. 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Adrian Armstrong

Day 6: Matthew 26: 36-46 - Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane
27th March 2017

Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  On that Thursday evening, after the Last Supper, Jesus went there to pray in the dark of the night while His disciples slept.

Jesus had often retreated to the Mount of Olives, a large plot of cultivated land covered with olive trees, plants and crops. He would seek sanctuary being silent and pray, immersed in the quiet of nature, free from the confusion of the Holy City.

My back garden and shed at my home is my sanctuary where I can find peace, be still with my thoughts and live in the moment. I enjoy the stimulation of my senses, paying attention to things I can see, hear, smell and touch, created by the nature around me and the changeable weather. I feel close and connected to God and often pray as I potter around, as I am by no means a competent gardener but a keen amateur. Where is your still place, where is your sanctuary with God?

As Jesus prayed He experienced His deepest anguish, deciding to entrust Himself in total abandonment to the will of the Father. When you are troubled or sorrowful go to your place of sanctuary and pray, let go of your own will, and put your trust and faith in God. Find comfort and peace in the love of the Lord for He will never forsake you.

                                                                                                                                                                               

Campbell & Alison Chalmers

 

 

Day 7: Matthew 26: 47-56 - The Sovereignty of Easter
27th March 2017

As we read the various accounts of the betrayal and arrest of the Lord Jesus we often get side-tracked.  When Matthew’s account is read, we zero in on Judas Iscariot’s horrible face-to-face betrayal of Christ with a kiss! Or we are shocked at the daring Peter as he slices off the ear of the High Priest’s servant with a sword [Matthew doesn’t tell us it’s Peter…but John 18:10 does!]?  These are all true…and they contribute to the picture the narrative paints. However, what struck me this time was different.  The scene opens with a large crowd armed with swords and clubs descending on a single, unarmed man.  We fear for Him…and yet the armed mob should have been trembling. Verses 52–56 display who was really in control. The One they arrested had the power to appeal to His Father and call down twelve legions of mighty angels—at 5,000 soldiers per legion, that’s 60,000 angels! One was enough! Even though He had the authority to call down a heavenly army, He did not because the sovereign, eternal God had a plan that was formulated in eternity past.  The Old Testament scriptures must be fulfilled…the Son of God had to die to pay the sin debt of lost humanity.  That is the reason they never seized Him while He taught in the temple (v. 55) and that is why you and I can be saved today. Without a death and a burial there would never have been a resurrection: Easter had to happen.                                                                                                                                                                               

Jim Leavenworth

Day 8: Matthew 26: 57-68 - Jesus on Trial
28th March 2017

Jesus is brought before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin where the chief priests, elders and council sought false witness against Jesus but found none.   Then came two false witnesses accusing Jesus of saying "I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days" (v61).  In fact Jesus said “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). Jesus was not talking about the temple building but was referring to His body and His death, and resurrection three days later. 

 

Jesus remained silent and the high priest asked Jesus: "Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (v63). 

 

Jesus was calm and certain, "It is as you said…hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven"(v64).

 

To the high priest this claim was blasphemy and he tore his clothes. The council went on to spit in Jesus' face, beating and striking Him with the palms of their hands. 

 

It is a stark reminder of all that Jesus went through for us.  He endured the horrific pain of the crucifixion, the pain and suffering of the trials which preceded it, and the knowledge of what lay before Him. For that we can only be grateful and mindful of the life we are now set free to live.

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Andrew & Karen Sim

 

 

Day 9 - Matthew 26: 69-75 - Peter's Betrayal
29th March 2017

I find Peter’s denial of Jesus a very challenging part of the Easter story as it raises the question: what would I have done in that situation? It’s sometimes easy to criticise the disciples for their lack of understanding and actions throughout the Gospels; Peter had walked on water with Jesus, how could he then deny Him? But we have the benefit of knowing what happens next - the glory of the resurrection - while Peter finds himself surrounded by darkness, confusion and fear.

 

To be honest, if I was one of Jesus’ disciples at this time, I don’t think I would even be anywhere near the courtyard.  I would be hiding in a cave somewhere as far away as possible! Even today, while we may not deny Jesus in such a direct way, there are times when it feels easier not to talk about our faith for many reasons.

 

Ultimately though, this is a passage of hope.  As we see at the end of the book of Mark, God uses this event to teach and shape Peter for future service. Despite our own betrayals and denials, if we are humble enough to come back to Jesus, He will also restore us and use our weaknesses to form us into the people He needs us to be to serve Him better.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Tim & Fiona Buick

Day 10: Matthew 27: 1-10 - "He was filled with remorse"
30th March 2017

Was there ever a more cold, calculating and callous act of betrayal than that of Judas? Had three years of living with the Lord, listening to His words and seeing the miracles not made a greater impact on him? Perhaps we can understand the other eleven who, when the Temple guard arrested Jesus, “forsook Him and fled” (Matt 26:56). The actions of Judas are much harder to fathom. He sold the Lord of Life and Glory for the price of a common slave! What on earth could be his motive?

 

Judas may have thought he could keep his money while Jesus escaped arrest and trial just as He had in the past. He may have convinced himself if Jesus was really the Messiah his betrayal would have no serious or lasting consequences. Judas had allowed Satan easy access to his heart as he began stealing from the disciples’ common purse. Bit by bit, he resisted truth and embraced a lie until he was able to rationalise his actions and retain his respectability while perpetrating evil right under the noses of his fellow disciples.

 

Today’s passage tells us when he saw what had happened “he was filled with remorse” (NLT), so much so he gave the Chief Priests a “full refund”!  Whilst there was remorse - a strong feeling of sadness and regret about something wrong you have done - it was not true repentance - turning from evil to do good. Peter denied the Lord three times in the Temple courtyard but yet was restored because of heartfelt repentance.

 

Jesus is not looking for remorse for our sins but true repentance leading to a change of direction and a radically different lifestyle. Consider Zacchaeus whose change of life was so dramatic everyone saw the difference. Can the same be said of us?

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

David & Rosemary Vardy

Day 11: Matthew 27: 11-26 - Crucify Him!
30th March 2017

This passage is difficult for Christians to read and to hear Jesus’ own people shout “Crucify Him!” He had lived among them, healed them, restored their sight and turned their water into wine. Despite this, and despite their adoring welcome to Jerusalem, they now shout “Crucify Him!”

Yet Jesus’ love for His people is so great that He willingly hands Himself over to face execution, and remains silent in the face of the religious leaders’ accusations.  When asked if He is the King of the Jews,  Jesus replies confirming this to be true, accepting His role as the Messiah.

Given who Jesus is, verse 22 could be considered the most important verse in the bible. What will you do with Christ? Billions around the world join the chorus of “Crucify him!” as they say in words, and deeds that God has no part in their life. Many of our friends and colleagues join in this chorus, stirred on by the leaders of the crowd.

But amongst the saddening cries of rejection, there is hope. Several months later one of the most passionate “crowd-stirrers” persecuting the early church, Saul, repented and answered that most important question. He called Christ his Lord and responded by resolute faith in the face of persecution himself.

When we face aggressive rejection of our Saviour we must stand firm in the grace He gives and take no part in it. Read verse 22 again and consider if your words and deeds reflect your answer to this question.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Cameron & Rachel Fairfield

Day 12: Isaiah 53: 1-6 - Beautiful Saviour
30th March 2017

Jesus was like us in His outward appearance. He had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him”.  He looked like an ordinary, Jewish man in His early thirties. Yet in His life He was so very different from us. He was blameless in all He did; there was no sin in Him. 

It can be hard to read these verses. To hear that Jesus was despised and rejected; that He suffered and endured pain; that He was pierced, crushed, and punished. The cost was immeasurable. On the cross, He bore the fullness of the Father's righteous anger against the sin of mankind. Although He had never sinned, in His perfect body, He paid for all our sin. All the wrong that we have ever done has been laid on Him. This is why He cried before He finally died, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” A righteous, holy Father could no longer look on His Son. And why did He endure this? For us. For each and every one of us because that is how much He loves us.

1.This means there is nothing left for us to deal with. It has all been paid for by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. His was the punishment that has made us whole.

2.He who had no outward beauty did the most beautiful thing imaginable for us. He gave up His life so we could have new life in Him. Hallelujah what a beautiful Saviour!

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Douglas & Jocelyn Crawford

 

 

Day 13: Isaiah 53: 7-9 - What Love was willing to bear for us
30th March 2017

“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth.”

I love how powerful this verse is. It is a reminder of how much suffering Jesus went through for us. Jesus did not open his mouth; He did not fight against the pain. Instead, He endured what we should have so that we could be forgiven; all because He loves us.

“He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave.”

I find that in this verse we can really see the love that Jesus has for us because He is perfect and we are not, we sin again and again. Jesus took the blame for that sin and He died the death of a criminal when He had done no wrong. He was beaten and mocked and then crucified so we could be forgiven. Jesus was slain for us even though we deserved the pain. I am forever thankful and at this time of year especially, it is important to remember and reflect this Easter of how God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Sarah Mair

 

 

Day 14: Matthew 27: 27-31 - The One who is mocked as king, is actually the King
30th March 2017

Jesus is handed over to Pilate’s soldiers to be made sport of.  In the Praetorium, they strip Him and dress Him in scarlet robes. They crown Him with a thorny crown and put a fake stick sceptre in His right hand. They then kneel before Him mockingly, ‘Hail king of the Jews.’ They think they are being hilariously funny with their vindictive sarcasm.

 

But Matthew knows, and God knows, and we the readers know that Jesus is actually the King. Matthew has gone to great lengths to prove this point. His first quill stroke introduces the gospel with this sentence, ‘This is the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah (God’s promised anointed king) the son of David’. Then the Magi turn up at Herod’s palace and their question is, ‘Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?’ Then we have Jesus’ first words in chapter 4, ‘Repent for the kingdom of God has come near.’

 

When Jesus asks Peter, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter’s educated guess is, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Just five days earlier the people have crowded around shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’

 

The double irony is this, the one they mock as king is actually the King. Here is Jesus, mocked and beaten, but the One exalted to the highest place, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One before whom everyone will bow, Jesus our sovereign Servant King.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Jon Gemmell

 

 

Day 15 Matthew 27: 32-44 - His love, His justice
30th March 2017

Jesus, who so often escapes from those who opposed Him with a clever answer, a pointed rebuke or because of their fear of the crowds, is now in their hands. This time He doesn't escape. As He is raised on the cross, He is insulted and taunted: "Save Yourself. Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God." He is the Son of God; but He does not come down. 

 

Why not? He could have. Roman whips could never have driven Him to Golgotha unless He'd allowed them. Pilate's soldiers could never have raised Him up on the cross unless He submitted to them. Iron nails could never have held Him there against His will. Why did he not come down?

 

Stuart Townend's song tells us one answer: "It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished". But there's also more to it than that. Our sin, and not just our sin, but all the sin and brokenness and suffering in the world, would not need dealing with; unless God was a God of absolute justice, driven by His very nature to make all things right. And Jesus need not have taken that sin on Himself; unless God was a God of infinite love, compelled by the core of His character to reach out to us with His saving mercy.

 

So it's right to acknowledge our sin. But the cross is also where we see the ultimate expression of those two inseparable aspects of God's character: His love and His justice. As we turn our gaze from ourselves to the cross, we no longer see what would separate us from God. We see instead God's invitation to join His everlasting kingdom; to live forever in His sin-free new creation. Our shame is overwhelmed by His glory.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Tim & Lucy Haddow

Day 16 - Isaiah 53: 10-12 - The Suffering Servant
30th March 2017

 

For centuries devout Christians have accepted that this passage in Isaiah foretells the suffering and the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.

Sceptics say this is not possible.  How could a just and loving God deal with His loved and obedient Servant in this way?

But this was no ordinary Servant.  This was God Himself in the person of His only Son – the One who before His birth was named – “Immanuel, God with us.” 

Would Isaiah know this?  He certainly knew that someone special was coming – ch 9 -“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…..”,  but just how special – he must have wondered.

We who know about Jesus from the New Testament, and know Him in our hearts in our own experience, can rejoice in God’s wonderful love and seek to serve Him in the best way we can.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Clark McIntyre

Day 17 Matthew 27: 45-56 - In the dark?
30th March 2017

During the last solar eclipse people went into the streets to experience the mid-morning semi-darkness, to watch tiny images of the darkening sun projected through pinhole cameras. It was strange and unsettling to have the usual rhythms of life altered.  

The darkness which blotted out the sun at Calvary was no eclipse.  It had enormous significance, not just for a day but for all time. Along with the temple curtain being torn in two, and bodies being raised from their tombs, it underlines the crucifixion as a crucial event in history. Genesis tells us God called light into being after creating the heavens and the earth. And it was good. It is fitting that He signals the death of the One who is the Light of the World by removing daylight from the land.

 

Did this darkness signify the cosmos mourning Jesus’ death? Did it serve to spare the witnesses (and us) from images of Jesus' final agonies? Was it a sign of God’s judgement on the Jewish people? Did it reflect the powers of darkness Jesus was battling with? Was it because the full meaning and effects of what Christ was doing couldn’t be understood by man? Perhaps it is all of these and more.  “This darkness tells us that the Passion is a great mystery, into which we cannot pry.” (CH Spurgeon).

 

The Bible ends by reminding us that Jesus is the bright Morning Star (Rev 22).  Pivoting around the darkness of Golgotha I’m so thankful that the story of God’s dealings with man begins and ends with glorious light.  Let’s encourage each other in times of darkness...Jesus is the one true light which conquers all. Amen!

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Sandra Lindsay

 

 

Day 18 Matthew 27: 57-61 - Joseph of Arimathea
30th March 2017

As I think about these verses, I ponder three things. 

 

Firstly, Joseph took a huge risk in asking for Jesus' body! Jesus' closest followers had all deserted Him - fearing that they would be next to face punishment or death, but Joseph put his own safety and perhaps, career, aside and approached the man who had just ordered Jesus' execution.

 

Secondly, Joseph was playing his part in God's Big Story. His actions were aligned with God's sovereign purpose and plan. Having Jesus' body buried in the tomb and sealing it were crucial aspects of the Easter story. Whether Joseph realised it or not his actions would be documented and talked about for centuries. This follower of Jesus was giving his best for the Master and the part he played is included in the greatest story of all time.

 

Thirdly, I wonder - did Joseph have any idea what was coming around the corner? Did he have any inclination of the amazing things that were about to happen, and what impact did the next few days have on his life?

 

Now I am asking myself three questions:

 

1. What risks am I taking for Jesus?

2. How am I participating in God's big story?

3. What amazing thing is God going to do next?

 

Usually a sealed tomb marks the end of someone's life - praise God that Sunday is coming!

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Ewen McDonald

Day 19 Matthew 27: 62-66 - What are you afraid of?
30th March 2017

What are you afraid of? Each of us will most likely have a different answer to this question, from spiders to the dark, and many things in between.

 

When we read this passage, the first question that struck us was what were the Pharisees afraid of? Was it a potential loss of position and power if Jesus rose from the dead: would the Israelites stop listening to the Pharisees and start listening to Jesus? Or were they afraid that Jesus actually would rise from the dead. Could He actually have been telling the truth about who He was?

 

The fear they felt is the same fear people have always felt when it comes to accepting who Jesus is. We are afraid to accept He is the Son of God and so we are afraid to take that step off the cliff into faith and trust Him with our lives.

 

This Easter, as we sorrow afresh over Jesus’ death, and celebrate anew His glorious resurrection, we hope and pray that you will take that leap of faith, that you will accept Jesus as your Saviour, let go of your fear and trust in God completely.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Steven & Kit Law

Day 20 Psalm 22 - From Despair to Victory
30th March 2017

The opening verse of this Psalm draws us immediately to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death.  These agonising words, uttered by the Saviour as He hung on a wooden cross that very first Easter, ought to fill us with sorrow as we remember He bore the punishment due to us:  eternal separation from God.

And so the Psalm continues through verses 14-19 with its vivid imagery of the crucifixion process.

‘I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint’

‘My strength is dried up ...my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth’

‘They pierce my hands and my feet’

‘They divide my garments ...’

 

But look now to the final verse and the final statement – ‘He has done it’.  What thrilling words and hope for all mankind.  Yes, Easter is a remembrance of our Saviour’s cruel and violent death but it is so much more.  It is a celebration of all that is promised to us because not only did He die but He rose again. Hallelujah!  Death is defeated once for all.  It is indeed done – ‘It is finished’.  May we rejoice in His victory this Easter.

 

Tis finished! The Messiah dies, cut off for sin, but not His own;

Accomplished is the sacrifice, the great redeeming work is done.

Tis finished! All the debt is paid, justice divine is satisfied;

The grand and full atonement made; God for a guilty world hath died.’

(Charles Wesley)

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Margaret Knowles

Day 21 - Jesus Resurrected - 1 Corinthians 1:18 - 2:5
10th April 2017

It would make a great Facebook posting: “Sharing bbq’d fish with Jesus. He’s back to life after dying on the cross.”  There can be no greater demonstration of the Spirit’s power than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did He rise, He went on to look for His friends, including Peter, and directed their fishing in Galilee.  This is the same Jesus who converts Saul from Christian persecutor to Paul the Apostle, founder of the church in Corinth.

Paul is guided by accepting Jesus as Saviour. He dwells on the source of all power, Creator of the universe, submitting to a “man-made”, politically humiliating and torturous public execution. Jesus overcomes terror: for Paul; for the colourful people of Corinth; for me; for Edinburgh; for ever.

The Apostle writes “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Why?  A respected scholar, a gifted orator, a canny debater, Paul does not rely on his own talents. Instead he admits: “I came to you in weakness and fear.” What can we learn from Paul in our approach to Edinburgh today?

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

I’m asking God to help me make space for the Spirit and His power as I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Kirstie Egner

Day 22 - Luke 22: 47-53 - Taken Captive??
11th April 2017

I picture the crowd led by Judas: Judas apparently sure of what he's doing until challenged by Jesus; the disciples in turmoil as to how they should deal with the situation; and Jesus -- taking control -- healing the slave and giving Himself up to those who had come to arrest Him.

 

I am reminded of the verse in the Gospel of John (10:18) when Jesus says:

 

“No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily”

 

Jesus knew exactly what would happen next. This was not a sad ending of a good life but a perfect life given up for an amazing purpose.

 

Reuben Morgan puts this beautifully in his song “Your Grace is enough”

 

  Freely You gave it all for us

  Surrendered Your life upon that cross

  Great is the love

  Poured out for all  

  This is our God.

 

And I find myself gladly responding in gratitude in the words of the chorus:

 

  I will fall at Your feet

  I will fall at Your feet

  And I will worship You here.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Wilma Armstrong

Day 23 - Luke 22:66 - 23:12 - Knowing Christ
12th April 2017

In this passage, Jesus is brought before the Pharisees, Pilate and Herod. Each of them interrogate Jesus but, despite saying very little and nothing in His own defense, none can find any basis for a charge against Him. The other Gospels talk about Pilate’s amazement at Jesus’ answers to his questions; he clearly wants to know more about Jesus.

Pilate misses the important part though; he might know about Jesus but he still has no idea who He really is. This challenges each of us about the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge, especially this Easter time where many people will remember the death and resurrection of Jesus without truly knowing Him.

It is to some extent easy to know about Jesus. He was a real historical figure. He lived and He died - all of which is well documented. We can even delude ourselves that knowing about Jesus is enough, that we can acknowledge Him as King (of the Jews) and even retell some or much of what Jesus shared in the parables and His teachings.

However acknowledging Jesus is not the same as complete surrender and total obedience to Him as King of our lives. Living for Jesus means that we must allow our desire to move from knowing more about Him to knowing Him in a much deeper and intimate way - in essence, to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.

 

Nathan Mair

Day 24 - Luke 23: 13-25 - It's Not Fair
13th April 2017

Do you know what it's like to take the blame for something that wasn't your fault? I suspect that is something that has happened to us all from time to time. Even when the experience relates to something unimportant it can be infuriating. A sense of justice runs deep within us.

In these verses Jesus is taken to appear before Pilate, the local Roman governor. Pilate examines Jesus and finds Him innocent and is minded to release Him, but the mob call for Jesus to be crucified and Barabbas (a convicted rebel and murderer) to be set free. Pilate gives way to the mob, releases the guilty Barabbas and sentences the innocent Jesus to death. Such a miscarriage of justice would rightly lead to scandal today.

This particular event in the crucifixion story takes us to the very heart of what happened when Jesus died on the cross. The sin of all mankind required to be punished. Our sense of justice understands that: a holy God could hardly turn a blind eye to all the evil of this world. An honest assessment of ourselves recognises that we are far from perfectly good. But rather than punish us, the innocent Jesus, takes our place and dies in our stead.

Why would Jesus do that? The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Rome some years later explains: “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5: 8, NLT)

We are not at Easter Sunday yet. The story is dark: betrayal, denial, mob rule, fear, political expediency and injustice all play a part.  Yet in amongst all this sin, God is working out His loving purposes. Don't lose heart, keep reading: Sunday is coming!

                                                                                                                                                               

George Campbell

Day 25 - Luke 23: 26-49 - And the curtain of the temple was torn in two
14th April 2017

The significance of this statement is easy to miss. The curtain to which it refers separated the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwelt, from the rest of the temple. The curtain was 60 feet high (a typical two storey house is 20 feet high) and - according to Jewish tradition - 4 inches thick!

 

Access to the Holy of Holies, and therefore God, was restricted to the High Priest and only on the Day of Atonement after he had sanctified himself. The curtain was therefore a symbol of the separation between God and man on account of our sin.

At the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross that sin is once and for all atoned for. John's Gospel records Jesus’ final words as simply "It is finished." Jesus’ death is the all-sufficient punishment for our sin and removes the barrier between us and God. As Wesley writes in his hymn:
 

The veil is rent in Christ alone;

The living way to Heaven is seen;

The middle wall is broken down,

And all mankind may enter in.
 

It is tempting to burden ourselves by believing that in order to be acceptable to God we need to do or earn - but the truth which we must seize daily is that "It is finished". God in His grace has secured for us what we could never have earned, "all the debt is paid" and "And all Thy merits, Lord, are mine."

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Ken & Anne Knowles

Day 26 - Luke 23:50-56 - The King is Dead, Long Live the King
15th April 2017

In a very human sense the death of Jesus signalled the end of the journey. All the hopes and dreams of His followers died with Him. Or so it seemed.

The problem was of course that for Jesus’ followers their dream was too limited. God’s plan wasn’t just about rescuing the nation of Israel once again - His rescue plan was for the whole world.

However this plan didn’t stop at the cross and the death of the Lord Jesus to atone for the sins of the world. Our salvation is achieved through the cross and that is good news. But what was about to happen in a few days’ time is great news. Our certain hope is in the resurrection from the dead and the anticipation of joyous eternal life in God’s presence.

So, in our lives might we dream small dreams that are constrained by our earth-bound imaginations and limited expectations of God? Are we afraid to dream big dreams just in case we are disappointed? Or may we allow ourselves to really believe that the God who created the universe and every living thing, and whose plans go further than we can ever imagine, can and will do things beyond even our wildest dreams?      

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) (NLT)

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

John Mair

Day 27: Matthew 28: 1-10 - Salvation for All
17th April 2017

Easter reminds me of violets, so small and yet so significant - “God’s Creation”.  When I was young I played in the woods near our home at Easter with my family.  We found a carpet of violets and named it “paradise”, this had real meaning on my younger life. 

As we celebrate Easter with family and friends, we reflect on the cross, remembering the loss and the suffering Jesus went through to free us all from the burden of sin.  “O what a debt we owe”, blessed be His name.

When we pause to think of the stone being rolled away, we are amazed by the power and the reality of what this means for all who believe.

Jesus suffered for every one of us but He arose triumphant meaning we can move forward in life redeemed by His precious blood which he shed for all of us.

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified” (V5).  He is not here; He has risen” (V6)

May we be encouraged therefore to pray for one another so that Jesus’ suffering was not in vain. 

 ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ (V7)              

                What a love! What a cost!

                We stand forgiven at the cross.

 

May these words encourage us.  We are all small like the violets and yet so significant to God.

 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Cairns & Hazel Stanners

Day 28 - Matthew 28:11-15 - Truth Brings Hope
17th April 2017

Jesus’ trial had been anything but just.  The guilty verdict had been decided, false witnesses drafted in to try to justify it, and the man in charge bent more to the will of the people than to the truth.  It looked like the Pharisees had got what they wanted – Jesus was dead.  So, when the soldiers told them all that had happened they had a choice - admit the truth, or bury it by whatever means possible.

When reading this passage, I can’t help thinking about what’s going on in the world today and the sense of dismay and dread that many of us feel about decisions being made by those in authority.  But we have the advantage of seeing the bigger picture.  Jesus’ corrupt trial became a tool in fulfilling God’s salvation plan, the cover-up and subsequent persecution of believers became the means through which that salvation was spread throughout the world.  God was sovereign then, and He is sovereign now.

Something else is happening in the passage – “the women were on their way”! These two faithful women were on their way to tell the disciples the amazing news that Jesus was alive.  They were carrying the truth in their hearts.  It was this truth that prevailed over the lies and deception and it is this truth that we carry in our hearts today – Jesus is risen! Let’s faithfully hold on to this truth and the hope that it brings into all situations. 

                                                                                                                                                                               

Doug & Tracey Wilson

Day 29: Matt 28: 16-20 “When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted”
18th April 2017

Regardless of the number of years we have known and accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, sometimes situations around us make us doubt/question the supremacy of Christ.  Having been with Christ most of His ministry years, one would not have expected any of the disciples to doubt at that moment. Yet some of them did.

 

But one beautiful thing that comes out of the story is that despite their inadequacies, God used them in accomplishing His Great Commission - “19 therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

 

Do we feel inadequate? Are we faced with situations right now that seem beyond our control; do we have questions in our hearts needing urgent answers? The beautiful message is that we still matter to God and He can still use us for His Great Commission.

 

Let’s lay aside our doubts and focus on worshipping Him; let’s turn our questions/situations to Him; let’s ask Him for the grace to use whatever circumstances we are going through to bring men to His glory.  He is our God able to do and deliver.

 

Remember He is always there with us and for us “20…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen”.