Christian Devotionals

"Easter without Jesus"

Many of you know from either word of mouth or through last week's devotion that my mother endured a series of strokes and has spent the past few weeks in the hospital. I also shared how we enjoyed some special moments together where I read God's Word to her and we treasured its wonderful truths. She's at a rehabilitation center now and will spend her first Easter away from home - a home where she had faithfully prepared Easter dinner and traditional Italian desserts for her family. While I was visiting her the other day, I asked a person on staff if they held church services on Sunday. She was a pleasant woman and eagerly responded that they do in fact have church services for the patients. When I asked her if they had Christian services, she told me yes, but that they were nondenominational. That would be fine with my mother as long as they preached from the Bible and honored Jesus Christ. She then told me that she wasn't absolutely certain, but she believed that they omitted references to Jesus (wouldn't want to offend certain people). Of course this upset me, but I tried to be gracious. I'm thinking, "Christians worldwide are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How could you call it an "Easter service" when you're censoring the very name of Jesus? Could anything be more ludicrous!" I politely told this staff person that it couldn't really be considered a Christian service if Jesus has no part in it. I thanked her for the information and walked away in disbelief.

This Easter season and in the weeks and months to follow, let's not lose sight of what actually happened nearly two thousand years ago. For starters, this means not omitting Jesus from your Easter celebration. I also recommend that we read some key prophetic passages from the book of Isaiah. Good Friday is an especially poignant day for me - one filled with sorrow and deep appreciation for what the Lord Jesus did for me and for all people. By Sunday, however, I'm filled with joy and hope as I celebrate my salvation through our risen Savior. In the book of Isaiah the word "salvation" is used twenty-six times. Some say this book resembles the Bible in miniature. The first 39 chapters warn of judgment and speak of our need for salvation (like the first 39 books of the Old Testament). The final 27 chapters of Isaiah (chapters 40 -66) resemble the 27 books of the New Testament. Here we read the message of hope: God's provision of salvation through the Messiah. As you read through Isaiah - written some 700 years before the birth of Christ - you will find prophecies of both the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. If you have a New King James or one of the more traditional versions of the Bible, references to the Messiah are capitalized and easier to identify (e.g. "Me", "My Servant", etc.). There are also some extremely painful verses, especially in Isaiah 50, 52 and 53, which we need to read in order to gain a deeper appreciation for what the Lord Jesus did for us at Calvary. Jesus was horribly brutalized even before they nailed Him to the cross. He was beaten and "marred beyond human likeness" (52:14) and they literally pulled out His beard :

"Nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from the shame and spitting"
(Isaiah 50:5-6).

In Matthew 26:53, Jesus tells the disciples that He could call out to the Father and He could provide Him with twelve legions of angels (12,000 angels). That's some serious firepower considering the fact that just one angel in 2 Kings 19:35 annihilated 185,000 soldiers. Yet, Jesus allowed Himself to be "pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed". Praise You Lord Jesus!

This week read the accounts of Jesus' trial and crucifixion in the gospels. It's amazing how prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled before the Jewish leaders' very eyes, yet it never clicked in their minds or registered in their hard hearts (many of them devout scholars of scripture). This too is in keeping with another prophecy in Isaiah concerning dull ears, closed eyes and hard hearts (chapter 6 verses 9 and 10). Yet, the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day, ignored the scriptures, particularly those pertaining to the suffering Messiah (the "man of sorrows"). They chose to fast forward past the first coming and go straight to His second coming (the conquering Messiah). They sought the One who would defeat their enemies and establish Israel as a great earthly kingdom. These self-righteous men and their worldly focus were more concerned about position, power and self-preservation, than they were about getting to know the God who was in their very midst. Before I bash these guys any further, there are some key lessons for all of us to learn from the Pharisees' behavior. Their selective recall and interpretation of scripture reminds me of how we sometimes pick and choose among the scriptures in order to meet our needs, condone our behavior or solidify our positions. It also speaks of man's continual attempts to mold Almighty God into the image of our choosing (the god of our desires). This self-centeredness not only hurts others, it prevents us from truly knowing and serving the God who is in our very midst.

If you 're a Christian, this is a time for celebration. Unlike every other religious figure that has come and gone, our Savior's tomb is empty. Jesus is alive! Let's not censor the name of Jesus from Easter for fear of offending those who are lost. Shout it from the rooftops and mountaintops: Our Savior - the One true Savior of the world - is risen. Share the Good News!

5"Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'
Luke 24:5-7 (New International Version)

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