Last week we celebrated Christmas, and tonight we will ring in the New Year!
Some of you may have already taken down the decorations and put them away. Some of you will wait until later, in January. And then there is me. I may have been known to take mine down a bit later than the average person!
Christmas may be over, but it is not the end, it was actually the beginning.
Let’s take a look back for a moment at the beginning of beginnings so that I can explain what I mean.
From the beginning, God had a plan. On the first day of creation, God spoke light into the darkness! After creation, the earth was full of God’s peace, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God’s plan. The world was made for man with everything we could ever need or want to live joyfully in the presence of our Creator. We would worship God by loving Him and loving one another forever. The angels were also there at creation, and they shouted for joy! (Job 38:4,7)
But one day, Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as “the Fall.” Their choice affected all of us. The result of rejecting God’s authority over us is that we are dead spiritually and will die physically.
Thankfully, even though our Creator hates our sin, and we deserve death, there is good news! God loves you and has a plan for you. We are a part of His master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing sinners.
The first Christmas day changed the world. On that day, hope was born! God tucked Himself up under the heart of a young virgin in the form of a baby. This baby was Jesus, God Himself. He came to renew the world and restore His people. Light stepped into the darkness, and that Light continues to cover the darkness today!
On this day, everything changed! An angel delivered to shepherds, just outside of Bethlehem, the message of the long-awaited Messiah’s birth.
When the first angel finished the message, the sky exploded, and the angelic choir sang praises to God and glorified His name once again! They first sang at creation, and now they are singing at the beginning of the new creation.
God had a plan from the beginning. The angels and shepherds were part of executing that plan, and so are we! The angel brought the message of redemption to the shepherds, who shared it with everyone they saw. We, too, have been given the gospel to share with those God brings into our lives.
The angel’s message reminds us that everything God does is because of His great love for people. God knew that the best gift He could give us would not fit in a box wrapped in colored paper. The greatest gift He could give us is unconditional love. The greatest need people have is unconditional love. Only God alone could do that. But first, there was a barrier between God and us that needed to be removed. It was a barrier created by our own sin and rebellion.
God showed us how much He loves the world by giving His most priceless gift – His only Son – so that that we may have a new life, eternal life, life from now to forever. Christ overcame the sin that separates us from God. Jesus is the gift! Gifts, by definition, are received, not earned. A person receives it by believing and trusting in Christ. When we receive Jesus Christ, we become children of God (John 1:12-13).
God’s purpose in sending His Son is salvation, not condemnation. God does not delight in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32) God’s greatest desire is that everyone would be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)
It was because of love that God created man in the first place. Why? Because love needs people to love! In other words, love always requires tangible expression. Because of this love, God put a plan in place to rescue us from the destructive path we chose. Love sent Jesus into our world. Hope was born.
Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year.
The days following Christmas, with all the lights of the season still shining around us, is an excellent time to share the gospel. Use the coming New Year celebrations to open conversations about New Year plans. A discussion of New Year resolutions can lead to gospel sharing opportunities. We are called to love God, and because we do, we will love people. The best gift we can give those God puts in our path is the gift of His Son so that they too can be reconciled to God and have a new beginning and eternal life. Loving God and loving people should define our entire life.
So far, we’ve seen two occasions where the angels gathered to sing praises and glory to God. The first was at creation and then again at the new creation. Jesus came into the world He created to restore us to God, our Creator. Someday we will sing our song of praise in the throne room of heaven (Revelation 5). And as we live in the meantime, we know that angelic praise teams are singing! “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
There is a lot of hatred in this world. People are angry, hurting, and desperate for real love. If we are called to be God’s hands and feet, leading people to reconciliation with Him, then love is our most powerful tool. In this new year, don’t just say you love someone; prove it!
It is the week right before we celebrate Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During this time many churches pause to remember the suffering and death of Jesus through various traditions and worship services.
The reason I chose to write this blog, is that it is easy to be so focused on the celebrations, the pageants and musicals etc. about the long awaited King on Palm Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, that we totally miss the suffering, humiliation and death that are all part of Holy Week.
In fact, when was the last time you spent the week reading about the events that took place prior to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection?
It is important that we place the hope of the Resurrection and the promise of new life, against the background of death. As you walk through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only then do you really grasp the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences. Only then can you fully understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!
Riding a donkey Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem. Even in the midst of the praises of the crowds, He had His eye on the cross on which He would be crucified at the end of the week.
In the hope of fully grasping Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary and to embrace the hope that belongs to all believers as a result, each day we will look at the events which led up to the His death.
To make it easier to find each blog, I have added links below for each day of Holy Week.
Daily blog readings
Sunday – The Journey Begins
Monday – Jesus Destroys the Robbers Den
Tuesday – Looking for the Safe Answer
Wednesday – Extravagant Love
Thursday – The Third Cup, Redemption
Friday – The Darkest Dark
Sunday – He is Risen!
Jesus and His disciples have made the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. People were being healed, demons were being cast out, miracles were happening and many believed. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was marked by crowds shouting “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches.
But as the week progressed there was a growing darkness as the crowds began to withdraw from Him. There was an ominous tone in the murmuring of the religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus’ teachings.
As Jesus and His disciples shared this last supper together they already stood in the shadow of the cross.
Later that night, after the meal, as Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas the High Priest. On Friday He would die.
You might be wondering what Maundy Thursday is. It is the beginning of the three day celebration of Easter – The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It is the holiest time of the year for the Christian Church. Maundy Thursday commemorates the last supper Jesus had with His disciples. During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which is usually translated commandment. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet to serve as an example of humility and a servant’s heart. After the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a “new” commandment that was not really new. (John 13:34-35)
It’s Thursday, the evening before Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus meets with His disciples for a last meal together, a last supper. It is Passover and Jerusalem is full of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration.
Jesus is spending His last hours with the men He had discipled. His teachings and illustrations are some of the most radical and amazing in all of the Bible. Five chapters of John’s gospel are the teachings from that evening. (John 13-17)
On His very last evening on earth Jesus, the Creator, washed the feet of the disciples, His creation.
The Passover, the reminder that it was God who set them free from slavery, embraced it’s full meaning that evening when the Lamb of God, who would in a few hours take away the sins of the world, helped the disciples see it in a fresh new way.
The Passover was deeply embedded in the Jewish consciousness. The traditions and the regulations had been passed down from generation to generation for almost 1500 years.
In that one night Jesus redefined what it meant in a way that radically altered history.
The Passover Meal
The Passover meal included
- unleavened bread, bread baked without yeast. It reminded them of the haste of the exodus, when there was no time to let the bread rise. And often in the Bible leaven represents sin. Jesus took a piece of the bread and broke it in half to pass around the table as men had done for generations but this time He said “take and eat, for this is My body”. The bread with no leaven represented the man with no sin.
- four cups of wine, each with a name taken from God’s promise to Moses in Exodus 6:6-8. The third cup is served immediately after the meal when the prayer of thanksgiving was offered.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27–28
The name of the third cup? The cup of redemption.
Jesus’ blood redeems us from the slavery of sin. It was clear, they were sitting with the Lamb of God who would in a few hours shed His own blood to set men free from slavery to sin.
Why the church doesn’t keep Passover
In a recent conversation someone asked why the church today doesn’t celebrate/keep Passover.
- First, Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover, He is our Passover. When we celebrate communion we are remembering the freedom from sin provided by the Lamb of God.
- Second, every time we celebrate communion we are celebrating the Passover. Jesus changed the way we celebrate, and He added eternal value to the reason we celebrate. Every communion service is a Passover remembered.
During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
As the disciples made their way to the Garden on the western side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane the teaching continued. However, I chose to focus on this particular event – the event that radically changed history.
Something to think about
On Maundy Thursday Jesus explained Passover in a way the disciples had never seen it. Passover redefined, was all about the real Lamb of God whose blood was not just applied to a door post, but to the hearts of sinners. His blood cleanses us from all sin and sets us free. Wow!
Other events of the evening
There are several events that occur on this last day before Jesus was arrested.
The Last Supper (The Passover Meal)
The Institution of Communion
Jesus Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples fell asleep
The Betrayal of Judas
This is the day that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples, four days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Only hours after the Last Supper, Judas would betray Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.
After Judas left the room, Jesus instituted something new, the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). He took two elements from the Passover Feast, the unleavened bread and the cup, and used them as a visual aide to picture His death which would bring forgiveness of sins.
- The broken bread was a picture of His body given for the sins of the world.
- The cup of wine pictured His blood which was shed for the remission of sins.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us to look ahead for Christ’s return. We will observe this supper until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The Passover pointed ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) The Lord’s Supper announces that this work has been accomplished.
Later that evening Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, there Jesus surrendered His will to God’s will. We see such a clear picture here of both his deity and humanity. It was here that the victory was won.
As Jesus was agonizing in prayer His disciples were sleeping. He woke them up with the news that His betrayer was coming and they must go to meet him.
Readings for the day
Questions to ask yourself
Have you been set free?
Have you ever totally surrendered your life to Christ, and bowed before the one who died for you?
In case you have missed the previous blogs, I’ve included their links below. It is not too late to read them and meditate on the events of Holy Week prior to and including Christ’s journey.
It’s post Resurrection Sunday.
The squeals of delight at the discovery of a candy filled treasure have drifted away in the gentle spring breeze like the white fuzz of a dandelion. The only evidence left behind is an overlooked egg hiding in the tall grass.
The pageantry and programs with all their pomp and circumstance are packed away for another year.
Easter finery, so carefully chosen as adornment worthy of royals for this most hallowed day of the Christian calendar, is now deemed common hanging alongside apparel of the every day. (more…)
When the decision was made to do Genesis this fall I was a little bummed. After all how many times do you need to study creation? I already knew what God created and when, what else is there to learn? But as usual, God spoke and reality set in – There is always something to learn in scripture no matter how many times you study it. I found that we/I are so familiar with the first verses of Genesis that we don’t give them the attention they deserve. So with that said I am going to share some thoughts from Genesis 1:1-5.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God ….
The name for God here is Elohim – “el” means mighty, strong; the “im” ending is a plural ending, but has a singular verb. God (plural) created. So what? You may ask. The trinity (God, Son and Holy Spirit) was present at creation! Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) Jesus – John 1:1-4, 14-18; Heb 1:1-3; Col1:15-17, Rev 4:11 (more…)