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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

Easter | Experiencing Christ in Everyday Life
19-DAY READING

You know the story and you’ve heard the facts: Christ was crucified and rose again on the third day. But would you say you’re experiencing the reality of the risen Christ in your life today? In this 19-day plan, Pete Briscoe walks you through Jesus’ final days on Earth and shares how you can experience the impact of Christ’s resurrection in your everyday life.

Day 1

Set Your Heart On Things Eternal

‘Cause I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all. —Three Days Grace, “Pain”

Ask people what makes a song popular and chances are they’ll say, “It sounds real.” There is a strong desire in the human heart for anything that is real. Even depressing, dark, or painful things are better than the numbness that comes when a temporary high wears off. And that’s all the temporary world has to offer—fast thrills and numbness.

To find out how to live for joy, we need to look to Jesus. How did He survive when He was living on earth, caught up in the tension between the temporary and the eternal?

Jesus kept His heart and mind set on things eternal. Just read the Gospels and see how often He talks to the Father. It’s constant. Look at how He alludes to the Father and how often He directs the disciples to think about things above. At every step in His journey on earth, Jesus was totally dependent on the Father.

Look at how He cries out to the Father in His greatest hour of need, just before the crucifixion:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Those are the words of our Lord focused on things above, on things eternal and not temporary. Temporarily, He was about to undergo a lot of pain and suffering. Eternally, He kept His eye on the glory to come.

May we do the same. May we understand that spiritual growth is about experiencing eternal truths while living in a temporary world. We are being made new through the grace of Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives in us. The Father’s love never fails us. Desperate dependence on Christ, the Spirit, and the Father is what we are after. We cannot do a single thing of value for the eternal realm without His power.

With Christ comes the fullness of joy—apart from Christ, temporary and cheap thrills.

Jesus, You are the Great King. This world seeks cheap thrills and tawdry pursuits. I don’t want that, and I don’t want it for those around me. Teach and shape me. I want to live for eternity while on earth. Show me how much joy You have, Father when I submit to You.

Day 2

Don’t Pass Over Passover

A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it. —C.S. Lewis

My guess is that you, like me, have had some awkward moments at meals. You know, spilling red Jell-O on your white shirt in front of the curly-haired boy/girl in elementary school. Or “meet the parents” moments with your fiancé’s family!

I want to take you back to that fateful Passover night. Jesus was going to celebrate the Last Supper with His disciples. I’m sure that some of the disciples had some wonderful, high expectations. It was the Passover. Jesus had just come into Jerusalem, with all the crowds adoring Him, and this was like energy; there was electricity in the air. So now they were going to celebrate Passover with the most popular guy in Jerusalem… so it seemed. But do you know what? Everything went wrong during that meal. There were plenty of awkward moments described for us in John’s Gospel:

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” (John 13:1-3)

In this picture of the last meal, as the disciples shared with Christ, we see realistic images of what it means to be in Christ. Snapshots of life with this Jesus. It’s a meal full of moments of misunderstanding, selfishness, and betrayal. Yes, AWKWARD, but the evening meal was just getting started…

Lord Jesus, as I look at the awkward meal that You shared with Your closest followers, open my eyes anew to the realities of being with You, being in You, and You living through me. Reveal to me new aspects of my identity as Your child. Amen.

Day 3

Allowing Jesus to Serve You

In the Kingdom of God, service is not a stepping-stone to nobility; it is nobility, the only kind of nobility that is recognized. —T.W. Mason

The last meal that Christ shared with His disciples was filled with awkward moments—lots of them. The first one happened when they arrived. The preparations for the meal were definitely last minute. When Jesus and the guys got there and sat down, the servant who was probably supposed to wash their feet didn’t show up for work.

With no designated servant around, the disciples were left looking at each other. Who is the foot-washing guy? Peter, is that your job? And they’re all kind of pointing their fingers. Well, who is the low man on the totem pole? Who’s going to do it? Who is going to take the role of the servant? No one does.

Jesus gets up, takes off His cloak, wraps it around His waist, and starts washing their feet. Oh, what an awkward moment. I mean, the Master is not supposed to do that. He gets to Peter and, of course…

“‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’” (John 13:8)

Was there awkward silence in the room? Absolutely. An awkward snapshot of a pervasive new principle that is revealed throughout the New Testament:

The Christian life begins with, and is sustained by, Jesus’ service to us… not by our supposed service to Him.

Pride and arrogance in our flesh will protest, but the bottom line is that our identity in Christ is dependent only on what He does and has done for us… not on what we do for Him.

In what ways do you need to allow Jesus to serve you and sustain you today?

Jesus, this seems so backward, yet I ask You to humble me. Show me my need for You today. Break through my pride and make me willing to let You serve me today, enabling me, filling me, and strengthening me so that I can experience who I truly am in You. Amen.

Day 4

Letting Jesus Serve Through You

Quit being so selfish and give it to ME! —4-year-old to a sibling

Jesus was letting them have it all. During the last meal He shared with His disciples, He was simultaneously putting them in their place and communicating who they would shortly become in Him after Pentecost. No doubt, the boys were a little confused and conflicted at that moment. He had just told Peter that unless he let Him serve him by washing his feet, he had no place with Him. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:17). Jesus had just reversed the roles, then He changed the rules, and then He threw a major curve ball:

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’” (John 13:12-17)

Do verses like these feel like a burden to you? They shouldn’t if you consider the full “example” that Jesus set for us. He was fully dependent on the Father every step of the way. God moved Him so that He could serve us… and now He calls us to the same. This very Jesus, the servant Jesus, lives in us. As we live in Him, it will be the most natural thing in the world for us to serve others.

Where has God placed you today so that He can serve others through you?

Lord, make me a servant! No, more than that, would You serve through me today? I am fully dependent on You to love and serve those around me—particularly the difficult ones! I stand aside, surrendering my self-effort. I give in to Your Spirit in me… give me some feet to wash. Amen.

Day 5

What To Do When You Feel Like Judas

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved—loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. —Victor Hugo

By the time they shared their last supper alone together, Jesus and His disciples had been living day in and day out together for three years. They knew each other very well… or so they thought. One of them was about to betray Jesus, and the moment must have been intensely awkward:

“‘I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am.’… Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’ So Jesus told him [Judas], ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him… As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” (John 13:19, 21, 27-28, 30)

Our flesh and mind are still vulnerable to temptation. This can lead to “betrayals” of many kinds. Sometimes, you might even feel like Judas… a haunting awkwardness followed by the feeling that you have left Jesus and gone out into the night by yourself. Yeah, you might feel that way, but the cool thing is that Jesus hasn’t left you at all! If you have given your life to Christ and asked Him to come in, He has done just that. His Spirit now lives in your spirit. You can rest in His promise that He will never forsake you and never reject you (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus, I praise You for Your unconditional love that is infinitely greater than my betrayals. Though I feel distant from You when I sin, I thank You for Your promise that You will be with me always. Use my sin as a reminder of Your forgiveness, mercy, and grace so that I will rest and depend on You to live through me. Amen.

Day 6

Resting in His Strength

Pride is to character, like the attic to the house—the highest part, and generally the most empty. —Sydney Howard Gay

Peter was “the man.” Even his name means “rock.” The first to speak, the first to take up the sword—yeah, that guy. As Jesus continues the Passover meal with the disciples, bold Peter provides the next moment of awkwardness—a turn of events that no one was anticipating. They start to have a conversation again. Jesus actually does a little Q&A time.

Peter asked a question; Philip asked a question; Jesus answered those questions, and in the course of this conversation, Jesus talks about the fact that He’s heading to death. Peter opens his mouth and prepares to insert his foot:

“‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’” (John 13:37-38)

Ouch. That must have stung. Or not. My guess is that Peter didn’t believe it (even though it came from the lips of his Lord). Peter’s good intentions, vocal professions, and public declarations of allegiance were not enough—and this bold confidence was likely the source of his demise—he believed himself to be strong, but before the rooster crowed, his denials were complete.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Oh, Jesus, I am weak, but You are strong! You are the way, the truth, and the life; by myself, I can be like Peter or even Judas. Without You, I am nothing and can do nothing. Though I share Peter’s intentions, professions, and declarations, left to myself, I can betray You like Judas. I recognize and confess that I cannot live as I should in my own strength. I rest in You and trust in You to live Your life through me today. Amen.

Day 7

Are You Listening?

I am about to—or I am going to—die: either expression is correct. —Last words of Dominique Bouhours, famous French grammarian

You’ve probably been in churches when the pastor is there for his last Sunday. He’s retiring or resigning or being retired or resigned, and so it’s his last opportunity to preach. If you’ve ever heard one of those sermons, boy, a lot of times, you’d say, “Well, if he had preached this way all the time, we would have kept him!” Pastors let it all out on those last Sundays. All the things that they’ve always wanted to say and always felt led to say but were afraid to say, they finally say. But they’ve lost their job, it doesn’t matter, and off they go.

Last words are powerful and often become famous. Jesus’ last words to His disciples during the Last Supper are what many theologians call “The Farewell Discourse.” Jesus holds nothing back (not that He was ever in the practice of doing so!). He makes it very clear what He wants His disciples to know and remember. Those words transcend time and distance to speak to us today: love, obedience, truth, fear, and being alone—all important issues we wrestle with as we discover who we are in Christ. Jesus speaks clearly about these things. Are we listening?

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

Lord God, as the noise and pressure of earthly life press in on my soul, give me the willingness and the ability to be still and know that You are my God, that You are my counselor and my comforter. I want to engage with Your living Word—even some of those dusty verses I heard so long ago. May Your words be the meditation of my heart as I live as one who is free. Amen.

Day 8

Letting Jesus’ Love Flow Through You

Why not? After all, it belongs to Him. —Last words of comedian Charlie Chaplin, in response to a priest who was reading him his last rites and said, “May the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

As Jesus reclined with His disciples during the Passover, His last words to them were pointed and clear:

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

A new command only hours before His death? Yes, Christ is just about to usher in the “New Covenant”—a fulfillment of all the law and the prophets, yet a 180-degree shift in the direction of human spirituality. Man-made religion and legalism would soon be nullified by the sacrificial death of Jesus—the ultimate act of love. Love is the new standard. But this new command, is it just a new thing we must do? A new burden to carry? Not if you look at the context and Jesus’ prayer that follows:

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)

At the very end of the discourse, Jesus says that it will be His love in us that will distinguish us as His disciples. He is in you, it is His love that will fulfill this new command to love others.

God of Love, the Son showed me the Father’s love on the cross. By the Spirit, stir up the genuine love for You that You created within me. I do love You! Your love is real, and you have placed it in me. May it flow through me, Jesus. This is beyond me, yet I ask that You make it real in my heart and mind today. Amen.

Day 9

The Holy Spirit Lives In You

Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose. —Last words of French Queen Marie Antoinette. She had accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner on her way to the guillotine.

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His time was up. In a few short hours, He would leave the world and go to His Father. There was no question about His love for the men He was sharing His last meal with. But the next day, He would prove His love for the whole world.

They had moved beyond the awkwardness from earlier in the meal, but for those closest to Him, the words of His pending departure caused confusion and concern. As part of His “Farewell Discourse,” Jesus offered them words of comfort:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Help was on the way: an Advocate, a Counselor, the Spirit of Truth. The prepositions Christ used are revealing. This Spirit had been with them. Soon, He would be in them. This is no small distinction! Not for them, not for us. The Holy Spirit of God is not just around us, not just among us, but He is in us. And if you have opened the door of your life to Christ, He is in YOU. The movement of the Farewell Discourse is profound: from “with us” to“in us.”

Of all the famous last words ever spoken, are these not, perhaps, the most important we will hear? Jesus’ final words telling us who we are because of Who is in us.

Holy Spirit, let me never, never get over the wonder and awe of who I am in Christ and who You are in me. Give me the peace to ponder this, the passion to envision it, the faith to live out the truth that You indwell me. Amen.

Day 10

When Things Go From Bad to Worse

I can’t sleep. —J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan

He could see it in their eyes. They were starting to get scared. This was not some sort of parable or illustration… this was for real. Jesus was telling them of His impending death and departure, and Judas had already left the group, destined to set into motion the events that would climax in His innocent blood being shed.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Jesus knew that over the next hours, days, months, and years His disciples would have to learn how to trust and believe Him. He knew that in centuries to come, we would need to learn the same. In His final discourse to the disciples and His future encouragement to us, His teachings were twofold: the Spirit will be in you on earth, and I will come back for you one day. Trust Me—I have it all figured out.

Jesus, what can I do but praise You for Your provision? You have given me everything, and the only thing I truly need on earth: Your Spirit in me. I trust and believe in You. Even when circumstances on earth go from bad to worse, I trust and believe in You. And I trust and believe that You will be coming back to take me to a place prepared for me. I trust and believe. Amen.

Day 11

Identifying With Christ

We cannot close our eyes to the reality of suffering, for it is the reality chosen by the one we name Lord and Christ. And the path He walks here is the one He bids us to follow. —Theodore W. Jennings Jr.

Do you ever dream of a God who gallops into the scene on His white stallion, takes care of all the bad guys, and then rides off into the eternal sunset with everybody in town saying, “Wow, who was that mysterious God?” And then (in my dream), everybody is knocking down my door, begging me to share the Gospel with them so that they can have this God on their team, too!

It doesn’t appear to work that way. “Bad guys” come in many forms today, and bad guys bring suffering of many kinds. It might be physical, emotional, or even spiritual. And no, Jesus doesn’t scare them all away. Suffering was His reality; suffering is our reality.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I think God may even allow suffering to gently move us toward Jesus so that we can identify with Him. That’s a deep thought, and it’s definitely worth thinking about as we celebrate Easter. Our suffering is a shared experience with Jesus—something that can bring deeper intimacy to our relationship with Him. He may not rescue us the way that we wish, but in His goodness, I believe He offers some things far more valuable. He invites us to “approach the throne of grace” and “receive mercy.” He’s really offering Himself to us, welcoming us into intimacy through shared suffering.

Dear Jesus, I ask You to open my heart and my mind. Use my suffering to help me more closely identify with Your suffering so that we can share these experiences in unity. I do need Your mercy and grace in my time of need. I thank You for becoming a human so that You can sympathize with my struggles. Thank You that I can enter into Your presence with confidence because of what You have done for me on the cross. Amen.

Day 12

His Pain, Your Gain

We have so theologized the passion and death of this sacred Man that we no longer see the slow unraveling of His tissue, the spread of gangrene, His raging thirst. —Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

The images in the movie “The Passion of Christ” stunned us all. After decades of dissecting the meaning of the Cross, some of us had become desensitized to the fact that the crucifixion was all too real that day in Jerusalem: real whips, real nails, scarlet blood, steaming sweat, bitter tears—real suffering.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

The writers of the Gospels don’t go into the gory details of the Cross. They described His mode of torture and execution as quite a matter of fact. (Historians and Hollywood have willingly filled in the graphic descriptions.) Prior to the Cross, Jesus knew the normal demands and limitations of the human body. We don’t have an indication that He got sick, but He may have. We do see plenty of hunger, thirst, and being physically tired. He definitely understands physical suffering; He certainly sympathizes with our physical suffering.

The important thing is that Jesus is here, and Jesus cares. And Jesus did something about it. Because of the suffering that He endured through His death on the Cross, we can know a peace that surpasses all comprehension, joy in spite of our circumstances, and intimacy with Him through that shared experience.

Lord Jesus, Isaiah predicted that You would carry my sorrows and take up my infirmities. So I leave them with You now. Thank You for the peace that was bought through Your punishment and the healing that I can know through Your wounds. I claim that now through faith in You! Amen.

Day 13

Beyond Symbolism

To the abandoned child wailing in the city street, the mother weeping over her stillborn infant, the man moaning in the torture cell, the parent with no food or medicine to give a dying child, the Indian hunted down by ranchers’ dogs, the one betrayed by a friend—to all the wounded and suffering, despised and dishonored, the Gospel points to Jesus and says, “Behold your suffering, behold your God!” —Theodore W. Jennings

Let’s go back to the night before Jesus’ death. He needed to make a point to His disciples: You need to be sacrificial servants. So He took out the cloth and the wash basin and washed the grimy feet of His followers. It was powerfully symbolic. A real attention-getter. It was the perfect conclusion to the message that He was communicating to His somewhat remedial disciples.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)

They got the message. The sermon was over. Or was it?

What if the foot washing wasn’t just a “lesson illustration”? What if Christ’s actions weren’t just symbolic? What if the foot washing was authentic—an extension of who Jesus really is?

I sometimes worry that Christian “faith” has become too theoretical and not enough actual. Practical Christianity has been put in a symbolic box—particularly the things that require sacrifice and suffering. But again, Christ’s suffering and our suffering are a shared experience. His sacrificial service to us cost Him His life. Our sacrificial service to each other and the world is also costly. But it’s the real deal! It’s actually an extension of who we really are in Him.

Dear Jesus, I don’t want to live in the theoretical. Lord, I believe that I am in You and that You are in me. Live through me today as a sacrificial servant in a practical way. May this be another experience that we can share together that will add unity to our relationship as we love the world together. Amen.

Day 14

Your True Source of Love and Acceptance

Yet while none of its suffering can be exaggerated, the fact remains that the cross’ greatest cause of anguish may not have been the nails impaling the hands and feet. The greater cause may have been its shame. —D. Bruce Lockerbie

Jesus Christ was a human being with emotion. The Bible says He suffered from loneliness (Matthew 26:40), frustration (Mark 8:21), anger (Mark 3:5), and He experienced the feeling of abandonment (Mark 15:34).

However, when He was on the Cross, He shared in the most painful of all human emotions: rejection.

  • He was rejected for who He was by the authorities who scoffed at His claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 26:63-66).
  • He was rejected by those who loved Him when the disciples abandoned Him in His time of need—when Peter denied Him three times (Matthew 26:73-74).
  • He was regarded as worthless by those in charge. At the insistence of the crowds, Pilate released a notorious prisoner, Barabbas. For the sake of political convenience, he gave into the crowds’ demands to “crucify him!” (Matthew 27:15-22)

In the end, only a few women and John stayed by Him. When He was finally recognized and received for who He was, it was too late.

Are you experiencing the agony of rejection? Rejection is yet another aspect of suffering that can draw you into deeper intimacy and unity with Christ. Christ can sympathize with you, and this shared suffering can be a major point of contact between the two of you because not only has He been there, but He promises to always be here with you and never ever leave you or forsake you.

So yes, when it comes to rejection, Jesus “gets it.” He understands big-time. And He’s with you and in you right now, ready to walk through it together.

Jesus, honestly, I really desire that the people around me would fully accept me and unconditionally love me. But that’s never going to be a reality, is it? I thank You for using this desire to draw me into a more intimate relationship with You, who will never reject me and never leave me! Thank you for using the suffering of rejection to lead me to You, the true source of love and acceptance. Amen.

Day 15

The Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. —Martin Luther

Sunday morning, the disciples were still locked away in hiding. The body of Jesus was still sealed securely in the tomb… or so they thought.

At some point in the night or early morning, Almighty God the Father and God the Holy Spirit performed a miracle. Molecule by molecule, they defied the natural laws. They were restructuring cell walls, purging toxins, replacing decayed biochemicals, and expelling the microscopic scavengers… until the body was ready once again.

And with a breath, the soul and Spirit of Christ came to earth again. Emmanuel again. God in the flesh, alive again! Supernatural? By all means, it was. God’s business is supernatural—re-creating, reversing decay and destruction, and giving new life. God’s business is resurrection, and those who are in Christ are part of it, right here, right now:

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:5-8)

This is all part of the incredible mystery of life “in Christ.” It’s hard to explain… perhaps even impossible to describe, but when we see this resurrection in action, it’s undeniable.

A couple of years ago, right after Easter, I received an email that said it all:

Dear Pete,

It was 7 years ago Easter weekend that I was at the end of my downhill spiral. I had just spent the weekend choosing drugs over life and the custody of my first son and felt as though I had nothing left to live for. I cannot describe the overwhelming peace and joy that I experience today! I was allowed to serve at two services and attended the third. It’s like there is no other place I belong on Easter morning…

Chemical abuse, abortion, desperation—and then one day, someone introduced her to the risen Christ. Today she walks with Him in forgiveness and grace and shameless worship. If you really want to see the resurrected Jesus, just look at people like her because she, somehow, was resurrected with Him, too.

Jesus, this is really too amazing for my mind to absorb, but You are God, able to do far more than I could ever comprehend. By faith, Lord, I accept what You say is true—that my old self was crucified and that I have been raised with You for new life in You. Make this mystery a reality in my life today! Amen.

Day 16

Having Faith in the Resurrection

And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history… —E.M. Blaiklock, Professor of Classics at Auckland University

Christians, in general, seem to have a pretty good handle on the theology of the cross. I mean, that’s how we got into a relationship with God in the first place. Jesus died for us so that we could be forgiven so that we can relate to God on an intimate personal level.

But what about our theology of the resurrection? Is it really important to prove and believe that the resurrection of Christ really happened? What if Christ was not raised from the dead? Let’s let the apostle Paul answer that:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

That’s a pretty serious list. If His body is still in the grave, faith is useless, faith is futile, we are still in our sins, none of us will be raised after death, and we are (basically) idiots to be pitied more than everybody else.

The list of objective evidence regarding the resurrection is substantial.

  • Jesus’ body was dead.
  • The stone was rolled away.
  • The tomb was empty.
  • The Roman guards were AWOL.
  • The grave clothes were present.
  • Hundreds of witnesses reported what they saw.

Books and books have been written on this topic, and they make for great inspirational reading. If Jesus wasn’t raised? It’s game over. But if He was—and if we believe that He was—then really, the game has just begun.

Living God, facts are facts, but faith is faith. Please—by the Truth of your Word and the power of the Holy Spirit—give me genuine faith in these facts. Allow me to move beyond superficial belief and begin to experience the mystery of the resurrection and all of its implications. Amen.

Day 17

The Transforming Power of the Resurrection

What gives special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren still being alive. St. Paul says in effect, “If you don’t believe me, you can ask them.” —Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University

There is no question that the Romans were successful in crucifying Christ. The apostle John personally confirmed the death of Christ. John was there; he recorded the soldier’s confirmation that He was dead, and he saw them jab Him in the side with a spear causing water and blood to flow from His heart (John 19:33-35). Many others saw His body wrapped and placed in the tomb. Everything appeared to be over. But the sunrise of Sunday revealed a stone that had been rolled away, guards who had fled for their lives, and an empty tomb.

This is where it starts to get good… because people started seeing Him alive. The apostle Paul recorded that the living Christ appeared to Peter and then to the disciples and more than 500 other people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Hundreds of these firsthand witnesses would still have been alive at the time that Paul wrote this letter.

If you took the resurrection to court and each of these 500 witnesses had only six minutes of testimony and cross-examination, it would add up to over 50 hours of firsthand eyewitness accounts confirming that Christ was alive. The list of witnesses also included those who were hostile toward Christ before their encounters with Him. The most notable of all these was the apostle Paul himself, who encountered the resurrected Christ long after the fact. In his words:

“Then he [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Corinthians 15:7-10)

What stands out to me in Paul’s account is not only his record of what happened but also how it affected him personally. This encounter with Jesus transformed him from an arrogant religious leader into a humble, faithful servant… a man transformed by the grace of God.

May it be the same for each of us!

Dear Jesus, Your Word says knowledge makes us arrogant. But love edifies. What a tragedy it would be if the proof of Your resurrection became an object of my pride rather than fuel for my faith. I am truly nothing without You. It is only by Your grace that I am what I am. I praise You, Lord. Glory to Your name! Amen.

Day 18

The Hope Found in an Empty Tomb

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!

I love Peter. Not only is he my namesake, but I can appreciate the way he was prone to live on the extremes: he was bold and boisterous when he was with Christ, but when he was separated from Christ, Peter was a wimp. He caved under the pressure, even cowering to the questions of little girls, denying that he had ever even known Jesus at all. (See Mark 14:66-72).

We might look at the cross today as symbolic of some sort of victory, but it was devastating at the moment. The significance of Christ’s death was the shedding of innocent blood—the perfect and final sacrifice for human sin. But what is the significance for us if He was raised? I can’t answer that any better than Peter:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:3-7)

What a contrast! Yes, Jesus had to die, and we had to be crucified with Him to get to this point. But what a difference the resurrection made to Peter and what an astounding difference it makes to us. In the mercy of the Father, through the resurrection of Jesus, God has given us two crucial things: new birth and living hope.

Where would we be without either of those?!

Jesus, touch me with the Truth today. Quiet my heart that I may ponder what You did on the cross. Ignite my heart that I may celebrate what You did through the resurrection. Amen.

Day 19

Forever Changed By the Living Jesus

The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances. —Robert Flatt

Information alone rarely changes lives. But when someone experiences the truth, their future is often changed for good. This is certainly the case with Jesus. Sure, people’s lives get changed for all sorts of different reasons, but the transformation that we see in the disciples’ lives is irrefutable evidence that they believed they had encountered the living Christ.

Remember the disciples back in the Garden of Gethsemane? At the first threat of real danger, “everyone deserted him and fled” (Mark 14:50). But then, “Bam!” Just like that, something changed. These guys became radical and fearless, willing to give their lives in the name of Jesus Christ. What happened?

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

This encounter with the living Christ completely transformed them from men who were hiding behind “doors locked for fear of the Jews” into an unstoppable team. History and tradition show us that the disciples were tortured, exiled, and killed because they wouldn’t shut up about their encounter with the resurrected Christ.

  • James of Zebedee was beheaded in A.D. 44
  • Philip was scourged and crucified in Phrygia
  • Matthew was martyred in Ethopia in A.D. 60
  • James was stoned and clubbed in A.D. 94
  • Matthias (Judas’ replacement) was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem
  • Andrew was crucified in Edessa
  • Peter was crucified
  • Bartholomew was beaten and crucified in India
  • Thomas was thrust with a spear
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in A.D. 74
  • Judas of James was crucified in Edessa in A.D. 72
  • John was exiled to Patmos

We can truthfully say that billions of people can testify to the change that the resurrected Christ has made in their life! Yes, I believe that information is important. That’s why we are so committed to telling the truth from the Scriptures. But it has to go from head knowledge to a living, relational experience with the risen Christ.

Risen Christ, I don’t want to just know about You. I want more than just the facts that show You rose from the dead. My heart yearns for You. My heart seeks You. I am open to experiencing You today, on a personal level, in any way that You choose! Amen.

Reflection:

  1. This Easter season, what truth is the Spirit revealing to you about Himself and about His life in you?
  2. How would your life change if you lived with a greater awareness of the resurrected Christ in you today?

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