Tag Archives: Easter

A Savior We Can Relate To

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This month, I’ve been sharing some in-depth Bible studies with you to help you prepare your heart for Easter and the rest of the year. Now that it’s Easter weekend, I’d like to share one of my favorite passages regarding Jesus—from Isaiah 53.

 

The Person

Yes, the book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament, but God gave the prophet Isaiah an amazing glimpse into the person of Jesus. According to the prophecy, Jesus (referred to as the “arm of the LORD”) would:

  • Lack handsomeness and splendor so that we would not be attracted to Him for His appearance
  • Be a man of sorrows
  • Be acquainted with grief
  • Be despised and forsaken of men.

Have you ever felt plain or invisible? Have you suffered sorrows and grief that set you on a different path? Have you been hurt by others? I know I have!

That’s why I love Isaiah 53 so much—because it tells me that Jesus understands what I’ve been through. We can relate to Him on a personal level.

 

The Plan

As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus would:

  • Carry our sorrows and griefs
  • Be pierced and crushed for our sins
  • Be scourged so that we could be healed
  • Be oppressed and afflicted but not defend Himself
  • Be assigned with the wicked but be taken care of by a rich man in death
  • Be innocent of violence and deceit
  • Be poured out to death
  • Be a guilt offering for the guilty (us)
  • Justify us through His sacrifice.*

Jesus’ death wasn’t an accident—it was the reason He was born! It was His plan all along.

 

The Method

What really gets me is how Jesus accomplished His plan. As a writer, I can imagine dozens of ways Jesus could have done things differently. He could have limited His time on earth by miraculously growing up in a matter of days. He could have chosen a different era to be born, one with modern conveniences like flushing toilettes, hot showers, and automobiles. He could have ruled the world, acting as an earthly king with thousands of servants. He could have sequestered Himself to avoid the unwashed public. And He could have kept our sins in a box, careful not to get too close.

But that’s not how Jesus operated! He lived in a difficult time, full of turmoil and lacking all modern conveniences. He walked everywhere, slept on fishing boats, fasted in the desert, and had no real home to lay His head. (See Mark 4:8, Matthew 4, and Matthew 8:20.) He lived among a people who wanted something from Him but did not understand Him, yet He was moved by their illnesses, their hunger, and their plight. (See Matthew 14 and 20.)

Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty. He didn’t put on gloves before touching the untouchables. He didn’t avoid the smell of humanity by breathing heaven’s air from a special air bubble. Nor did He sanitize our sins before taking them upon Himself.

He let our burdens burden Him.

He let our pain hurt Him.

He let our sins wound Him.

He let our death claim Him.

When He was buried, our sins and sorrows were buried with Him. When He rose from the grave, He made a way for us to be reconciled with the Father.

 

The Celebration

If you’re struggling to relate with God, or you’re wondering what this whole Easter-thing is all about, I encourage you to reacquaint yourself with Jesus through the eyes of Isaiah.

See Him not only as the Righteous One but as the man of sorrows, the one oppressed and afflicted, the one who understands your pain and your sins better than anyone else ever could. This is the man—this is the God—who didn’t mind getting dirty for your salvation.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5 NAS).

Happy Easter!

 

[Click to Tweet: Jesus didn’t mind getting dirty for my salvation.]

 

*Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for an account of Jesus’ time on earth, including His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Featured Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash.

Words from the Cross

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I love my red-letter Bible. When I want to read what Jesus said, I just flip to the New Testament and read the red letters. Although all the Bible is true and profitable for teaching, I find the words of Jesus to be particularly powerful and humbling—especially His last words on the cross.

As believers, we often study the words of Jesus, but it seems we neglect His “last words.” Perhaps that’s because they seem too desperate, too pitiful for our King to have uttered. But what did Jesus mean when He shouted from the cross? What was so important to Him that He used His last breath to say it? Shouldn’t it be important to us, as well?

As you prepare for Good Friday and the coming Easter Sunday, I encourage you to research and meditate on these special words of our Lord.

 

Forsaken

As believers, we have a general understanding of what happened to Jesus leading up to His death. He was beaten, stripped, and mocked, and then nailed to a cross and left to die. He was the ultimate sacrificial lamb, with all of humanity’s sins and ailments weighing heavily on Him.

Then, as Jesus was nearing death, He cried out with a loud voice:

“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 NAS).

Many commentaries and Bible studies explain this unusual question by citing the holiness of God the Father. Since Jesus took on the sins and sicknesses of the world, He became unholy, and the Father turned His back on Him, if only for a moment. Jesus was forsaken that we would be forgiven.

However, there is another important element here: Jesus wasn’t just shouting a question—He was quoting Scripture! Psalm 22:1, to be exact. In the days of Jesus, what we now call the Old Testament had not yet been parceled out into book, chapter, and verse. To indicate a specific section, such as a Psalm, a person would cite the first line or two. Then everyone who knew the Psalm would recall the rest of the passage and understand the bigger message.

So, when Jesus was shouting “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?,” He was referencing all of Psalm 22.

I encourage you to research Psalm 22 this week. When you do, pay special attention to these areas:

1 – The prophecy – Several verses give us a prophetic description of Jesus’ time on the cross, including “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;” “a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet;” “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

2 – The trust – Even in His agony, Jesus declared that He still trusted the Father: “O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance;” “In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.”

3 – The plea – Jesus called those around Him to worship: “You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.”

 

Committed

The records of Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus cried out again, but only Luke records what Jesus said:

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46 NAS).

Here again, it seems that Jesus was quoting Scripture, this time Psalm 31:5. The rest of that verse reads, “You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” How was David, the author of Psalm 31, ransomed? By Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus is the true Ransom and Sacrifice for us all.

As you read through Psalm 31, notice the following:

1 – The prophecy 

The description of David can be taken as a prophetic description of Jesus at the time of His death: “My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” Surely, it was our sorrows and iniquities that burdened Jesus.

“As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes’; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.” Could Jesus have been referring to His earlier declaration of being “forsaken”?

2 – The trust – Jesus knew that the Father is merciful and in control: “You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy;” “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.”

3 – The plea – David ends the Psalm pleading with the “godly ones” to “love the LORD,” stating that He “preserves the faithful.” The last line is “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” Was Jesus encouraging His followers with His last breath?

 

These last words of Jesus are anything but desperate or pitiful! They are words of prophecy being fulfilled as Jesus hung on the cross. They are words of trust, obedience, love, and worship. And they’re an exhortation to Jesus’ followers—including us today—to trust in God in the most difficult of circumstances.

This Easter, as you remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, follow His lead. Remember to put your trust in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and to worship Him wholeheartedly. Finally, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24 NAS).

 


Here’s a lyric video of Chris Tomlin’s song “Resurrection Power.” I pray it seeps into your heart, reminding of you of why Jesus did what He did—to give you life!

Hosanna!

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I always enjoy singing “Hosanna” at church. You’ve probably heard this beautiful song performed by the group Hillsong. Here’s an excerpt:

I see a near revival Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees We’re on our knees

Hosanna Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest.**

When I sing this, the word Hosanna seems to encapsulate all the praise and adoration I can muster for the God who lives in the highest of Heaven.

While the word Hosanna sounds super-spiritual, I doubt many of us know what it means. That’s because Hosanna is a “transliteration.” Instead of translating it from the original Hebrew, we simply sound it out as it was originally spoken.

So what does Hosanna really mean? Are we even using it correctly?

The Meaning

It turns out, that’s a tricky question.

The word Hosanna is actually a combination of two Hebrew words: yasha (to deliver) and annah (Ah, now! I/we beseech you!). (See Strong’s 3467 and 0577.)

Both of those Hebrew words are used in Psalm 118:25-26:

“O LORD, do save [yasha], we beseech You [anna]; O LORD, we beseech You [anna], do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD” (Psalm 118:25-26 NAS).

The writer of this Psalm was begging God for salvation and prosperity. But what happens when we combine these two words into “Hosanna”?

Palm Sunday

The only time we find Hosanna in the Bible is during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. (See Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.) As Jesus rode into town on a young donkey, a large crowd met Him with great fanfare. As a sign of honor and subservience, they placed palm fronds and their own coats in the road. Then they began to shout:

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10 NAS).

Sound familiar? It seems the Jews were quoting Psalm 118 on Palm Sunday. They cleverly captured the essence of verse 25 by combining the key words into three syllables: “Hosanna!” They tweaked verse 26 a bit, but we can identify the parallel language and imagery here in Mark 11.

In the Highest

The part that seems to throw people is found in Mark 11: 10: “Hosanna in the highest!”

If Hosanna means something like “deliver us,” should this sentence say “Deliver us in the highest”? That doesn’t sound right.

Perhaps that’s why the New Living Translation translates every instance of Hosanna as “Praise God.” I give them points for attempting to translate this word, but “Praise God” doesn’t seem to fit what we know about the original Hebrew words.

On the other hand, the Complete Jewish Bible translates every instance of Hosanna as “Deliver us!” or—for even more emphasis— “Please! Deliver us!” That certainly carries the weight of the original words yasha and annah.

A Plea for Deliverance

If the original usage of the word Hosanna was to plead for deliverance, does that mean that every person who shouted to Jesus, “Hosanna!” had the same idea of deliverance in mind? We know from the Bible that’s not the case.

While Jesus intended to bring spiritual salvation to all mankind, many of the Jews were looking for more earth-bound salvation—from Roman rule. Jesus wanted to be their God-King; they wanted an earthly king.

Some may have had a more personal deliverance in mind, such as physical and emotional healing. Still others may have understand Jesus enough to ask for spiritual deliverance, leading to salvation.

Today’s Crowd

I think it’s safe to say that no one in that crowd understand Jesus’ full mission—and He knew that. He could read the thoughts and hearts of every person there…and yet He did not rebuke them.

That gives me hope. When I find myself in the crowd, and I don’t understand God’s Word or His Will—or even the words I sing at church—I know He will be as patient and merciful with me as He was to the Jews back then.

So, in the scheme of things, it’s okay if we don’t know what the word Hosanna means or if we happen to use it in a way it was never intended. The Bible’s message of salvation doesn’t change, whether we use “Hosanna,” or translate it as “Praise God” or “Deliver me.” What is important is that we seek God.

As you prepare for Easter this year, I encourage you to seek Him anew. Run out to meet Him on the road of life! Throw down everything you have at His feet because He alone is worthy. Declare out loud that He is your King and Deliverer. Be brave and unashamed in your worship.

Rejoice that Jesus has come…and He is returning soon!

Hosanna!

** Read the lyrics on Hillsong’s website.