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12/11/15 3:16 pm
F O R P E R S O N A L and FA M I LY D E V O T I O N S . S I N C E 1956
® EASTER EDITION
Joshua Tan and Alex Soh EDITORS
Anne Cetas, MANAGING EDITOR; Becky Knapp, ASSOCIATE EDITOR; Tim Gustafson, J.R. Hudberg, and Judith Markham, EDITORS Dave Branon Dennis J. DeHaan Mart DeHaan
M. R. DeHaan, M.D David C. Egner David C. McCasland
Haddon Robinson David H. Roper William E. Crowder
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. © 2015 Our Daily Bread Ministries All rights reserved. Printed in Indonesia.
The Rescue Mission The film Saving Private Ryan dramatized the rescue of a U.S. Army paratrooper in World War II. Three of Private James Ryan’s brothers had been killed in battle, leaving only the young soldier to carry on his family’s name. Captain John Miller and his squad rescued Private Ryan in a feat that cost the officer and several of his men their lives. Many gave their lives to save one. Two thousand years ago, God Himself embarked on a rescue mission. He sent His only Son into a world that had lost its way. Jesus came in human form with a simple but vitally important mandate—to seek and to save a lost human race (LUKE 19:10). This rescue mission was not an afterthought on God’s part. It was His purpose from eternity past that Christ would come to save us. Down through the centuries, Passover lambs had This rescue mission pointed toward Jesus and His once-for-all sacrifice for sin. was not an When He arrived, with resolute afterthought but purpose, He accomplished the Father’s plan by His death and God’s eternal plan. resurrection. Rescue is now available to any and all who 2
place their trust in Him. One died to save many. In the days ahead, you will move toward the Easter season, finding its climax in the celebration of Jesusâ€™ victory over the grave. We encourage you, in this Easter edition of Our Daily Bread, to anticipate that day of wonder with a sense of purpose. Each article is specially chosen to help you reflect on the rescue and the Rescuer. Through it all, we pray that you will be strengthened, encouraged, challengedâ€”and changed. As you walk with Christ through the events He endured out of love, worship Him with a heart of gratitude. May His rescue gain fresh, new meaning as you ponder His mercy and grace.
DEVOTIONAL for MONDAY
A Light In The Darkness
y sons and I explored a small cave on the island of Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. We entered a passageway by following a string left by previous visitors. Before returning to the sunlit world above us, we decided to extinguish our lantern and get the feel of total darkness. For a few moments we were enveloped by the blackest kind of TODAY’S READING John 1:1-14 night. How terrifying it would be to get [Jesus’] life lost in a large subterranean cavern with brought light to no source of light! The New Testament everyone. v. 4 uses the concept of darkness to describe the spiritual condition of mankind. Millions are hopelessly groping around and cannot find their way. Because of pride, many are unaware of their dreadful plight. Education, they say, will ultimately bring us out of the shadows of ignorance and superstition and are sure to usher in a brighter day. We thank God for technological advances and wouldn’t want to be without them. But there’s one inescapable fact: the human family is still in the dark—lost in the cave of their own sin and rebellion. There’s but one way out—and Jesus Christ the Sun of righteousness who paid for our sins on the cross shows us that way. Has He become the light in your DENNIS DEHAAN darkness?
Ye dwellers in darkness with sin-blinded eyes— The Light of the world is Jesus; Go wash at His bidding and light will arise— The Light of the world is Jesus. BLISS
Jesus Christ is music to the ear and light to the eye. 4
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
INSIGHT A constant theme of John’s writing is that of light versus darkness. It is seen here in verses 4-9, and continues throughout his gospel account (3:19-21; 9:5; AND OTHERS). It is also seen in 1 John, where we read, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth” (1:5-6). This theme calls us to embrace Christ, the Light of the world, and to live in His light. 5
DEVOTIONAL for TUESDAY
he night before Jesus was crucified, two of His disciples turned against Him. Judas betrayed Christ, leading His enemies to Him in the Garden (LUKE 22:47-48). And Peter denied three times that he even knew the Lord (VV.57-60). But the difference in what they did next was enormous. Peter wept bitter TODAY’S READING tears of repentance and later was gently Luke 22:54-62 restored (V.62; JOHN 21:15-17); Judas hanged Peter left the himself (MATTHEW 27:5). courtyard, weeping When we commit a sin, the most bitterly. v. 62 important thing is what we do next. If we lose our temper and say something cruel to a family member, what do we do next? If we mistreat a co-worker, what do we do next? If we find we are dwelling on evil thoughts, what do we do next? To make excuses, to justify our bad behavior, to blame the other person, or to ignore God is only to add more sin to the first. Perhaps as you’ve been reading this, the Holy Spirit has brought your attention to some sin in your life. If so, you’re faced with a choice—to repent and confess it to God (1 JOHN 1:9), or to continue denying that you have a sin problem. When you sin, don’t compound it with another sin. Take it immediately to the Lord in prayerful confession. The most DAVE EGNER important thing is what you do next! FOR FURTHER STUDY In 1 John 1:8-10, what do we learn about ourselves? How are we to react to sin in our lives? (1 John 1:9). What is the basis of our forgiveness? (1 John 2:1-2).
Denial compounds our sin; confession cancels it. 6
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” 57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!” 58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted. 59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
INSIGHT The sadness of Peter’s denials is compounded by the strident promises he had made to Jesus. Earlier in Luke 22, Christ had warned Peter to be prepared for a “spiritual sifting” at the hands of the Enemy, but Peter did not take the warning to heart (VV. 31-32). Instead, he boasted of his devotion and reliability (V. 33), declaring he would go to prison and even to death, for the Lord. In the end it was a claim he was unable to live up to. In response to that boast, Jesus told Peter he would deny Christ three times—a prophecy that tragically came to pass in today’s Bible reading. 7
DEVOTIONAL for WEDNESDAY
The Jackal Or The Lamb
he crowd had gathered, and they wanted someone released. In Jesus’ day, it was customary during Passover for a prisoner to be set free in commemoration of the Jews’ deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Pilate was no political novice. So he gave the mob a choice: the One who raised Lazarus from the dead or the one whose sword had TODAY’S READING probably sent many to an early grave. Matthew 27:15-26 The choice seemed obvious. But the peo- “Which of these ple chose the murderer Barabbas. two do you want Mob rule always prefers the wild, me to release to the rebel, the maniacal. It chooses the you?” The crowd jackals: the Barabbases, the Stalins, and shouted back, the Hitlers of the world. It rejects the “Barabbas!” v. 21 lowly, the humble, the servants, the lambs. What if we had been there? Whom would we have chosen? We would like to believe that we would have chosen Jesus. But would we? The voice of the crowd is so powerful. A few days before the trial, the crowd had shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Now the people were crying out, “Crucify Him!” The pressure of the multitude can confuse us, frighten us, and carry us away. O God, help us. Sometimes in the crowd, in spite of all that we know, we’re still tempted to choose the jackal. Help us DAVE EGNER to choose the Lamb. The world will try to pressure us To fit into its mold, But with God’s help we can resist If to His truth we hold. SPER
To resist the pressures of the world, rely on the power of the Lord. 8
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you— Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” 25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!” 26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
DEVOTIONAL for THURSDAY
he brother of a young man who was murdered finally faced the killer in court nearly a decade after the crime. His voice trembling, he said, “Where my brother is today, he can probably forgive. But I can’t.” Understandably, victims of mistreatment and injustice find it difficult to forgive—even to say the words that can begin to heal the TODAY’S READING Luke 23:26-34 deep wound and ease the pain that remains in the heart. To forgive is not “Father, forgive our immediate natural response. As a them, for they result, families live alienated from each don’t know what other because of long-ago hurts. Long- they are doing.” v. 34 simmering feuds erupt into violence. But think about what Jesus said on the cross. He had healed the sick, fed the hungry, and taught the wandering. Now, even though He was innocent, He was humiliated, mocked, and beaten. In the darkness of that moment, no one could expect His parched lips to say, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (LUKE 23:34). But they were the first words He spoke from the cross. Imagine their impact on the people who heard them! Jesus expressed neither anger nor hatred, but the most loving words a person can bestow— words of forgiveness. O God, help us to be like Your Son in forgiving others DAVE BRANON when we are mistreated. Our sins, O Christ, You’ve borne away— Because You died, today we live; To know such love, what can we say! O Jesus, help us to forgive. D. DEHAAN
To return evil for evil is natural; to return good for evil is supernatural. 10
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
26 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
INSIGHT In His mission of rescue, Jesus was constantly interacting with people in need. This was true throughout His earthly ministry. Amazingly, it continued even on the road to Calvary as Christ encountered even more needy souls. Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross (V. 26), but later apparently took Christ as his own Savior (IMPLIED IN MARK 15:21). Jesus instructed the daughters of Jerusalem as they grieved for His coming death (VV. 27-31), and He offered salvation to a thief dying on a cross next to Him (VV. 39-43). His ultimate passion as He hung on the cross was His desire for lost, guilty people to find forgiveness (V. 34). 11
DEVOTIONAL for FRIDAY
Triumph in Tragedy
e call it “Good Friday,” but no one standing there that day would have called that Friday “good.” The best man that history ever knew was nailed to a Roman cross and murdered. For His enemies it was a victory of sorts; for the soldiers it was simply another day’s work; for His followers it was the death of their brightest hopes and greatest dreams. But no TODAY’S READING one would have called that Friday Luke 23:44-56 “good.” That is true of many “bad Fridays” When they came if you consider them apart from to a place called Resurrection Sunday. They make life The Skull, they seem futile—without purpose and mean- nailed him to the ing. But God’s most striking victories rise cross. v. 33 out of the graves of apparent defeats. In his book Idols for Destruction, Herbert Schlossberg wrote, “We are not the lords of history and do not control its outcome, but we have assurance that there is a Lord of history and He controls its outcome. We need a theological interpretation of disaster, one that recognizes that God acts in such events as captivities, defeats, and crucifixions. The Bible can be interpreted as a string of God’s triumphs disguised as disasters.” Face each day with trust in Jesus Christ. God’s greatest HADDON ROBINSON victories often come disguised as defeats The purposes of God are right, Although we may not see Just how He works all things for good And transforms tragedy. SPER
God’s most striking victories rise out of the graves of apparent defeats. 12
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. 47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching. 50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.
INSIGHT The tearing of the veil was significant. Access to the Holy of Holies, protected by that veil, had been forbidden, but now was open to all. 13
DEVOTIONAL for SATURDAY
he Bible says that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs” ( ACTS 1:3 NKJV ). This is more than a historic statement made by Luke. It is a challenge to all the critics who would deny the literalness of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke made the amazing and startling statement that Jesus was alive, He was TODAY’S READING seen by a great multitude of people, and Acts 1:1-11 His resurrection was confirmed by a He also presented great number of convincing proofs. Himself alive after Today, nearly 2,000 years later, no His suffering by other doctrine of the Scriptures has been many infallible more persistently attacked than the proofs. v. 3 NKJV bodily resurrection of our Lord. And no wonder, for it is the keystone in the great arch of all Christian doctrine. With the resurrection of Jesus, the whole structure of Christian doctrine stands or falls. If the resurrection could be disproved, Christianity would crumble in the dust and have less credence than the wildest myths of ancient Greece and Rome. The devil knows this, and so his earliest and most frequent attack on the truth of Christ is against His bodily resurrection. The credibility of our Christian faith rests on the “many infallible proofs” that Jesus is alive. M. R. DEHAAN, M.D. Christ is the life, the empty tomb Proclaims His conquering arm; And those who put their trust in Him Nor death nor hell shall harm. ANON.
Because Christ is alive, we need not fear death. 14
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
1 In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. 3 During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. 4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
DEVOTIONAL for SUNDAY
The Limits Of Sight
eeing is believing,” according to the old saying. But if we believe only what we can see, we will never know God or experience His presence. I traveled to England during the height of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic. At home I had read newspaper stories of the tragic effects on farmers. I had watched television reports TODAY’S READING of slaughtered animals being burned John 20:19-31 and buried to try to stop the spread of Blessed are those the disease. But as I traveled by train who believe from London to Devon, I saw many without seeing me. flocks of healthy sheep and herds of v. 29 cattle in the fields. Nowhere did I see a sign warning of foot-and-mouth disease. Should I believe my eyes or the reports of reliable sources? After Jesus was raised from the dead, Thomas refused to believe the reports that He was alive. He said that unless he touched the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and the wound in His side, he would not believe (JOHN 20:24-25). When the Lord appeared to the disciples 8 days later, Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (V.29). Even though we have not seen Jesus, we accept by faith the word of reliable witnesses, we embrace the living Lord, and DAVID MCCASLAND we believe. I know by faith in whom I have believed, I know that God’s free gift I have received, I know that He will keep me to the end, My Savior, my Redeemer, and my Friend. ANON.
Faith sees what the eyes cannot. 16
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them.“Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” 30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
DEVOTIONAL for MONDAY
The Great Overcomer
ho isn’t inspired by a competitor who makes a comeback after being down and apparently out of the running! The runner who stumbles and falls but then gradually moves up on the pack and into the lead stirs the imagination of us all. The same kind of inspiration motivates the Christian who draws courage TODAY’S READING Hebrews 12:1-9 from the example of his Lord and Savior. No one was ever more humiliated than Who will free me Jesus before He made a comeback. He from this life that is was insulted, spit upon, whipped, beaten, dominated by sin and nailed to a cross. When His suffering and death? Romans 7:24 was over, a spear was thrust into His side. His executioners confirmed their success and declared Him dead. A military guard secured His tomb. How could anyone be more down and out than that? Yet that was not the end! Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave and reappeared to many of His followers. He was the victor in His struggle over death, over sin, and over hell. Are you feeling out of the running today? Have you stumbled badly? Then look at Jesus’ suffering. Look at His resurrection. Ask Him to give you the victory. Just imagine what He has to offer you, no matter how far down you are now! MART DEHAAN Our Lord is the great overcomer.
The great example is our Lord Of overcoming power; The strength that brought Him from the grave Gives hope in life’s dark hour. BRANON
Jesus died to save us, and He lives to keep us. 18
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. 5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
INSIGHT The “place of honor beside God’s throne” (V. 2) is a place of power and authority. Jesus’ acceptance to that position by the Father demonstrates God’s satisfaction with what Christ has accomplished. He endured suffering, paid our sindebt, and conquered death, so that now He is exalted on high (SEE ALSO PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11). 19
DEVOTIONAL for TUESDAY
Taking The Cross
he cross. We see it today as the rough, wooden instrument of death for Jesus Christ. But before His followers had even a faint idea that Jesus would die that way, He spoke of the cross. As He stood near the Sea of Galilee preparing the disciples to reach “the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep” TODAY’S READING (MATTHEW 10:6), Jesus told them, “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, Matthew 10:24-39 you are not worthy of being mine” (V.38). If you refuse to The men didn’t associate the cross take up your cross with Jesus’ approaching death, but they and follow me, you knew what a cross signified. Crucifixions are not worthy of were a common method of execution. being mine. v. 38 The disciples had a vivid picture of the agony, punishment, and misery that a cross represented. Taking a cross meant walking life’s toughest road. So why was Jesus promoting cross-bearing? Because He wanted disciples who were willing to face the difficulties it would take to serve His cause. Soon Jesus would be killed, and His followers would have to carry on His message alone. To stand against the forces that would seek to quiet the gospel would take total commitment. That’s still our challenge today. Are we willing to take the cross and serve Christ in self-denial? The task is great—but it DAVE BRANON is eternally rewarding. Am I a soldier of the cross? A follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause Or blush to speak His name? WATTS
After all that Christ has done for us, how can we do less than give Him our best? 20
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! 26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows— one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
DEVOTIONAL for WEDNESDAY
Dying To Live
he cross in Roman times was designed for death. It had no other use. So what did Jesus mean when He said that anyone who wants to follow Him must “take up [his] cross daily”? (LUKE 9:23). He wasn’t saying that we must all be crucified. The “cross” to which He was referring is the act of putting to death our own heart’s desires and quietly submitting TODAY’S READING Luke 9:18-26 to God’s will. Such dying is denying our need for If any of you wants larger homes, more compliant children, to be my follower, more accommodating mates. It’s putting you must turn from up with misunderstanding, embarrass- your selfish ways, ment, and loss of esteem. It’s accepting take up your cross our unchangeable circumstances. daily, and follow Missionary and poet Amy Carmichael, me. v. 23 who knew much about pain and suffering, wrote, “In acceptance lieth peace.” Jesus said we must take up our cross daily. We are to rise each morning and cheerfully, bravely shoulder our load, because there is something else that is “daily.” It is the continuous, sufficient grace of the One whose strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 CORINTHIANS 12:9), and who will never leave us nor forsake us (HEBREWS 13:5). He promises that through our dying He will make us more alive than ever before (1 CORINTHIANS 15:53-57). DAVID ROPER Are you dying to live? Day by day, to fight the battle, Day by day, Thy will to do, Day by day, the cross to carry, Seeking only to be true. FISHER
In acceptance we find peace. 22
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
18 One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 19 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.” 20 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!” 21 Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. 22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.
INSIGHT The phrase “Son of Man” (VV. 22,26), while not unique to Luke’s gospel record, forms the theme of his account. Matthew’s gospel focuses on Christ as the “King of the Jews,” while Mark sees Him as “the Divine Servant,” and John presents the Savior as the “Son of God.” In Luke’s telling of the story, the humanity of Christ is in view, so the title “Son of Man” is a fitting theme. 23
DEVOTIONAL for THURSDAY
Fear And Great Joy
ary and the women who went with her to visit Jesus’ burial site were not expecting the reception they got at the tomb. They had come at dawn to put spices on their Friend’s body—not knowing how they would get into the tomb. But as they came near the grave, they were startled to see that the huge stone had been rolled away from TODAY’S READING the opening. Even more incredibly, they Matthew 28:1-10 saw an angel sitting on it. They were very It’s no wonder that they felt a sense frightened but also of awe and fear. But they also felt great filled with great joy, joy after the angel invited them to look and they rushed to inside the empty tomb, and then he told give the disciples them to go and tell the other disciples the angel’s that Jesus had risen. message. v. 8 Nearly 2,000 years after that initial proclamation, we who are Jesus’ followers also have mixed emotions about sharing such good news. We feel great joy that Jesus is alive, but we also feel uneasy telling other people about Him. The women felt a sense of awe from seeing and hearing an angel by an open grave, but our fear is different. We fear what people might think of us when we tell them that Christ is risen. But like Mary and the other women, we have a responsibility to tell others the good news. God’s Spirit will give us courage to overcome DAVE BRANON our fear and share our great joy. Oh, what joy—the Lord is risen! Death is conquered by God’s Son; Grant us courage, Lord, to tell it; Lead us to some seeking one. D. DEHAAN
The Good News of the resurrection is too good to keep to ourselves. 24
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” 8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
INSIGHT There are actually six Marys mentioned in the New Testament. Mary the mother of Jesus (LUKE 1-2), Mary Magdalene (MATTHEW 28:1), Mary of Bethany the sister of Lazarus (JOHN 12:1-6), Mary the mother of James (MARK 16:1), Mary the mother of John Mark (ACTS 12:12), and Mary, a faithful servant in the church in Rome (ROMANS 16:6). 25
DEVOTIONAL for FRIDAY
Do You Love Me?
hen our daughter was 4 years old, her little legs were propelling her through the house one day. As she headed toward the front door, she suddenly hit the brakes and wheeled around. With a sense of childish urgency she called out, “Mom, I love you!” Then she was off and running again. She could really melt a parent’s heart! TODAY’S READING Imagine that same scene but with John 21:15-22 different circumstances. Suppose she had just been told for the third time to Do you love me come to the table. Now press the instant more than these? replay button. Watch her stop and say, “I v. 15 love you,” only to spin around and run out the front door. In that setting those words would not have warmed anyone’s heart. Our Lord also looks for an “I love You” from His children that is backed up by action. When He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (JOHN 21:15), He was not satisfied with a casual, “Sure, Lord, You know I do!” He responded to His disciple’s reply by saying, in effect, “Peter, if you love me, care for those I care for. Peter, if you love me, follow me.” What would you say if the Lord were to ask you that same question? Would you answer, “Yes, Lord, I love You”? Those words will delight the Father’s heart if you are an obedient MART DEHAAN child. More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee; This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee, More love to Thee, more love to Thee! PRENTISS
To love God is to obey God. 26
TODAY’S BIBLE READING
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” 20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” 22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
INSIGHT The three declarations of love that Jesus asked of Peter form a parallel to the three denials the disciple made during Christ’s passion. 27
Crucifixion was torture. Leather straps or spikes were used to hang a condemned man on a pole. Like a helpless animal tangled in a barbed wire fence, the victim could survive for days with excruciating pain. Death usually came by suffocation when, hanging by his hands, the victim lost the strength to draw another breath.
Three men on three trees. In the Spring of ad 33, the
crucifixion of three men, outside the city walls of Jerusalem, changed the course of world history. Roman executioners hammered nails through the wrists and ankles of three men and left them to die. The event itself was common in the ancient Mid East. And yet, 2,000 years later, the world still talks about those three deaths. I found an explanation of the significance of those deaths written on the flyleaf of an old Bible. In words I have found memorable, someone had written, “One man died with guilt in him and on him. A second man died with guilt in him but not on him. The third died with guilt on him but not in him.” Since finding that quote, I’ve held on to it as a profoundly simple description of some differences we all need to understand. 28
One died with sin in him and on him. He was the first
of two thieves executed that day. By the law of the land he was given the punishment he deserved. By a judge wearing the authority of the Roman Caesar, he was sentenced and condemned, like a house that is no longer fit to live in. The first thief seems to have died an angry man. He may have been angry with himself for getting caught. He was likely angry with the judge who sentenced him. He was probably angry with all those who had let him down along the way. He seems to have been especially angry with the man named Jesus who hung innocently at his side. The first thief wasn’t alone in his contempt for Jesus. Others shared his feelings. It was easy to be furious with someone who claimed to be the light and hope of the world—then hung like a common criminal, not even saving Himself from death. Angry with Jesus for being unable to help Himself or anyone else (LUKE 23:39), the first thief died with his own sin in him and on him.
One died with sin in him but not on him. There was a
second thief executed that day. At first he joined the others who ridiculed and insulted Jesus. For a while he too mocked Jesus with the challenge to save Himself and them if He really was the promised Messiah (MATTHEW 27:37-44). As the darkness closed in, however, the second thief had a change of heart. Turning to the first thief, he said, “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are 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.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (LUKE 23:32-43). That may be one of the most important conversations ever recorded. These few words show what the rest of the New Testament declares. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life 29
is given to anyone who trusts Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Nothing more. Nothing less. Faith alone in Christ alone determines our eternal destiny (JOHN 3:16-18; ACTS 16:31; ROMANS 4:5; EPHESIANS 2:8-9; TITUS 3:5). The second thief had no time to clean up his life. He had no time to do anything but to believe in Jesus. In the process, he gave all of us a picture of what it takes to come into the eternal family of God. In response to the simplest expression of faith, Jesus assured him of forgiveness. The second thief died with sin in him but not on him. The Judge of the heavens lifted the guilt from the second thief’s shoulders, placing it instead on Jesus, our sin-bearer.
One died with sin on him but not in him. Jesus shoul-
dered the guilt of the world that day. He died with the weight of the world’s sin on Him but not the slightest wrong in Him. Three days later He rose from the dead to show that His death, tragic as it was, was not a mistake. With a nail-scarred, resurrected body Jesus gave hundreds of His disciples all the evidence they needed to believe that He had taken their place in death. The judgment of God had fallen on Him instead of on us. What I also find amazing is that this is our story. We were there. We were there because God was there in our place, bearing our sins. We were also there because all of us will respond either as the first thief or as the second. The words don’t make the difference; the faith does. If you don’t have that faith, but want it, ask God to give it to you. You won’t be the first to cry out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (MARK 9:24).
Father in heaven, thank You for helping us to see that this is Your story. In the suffering of Your Son, we see Your suffering and Your love for us. In His death, we see Your payment for our wrongs, and Your offer of forgiveness. In His resurrection, we see Your assurance that You are completely pleased with the price He paid for us. And Father, thank You also for helping us to see that this is our story. In the first thief we see our first inclination to hate You, to reject Your love, and to let our anger keep us from You and others. Thank You for softening our hearts so that we can also see ourselves in the second thief, who came to his senses before it was too late.
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12/11/15 3:16 pm
Published on Feb 10, 2016
Published on Feb 10, 2016
An Easter collection of Our Daily Bread articles that speaks of the day of wonder with a sense of purpose. Each article is specially chosen...