As Easter nears, please enjoy this three-day devotional–beginning on Good Friday and ending on Resurrection Sunday–written by MBU faculty and alumni. It is my hope that this resource will serve as a source of contemplation and celebration as we reflect on the suffering and triumph of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He is risen,
Dr. Keith Ross, MBU president
The Breaking // Friday, April 15
What it must have felt like to watch the Savior of the world die a gruesome, but necessary death. The wrestling with sin, anger, and the necessity of Jesus’ death/life.
“Truly this was the Son of God.”
This was no ordinary crucifixion. On the hour of Jesus’s death, an earthquake left the Roman centurion and soldiers who had crucified him trembling with awe. As Jesus breathed his last, the temple curtain was torn in two, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and saints were raised. The death of this man was not inconsequential. It was felt by the universe. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for the most heinous criminals—a tortuous payment for the highest crimes. But when Jesus was crucified, there was no justice served. And the world knew it.
This was no ordinary man. Jesus was different. The penitent thief on the cross knew it and actually told us what makes Jesus different than any other person. He says quite plainly: we are guilty of our sins, but Jesus has done nothing wrong (Lk. 23:40b-41). How much more painful was it then for the world to see an innocent man suffer the most painful death, when it was absolutely undeserved? And yet, it was not unwilling. As Jesus was mistried, exposed, beaten, mockup, whipped, nailed to the cross—he did not defend himself. He did not call on his Father to defend him, but to forgive the very ones causing him harm.
This was no ordinary Friday. Jesus knew this Friday was coming. He prophesied about this day many times—even though his followers didn’t understand. But he told them the same: he will be “delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him” (Mt. 17:23). Indeed, even the prophets of the Old Testament knew this Friday would come. But Jesus and the prophets did not just know that it would come, they also knew that it would be good. How can the tragic death of the only truly innocent man be good? Because he is more than just a man. In the words of the Centurion, “he is the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54).
Although the Roman and Jewish leaders of the day schemed to kill Jesus, death was not a surprise for God. It was the crux of his plan for redemption. As painful as it was, Good Friday is good because it is not the last day for Jesus. After Jesus foretells his death, he adds “…and on the third day he will rise” (Mt. 20:19; Lk. 18:33; Mk. 10:34).
Don’t lose hope. Death is not the end.
Steven Morales serves as the Content Director at Radical and is a pastor at Iglesia Reforma in Guatemala City. He was previously the Creative Director at The Gospel Coalition. He is married to Gabriela and has two children. He graduated from MBU in 2012 with a BA in Christian Ministry.
The Waiting // Saturday, April 16
God, He was my closest friend! But I acted like I didn’t know Him. I disappeared into the crowd and cowered like a cornered animal. That awful cross, and my best friend, hanging there, His life draining, agony with every breath. And me, helpless. God, you know I hate to be helpless. All I can remember are His eyes, pressing into mine after I denounced Him. I wanted to cry out then but didn’t dare. I felt so ashamed when John took Mary to his home. If I were a better man I would’ve been entrusted with her care.
He told me He’d be gone for 3 days and then He would rise from the dead. Is that even possible after what they did to His body? I want to believe but how can I? And even if He does rise from the dead, I’m sure He wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I’m not worthy of His friendship.
In the book of Psalms, we learn how to lament, giving us language for our grief, for our waiting on things to change.
A lament gives us framework to acknowledge our neediness, our hurt, and our dependence on God. It acknowledges the character of God and our choice to trust Him in every circumstance. I believe that Simon Peter prayed a lament as he waited, pouring out His fears, doubts, and shame to God the day after Jesus died. It may have sounded something like this:
Lord, I seek to be found without spot or blemish, and at peace. Let this waiting not be an opportunity for me to sin or doubt. (2 Peter 3:14)
Rescue & deliver me, for You are with me. I know I don’t need to fear. (Isaiah 41:10)
For Your care for me is so great that I can cast my cares on You. (1 Peter 5:7)
Deliver me from my fears: of waiting, of emptiness, of not knowing what’s next. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)
Forgive me for fearing to speak of the hope I have because of Jesus. I know that before I spoke, You knew the words I would say. (Psalm 139:4)
Nevertheless, I can trust You to be good and forgiving. You abound in steadfast love to all who call upon you. (Psalm 86:5)
You are my Rock, Your works are perfect, and all Your ways are just. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Save me from doubting You. I will wait for You. Because of You, my heart will take courage. (Psalm 27:14)
Deliver me from making my own way, rather than trusting in You. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
For You made me an eyewitness to His majesty and make what seems impossible, possible! All things are possible with You, God. (2 Peter 1:16, Mark 10:27)
But I will trust you to be faithful, doing no wrong. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Without the gospel, our thoughts are full of shame, doubt, isolation, and fear. With the gospel, our prayers become that of lament. And while we express our shame, doubt, and fear to God, we receive from Him hope, forgiveness, and restoration. The gospel is good news that Jesus Christ lived perfectly, willingly died for our sins, and rose from the dead; to make us right with God when we turn from sin and turn to God.
In what areas of your life are you frustrated? Confused? Pushing people away? These are signs that you are waiting. But you can choose!
In your waiting, you can trust God or doubt.
In your waiting, you can hope in Him or fear people and circumstance.
In your waiting, you can turn to God for forgiveness or turn from Him, believing your sin can’t be covered.
While you wait, as Simon Peter did for that first Easter morning, will you turn to God and learn to trust Him? Will you repent of your sin of wanting to be God and instead want God Himself? You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Use the bolded words above to write your own lament while you wait for circumstances or relationships to be made right in your life. Use Scripture to point your heart and mind back to what is true.
Julie Sullivan graduated with her BA in Religious Education from MBU in 1999. She is a Children’s Minister at Waypoint Church in St. Charles, MO. She is married to Cameron, and they have a High School Senior, Jack, and an 8th grader, Ava. Julie has a passion for making the gospel clear to kids and applying it to everyday life through discipleship in a 1:1 context
The Hope // Sunday, April 17
Christ is Risen … And We Will be Too!
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3-5)
All living things are scared to death of death. This holds true for human beings as well as animals. (Why else would your cat run in terror when you start the vacuum? She thinks you’re going to kill her!) Some people boldly engage in risky behavior and claim not to fear death. Cliff diving, ice climbing, or driving on I-270 are likely more than simple fun, but part of a grandiose coping mechanism for fear. In truth, we’re all afraid of going into the ground to stay.
All people are, in the words of the author of Hebrews, “slaves to the fear of death for all of our lives” (Heb 2:15). Therefore, we need to be delivered not only from the power of sin, but also from the fear of death that sin creates. We need more than forgiveness; we need hope of life despite death!
The Apostle Paul is convinced, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). But why? For Paul, if Christ is not raised, then we’re all doomed to stay in the ground: “those who have died in Christ have perished” (1 Cor 15:18). Death will remain the conclusion if Christ is not raised, and we should be pitied as fools (1 Cor 15:19). But Christ has been raised, and so Paul offers a new hope: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Cor 15:20-22). This, then, is the Gospel for Paul: Christ died and was raised, and if we die with Christ, we’ll be raised too.
This Gospel message has motivated faithful Christians for 2000 years. One such example is the early 2nd-century bishop Ignatius of Antioch. As he saw his martyrdom looming, Ignatius expressed an almost scary willingness to die for Christ. In his letter to Christians in Rome, Ignatius writes, “Let me be food for the wild beasts, through whom I can reach God. I am God’s wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, so that I may prove to be pure bread. Better yet, coax the wild beasts, so that they may become my tomb and leave nothing of my body behind” (Ignatius, “Letter to the Romans,” chapter IV). Assuming his sanity, what could have given Ignatius the confidence to say this? Like Paul, Ignatius considers himself crucified with Christ (Gal 2:19-20). He is already dead, and his life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). So, Ignatius is convinced that if he dies following Christ, he will also be raised like Christ. Ignatius writes in another letter: “The Father, therefore, who raised Jesus up, will also raise us up through him, apart from whom no one will attain to true life” (Ignatius, “Letter to the Trallians,” chapter IX). Ignatius is casting his entire hope on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was raised, and since he’s dying with Jesus, he’ll be raised too. Ignatius, then, echoes Paul in Romans: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom 8:11).
This Easter season, we revel in the blessing of knowing that death is a loser. Jesus defeated death with his life, death, and resurrection. Christ is risen! Let us, therefore, make the same commitment as the Apostle Paul, that we may “want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow we may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).
Dr. Matt Easter is Associate Professor of Bible and Director of Christian Studies at Missouri Baptist University. Prior to coming to MBU in 2015, Matt served as a pastor in Boca Raton, FL. He continues to serve St. Louis-area churches as interim pastor. Matt is married to Andrea, and they have three children: Evie (11), Ellie (7), and John (4).