a walk to the cross

This one-week devotional will help you walk through Jesus' life leading up to Easter Sunday. In it, Pastor Roger Dayton challenges us to think about the historical context, gives us some insight into the heart of Jesus and compels us to dig a little deeper into our understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 


We are confident that you will learn, grow, and be blessed as you walk along with Jesus this week.

A walk to the cross

Sunday:  The Triumphal Entry

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:1-11

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: The Gospels paint for us a beautiful portrait of a man riding a donkey down the Mount of Olives as people from all over filled the streets to see the Christ. This triumphal entry is filled with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna.” Many of us know this scene all too well, but how many of us know what was happening on the other side of Jerusalem? As Jesus approached the city from the East, there was another parade that was taking place on the Western side of Jerusalem. With Passover approaching, Pontius Pilate would have left his home in Caesarea and made his way to the Temple. As Jesus made his way into Jerusalem from the East, Pontius Pilate made his way into the city from the West. Although both were greeted with shouts of praise and celebration each man entered Jerusalem with polarizing agendas. For Pontius Pilate, his military procession was a

demonstration of both Roman power and imperial wealth. Cavalry mounted on horses, foot soldiers, banners and trumpets would have announced the coming of one of the world’s most powerful men. The Roman kingdom had arrived. At the same time, a different type of king was entering into Jerusalem. Instead of a military procession full of power and strength, we see a man full of humility approach Jerusalem mounted on a donkey. Although Christ entered the city without the pomp and splendor that Rome had to offer, make no mistake, the King had arrived.


Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory and violence of the Roman kingdom. Jesus’s procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God.

 

SOUL QUESTIONS:

The world’s view of strength and success is so much different than that of God’s. As Easter approaches, where do you find your attention being drawn?

The kingdom of God, and the kingdom of the World are very polarizing. They are two conflicting kingdoms. In which kingdom do you currently find yourself?

 

PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Monday:  Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:18-19

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: Fig trees in Israel begin to have early or smaller figs that grow from the previous year’s sprouts. These early figs would typically appear before the new leaves even emerged. These smaller figs were known to supply the poor and hungry with quick sustenance as they traveled from place to place. It is important to note that the annual figs or the large figs did not come until later in the year, typically after August.


As Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem for the Passover, He would have been traveling in the early spring (March/April) as the small figs were in bloom. Noticing that there were leaves on the tree, Jesus safely assumed that there were figs available to eat. This tree, however, was unusual…the leaves were there, but the fruit was not. Because the tree appeared to be life giving, but offered no fruit, Jesus cursed the tree and it withered. In the symbolism of the Scriptures, a fruitless, withered tree was worthy of nothing more than being cut down (cf. Psa. 90:6; Hos. 9:16). “Withering” was a symbol of imminent death (Joel 1:12).


The actions of Christ should not be seen as impulsive or irresponsible. It represented a strong object-lesson that the disciples needed to learn. Because Israel had become spiritually dead and they were about to uprooted by Rome, many scholars will point to this as a prophetical teaching by Christ (and rightfully so). In addition to viewing this a prophetical teaching lesson by Christ, I also think it is appropriate for us to evaluate our own spiritual condition. How many of us appear to be life giving, but offer no fruit?

 

SOUL QUESTIONS:

Take a spiritual inventory of your life. Are you bearing fruit for the kingdom? What are you specifically doing right now to leverage your gifts in order to bear fruit?


If your spiritual life were on display in the form of a tree, what would Christ say as He approached you?  

 

PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Tuesday:  Teaching at the Temple

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:14-17 / Matthew 21-23:39

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: To better understand the text, it’s important to know the Jewish teaching concept called, “Allusion.” Allusion was used by Jewish Rabbis as a way to enter into a realm of secondary meanings and insight. Allusion goes like this: The Rabbi would quote an Old Testament verse, and because the listener knows the verse, they are aware of the verses that come before and after it. Jesus did this all the time…it wasn’t the verse He quoted that was important, it was the verses before and after.


After driving out the money changers from the Temple, Jesus begins to teach. As the blind and lame make their way to Jesus for healing, the children begin to yell, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” In hearing the children yell, the religious rulers became indignant. Jesus responded to the religious rulers by quoting an Old Testament verse from the Psalms: “Out of the mouth of infants and babies, you have prepared praise.” On the surface, this appears to be a simple and innocent phrase. However, allusion will offer a deeper and more profound statement.


When you look at the verse Jesus quoted, notice the phrase that comes after.


“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies to silence the foe and avenger.” Psalm 8:2


Using Allusion, Jesus was rebuking the religious rulers and calling them enemies of God. This was a defining moment as Jesus began to teach at the Temple. It was during this time that the religious rulers were rejected and Christ claimed divinity and his rightful place as the Messiah.

 

SOUL QUESTIONS:

Jesus cleaned out the Temple of sin, corruption and the religious rulers who hindered worship. What in your life needs cleaning in order for proper worship to take place?

Listening was key when it came to allusion. What is God trying to tell you this week? Are you actively listening to His words and gentle whispers?

 

PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

WEDNESDAY:  THE PLOT AGAINST JESUS

SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 26:14-16

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Judas became indignant as Mary broke the alabaster jar and anointed Jesus with pure nard. Judas quickly stated that a $10,000 jar of nard “could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor,” Jesus, of course, rebuked Judas, no doubt leaving him embarrassed and ashamed. Instead of accepting the admonishment of Jesus, He took matters into his own hands.


Seeking revenge, Judas went to see the High Priest looking to betray Jesus if the price was right. According to Matthew, Caiaphas is the high priest under whom this happened (Matt. 26:3), but Luke tells us that Annas is also high priest at this time (Luke 3:1–2Acts 4:5–6). In AD 15, Rome deposed Annas from the high priesthood, later replacing him with his son-in-law, Caiaphas. However, Annas continued to exert power behind the scenes, almost like a “co-high priest” with Caiaphas.


The deal was made. Caiaphas paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to look for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Scholars debate just how much 30 pieces of silver were worth in present-day value, ranging anywhere from $200-$600. It’s sad to think about how Jesus was betrayed for something as small and insignificant as 30 pieces of silver…However, when I study my life and the history of my sins, I am quickly reminded that I have betrayed Christ for a lot less. If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we could all agree that at some point in our lives, we have turned our back on Christ. It might not have been for 30 pieces of silver, but maybe it was our own addictions, desires, or depravity that lead to those decisions.


SOUL QUESTIONS:

Are you currently desiring something that is greater than Jesus (money, fame, promotions, relationships, cars, et.)? Where are your priorities as you are heading into Easter?

Have you found yourself being rebuked by God lately? How are you responding? Are you accepting His admonishment, or are you taking matters into your own hands?

 

PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Thursday:  The Last Supper

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:14-16

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: Before the Passover Seder can start, the leader of the table washed his hands to show that he has gone through the ritual washings and he was ceremonially clean. Being without sin, Jesus had no need to show the disciples that He went through the ritual washings…instead, He showed them the “full extent of his love” by washing their feet. Not only did God the Son step out of Heaven and take on flesh, but He became a servant to those He loved and modeled true humility and love.

What is truly remarkable is that Jesus washed the feet of every disciple there…even Judas. Knowing that Judas had just met with Caiaphas, Jesus still chose to show to His betrayer the “full extent of his love.” Jesus had every right to

rebuke Judas and publicly call him out on his sin. He certainly could have refused to wash his feet and deny Judas that intimate experience. Jesus, however, demonstrated the need to serve and love not only His friends but His enemies as well.


SOUL QUESTIONS:

Is there anyone in your life who has “betrayed” you? How have you responded? Jesus responded with love, grace, and service…what actions do we need to take this week to those who have hurt you?

It’s not easy to show love and grace to those who have hurt us. In the midst of a difficult situation, how is God leading you to respond?


PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Thursday/Friday:  Jesus’ arrest and trial

SCRIPTURE: John 18:2-19:16

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas came guiding a detachment of soldiers who were looking to arrest Jesus. It has often been debated on how many soldiers represented a detachment. Most scholars agree that a detachment of guards would have referred to a cohort that numbered around 600 armed soldiers. More than likely, the full detachment would have been sent out since the festivals in Jerusalem were always politically volatile…and after the welcome Jesus had received there was good reason to expect trouble. A combination of both Roman soldiers and Temple guards would have represented the 600 soldiers that formed the detachment.

After finding Jesus in the garden, an interesting exchange happened between Jesus and the soldiers. Jesus asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” the soldiers exclaimed. With a simple response from Jesus, “I am he,” all the soldiers fell facedown before Christ. On the surface, it would appear the statement from Christ (I am he) is rather ordinary. When we look at this phrase in Greek, however, it takes on a whole new meaning. According to the Greek manuscripts, Jesus never said “I am He,” but instead He made the claim, “I AM” (ego eimi). Using the name of God to describe himself, all 600 soldiers fell facedown before Jesus.

What amazes me is that these soldiers got back up and still continued in their arrest of Jesus. Certainly, they would have come to realize who they were arresting! Sometimes I forget how much we’re just like these soldiers. We all have moments when God shows Himself to us in incredible ways…and yet we still make the wrong decision in our choices and assessments.

 

                                SOUL QUESTIONS:  

Have you had moments in your life when God has knocked you down and showed to you His sovereignty? How did you respond? Is God trying to show you something this week?

Who is Jesus Christ to you? A good man? A prophet? Or do you believe him to be God in flesh? What is your response to who Jesus claims to be?


PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Friday:  Jesus’ Crucifixion

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:27-56

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: Pontius Pilate and Herod sent Jesus back and forth to one another; the final decision on Jesus’ execution rested with Pilate. Ultimately, Pilate conceded and handed Jesus over to be crucified. There are several aspects of a crucifixion that involved scourging, asphyxiation, and of course spikes that were driven through the wrists and feet. Roman crucifixion was designed to be a gruesome and humiliating death. The condemned were stripped naked in order to die with as little dignity as possible.

What has always stuck out to me was the crown of thorns that was placed on His head. Movies and television almost universally depict the crown as being wrapped around the side of Jesus’ head. Historically, however, that depiction may be inaccurate. The crown of thorns Jesus wore may have looked more like a helmet digging not only into the outer part of his scalp, but also his entire head. The pain would have been excruciating. There are six nerves that encapsulate the human scalp and they are highly sensitive. Aggravated by the piercing of a sharp object such as a thorn, even more pain could then be inflicted by something as gentle as a breeze. If the scalp were carpeted with thorns, as was most likely the case with Christ, the pain would have been agonizing.

 

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)  What an extraordinary act of love.

 

SOUL QUESTIONS:

What impact has the story of Jesus’ crucifixion had on your life? How has it changed you?

With Easter just a couple days away, take time to reflect on what Christ endured on the cross and what that means for us today.

 

PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations. 

A WALK TO THE CROSS

Saturday

CHALLENGING THOUGHT: Sometimes the silence can be deafening. For the past 3 years, He had always been there for them. He never passed up an opportunity to educate the disciples on proper worship, inspiring spirituality, and the heart of God. As the disciples woke up early Saturday morning, the silence would have been agonizing. Their Rabbi was no longer with them which undoubtedly led to hopelessness and disappointment.

 

SOUL QUESTIONS:

In your faith journey, have you ever felt a void in your relationship with Christ? Has there ever been moments when you felt like you were all alone? How do you feel knowing that the disciples experienced that void on a much deeper level?

Although the disciples experienced hopelessness and disappointment, Christ was still working behind the scenes. How does this encourage you as you walk through times of emptiness and pain?


PRAYER:  Is there one person you want to see put his/her trust in Jesus…pray that God would open his/her heart to HIM during this Easter week.   Pray for God to show you someone to invite to the Easter Celebrations.