The Resurrection: The Power of the Gospel

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

As Easter Week concludes today, we go out on an incredible high. For today we are reminded of the power of the gospel, of the power of God in restoring His people to Himself. This restoration achieving its completion through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a historical event, but a transformative reality that has the power to change our lives. It is a declaration of the power of God to bring new life out of death, to restore and renew all that has been broken. Just as Jesus’ body was raised to new life, so too can we be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and made new in Him.

I’m no runner but I’ve known plenty of people competing in marathons or triathlons where they push their bodies to the limits. When they cross the finish line, they are exhausted but full of excitement and accomplishment as they have the satisfaction of knowing they have completed the race. Like crossing the finish line after a race brings a sense of satisfaction, the resurrection reminds us of the victory we have in Jesus, giving us a reason to hope and to trust in a loving and powerful God. The resurrection of Jesus represents for us the victory over sin and death, and in so doing restores us to God. In this restoration we find we can have a relationship with Him, and a satisfaction in life and death because of His work for us.

The resurrection is another tangible demonstration of God’s great love and grace for all who believe. In amongst the sin, the suffering, and the hopelessness that can often pervade our news and social media streams, we can know that the resurrection gives us a reason to hope, a reason to trust, and a reason to love.

Through the power of the gospel our lives are impacted, they are transformed. And this impact is not just for us but for the entire world. Through the resurrection Jesus’ victory over sin and death has the power to bring about healing and restoration throughout our world. It is a message of hope for all people.

While today marks the end of this series and the end of the Easter events it is only the beginning of living in the power of the gospel. As we have worked through these passages from the Gospel of Mark we see the ways in which Jesus fulfils God’s plan for humanity, fulfils that which was written long ago, and fulfils the hole in our soul with the satisfying love, hope, and peace we have with God.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 8 of 8.

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The Burial: A Final Act of Love

Scripture: Mark 15:42-47

In Mark 15:42-47, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council, asks Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body and give him a proper burial. In doing so he shows a final act of love and respect toward Jesus.

This act of love by Joseph would have been costly for him, most likely resulting in him losing his position and influence in the community. However, he chose to prioritise the honouring of Jesus, recognising His significance, and giving Him a dignified burial over his own reputation.

In our own lives we show love and respect to others in a wide variety of ways, some large acts of love like a wedding ceremony to small everyday actions like writing someone a text to show we are thinking of them. It could be taking the time to listen or offering a kind word to someone struggling. It could mean forgiving someone that has hurt us or being compassionate towards those who are often overlooked.

Those who work in hospice, aged, or palliative care are great examples of people providing comfort and support to people who are at the end of their lives. They offer compassion and dignity to patients and their families, helping them to navigate difficult times with grace and love. In so doing they are imitating that which Joseph does here for Jesus’ body, recognising the need for dignity and honour, and in turn bringing glory to God.

Furthermore, alongside being a costly exercise for Joseph it also highlights the risk he took in honouring Jesus. Mark’s description of Joseph in verse 43 highlights his spiritual perspective as he waited for the Kingdom of God to come, indicating that he recognized there was more to life than just the present one.

Joseph’s status as a “secret disciple of Jesus” (John 19:38) was also noted by Matthew, who referred to him as someone “who had become a follower of Jesus” (Matthew 27:57). While Joseph had previously kept his faith quiet, this risk he was taking would bring it from private to public.

As a follower of Jesus it is possible to keep your faith private for a period of time, but eventually God may call you to go public with it. This can be risky, but it is a necessary step in our growth as believers. In so doing it helps us own our faith for ourselves, deepens our reliance on God, and encourages the faith of others around us. For Joseph he got to care for his Saviour in a personal way and was blessed in being part of honouring Jesus in His death.

I wonder, is there a step of faith, a possibly costly or risky step, that God is calling you to take this Easter?

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 7 of 8.

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The Crucifixion: The Atonement for Sin

Scripture: Mark 15:16-41

The defining moment of our faith occurs today. As recorded here in Mark 15:16-41, we read that defining moment of human history. The moment that marks Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of the world, becoming the atonement for sin. Here we find the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and sacrifice for us, as Jesus takes upon Himself the sin of humanity and pays the price for our salvation.

I have heard, a couple of times now, about people who are at the supermarket buying their groceries but they can’t afford the total, and so a person behind them simply pays for them.

A group of friends and I were once at a café enjoying a breakfast and we noticed others we knew come in and eat as well. There were only two of them though, so they finished a lot earlier than us and paid and left. When our table got up to go pay the bill, we were highly surprised to find that the whole thing had been paid for! The price we had to pay for our meal and coffee was nothing. These other friends of ours had paid it for us.

This speaks to their generosity, of course. But I also use this example as an illustration of what Jesus has done with our sin. He has generously paid the price for our sin so that we don’t have to. He has sacrificed Himself, a sacrifice that includes His painful death, in order to atone for our sin. 

God Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ, has paid the price for our sins and makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God.

This is what we remember today.

The crucifixion was not just a random event, but rather it was the fulfilment of God’s plan of reconciliation for His people. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And through the crucifixion this prophecy is fulfilled as Jesus’ death provided the means for our salvation and the forgiveness of our sins. As we reflect on the events of the crucifixion during this Easter Week, may we remember this incredible act of generosity from God. And in response, may we be a people who live generously for others in response to what He has done for us.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 6 of 8.

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The Trial of Jesus: A Fulfilment of Prophecy

Scripture: Mark 14:53-65

I listen to several true crime podcasts and often find some of the details and events surrounding these crimes quite incredible. Some, of course, are harrowing and can cause me anguish because of the content and what happens to people regularly around our world. Some of the most distressing though are about people who have been accused and found guilty of crimes they didn’t commit. Within me I find myself angry at the system, angry at the injustice for the people who spend decades incarcerated for something they didn’t do. 

Here in Mark 14:53-65 is the beginning of the injustice of Jesus surrounding His death. For a while the religious leaders have been seeking to grab Him and now through the help of Judas Jesus is placed into their hands. However, despite this being the beginning of Jesus’ unjust suffering which leads to His crucifixion this event is also a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, demonstrating that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.

In the passage, Jesus is brought before the religious authorities for questioning, and despite the lack of evidence against him, He is ultimately sentenced to death. This event was foretold in the Old Testament, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). This prophecy was fulfilled through the events leading up to the trial of Jesus, as He remained silent and submitted Himself to the will of God, even in the face of persecution.

The trial of Jesus also points to the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation. Jesus’ death and resurrection make it possible for us to receive those gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, hope, and peace with God. For the restoration of humanity Jesus has to die for the sin of the world. Knowing this, Jesus is able to reply to the high priest’s question of whether or not He is the Messiah in the affirmative (Mark 14:62). Not only this, but He makes sure they know well who He is by saying, “…you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

There could be more said about this trial, but as we come to the cross tomorrow, what a confidence it is for us as believers to know that our Saviour fulfils that which was written long ago and fulfils that which we need now – restoration with God.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 5 of 8.

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The Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus’ Submission to God’s Will

Scripture: Mark 14:32-42

It is hard to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes in this moment. In this passage Jesus takes His disciples to the garden to pray and will later be arrested by the religious authorities. But in the moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, here in Mark 14:32-42, Jesus knows what is to come. His death is imminent. He knows He will go through suffering.

We know people ourselves who have gone through tremendous suffering. We may have experienced it ourselves. Facing the reality of an imminent death is something hard to imagine even when we are ill, suffering, or in poor health. Jesus Himself speaks of being downcast, of being deeply grieved to the point of death, but He recognises the need to come to the Father and pray. And in that prayer He places Himself under the will of God, saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

This act of submission sets a powerful example for us as believers. It reminds us of the importance of surrendering ourselves to God’s will, despite the cost before us. As we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we are called to submit ourselves to His will, trusting in His plan for our lives. This can be a difficult path, especially when we are facing suffering, hardship, and challenges because of it. Yet through these times we are able to grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with God.

Like a soldier faced with a difficult mission, one that they know will put their life on the line, they submit to their superior officers, trusting in their training and the mission’s purpose. In a similar way, Jesus knows the mission before Him and submits himself to God’s will in amongst the suffering He will face.

As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Let us renew our minds and submit ourselves to God’s will, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 4 of 8.

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The Last Supper: Commemorating the New Covenant

Scripture: Mark 14:12-25

The Lord’s Supper is something we celebrate every month. It is a symbolic activity that we do as part of our services. In some traditions this is celebrated each week, for us we do it once per month. And it is of such significance that we highlight this meal in our church documents. In our constitution we understand that,

“The Lord’s Supper is a service of spiritual fellowship whereby, through remembrance of Christ’s Life and Death, believers may experience in supreme degree the reality and influence of His Presence. It is an opportunity of entering into close fellowship with the Lord with a consequent rekindling of love and a reconsecration of life to His service.”

The idea, the establishment, of this traditional act of worship is given to the Church through the Last Supper event in the lead up to Jesus’ death. As recorded in Mark 14:12-25 we read of this new promise of God established through this final meal of Jesus. It is in this final supper with His disciples that Jesus shares with them not only His final meal with them, but establishes the new covenant, the new promise of God in Christ.

During the meal, Jesus broke bread and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then poured wine and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” In this way He highlights the meaning of what He is about to go and do, give Himself up as a sacrifice of love for humanity. As we partake in communion ourselves, we remember that sacrifice of love, that new covenant promise that He established, by eating and drinking the elements that symbolise and remind us of this sacrificial love of God. As we walk through this Easter Week, remembering these events in the lead up to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are reminded of what He continues to teach despite where He was heading. Here He continues to fulfil the promises of God in the Old Testament and makes new promises in the New Testament. This is a time where we can commemorate the love of God, the promises God gives us, which point toward the cross and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 3 of 8.

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The Cleansing of the Temple: Jesus Challenges the Religious Establishment

Scripture: Mark 11:15-19

The cleansing of the temple serves as a powerful example of Jesus challenging the religious establishment and pointing to a change in peoples understanding of God.

In this event, in Mark 11:15-19, Jesus enters the temple and becomes angry at what He sees. He sees merchants selling animals for sacrifice and money changers exchanging currency for special temple coins. In both these cases He sees people not only making profit from religious duty, but they are also turning the purpose of the temple into ‘a den of robbers.’ Rather than be a place of worship, a house of prayer and devotion to God, this temple has become a place of material and worldly profit.

It is no wonder that Jesus becomes angry. That He reacts in such a way as to destroy these tables, set the animals free, and cracks the whip on the animals’ hides. This description in the gospels of Jesus’ ‘righteous anger’ shows how much Jesus cares for the temple, cares for the proper worship of God, and cares for any defilement and injustice of such worship.

However, alongside the reality of Jesus coming into the temple and turning its tables over, so too Jesus turns our understanding of worship upside down. With Jesus entering the world, coming as the King, and being divine Himself, we find that true worship is no longer centred on a place but in a person.

This is the new understanding of the worship of God.

Rather than a centre for sacrifice and cleansing, Jesus Himself becomes the sacrifice, Jesus does the cleansing of sin through the cross and resurrection.

As we reflect on the Easter event this week, and as we make our way through this narrative toward the cross and resurrection, may we understand more fully the true worship of God in light of the true sacrifice and cleansing that Jesus has done for us.

Perhaps a way to think about this is through the lens of what occurred at the temple and then how Jesus changes everything for us.

We can be cluttered with anxiety, long to-do-lists, and life stressors but Jesus comes in and helps us find the peace that surpasses understanding.

We seek after profit or pleasure, but Jesus comes to give eternal life and enduring joy.

We expect to pay our own way to worship God and be accepted by Him, but Jesus comes to pay it all.

We judge ourselves by the rules we make up, but Jesus comes to help us understand it is by faith and a matter of the heart.

The temple had lost its true purpose, but Jesus understood that He was the true purpose for the temple.

May He be the true worship of our lives.

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 2 of 8.

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The Triumphal Entry: Jesus Rides Into Jerusalem With A Purpose

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

The arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem is a significant moment in the gospel of Mark. As Jesus rode into the city on a donkey the crowds hailed him as the Messiah, the one who was to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies about a future king who would rule with righteousness and justice.

By this point Jesus had already performed many miracles, had gained a following, and had a committed group of disciples who had placed their hope in him. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem not only are His disciples aware of his significance but it seems many in the city are as well.

Jesus’ arrival was a statement. It specifically fulfilled the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9, which states that the Messiah would come riding on a donkey. Those who knew their scriptures, which will have included all the religious leaders in the city at the time, would have understood the meaning and significance of this moment. It was a declaration that Jesus was the true Messiah, the promised one from centuries ago, who would come and restore God’s people to their rightful place. Those recognising this prophecy spread their cloaks and placed palm branches before Him to express their devotion and admiration.

Of course, it wouldn’t surprise us to know that this was a direct challenge to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They were increasingly threatened by Jesus’ popularity, but this moment was a challenge to their authority.

It reminds me of footage that shows the late Queen Elizabeth on her coming to Melbourne. There she is in a private car, looking out upon the crowds who line the streets just waiting to get a glimpse of her. There is recognition that she is someone special, she is someone who holds a position of authority, she was someone who people would come out specially to see and greet. When she is spotted by those in the crowd they cheer and clap as they know this is the one they’ve been waiting for. In a similar vein Jesus was the one who God’s people had been waiting for and they recognised His place, His position, and His authority as He rode into Jerusalem.

As we begin Easter Week today it is worth asking ourselves whether we recognise Jesus’ authority in our lives. For example:

  • When we are afraid to trust God, are we forgetting that His plans are good?
  • When we face opposition for following Jesus, do we trust He will make a way for us?
  • When we are distracted by our culture, are we forgetting that He is our portion?
  • When we experience temptation to sin, do we remember the victory Jesus has already won?
  • When we step into change, do we hold fast to the unchanging nature of God?
  • When we encounter those who are different to us, do we extend the love and grace of Jesus to them?

Are there areas in our hearts that we don’t want to give over to God and have His authority in our lives?

This is a devotional series I’ve written for my church for Easter Week 2023. It follows the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark. This is day 1 of 8.

If you’d like them to hit your inbox each morning then please subscribe here.