– Introduction –
What comes to mind when you think of Easter? Most people associate this holiday with lots of chocolate and bunnies. But as Christians, we know that this season in the year is a time to reflect upon the most significant event in all of human history, namely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that happened 2,000 years ago.
This booklet is designed as a way of praying everyday as you reflect upon the Passion story, from the Jews celebrating the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, to these same Jews crucifying him on a cross a week later.
We have structured each day in an easy-to-read format with three parts. First, read the passage from the gospel of Mark. Then, read through the short reflection. Finally, we have included some prayer points at the end to help guide your prayers.
We think that because many of you might be spending this year’s Easter season at home, perhaps being isolated, that this might be a great way of coming together as a church body through prayer.
Our prayer is that this might lead you into a deeper communion with God as you prayerfully reflect upon what Jesus has done for you.
> Sunday 5th April <
Read Mark 11:1-26
Palm Sunday. This was a day that marked the beginning of the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross, but back then, this was a day of celebration for the people of Israel. As the people were spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the road, they cried out – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:5). The people of Israel had been living under the tyranny of Caesar and the Roman empire for a long time now, and here comes a man whom they believed would put an end to all of this – Someone who could lead them and rule over them as a stronger king. But, Jesus rides in on a colt. He had no chariot, no sword, no armies. Jesus comes to the people humbly – “See your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). The people were correct that Jesus came to be king and put an end to their misery, but not in the way that they had expected. Jesus’ way of ruling over them would be a way of humility and love. A way of serving, that put others before themselves. This was counter-cultural and against people’s very nature to do. As you begin reflecting on this week, start by taking the posture that Jesus took as a humble servant. Look out for opportunities where you can live like Jesus, showing his love and grace to others – living a life that is counter-cultural, not what people expect.
> Monday 6th April <
Read Mark 11:27-12:12
Have you ever had that feeling when maybe your birthday is coming up and you know that people are planning something for you? Or perhaps you’re one of those who knows what you’re getting for Christmas and it’s just not going to be a surprise? Well, Jesus had a similar feeling. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders were planning something behind Jesus’ back. They would meet in huddles regularly and whisper about what they were going to do. But Jesus knew about this, and it wasn’t good. In fact, these people were planning on killing him. This was two days after his triumphal entry, Jesus was walking in the temple courts – the day after he emptied the place out with the moneychangers. He saw them and spoke a parable to them. You know, one of those riddles that always confused Jesus’ listeners? But here, the teachers of the law knew exactly what this parable meant and that it was about them. Though this made them angry, they knew that the crowds were still in high favour for Jesus, and so they had to escape. Jesus did not let his enemies get in the way and distract him from his task. He was focused. Jesus knew that his time was short and couldn’t afford getting in the way of God’s plans. In the same way, let’s think about what God has called us to do. God has got a plan for every one of our lives, and so let’s not get distracted by the things of the world or what people might say about us behind our backs, but be focused on the mission at hand, just as Jesus was. Remember, at the end of the day, our life is short and how we live it carries eternal consequences.
> Tuesday 7th April <
Read Mark 12:13-44
Remember those days in school (you don’t have to count!), did you ever notice or get jealous of those really intelligent ones in the class, the ones who just knew every answer to every question? You know who you are if you were one of those. Well, in today’s reading, these teachers of the law were just like them. But instead of getting everything right, they just got everything wrong. And by the way, you DIDN’T correct these people. They knew it all. Tell them your favourite Bible verse and they would tell you exactly where it is found in the Bible. But Jesus, when confronted by these teachers, answered their questions in a way that made them think that they’d got it all wrong. And it was true. These people had got it all wrong. In fact, from age 12, Jesus was already in the temple courts listening, asking questions and answering their questions (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus knew that these people had missed something that was staring right at them. But, there was one teacher who came to Jesus and actually got his theology spot on. He knew something that all of these other teachers had completely missed, that to love God and to love others is “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” He saw that behind all of the ceremonial rituals that they were only a temporary solution and that there was something deeper at play within all of this – that to love was greater than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6) – This one knew his Bible. As Christians, we can be like these teachers of the law without realising it sometimes. We can get so used to going to church on a Sunday, singing songs, and if a non-Christian were to hear us praying, might need a dictionary to undertsand some of our words. And this can happen so gradual in our lives, where our passion for God can start to become cold and shallow. And so, let’s remember, like this one teacher who approached Jesus, to recognise that love is more important than our traditions and rituals, and that there is something far greater at play.
> Wednesday 8th April <
Read Mark 13:1-14:11
Have you ever looked at something that has just left you awestruck? Perhaps you’re one like me to take great delight in God’s creation, or maybe you’ve visited a famous landmark that left in complete silence, or you might have felt like this looking at the score to your football team being defeated. I can imagine that when the disciples were overlooking all of these buildings in Jerusalem, that they were in awe, being overcome by their beauty. I mean, they had a spectacular view of the incredible temple that Solomon had built. But, when they expressed their feelings to Jesus about this, rather bluntly he said to them, “well, they’re not going to last are they?” (v.2 paraphrased). Wow! What a way to ruin the moment. If Jesus were to do a Strengths test, he wouldn’t have ‘Optimistic’ at the top. But, Jesus was looking ahead. He used this opportunity to tell his close followers about future events that would happen. One of them being about the destruction of the temple, which eventually gets destroyed in 70 A.D. Jesus was preparing his disciples for an extremely difficult time that would come. He wasn’t being pessimistic, but realistic. For Christians living 2,000 years later, we still face times of suffering. Jesus did not promise that we would have an easy life, but that suffering is an inevitable part of it. God, however, is not one to leave us alone. In fact, he comforts and encourages his people. One way he does this is to remind us about his coming return, that Jesus will come back one day and restore all things (Acts 3:21). As Christians, we can take great comfort in this promise, that our home is in Heaven where there will be no suffering. But in the meantime, let’s be ready for Christ’s return. This means not to give up, but to keep persevering in faith. It means being ready to meet Christ. Why don’t you take a moment now to ask yourself – If Christ came back today, would I be ready?
> Thursday 9th April <
Read Mark 14:12-72
“Abba, Father” (v.36). I want to focus in on this verse today, because I believe it gives God’s people a real comfort in a time of great distreess in our world. As I’m sure all of you are aware about the current COVID-19 outbreak, that fear is gripping the nation and the world. This can actually be very telling about what we proffess to believe and what we live out, with our real feelings being forced to the surface. Now, if you heard Elizabeth’s sermon on the church website this past Sunday, you will remember that she preached from John 15 about the True Vine. She spoke about what God might be doing in the church right now with this global pandemic, whereby God is causing the church to be crushed so that he might build us up. In John 15, Jesus said that there will be seasons in our life where we will be pruned, or rather, crushed for his purposes. But, in order to know what pruning looks like, we need to know the gardener who prunes us, namely the Father. And I believe this passage today speaks about this. Jesus was crushed to the point where “[his] soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Although Jesus was going through much pain throughout this intense time of trial, he entrusted himself into the loving hands of his father. When we get crushed, we know that Jesus was crushed just like us. Jesus knew to the extent of death what it was like to be crushed, yet in that moment he turned to his Father. He knew that he could go to him about anything, no matter how difficult it might seem. As Christians living in this season of turmoil, let’s remember that we have a loving Father who is bigger than any virus or disease that might come our way. Let’s not fear but be a people of hope and peace. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. ” (Hebrews 10:23).
> Friday 10th April <
Read Mark 15:1-41
I’m sure we all know this day as Good Friday! You’ve probably grown up calling it that, maybe without even thinking about it. But why do we call it ‘Good’ Friday when it was the day that Jesus died? It seems ironic doesn’t it? Well, the word ‘Good’ actually comes from an old English meaning of it –‘Pious, holy’. So in actuality, we’re calling it ‘Holy’ Friday which now seems more fitting. This day was a holy day. It was the day when Jesus finished his task on earth, whereby he took on the judgement of our sin and died in our place. How humiliating this death was though. He was mocked by the people, had a crown of thorns put on his head and hung on a wooden cross, naked for all to see. I can’t imagine what it was like and I don’t think anyone can. This was a death like no other. “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last” (v.37). And, who was there to witness this? A handful of women and a centurion man. None of the 12 disciples were there, even though they had followed him around for three whole years. In fact, all of them had said how they would not fall away or disown him, yet here they had all lost hope and given up. As you reflect on this day, try and imagine yourself there in this story. Put yourself in the shoes of those who were there. I think so often, we can skip over this part in the story and jump to the resurrection too quickly. But, Jesus had a very real death and as Christians, it is important to remember this. Jesus, in fact, gave us a way of remembering his death. We’re told to eat bread and drink wine as a symbol of his body and blood. Maybe you might want to do this now or some time today. Turn off any distractions around you and be still, reflecting on the death of Jesus Christ who died in your place.
· Thank God for his death on the cross, through which we can inherit eternal life through his blood.
· Thank God that even though we don’t always follow him that he still pursues us.
> Saturday 11th April <
Read Mark 15:42-16:19
“He has risen! He is not here.” Hallelujah! Jesus has risen. Today’s reading brings us to the end of this holy week, where Jesus has risen from the grave. Jesus has defeated death and sin has been conquered once and for all. Because of this, we can confidently say: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Just like Jesus had risen from the dead, so his chosen people have risen from death to life and will rise again in Heaven. Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” This was a very real, historical event, where Jesus rose from the dead and is now very much alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). Why don’t you spend this day celebrating the resurrection of Christ and what has been achieved for you. – “That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:5).
· Thank God that death could not contain him.
· Thank God that you are now a holy one in Christ if you have put your trust in him.
> Sunday 12th April <
Happy Easter! I’m thinking that your morning routine of going to church has most likely been disrupted, but be assured that you don’t need to go to a church building to still celebrate this day. Perhaps you might want to be creative in how you celebrate with others. I know of many who are connecting with people through social media and online gatherings to worship God. Or, perhaps you might want to listen to some worship music on YouTube. These moments remind me that even if Christians cannot meet in a church building, this does not stop what God wants to do in his church. As you go about today celebrating Easter, you might be hiding chocolate eggs in the garden, or you might be looking forward to devouring that chocolate bunny. But, remember that there was no bunny there at Jesus’ tomb (as far as I’m aware). Spend this day reflecting on this past week for everything that Jesus did for you. And when today’s over, let’s not forget celebrating the truth of what God has done for us and continues to do.
· Thank God for sending Jesus to die for us so that we might be restored to him.
· Pray for opportunities to share this gospel message to those who might need it.