WALKING WITH CHRIST TO THE CROSS
A LENTEN JOURNEY THROUGH SCRIPTURE
Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.
The invitation of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lamentations 3:40 MSG). On our six-week journey through Scripture, we have walked with Christ to the cross by reflecting on our need for repentance and God’s lavish grace for all who seek him. With Jesus’ disciples, we have witnessed his crucifixion, death, and burial. And now our journey through Lent brings us at last to the joyous conclusion of the gospel story, to those first moments of the first Easter morning.
- Having witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial, the women who had traveled with him to Jerusalem from Galilee (Luke 23:55) arrive at the tomb to perform a final act of devotion by anointing his body. As you read the story below in Luke 24:1–12 (NIV), pay particular attention to how the women, the apostles, and Peter respond when nothing is as they expected.
Luke 24:1-12 (NIV)
Jesus Has Risen
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
For insights into the setting and characters of this story, see the note “The Resurrection Discovered (24:1–12)” in this link to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (notes on the right-hand side).
- How would you characterize the initial responses of the women to the empty tomb and the angels’ proclamation? The response of the apostles to the women? Of Peter when he heard the news and then saw the empty tomb?
- All of Jesus’ followers loved him and believed him to be the Messiah, but everyone in this story responds differently to the unexpected good news of his resurrection. The women believe (v. 8), the apostles do not believe (v. 11), and Peter appears to fall somewhere between the two. Given that this should have been astonishingly good news for all of them, how do you account for their differing responses?
- What might their differing responses suggest about their expectations for who Jesus was as the Messiah?
- How do the angels’ words to the women demonstrate God’s plan and providence?
- What is it that ultimately convinces the women of the resurrection?
- Acts 10:34–43 (NLT) is one of several sermons by Peter recorded in Acts. The setting is the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who became one of the first Gentile converts. In anticipation of Peter’s arrival, Cornelius has assembled a large gathering of his relatives and close friends (Acts 10:24, 27). As you read the passage, note how Peter appeals to his Gentile listeners in presenting the gospel.
Acts 10:34-43 (NLT)
The Gentiles Hear the Good News
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear,41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”
- How does Peter stress the universality of the gospel? Consider his choice of words and phrases as well as his statements.
- First-century Jews, including Jewish Christians, believed that only those who lived by the law of Moses and abided by Jewish rites and customs could find favor with God. They considered Gentiles unclean and avoided contact with them, which Peter acknowledges when he says to Cornelius, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you” (Acts 10:28 NLT). With this as background, how do you understand the significance of Peter’s statements in verses 34–35? How do you imagine these statements might have impacted his Gentile listeners?
- Why might Peter choose to describe the Good News as peace with God? What would his listeners likely have expected from God instead?
- In telling the gospel story, Peter could have chosen to share the things that Jesus taught, but he doesn’t. What does he focus on instead?
- How does Peter acknowledge Jesus’ humanity as well as his divinity?
- How does Peter demonstrate God’s plan and providence?
Questions for Reflection
- The resurrection was something no one, not even Jesus’ closest followers, expected. Out of suffering, humiliation, and death, God brought something mind-blowingly unexpected—new life! The challenge for Jesus’ followers was to be open to it, to believe that the impossible was possible.
What current circumstances in your life would you describe as impossible? It might be a situation in which you feel trapped, defeated, cold to God, or stuck in self-defeating or sinful patterns. What thoughts or emotions arise when you consider being open to the possibility that God might have something unexpected for you? How might you follow the example of Peter and run toward your questions or whatever you don’t yet understand but hope to be true?
- It is in remembering the words of Jesus that the women are convinced of the resurrection. As you look back on your relationship with Christ, what do you remember of him? What truths has he spoken? When has he brought new life from suffering or anything that felt like a death? If you could give these memories a voice, what would they say? How might they speak resurrection hope into your life now?
- In presenting the Good News, Peter stresses God’s acceptance, peace, goodness, healing, power, and forgiveness. As you read his presentation of the gospel story in Acts 10, what stood out most to you? Which of these aspects of Good News do you need most right now?
- The invitation of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lamentations 3:40 MSG). What did you discover about your life and your relationship with God during this Lenten season? In what ways, if any, has it helped you to experience the joy of Easter personally?
A Prayer for the Week Ahead
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)
A Song of Victory
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16 the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.