“A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say. But I think they have seriously underestimated the value of a picture. There are some pictures you will never be able to put into words.
For example, you are planning a trip to Arizona and you Google the Grand Canyon. You find a map of Grand Canyon National Park. Along with the map, there are images of the canyon. You can see it at sunrise and then at dusk, from high above in an airplane or from deep below on the river. To capture this wonder and beauty in language is difficult. Instead, you just sit there and stare. Picture after picture evokes a beauty that is hard to put into words. When you look at the world around us, a picture is worth much more than a thousand words.
Pictures open a window for us. They invite us to gaze into experiences of the world. The world around us. The world within us. All of these things can be seen in a picture - a picture that is hard to put into words.
But what about our spiritual world? our relationship with God? What does the picture of being loved by God look like?
For years, the church has recognized that the last week of Jesus’ life was significant. Momentous. They have called it Holy Week. Sometimes, it’s amazing to think about the difference a week can make. Consider what happens to parents when they learn they are going to have a child. For parents, the week before you knew and the week after you knew are almost like two different worlds. The week before you knew you were going to have a child, you didn’t care about the extra bedroom or how far you had moved away from your parents. The week after you knew, however, suddenly that extra bedroom becomes a nursery and the short phone calls to your parents become long video chats. One week can change so much about the world.
The same is true with our relationship to God. In one week, Jesus reveals what God has promised for ages to do. After God created the world, Adam and Eve fell into sin and brought the rest of the world with them. Every day, we can look at our lives and see the messes that we have made. Things we have done that can’t be undone. Lies that can never be untold. Hurt that cannot be bandaged up and made better. Without God, we would be lost in a lifetime of sin.
But, God made a promise to do something about our sin. When Jesus came into the world, he came with a mission. As he says in the Gospel of Luke, he came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 ESV). And this mission is most clearly seen in the last week of his life.
This week had been foretold by the prophets. Jesus would be “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV).
This week had been predicted by Jesus. After Peter confessed him to be the Christ, Jesus taught his disciples that the “Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22 ESV).
Foretold by the prophets, predicted by Jesus, we see Holy Week. It is a week filled with pictures of God’s everlasting love. This is the week when God does something about your sin and makes the certainty of his love crystal clear to you. A week that gives us a vision of God’s love.
So, let’s consider this: the picture of death and glory.
The week starts on Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–10). Get a picture of this: Jesus is on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. He sends his disciples ahead of him to get a colt and bring it to him. Then, he rides down from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. The crowds are gathering. They take off their outer garments and place them on the road for Jesus to ride over. The children are going out into the field, gathering palm branches, and waving them in the air. The people are crying out to God, “Hosanna!” which means “save.”
It looks like a picture of glory. Jesus, riding into Jerusalem to bring about salvation. And yet, there is one small detail that does not make sense. Jesus does not ride on a horse. He does not come as a conqueror. Instead, Jesus rides on a beast of burden—a colt. His salvation will be different than anything that anyone expected.
Here is where death and glory meet. Rather than come to Jerusalem on a war horse and bring about the Kingdom of God through glorious battle, Jesus comes to Jerusalem on a colt, a beast of burden, and brings about the Kingdom of God by his death. He will die for the sins of all believers and that will be the glory of God. God will make known his glory in the death of Jesus.
John writes that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). And that is what happens this week. Jesus dies to bring about forgiveness of sins. He rises from the dead to bring about life eternal. His death is his glory because this is the work that will set us free. Free from sin. Free from death. Free to live a new life in him.
In the Kingdom of God, death and glory are brought together. God takes the hatred of the world and turns it into the love. God takes defeat and makes it victory. God takes weakness and makes it his strength. God takes what is weak in the world, what is despised, what is forsaken, and makes it his own, to be loved and cherished and never forgotten. This is the work of Jesus that we carry with us every day.
God’s work is glorious. Each of us has a story of how God saved us from sin. As we enter the world, we go as his messengers. People who have a story to tell. Across the world, there are millions of people telling millions of stories. Why?
Because this picture of God’s love in Jesus is worth more than thousands of words. As John wrote at the end of his Gospel, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 ESV).
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from the sermon outlines that accompany CTA’s new Easter preparation theme, Crucified. Glorified. Use these downloadable sermons and the included discussion questions to enhance your worship and Bible time in the weeks leading up to Easter!
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