“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 the Grand Canyon. You bring up Google and you’re able to see the Grand Canyon at sunrise and then at dusk, from high above in an airplane or from deep below on the river. 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.
But what about our spiritual world? our relationship with God? What does the picture of being loved by God look like?
Let’s consider this: the picture of death and glory.
Here’s what we see. 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” (Mark 11:1–10).
It looks like a picture of glory. Jesus, riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 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 during the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. He 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 in one picture. 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: This month’s devotion has been adapted 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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