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Bible News Roundup – Week of April 23, 2017

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

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Sign Language Bible Translation Standards Established
DOOR International

Jews Least Likely US Religious Group To Read Bible Weekly—And 2/3 Never Do
The Forward

Gideons International Visits Fujian, China Presenting Copies of Bible
China Christian Daily

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

The Biography of Christianity: An Interview with Ian Shaw

Ian J. ShawHow well do you know the story of Christianity from its birth and infancy among a handful of followers of Jesus Christ, through its years of development into a global religious movement, spanning continents and cultures and transcending educational and social backgrounds?

Bible Gateway interviewed Ian J. Shaw about his book, Christianity, The Biography: 2000 Years of Global History (Zondervan, 2017).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Unexpected Christian Century: An Interview with Scott Sunquist]

Buy your copy of Christianity, The Biography in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Why is the title of your book “The Biography” and not “The History”?

Ian J. Shaw: The title is designed to show the dynamic of the development and growth of Christianity, from the Early Church period to the present day. The word ‘Biography’ emphasizes the life and change, challenge and progress in Christianity over 20 centuries.

Why is it important for Christians to remember church history?

Ian J. Shaw: The command to ‘remember’ is a biblical one. In Joshua 4 the Israelites were told to build a monument from stones that had been in the middle of the River Jordan to provoke the question from passers-by, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then the history of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan would be re-told.

The words ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ are spoken every occasion Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper together.

Remembrance is designed to feed faith—‘We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, the deeds you did in their days, in days of old’ (Psalm 44:1).

Those suffering from loss of memory are terribly debilitated. They cannot remember where they are, where they’ve come from, or even who they are. Their sense of ‘lost-ness’ is frightening. It’s very important that Christians do not lose the faculty of memory, but understand the story of which they are a part; the historical journey in which they participate. For the Christian, the biography of Christianity is the history of their family, and an exploration of their heritage. It should be an exciting adventure of self-discovery.

Understanding—and planning for—the future of the church requires opening up its past. This book affirms the old axiom that ‘those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them.’

What time period do you identify as the beginning of Christianity and why?

Ian J. Shaw: This is discussed in the first chapter of Christianity, The Biography. Every biography begins with a birth, but the exact date when Christianity was ‘born’ has been much debated. For some it’s the birth of its founder, Jesus Christ. Another point could be the time when the first disciples were called and became followers of Jesus Christ. A case could be made for Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, transforming the disciples of Jesus from a fearful, uncertain group, into an empowered body of witnessing messengers to the good news of Jesus Christ, prepared to turn the world upside down. A key moment was when the followers of Jesus were first referred to as ‘Christians’ in Acts 11:26.

Most historians of Christianity consider the end of the Roman War in Palestine in AD 70, toward the close of the lives of most of the apostles, as a vital moment.

I know this is asking a lot, but who do you see as the six most important people in Christian history and why?

Ian J. Shaw: This is an almost impossible task! But let’s start after the time of the Apostles—and Jesus had 12 choices! My six are chosen for importance in the overall progression of Christianity, not necessarily because I agree with all they said and did:

  • Constantine: the Roman Emperor who embraced Christianity and transformed it from a persecuted minority into a favored religion, no longer fighting for its survival. He did some good things and some not so good things.
  • Athanasius: he held the church strong in the face of the teaching of Arius that Christ was not truly God.
  • Augustine of Hippo: theologian and pastor, shaped much of the theological tradition of the Western church.
  • Martin Luther: reformer, preacher, Bible translator. He stood firmly on the basis of Scripture and his conscience for the right to challenge false and unhelpful teaching and church structures.
  • John Calvin: the great summarizer of key Reformation doctrine
  • Samuel Ajayi Crowther: the first African Anglican bishop; a morning-star heralding the huge growth in Christianity in the Global South.

How did the Bible materialize in Christian history?

Ian J. Shaw: Although Jesus Christ could write, from what we know he did not choose to write his teachings down. Instead his disciples carefully learned and treasured his words and actions, and recorded them in writing. Some collections of the sayings of Jesus may have been written down in his lifetime. The Old Testament was already accepted and used as Scripture by Christ and his apostles.

Within several decades of the death of Jesus the written documents which make up the New Testament had been produced. This helped to guard the church against error and false teaching. These documents were then copied with a high degree of accuracy by scribes. The canon (meaning ‘straight rule’ or ‘standard’) of Scripture was established in the early church, setting out what writings were regarded as authoritative.

The attempts by some false teachers to reject or undermine some of the New Testament books led to official statements from church councils in the 4th century confirming which writings were to be viewed as Scripture and which were non-canonical. These councils affirmed what had been in use as Scripture for the previous centuries.

Reading, preaching, and teaching the Bible was central to the life of the early Christian community and the global transmission of its message. There was a determination to ensure when the church spoke, it did so based on what God had revealed in Scripture.

How widespread has persecution been in the annals of Christianity?

Ian J. Shaw: Some argue that persecution has been the ‘normal’ state for Christians throughout its 20 centuries of existence, and that freedom from persecution is more unusual.

Up to the early 4th century, persecution was regularly experienced by Christians. After then it ceased in the Roman Empire, but remained an issue for Christians further East.

Persecution has not been faced by Christians all the time. But there have been very intense periods such as in the late 3rd century, during the French Revolution, and under a number of totalitarian regimes and some other religious rulers, when attempts have been made to totally eradicate Christianity. None have succeeded.

What does the future of Christianity look like?

Ian J. Shaw: Revelation 7:9 and 20:12 present the culmination of the biography of Christianity, of people from every tribe and tongue gathered round the throne of God.

By the start of the 21st century the make-up of Christianity looked closer to those images than it had ever done before. Christianity had returned to what it originally was: a global faith. The axis of Christianity has shifted to the Global South, with over one billion Christians in the non-Western World, compared to 750 million in the West. The next stages of the Christian biography will be significantly determined by what happens in Africa, Latin America, parts of Asia and the Pacific. Yet, although during the 20th century Christianity grew from around 558 million to over 2 billion believers, because this took place when world population was also growing, the percentage of Christians actually fell slightly, from just over around 35% to 32%.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Ian J. Shaw: Great resources and books and some great price deals.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Ian J. Shaw: Keep on reading so you can keep on growing!

Ian J. Shaw is Associate International Director of the Langham Scholars Program and Honorary Fellow, School of Divinity, New College, University of Edinburgh. He’s the author of Churches, Revolutions and Empires: 1789-1914; High Calvinists in Action: Calvinism and the City; William Gadsby; and The Greatest Is Charity.

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The Forgotten Jesus: An Interview with Robby Gallaty

Robby GallatyHow can knowing about ancient Jewish idioms, traditions, and culture deepen Christians’ relationship with Jesus? How can readers of the Bible better understand Scripture passages by being sensitive to Hebrew heritage?

Bible Gateway interviewed Robby Gallaty (@Rgallaty) about his book, The Forgotten Jesus: Why Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi (Zondervan, 2017).

[Learn about and read the following Bible translations on Bible Gateway: The Complete Jewish Bible, The Names of God Bible, The Orthodox Jewish Bible, and the Tree of Life Version]

Buy your copy of The Forgotten Jesus in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayYou say Christians in the West have “lost the Jewishness of Jesus.” What do you mean?

Robby Gallaty: Jesus was a Jewish man who was raised in a Jewish culture, reared by devout Jewish parents, and who lived according to the Jewish laws. Jesus regularly attended the synagogue on Sabbath, participated in every biblical feast, studied and memorized the Scriptures, learned a trade from his father, and started his rabbinic ministry at the age of 30—all of this according to the Jewish customs of the day.

I’m suggesting that these elements reveal something about Jesus that we, as Westerners, might overlook. In doing so, we run the risk of missing important implications from the context of Jesus’ life and ministry that help us see and know him better.

Why is it important to remember the Jewish context of Jesus’ life?

Robby Gallaty: Understanding the Jewish context of Jesus’ life will help us see familiar passages in a new light. It’s like being used to watching a film on a tiny, grainy, black-and-white countertop television and then seeing it in an IMAX theater. When we learn more about Jesus in his context, we better understand him. And when we better understand him, we grow in our love for him.

What does it mean to read the Bible through a Jewish lens and how does it enhance the experience?

Robby Gallaty: Reading the Bible through a Jewish lens enhances our understanding of the why behind the what of Jesus’ actions. For example, according to Jewish tradition, the people would know that the Messiah was at hand when three Messianic miracles were performed. Jesus performed these miracles: the first was healing the leper in Matthew 8. The second was casting out a demon from a deaf, dumb, and blind man in Mark 5. The third miracle is found in John 9 where Jesus heals a man born blind. Each of these miracles is a powerful testimony to who Jesus is, but focusing on them through a Jewish lens enhances our understanding even more by providing important contextual information.

Briefly explain the message of your chapter, “Uncovering Christ in the Old Testament.”

Robby Gallaty: I believe that we’ll never be able to fully understand the ministry of Jesus without understanding the culture in which he arrived. Over three-quarters of the Bible is devoted to the Old Testament, yet many believers today spend most their time reading through the New Testament.

In reality, our faith is fortified when we understand that God’s plan for sending his Son to the world began before sending Moses, before the salvation of Joseph, before the calling of Abraham, and even before God’s punishments for Adam, Eve, and the serpent were uttered in the Garden.

Here’s an example of how understanding the Old Testament and the customs of its people helps us see Jesus better: the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths. The swaddling cloth is no ordinary piece of fabric. A better translation would perhaps be swaddling bands. These strips of linen were five inches wide by five or six yards long. According to the Mishnah, lambs that were destined to be Passover lambs were immediately wrapped in “swaddling cloths” after their births to keep them from injuring themselves. Interestingly, the lambs destined for the Temple sacrifices were raised in Bethlehem. So, when shepherds rushed to see the God of the universe born as human they would have recognized the cloth immediately. Reading the New Testament through a Jewish lens brings it into stark color.

[See Bible Reading Plans on Bible Gateway]

What Bible reading plan do you recommend and why?

Robby Gallaty: I’ve often said the best Bible reading plan is the one you’ll commit to and follow. Daily Bible intake is critical to the life of a growing, maturing disciple of Jesus. Over the years my wife and I developed a reading plan we call the F-260. These are 260 foundational passages of Scripture to be read five days a week. We’ve found that a five-day plan is easier to stick to over time. By focusing on a couple of chapters of reading a day with weekends off, the reading load is light and there’s built-in time to catch up if you miss a day. The point of this particular plan is to read less to digest more. By using the F-260, you’ll read through the entire metanarrative of Scripture in one year’s time, in easily digestible chunks.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog posts, The 50 Most Important Teachings of the Bible: An Interview with Jim George and The 100 Crucial Bible Passages to Know]

What do you want readers of your book to glean from it?

Robby Gallaty: My hope for The Forgotten Jesus is that people will grow in their understanding of Christ so that they may grow in their love for him. Loving Jesus more leads to obeying him more. I believe a life-long process of knowing, loving, and obeying Jesus will result in mature disciples who follow Christ’s command to make disciples who make disciplemakers.

Bio: Robby Gallaty (PhD, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) is the senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. He was radically saved out of a life of drug addiction on November 12, 2002. In 2008, he founded Replicate Ministries to educate, equip, and empower believers to make disciples who make disciples ( He’s the author of Rediscovering Discipleship, Growing Up, Firmly Planted, and Bearing Fruit. Robby and his wife Kandi are the proud parents of two sons, Rig and Ryder.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of April 16, 2017

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Sermons that Teach About Scripture Are the No. 1 Reason Americans Go to Church

5 Facts on How Americans View the Bible and Other Religious Texts
Fact Tank

Kentucky Governor Says Bible Is Welcome In Kentucky Public Schools
The Tennessee Star

Translating the Bible into Catalan and Spanish Sign Language
Wycliffe Global Alliance

Missionaries Complete 28-Year Project to Publish Bible in Kurdish Sorani Language
Anglican Communion News Service

Bible Translation: New Technologies Help Keep Translators Safe
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Wycliffe Associates—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Wycliffe Global Alliance Scripture & Language Statistics 2016

Secret UK Tomb Contains Remains of 5 Archbishops Including One Who Played a Major Role in Production of the King James Bible
The Telegraph
BBC News: Remains of Five ‘Lost’ Archbishops of Canterbury Found
UW Religion Today: The Coffin of Archbishop Bancroft and the King James Bible
Read the King James Version (KJV) Bible translation on Bible Gateway

Rare 16th Century Bibles Displayed During Reformation Conference
Black Mountain News
See the Reformation Studies section in the Bible Gateway Store

Bible Exhibit on Display at York House in Pikeville, Kentucky
The Williamson Daily News
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits

Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center Exhibit Features 1857 Pocket Bible
Daily Corinthian

Unique Bible Exhibition on at Margao, India’s Grace Church
Times of India

Michigan Woman Hopes to Reunite 1839 Bible with Living Descendants of Owner

Denver Seminary Launches Free Online Bible Course
Amarillo Globe-News
Zondervan Academic Online Courses

Number of Churchgoers in Scotland has Dropped by Over Half in the Last 30 Years

Adultery in 2017: Christians Rank What Counts as Cheating
Read Matthew 5:27-28 on Bible Gateway

New Study Shows Number of American Atheists Underreported

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Christ is Risen!

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s promised Messiah! Listen to and watch the Easter account from the Gospel of Luke:

You can read the story of Easter in Luke 24:1-8 (as well as in the other three Gospels). Here’s Luke’s account:

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. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 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? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. — Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)

All of us at Bible Gateway wish you a peaceful, and reflective Easter. Hallelujah—Christ is risen!

Holy Week and Easter: The People, Places, and Events

Easter is the most significant event in the Christian church calendar. In fact, it’s fair to say that without the events of Easter, there wouldn’t be a Christian church, or a Christian faith. Easter is the reason the Christian church exists!

maundythursdayEaster commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his execution on a Roman cross. That moment of resurrection is the core of Easter—but the days leading up to Easter are key parts of the story, too. The interplay of prophecy, friendship, betrayal, and grace during the final days before Jesus’ crucifixion is full of insight into human nature—and God’s love.

Have you read the Easter story recently? You’ve probably heard or read many of the most famous episodes in the Easter account, but it’s truly a story meant to be read as a coherent whole. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to explore the Easter story.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Verses for Holy Week]

Where Can I Read the Easter Story?

The Easter story is told in four different places in the Bible. Each of the accounts (there’s one in each of the four Gospels) tells the same story but from a slightly different perspective. That means that you can get the Easter story from any one of these sources, but reading more than one (or all four) brings a lot of extra detail and nuance to light.

Here’s where you can find the Easter story in the Bible. Click any of the links below to read one of the Easter accounts:

There’s no single “best” Easter account in the Bible; each of the above accounts tells the complete story. (If you’re not sure where to start, go ahead and begin with Mark’s account.) All are short and easily readable—you can read any of them in a single setting.

Learn more about Easter with the resources of Bible Gateway Plus

How Can I Listen to the Easter Story?

Do you prefer to listen to the Easter story? Bible Gateway has a large library of audio Bibles and other resources—including several narrations and dramatizations of the Easter story. Here they are:

1. Easter in the Breathe Bible

The brand-new Breathe Bible Audio New Testament (Tyndale House, 2017) features an extremely high-quality dramatization of the Easter account as found in the book of Mark. With an all-star cast starring Kevin Sorbo, John Rhys-Davies, Josh Lucas, and others, the Breathe Bible audio experience is a great way to listen to this most famous of stories. Click to listen to the Easter story from Breathe Bible.

2. Witness the Bible: The Easter Story Dramatized

A radio theatre-style audio dramatization, with background music and different voices used for the various characters. It’s based on the 1599 Geneva Bible, with a rich vocabulary and a slightly nostalgic feel. Click to listen to the Easter story from Witness the Bible.

3. The Story of Jesus

The key moments of Jesus’ life and ministry into one audio presentation, with background music and sound effects which add to the cinematic effect. Click to listen to the Easter story from The Story of Jesus.

4. The Easter Story from The Message

This well-loved paraphrase of the Bible is one of the most listenable Bibles in our library. It’s a great choice for the Easter story. Click to listen to the Easter story from The Message.

These aren’t the only ways you can listen to the Easter story here at Bible Gateway. There are many audio Bibles in our library; browse through the available audio titles to see if your favorite Bible translation is available in audio. You can also access Bible audio while reading the Bible text itself—after looking up a Bible passage (for example, Mark 14-16), look for the audiobutton button above and to the right of the Bible text. If that button is present, then audio is available for the Bible you’re reading; simply click it to start the audio.

Lastly, you can also listen to these and other audio resources using the Bible Gateway App, available free for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire. Click to get the App.

These are just some of the ways you can walk through the Easter story here at Bible Gateway. In the week to come, we’ll be talking in more detail about the individual events that together compromise the Easter narrative. But there’s no better way to prepare your heart and mind for the holiday than to simple read or listen through the Easter account using one of the links above.

Holy Week infographic from the NIV QuickView Bible, available in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

What Are the Major Events of Easter?

While hints, predictions, and echoes of Easter permeate all of the Bible, when most people talk about Easter, they are referring to the week—usually called Holy Week or Passion Week—that culminated with Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. Here are the key events of the Easter story, and where you can read them in the Bible.

You might find it helpful to refer to our timeline of Holy Week, which organizes the people and events of Easter into one chart. Click the image to enlarge it:

Click to enlarge this Holy Week timeline visualization

Palm Sunday

Read it in Matthew 21:1-11.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus arrived at Jerusalem riding on a donkey, where he was welcomed by cheering crowds. (The “Palm” in “Palm Sunday” refers to the tree branches that the crowds used to make a path for Jesus.) His arrival—often called the Triumphal Entry—fulfilled a prophecy by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah about the Messiah’s appearance in Jerusalem. To anyone with a knowledge of Jewish scripture, this identification of Jesus as the Messiah would have been clear.

Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday

Read it in Matthew 21:12-25:13.

On these two days, Jesus made a number of appearances and addresses, most famously to “cleanse” the temple of money changers and merchants who had set up business in God’s house. Jesus also appeared at the temple courts to debate the priests and community leaders.

Holy Wednesday

Read it in Matthew 26:14-16.

Also called Spy Wednesday, Great Wednesday, or Good Wednesday, this day is marked by the decision of Judas Iscariot—one of Jesus’ disciples—to betray Jesus to the authorities in exchange for thirty silver coins.

Maundy Thursday

Read it in Matthew 26:17-46.

This day saw the beginning of a sequence of rapidly-unfolding events that would lead to Jesus’ crucfixion. On this day, Jesus gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. During this celebration, commonly called the Last Supper because it was Jesus’ final meal before his arrest and death, Jesus established the practice of communion which churches around the world continue to celebrate today.

After this communal meal, Jesus and his disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. When his disciples were unable to stay awake, Jesus famously noted that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus himself prayed so intensely that he “sweat drops of blood.” This day closed with Jesus’ announcement to his disciples that his betrayal was at hand.

Good Friday

Read it in Matthew 26:14-27:66.

On the very eventful Good Friday, Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas and arrested, then hauled before several different authorities—first the Jewish religious leaders, then the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Sentenced to death, Jesus was crucified alongside two criminals. Upon his death, he was buried in a nearby tomb.

Easter Sunday

Read it in Matthew 28:1-10.

This is it—the culmination of all the drama of Holy Week. On Easter Sunday (appropriately known as Resurrection Sunday), Jesus rose from the dead and, in the days to come, appeared to his astonished followers to tell them the good news: the power of sin and death was broken, and all who believed could find forgiveness and be made right with God.

Questions About Easter

No doubt about it, the Bible’s Easter accounts make some bold assertions, and believers and skeptics alike have pored over its details for centuries. Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about Easter; click on the questions to read an in-depth answer to each.

  1. Is Easter based on a pagan holiday?
  2. Did the early Christian church make up the events of Easter?
  3. Was the story of Jesus’ resurrection stolen from mythology?
  4. Do the four gospel accounts of Easter in the Bible contradict each other?

Exploring Easter Further with Bible Gateway Plus

Learn more about Easter with the resources of Bible Gateway Plus

If you’ve upgraded to Bible Gateway Plus, you have access to many additional ways to study and explore the story of Easter! Here are four specific resources, available to Plus members, that will help you dig deeper into this remarkable account:

  1. Troubled by questions about the reliability of the Gospel accounts? The Case for Christ Study Bible asks and answers over a dozen tough apologetics questions about Matthew's account of the crucifixion.
  2. Why was Jesus offered "wine and gall" while he was on the cross? Why was "blood money" not allowed in the temple treasury? The NIV Quest Study Bible delves into all the little details of the Easter story.
  3. Do you know the entire cast of the Easter story? The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters has useful profiles of everyone involved, from Barabbas to Zebedee.
  4. Looking for the ultimate guide to the Easter account? The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary walks through every verse, with over 30 detailed entries on Matthew 27 alone.

Upgrading to Bible Gateway Plus unlocks these and dozens of other digital study Bibles, commentaries, and reference books, all of them seamlessly integrated into your online Bible reading! Try it free for 30 days and see what a difference it makes in your reading and study of God’s Word.

Watch These Video Discussions on the Importance and Ways of Feasting on the Scriptures

Institute for Bible Reading

The Institute for Bible Reading (IFBR) (@Read_Well) exists to provide tools and frameworks that fundamentally change the way people read the Bible so it can achieve its mission and become the story that defines abundant living.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Learning to Read the Bible Well: An Interview with Glenn Paauw]

During the last several weeks, Bible Gateway has partnered with IFBR on a series of brief Facebook Live video events intended to help you “Journey Toward Better Bible Reading.” If you missed seeing these discussions on Facebook, watch them here:

Discussion One: Why We Should Read Whole Books of the Bible

Why is it helpful to read the books of the Bible in their entirety, rather than reading only small snippets or single verses?

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post and watch the video, Two Simple Ways to Make Your Bible Reading Easier]

Discussion Two: Reading the Bible as One Story

The Bible is a collection of many different ancient texts, representing many different literary genres and historical contexts. Is it possible to read such a diverse book as a single, coherent story? How does doing so affect our understanding of God’s story?

[See the Bible reference resources available on Bible Gateway. Also learn about upgrading your Bible Gateway experience with Bible Gateway Plus.]

Discussion Three: Reading the Bible with Jesus at the Center

What does it mean when we say that Jesus is at the “center” of the Bible? How do we go about recognizing the presence of Jesus as we read?

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog posts, The Jesus Storybook Bible: An Interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones and The Jesus Bible Debuts at Passion 2017 Conference]

Discussion Four: Reading the Bible Together

Personal devotions & quiet times are relatively recent innovations in the practice of reading the Bible. What is the value in reading the Bible communally? What are the rewards of reading the Bible together with friends and family.

[See the Bible Engagement section on Bible Gateway]

Series Introduction

What are the practical, simple steps for you to take toward better Bible reading?

Buy your copy of Saving the Bible from Ourselves in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, Glenn Paauw’s book Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well (InterVarsity Press, 2016) is a natural next step. It goes into more detail about this and other topics related to healthy Bible reading. Many of the ideas in this video discussion series are inspired by Paauw’s book.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Learning to Read the Bible Well: An Interview with Glenn Paauw]

For future Facebook Live discussions, go to Bible Gateway’s Facebook page, then “Like” and “Follow” us. After that, do the same with the Institute for Bible Reading page. Make sure that underneath the Following tabs on both pages, Notifications are checked “On.”

If you believe Bible reading is important for your life and you’d like to do it better, upgrade your Bible Gateway experience by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus, where you’ll have access to many additional ways to study and explore the Bible. See what a difference it makes in your reading and study of God’s Word!

The Jesus Storybook Bible: An Interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones

Sally Lloyd-JonesThe Jesus Storybook Bible has reached a milestone of two million copies sold. A Bible like no other, it invites children (and adults) to join in the greatest of all adventures: to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their own story too!

Bible Gateway interviewed New York Times bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones (@sallylloydjones) about her book, The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz).

The The Jesus Storybook Bible is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. What made you decide to publish this award winning storybook Bible?

Buy your copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, Special Edition in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Sally Lloyd-Jones: I wanted children to know that God loves them—no matter what.

I grew up thinking the Bible was this book of rules to keep and heroes to copy. But I knew I wasn’t good enough to keep all the rules. And then those heroes—we used to sing that chorus, “Dare to be a Daniel!” But I knew I never could dare to be a Daniel—I was terrified of being thrown to lions. I couldn’t ever be that brave.

So it left me with the sense that God must not love me because I wasn’t being good enough (keeping the rules) or being brave enough (like Daniel or David).

Click to buy your copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

So I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible because I wanted children to know the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s about God and what he has done. It’s the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It’s a Love Story. It’s an Adventure Story. And at the center of the story is a baby—the child upon whom everything would depend. And every single story in the Bible whispers his name.

What makes The Jesus Storybook Bible unique?

Click to buy your copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition with CDs in the Bible Gateway Store

Sally Lloyd-Jones: The Jesus Storybook Bible captures the entire plot-line of the Bible. That’s something that can be hard—even as adults—to grasp.

We read the Bible piecemeal, we hear sermons, we study passages, but rarely do we sit down and hear the entire story of the Bible. And that seemed to be especially true of children’s Bible storybooks.

And when you lose the story that’s running like a golden stream underneath all the other stories, you’re left with the idea that the Bible is a collection of random-seeming stories about various Bible characters that we’re supposed to learn lessons from (almost like an Aesop’s Fables). And a book of rules that God wants us to keep so he will love us.

And we lose the glorious truth of the Bible that we were loved before even the beginning of time. That God had a plan. That no matter what, he would never stop loving us. And that one day long ago in Bethlehem, God stepped out of Heaven and came down to rescue us.

For individuals who’ve never read the Bible, what makes The Jesus Storybook Bible so approachable?

Click to buy your copy of Biblia Para Niños: Historias de Jesús, Bilingüe in the Bible Gateway Store

Sally Lloyd-Jones: The Jesus Storybook Bible is the story of the Bible in its most distilled form. The Bible is one story—it’s the story of God who loves his children and comes to rescue them. So by reading The Jesus Storybook Bible you’re getting a kind of road map. So that when you come to read the actual Bible you have a lay of the land. And you come to the Bible knowing that it’s not mostly a book about you and what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s most of all a story. It’s this wonderful love story—about a God who loves his children with a wonderful, never-stopping-never-giving-up-unbreaking-always-and-forever love.

The Jesus Storybook Bible was written for children, but adults love it just the same. Why do you think that is?

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Sally Lloyd-Jones: If you write for children with respect and treat them with dignity—you’ll capture the adults as well. Children deserve nothing but our very best. Nothing but excellence will do for the young, because the responsibility is greater. We write up for children, never down.

C. S. Lewis said it best: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” He also said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of 50 and beyond.”

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We all know this is true. The Chronicles of Narnia. Winnie-The-Pooh. They’re wonderful whatever age you are!

And, of course, Jesus himself treated children with great dignity and respect. When Jesus was teaching his disciples—who did he call to stand there to help him teach? He called a little child.

“Jesus called a little child to stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ’unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4).

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How has writing The Jesus Storybook Bible personally affected your life?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And it has brought some of the most tremendous, incredible blessings. So I’m so grateful.

When I was writing The Jesus Storybook Bible, it just so happened that I was writing the passion stories just exactly during Holy Week. That was profound. To have been building up to this moment as I wrote—I caught a glimpse of how all of history, all of the Old Testament, all of the generations, all of the waiting and longing of God’s children for their Rescuer—it was all culminating here, not on a throne or an army—but on the cross. A man dying in weakness—and rescuing the whole world.

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It is so beautiful.

No wonder the Bible says even angels never tire of and long to gaze at this beautiful story of rescue (1 Peter 1:12).

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1:25).

Over the past 10 years, have you heard from readers who share stories about how The Jesus Storybook Bible has affected their spiritual lives and ministries?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: All kinds of people are reading the book we never imagined—pastors are using it to help them preach, parents and couples are using it as their devotions, college students are using it for their Bible studies, theologians are teaching from it (it’s even a set text at a college). It was used as the text for weekly Bible study for Japanese businessmen; by women in a high security prison. Autistic children love it. Alzheimer patients love it. It’s being used in old people’s homes. A charity gives it as a gift for parents with babies in the NICU. It’s wonderful to see the ways God is using this book.

You have an extensive musical background. How did this help you in writing The Jesus Storybook Bible?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: [Laughter] I actually don’t have a musical background (aside from learning piano as a child)—but I do have many very gifted musician friends and so I get to seem as if I do! (And right now I’m touring around with Ellie Holcomb and Amy Grant and going on a tour bus and everything! So I’m doing a rather good job of pretending! We’re celebrating art and friendship and faith—and the 10th anniversary of The Jesus Storybook Bible. And rather than me singing—everyone will be relieved to hear—I’m sharing stories and reading—and sharing in particular how the book truly began, years ago in Africa. It’s been wonderful to trace the story God has been writing in all of our lives—and worship him together.)

But seriously, you hit on something we’ve discovered. Why the connection with musicians? I think it’s because in the end we’re doing very similar things—we’re telling stories, we’re using poetic, lyrical language, and we’re distilling stories down into their simplest form. We’re both telling a story in two languages—word and music for them; and word and image for me.

It’s a wonderful surprise that makes total sense at the same time.

Do you feel the music and theology go hand in hand? If so, why?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: Absolutely. I think it was J. I. Packer who said one of my favorite things—that all true theology should lead to doxology. Truly looking at God should lead us to sing to our God, to his Glory, for all he has done. So they’re made for each other! And this is something that makes the tour so special—we get to burst out into song as we share the stories of God’s faithfulness in our lives.

The talented illustrator, Jago, worked with you in on The Jesus Storybook Bible, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, The Story of God’s Love for You, and has collaborated with you once again for your new board book Found: Psalm 23. How would you describe your artistic collaboration with Jago? What can you tell us about how you chose the color and design for the cover of The Jesus Storybook Bible?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: A picture book is a story told in two languages—word and image. And the illustration is the front door of the book. Without Jago’s illustrations the book would never have reached the people it has. I’m so deeply grateful. The other thing to say is, in a successful picture book, you always want the voice of the text to match the voice of the art; so that it seems as if the same person writing is the one illustrating and vice versa. I think that’s what Jago and I have.

Jago is wonderful to work with. He’s a master at what he does and at the same time open to receiving feedback. And it’s that humility that makes for the best book. Nothing gets in the way of the story. When we’re about telling the best possible story, making the best possible book—we’re thinking about the reader, rather than about our egos. And then we serve the story. Not the other way ’round. So I can’t say enough good things about Jago!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: I love it. I even have my mum using it on her new iPhone. We love that you can listen too. We have a favorite in our family—David Suchet’s reading of the NIV UK Bible version. He was the one who narrated The Jesus Storybook Bible for audio (and the animations too) so we’re huge fans.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: Thank you for having me on.

And maybe I’ll just end by sharing this favorite story about the great theologian, Karl Barth. He was asked at the end of his life to sum up his theology and learning in his long career. Without even pausing he said: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

Bio: Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling writer for children. She’s the author of the ALA notable The Jesus Storybook Bible, as well as Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, winner of the ECPA Inspirational Book award (a children’s book winning in the adult category). She’s written many picture books for children, such as the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister and Song of the Stars and Baby Wren and the Great Gift. She’s on tour with Amy Grant and Ellie Holcombe and tickets still available. Sally was born and raised in Africa, schooled in England, and now lives in New York City. She can be found at

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Staying Rich

by David Green

I realize that running a billion dollar company doesn’t exactly make me just one of the guys from a purely financial standpoint. Money tends to separate us in our culture, and that’s unfortunate because I’m just like you. I get up every day, spend time with God, kiss my wife, eat some breakfast, and go to work.

I’m just a man. I started my career working retail, stocking shelves. I got married and started a family. I’ve lost sleep wondering about the future of my wife and kids. Now I’m entering that area of the baton exchange, and I want to do it well. I want us all to do it well. I want my grandchildren to grow up understanding that generosity begins with an attitude that extends into every aspect of life, not just money. I want them to understand that today begins their legacy. Because if there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that true wealth encompasses all of life.

That’s the big idea. I believe we can chart a course for our lives and our families that allows us to think beyond one generation. We can outline our vision, mission, and values. And we can live that out through our generosity. These ideas will allow us to stay rich for generations—not just in a monetary sense but in a values sense.

Some of you reading this are standing in shoes similar to my own. You are nearing the end of your life, wondering how to finish well and leave a legacy that will bless your family and those they interact with for generations to come. Some of you are just starting out in life, taking your first steps toward those dreams and plans.

Whether you’re at the end or the beginning of life, I want to challenge you to do three things:

  1. Work with all your heart, for God and not for men.
  2. Hold those plans lightly, because you really have no idea what the Lord has in store.
  3. Consider now what you want your legacy to be. It is not too early to begin.

The decisions you make today will affect the legacy you leave behind. Whether you are a young business man who has found himself encountering what the world sees as success both in career and family life, or a young woman who recently graduated and has no idea what is in front of you, today is the right day to make your decisions in light of the truth that God owns it all. Live your life in this world while investing your wealth in the next.

Only One Life

When I was growing up, we did not have much artwork in our house. Money was tight, and our family got along with just the basics of life. Knicknacks, frills, and family photos were not to be found in our simple home. But there was one plaque on the wall I have never forgotten. It was a short poem:

Only one life
’Twill soon be past
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.

In my teen years and for quite a few years into my adulthood, the words of that poem stirred up guilt inside me whenever I remembered them. Assuming that “what’s done for Christ” meant work done as a pastor with his flock, as an evangelist on the street corner, or as a missionary to remote tribes in Africa, I felt defeated because I knew those were things I could not do. Not until my late thirties did I discover the joy of giving to God’s work and come to realize its lasting value.

Until recently, I had no idea that those lines were actually part of a longer poem with a very interesting story. It was written by the son of a wealthy British family, Charles Thomas (C. T.) Studd, who lived from 1860 to 1931. His father had made a fortune producing indigo dye in India. Charles and his brothers attended the best schools England could offer, first Eaton and then Cambridge, where Charles became, as some have called him, the Michael Jordan of cricket. Charles represented his country on the national cricket team and became a household name in Britain. He knew that when he turned twenty-five years old, he would inherit a large sum—some $25 million in today’s dollars—from his father’s estate.

Yet by that time, God had touched his heart and called him to service overseas. He started out in China, where he married a young Irish woman of like mind. Together, they gave away their entire portion of the Studd fortune to such ministries as George Müller’s orphanage, D. L. Moody’s Bible school in Chicago, the China Inland Mission, and the Salvation Army. From that point on, they trusted God to supply their needs.

Ten years of work in China were followed by six years in India, where Studd’s father had become rich. C.T.’s health was not the greatest by then, and neither was his wife’s. After India, he pressed on for another twenty-one years in the heart of Africa until he died and was buried there at age seventy. His passion was to share the gospel with those who had never heard of Christ.

C. T. Studd was a man who did not let family money distract him from what was truly important in life. History tells us that his children caught his values system. Three of his daughters married Christian leaders. Some two thousand Congolese showed up for his funeral in July 1931.

I will never be the speaker and writer he was, but I am just as committed to the goals he exemplified. Of the various scriptures under the plexiglas on my desk, this is perhaps the most compelling in my heart and mind: “This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth” (1 Tim. 2:7–8, The Message).

I hope they put that verse on my tombstone. Through the efforts of the company God has allowed us to build, I want as many people as possible to come to know Christ as Savior. Fortunately, if God blesses the values and financial arrangements that I’ve described in my book Giving It All Away . . . and Getting It All Back Again, then there is no reason my work will not go on long after I’m gone.

I can think of nothing that would make me happier.


Taken from Giving It All Away . . . and Getting It All Back Again by David Green with Bill High, Copyright © 2017 by David Green. Used by permission of Zondervan. Click here to learn more about this title.

In this book, self-made billionaire David Green, founder of America’s craft store giant Hobby Lobby tells the secrets he’s learned in a life that started humble, stayed faithful, gave continually, and is leaving a lasting legacy.

Green tells the story of caring for the small things and starting Hobby Lobby in their garage. He shares the difference between the worlds of “having and hoarding” and a world of “giving and generosity,” the principle of working for God and not for men, and that now is not too soon to consider what you want your legacy to be.

Green sees the life of giving as a life of adventure. But it’s a life that pays the best rewards personally, offers a powerful legacy to your family, and changes those you touch.

David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby, the largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer in the world. He is soft-spoken, passionate about his faith, and dedicated to his family.

In 1970 David Green borrowed $600.00 to buy a molding chopper, set up shop in his garage at home, and started making miniature wooden picture frames. As of 2015, Hobby Lobby employs over 32,000 people, operates 600 stores in forty-seven states, and grosses 3.6 billion dollars a year.

David & his wife Barbara are the proud parents of two sons and one daughter, grandparents to ten, and great grandparents to eight.

Bill High practiced law for 12 years before becoming the CEO of the National Christian Foundation Heartland. His mission is to change the way people think about generosity and their practice of it. He is married to Brooke and they have four children, two son-in-laws, and one grandchild.


Want More?

Get the first 3 chapters of David Green’s new book Giving It All Away … And Getting It All Back Again, along with the exclusive article “Five Keys to Building a Family Legacy” by David Green.



The Bible Verses of Easter Week

What follows is a day-by-day biblical account of the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, assembled by Russ Ramsey (@russramsey), assistant pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee. This timeline reflects one possible breakdown of the events of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, based on the author’s best synthesis of the four Gospel accounts. Use this guide to lead you through Scripture reading this week.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Holy Week and Easter: The People, Places, and Events]

Palm Sunday

(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:9-19.)

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem perched up on a colt on Palm Sunday, it was the first time since raising Lazarus from the dead that He’d shown His face in the city. The story of Lazarus’ resurrection had circulated so that even those who only heard about it later regarded Jesus as a celebrity. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus. They went out to meet Him and received Him like a King, because they heard He had done this (John 12:18).

Jesus said Lazarus’ death would end in the faith of many, and in the “glory of God—that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). But the glory He had in mind was even more glorious than His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In fact, He wasn’t referring to the glory these people gave Him at all. Lazarus’ resurrection would steel the resolve of the religious leaders to hand Jesus over to a death He would freely accept—a death He would conquer. That was the glory He meant. As He rode into Jerusalem, the people cried, “Your King is coming!” They praised His victory over Lazarus’ death. But the irony was that He wasn’t coming to claim His crown on account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, but on account of His own.


(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48.)

If Jerusalem was a beehive, with His triumphal entry the day before, Jesus had hit it with a stick and you could hear the buzz grow as the anger within got organized. With that kingly arrival, He made a strong declaration about His authority over all the conventions of man.

On Monday, He returns for more, this time to declare the failure of His own people to live up to the covenantal mandate God had given them to be a blessing to the world. Much of what the Gospels tell us about Monday centers on the theme of Jesus’ authority—both over the created world and in His right to pass judgment over it. Everything Jesus did He did with authority. So when He woke His disciples Monday saying He wanted go back into Jerusalem to teach, as risky as it sounded it wasn’t surprising. But everyone sensed something stirring, as if Jesus had rounded a corner and His end was coming fast. He was a marked man.


(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 21:23-26:5, Mark 11:27-14:2, Luke 20:1-22:2, John 12:37-50.)

If Monday’s arrival in the temple was marked by Jesus’ all inclusive, living parable of cleansing God’s house, Tuesday’s entrance is marked by a direct, verbal confrontation with the appointed leadership. After Jesus makes the point that He refuses to regard these leaders as having any authority over Him, He elects to spend the rest of the day right there in the temple so that He might teach the people the word of God. But Tuesday afternoon would be the last time Jesus would publicly teach in the temple as a free man. His words on this day would be His closing argument—His manifesto.

When Jesus left the temple that Tuesday, “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him” (Mark 14:1). But they couldn’t take His life from Him solely on the strength of the charges they meant to bring—not if He defended Himself. But He would not. Instead, by His silence, He’d offer up His life for a world of blasphemers and traitors and liars who so desperately needed to be upset. This was what He had come to do, and as He left the temple that Tuesday afternoon, He knew He would do it soon.


(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, Luke 22:3-6.)

The past several days have been a rush of tension and anger for Jesus’ opponents and of unflinching resolve for Jesus. Words have been His currency, and He has spent piles of them. But on the Wednesday before His death, Jesus was still.

He was in the home of Simon the Leper, a man known by what was wrong with him. During their meal together, Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ sister (John 12:3), came to Jesus with an alabaster flask of perfume. She had been saving this perfume, worth a year’s wages, for this very occasion (John 12:7). She began to pour the perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, which required breaking open its container (Mark 14:3). Like popping the cork on a $20,000 bottle of champagne, this was a very intentional act. She was there to deliberately offer Jesus everything she had. By giving to Jesus her most valuable possession, she was expressing that she knew what He was about to give of Himself was for her.

What Mary did was beautiful and Jesus wanted everyone to know it. She was preparing Him for burial. There was honor and kindness in her gesture. He returned the honor by saying history would never forget her act of beauty. And we haven’t.


(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 26:17-75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-71, John 13:1-18:27.)

The Thursday prior to Jesus’ crucifixion fills many pages in Scripture. It begins with John and Peter securing the upper room. There, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, explaining He was there to make them clean.

As they begin to eat, Jesus announces one of them is about to betray Him. Each wonders if He means them. Then He dispatches Judas to do what he intends.

During this last supper, Jesus sets apart the Passover bread and cup and reassigns—or better, perfects—their meaning. The bread is His Body. The cup, His blood. This meal will no longer primarily remind them of God’s deliverance from the external tyranny of Pharaoh, but rather from the internal tyranny of their own guilt and sin against God.

Jesus prays for these His friends and those who will come to know Christ through them—that His Father would make them one (John 17). Then Jesus and His friends leave for the Mount of Olives to pray (Mark 14:33). But He isn’t there only to pray. He is also there to wait. Soon a line of torches snake their way toward Him in the darkness. This is what He has been waiting for.

Good Friday

(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 27:1-61, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, John 18:28-19:42.)

On Thursday night in Gethsemane, Jesus was arrested—betrayed by one of His own disciples and abandoned by the others. The Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin called for secret trials in the dead of night, and the verdict handed down was that Jesus would be crucified. This was something the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate, would have to execute. And reluctantly, he did.

After a severe beating, Jesus was nailed to a cross where He’d remain for six hours until dead. Never before or since had more been lost and gained at the same time as at Jesus’ crucifixion. The world gained the atoning sacrifice of Christ. But for those present, either the significance of the moment was lost on them or their hearts broke because the One they believed to be the Savior of the world was dying at the hands of Rome. They couldn’t stop it and they didn’t realize it was for them. They hoped in Him, and though He had told them He would suffer many things and rise three days later (Mark 8:31), how could they have possibly known this was what He meant?

Saturday—The Forgotten Day

(For the full account of the events of this day as found in the Gospels, see Matt 27:62-66.)

The Saturday following Jesus’ crucifixion might be the most unique and overlooked day in the history of the world—the day between Jesus’ death and His resurrection. Less is written about this day than any other in the scope of this week. Yet what makes it so unique is that this is the only full day in history where the body of the crucified Christ lay buried in a cave.

The day before, He was crucified. The following day He rises from the grave. But what about Saturday? Though we may not make much of this day, when we look at the few verses the Gospels give us accounting for it, we find this was by no means a forgotten day to the Chief Priests who had handed Jesus over to death. During His earthly ministry, Jesus said many times that He would die in Jerusalem at the hands of the Chief Priests, but on the third day rise again (Matt 12:40, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34).

Of course, the Chief Priests scoffed at this. But they didn’t forget it. On the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Jesus’ prediction preoccupied their thoughts such that they simply couldn’t leave it alone. Matthew 27:62-66 tells us the strange story of how they couldn’t seem to simply dismiss out of hand the possibility that Jesus might have known something they didn’t.

Resurrection Sunday

(For the full account of the events of this day, see Matt 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53, John 20:1-21:25.)

Early on this Sunday morning, some of Jesus’ friends set out to His grave to anoint the body of their friend and teacher. But when they arrived, they were greeted by what one of the Gospel writers calls “a man dressed in lightning.” He tells them Jesus is not there, as He said. He is risen.

In the week leading up to His death, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went out to meet the wolves of judgment, sin and death, and He did so with all authority. One might wonder, what good has it ever done anyone to die for some cause? This is the glorious beauty of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t die as a martyr for a cause. He was never in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was never at the mercy of anyone. He lived, died and was buried because He meant to be.

No one took His life from Him. He laid it down. For who? For His flock, His people. And He laid it down only to take it up again. The point of the cross was not to die, but to die and rise again, defeating the prowling wolves of sin and death themselves. He said, “I have authority to lay my life down, and I have authority to take it up again.” And this is just what he did. Easter says of Jesus, “He meant it! He meant to lay down His life for you. And as sure as he has taken it up again, he knows you.”

This post originally appeared at the Christ Presbyterian blog. © 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Bio: Russ Ramsey (Covenant Theological Seminary, MDiv, ThM) is assistant pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN. He’s the author of Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death, Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative.

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