4. Death | Sealed: An Easter Devotion
Join us for our six-part Bible Study series, Sealed: An Easter Devotion, looking at what was sealed and established in Jesus' journey to the cross, through his death and resurrection and into eternity. The study is available to view online, on social media or freely printable for all in multiple sizes. It is available to use for anyone seeking to encounter Christ.
This six-part devotional was written by Mission Leader Rosy Keane of The Salvation Army Women's Ministries of New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The word ‘seal’ means to establish or secure something definitively. In the same manner, Sealed: An Easter Devotion will explore all that was established and secured through the six themes.
4. Death | Sealed: An Easter Devotion
‘‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered. ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’’ - Matthew 27:21-23
‘God desired that [humanity] should see him—that is, know him—and live, notwithstanding our fall; he promised a Saviour.’ - Catherine Booth (Popular Christianity)
Take your time as you cover this devotion. When recounting the death of a loved one, we get understandably moved. Spend time contemplating the all-consuming nature of Christ’s crucifixion for those who were present, as well as for yourself. ‘Was he really going to die?’, they must have thought. If he did, what would that mean for them?
We will be reading the same scripture a few times through to try and let Holy Spirit speak over us in new ways through the text.
Read Matthew 27:1-6, then reflect. Judas confesses his sin and seeks absolution in the religious leaders. They offer him none. What do you make of this? Is this significant?
Read Matthew 27:11-26. Here we have two men named Jesus, both facing crucifixion. Jesus Barabbas, the second man, was a ‘notorious prisoner’ known to stir up rebellion, and a murderer who had tried to overthrow the Roman government.
‘Barabbas’ means ‘son of Abba, father’. This very charge is what the chief priests used to condemn Jesus. ‘The high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ - Mark 14:61-62 What word would you use to describe the crowd calling out for Jesus Christ’s crucifixion? What would you feel, standing there? What do you imagine the disciples were doing as this happened?
Read Mark 15:1-47 twice, then reflect. Write down the ways that Jesus was hurt. Is there something that stuck out the second time? Read once more and keep a tally of the times Jesus was insulted.
We read, ‘Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee, these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.’ Why are the women mentioned? What were they doing, do you think?
John 19:30 says, ‘When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’ This was the seal of his death. Write down or draw your response to this scripture and image.
‘‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.’ - Matthew 27:65-68
‘Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.’ - Mark 15:19-20
‘They all condemned him as worthy of death.’ - Mark 14:64
With Christ’s worthy death on the cross, our deliverance from sin was sealed, just as the tomb was sealed to guard Christ’s lifeless body.
Jesus’ sacrifice meant that we could find our way into the Holy Place, set right by Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Prayer: Pray through the words of a worship song you love.
'Have you seen the crucified?
O wondrous love!
Do you know for all he died?
O wondrous love!
Have you seen
his thorn-crowned brow?
Have you felt the crimson now?
Do you his salvation know?
O wondrous love!'
- 243. The Salvation Army Songbook
Read this creative reflection on the events of the Crucifixion from the perspective of Pilate, Jesus and the poet. If you feel inspired after reading this, write a response and reflection on your own perspective.
Is There Not A Better Way by Rosy Keane
A reflection on Pilate:
'‘What I have written, I have written.’ said Pilate, weary,
The accusation of a leery crowd
against the ruler
is given so violently and
just as easily taken,
‘If you crucify him not,
you are no friend of Caesar!’
and with that weasley threat
mixing with confusion and sweat...
‘There are one hundred thousand strong witnesses!’
Pilate plaintively cries
‘Take this beam and crucify
This Man who sets himself up as
Write not that he is,
but that he
‘says’ I am.
Write not that he is, that is, the king, but that he says ‘I am.’’
Head in my hands
My wife’s note crumpled and shoved
Down the front of my robe
What would she know?
What does she know?
‘Have nothing to do with this innocent lamb, this sinless man.’
I’ve washed my hands but they’re still
A reflection on Jesus:
It is beyond excruciating
I, the Lord, love justice
And yet there are two criminals hanging
Left and right beside me,
like so much washing
Life ebbing away as the
morning approaches evening
And I do not rebuke them
One is insulting, while the other is broken: ‘He has done nothing,
Jesus, remember me
when you come to your kingdom.’
I have come for captives’ freedom
I have come to restore new Eden
I have come that there is no word ‘heathen’ but blessed, redeemed and the price paid even
as they take their pound of flesh
(Plus one hundred and fifty pounds more)
The butcher’s blocks
Hoisted into a cross
And the pounds whipped off
by the cat-o-nine
Nine am when they hung me
Three on a hill
Three in the Trinity
One crying still
Why have thou forsaken me?’
A crown plaited well
No daisy chain
But shredded palms remain
From the frenzied forging
Of rabid statesmen
thorn, barb, spear
kill, lie, steal
Sharp objects, no beauty laurel
No job well done, for now, just a deeply gouged brow, sweat drops and real blood, my eyes bruised shut.
The oil of joy
is so far from me
I hear the distant thump
of war drums, or blood rushing in my ear drums...
'This day you’ll join me in paradise.’
The woman of Bethany
The woman of Mary
Their oil heralded victory
A king is born
And so a King must die.
Hebrew, Latin and Greek
These accusations run deep
The writing is on the wall of heaven
The King of the Jews. Surely this was,
Surely I AM.
The garment of praise
is less luxurious mink
than a technicolour nightmare-coat
The Father’s favourite son
Torn apart by wolves
‘I had a dream, brothers and sisters – you all bowed down and worshipped me.’
The choir must be warming up
Holding breaths, waiting for the conductor but the Harmony of Heaven is hung on a tree
So this is Victory?
A reflection from now:
Sometimes I wonder why I keep looking to see success as marked out by modernists or historians,
rather than what my Saviour says:
A rooster is crowing, knowing my three-time denial and yet,
I am still a rock that gets to
build the church.
Sometimes I marvel at Pilate’s
Ineffective chess moves –
Pawn takes Rook(ie),
Bishop takes King
Stalemate. ‘What I have written, I have written.’ A final act of defiance.
Sometimes I wonder that the robe of purple and crown of thorns
that assaulted my Saviour
as he was slapped and sworn at
still didn’t come close to the
crowning glory of a dirty
burial shroud, an empty tomb,
the Broken Bread, and a broiled fish:
‘I am flesh and bone
Take this cup from me and yet
not I will, but,
‘What I have Written, I have Written’
And now I am writing to say, I agree. And so also,
in the same way