Holy Week: A Family Ministry Devotional
Below, you will find six devotions for you to experience individually or share with your family. Take some time each day to read over the Bible stories listed and discuss the questions provided. We encourage you to go deeper and ask your own questions as you ponder the passages or listen to your child’s responses and questions.
For the Family Devotion, we have utilized the Jesus StoryBook Bible and have also listed the corresponding Scripture with each of the devotions.
Today | Saturday, March 31
What’s In a Sign? – Matthew 12:40
"For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:40
"...yet you brought up my life from the pit..." Jonah 2:6
On October 14, 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell into a well in a backyard in Midland, Texas. Rescuers would work for 58 hours to free "Baby Jessica" from the eight-inch wide well-casing that extended 22 feet below the ground. Although the rescuers immediately began working to save Jessica, they did not reach her until the third day. As the news spread throughout the country, the nation rejoiced that "Baby Jessica" had been delivered from the well.
In Matthew 12:40, Jesus responds to the Pharisees' request for a sign by proclaiming that just as Jonah was in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights that he, in like manner, would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. But what would the three days and three nights in the heart of the earth signify? And what did the three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish signify for Jonah?
In Jonah's refusal of God's command to go and preach to the people of Nineveh, God caused a storm to arise and it threatened to destroy the boat Jonah was traveling on. In order to save the lives of the other sailors, Jonah commanded that the sailors throw him overboard. When Jonah was thrown into the ocean, God caused a great fish to swallow him. Jonah would spend three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Without God's intervention, Jonah would have drowned. The fish did not mean Jonah any harm but was sent to preserve Jonah's life. After the fish expelled Jonah onto the shore, Jonah said a prayer of thanksgiving to God. In the last line of Jonah's prayer he says, "Salvation belongs to The Lord." Jonah's three days in the belly of the great fish signified that the power to save and deliver belonged to God and God alone.
The three days and three nights that Jesus would spend in the belly of the earth signified the same thing. Jesus was crucified, and he died. He was laid in a tomb without life in his body. However, on the third day, God restored life to his body. God delivered Jesus from the tomb. The three days that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:40, signifies that salvation and deliverance belong to God. The miracle of the resurrection is meant not only to signify something, but it is also to testify to the deity of Jesus (Romans 1:4), for only God has the power to resurrect. This was the undeniable truth that the Pharisees refused to acknowledge.
Salvation truly belongs to the Lord, even in the case of "Baby Jessica." Jessica McClure would have died in that well, but God used rescuers to save her, to deliver her. During the course of our lives, there will be many situations that we will need to be delivered from. Those situations may come in varying degrees of difficulty; however, it is God, and only God, who can truly deliver us.
What situations do you need God to deliver you from today?
Whatever it may be, pray to God as Jonah did, "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me." Jonah 2:2
Always remember, salvation belongs to the LORD!
Friday, March 30
It Is Finished – John 19
Take some time in the morning, midday, and evening to reflect on John 19. Use the following devotion to lead you during these times.
Morning Meditation – Christ as King (John 19:1-15)
What is your response to Christ as King? This passage shows many ways people respond to Christ as their Ruler. The soldiers mock Jesus as King, Pilot sees himself as King, and the chief priests deny Jesus as King. This is a passage that simply shows how Jesus as King is a threat to a personal agenda. Take some time to meditate and reflect on how we, in our sin, respond to Jesus as King. Let this passage remind us how Christ suffered for the sin of the world. Rely on the Holy Spirit to convict, not condemn you, at this time.
Midday Meditation – It Is Finished (John 19:16-30)
This passage shows us how the enemies of Christ unknowingly participate in God’s plan of redemption. Pilot’s inscribed words, “King of the Jews,” are true in a much more profound way than he or those around him realized. Those who denied Christ as King are more concerned with the inscription on the cross rather than the work on the cross. The soldiers are more concerned with the perishable items of Christ rather than eternal life through Christ. Jesus responds to all these reactions and to the sin of the world with the words “It is finished.” These powerful words, “It is finished,” show God’s plan of redemption will not be changed by the way of the world. As you read this passage on the crucifixion, meditate on the words, “It is finished,” and how these words point us the redemption we have through Christ.
Evening Meditation – Scripture Fulfilled (John 19:31-42)
In this passage, the fulfillment of Scripture is seen through the piercing of his side, none of his bones breaking, and a grave provided by a rich man. Even though Jesus would lie in the tomb, Scripture says he would rise in three days. Scripture points us to the hope we have in the work of Christ. As you meditate on these verses, focus on the hope we have in Christ, and how he did conquer the grave.
Read “God’s Wonderful Surprise” (pp. 310-317) in the Jesus StoryBook Bible. (If you don’t have a Jesus StoryBook Bible, you can read Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20.)
Today’s reading is about Jesus’ resurrection, which is when Jesus came back to life. Jesus knew he had to die so that we could be brought back to God. Jesus taught that to his disciples many times. He also told them something else would happen. He told them that after three days, he would rise.
1. How do we know that we are alive? It sounds like a strange question, but how do we know that we are alive?
(Breathing, thinking, talking, moving, etc.) When someone is dead, they cannot do any of those things. We read last time that Jesus died and was buried. Jesus wasn’t pretending to be dead. He really was dead. Jesus died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. But that was NOT the end of Jesus.
2. What makes Jesus different from every other religious leader in history? What makes him different from every other human being in history?
He lived a sinless and righteous life. So, death had no claim on him. It could not hold him. Jesus was, as the apostle tells us, “vindicated by the Spirit.” Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. He is alive! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
This is the great truth that we celebrate during Easter. Jesus was dead, but now he is alive! But this is not all! Because Jesus’ resurrection is the central event in our own vindication and salvation, we can also have life.
PRAY and thank the Lord that the God we serve is more powerful than death, and that through his son, Jesus, we have life. Thank Him for loving us, and calling us each by name.
Thursday, March 29
The Sacrificial Lamb of God – Mark 14:12-25
This portion of Scripture begins with the Passover meal with the disciples and ends with Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. The thread which runs from one to the other is the sacrifice of body and blood. If we look deeply, we feel the heart of God’s stunning glory here. He is merciful to forgive, without overlooking our sins. His glory revealed in that he provides the sacrifice to atone for the sin and overcome his own wrath.
Jesus has been clearly identified as the sacrificial lamb. He was giving instructions indicating that his body and blood would replace the Passover memorial. And that the new ritual would be used by his people to remember his death and sacrifice until he returns a second time.
There are striking correlations between the Old Testament Passover meal as depicted in Exodus 12 and the New Testament Lord’s Supper. In the original instructions, there had to be an unblemished lamb slain and eaten in a fellowship meal, and the blood had to be sprinkled upon the doorposts of the home in which the sacrifice was eaten.
In the scene described in these passages, Jesus not only self-identifies as the sacrificed one but calls his disciples into a deep relationship with him. No mere observation of the sacrifice would suffice. Christ himself served them, and they responded by eating the bread and drinking the wine. Let us ponder the significance. We literally partake of and participate in the life of our Savior, the sacrificial lamb.
These rituals, of course, move far beyond mere dramatizations into glimpses of our great God and Savior. At the very heart of God’s glory is his relentless giving of himself to us who oppose and are hard-hearted towards his kindness. What a God who came to serve, not be served.
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Read “The Sun Stops Shining” (pp. 302-309) in the Jesus StoryBook Bible. (If you don’t have a Jesus StoryBook Bible, you can read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19.)
1. Could Jesus have saved himself, and not died on the cross?
Yes, he could have come down off of the cross. He could have called angels from heaven, too. It wasn’t the nails that kept him on the cross, it was his love for us.
2. Why did he choose to die?
He died because he loves us so much. This is not the end of the story though!
3. Where did they put Jesus after he died?
PRAY and thank the Lord for Jesus, our rescuer.
Wednesday, March 28
What is Enough? – Isaiah 53:7-12
Down through history, men and women have wondered, “What is enough to satisfy God?” Old Testament Judaism addressed this question with animal sacrifice. Modern-day rabbis teach that prayer and good works now serve as the Jew’s sacrifice for their sin. Actually, all religions but gospel-centered Christianity have similar answers to this question.
“What is enough” can be answered with certainty only if there was an infinite or “ultimate sacrifice.” The answer of Christianity resides in Jesus, the infinite Son of God. In Isaiah, he is called Yahweh’s exalted Servant who acts wisely and who serves majestically (52:13). The last half of Isaiah 53 describes how this Servant is unjustly mistreated and destroyed. This Servant of infinite value wins God’s favor by an act of sacrifice that pleases the Father. In the sacrifice, God the Father crushes the Servant (53:10) so that he might “make many to be accounted righteous” by “bearing their iniquities” (53:11). The payment for wrongs committed by God’s lost sheep is the punishment borne by THE “Ultimate Sacrifice.”
This is the good news of the Gospel! This is what we celebrate at Easter! There should be no more need for uncertainty in the worship of the Christian. The infinite value of Jesus pays the price that must be paid for the sin of God’s lost sheep. Prayers and good works add nothing to the infinite value of the “ultimate sacrifice.” They are the natural and loving response to a merciful and just God by those delivered from the uncertainty of “what is enough?”
Read “A Dark Knight in the Garden” (pp. 294-301) in the Jesus Story Book Bible (If you don’t have a Jesus Story Book Bible, you can read Luke 22, Mark 14, John 18.)
1. Why was Jesus so sad in the garden?
God was going to pour into Jesus’ heart all the sadness and brokenness in people’s hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus’ body all the sickness in people’s bodies. God was going to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong (JSB p. 294).
2. What was the worst part of Jesus dying going to be?
Jesus was going to not be with God; he was going to lose God because that is the punishment for sin that Jesus was taking on for us. (JSB p. 295).
3. Even though Jesus was scared and upset, did he still trust God? Did he still obey him?
Yes. Obeying God means following with our hearts and our actions.
4. Think of a time when you were scared and upset. Can you still trust God in those times even though you might not understand what is happening? Yes
5. Could Jesus have stopped the soldiers from arresting him?
Yes. Jesus can do anything.
6. Why didn’t Jesus stop them?
He was obeying God. He knew that God sent him to die for our sins, and being arrested was part of the plan.
7. Why was Jesus born into the world?
To die for our sins. All this was God’s rescue plan, and Jesus knew all about it. Jesus died to take the punishment for our sin.
8. What is sin?
Sin is when you ignore God, or run away from God, or think you can live without God, or make something else your god. We are all trying to run away from God. We all sin, and so we need Jesus to rescue us. He came to save us. He is our rescuer. He tells us that he came to earth to die instead of us. He forgives us of all our sins and makes us clean on the inside – in our hearts.
PRAY and ask God for strength when we are under pressure, to obey His commands, and to repay evil with good.
Tuesday, March 27
Suffering Servant - Isaiah 53:1-6
In Genesis 3:15, we get a glimpse that the story does not end with the fall, but that God has a plan that involves someone who will “bruise the head of the serpent.” At first, it is not clear who this person is, or how God’s plan will be accomplished, but as God’s story of salvation unfolds through the Old Testament, the focus becomes more clear, and nowhere in the Old Testament does the Gospel shine more clearly than in Isaiah 53 – the Lord’s servant will rise up (vv. 1-2), feel the rejection of men (v. 3), and suffer the punishment of God to bring healing and restoration (vv. 4-6). Who is the Lord’s servant? Jesus Christ.
Yet people did not celebrate him as their savior; they rejected him. He did nothing wrong and did not deserve to suffer, yet he suffered the most. Why? He chose it (Phil. 2:8). Jesus is the shepherd who sacrificed himself for his sheep. He is the king that took the place of his rebellious people. He was pierced and crushed in our place! And here, in his sacrifice, is the heart of the Gospel – substitution. And here in Christ’s suffering and substitution salvation is found (v. 5). What an incredible God we serve, and what an incredible hope we have!
Follower of Christ, as you reflect on the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, and his great substitutionary work that takes away your sin and condemnation, be strengthened in the assurance of your salvation. The righteous lamb brings us peace and healing by the chastisement and wounds he took upon himself (v 5).
Read “The Servant King” (pp. 286-293) in the Jesus Story Book Bible. (If you don’t have a Jesus Story Book Bible, you can read Mark 14 and John 13-14.)
1. What is so unusual about a servant king?
Jesus showed us how we are supposed to treat others. Jesus is the KING! What does a king look like? What does he do? Can you imagine if a king came to our church and cleaned all the bathrooms? Well, Jesus is more powerful than any king, but he still came to earth to love and help his people. We should also find ways to love and help each other. How can we do that?
2. What does it mean that we need to be clean on the inside?
Jesus also came to earth for another reason. He came to save us. He is our rescuer. He tells us that he came to earth to die instead of us. And he forgives us of all our sins. And makes us clean on the inside – in our hearts.
3. Why do you think Judas decided to betray Jesus?
4. What did Jesus use as the symbol for his body (the bread)? For his blood (the wine)?
When you have made a decision to confess your need for Jesus and follow His ways, you will also eat the bread and drink the wine to remind you of what Jesus has done for you and how much he loves you.
PRAY and thank God for sending His son, Jesus to rescue us and teach us his ways. Ask him to teach us how to be a servant, just like Jesus.
Monday | March 26
God’s Plan to Redeem Us – Psalm 22
King David lived about 1,000 years before Jesus was born. In addition to being Jesus’ great, great, great, etc. grandfather, he was a man who sought the Lord and wrote many of the Psalms. Psalm 22 is known primarily for the prophecy of the details of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is amazing that God revealed the detail of how his one and only son would die over a 1,000 years before the events of Jesus’ death occurred.
David starts out the Psalm with the famous words that Jesus spoke on the cross years later: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” David spoke these words about his own feelings and then Jesus also spoke them right before he died. Jesus spoke these words due to God, in a way we do not fully understand, turning from his son while Jesus bore all of our sin on the cross. The pain this caused Jesus must have far outweighed the physical pain he was feeling. Remember, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have existed together in perfect community for all of eternity. Then, in order to make a way for us sinners who deserve nothing but punishment for our sin and rebellion against God, Jesus came to this earth to show us how to live the perfect life we should have lived, but did not, and then died a death that all of us deserved to die for our sins. Jesus took upon himself our sin, and due to this fact, God forsook him for a time. This is a profound and humbling truth that is central to understanding the meaning of Easter.
Psalm 22 shows us that God had a perfect plan of how he was going to redeem us to himself long before Jesus was even born on this earth. In this Psalm, David expounds on the details of the crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was mocked, all his bones were out of joint, his tongue stuck to his jaws from thirst, his hands and feet were pierced, they cast lots for his clothes, etc.). God knew that David needed a redeemer just like all of us need a redeemer. We cannot redeem ourselves, because we are sinners in need of God’s grace, so his plan for our redemption was found in Jesus’ work on the cross.
Verse 23 states: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him all you offspring of Israel!”
This Easter, those of you who fear the Lord because you know that he is God and that he has sent a redeemer, a savior in Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God, praise him, and stand in awe of a God who had a plan of how to redeem us even before he created us in the first place. To God be the glory for the great things he has done!
Read “Washed with Tears” (pages 280-285) from the Jesus StoryBook Bible. (If you don’t have a Jesus StoryBook Bible, you can read the account of the woman washing Jesus’ feet from Mark 14, Luke 7, and John 12.)
Discussion Questions and Answers
1. What did the woman in the story do for Jesus?
She washed his feet with perfume.
2. Why did the other people at the dinner think the lady had done the wrong thing?
The perfume was very fancy and cost a lot of money – as much as someone would make in an entire year! They thought she wasted it, but Jesus stood up for her and said that by doing that she showed that she knew she’d never be good enough on her own, that she needed Jesus to rescue her. Because she loved and trusted Jesus, he said her sins were forgiven! The same is true for us. When we believe and trust in Jesus as our rescuer, our sins are forgiven!
The “important people” (who the Bible calls pharisees) were angry that Jesus would even allow this woman to touch him because she was a sinner. The Pharisees were acting like they thought they were better than this woman because their behavior was better on the outside than hers, but they too were sinning in their hearts. You see, sin can be in our hearts even when we do right things – that is why we all need a savior.
3. What are our hearts like? Are we proud of our good behavior, family, good grades, popularity, etc., or do we realize that we are sinners that have received God’s grace (unearned favor and forgiveness)?
(Parents: Try to share an age-appropriate example from your life where you’ve confessed to God being self-righteous or judging of others instead of seeing all of your righteousness through Christ’s work alone).
Unfortunately in this world it is easy to be “entangled” in sin and sometimes we see other people’s sin and not our own. It is important to remember that Jesus loved sinners and that we are justified by God’s grace and no one is righteous, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:22-24.
PRAY and thank God for being a loving Father and that there is nothing we can do to separate us from the love of the Father. Help us to see our need for Jesus and to repent of our sins.