His body abused. His hands hammered into wood. Feet smashed against a splintery cross. Blood pouring down His arms and legs. A crown of thorns poking into His forehead. And insults being thrown at Him left and right.
This is Jesus. The King of the Jews. Murdered on a cross for the sins of humanity. And on this Good Friday, we remember His perfect sacrifice unto the Father. We reflect upon the beauty of Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death.
The story of Esther unfolds in a kingdom—the Persian Empire of King Ahasuerus. And as followers of Christ, we exist for a King and His eternal Kingdom.
This week, we read how Esther is prepared for her one-night stand with King Ahasuerus. We read how she presents herself to the king. And how he throws a celebration in her honor.
But we belong to a Kingdom with a better King named Jesus Christ. So, with that in mind, let’s see how we experience a better preparation, presentation, and celebration than Esther.
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10 ESV).
Shortly before writing this, the apostle Paul described a time when he was “caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2) and “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (v. 4). Now, in response to those revelations, Paul talks about a thorn that keeps him humble and dependent on Christ. And that’s what I want to write about today.
Hope can be hard to come by — at least, that’s what people think. According to the American Psychological Association, the suicide rate in the United States has risen nearly 33 percent since 1999. Nothing so clearly suggests a lack of hope.
Maybe it’s because we have an arsenal of feeble hopes. Money and relationships. Power and possessions. But none of those things last forever. And when those feeble hopes disappear, we think we have no hope at all.
In Psalm 73, the author contemplates whether or not he should be like those who disobey God. After all, he writes, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind” (v. 3-5 ESV).
The psalmist finds himself examining the lives of the ungodly. And what an easier life it seems to be. One in which the ways of God are rejected. The desires of the flesh fulfilled. The riches of the world consumed.
In fact, the psalmist continues, “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (v. 12-13 ESV).