What comes to mind when you think of the word anticipate?
You might hear the weather forecast and anticipate a lot of snow and cold. If you ever played a sport, you might be familiar with the skill of anticipation - being ready on your toes to steal the ball or catch a pass. I can remember counting the days before Christmas. The days before seemed to go by so slowly. The same is true for people waiting for a birthday. These are special days that we wait to arrive. The anticipation can feel like butterflies in your stomach when you start to think about them. It is exciting to have something to look forward to.
What if the word anticipation is more than just looking forward to a special day, skill, or prediction? What if God desires his people to have great expectations for celebrating the greatest day in history? The day that Christ was raised back to life!
In the Easter season, Christ-followers should look forward with anticipation in the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. This is the story that we live for! As we move closer to the times of worship and celebration of the empty tomb, there are a few things we can consider to prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday.
Anticipating the Triumphal Entry
Consider the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. We celebrate Palm Sunday as Jesus' arrival to the city of Jerusalem.
"As he was drawing near - already on the way down the Mount of Olives - the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'" (Luke 19:37-38 ESV).
Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 as he rides on a colt. Israel had been waiting for the Messiah to come. They were anticipating the promises of God to come true. They waived palm branches as he arrived in the city. Imagine being there and seeing all this take place. The Pharisees grumbled and questioned this event, yet Jesus said if the people were silent the very rocks would cry out (Luke 19:40).
As the people of Israel anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, we should also be eager for the age to come. With the great multitude, we will wave our palm branches for the Lamb!
"After this I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV).
The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem should stir us with anticipation for the day when we celebrate the Lamb of God with every tribe, nation, and tongue for eternity!
Anticipating the Cross
Consider the way Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus was with his disciples and they had just completed a lot of teaching and ministering together. He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and everything was moving at a very fast pace. They were about to enter into Samaria when Jesus did something remarkable in Luke 9:51.
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 ESV).
What does it mean that Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem? His sights were set on the city where he would have certain death on the cross. Jesus was clear about this to his disciples, and they didn’t understand him.
"And taking the twelve, he said to them, 'See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon" (Luke 18:31-32 ESV).
Jesus was anticipating his death, something he did frequently on the way to the cross. Luke 22:44 describes the anguish and burden of Jesus’ anticipation of the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we draw closer to Good Friday, let us anticipate with joy the precious gift the cross of Jesus gives to us. We proclaim and remember the Lord’s sacrifice until his return!
Anticipating the Empty Grave
Consider the empty grave. Jesus had told his disciples of his death in Luke 18:31-32, yet would they remember what else he had told them?
"And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Luke 18:33 ESV).
Easter Sunday begins with the women going to visit the tomb of Jesus. They brought burial spices to care for Jesus’ body, expecting that it would still be there. Were they expecting what would happen next?
"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.' And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest" (Luke 24:1-9 ESV).
The women were anticipating the body of Jesus to be there, but the stone was rolled away. They remembered the words of Jesus about his resurrection. They responded with excitement and ran to tell others about what they had witnessed! The same is true for us. As we discover the joy of Resurrection Sunday, we anticipate his return. We tell everyone we know about the empty tomb. We share the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection to all who will listen!
Anticipating His Return
Consider the return of Jesus. As we anticipate the day of his return, we are reminded that this place is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are waiting for our Savior to come again. In the meantime, we participate in the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV). We desire for all men, women, and children to know Christ. This is why we celebrate the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20 ESV).
How Will You Anticipate Easter?
Consider how you will anticipate Easter this year. Create a calendar for your family a week leading up to Easter and read a portion of the Easter story each day. Create a list of someone you can invite to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services. Begin praying for God to move in the hearts of those who do not have a relationship with him. The anticipation of Easter is active, not stagnant. We are called to eagerly look forward to all that God has in store. Celebrate Easter this year with great expectation of all that God has done and will continue to do!
Celebrating Holy Week at Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville
April 1, Maundy Thursday service: 6 or 7:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary
April 2, Good Friday service: 6:30 p.m. in the Worship Center
April 3 + 4, Easter service
- Modern: Saturday, 5 p.m. // Sunday, 9 or 11 a.m., 4 p.m.
- Classic: Sunday 8:15 or 10 a.m.