PASSION WEEK: RESURRECTION SUNDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” Mark 16:5-7

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

Today is Resurrection Sunday! There is no greater day in the history of the universe—nothing trumps it. Today Satan is stomped, sin subdued, and death itself is turned backwards. Easter is the defining day of humanity. There is no other day more provocative or preeminent in the history of mankind. Christ’s birth is amazing, but without the crucifixion it is just a miraculous birth story. The crucifixion is remarkable, but without the resurrection there is no victory and Jesus is just another religious teacher whose bold claims are shattered each moment the stone stayed in place. The resurrection shows without doubt that Jesus was and is God and that the price has been paid.

For believers, today is the day of true, real, and lasting hope. Today Christmas is the most prominent Christian celebration—whether or not the people celebrating are Christians at all! Historically though, Easter, Resurrection Sunday, has been the most celebrated Christian holiday. The birth of Christ is essential to Christian orthodoxy. We look at Christmas with great hope and joy, celebrating God coming near to us. We decorate our homes, have parties, our streaming platforms are populated with favorite Christmas movies, we take days off, kids are granted a break from school, participate in family traditions and all because of the birth of a baby.

But Resurrection Sunday is different. Not as many people observe or participate in it. On the surface, it’s much easier to get behind the birth of a baby than to celebrate the crucifixion of a 33-year-old Jewish carpenter. It’s much harder to find your favorite crucifixion movie. What happened on the cross is not something we invite our friends over to celebrate. Most of us don’t have many resurrection celebrations, our traditions surrounding this historic day are generally relegated to a single Sunday afternoon meal. While Christmas is essential, even foundational for understanding who Christ is, only two Gospels—Matthew and Luke—refer to it. All four Gospels spend considerable time recounting the details of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This significant focus on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ over against the incarnation is because the resurrection proved everything Jesus said was true.

While celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection goes largely overlooked in wider society, these are precisely the days we must remember most. The crucifixion is a time of solemn remembrance as we seek to understand in greater depth what God did for us by sending his Son to die for us. But the resurrection gives us hope. We all need hope—the belief that things will get better for us in the future. Even as our world seems to erupt with one controversy after another, as politicians promises prove to be cannon fodder for disenfranchised and frustrated constituents, and as the endless banality of our online existence seems to lull us into a cultural slumber, the person of Jesus on the other side of the resurrection is a shock to the doldrums of a worldly status quo. It is a hope that awakens us to what is real and true. Jesus’ life and words are validated by the resurrection. His teaching on the end of time is given a glorious exclamation point rather than a question mark.

We have hope. We need not be afraid at what the future holds. We need not be afraid that present injustices will escape future punishment. God will do everything he has ever said. We can bathe in the hope that springs up from that dusty old tomb and joyously swim in it. There is hope beyond the grave! Every single word from Jesus’ lips was validated that day. His claims to forgive sin, to give us life, to judge wickedness and reward righteousness, to satisfy our every need took on new meaning on Resurrection Sunday. We have hope for today and for tomorrow! We can be courageous, because in the resurrected Jesus we have eternity as our inheritance and nothing can take that—him!—away from us! Praise the name of the Lord both now and forevermore.  Amen.

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

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PASSION WEEK: HOLY SATURDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” Matthew 27:62-65

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

We have all experienced disappointment, failed dreams, heartbreak and perhaps even death. Jesus’ death on Good Friday brought them all. Hope was crushed. Dreams were dashed. The shock was still there the next morning. He was dead. How was he dead? What about all that he had taught? How had everything gone so badly so quickly?

The crucified Son was buried, and the hopes of the disciples were buried with him. One wonders what thoughts filled their minds the next day. Everything that they knew, loved, and hoped for was gone. In an ironic twist, the chief priests and the Pharisees prove to be greater men of faith and better theologians than the disciples. They remembered Jesus’ words, so they went before Pilate with a request: have the tomb secured. They remembered Jesus saying he would rise from the dead after three days. Curiously, the disciples didn’t expect this even though they had walked, talked, ate, slept, and spent almost every waking moment with Jesus for the last three years. Their understanding was clouded. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that everything Jesus taught them made sense.

It was the time in-between. It was the time when the hammer of truth shaped the sword of faith. And it was the time when fallen man tried to thwart the plan and purpose of Almighty God.

Men may try and disprove or even try to stop Christ, but all our attempts are ultimately futile. Protestations may find a sympathetic crowd for a time, but truth will ultimately silence the objections of faithlessness.

God cannot be stopped any more than an ant can stop a tsunami. The chief priests and Pharisees didn’t actually have more faith than the disciples. They believed that the disciples would steal the body and plant the rumor that he was alive. They understood that if that were to happen, then we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”Pilate agreed to their request and provided soldiers to guard the tomb. The soldiers didn’t know it, but they didn’t need to guard against someone breaking into the tomb—they needed to try to keep Jesus from getting out!

Jesus did rise from the dead. The Jewish leadership couldn’t stop him. Glorious Rome couldn’t stop him. Sin couldn’t stop him. Not even death could stop him. One day later he would rise and turn the world upside down.

As we look forward to celebrating his resurrection tomorrow morning, let’s pause and thank God for his indescribable gift:

Father God, we are thankful that you sent your Son to die for us. And we thank You that He rose from the dead! Thank you for forgiveness and thank you for the new life and hope that we have in Jesus Christ! The old is passing away and the new has come! May you be praised both now and forevermore! Amen.

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: GOOD FRIDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

“Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.” Mark 15:27

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

There are mysteries in our world that most of us struggle to understand. There are events that stick in our minds because of their significance. Rarely do these mysteries and events come together, but they do in the crucifixion of Jesus. This event is a mystery that astounds philosophers, provokes unbelievers, silences doubters, and awakens a sense of awe, invoking a holy hush across creation.

Good Friday was the holiest of days. God in flesh reconciling a sinful world to himself is beyond unfathomable. That Jesus—the Son of God, Creator, Sustainer, and eternal Word, the purest of the pure, the second Adam, in whom is the fullness of Deity—could be crucified by his sinful creation extends past the limits of our finite reasoning.

The night had been exhausting. After observing the Passover Seder with his disciples in the upper room, he went with them to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). There he poured out his heart to his Father in prayer as his disciples slept. But their brief respite gave way to anger and fear as Judas arrived with an armed mob to arrest Jesus and take him away. The disciples all fled, leaving Jesus utterly alone. Perhaps no one was hurting more than the bold and zealous Peter, who just a few hours before had pledged that he would die with Jesus (Matthew 26:31-35). But overzealous declarations in peacetime all too often flee in the face of conflict. Fear and self-preservation rear their heads. What could make Peter deny Jesus? An angry mob? The Pharisees and Sadducees? No, a simple servant girl’s question was all that was needed (Matthew 26:69-75).

Betrayed and abandoned, all four Gospels record the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion (Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19). Jesus endured the kangaroo courts of the religious and secular leaders of the day: Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin (the religious ruling body), Annas, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again, all acted as the judges and juries against God’s Son. No charges could be proven. Only false witnesses and the call for death by crowds spurred on by cruel jealousy and sanctimonious hypocrisy. The guilt of the crowds is seen most clearly in their call to free the rebel Barabbas instead of Jesus. Barabbas was an unrighteous man whose life was spared as a reward for others’ hypocrisy. Jesus was the righteous man who would give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus was tried and convicted. He was then flogged—a cruel and horrific punishment that often proved fatal. The condemned was tied to a post and beaten with a leather whip, which was interwoven with pieces of bone and metal designed to tear into the skin and tissue, often revealing bones and intestines.

After the flogging, the soldiers wanted to have one last bit of fun. They gathered the whole battalion before Jesus, stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. But their mockery was not yet complete. They twisted together a crown of thorns and placed it on his head and placed a reed in his right hand as a staff. In mockery and in jest they knelt before him as they would a Caesar, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:29). Then they spit on him, took the reed from his hand and struck him on the head with it. Their game over, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him and led him away to be crucified.

Jesus made his way to Golgotha, barely able to walk, exhausted, beaten, and in great pain. When he could no longer carry the cross, Simon of Cyrene was drafted to carry it for him. Finally, they crucified him between two thieves.

Jesus’ suffering and humiliation was immense. Stripped naked and crucified as an enemy of Rome, his degradation was not yet complete. Pilate placed a sign written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew above His head: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. There was to be no mistake—Jesus was a king. And although the declaration was motivated by sinful mockery, it would prove to be an ironic sign of majestic and divine victory.

Jesus was and is the King. He died that Good Friday in order to provide us with redemption. We all deserve the wrath of God, but Jesus took God’s wrath upon himself. He endured the shame and humiliation for us. Through the mystery of Jesus’ death on the cross, God reconciled us to himself.

According to Scripture, we are spiritual criminals, enemies of God (Romans 5:8). The position Jesus took between two thieves should have been ours. But that holy day, the guiltless took the place of the guilty in order to pay the price our sins required.

There is a mysterious and almost surreal freedom that comes with the cross, but freedom does come. He paid the price that was beyond our ability to pay. He did not do it begrudgingly. He was not coerced or in any way forced. He did it freely and willingly so that we might be spared God’s wrath and have an eternal relationship with him.

On this good Friday, pause, reflect on what Jesus did for us. Confess any known sin to him. Freely embrace the forgiveness that is yours because of what Jesus did. Then marvel and praise him for the freedom, joy, and peace that is now yours because of the mystery of that wonderful cross.

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: MAUNDY THURSDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” Mark 14:22-25

by Travis Michael Fleming

Christians all around the world observe communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, but rarely do we understand the depth of history behind it or all that it points to. The Lord’s Supper provides us a visible and tangible reminder of who God is, who we are, what he has done for us, and what he is going to do at the end of time.

On his last night with his disciples, Jesus had one last meal with his disciples in an upper room (Luke 22:12-13). The meal was the traditional Passover Seder, instituted by Moses to commemorate the night God set the Israelites free from their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-28). Jews were told to sacrifice the Passover lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes so that when the destroyer came to kill the firstborn in the land of Egypt, the firstborn in that house would be spared (cf. Exodus 11:4-7; 12:12-13, 22-28). It was only after the death of the firstborn sons in the land that Pharaoh finally released the Israelites from their slavery.

The Passover not only pointed back to what God had done, but also pointed forward to the day when God’s people be free from the greater bondage of sin and death through Jesus. The Israelites had the lamb’s blood over their doorpost, but Jesus would be the ultimate and final Passover Lamb (John 1:29), his blood would cover the hearts of all those who take refuge in him, protecting them from final judgment (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.” Mark 14:24.

Jesus was presenting himself as the true Passover Lamb who would redeem his people from their sins. He was also looking to the day of ultimate redemption when the Kingdom of God would be realized in its fullness as seen in the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven (Revelation 19:9-10).

The Lord’s Supper then is a visible reminder of what God has done in Jesus to provide us with salvation and what he will do at the end of time when Jesus comes again. Observing the Lord’s Supper together keeps these truths in front of us, focusing us on what is right and true so that we do not forget. The Passover Seder, this amazing memorial for all Jews to remember God’s deliverance from Egypt, now serves as a pathway to see Jesus, the true lamb of God, who did more than deliver us from an earthly tyrant, he delivered us from an even more evil and heinous enemy—the enemy of sin and death.

Today, take time to pause, reflect, and remember who God is and what he has given to you because of Jesus. Find a piece of paper and write out what God has done for you in Christ. Remind yourself that he freed you from your sin through Jesus. He doesn’t hold it against you any longer. He has made you into a new creation. Do not be caught up in the distracting headlines of the day or believe lie that sin still reigns over you. Instead, let the breeze of God’s Holy Spirit blow away the fog of sin, unbelief, and shame, focusing your mind and emboldening your heart to draw near to him in this time of grace. 

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: SPY WEDNESDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.” Matthew 26:14-16

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

Perhaps the most despicable event in the history of the world is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. He was one of the twelve apostles, the treasurer of the group, and a thief (John 12:6). From the moment Judas first appears in the Gospels, he is identified as the one who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16; John 6:71). His act of betrayal became the defining moment of his life. Jesus himself said it would have been better if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21). After his death, the apostles said Judas went to “where he belongs” (Acts 1:25), a veiled reference to hell.

The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is unimaginable to us. How could this man who had walked with Jesus for three years, heard his words, and seen his miracles, betray him? The thought boggles the mind! Judas had seen the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the demon-possessed freed, and the dead come to life! He had tasted of the bread and fish Jesus had multiplied, seen him walk on water, and watched him calm the storm. Experiencing it all makes Judas’ betrayal even more heinous and baffling. Acting in ignorance is one thing, but to deceitfully betray Jesus after witnessing everything he had seen Christ do? Deplorable!

Just prior to Passion Week, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, when a woman came to him with an alabaster flask of very costly oil (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11). She broke the flask and poured it on his head as he sat at the table, but some people there were indignant and considered her act a terrible waste, chief among them was Judas. Why not sell it (it was worth a great deal of money), and use the money for the poor? Jesus rebuked them, declaring that she was anointing him for burial, and her act would be remembered wherever the good news of Jesus would be preached.

We don’t know exactly when Judas’ desire to betray Jesus started, but Matthew and Mark bring up this event at the same time as his betrayal, (even though it chronologically taken place before Holy Week), indicating at least that it influenced him. Perhaps Jesus’ commendation of the woman’s act was too much for him. Perhaps his greedy heart couldn’t take Jesus’ admiration for an act he considered to be a waste (even though he didn’t actually care about the poor, but only wanted an opportunity to use the money for himself). Or maybe Judas’ finally realized that Jesus would not be the Messiah he wanted. Whatever the case— bitterness, hate, disillusionment or greed—Judas opened himself up to Satan (Luke 22:3-4). That Wednesday thus became known as “Spy Wednesday” because it was then that Judas committed to betraying Jesus.

Judas’ life is a giant warning beacon to all of us. We do not walk with Jesus physically as Judas did, but we can surely experience blessings including the fellowship of God’s people, hear wonderful sermons, and even sense the presence of God—and still be an unbeliever. Judas’ life is a call for us to do a spiritual heart check. Where are we at with the Savior? Do we love him for who he is as the woman with the alabaster flask? Or are we like Judas, appearing to love him but really only feigning loyalty as a means to get what we want?

Let us throw off any unbelief and lay our hearts bare before him! Throw yourself at the feet of Jesus and praise him for his unbelievable love and mercy! And if you know in your heart that you have not truly trusted in him, take a moment now to repent of your sin and place your faith in him! And if you are a believer whose heart has grown cold, ask God by his Holy Spirit to rekindle a fire in your heart that burns brightly and passionately for him!

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: HOLY TUESDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’” Mark 12:41-44

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

It was on Tuesday that Jesus took on the Pharisees and Sadducees—two of the most influential religious groups of the day—over such subjects as faith, marriage in heaven, paying taxes, and the source of his authority (Matthew 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-12:44; Luke 20:1-21:4). He warned the Pharisees of coming judgment (Matthew 23:13-36), taught on the end of time (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13: Luke 21:5-36), and spoke to some God-fearing Greeks (John 12:20-36). But it was a small moment of quiet that struck most deeply at them and us today.

Our world is obsessed with status, celebrity, strength, beauty, talent, and power. But God cares more about our hearts. There is perhaps a no greater example of this during Holy Week than Jesus’ observation of the widow’s gift.

Jesus had sat down across from the Temple treasury to people watch. He observed many very wealthy people put in large amounts of money, but when a widow dropped in two small coins that Jesus’ pointed her out as an object lesson for his disciples.

We all want status, but in Jesus’ day status was far more important than today. Theirs was a culture characterized by honor and shame, which was a way of keeping one’s social credit score. The way to move the needle of honor in first century Jewish society was to be the best Jew you could be. To be a bad Jew resulted in a position of shame. Shame was not about what one felt, but what one became. A person in a position of shame was socially canceled. Any association with the shamed person could result in you being canceled. And being canceled in that culture was more significant than today because social standing was extremely important in a society built on the ability to navigate the web of social relationships for survival.

Being a good Jew meant keeping the Law, but much of the Law is not as obvious or overt and is done away from the public eye. The only way to really get honor was by performing the acts of piety that could be seen by the public eye—which included monetary offerings at the Temple.

Many came and gave, which seemed good enough. After all, they did give. But their gifts didn’t elicit a response from Jesus because he knew that they gave out of their surplus, and it didn’t take much faith for them to give when they had so much, besides, it was beneficial for them socially. Instead, it was a widow—the most vulnerable in Jewish society, without means—who caught Jesus’ attention, because she gave all she had to live on. Hers was a gift of sacrifice and trust, theirs was a gift of surplus and status. Hers was of faith secure in God, theirs was on security in society.

The lesson is no less potent and applicable in our day. Faith is measured by what it does on the inside as well as the outside, and hers was a great faith. What do we give? How much do we give at a cost to ourselves? How much of our giving is based upon the approval of those around us? How much of it is based on our love for God alone?

Holy Week offers us the opportunity to hear Jesus’ words commending the widow’s offering all over again along with a fresh challenge for us to reconsider our faith and how much of ourselves we are giving to him. What are you willing to give him that requires faithful sacrifice?

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: HOLY MONDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

“Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Luke 19:45-46

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

How important is prayer to God? How much do you think God wants us to talk to him about our struggles, pains, and problems? More than we think. On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus cleansed the Temple. In our modern world, temples seem more like memorials of bygone eras than places to encounter God. To the Israelites, God had set forth the Temple to be the place where he would exclusively dwell and where people could seek him. It was the centerpiece of Judaism and the heart of Jewish identity. King David dreamt of the Temple, but the task of building it fell to his son Solomon. This Temple was to be great, for the God of Israel was greater than all other gods (2 Chronicles 2:5). It was a house where the people could meet with God through sacrifices, offerings, and prayers. Worship is crucial because, as C.S. Lewis once said, “It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates his presence to men.” 

At the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kings 8, Solomon prayed that it would be the place where God’s name would dwell, where God’s people could pray and receive judgments, where individuals or the nation could pray for forgiveness of sins, express remorse and repentance, seek restoration, rain, or relief due to consequences of their disobedience. Surprisingly, it was not just for the people of Israel—God had even given the Temple to be a place for foreigners who were truly seeking the one true God could find him.

The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.. A second Temple was constructed at the same location by Ezra some 70 years later (Ezra 6:1-22). While it lacked the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 3:12), it served the same purpose—to be a place where the people could meet with God.

By the time Jesus enters the scene, the second Temple had been plundered several times and Herod had begun a reconstruction project that lasted for 46 years. But as beautiful as the new Temple was, its purpose had been perverted. Rather than seeing it as a place for all peoples to meet with God, the Temple leaders transformed it into a lucrative business for themselves thus disenfranchising the people in the process.

God required the Israelites to provide specific sacrifices at the Temple. While Israelite pilgrims living nearby the Temple could easily bring their sacrifices, those from far away found it difficult to bring an animal such a large distance. The easiest solution was to come without a sacrificial animal and simply purchase one at the Temple. However, the Temple required the use of its own currency and those coming from far away had to exchange their foreign currency. Forsaking their roles as stewards of God’s house, the Temple authorities charged pilgrims exorbitant amounts as a currency exchange, profiting from Israelite religious devotion.

Horrified at such a mockery of God, Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the Temple. Jesus’ act infuriated the religious authorities because they loved money (Luke 16:14) more than they cared about God or people. Jesus cleansed the Temple to restore it as a house of prayer, a holy place where people could commune with God.

Jesus also foretold the destruction of the Temple (Matthew 24:1-2)—and the Romans did just that in 70 A.D. The destruction was devastating, but in Matthew 12:6 Jesus taught that something greater than the Temple was already there—Him! The Temple was the place where God dwelled, but Christ was the divine Son of God dwelling among us (John 1:14).

Jesus is far greater than the Temple, and he has made the temple obsolete: by dying for us, he removed the wall of hostility in his flesh (Ephesians 2:14) that had been keeping us from communing with God freely and intimately. And it is by his resurrection and ascension into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of God, pouring out his Spirit to us, so that we can have access to God the Father through our faith in him (Hebrews 1:13; Acts 2:33; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 2:18; 3:12).

We don’t need to go to the earthly Temple, because God, through Christ, has poured out his Spirit to us, making each of us a temple of his Holy Spirit where we can commune with him at any time (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). God values prayer—your prayer. By Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, we see God desires our prayers. He wants you to come to him with all of your brokenness, all of your struggles and sins. He didn’t want there to be an obstacle seeking him then and doesn’t want there to be one now.

Let today be the day for you to reconnect with God in prayer. Go to him with your pains and problems, struggles and sins. He wants to connect with you and made himself available. He wants you to pray—Jesus demonstrated how much God desires it. You don’t have to have high words, great language or perfect motives; you don’t have to get everything right. Just come with a right heart and real desire to know him and he will give you himself.

Let the temple of your body be a holy house of prayer.

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

PASSION WEEK: PALM SUNDAY

Tyndale House Publishers

“After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples.” Luke 19:28 NLT

by Travis Michael Fleming, Apollos Watered

It has been said that leaders are those who see the future and have the courage to lead others into it. Jesus, the ultimate leader, was leading the disciples to a future they could not have anticipated despite Jesus’ numerous declarations about what awaited in Jerusalem.

And this was the day of his arrival in Jerusalem. Everything about Jesus’ ministry would culminate this week—all of the lessons, miracles, praises, and pains would be met by cheering crowds who would, in a short time, turn to cries of condemnation. He had already told his disciples of his suffering. He knew all along that Jerusalem was where he was going to die (Luke 13:33). He had set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem and now had arrived. Though the journey was nearing the end, there was still much yet to do in the coming days.

As he waited outside Bethany, his disciples brought a young colt for him to ride on into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:2-7), where the expectant crowd gathered to see him. Spreading their cloaks on the road, they waved palm branches (a symbol of Jewish nationalism, a bit like waving an American flag at a 4th of July parade) to welcome him, shouting along the way,

“Praise God for the Son of David!

    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

    Praise God in highest heaven!”—Matthew 21:9.

Both Matthew (Matthew 21:5) and John (John 12:15) interpret Jesus’ entry in light of Zechariah 9:9 as the expectant king who would come to liberate them from the dreaded Romans. Like everyone else, they misunderstood the nature of his Kingdom and rule. The truth of that rule would not become clear until after his resurrection. He came to save, not as a triumphant military king, but as the suffering servant who would save us from our sin by dying. The liberation would come spiritually through his death and resurrection, and later physically at his Second Coming.

This week we are reminded that Jesus is our king who does his will in ways that do not always seem clear to us. While the people wanted Jesus to save them right away from their circumstances, he was doing something much deeper, something much more amazing than they could imagine. The salvation Jesus secured at the end of Passion Week has depths beyond our ability to fathom. Thankfully, our job is not to comprehend the incomprehensible but to love, marvel, and obey.

As we begin this Passion week, take time for self-reflection.

Are you following Jesus, the leader who resolutely set out for and entered Jerusalem so that he could die for us?

What areas in your life are you tempted to look for God to provide a quick fix?

How has your view of God been shaped by his working in ways that you did not expect?

How is he calling you to trust in his work and his time?

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Watered Podcast

Introduction to Holy Week

Tyndale House Publishers

We are entering what is often called Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life. Each day Travis Michael Fleming, pastor and host of the Apollos Watered Podcast, will be taking us through a significant moment that helps us focus and reflect on the awesome events leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection.

by Travis Michael Fleming

This week is commonly known as “Holy Week” or “Passion Week,” the last week of Jesus’ life leading up to his crucifixion and punctuated by his resurrection three days later. The Gospels carefully chronicle the events of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection—each from slightly different perspectives targeting a specific audience. While they record Jesus’ birth, the bulk of each Gospel chronicles the events surrounding the last three years of Jesus’ life. Thirty percent of the Gospels focus on the last week of Jesus’ life (John amazingly devotes a whopping 43% of his book to it)! Since this week was important to the Gospel writers, it should be important to us too.

This week we are going to take a moment to catch our breath and reconnect with the Savior who so passionately pursued us. And pursue Jesus did. Luke notes a transition from Galilee to Jerusalem in his Gospel when Jesus recognized that it was time to die on the cross for our sins: “As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”—Luke 9:51. To say that Jesus was committed to getting to Jerusalem is an understatement. We admire heroes because of their commitment to their cause, which is magnified by the obstacles they overcome and the enemies they defeat. Jesus faced the greatest obstacles ever known to humanity—sin and death.

Jesus was not ignorant concerning what awaited him—three times in Luke’s gospel, he told his disciples of his coming death in great detail (Luke 9:22; 44; 18:31-33). He knew both when it would be and how, and that it would not be outside of his control. The gospel writers show quite clearly Jesus would not die before the proper moment. In the face of hostile crowds who were ready to kill him, Jesus simply walked away (Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59). On two different occasions John he says that Jesus’ time was not yet (John 2:4; 7:6, 8). His death would not be premature, nor would it happen without his personal engagement. He would give his life at the proper time and of his own accord.

No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
John 10:18

Many men and women have a vague sense of when they are going to die, but rarely do they know exactly when it will be. Jesus did. He didn’t dread his death, run, or try to change it. While the cross is the culmination of Jesus’ life, it is the resurrection that gives his death meaning. Many men and women have died for noble causes but never has anyone risen from the dead.

Jesus was resolute because he saw the joy of the salvation that would come to humanity because of his death and resurrection (Hebrews 12:2).

Each day this week we will highlight one moment from the corresponding day of Passion Week, watching the drama of redemption unfold right before our eyes. As we do, we ask God to reveal himself to us in a greater, more intimate way. Join with me this week as we pause, silencing the noise so we can hear from our creator and see what he has to show us about who he is, who we are, and what he has done on our behalf so that we may increase our joy and delight in him.

Travis Michael Fleming is Founder and Executive Director of Apollos Watered, a ministry dedicated to helping believer of Jesus Christ to love and live like him in our global village. As the voice of Apollos Watered, Travis hosts a weekly podcast with listeners across the United States and in 50 countries. The podcast features conversations with Christian leaders as well as teaching that helps Christians around world to engage their cultures and learn from one another how to live out their faith

Travis grew up in the farmlands of east central Illinois and has been a pastor for over 20 years from the urban center of Chicago to the north shore of Massachusetts and back to the suburbs of Chicagoland. Under his leadership each church grew in spiritual depth and diversity. Now living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and four children, Travis is a gifted speaker, frequently addressing churches, Christian camps, and conferences around the world. He boldly combines the deep truths of Scripture with a winsome, energetic and often entertaining style.

Subscribe to the Apollos Water Podcast

Easter Gifts Sweeter Than Candy

Tyndale House Publishers

“How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.” Psalm 119:103, NLT

Easter baskets are often filled with sweet treats, but at our house, we wanted to find something sweeter than candy to give to our kids. According to the psalmist, Scripture is even sweeter than honey. And we know it is the sustaining bread of life to help our kids—and us—develop an appetite for a deeper relationship with God. What joy to open a new Bible on Easter morning and together read the Resurrection story! Now that is sweet!

Looking for something sweeter than candy for someone you love? From kids to teens and beyond, Tyndale Bibles offers engaging Bibles that help your loved ones savor God’s Word.

Hands-On Bible

What if you could not just read but also taste, feel, and smell Bible truths? What if the Bible was filled with games, crafts, and even snacks to make Bible stories come to life? Wouldn’t that make it the coolest Bible around? Enter the Hands-On Bible! This Bible takes you beyond just reading to truly experiencing the Bible through activities that you can do together with your child, making Scripture relevant, fun, and memorable. See the options 

Boys Life Application Study Bible

Packed full of notes and features, the Boys Life Application Study Bible is easy to use and helps answer questions that preteen boys may have about God and life. The notes help them learn to think biblically about real issues they face, such as self-esteem, friendship, and peer pressure. Discovering God’s will for their lives has never been this much fun! Learn more

Girls Life Application Study Bible

A one-of-a-kind discipleship resource, the Girls Life Application Study Bible helps girls draw closer to God and establish healthy relationships with those around them. It includes over 800 Life Application notes, plus full-color features that are designed to help girls learn more about the Bible, understand the big story, meet Jesus, know what it means to follow him, learn how to share their faith with others, and gain practical faith and relationship skills that will help them live out what they believe. See this Bible

Inspire Bible for Girls and More!

Inspire Bible for Girls is designed to draw girls deeper into God’s Word and to inspire creativity and connection with God. Over 500 beautiful full- and partial-page Scripture line-art illustrations to color are attractively displayed throughout the Bible. In addition, there are over 300 devotionals, journaling prompts, and interesting Bible facts to enhance girls’ coloring and creative journaling journey through the Bible. Girls can leave traces of their faith throughout their Bible for a unique treasure that will truly inspire! Explore Inspire Bible for Girls

But don’t forget our other titles in the Inspire Bible line. These bestselling coloring and journaling Bibles are perfect for girls and women of all ages.

EPIC Bible

Created by some of DC and Marvel’s best comic book artists, The Epic Bible transports readers through a visual journey of Scripture. From Eden to eternity, this stunning hardcover edition engages even the most reluctant readers with brilliant and dramatic full-color graphic art. Packed with action and powerfully illustrated The Epic Bible brings a fresh lifelike view of Creation, the story of the Israelites, Jesus’ life on earth, and the early church. Order the EPIC Bible

Teen Life Application Study Bible

The Teen Life Application Study Bible is filled with features designed to meet the challenges and needs of today’s high school students. Combining traditional study Bible features like book introductions, textual notes, person profiles, and maps with application-oriented features focusing on choices, real-life issues, and real-life stories of actual teens, the Teen Life Application Study Bible helps answer the tough questions and grounds teens in their faith.

Streetlights New Testament

Linking to remarkably creative audio and video resources, the NLT Streetlights New Testament explains Christian truth to young people and serves as a basic discipleship tool for ministries. Its unique tone and approach to the gospel have strong appeal for those in an urban culture.

A Few Other Ideas . . .

Maybe you are looking for an Easter gift for a young adult or someone else in your life. Here are some ideas:

Filament Bible Collection

These beautifully crafted Bibles offer a simple and engaging reading experience. By simply scanning a page with your phone or tablet, the Filament Bible app gives you access to thousands of study and worship resources, including videos and content curated to the specific page you are reading. See all the Filament Bibles

Immerse: The Reading Bible

Ever had a book you just couldn’t put down? Immerse: The Reading Bible takes away all the distractions and gets you right into the story. With no chapter and verse numbers and a cover that feels more like a novel than a Bible, it’s like reading the Bible for the first time. Start falling in love with the Bible all over again.

Art of Life Bible

This Bible weaves the beautiful NLT text into a rich tapestry of artwork illustrating many living things mentioned in Scripture. Captions highlighting their significance and the wide-margin design offer readers a unique way to meditate on Scripture by focusing on God’s creation. Featuring 450 original hand-drawn illustrations in a unique style, this Bible encourages contemplation and visual interaction with the Word.