Easter: The Wounds of Unfailing Love
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David MathisDavid Mathis is executive editor of desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis. He is a husband and father of four and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. Most recently, he is author of The Christmas We Didn’t Expect for Advent 2020.
Feel so familiar with Easter–that it’s hard to deeply appreciate? Author David Mathis helps us marvel at wounds of unfailing love & decisive victory.
Easter: The Wounds of Unfailing Love
David: I want the first voice I hear in the morning to be the voice of God in the Scriptures. There is something so important for my soul that happens in those first moments of not rushing through God’s Word. I try not to read God’s Word in a hurry; I want to linger over God’s Word.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
The Lent season is starting, and I was thinking about you because you used to go to church on Easter. What do you remember the most about those Easter services as a kid, growing up?
Dave: [Laughter] I remember I had to go because Mom said, “It’s Easter; we’re going to church,” which she said every Sunday.
Ann: —which, I didn’t go; so—
Dave: Yes; I mean it was good thing.
Ann: Yes, good for your mom.
Dave: There were times I didn’t want to go; but my single mom did a phenomenal job of bringing Jesus into my life, and I didn’t even really know it or appreciate it. I do remember sitting there, even from a little boy to a teenager, not understanding the story; like, “How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean anything to me and to our world right now?” I just sat there and never could connect the dots.
Ann: I think that’s true for a lot of people, especially when they didn’t grow up in the church.
You had a chance to sit down with David Mathis, who wrote the book, Rich Wounds. I’m excited for our listeners to get to hear this conversation.
Dave: Yes, because what David did is: he connects the dots. His book, Rich Wounds, is all about the wounds of Christ and what that means for us; but also, the triumph of Christ over the cross and the resurrection.
David is the executive director of DesiringGod.org, and a pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis, and also a husband and has got four kids as well. I’m telling you what—you talk about a theologian, who’s going to dive deep into understanding, not only the life and death, but also the resurrection of Christ—that’s David. It was a great conversation. I’m excited for our listeners to hear it.
Dave: Tell us a little bit about your thinking as you were writing this book. I know it’s the beginning of Lent. How were you hoping/dreaming they would sort of use this book?
David: I think—I may be wrong about this—but I wonder how many Christians have a real detailed sense of all the glory/all the beauty that there is to see in the person of Christ. I think sometimes we can be content with pretty thin, canned, recycled messages about Jesus: “Oh, I’ve heard of Jesus,” “I know about Jesus.”
David: But there is so much more to know and experience about Jesus than I think the typical Christian today often has just from preaching or from reading in the Gospels.
Just this morning I was reading in Genesis 45. Jacob’s son, Joseph, has been sold into slavery. God’s favor is on him; He blesses him. He comes through Potiphar’s house. He comes through prison; he comes to Pharaoh. The brothers find out that this is Joseph. Of course, they’re scared. They go back, tell Jacob, “We have found your son. Joseph is alive, and he’s lord over Egypt.” This is Genesis 45, maybe verse 6. The narrative reports that Jacob was numb in heart and he did not believe them [Genesis 45:26]. I paused there and just thought, “This news that came to Jacob from his sons, that Joseph is alive, is so good that he has a hard time believing it.”
What do the brothers do? If you tell somebody such good news that they’re numb in heart and have a hard time believing it, what do you do next? What the brothers do is they tell him all that Joseph had to say [verse 27].
When somebody gets such good new that they’re numb in heart/they don’t believe, what we do next is we keep telling them/give them more details—like: “I don’t believe what you’re saying,”—“Alright; well, let me give you some more details. Let me tell you more about it.”
David: That’s my hope in the book: “Let me tell you more about Jesus; let me tell you more details about Him.”
If we linger in the Gospels, and if we try to get some help from church history and people who have observed the life of Jesus through the Scriptures in different times and places, there is so much more to learn, and to glean, and to marvel at about Jesus.
Dave: Yes, as I was reading Rich Wounds, that’s what happened to me. I was going to say, “That’s what happened to my soul.” It was the beauty—again, I’m a pastor; I’ve been preaching on Easter for over 30 years and the death and the resurrection of Christ—I picked up your book. I know I’m reading it before Easter, [but] I’m not reading it during Lent; but it was rich. Of course, that’s in your title; but it brought out the beauty of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
I didn’t know, but I found out in the very beginning, that even the title—I should have recognized it right away as a line from one of your favorite hymns—
David: That’s right.
Dave: —Crown Him with Many Crowns. Is it true that, when you hear that song, your kids say, “Dad that’s your favorite”?
David: [Laughter] They do. There’s a couple; I also love Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, which is the epilogue or the conclusion of the book. But it probably would have to be said that my favorite is Crown Him with Many Crowns.
Dave: Let’s talk about that line: “Rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified,”—that’s the title of the book. What is it about that phrase/that idea that hit you that, when you hear the song, your kids are saying, “Dad, it’s your favorite.” What is it that you wanted to draw out of that?
David: I don’t know that it’s a song that’s been especially in vogue in the recent wave of worship music and what you’d hear at a big conference. I grew up with this hymn in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in my Southern Baptist Church. Then moving to Minnesota, and being in other churches for years, there was a gap there where I didn’t hear it for a long time. Just recently, we’ve brought it back at our church.
There’s some profundity to the song in several dimensions. One is gratitude for what I was raised in; now to sing and appreciate these truths in some fresh ways. But that relates to that phrase “Rich wounds.” “Wounds” is a word that is probably being used more today than it was ten/twenty years ago. That word has not passed out of usage. We talk a lot about our wounds. Often, it’s not the physical wounds that we’re talking about. We’re talking about some emotional/psychological wound.
Dave: —father wound,—
Dave: —wounds of our past/our family.
David: —some trauma; the way that we’ve been emotionally wounded or whatever it would be. There’s a lot of talk about wounds today. Usually, the connotations are very negative; we don’t talk positively about wounds.
What’s so remarkable about this phrase in the song, the adjective “rich”; that His wounds are rich because:
- His wounds are the wounds by which you are healed. He has carried our griefs and our sorrows.
- He was wounded, not by some accident. He was not wounded because of His disobedience or His sin. He was wounded because of ours: He carried our griefs; He carried our wounds in His wounding.
His wounds—because they are saving; because He rescues us with His wounds—His wounds, to our eyes, are glorious. They are marvelous wounds; they are rich wounds.
We might think, “Okay, when we get to heaven, any scars that we have will be gone because scars are—that’s part of the old age—God will heal and get rid of all scars.” Well, the end of the Gospels talk about some scars on the glorified resurrected body of Jesus that aren’t gone when He comes to doubting Thomas: “Put your hands in My wounds.” His scars are glorious to those whom He’s saved by His scars. I don’t think that, when we get to heaven and see Jesus, face to face, the scars will be gone at that point. I think we will see glory in the scars, forever.
Dave: The scars are a reminder of our richness.
David: He became poor for our sakes that, in Him, the poor/we might become rich because of His blessing/His favor; that we are rescued because of the sacrifice of Himself, evidenced in the wounds.
Dave: Let’s talk about the book being used during Lent. It’s 40 days; you’ve got
30 chapters. Obviously, you don’t need to read one every single day; but how would a family walk through this? What do you hope would happen as they walk through
30 days?—what do you hope would happen as a father, or a mother, or a blended family walk through this?—and experience Lent and the rich wounds of Christ in their family.
David: Ideally, Christian families today would have a meaningful, deep, wonderful time of family, gathering around God’s Word every single day of Lent and every single day of the year.
Dave: Is that what happens in your house? [Laughter]
David: No! [Laughter]
We are so serious about Advent. I do hope there’s a kind of realism in this. Personally, the Bible reading plan that I’ve done for years is 25 days a month. [Laughter] That doesn’t mean I intentionally take days off, but it is nice when life happens in a fallen world.
Dave: You mean you set yours up for  days so you have the grace?
David: It’s the Disciple Journal Reading Plan from the Navigators [Now: Navigators Bible Reading Plan].
Dave: Oh, okay.
David: It’s 25 days a month. If you’re staying on schedule, you’ve got some extra days to review or whatever.
Dave: That’s good.
David: hope with this book—Lent is 40 non-Sundays, plus the Sundays, so depending on how you calculate it, Lent is about 46 to 47 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Maybe 30 meditations would be a good thing for you personally—for you in a small group—for you in a family.
Then, in particular, when you get down to the last eight days—so me, personally, I mark those last eight days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday with particular joy and vigilance—the last eight chapters in the book are meant to be that daily walk with Jesus, from riding into Jerusalem on the donkey, to the final conflicts—with the false teachers, with the Pharisees, with the Sadducees, with the leaders in Jerusalem—to the Garden of Gethsemane, to Golgotha, to the waiting of the disciples on that long Saturday and then to the joy of Easter Sunday.
I would commend the readers: maybe, if nailing every day for you personally or your family is unrealistic, maybe you could nail Holy Week for eight days. That would be a really good thing.
Dave: You’ve broken it up into three sections. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on—let’s start with where you start—with His life: what are you hoping that we glean out of these readings about the life of Christ?
David: That’s right. There’s the three sections leading up to the last part on Holy Week: section one, about life; section two, about His death—we linger there—section three, the resurrection; and then Holy Week.
In that first section, there is so much to linger over in Jesus’ life; by that, my focus is on His life up until Holy Week. The Gospel accounts are about/around 50 percent—maybe a little less than 50 percent—but about half of the Gospels deal with His last week. So you see the import and the weight of the last week of Jesus’ life from Palm Sunday to resurrection and ascension.
But that leaves about half the Gospels that are telling us accounts/precious glorious accounts. There are glories to see about Jesus in this 50-plus percent of the Gospels that are about His life and ministry. What I do in that first part is linger over some of those often over-looked glories and try to see the kinds of things that are there for us from God, through the apostles in the Gospels, and enrich our appreciation of Jesus’ life. He didn’t just come and go straight to the cross. He came and lived—and this is amazing: 30 years-plus in obscurity—and then His three-plus years of ministry at the end. The gleanings in this book are particular to His season of ministry. I’ve rehearsed there some themes, maybe often overlooked, like Jesus owned personal habits of devotion.
Dave: Yes, that’s where you start. I found that—again, like you said, the places you went, I didn’t see coming—it was really interesting as you start with His habits/His time alone with God. I was challenged, myself, to think, “I read, ‘Jesus didn’t just retreat but invited His disciples to join Him.’” So at the end of each little section, you sort of challenge us—as the reader and, today, as the listener—to say, “Okay, what are you doing with your time alone with God?”
How would you encourage followers/believers to captivate or to energize that time we get to spend alone with God, modeling after Christ?
David: An amazing thing to observe in Jesus’ life is His pattern of retreat and then re-entry into the world. Once you see the theme in the Gospels, you see it all over. But when Jesus—He retreats from the situation—the crowds are coming around; or for instance, that first day in Capernaum when He heals Peter’s mother-in-law. They’re bringing all the people in to be healed by Him.
They go to sleep that night—like this is the best night of Peter’s life! Jesus is in Peter’s hometown; the crowds are swirling; everybody’s excited—they wake up the next morning, and they can’t find Jesus. Peter must have flipped, like, “Where is He?! My hometown is outside the door, waiting to be healed/waiting to hear His message.” And Jesus has retreated to a time of prayer.
Over and over again, we see in the Gospels that—at some of the most chaotic times; sometimes, when the crowds were biggest—Jesus gets away to prioritize meeting one on one/face to face with His Father. He also draws the disciples into that rhythm.
A couple of big themes we also see in Jesus’ life is He is a man who has memorized and is saturated in God’s Word. Again and again, Jesus quotes Scripture: “Have you not heard?”; or what do you do about the passage of the bush, when He says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”? He reasons with the Scriptures when He confronts His enemies; He quotes and alludes to the Scriptures as He teaches His friends. So you observe a kind of Scripture-saturation in the life of Jesus that is very significant and should be an encouragement to us today.
Dave: I don’t know what your daily life looks like, back in Minnesota—you’re a husband; you’re a dad/you’ve got kids—what does that look like in terms of your habits as a husband and a dad?—time alone with God; time in the Word—give us a glimpse into your life. You’re leading a family; you’re in ministry; how do you live this out?
David: Over the years—
Dave: I’m putting you right on the spot, like, “Dude, you better be living this out”; right?
David: I don’t mind it. I did a book on this a few years ago called Habits of Grace, where I tried to be a little bit personally revealing, as well as talk to people about it. I don’t mind talking about this very private thing. It’s a risk; I get it: “Take heed…”
Dave: I asked you the question, knowing you are going to have an answer—it isn’t going to be: “Well, actually I don’t,”—because our kids are watching; our wives are watching; the community is watching. It’s one thing to know and talk about the life of Christ; do we live it out? What does that look like in terms of your rhythms and habits in your life?
David: First thing in the morning is so important and so precious. I’ve found, over the years, I don’t need as much sleep as my wife. That’s an opportunity, at least for me, as a dad. It starts with getting myself to bed on time and not letting some screen keep me up longer than it should.
Then waking up in the morning, I want the first voice I hear in the morning to be the voice of God in the Scriptures. I set my alarm to get out of bed, and I make a beeline to my Bible and coffee. [Laughter]
Dave: Do you?
David: I’ve got a hot cup of coffee, and I’ve got my Bible open. Those are some of the most precious moments of my day. I don’t want to minimize the preciousness of my time with my wife, or my kids, or what God has called me to do in the rest of the day; but there is something so important for my soul that happens in those first moments of not rushing through God’s Word. I try not to read God’s Word in a hurry; I want to linger over God’s Word.
The Bible itself talks about meditation. Psalm 1: “He meditates on the law of the Lord day and night [Psalm 1:2].” Meditation is, at least, this: a kind of slow reading at the pace of the text. In the hurry of modern life, probably the single most important thing I do to hold back the tides of hurry and rush is to have unhurried time in God’s Word in the morning. I want to linger over what He’s had to say.
I referenced a few minutes ago my Bible reading plan I’ve done, for 20 years now, that I just love. I’ve fallen into the habit of using this Bible reading plan. You’re in four different places in Scripture, and I just take my time lingering over those passages. It’s takes about 70 hours to read the Bible, cover to cover, which is less time than the average American spends in front of the television in a month.
Dave: —not counting screens.
David: Yes, that’s right. If you just count screens—that is an eight- or nine-hour day average—very quickly, talking ten days, and you could have read the Bible in that time.
David: If you take text that you could read in about 15 minutes—and spend 30, 35,
40 minutes, working through them slowly: meditating on those texts, praying them back to God as you receive them from God, from His own voice, by the power of the Spirit in the Scripture—it will change your life. I want to start my day with the voice of God.
Dave: I remember when the pandemic first started, I found myself—you made me think of it—when I’d wake up, because my daily rhythm/habits were much like yours, I’d start with the Word, prayer, meditation—try to slow down; take a deep breath—I found myself, because of where the world was, opening my phone, going directly to the latest news: “What’s going on with the pandemic? What are the cases? What are the numbers? What’s the…” I’m not kidding.
It was like several days—probably maybe ten or fourteen days—I’m like, “What am I doing?!” It’s like I literally started with the voice of the world and news, not the voice of God. Guess what my heart felt?—anxiety, fear, uncertainty. I remember thinking, “That cannot be the way I start my day.”
It never was—and because we’re in a different reality, it changed the way—and I remember thinking, “I’ve got to start with the Word of God; it’s got to be number one because it will affect who I am—as a man, who I am as a husband, as a dad—how I lead my family, how I engage with my family,”—what you just said. You’ve given us a resource that would be a great one to use through Lent—start like Jesus started: time alone with God; time with the Word, memorizing it—it will, like you just said, it will change your life. When it changes our life, it changes our family’s life.
David: That’s right. In terms of the content that we’re exposed to in modern life—we see it everywhere—at the hotel, I walk in; and CNN is on when they’re serving the breakfast. All the time we’re bombarded by news and other content. If it is a mere quantity battle—of the words of God, and of Christian teaching, and of words that are going to bring us near to God and to Jesus; or the so-called words of the world—we don’t have a chance in modern life.
What’s so important is the quality aspect. In those early moments, with the kids still sleeping, I can pay quality attention to God’s Words with a slow, unhurried meditative lingering over Scripture that CNN’s not going to get from me—I may hear that; I may be confronted by other things throughout the day—but I’m going to give the most quality, focused, slow enjoyed attention to God’s words to start the day. That makes a significant difference.
Shelby: In the busyness of life, we can find ourselves in the middle of this competition between the screens—and the hurriedness and the busyness of the world—and then, just meeting with God, getting quality time with the Lord. David Mathis has reminded us that we need to fight for it; we need to actually put our time, and our effort, and our energy into battling for time with Jesus/rich, uninterrupted time with the Lord.
This is the beginning of the Lenten season as we look ahead to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Easter. David Mathis has written a book called Rich Wounds. This is a devotional with 30 short, kind of profound, reflections that help you meditate on and marvel at the sacrificial love of Jesus as we are in this season, looking forward to worshiping the Lord in fresh new ways because Easter is coming.
We want to make David Mathis’s book, Rich Wounds, available to you for a donation of any amount. If you head over to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation, we want to send you a copy of his book. As you may know, FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. When you donate, you’re making this program possible and available in your community. Go over to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation of any amount; or you can make a donation by calling us at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Thanks, in advance, for your support. We hope you enjoy the book and find it helpful this Lenten season.
If this content today by David Mathis, or any of the FamilyLife programs have been helpful for you, we’d love for you to share today’s podcast with a friend or a family member wherever you get your podcasts. It could really advance the gospel effort of what we do at FamilyLife if you scroll down and rate and review us.
Now, tomorrow, Dave Wilson is going to be talking again with David Mathis about what it means to walk with the dignity God said belongs to us as His children. That’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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