Midweek Lent 4
The Body of Christ in His Passion: Wrists Bound in Willingness
Text: John 18:2-13
How many chances did they get? How many signs could they miss? How many opportunities to change their ways and repent did they pass on with hardened hearts?
The exchange that takes place over a matter of minutes in the Garden of Gethsemane is truly an extraordinary one. This was the last time there would be miraculous power from Jesus on display until the moment he died, and the signs surely came fast and furious in the Garden.
We saw Jesus in the Garden last week with his hands folded in prayer, encouraging the disciples to join in praying. As we left him last week he was rising to meet his betrayer. Now we see Judas arrive. Read the rest of this entry
Text: Matthew 27:32-56
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?
This is Good Friday in an Aramaic nutshell.
We can only imagine what it was like to be beaten and bludgeoned and bloodied and then to be nailed to a cross. No, rather, we can’t imagine. People aren’t executed like this any more. Even the most vile criminals today are executed in humane ways. The pain must have been unbearable–battling blood loss, battling asphyxiation, battling traumatic shock. Any human being would cry out in great agony and pain.
And yet, even if we could somehow remotely relate to Jesus’ gruesome physical pain, we will never ever truly know the horror and anguish of the words Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani? In English: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
What is it like to have God turn his back on you and forsake you? What is it like to have God no longer be with you or bless you? What is it like for God to stop showering you with grace and love?
What is it like?
It’s like hell.
Actually, it is hell.
Jesus was experiencing the full-blown consequences for sin. Hell is the price to pay for disobeying God. Hell is the price to pay for falling short of his glory. Hell is the price to pay for serving yourself rather than God, even just once.
Thanks to Jesus, we won’t ever know what that was like. As true man and true God suffered hell on the cross, he was suffering once and for all.
That includes you. That includes me.
As you meditate quietly on the passion of our Savior on this Good Friday, give thanks to the God of all grace and mercy that Jesus did this for you and for your salvation.
Prayer: Jesus, I will ponder now on you holy passion; With your Spirit me endow for such meditation. Grant that I in love and faith may the image cherish Of your suffering, pain, and death That I may not perish.
Text: Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16
How does the saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men…
They had their inside man in Judas, now it was just a matter of time. The only other obstacle that presented itself was the popularity of Jesus. They couldn’t do it in broad daylight when he was preaching one of his standing-room-only sermons. If they did it then he could easily stir up the crowd that was eating out of his hand to fight in his defense and then things would get ugly and the Romans would have to step in. They couldn’t do it during the Passover feast. That also would have been an unpopular move.
So the waiting game was on, sometime after the Passover Meal Judas would inform the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ private whereabouts so they could take him without the people knowing. The men would be armed and ready to crush any resistance put up by the eleven disciples that hadn’t betrayed Jesus. The plan was flawless. Jesus would never suspect one from his inner circle, he wouldn’t see this coming.
Is this really all there is to this story? Was Jesus unknowingly walking into a trap? Was there really nothing he could do about it?
By faith we know better than those naïve Jewish leaders. On Wednesday their plans were laid, on Thursday and Friday they were carried out without a hitch. By Saturday morning Jesus was dead and buried. They were finally free from this thorn in their side. Now it was only a matter of time before his followers dispersed and life in Israel went back to normal.
The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry… or as God said it, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
Oh the surprise that awaits those who plot against God! Oh the surprise that awaited the Jewish leaders on Sunday morning! An empty tomb and newly emboldened followers of Christianity was all the Jewish leaders had to show for their best laid plans. Confidence in death and eternity in heaven is what we have to show for Jesus’ best laid plan. It was the Lord’s plan from the beginning that in Jesus’ death we would find forgiveness!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise you that though this world, us included, has hated you, you have not given up on this world. You sent your Son and orchestrated all history so that by his perfect life and death our relationship to you could be restored. Help us to find confidence in the knowledge that you are in control of this world. Help us to turn to you in every trouble knowing that we already have heaven. In Jesus ‘name we boldly pray, Amen.
Text: Matthew 21:23-25:46
Tuesday of Holy Week is often called “Busy Tuesday.” There is not much recorded about Monday and Wednesday but Matthew devotes over four chapters to the sermons of Jesus given on Tuesday. The selfless sacrifice of Jesus is an amazing thing. Most humans who are told that they will soon die make every effort to cross some things off their bucket-lists. Jesus was thinking about everyone but himself. In these four chapters of Matthew we see Jesus desperately trying to make people see the light.
Jesus taught several parables that Tuesday morning and all of them focused on repentance. The parables are aimed at those who have not yet turned to Jesus in faith. They are parables of warning: either you are a friend of Jesus or you are his enemy and you don’t want to be the enemy of God.
Next on Jesus plate was a debate. He was challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees (the spiritual leaders of the Jews) on four different points. These men were trying to trap Jesus, to get him to say something that would reveal him as the hoax they were convinced he was. Read the accounts for yourself… Jesus as true God was a little smarter than mere men.
The “Seven Woes” as they are entitled in the NIV from Matthew 23 are somber words for the Pharisees. It is scary to read through this chapter and see how often we Christians fall into the same sins as the Pharisees. What is the key difference? We repent and look to Jesus to take our sins away, the Pharisees did not.
Jesus’ evening was spent on a two chapter long discourse on the end of this earth. We don’t know when Jesus is going to come again and so we need to be prepared at all times. We do know that when he comes we will be taken away to eternal life, and all because of the work Jesus was accomplishing on Holy Week.
What selfless, wondrous love is this, that Jesus would spend his last hours offering his loving forgiveness to those were in the process of orchestrating his murder!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as Jesus lived in this world in utter humility may we also live humbly. Because of Jesus we have the forgiveness we desperately need to face Judgment Day with confidence. Give us the strength to live our lives as if our next breath could be our last because no one knows when Jesus will come again. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Text: John 12:20-33
Wouldn’t it be nice to see a little of Jesus’ glory these days?
How great would it be for Jesus to pop off a little miracle, maybe change some water into gasoline since it’s so expensive now? Maybe Jesus could squirt out a little blast of multiplying the Wonder Bread in your pantry to save you a few dollars? Or how about calming some storms for us because it’s tornado season in the Midwest and almost hurricane season in the South? And at the very least, couldn’t Jesus squash just one or two of our enemies right now?
It sure would help our daily lives and strengthen our faith if we saw some glory!
In the devotion today we read about some Greek Jews who wanted to see Jesus. Undoubtedly they had heard about the things Jesus had done. But Jesus reminds them (and us today) where his true glory is revealed.
The glory of Jesus is found hidden behind pain and suffering and death on the cross. The glory of Jesus is found in his obedience and carrying out of his Father’s will and plan for salvation. The glory of Jesus is found when one denies himself and follows Jesus in humble service. Then, at last, the glory of Jesus will be seen in full splendor for all eternity in heaven.
What joy we have for the glory of Jesus displayed in his life and death for us! What joy we have in looking forward to the full glory of Jesus in heaven!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you glorified your Father by becoming obedient, even to the point of death on a cross. Through your life and death you have become for me the source of eternal salvation. Keep your cross ever before my eyes that I may remain in you until you bring me safely home to your full glory in heaven. Amen.