Holy Saturday, April 15

Matthew 27:45-54 (ESV)

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”  48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”  50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  52 The tombs also were opened.  And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

At the time of Jesus’ death on the cross there were a series of supernatural events highlighting the significance of the event.  Pagan bystanders took notice and believed they had seen the Son of God.  But, the religious leaders were still blind to what they had done.

The beauty and the horror of the cross reminds me of this quote by Martin Luther:

“My dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified.  Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘You, Lord Jesus, are my righteousness, but I am your sin.  You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours.  You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.’  Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one.  For Christ dwells only in sinners. “

Could it be that the Pharisees could not see Jesus because they could not see themselves as sinners?

As our Lenten season ends, let’s remind ourselves that we are sinners, and rejoice that it is sinners that Jesus came to save.

Father, we are grateful for the cross and for the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins. Amen.  


Good Friday, April 14

Matthew 27:11-44 (ESV)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus said, “You have said so.”  12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.  13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”  14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.  16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.  17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you:  Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.  19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”  20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.  21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”  And they said, “Barabbas.”  22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”  They all said, “Let him be crucified!”  23 And he said, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”  25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”  26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.  28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.   31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name.  They compelled this man to carry his cross.  33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.  35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.  36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there.   37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.  39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.  For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

The events leading up to, and including, Jesus’ crucifixion are the most heart-wrenching in all of scripture.  He is innocent.  He could defend himself but chooses not to.  He is mocked, tortured and ultimately crucified.  Yet, this is the good news of the Gospel.  It is not by our works we are saved, but through the Grace of God brought about by Jesus enduring the cross.  This was God’s plan from the beginning of time; so much of which fulfilled prophesies long before told.

Isaiah 53:7        

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

Psalm 22:6-8, 16-18

6 But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

7 All who see me mock me;

they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

16 For dogs encompass me;

a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet[b]—

17 I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

18 they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

Psalm 69:21

21 They gave me poison for food,

and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Dear Lord, we are overwhelmed by your love for us.  We are not worthy of such an outpouring of grace.  We thank you for your Son, our precious Lord and Savior, who by the cross paid the price for our sins and reconciled us to you.  We are deeply humbled by your grace and your mercy.  Amen! 

Maundy Thursday, April 13

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is the Son of God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth.  When He came to earth, He was fully God and fully man yet He ‘did not count equality with God’.  Of all people from all time, Jesus had reason to be anything but humble, yet He was.  He, of all people, could have demanded to BE served yet He came TO serve.

We can’t even imagine what Jesus was willing to do for us.  We, unlike Jesus, want people to know who we are and what we have done.  We want to be acknowledged, recognized and honored for our accomplishments.  We live in a world where we advertise all of our accomplishments and expect people to ‘like’ them and comment on them through social media

As a society, we are becoming less and more self-centered and egotistical.  Jesus is our perfect example. He had the power to heal the blind, give the lame the ability to walk, cast out demons and even raise the dead, yet he didn’t seek recognition for Himself but for His Father.

When you accomplish something, or are recognized for your work or your efforts, who do you give the glory to—yourself or your God?  Jesus humbled himself even to the point of humiliation, incredible suffering and death on a cross.  How humble are you?  How much does it mean to you to be recognized for what you do and even have people ‘like’ it on social media and compliment you for what you have done?

Let Lent be a humility check for you.  Look back at your accomplishments and the accolades you have received in the last year—who received the glory?

Gracious Father, help us bring glory to You and what you are doing in our lives and not to ourselves. Help us be humble servants like your Son. Amen.

Wednesday in Holy Week, April 12

 Psalm 31:9-16 (ESV)

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.

12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.

13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!

At this moment and time, it is very hard to be a Christian in this world.  The world has beaten us down. We have made enemies of those who took the easy way in life.  We represent something different that is against the ways of the world.  We are alienated by those that seek for us to wither away.  We are attacked by the devil and his legion of demons through the influencing of our minds and the tempting of our flesh.

At the end of the day, we have a source of strength and hope in Christ.  He is our refuge through the pain. He helps through the day to day.  He gives us a reason to hope that the next day will be better.  He is the source of all life and invigorates us.  We no longer have to hide, but stand in His light without fear.

As we are in the middle of Holy week, praise God with all your heart.  Put aside the shame, the fear, the worry, and the pain of this life.  Give it all up to the Lamb who was slain.  Be thankful for all that he has done for you in your life and especially through this season of Lent.  Be thankful for how he has taught you and disciplined you.  Remember the cross sets you apart from the world because of the hope it brings.

God just thank you for getting us through the hard days. Thank you, God, for redeeming us.  You are my God and I can’t ask for anything else.  Thank you, God, you are worthy of praise.   Amen



Tuesday in Holy Week, April 11

Isaiah 50:4-9a (ESV)

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,

Why is the Book of Isaiah quoted so often in New Testament verses?

“Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12.41).  What does the prophet see?  His songs of the Suffering Servant reveal Christ’s passion in its details, purpose and nature.  The same servant will suffer and die to save many from their sins, be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and became a light to the Gentiles, men lost in moral darkness.

The messianic identity of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, the Man of Sorrows, is underscored in the above verses.  An indefatigable teacher, he is a figure conscious of being on the path the Father has laid out for him.  To the weary in body and soul he gives hope; his reward lies in blows and mockery.  As for his vindication, such he leaves in the Father’s hands.

Consider the burial of Jesus and the subsequent harrowing of hell, as expressed where the rites of Holy Saturday are observed.  Here is a fifth century reading for today unpacking the final act in the Passion narrative:

The Lord vanquished hell when he descends into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.

Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.

Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed son our savior Jesus Christ: so by continual mortifying of our corrupt afflictions we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection through his merits.  Amen.

Monday in Holy Week, April 10

Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV)

1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.  Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”  This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”  11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

“Hosanna!” the crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  But what does “hosanna” mean?  Have you ever thought about that?  We sing it every Sunday in the Sanctus,  “Hosanna in the highest”—so what exactly are we singing?

Over the years “hosanna” has become synonymous with “hallelujah” (can I write that in a Lenten reflection???) as an acclamation of praise to the Lord.  However, the translation of the Hebrew is more like “save us, please” or “please deliver us.”  In shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd was acknowledging Him as the Messiah, the One who would save them. Unfortunately, they were expecting Jesus to become king and restore political power to Israel.  They didn’t understand that while He is indeed the Messiah,  He came to save their souls and restore them to God, rather than restore their political position.

When we sing, “Hosanna in the highest” as part of the Sanctus, we too are proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  However, we proclaim the Messiah who is the lover and Savior of our souls.  We are pleading with Him to please save us, while acknowledging that He has indeed.  And in doing so, it is, in fact, a form of praise, though the word itself does not mean praise.  So, let us make a joyful noise to the Lord this Sunday as together we join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of His Name:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth of full of Your glory.
Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Palm Sunday, April 9

Psalm 118:19-29 (ESV)

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Our season of Lent wanes, and today the psalmist offers a glimpse of what lies ahead.  As we devote our time to turning away from Godless ways, we find ourselves moving toward him.  Depending on the depth of our repentance, we may notice how his righteousness surrounds him as we approach, and how his marvelous perfection beckons, rather than judges.  The anxiety his holiness normally evokes has transformed to joy.  We sense deeply we are approaching our true home, the home we were made for, our ancient home, which is coming anew.

This is the sure success of a holy Lent, a blessing offered to all who repent in earnest, a glimpse of eternity in the full presence of God.  Our sacrifice has been nothing more, or less, than our sin—our misguided, wrongly-founded desire to have things our way.  To gaze upon God’s righteousness, sovereignty, and strength with envy has been our utter destruction.  With new eyes, we see our pride as it truly is:  hollow, dark, cold envy and deceit.

This is the lesson of a holy Lent.  Have you learned it?  If yes, then join us as we set our faces to the goodness and love that now draws near!  There remains a short, deadly trek to be made before we stand in his steadfast love, a light and a living that endures forever, an existence that pulls from the depths of our new hearts praises we gladly offer without ceasing, without tiring, without longing, for we stand now in the presence of All That Is, giving glory to Glory!

Lord God, we thank you for not letting us have the ways our dark willing seeks, for plucking us from the death our unhinged hearts desire, for loving us into the eternal goodness of the unending You. Amen.