Holy Saturday, March 31

Holy Saturday, March 31

Mark 14:53-72 (ESV)

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest.  And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.  54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest.  And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire.  55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.  56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”  59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.  60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make?  What is it that these men testify against you?”  61 But he remained silent and made no answer.  Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?  64 You have heard his blasphemy.  What is your decision?”  And they all condemned him as deserving death.  65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!”  And the guards received him with blows.

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”  68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.”  And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.  69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”  70 But again he denied it.  And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”  71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”  72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time.  And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  And he broke down and wept.

We are now at the day before the Resurrection.  We have made it through the Lenten season; but what will you take away from it?  We come to a crossroads with the unknown in our next season of life.

Peter was in the same boat on that night.  He had been going through a season of life as a disciple of Christ.  He spent time with the other 11 and Jesus.  Then he was thrust into the unknown with Jesus being taken away to be crucified.  He was fearful of a mob that wanted to destroy everything His master built.  He started this new season of live with flat out denying everything His master had taught him, not once but three times!

Peter got past this season and was able to glorify God through his action.  A fire in his soul caused him to preach the Gospel like no other.

As we enter a new season of our Christian walk, will you be like Peter in front of the world?  Will you keep Jesus to the homestead, or just to yourself?  Will you save him for Sunday?

Or will you let Jesus flourish and become a beacon of Hope that bleeds through to every part of your life?

The next step is crucial.  Do not be like Peter and deny Jesus.  Make goals and plan for the next season.  Do not keep Jesus in lent.  Let him be an everyday part of your life.  Let Jesus be a part of every action you take.  Do not let the roaster crow.

God thank you for this season of Lent.  I ask for guidance on this next season of life.  Point me in the right direction.  Guide my path.  Redeem me like Peter for your purposes.  Amen.

Good Friday, March 30

Good Friday, March 30

Mark 14:32-51 (ESV)

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane.  And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Remain here and watch.”  35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not watch one hour?  38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.  40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him.  41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  It is enough; the hour has come.  The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.  44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.  Seize him and lead him away under guard.”  45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.  46 And they laid hands on him and seized him.  47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.  48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?  49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.  But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”  50 And they all left him and fled.

51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  And they seized him,

Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father is truly amazing.  He knew His Father could do anything including rescuing Him from what was about to happen, but Jesus was willing to do whatever the Father willed.  Jesus had total faith that whatever plan the Father had for Him, it was for the best.  He trusted His Father and was completely obedient.

Lyrics to Mercy Me’s Song “Even If”

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

Every time I hear this song, it reminds me of what Jesus must have felt in the garden.  Regardless of what we face in life—financial struggles, relationship problems, health issues, etc., if we fully trust and know that the Lord wants what is best, then we too, will be able to say that our hope is in Him alone.  When our hope is in Him, we can want what He wants more than what we want—His will be done.

Lord, when we face challenges remind us that our hope is You alone.  You have a plan and You know what is best.  Your beloved Son is our perfect example of how to put our faith and trust in You.  Jesus put Your will above His own desires, help us to do the same.  Help us to know that even if You don’t answer our prayers the way we want, our hope is in You alone because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Maundy Thursday, March 29

Maundy Thursday, March 29

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.

Humility, servanthood, and obedience—these are all attributes of Jesus.  Attributes that we, as His followers, should aspire to.

Humility is not thinking less (or poorly) of yourself but thinking of yourself less.  Humility allows us to put others ahead of ourselves, to consider their needs before our own.  It prompts us to serve others, not out of our excess, but in our very weakness.  Humility leads to submission to God, and to one another out of reverence to the Lord.

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “In submission we are at last free to value other people.  Their dreams and plans become important to us.  We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom—the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others.  For the first time we can love people unconditionally.  We have given up the right to demand that they return our love.”

Jesus is our ultimate example of humility, submission, service, and obedience.  He gave up His divine rights for the good of others, for us.  He loves us unconditionally, giving up His right to demand that we return His love.

He went to the cross for us.  Let us bow before Him in humility and confess with gratitude and singleness of heart that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Most gracious Father, thank You for the cross.  Shape us to be more like Your Son Jesus, that with humility and in submission we may serve others and obey You.  All to Your glory. Amen!

Wednesday, March 28

Wednesday, March 28

Psalm 22:12-21 (ESV)

12 Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
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.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

The language of this Psalm is employed no less than five times in the New Testament to illustrate our Lord’s Passion.

Robert Holland of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary observes of the Psalm that it “is appropriate for the hope that accompanies Jesus’ Passion as well as the grief.  It anticipates a vision of God who holds the believer even after death that will only be expressed centuries later.”

Jesus is not spared his cross nor we ours’.

Our Lord must endure death that his perfect humanity might be raised to heaven as the first fruits of the Gospel harvest.  We may follow him all the way home because, fully sharing our humanity, one of our own kind has breached Heaven’s gate.  Because Jesus is also fully God, the moral effect of his ascension may be applicable to us and his righteousness imputed to us who recognize in him the captain of our salvation (Heb 2:10), who brings believers today into Promised Rest (Heb 4:8f & Acts 20:32; 26:18).

Father, Thank You for the miracle of life—abundant life here, and eternal life with You in Heaven.  Help me celebrate that life every day as I seek You and follow Your plan for my life.  Today, I say with the Apostle Paul, “Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
– Mary Southerland

Tuesday, March 27

Tuesday, March 27

Psalm 22:1-11 (ESV)

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Psalm 22 is what Jesus quoted from the cross.  And in truth, we all sometimes feel as if God is absent and we are utterly alone, forsaken, and without help.

In a world where Facebook posts successes, in churches where others seem to have it together and other’s marriages seem pleasant, and other’s jobs don’t seem to suck their souls… where prosperity teachers urge us to positive confessions and to move from victory to victory… it’s easy to feel alone when we’re in a dark and forsaken kind of place.

But that’s not how believers in former generations approached this: they recognized the dark night of the soul.  It’s not how the Psalmist approaches it either.  This psalm guides us when we feel desperate and alone.

Two key elements come together: really deep honesty, and hope.  In verses 1-2 and 6-8 the psalmist dumps out the reality of how the current situation feels, and he doesn’t hold back.  At the same time, he clings to hope: God has delivered his people in the past, God has been present since his birth, and God is the one he continues to cry out to.

As we face the pain life sometimes offers, may we too learn to be deeply honest and at the same time hang on to hope.

Oh God, who has delivered your people in the past, in our dark times, grant us the courage to be deeply honest with you and each other, and grant us strength to cling to hope in these times.  Through Christ our Lord, who suffered and was tempted just as we are and yet persevered in hope.

Monday, March 26

Monday, March 26

Isaiah 53:7-12 (ESV)

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.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53 foretells of the coming Messiah who is compared to a lamb being led to slaughter.  In the Old Testament, animals without blemish and pure were offered as sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, most often a lamb.  Without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness.  Isaiah compares the one to come as the pure Lamb of God, sinless and unblemished.  He would suffer in silence, wrongly accused for our sake and bearing our sins to make us acceptable to God.

John the Baptist confirms Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah when seeing him states, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Isaiah in verse 10 shows us that this sacrificed Lamb of God will be resurrected and live eternally.  He will see his spiritual descendants, you and I counted as righteous before God through the shedding of his blood.  Jesus has won the victory over death and now makes intercession for us eternally.

We no longer live under the Old Testament law of animal sacrifice to cover our sin.  The long-awaited Lamb of God has come and was sacrificed once and for all.  [H]ow much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

Dear Lord, help us see that though innocent you were oppressed and afflicted for us.  Because you bear our sins as a sheep sent to slaughter, we are made righteous through your intercession for us.  Let the blood of Jesus cleans us so that we may serve the living God.  Amen.

Palm Sunday, March 25

Palm Sunday, March 25

Isaiah 52:13-53:6 (ESV)

 13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

An average looking Jewish rabbi named Jesus is rejected by his own people.  He is beaten beyond recognition.  His skin is ripped from his body by a Roman scourge.  He is attached to a wooden cross by rusty spikes.  All of his friends, except one, abandon him.  He is mocked by the people around him.  He struggles to breathe for six hours.  Exhausted, Jesus suffocates.

That is what people saw.  But life happens on two levels: physical and spiritual, natural and supernatural.  Seven hundred years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah peered into the future to catch a glimpse both of the seen and unseen.  His insight into the hidden, spiritual realm explains the crucifixion of Jesus.

What did Isaiah see?

In the events of the cross, Isaiah recognized a work of God.  Yes, Roman executioners drove the nails, but they were only acting on God’s behalf.  Jesus was actually “smitten by God” (Isaiah 53:4), “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).

Iniquities?  What iniquity would warrant beating, scourging, crucifixion and death?  In a word: idolatry.  We tend to forget “…that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).  But Isaiah saw that, “All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned – every one – to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).  In going our way, instead of God’s way, we have made ourselves mini-gods.  Nothing incurs God’s wrath more than that.

However, because of his steadfast love for his people, God directed his wrath at Jesus.  “The Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).  “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5).

Peace with God through the cross.  That is what Isaiah saw.

Thank you, Jesus.