Today my brother, Roger has travelled down to Lake Jackson by himself to visit us. (We’ve been in this house for close to 15 years and this is his first time to see it.) I’m grateful for the time we spent going to church, watching football, going out to eat, and just hanging out. He is not out of the woods yet, but he has come a long way. Today, he a different man than he was just a few months ago. He has a renewed faith. We are able to carry on great conversations.
Today, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my brother. I’m grateful for our new relationship. I’m grateful for his effort to come down to see us. I’m grateful to God for progress and for hope. Today, I praise God for all He has done and for His promise to be with us through all of our circumstances.
Matthew 28:20b – (Jesus speaking) – I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Romans 5:3-4 – . . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I clutch the head tightly with the claw and strain to pry the nail out of the flesh leaving an open wound. Sometimes it splinters even more. The bent nails must be hammered from the opposite side in order to be removed. Reclaimed wood is rough, marred, scarred, scratched, discolored, beaten, and weathered.It’s not very pretty. However, when used in the right context, it can be beautiful. The scars give it character and tell a story. It has rich history. The wood cannot reclaim itself. I must do the work.
My heart is the same. God has been reclaiming my heart piece by piece since the day I chose to follow Him back in 1985. Like the nails that must be hammered from the opposite side, He works from the inside out. It’s a painful process. He is hammering, ripping, tearing, and prying out the damage that I’ve done to myself with my sin. It hurts. It’s not an easy process and sometimes I recognize new splinters in the painful ways that my sin had affected me without my knowledge. The Holy Spirit convicts me and He opens wounds within me, but then Jesus offers healing and has already provided the salve by covering my sin with His own blood.
Like the wood, I am rough, marred, scarred, scratched, discolored, beaten, and weathered. However, when I submit and let God put me in the right context, I become beautiful. I cannot do this on my own, but in His hands, I have character, a story, and a rich history that He can use for His glory.I become His creation as He molds me into His likeness in spite of my sin and in spite of my wounds. I am His and that makes all the difference.
If you had the power to be invisible, how would you use it? What would you do?
Give yourself a moment to come up with an answer before you continue reading….
Determine a real answer for what you would do.
Character is exemplified by what you do when no one is looking. What does your answer say about your character?
I asked my woodshop students this question at school yesterday. I heard the same kind of answers all day long (All 7 class periods). They would:
1.) Steal things.
2.) Go to concerts, games, amusement parks, or flights without tickets.
3.) Stalk celebrities or watch them inappropriately.
4.) Listen in on private conversations from their friends.
My students had fun with the question and laughed about how cool it’d be to have that power. For the first few classes, I laughed and had fun with them too. However, as the day went on, I began to realize that no one seemed to be thinking in generous ways. No one seemed to care about the needs of others or about doing the right thing. No one wanted to hide from the bad guys and be a hero. I mean… How great would it be to secretly deliver a gift to someone and then watch their reaction?
In their answers, the power of invisibility was simply a license to get away with selfish behaviors. I’ll ask the same question again. “What does this say about our character?” Who are we when no one is looking?
In the Scriptures, (Mark 12:42-43) we read about an little old lady who gave a small amount of money to God’s people, but it was everything she had. She was invisible and her gift was invisible, but it was this action (what she did quietly behind the scenes) for which Jesus commended her.
Who are you in the quiet? When no one is looking? Are you giving or selfish?
Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:25
Early Sunday morning a group of women took anointing oil to Jesus’ grave. However, what they found was not what they expected. They would not be anointing His body that day. Instead, an angel rolled away the stone entrance to the grave and told them that Jesus had risen. He said that they should go and tell the disciples. Then, Jesus appeared to them Himself and they attempted to worship, but He told them to tell the disciples to go the Galilee and meet Him there.
Jesus was alive!! He was determined to confront all His enemies that week. He came up against the Pharisees, chief priests, scribes, Samaritans, Herod, Caiaphas, and Pilate. He had been betrayed by one of His own disciples and fought against sin even so far as being separated from His Father in death, BUT Jesus was alive! What does it mean for us if Jesus can do this?!?!?! HE IS GOD!
As we look back at the week, it seems clear that all along, Jesus was walking a very intentional path. He was choosing the cross and death with each decision. Jesus never wavered. In John 10:18, Jesus says, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” It was always about His Father. He asked Him to “take this cup from me” but chose to honor His Father anyway saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus’ first allegiance was to His Father. This was His Father’s will. Jesus loved His Father so much that He was willing to give His life for Him and for us. God the Father loved us so much that He sent Jesus to be the bridge which would allow us (sinners) to be in His Holy presence. We can be in relationship with God and are adopted into His family because Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave….” He loved so He gave. Jesus chose to live, to do ministry and miracles, to die, and to rise again, because of His great love for His Father and His disciples.
In His resurrection, Jesus proves that He is better. He is better than all His enemies – Pharisees, Herod, Pilate, etc. He is better than the ways of life offered by the world – possessions, money, fame, glory, fun – temporary enjoyments. He is better than the sin that we so often choose. He is better than friends, and family, and popularity. He is better than having a good reputation. No matter where we find ourselves: in sorrow, in sickness, in loneliness, in victory, in joy, in comfort, in riches, in power…. Jesus is always better. Jesus is better than anything and everything. Why? Because He is beyond. He is something other. He is set apart. Jesus is Holy. Jesus is different. He is God.
In all my sorrows, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better
There is simply not much written about Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath day which followed Jesus’ death. It’s an empty day. The hearts of His disciples were empty too. They were hurting and mourning. They were fearful for what their own future held and overwhelmingly disappointed as their hopes and dreams had been destroyed. It appeared that Jesus had not been all that they had believed. They were wrong. he was much more than they imagined, but they didn’t see it yet. Saturday was as empty day for them. Rock bottom.
On the other hand, the chief priests were elated. They had accomplished their goal and rid themselves of Jesus. The only thing Scripture tells us about Saturday is that the chief priests went to Pilate to have him secure Jesus’ tomb. They tell Pilate that they remember Jesus saying that he would rise after 3 days so they wanted a Roman seal and a Roman guard to make sure that the disciples didn’t steal His body and claim resurrection.
There are a few interesting points here:
1) Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem to remember His promise about rising in 3 days, but His enemies were taking his words seriously.
2) The disciples have run away and are fearful of being arrested themselves. Are the chief priests really afraid of the disciples stealing the body or are they afraid that Jesus might actually rise from the dead?
3) David Guzik (in his commentary) makes this point. The power of Jesus’ resurrection overcomes physical obstacles (the stone), human authority (Roman seal), and human strength (Roman guard). Nothing stands in God’s way.
Luke 23:54b tells us that the disciples rested on the Sabbath day. I don’t believe it would have been quite so restful inwardly, but it seems as though they continued in the patterns and rhythms of life they had developed throughout their lives.
Inner monologue: In what ways do I live as though Jesus is dead? How often do I make decisions relying upon human strength or reason rather than on the power of God? Am I broken and empty when I imagine a world without Jesus or is it business as usual? Will the patterns and rhythms of life I’m choosing now be helpful when I go through tough times?
Matthew 27:1-61; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:1-56; John 18:28-19:42
Good? This is the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. How can something so terrible be good? Well…. it was the terrible price that God paid so that we (sinners) could be in relationship with Him. We are better off and have been given forgiveness and new life as a result of His great loss. Jesus’ loss was our great gain. It wasn’t so “good” for Jesus, but it was more than “good” for us. Good Friday.
Here’s what happened:
Throughout the night on Thursday, the chief priests arrested Jesus and then rushed Him around to a few places trying to get permission to have Him killed. They see Caiaphas and then Pilate who then sent them to Herod so he wouldn’t have to deal with the situation. However, Herod didn’t have the authority to execute Jesus, so he sent him back to Pilate. In the end, Pilate reluctantly agreed to the demands of the crowd and sentenced Him to death.
The story becomes pretty gruesome at this point. Jesus is beaten with a flagrum (whip) that had shards of glass and bone at the end of several leather straps. He receives 39 lashings which would tear up His body. (often enough to kill someone or make them unconscious) They put a crown of thorns on His head and mock Him and then force Him to carry His own crossbar (easily 100 pounds) to the place of execution. Once there, spikes were driven through His hands and feet and He was hung on the cross. At that point, there was more mocking, and one of the other criminals being crucified defended Him. Jesus told him that he’d be with Him in paradise. Ultimately, Jesus died from suffocation.
A man named Joseph of Arimathea got permission to take Jesus’ body and with the help of some women who prepared spices, he buried Him in a tomb cut in stone.
As they buried Jesus’ body, the disciples and all of His followers were in disbelief. They had believed that He would be their salvation. They had believed that He would be a conquering King and would restore Israel to it’s rightful place among the nations. As Jesus breathed His last breath, their dreams died. All they had hoped for was destroyed. Their friend was gone. Their hearts were broken.
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:9-19
Palm Sunday is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Anyway, here’s what I learned about the culture of this whole:
During Jesus’ day, Pilate ruled over Jerusalem as a Roman governor. Pilate’s superior would have been Caesar.
Caesar believed that he literally had come from heaven to earth and that he was the son of God incarnate on earth. He wanted to show people his power by spreading propaganda. Some of the sayings of his day were: “Caesar is Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved than that of Caesar.” He also had a 12-day celebration of his birth called the “Advent of Caesar.” You could even give him offerings so that your sins could be forgiven. He was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
During Jesus’ day, there were a few times a year that all Jewish people were supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate specific holidays together. The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem, but during these celebrations, the Jews would certainly have outnumbered the Romans who were present in the city. Pilate (the Roman governor) would probably have felt pretty weary about these festivals. I mean, there was always a big mess to clean up, fights to break up, and simply more people to govern and take care of during these times. It would have been a stressful time in government and there was also the ever-present threat that if the Jews decided to all get together, they might be able to overtake him. Pilate lived in a mansion in Caesarea, but during these festivals and specifically this week (Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover – this festival celebrated that God heard their cry during a time when they were oppressed by a foreign government.) Anyway, Pilate would march into Jerusalem to keep things in order during these festivals. His procession was designed to be authoritative and show his power. It was designed to scare the people so that they would never even dream of uprising against Rome. The procession began with the Roman emblem which was an eagle.
Sidenote: A teacher of the law, says Jesus I’ll follow you wherever you go, and Jesus responds “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was speaking about Rome as the “bird” and the word “fox” referred to the Herods who were corrupt kings who lived in palaces but didn’t care about the people. Jesus’ answer spoke saying “These other movements are about power, mine is different – I don’t even have a place to sleep.”
Behind the the eagle in the procession would have been the Roman soldiers carrying etchings of the Caesars with all kinds of things reminding the people of all the power they had and all the battles they had won. The etchings were all about power, strength, and domination. They also marched with metal shields which made sounds which would have brought about fear and terror to the people watching. Pilate would have entered next on a horse – a huge stallion – again a symbol of power, strength, and military conquests.
PILATE ENTERED JERUSALEM ON A HORSE FROM THE WEST!
Luke 19 describes another event which happened the same week. Jesus went to Jerusalem and from the Mount of Olives (east of Jerusalem) he sent some people ahead of him to get a donkey. As you look west from the Mount of Olives you can see Jerusalem just past the Kiddron Valley. They brought the donkey to him and people spread their cloaks on the road as He passed them. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This word “King” might not have been a good one to use in light of Pilate who had just come in himself. Some of the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples and to kind of “keep it down.” Jesus responds, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” Now, there were a bunch of stones/graves on the Mount of Olives, because the Jewish belief was that the Messiah would raise from the dead all the good Jews who had died. From there they believed He would lead them all into Jerusalem where there would be peace and prosperity. Therefore, they all wanted to be buried near Jerusalem. So anyway, the Pharisees told them to be quiet, but Jesus says basically, “I’m the Messiah who will raise these people from the dead!” The Pharisees’ lightbulbs came on ’cause they certainly knew what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus doesn’t walk into the city, but rides a donkey. (Matthew 21) Zechariah had said years ago that the King would come “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus used the donkey to say, “Hey, I’m the guy you’ve been waiting for.” Now the way Matthew quoted this verse is called a “remez” – where Jews would quote the first part of a verse knowing that the other Jews would know the 2nd part of the verse. (Remember, they all had to memorize the Old Testament)
Here’s the whole verse: Zechariah 9:9-10 “See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.(That’s the part Matthew quoted – next is the part the Jews would have known.) I will take away the chariots from Ephraim (Jews) and the war-horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” Now check this out: Pilate came from the west proclaiming his war abilities, Jesus comes from the east and takes the peoples weapons away so he can proclaim peace. Jesus’ kingdom is totally different than the kingdom of Rome. His kingdom is about peace, not war. His parade is humble rather than proud.
JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM FROM THE EAST ON A DONKEY!
Why did Jesus weep as He entered the city? In the year 70AD the Jews decided to do it all Pilates way and they took up arms against Rome – they got destroyed! The temple was also destroyed. Jesus knew that Jerusalem would fail to do things His way, even though they were quick to follow Him now. In the city of Rome today stands the “Titus Arch” in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem. Can you hear Jesus? “You guys don’t realize it, but you’re gonna end up falling into the trap of war too.”
OK – here’s the point for you and I: THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO ENTER A CITY – the way of Pilate or the way of Jesus. There are two ways to enter a conversation. There are two ways to treat your family. There are two ways to deal with conflict in a relationship. There are two ways to deal with pain. There are two ways to treat your friends. Which will it be for you? Horses or donkeys? From the West or from the East? The way of Pilate or the way of Jesus?
Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13:1-18:27
On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus celebrated a traditional Passover meal with His disciples. (well… maybe not so traditional) He sent John and Peter ahead to get the meal prepared. When they arrived the disciples thought it was just gonna be “business as usual.” They had celebrated the Passover meal every year for as long as they could remember. They knew how it worked, but Jesus was about the change it up.
At the beginning of the meal, the host (usually the father in a home) washed His hands to purify Himself to lead. However, Jesus didn’t need to purify Himself so He started changing things up from the very start of the evening. Jesus took the basin and towel and used it instead to wash the feet of the disciples telling them that they should serve others as well. At this point, it probably become more clear that Jesus would be doing the Passover differently.
God had instituted the Passover meal to help Israel to remember what He had done during the time of Moses and the Exodus. They remembered the 10 plagues that God sent upon Egypt – including the lamb which each household sacrificed in order to put its blood on their doorways so the angel of death would passover them. The blood of the lamb had saved them. They ate bitter herbs to remember their lives as slaves in Egypt. They ate a sweet mixture of fruit, honey, and nuts, and recognized that God had been present with them even in those bitter times. He brought a sweetness to their lives even in the midst of slavery. They dipped vegetables in salt water to remember how God had brought them through the Red Sea.
After the meal, they ate unleavened bread to remember how God had miraculously provided “bread from heaven” (manna) for them to eat in the desert. In those moments, they said a blessing over the bread, “Blessed art thou OH LORD, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” In this blessing they remembered the manna, but it also pointed forward to the fact that Jesus himself (Bread of Life) was about to come “forth from the earth.” In just a few days, He would be resurrected and come out of the tomb!
Immediately following the bread, the traditional meal required them to drink a cup of wine called the “Cup of Redemption.” This cup and the color of the wine was intended to remind the Jewish people of the blood of the Passover lamb that had been sacrificed for their salvation. Jesus deviated from the usual way of doing this meal when He told them to drink it in remembrance of Him. It had always been in remembrance of the lamb slain in the original Passover. However, this would be something new. The new covenant which Jesus instituted that night would still celebrate the blood of the Lamb, but this lamb was Jesus Himself. There is Jerusalem, just that same week He was in the midst of choosing a path which would lead Him to the cross. There, he would die for the sins of the world, sacrificing Himself so we can be in relationship with God.
(Sidenote: The Cup of Redemption was also used in their culture as part of weddings. When a man chose a bride, He said “Will you marry me?” by offering her the cup. Drinking it was her way of saying, “Yes!!” – When we drink of the cup in communion, we are agreeing to live our lives married to Jesus and His ways. It’s an incredible offer – to become a part of the Family of God)
After the Passover meal, Jesus prays for His disciples (those present with Him and those who will become disciples later on) and then He the disciples make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spends some time praying. It’s not long before Jesus is officially betrayed by Judas and then is arrested.
Inner monologue: Am I prepared for a life with Jesus? In what ways do I need to prepare more? Do I recognize the sweetness of the Lord while I’m in the midst of struggle? This meal tells the story of God’s interaction with His people. What are some ways that I can tell the story of God’s interactions with me?
Wednesday is a quiet day for Jesus, but God is still at work – A quiet strength. After all that had been said on Tuesday, Jesus gave the Pharisees a little break from Him. They had already made up their minds about killing Him, but needed a little time work out a plan. Like a true gentleman, Jesus gave them some space. Scripture doesn’t record Him taking another trip into town or any interaction with the Pharisees.
Instead, Jesus stays in the home of Simon the Leper, where Mary (Lazarus’ sister) anointed Jesus with a very expensive perfume. According to one scholar, hung flasks like this one around their neck. Mark 14:3, says that the flask had to be broken for her to even open it. An article from Russ Ramsey explains that this act is like “popping the cork on a $20,000 bottle of champagne.” It was extravagant and the disciples (specifically Judas) was upset (John 12:4-6) because that kind of money could have been used to “care for the poor.” (Code for: I can steal some) However, Jesus defends her saying that they would always have the poor, but that He would not always be there.
I think Jesus recognized something else too. The expensive perfume, was not just expensive perfume. It was a symbol of her heart. She gave all she had to Jesus. The perfume was simply the means by which she gave her life to Him. There’s a quiet strength in her. When Jesus defended her, He valued her heart. When He says this was a beautiful act that would always be remembered (Mt 26:13), He is telling us that she is a great example. We should respond to Him generously… extravagantly. All we have and all we are still doesn’t match the gift we’ve been given in Him.
Jesus didn’t stir the pot with the Pharisees on Wednesday, but Judas met with the chief priests, arranged to betray Him, and received 30 pieces of silver. Jesus’ quiet strength worked in the lives of those at Simon’s house, and the enemy was working in the shadows at the same time – plotting and scheming to destroy Him. Interestingly enough, Jesus’ efforts on Tuesday (pushing Pharisees into a corner) seem to be quietly whispering that Jesus’ plan is big enough to include a bunch of angry Pharisees. They thought they were working their plan, but ultimately, they were stepping into a script that the Lord had written before time itself.
My inner monologue: What’s keeping me from demonstrating my love for the Lord extravagantly? Are there people that I have judged for being too extravagant? What excuses do I tell myself for not being more generous?
Matthew 21:23-26:5; Mark 11:27-14:2; Luke 20:1-22:2; John 12:37-50
The Tuesday of Holy Week is full of confrontation. Jesus is determined.
After the events of Monday (running money changers out), the chief priests and scribes have seen enough and they are ready to kill Jesus. However, Jesus doesn’t do anything different. He could have smoothed things over a bit and de-escalated the situation, but He didn’t. Jesus chose to push forward in spite of the opposition.
When they question His authority, He trapped them. (Mt 21:27) Then he told them that tax collectors and prostitutes made better decisions than they did. (Mt 21:32) In vs 21:43, Jesus tells the chief priests and scribes that the Kingdom of God will be taken from them.
These are not the kinds of things you say if you’re trying to de-escalate the situation.
Next, (Mt 22:10) Jesus tells them a story that compares them to wedding guests who make poor choices and aren’t worthy enough to attend. They end up losing their spots to random people from the streets.
Jesus just keeps pushing them.
They try to trap him with a question about paying taxes, but Jesus makes the slip and points out that they are putting trust in the wrong things. God is interested in hearts not money. (Mt 22:21)
Sidenote: Caesar minted coins with his face to help spread his name. When Rome conquered Jerusalem he also required a tribute in the form of a tax from that country. This is a huge deal to the Jews ’cause Caesar was claiming to be god. If they paid the tax, then they would be breaking the first two commandments – no other gods before me, and you shall have no graven image. (coin itself was an image) When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with this issue he asks them for a coin – this means that Jesus didn’t have one (He wasn’t carrying a graven image) When the religious leaders pull one out, they have already broken the second commandment. Jesus is so cool!!!
The Sadducees question Him, and Jesus silences them too explaining that they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Mt 22:29)
If they were upset about Monday, Tuesday simply compounds their feelings about Him. They hate him even more now.
After all the confrontation, Jesus tells His disciples and the crowd not to act like the Pharisees. (Mt 23:3) I can just imagine them listening in on these words and fuming. Their blood is already boiling, and Jesus just keeps going. They’re already angry enough to be seeking a way to kill Him, but Jesus begins announcing a series of “Woes” on them. He calls them “whitewashed tombs.” He describes them as outwardly beautiful, but inwardly just dead bones and uncleanness.
This summary of Jesus’ words on Tuesday of Holy week only scratches the surface of all that He said, but in the end, the main point is that Jesus seems to be intent on walking a path which will lead Him to the cross. It seems obvious to me that He is deliberately choosing to upset and anger the Pharisees. He is God. He understands fully that He is poking the bear, and yet, He still chooses to do it. In Luke 9:51, we see that Jesus had “set his face on Jerusalem.” He understood His purpose and knew what must be done. Although it was going to be a tough road and difficult days were ahead, Jesus’ resolve was greater. His love for His Father compelled Him. His steps were deliberate.
My inner dialog: How Great is Our God? What kind of God/King chooses the kind of suffering that awaited Him for the benefit of His subjects? How can I be more deliberate in my choice to love others? In what ways do I need to stop trying to pacify others? Do I de-escalate situations too quickly? If I allowed confrontation to have its full effect, would it be beneficial? Would it push things forward and force stronger resolutions?
Prayer: Jesus, I am grateful for your example – for your confrontation of sin and for your determination to honor your Father in spite of the earthly consequences. I’m grateful for your resolve. It led to the cross which allows for my salvation. Thank you for your love. Thank you.