Holy Week Daily Devotional - Saturday

Holy Saturday - Silence (part 1)

by Hayley Elder

Take a few minutes and read John 19:38-42, Is 55:8-9, Psalm 139.

 

Around 5 years ago, I had one of my 'winter seasons'. A period of feeling down that led to a depression which really shook me. For the first time in a while I felt a real silence from God that made me question everything. Village was a few years in and I found myself in meetings discussing the core beliefs and values of Village, whilst honestly questioning the existence of God. I stepped out of leadership, which was definitely for the best, but after a few months I stopped coming to Sunday gatherings and made excuses to avoid missional community.  I started to feel angry with God, and in time, I became really bitter.

I can imagine that many of Jesus' friends and followers felt confused, angry, and possibly even abandoned after his death. For three years they had followed him. For three years they had listened to his words, seen him heal the sick, calm the sea, and cast out demons. And after three years, maybe, just maybe, they had started to believe in him. But, after Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had prepared, wrapped, and laid His body in that new tomb, they wouldn't have been in any doubt that he was gone. In a similar way, I had grown sure that if there was a God somewhere in the heavens, he certainly didn't like me very much. He had gone. He had abandoned me.

 

Thankfully, that wasn’t true at all. I had believed the lie and the lie had consumed me. Those verses in Isaiah (55:8-9) tell us what we ought to know already, that our thoughts and ways aren't like God's. His are higher; they are better, they are true. It seems obvious, but we humans are forgetful beings, and Jesus' friends and followers in their despair, forgot to look ahead to the fulfilment that was to come. In my moment of darkness I forgot to look back. I could have picked out one of many times in my life that God had been anything but silent.

 

Of course, for Joseph and Nicodemus, the tomb was not the end of the story. Three days later the tomb would be empty; nothing remaining but the cloths with which they had so carefully wrapped him, and the faint aroma of embalming spices hanging in the air. And because of that empty tomb, things did not end in silence for me either. Looking back, it's obvious that God's voice was evident in all of the stern encouragement, gentle rebuking, and un-wavering love I experienced from my brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how I tried to deny Him, I was surrounded by people who reminded me of Him. He was all around me.

 

If only I had read Psalm 139 at the time. Verses 7 and 8 spell out the truth for us. There is no getting away from the presence of God. In the highest heavens, or the deepest darkness, He is there. This would be encouraging enough on its own, but the rest of the Psalm reveals how intimately God knows us and how carefully our lives are planned. "In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me" (Verse 16). Even the toughest, and darkest of our days have been part of our stories since we were being knitted together. Why? Because God knows better than we do. Because His ways are better than ours.

 

Jesus' death was not the easiest or happiest way to save humanity, but it was necessary, and it was God's will.

 

 

Holy Saturday - The day after God died (part 2)

by Thomas McConaghie

Take a few minutes and read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

 

Last night we held our now annual Tenebrae Service; a gathering in the shadows and darkness. We recalled the story of Jesus on the journey to the cross and sat in discomfort considering the cost paid for our sins before leaving in silence. We long for Sunday because we know the unbridled joy and relief it yields. But we – in the broadest sense – don’t do much with Holy Saturday. We often hear the phrase “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming.” And rightly so, it’s beautiful in its hopefulness and succinctly captures the joy that we find in this season. However, could we be missing a trick in not paying attention to Holy Saturday?

It might sound strange to admit but it’s only in recent years that I’ve even realised the presence of Holy Saturday. Let’s place the “Sunday’s coming” mantra to the back of our minds for a moment in a bid to empathise with the Disciples.

 

Yesterday Andrew painted a vivid picture of the death of Jesus; a picture that would have been burned into the minds of the Jesus followers who witnessed the crucifixion as they awoke the next morning; if they even managed to get any sleep. The rising sun creeps through the window. No sooner have your eyes opened that it all comes flooding back, except now there’s no adrenaline to take the edge off. Your stomach sinks like an anchor thrown over the edge of a ship and it all comes flooding back… the stench of death, the echoes of tortured cries, the sight of Jesus torn to shreds giving up his breath. It wasn’t a dream. It really happened. Jesus is dead. And we are to be most pitied.

For the last three years the disciples had enjoyed the company of God Incarnate. They watched him proclaim hope and change lives. The Kingdom promised in the texts of old was near! But now, silence. Disbelief. Shock. Denial. Numbness. Was there a longer, darker day in human history than that Saturday?

 

In jumping from Friday to Sunday, I think we miss a trick. Holy Saturday, it would seem, is so typical of our Christian life, as Hayley vulnerably shared above. Broken relationships, lost loved ones, shattered dreams, unmet expectations…the list is inexhaustible. Uncertainty is part and parcel of our experience and it’s important to not run away from this. Embracing Holy Saturday encourages us to consider for a moment what our lives might have looked like if the stone wasn’t rolled away; if there was no expectation of resurrection.

 

Christianity hinges on Good Friday and Easter Sunday; the cross and the resurrection. But let’s not fast forward through Holy Saturday. Take a moment to hold the full weight of 1 Corinthians 15:19. We are to be most pitied. Consider, just for a day, that your entire Christian experience was all in vain.

 

Then, as we awake on Sunday morning, and the rumours start to spread that the stone is rolled away, may the taste of resurrection be all the sweeter.

 

 

 

 

Posted on March 31, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Friday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Good Friday - The Crucifixtion

by Andrew Elder

Take a few minutes and read John 19:1-30.

 

Excruciating. We use that word all the time. When we stub a toe, or have toothache, or a migraine – the worst types of pain. But have you ever considered where this term comes from?

ex – cruciating; literally “out of crucifying.” A form of punishment so torturous it brought forth a new word for pain. 

 

“There they crucified him.” (John 19:18)

 

Roman crucifixion wasn’t a quick death. It was performed as a deterrent to other would-be criminals; and so the slower, more painful, more gruesome, more humiliating, and more public the execution the better. Victims were left to left to hang until their eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation, which usually took several days, and often they were left hanging long after death to continue the humiliation and gruesome spectacle. The Romans had perfected the art of killing people slowly. 

A Roman senator, called Cicero, recorded that crucifixion was “the most extreme form of punishment.” And it was. As Roman capital punishments went, it was more extreme than decapitation by sword and worse than being burned alive. It was even regarded as more severe than being torn to pieces by wild animals in the gladiatorial arena - at least that was swift. So despicable was it to civilised Roman thought, it was mostly reserved for non-Roman citizens, rebels, and slaves.

"Pone crucem servo" was the common command; “Put the cross on the slave.”

In regular practice the prisoner was flogged first, the so-called “half death,” because it had to stop short of actually killing them. An officer with the title of “lictor” was trained in the use of the flagellum, a weapon of terrifying effect. Its name is the origin of the english word “flogging.” It consisted of a wooden handle and several long leather thongs, each having pieces of bone or chain sewn into them, designed for one purpose only: to rip into skin and flesh. The number of strokes was not specified, nor was the location on the body upon which the prisoner could be struck, just so long as the process didn’t kill them.

 

Then came the cross itself.

For a common slave they used a lower cross, but for a distinguished enemy leader or rebel, as in the case of Jesus, they used the “crux sublimis,” raising the victim much higher off the ground and giving the grotesque show a wider audience. The condemned person would be made to carry the cross to the site of their execution, most often at the side of a busy, crowded road. Both factors intended to maximise the humiliation and, once at the site, the condemned would be stripped naked to heap on more humiliation and add the discomfort of exposure to the sun and insects. The soldiers, after tying the victim’s shoulders to the upright beam of the cross, then held their arms flat against the crosspiece. Five-inch spikes were driven by a hammer through each wrist, in the tender part, just between the forearm bones. The legs were then stretched out, one foot placed on top of the other, and a single spike hammered through both feet.

 

Only after the cross was raised into position did the real agony begin.

“The screaming was unbearable to hear,” one historian records the words of witnesses. Hanging on the cross in this way, it was nearly impossible to breathe, and the only way the victim could catch a breath was by pushing themselves into a more upright position with their legs.  In this position all their weight was in their feet, and so, too painful to bare, the victim would let their weight fall back in to their arms.  For hours and hours this cycle of pain went on, until finally, too weak to move, the victim would die, gasping for air. On rare occasions, out of pity or boredom, the soldiers would hasten death by breaking the legs of the crucified victim, thus preventing them from resting their weight on their feet, so they would suffocate.

 

There. They. Crucified. Him.

 

How many times have we heard these words? How many times have we heard them and failed to consider the extent of their cruelty and violence. Failed to consider just what our Jesus endured. This isn’t written to shock or disgust you. It’s not meant to put you off your cornflakes and coffee this Good Friday morning. It is meant to cause you to stop and consider what Jesus went through, for you. For me. 

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have be healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) 

Outside the city, God’s city, the King of Glory died the most slow, painful, humiliating, gruesome, and public death. The death of a slave. The death of a rebel. The death of one most despised. And as the Romans carried out their cruelty, little did they know that they were proving Jesus to be the fulfilment of the scriptures; proving him to be the Christ. As commanded by Jewish law, when the High Priest offered the sin offering, because it represented the sin of the people, it could not be burned on the altar inside the temple. Instead, the innocent animal was slaughtered and burned outside the camp, to represent how much God detests sin and to show how he removes sin from his people, so that they can dwell in his presence once again. It should not be lost on us then, that Jesus suffered outside the city. As C. H. Spurgeon comments, “That by dying without the gate, he might be proved to be the sin offering for his people.”

Think about that. HE was the sin offering for HIS people.

The Creator, offered up for his creation. Make no mistake, God gave himself up for you. The guilt that was ours was heaped on him and he was lead outside the city and slaughtered so we could go free. Not only did God subject himself to this punishment, allowing himself to be put to death and in doing so become the sin offering...but this was always the plan. God was always in control. In every part of this process his purposes were being advanced, and all these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 19:36.). God put himself there.

God was impaled on that cross.

The one through whom, by whom, and for whom everything that was made, was made hung on that Roman cross, in agony, gasping for breath. But even so, he remained in control and it was only after the redeeming work was finished that he gave up his spirit. (John 19:30) It wasn’t taken from him, it didn’t leave him naturally, he gave it up. Jesus gave up his life.

When the King of Glory, the Creator of the universe, the Son of God, had received the fullness of God’s wrath he cried “It is finished,” bowed his head, and gave up his life. For you. For me.

 

There. They. Crucified. Him.

 

 

Posted on March 30, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Thursday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Maundy Thursday - A Little While Longer

by Rachel Millican

Take a few minutes and read John 16:16-33.

 

Her fiancé’s photo stood in the old wooden frame on her dressing-table, beside the mirror and her veil. She stared for some time into the mirror, her dress so beautiful – it was simple but not plain. Timelessly elegant.

She knew she had to focus her mind and her heart as she waited for him. People who had initially congratulated her had recently begun to laugh at her for wearing her wedding gown now. Even her family. Even her closest friends. Some who had walked with her many years had turned on her in recent days, spitting out cruel vitriol against her belief that he was going to turn up.

“He’s gone!” they had snorted, “and he’s really not coming back! Move on!” They even seemed to take delight in her sorrow. Sometimes she just couldn’t stop the tears. And the horrible mocking would take up residence in her mind – where was he? Was he coming? Why wasn’t he here? 

But, always, a soft wind would blow and a still voice would answer… 

“Yes, in a little while…I’m on my way. Wait patiently. I’ve not forgotten you, nor the promises I made you.”

He had sent her texts, loads of them, words that locked themselves into the deepest cavities of her soul. When she received his words, she could feel his nearness – so near – so here – that she might reach out her hand and touch him. That thought made her tremble, with joy.

“Keep your eyes on me. The world is in chaos. Oh, it’s groaning and heaving towards the end. I hear its low moaning noises as it labours towards that day. But, my bride, that end is only a beginning – our wedding day, when we shall see each other face to face. Remember, I am the one who made this covenant with you and I am a faithful husband. There is no one like me. Draw close, my bride, and wait in the shadow of my coming, for just a little while.”

In that shadow, peace envelops her mind and joy is folded into her being. The voices around her continue their taunts but her ears are tuned to the words of her lover, the song of her saviour:

“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”

 

Christian, you are betrothed to him.

 

You are betrothed to the One who leads his friends to weep and lament, watching from a distance, hearing from strangers that this provocative rabbi - the Nazarene – has finally been taken by the authorities and been executed. He promises that your heart will be sorrowful. But this is a sorrow that no one can bear.

You are betrothed to the One who promised to turn all your sorrow to joy. Agonising sorrow, as the Messiah, the only Hope for mankind is abused and tortured and crucified. Oh, but then – Joy – when you see him once again! “Your hearts will rejoice,” he tells them.

He’s not wrong.

You are betrothed to the One who will love you to the end. Even when you “scatter” and try to run and leave him and harden your heart in fear and doubt – even then – he will not leave you. The One who says, “Yet I AM not alone, for the Father is with me,” invites you in this blood-bought covenant relationship.

So, be of good courage, betrothed Christian, listen to his voice: “In ME you have peace.” IN him. This is the good news – you are in him – and there is real peace here. The world will harass you and distress you, but you, beloved of the LORD, you can stand in the truth he has told us, “Take heart, I have overcome the world!”

Listen – I hear the sound of the wedding song, in the distance…

 

Just a little while longer.

 

So, let us wait, a little while, for he is the sublime truth of the known and unknown universe and the almighty lover of our souls; he can be trusted to the end. And in that new beginning, we will gather in joy, all our sorrow fleeing away, no more tears, Christian, no more tears.

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

Posted on March 29, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Wednesday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Holy Wednesday - Jesus Promises To Send The Holy Spirit

by Jonathan T. Parks

Take a few minutes and read John 14:1-31 & John 16:4-15.

 

When I was 17 I lost my best friend. He was killed in a car accident. Actually he was more than just a friend. We grew up together, we leaned on one another through adolescence, we became men together (as much of a man as you are at 17 & 18). He was a brother to me. 

Mark’s death devastated me for years and it still hurts at certain times, but things do get a little easier as time goes by. I do miss him. I miss his friendship and I also miss the part of me that only he could bring out. This year is significant because he’ll officially be “gone” for as long as he was here. 18 years. A weird tipping point in the balance of his history. 

Even though it’s been 18 years since I’ve seen him, in some ways I remember everything about him. His sense of humour and laugh, his facial expressions, the way he ran, and that weird knuckle he had on his left ring finger. 

But in other ways, there is distance. The way we used to encourage one another isn’t available to me anymore. That invaluable and intimate accountability that you experience with maybe 2 or 3 people in your lifetime is gone. The really good parts of me that came out quite easily simply by being around him are suddenly much harder to conjure up. Some things are just harder because Mark isn’t in my life anymore.

And I can’t help but wonder if this is what Jesus’ disciples were afraid of in this passage.

Their dear friend and teacher has just told them that he is leaving them, that he’s going away. I don’t think you can overestimate just what Jesus meant to this group of men. They gave up everything to follow him; their trade, their livelihood. They followed him from town to town, through the deserts, watching him closely and listening to every word that came from his mouth. They watched him feed a crowd of thousands from a one boy’s lunch pale. They stood by as he raised people from the dead. The past three years of their lives were like nothing anyone has ever experienced. And now he is saying that he’s going, that they are going to lose him.

They must have been devastated. That sick feeling in their guts.

 

But then Jesus says something that was difficult for his disciples to understand in the moment. 

He says he is going away, but he also says he’s going to send them another Helper. In fact, in this same conversation in chapter 16, he says it’s actually to their advantage that he goes, so that he can send this Helper!

Often I think of what it would be like to be in the very presence of Jesus. To see exactly what colour his eyes are, how tall he is, and what his voice sounds like. I think about if I had the option of having Jesus, of being with him (like his disciples in that upper room), of knowing him personally and intimately; his quirks, his sense of humour..how amazing would that be?

But Jesus says it’s actually better for us that he goes. It’s better for our relationship with him that he’s not here physically right now. That distance, that fading of relationship that his disciples were afraid of experiencing actually isn’t going to happen. 

Let me paraphrase…Jesus says “I am going, but I’m not going to leave you as orphans. You’re not going to be without a home. In fact, even though the world won’t see me anymore, you still will! And instead of a distant, fading relationship, you'll have an even closer one with me because the amazing relationship you’ve seen that I have with the Father…I’m going to include you in that now. You’ll be able to join in that. All because I’m sending you the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He’s coming to dwell in you and he’s going to be with you forever; to teach you all things and to bring to your remembrance all that I have said. You’ll no longer be taught merely from the outside, but also from the inside now. The Spirit has been with me all throughout my ministry and now I’m sending him to you. He’ll continue to teach you like I taught you, he’ll encourage you, he’ll help you, he’ll empower you, he’ll open your hearts and guide you into all the truth. He’s going to glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” 

Just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus when Jesus opened their hearts to the Scriptures and the Spirit taught them and their hearts burned, Paul says the Spirit reveals to us the deeper things about God. 

 

So Jesus leaves, but our relationship doesn’t fade with distance like it does when our earthly friends go. Rather, it increases in intimacy when we listen to the Spirit. It gets deeper and richer. We actually get to know him better than we would if he were here with us now. 

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

 

 

Posted on March 28, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Tuesday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Holy Tuesday - Peter's Betrayal

by Andrew Elder

Take a few minutes and read John 13:35-38.

 

There was tension in air. They could feel it. We’ve all felt it; going in for surgery, or the night before an exam, or like Pippin waiting with Gandalf on the eve of battle saying “I don’t want to be in a battle but waiting on the edge of one I can’t escape is even worse.” Imagine the shift in atmosphere that evening, as the twelve gathered with Jesus for what should have been the main celebration of their Jewish year. They had made the preparations; the table was set, the room was ready, the lamb was slaughtered. Yet, as they reclined around the banquet it didn’t feel much like a celebration.


Peter had become used to the strange ways of Jesus by now, but this, this was something different. During dinner, Jesus (under protest from Peter, of course) had washed the disciples’ feet and started talking about one of them betraying Him. Peter wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about, but one thing he was certain of was that he would never, and could never, desert his Lord. Even when Jesus told Peter that he had to walk the next part of his journey alone, Peter wouldn’t accept it; “I am ready to die for you Jesus!”, he said. (John 14:37).


Peter, like many of us, not only massively over estimated his love for Jesus, but also missed the point of Jesus’ suffering all together. Peter thought he was willing to die for Jesus, but it was actually Jesus who would die for Peter. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given him authority over everything, knew how the events of that fateful night would transpire... 

“Before the rooster crows, you will deny knowing me, not once, but three times.” (John 13:38)

 

Our devotion to Jesus, no matter how well- intentioned, can never match Jesus’ devotion to us.


You can imagine Peter’s thoughts as only he and another unnamed disciple followed Jesus into the temple courtyard after His arrest (John 18:15). Even at this point he must have still been determined to prove his loyalty to the Lord. "Not me Jesus, no way. I’m not betraying you." Still clinging on to hope in his own strength, "I’ll lay down my life for you Jesus." 

But of course, the events of the night transpired just as Jesus said they would. As Peter denied knowing his Lord for the third time, the rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at him. 

Jesus. Looked. Straight. At. Him. (Luke 22:61)


I think it was at this moment that Peter started to get it; for at this moment he realised that even his very best efforts would let him down. This is why he weeps bitterly. (Luke 22:62). He doesn’t die for Jesus, Jesus dies for him. And three days later when he ran into the tomb and saw it empty, it all started to make sense and he believed. (John 20:3-7).


From this moment on, over the course of his lifetime, Peter would be sold out for Jesus; still gung-ho, over-zealous, one hundred percent all-in, but now, not relying on the strength of his own will, but relying on the death of his friend, his Lord, his Saviour. This is what would lead him to write to churches facing persecution; telling them that they should not be troubled, “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter3:18).


This is the source of our courage. His death is the source of our perseverance. The cross is the source of our boldness. We live for him, because He died for us.

 


And someday we will all have that same face-to-face encounter with Jesus that Peter had in the temple courtyard. He will look us in the eyes and we will know exactly how our words have betrayed our actions. We will know exactly all those times when our talking about loving Jesus didn’t match the way we actually lived our lives.


And our response in that moment can only be one thing: to say “Jesus, I didn’t die for you, you died for me.” In that moment, and in all the moments until then, all we can do is to worship the crucified Jesus.

 

He died for us, so that we can live for Him.

 

 

 

 

Posted on March 27, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Monday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Holy Monday - Jesus Washes His Disciple's Feet

by Leanne Donly

Take a few minutes and read John 13:1-35.

 

For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

I hate feet. In fact, I would go as far as to say I am horrified by them. My mum, crippled with arthritis and chronic hip pain used to get me to wash her feet and paint her toenails because she couldn’t reach them. I hated doing it then as a kid, and I can’t say I would be all that comfortable with doing it now. I haven’t done it years, maybe I should start again, because washing her feet was nothing about me, but an act of necessity that she couldn’t carry out herself.

Now, I don’t know how Jesus feels about feet, but I do know that it is irrelevant. Here in John 13, we get to witness a selfless and time-consuming act of servitude by Jesus. His only objective is to serve his disciples and show them love - even the one he knows is going to betray him. And for me, most strikingly of all, this takes place on the eve of his crucifixion, knowing the suffering he is about to endure - and yet he still continues to act as he always has, glorifying God. 

 

Jesus entire ministry serves as an example of how we should conduct our lives for God’s glory. In this passage is Jesus telling us to literally wash each others feet? No, not necessarily. However, following Jesus example involves much more than that. To figuratively wash each other’s feet means putting aside our pride and our comfort to meet one another’s needs. Are you willing to serve someone you know would betray your friendship? Are you willing to serve a person who would pretend in public that they don’t even know you? Jesus did. And we are told in verse 17 that we are no greater than our master. Sometimes I am the Peter of this story, wanting Jesus to wash all of me and other times I am the Judas when I betray Jesus’ faithfulness and love.

 

Too often, I want to serve in the most convenient way to me. Cook a meal? No problem. Pray with a friend in need? Sure! Speak to a stranger? Eh, maybe later. Step outside of my comfort zone? Not. A. Chance. My husband has described how the two of us enter a room - he walks straight into the middle and looks for someone to talk to. I stick to the wall, keeping an emergency exit in view at all times, like a rat. For being relatively loud, I’m a closet introvert. Socially awkward to the core, I easily use it as my excuse for not serving where I know I am being called. But Jesus has called me to more than laying down excuses.

This Holy Week, I am challenged not only to assess my own heart and attitude towards serving others, but also the challenge that this ‘foot-washing’ represents.

While I can get on board with washing others (please form an orderly queue), I don’t want to have my own feet washed. Letting someone else wash my feet means letting them see the worst of myself; the parts of my life that are still covered in muck and dust. It means taking my socks and shoes off and exposing the parts of myself that I can’t even bare to look at. But that’s the thing - Jesus doesn’t command us to scrub up our own feet in private so that we are presentable to one another. We are called to share God’s word in humility and love. The ‘foot washing’ here should be conducted without judgement or accusation.

 

Foot washing is more than a simple act - figuratively or literally. It is the giving of ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, both as the washer and receiver.

 

May we follow Christ’s example. 

 

 

Posted on March 26, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Sunday

create_media_20180322_16_39.png

Palm Sunday - The Triumphal Entry

by Jonathan T. Parks

Take a few minutes and read John 12:12-19, Matthew 21:1-11, Psalm 118.

 

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week: Palm Sunday.

Here is what I found interesting about the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem found in the gospels. This ‘holy week’ that gradually gets darker and ends in Jesus’ gruesome death actually begins quite bright. It begins with people worshiping. 

 

You see, the people of Israel had been waiting a long, long time for this very moment. Back in the time of the Judges, Israel didn’t have a king and they thought if they did have one then their problems (which they had many) would finally be resolved. So they asked God for a king and, even though He knew their motives are wrong in asking, He gives them one anyway. He uses his prophet Samuel to anoint their first king, Saul. King Saul turns out to be quite successful in some areas, but a total disaster in others. The same is true with the next king, David, and the one after him, Solomon, and so forth for generation after generation. Their kings came and went, and as they continued to look for an ideal king they began to ask themselves, “there must be something more than this.”

They never forgot the covenant God made with David. A promise where God said, “Your house, your kingdom will be made sure forever before me. Your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16) 

And so generations came and went wondering just how that promise would be fulfilled.

They were hoping not just for a better king, but a perfect king. With each new king Israel hoped this would be the perfect messiah, one to bring in the golden age. Of each new king, Israel asked, “are you the one who has come or should we look for another?” They expected a ruler who would save his people, who would restore to them all of the goodness of creation. 

And as years went by the promise became larger than life. It was still an expected reality but it was now beyond any mere human’s capability. 

 

And this is when we come to the triumphal entry in John 12.

 

Here is this Jesus of Nazareth from the family line of David. One who comes giving sight to the blind, allowing the lame to leap, literally raising people from the dead. Surely he is the one! Has their perfect king, their messiah finally come to take his reign, to restore their nation, to fulfil the promise made generations ago? Was this who Jesus was?

And here we see him riding into Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, the centre of Israel’s religious life and messianic expectations, to assert his authority as King, as the long awaiting Messiah. 

And you see the crowds coming out to welcome him, laying down their cloaks and placing palm branches down and crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Finally our perfect king is here.

 

Not a very dark scene is it?

 

If you were just to look at this scene alone, it seems as if the reason Jesus came into the world in the first place has been accomplished. People are singing and worshiping, declaring Jesus as King. It even sound like what we do here in our church every week, doesn’t it? You may even read this and have an urge to join in the celebration.

But as we know, this isn’t where God’s plan was achieved quite yet. As the darkness of Holy Week grows, these cries of “hosanna in the highest!” get quieter and screams of “crucify him!” become so audible they piece our ears and make us cringe.

 

You see, the people waving their palm branches thought Jesus was there to restore their nation…which he would do, but not how they thought he would. 

As the week goes on, we see that Jesus is a different kind of King with a very different kind of kingdom. Most of the crowd probably understood the title ‘King of Israel’ in a political and military sense, still hoping that Jesus would use his amazing powers to resist Roman rule and lead the nation to independence. 

 

But Jesus isn’t that kind of King. 

Most kings ride a mighty steed, a war horse. Jesus rides in on a donkey. (John 12:14)

Most kings are high, lofty, and unapproachable. Jesus was gentle and lowly in heart. (Matt 11:29)

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt 20:28)

He will wear a crown of thorns, not one of rubies and diamonds. (John 19:2)

He is mostly focused on his death, not his royal pedigree. (Phil 2:6-8)

 

We see in this scene an explosion of public sentiment alive with expectation that Jesus was the messiah for whom they had longed for centuries. The crowd was giddy, the excitement was almost unbearable. But, like the disciples who constantly thought Jesus’ kingdom was going to be a political one, the people of Jerusalem were expecting a bloody uprising and as they saw that Jesus was not the warrior king they had expected, enthusiasm wained. The religious leaders spread lies and stirred up the crowds against him and by the end of the week opinion of Jesus turned. He was no longer the promised one, but yet another fraud come to deceive. 

 

He was not who they thought he would be.

 

I’m sure you have friends or family (or maybe even you yourself) who once professed faith in Jesus but have since fallen away from the community of Christ. It’s incredibly heartbreaking and there are many reasons for spiritual failure, for people “falling away”. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we had hoped, or perhaps you were let down or burnt out by other believer’s failings or hypocrisy. There are many reasons for people “losing faith”, but the root of them all is really that the person never truly knew Jesus or else lost sight of who he is. 

Understanding who Jesus truly is and, in turn, worshipping him because of that identity and what he accomplished on the cross is absolutely crucial.

If fact this is the very reason John wrote his gospel!

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

 

You see, life, and I mean a full, never-ending, absolutely satisfying life, comes from understanding and believing who Jesus says he is. Which is why if you have false notions about who Jesus is or false hopes about what he will do in your life, at some point you will be disappointed and that worship you joined in on at the beginning of your journey with Jesus will turn stale and grow quiet. 

 

But the good news is Jesus doesn't change. And neither does his love for you. If fact his love, his passion for you, doesn't depend on you and how well you understand. Because he still went to the cross for you regardless of how you feel. Just like he did for the crowds in Jerusalem who may have changed their tune. It's his love for you and his goal of glorifying the Father that drove him to the cross. 

He does want you to understand, to believe...but slow down this week. Look to Jesus. Enter the darkness. Remember what he has accomplished for you on the cross and behold your King for who he really is.

 

Let your worship flow from this.

 

 

 

Posted on March 25, 2018 .

Holy Week Daily Devotional - Introduction

IMG_5413.PNG

Enter The Darkness.

An introduction to the devotional.

Holy Week is traditionally a time where we recount the events that took place on Jesus’ journey to the cross. It’s a week that gradually gets dimmer and dimmer and eventually ends in complete darkness and silence. It’s not an easy story to commemorate and an even more difficult one to join in on. You see, the glorious good news of Easter and the marvellous light that it brings (the bit we anticipate most!) is not part of Holy Week. No doubt we will celebrate it, but Holy Week calls us to slow down and walk in the footsteps of our lowly Saviour; to focus first on his suffering, his humiliation, and his death. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of the Cost of Discipleship and warned of “cheap grace” that did not take seriously either the gravity of sin or the radical call to servanthood: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

So we first trace Christ’s obedient footsteps to his death before getting to the hope of the resurrection. We understand the promise of newness of life against the backdrop of death and ending. New beginnings come from endings. You can’t truly appreciate the good news of the light of Resurrection Day without first walking through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week. 

So each day this week you’ll get a devotional reading focusing on a specific Bible passage and aspect of Jesus’ journey to his death a cross. They are not of a uniform writing style or personality as each devotional is written by a different leader in our church. Some are more creative, some are more personal, some are more historical, but hopefully each writing will help you reflect on what Jesus has done for you.

That’s right, for you.

The journey he took, the pain he endured, the darkness he entered…he did it all for you. 

 

Here’s a few pointers as you read:

  • Slow down. Set some time apart each day this week to stop, breath, read slowly, and place your focus on Jesus. He wants your attention and has something to say to you.
  • Don’t just read these reflections and be finished with it all. Let them be a mere starting point. Discuss your thoughts with people in your life, with your family. The big questions are "how is this good news for me?" and "what does it change in my life?”
  • Here's some Holy Week recommended listening:
Posted on March 23, 2018 .