HOLY WEEK ~ Saturday

Reading: Matt. 27:59-66, Mark 15:46-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42

“Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” Luke 23:56 ESV

Not a lot was said about Saturday of Holy Week. It was the Sabbath so they had to get Jesus into the tomb on Friday and roll the stone over the tomb and wait until Sunday. Not much was said so we just have to think for ourselves, how were the disciples feeling? How was the Roman soldier, who as soon as Jesus breathed his last breath realized “this man was surely the son of God”, feeling? Have you ever had a sleepless night that you just kept thinking “How can this be?” I think the disciples probably did not sleep a lot. The world was quiet. They were probably together. We know most of them were on Sunday anyway. They probably sat around and rehashed some of the events of the previous days thought “how did we get here?” “What could we have done to stop this?” I just think in my human flesh that is what I would be thinking. I keep thinking of the following passage.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” Psalm 42:5

They didn’t know it yet but all Hope was not lost. It’s not lost for you and me either. Sunday’s coming! 

HOLY WEEK ~ Good Friday

Reading:  Matt. 27:1-61, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:55, John 18:28-19:37

What’s so good about it? I’ve often wondered where in the world did someone come up with Good Friday if this is to represent the day Jesus was crucified? In today’s reading, the chief priests and the elders delivered Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified. Before that Jesus was beaten, mocked, spit on and humiliated by the soldiers. The term used is scourged. The soldiers would take a whip that had shards of glass or sharp rocks tied on the ends of it. They would hurl it at Jesus and when it would hit Him it would tear the flesh right off of Him as they pulled the whip back. They blindfolded Him and kept asking him to prophesy who was hitting Him. They twisted together a crown of thorns and pressed it on His head. 

When He was delivered to Pilate he questioned Him and could not find fault in Him. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod to be questioned because he thought then he would not have to make this decision. Pilate realizes that Herod is not going to decide for him and Jesus is brought back to him to decide. It was a custom to release one prisoner to the Jews during the time of Passover. Pilate, because He found no fault in Jesus offered up a criminal Barabbus. I think he offered Barabbus because maybe that was the most hardened criminal he had and he thought there was no way they would choose to release Barabbus over Jesus. This was his out. However the crowd chooses for Barabbus to be released. Pilate then washes his hands in front of the crowd and says His blood is on you. (Matt 27:24)

Meanwhile the very same people who had shouted Hosanna just days before were now shouting crucify him. They led Jesus away, He had been beaten, scourged, whipped, humiliated, the crown of thorns were pressed onto His head and He was nailed to a cross to die the most painful death imaginable. 

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” Matthew 27:50-51 ESV

I have often when reading this passage thought of God taking his holy hands and grasping the curtain to the temple and ripping it from top to bottom. This curtain is the curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place was where Gods presence dwelled. The high priest could only enter the Most Holy Place one day a year. And now the veil was torn from top to bottom. On that day, at that time, the veil was torn so that we could now approach the throne of God forevermore. 

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

HOLY WEEK – Maundy Thursday 

Reading: Matt. 26:17-75, Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-62 and John 13:1-38 

A lot happened on this day. The day started with the disciples asking 

Jesus where they would eat the Passover meal. Jesus sends them ahead with specific instructions who to talk to and where to go. They follow his instructions and they are led to an upper room of a house and there they prepare the Passover meal. Again can you imagine all of the emotions of Jesus as they sit down for this meal? This meal that is so symbolic to them. Most of us know that the Jews observed this Passover to symbolize when they marked their door posts with the blood of the lamb so that the Lord would spare their first born from death on the eve of the Exodus from Egypt. This was a very important ritual to them and it held many symbols of their faith. 

They had sacrificed a lamb without blemish to enjoy at their meal with each other. Yet Jesus knows that He is about to be the sacrificial lamb for the world. Can you imagine sitting and eating with the one you knew was about to betray you? Jesus even washed the feet of the very person He knew was about to betray Him. (John 13:2-5,12-14) 

He has this meal with His closest friends. The chosen twelve. He washed their feet and He foretold His death. They broke the bread and He told them “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk 22:19) He took the cup of wine and said “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk 22:20). Then after the meal they sang praises and they set out to the Mount of Olives so that Jesus could pray. 

Jesus was in anguish while praying. He asked the Father to take this cup from Him if possible. God didn’t take the cup from Him but He did send Him an angel to strengthen Him. (Lk 22:43). And then He was betrayed. The soldiers came. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss no doubt. And then one of the last recordings of Jesus words on this Thursday is “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. ”Matthew 26:56 ESV.  

Jesus understood what was happening but His disciples did not. What started out as a good day was ending very dark and confusing to them. They began the day pledging their allegiance to Him and ended it by them fleeing Him probably in fear for their own lives as well as confusion about who Jesus said He was and how this was unfolding. Even though Jesus had given them glimpses of what was going to happen they couldn’t understand this. This was not how they envisioned it. This was not how they would have done it. The one they have followed and loved and believed was being handed over to be put on trial and the sentence was going to be crucifixion. I wonder when they realized that was going to happen. Was it when He was arrested? Or did the news come to them little by little. When Pilate asked the crowd didn’t they want Jesus to be released instead of Barabbus, were the disciples standing there dumbfounded that the crowd, that had just days earlier been waving palm branches were now yelling “Crucify Him”? When that rooster crowed and Jesus turned and looked at Peter and Peter came face to face with his own failure and disappointment in himself, did they think it was all over? I wonder. 

HOLY WEEK ~ Wednesday

Reading: Matt. 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:3-6

Wednesday of Holy Week was a dark day. There is not much recorded. The only sources I have had me read the short passages listed above. We will look at Luke. 

“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.” Luke 22:3-6 ESV

I have been known to say to myself as well as to others. “sometimes things get worse before they can get better.” Well things are beginning to get worse. Even if behind the scenes at the moment. Jesus rode in on Palm Sunday on a donkey to shouts of Hosanna. He became angry in the temple and drove out the moneychangers, then He had a full day of teaching in the temple. Now one of his followers, one of his own people are about to betray him. For money no less. So where was Jesus? On this day when Judas is meeting with the chief priests to make a deal? We wonder where Jesus was. One of the commentaries I read suggested that He was resting because the day before had been such a full day. Taking a time out so to speak. Passover was coming and with it would come His last meal with His people before He would be betrayed and handed over. And whipped and beaten. And crucified. What a roller coaster of emotions this Holy Week must have been for Him. 

This brings to mind 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Take note of the way Luke is describing this ~ “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot”. You know Judas was a friend to Jesus. He was there for the miracles. He was there for the camaraderie that must have existed among this group of men who travelled and ministered together. He would have been there when fish and bread multiplied and pigs plunged to their death and when Lazarus walked out of a grave alive when he had been dead for three days already. But still Satan found a way in to him. He let his guard down somewhere and Satan entered into him so that he could betray Jesus, his friend.

 I tend to feel my emotions a little all over the radar during this week and this season. For the past few years I really like to take the time to focus on the week and just think about what was happening in the world at that time and what is happening in my world in the present. What emotions was Jesus having that week? He was spending time with the people closest to him. All the while He knew what was coming. When I think about what was coming for Him AND that He knew, I realize that I probably don’t always need to know. I will think I do. I will drive myself crazy about what is coming next in whatever situation that is at hand. When what I need to do is just keep clinging to the One who knows. The one who is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). I think we are called to be diligent, be sober minded, to realize we have an adversary and he does prowl the earth and he does want to devour us. But God is still in control. He is still here. He is on the throne and even when we can’t see Him. He is working all things out for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28].

HOLY WEEK ~ Tuesday 

Reading: Matt. 21:23-24:51, Mark 11:20-13:37, Luke 20:1-21:38, John 12:20-38 

On Monday Jesus was running the merchants out of the temple and on Tuesday He was back in the temple teaching. This was Jesus last day to teach in the temple before his death and He packed it full. I was thinking this may be what it’s like for the person who gets the terminal diagnosis who has so many things to tell their people. Jesus taught so many parables on this day. The reading is a bit more extensive but He had so much to tell us on this teaching day. One thing that 3 of the gospels hit was this one. 

“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  Matthew 21:42 ESV

Jesus being the cornerstone is also mentioned in Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17

Jesus knew that He was about to be rejected and turned over to be crucified. He knew that His days of earthly ministry were coming to a close and this was one of his final messages to the people. To us! They would have known that the cornerstone of a building is the foundation that the entire building is built on. The cornerstone is the rock that the entire structure rests. Jesus is the rock that our entire Christian life should rest. This was the week that all of the rituals and the sacrifices would be fulfilled. Jesus was telling them that even though He would be rejected by them that He is the cornerstone. He is what our faith life, the church and all that is good is built on. He is what I want my life to be built on. My hope is built on nothing less.

HOLY WEEK ~ Monday

Reading: Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, 

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13

I have seen and heard that this event could have happened on Sunday or Monday of Holy Week. The most important thing is it is a significant event that took place during this Holy Week. So it definitely bears studying. When I read the book of Matthew it appeared it happened on Sunday following the Triumphal Entry. However, in Mark it reads as if it was Monday. 

Jesus enters the temple and begins to drive people out of the temple who were buying and selling goods. God intended for the temple to be a place of prayer, a place where we go to cleanse our hearts. The temple of the Old Testament was the place where the people came to get atonement for their sins. Yet somehow over time, it had become a place where people could sell their goods and merchandise. Where was the breakdown? When did things change from the house of prayer to a marketplace. No doubt Jesus knew before He entered the temple that this was taking place, it was no surprise to Him when He stepped foot inside. However, He takes this time to get angry, to point out to the people that this was not the intended use for the temple. Jesus words “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” In Mark, the quote of Jesus was more complete and lines up more directly with the reference to Isaiah 56:7. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.?” (Mark 11:17) This area of the temple was for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. And it was as far as the Gentiles could go inside the temple. Because of the activity going on in the temple, there was no way that the people could come in and pray.

It is also important to note that he was just as angry at those who were buying as He was at those who were selling. It matters the state of our hearts when we go to the house of God. Yes, the leaders of our churches as well as the Jewish leaders of the day bear a load of maintaining a holy reverence in our churches. However, Jesus didn’t look at the buyers as innocent. The same goes for today. I have heard someone say to me once that they left a church because they were not being “fed”. And it may have been true, it is not my place to judge. However, it is also our responsibility to be sure that our hearts are in a place to be fed when we enter the church doors. The buyers are just as guilty as the sellers. Let’s examine our hearts today. Let’s look and see the state of our hearts as we study this Holy Week. The cool thing about studying the scriptures is He has a word for each of us that will meet us right where we are. As you read the scriptures use this as a guide but ask Him what He wants to teach you today. What He wants to teach you this week. 

HOLY WEEK – Palm Sunday 

Reading: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40 and John 12:12-14

The Triumphal Entry 

“And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ You shall say this: The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near-already on the way down the Mount of Olives-the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher rebuke your disciples.’ He answered ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” Luke 19:28-40

Through most of Jesus earthly ministry we see Him not particularly desiring attention and the drawing of a crowd. He drew crowds but it was because of His teaching and His humble spirit. Not because he desired any pomp and circumstance. Yet this time, He knew would be His last entry into Jerusalem before the cross. He was headed for Jerusalem and as He got closer He sent those disciples ahead to get this donkey for Him to ride into town. Take note here, He got a colt, a young donkey that had never had anyone sit on it before. The disciples threw their cloaks on its back and Jesus climbed on it and rode into town. The multitude of disciples and followers began singing His praises and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

I wonder what Jesus was thinking as He rode into Jerusalem that day. As He was seeing the faces in the crowd was He memorizing them knowing He would see these same faces shouting “crucify Him” in the coming days. Or was He just enjoying the moment, knowing what was coming. I love that Jesus gave us this glimpse of His enjoying the praises of His people. I love that He told those Pharisees “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” I love praising Him. I love lifting my hands in worship! I love that I can sing Hosanna and Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! And though I know that I will fail Him in the week ahead. I love that He accepts my praise just like He did His crowd of followers on that day riding into Jerusalem. I won’t let the stones cry out in my place! Praise Him today! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! (v.13)

The Holy Spirit Prays for Us! 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words,” Romans 8:26

There is so much more that the Holy Spirit does for us. We have just talked about a few of the things these past couple of weeks. But this one may be my very favorite of all. You see this one, if no other, this one is the one that says in so many ways that the Holy Spirit, He’s got your back. I know if you are like me, you don’t always know what to pray. Sometimes the situation or the circumstance that is in front of us is just so overwhelming that this is when we get to just call on the Holy Spirit and say take this from me. Surely I am not the only one who at times has no idea how to even pray that a situation will turn out. 

Or maybe there is a person that you have prayed for and maybe even some of the prayers you have prayed have come true but the results were still not exactly how you thought they would play out. That’s the time to say Holy Spirit take this one, intercede for me and pray for what ought to be instead of what I THINK ought to be. 

I can’t tell you the number of times in my prayers, I will start to pray “Lord, I need this to happen this particular way and I want it to play out like this …” And then I will back up and say “Lord, you’ve got this, please just handle it however You see fit.” And I give it over to the Holy Spirit and you know what? He helps me in my weakness. He comforts me, and calms my soul and I can be assured that He takes what concerns me and He lays my requests down to the Father. I am all about some collective prayer and getting some prayer warriors together to pray for something that we need to happen. But, truly at the end of the day, having the Holy Spirit on my side to pray for me, in the big stuff going on, in the little stuff going on and anything and everything in between going on, is the most important prayer partner I could have. 

Because, you know when I leave it to Him, when I truly turn it over to Him, then I know that the one who is able will do it for His glory. 

“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

I love how the NKJV puts it “exceedingly abundantly above”. Truly when I leave things up to Him and I pray for His will to be done rather than try to conform His will to my will it turns out “exceedingly abundantly above” what I could have ever dreamed up. I was visiting with a friend just last night and we both were sharing ways the Lord has worked things out for us, that were more than we could have dreamed. Now you know I am not saying all of this to say my life is perfect. Far from it, I still live and walk in this fallen world just like you do. But when I hand things over to the Lord and you ask the Holy Spirit to be my guide and to intercede for me I promise you He’s the best guide there is. And that He will guide in ways and the Lord will work for in ways that will blow your mind. 

So my friends, what’s troubling you today? Ask the Holy Spirit to intercede on your behalf and to help you in your weakness. What big thing do you have ahead of you? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to do it. What’s making you sad? Ask the Holy Spirit to comfort you. What person do you need to show love to that just might not be very lovable? Ask the Holy Spirit to love them through you. 

Thank you Jesus for leaving us with the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being my guide, my helper, my comforter, my confidant, my friend, my intercessor, my prayer partner, my everything I need! 

The Holy Spirit Gives Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

In my book, HOPE is one of those things that I need as much as I need love. But what is hope? I mean really. We use it as flippantly sometimes as we use the word love. For example, I hope we win the game. I hope we get to go to the movies. I hope today is a good day. But the hope that I am talking about here is the hope that comes from the God of hope and that comes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Hope is cultivated in us when we feel at peace with what is going on around us and when we can have joy in our circumstances, even when the circumstances don’t feel very peaceful or joyous. We don’t have hope only when things are already good.  No, quite the contrary, we need hope when things are uncertain more than ever. It’s recognizing that there can be better days ahead.   

In thinking about hope and how to explain the hope that we receive from the Holy Spirit, I did what I always do. I looked up the definition of the word. Webster says that hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or to be true. And while that is true, I think that the hope that we can have through the Holy Spirit is much deeper than that. 

To me the true meaning of hope is in knowing that God has me in His hands. It’s knowing that everything that happens to me is sifted through His hands. Even when it’s stuff that is not pleasant or is downright heartbreaking. Hope is the knowledge that I will survive it because He has my circumstances, He has the hurt and that He has me! And because He has me, I have HOPE. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a future that will not necessarily be free from pain or sadness or heartache but that will have Him in it and that because of Him I can feel joy and peace even when the stuff of life is hard or it hurts. 

Hope is knowing that God is working things out for my good, because I love Him. (Romans 8:28) Hope is what anchors my soul to Him. (Hebrews 6:19) Hope is knowing that God has good plans for my future. (Jeremiah 29:11) And …

“and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

The bottom line is this. If we have Him, we already have HOPE. First of all, we know that when we are spending eternity with Him, that we will have no more tears, pain and heartache. But it is also the knowledge and belief that things can be better here. There is a verse in Psalms that has always been a favorite of mine. While I usually use the ESV, I love the way this verse reads in the NIV. 

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalms 27:13

I love that! To me the Psalmist is grasping where his hope lies when he says “I remain confident of this”. The hope that the Holy Spirit gives us is something we can remain confident in. This hope is not a wavering hope or a shallow hope but it is something we can be confident in. And I love that the Psalmist is not just placing his hope in what comes next. It’s not just in eternal life, but it is that he will see goodness from the Lord in the land of the living, while he is still on earth. 

Friends, I don’t know what you are facing today. I don’t know what hurts or heartaches may be in front of you. But I pray that you feel the HOPE anchoring your soul that only the Holy Spirit can bring. I pray that you know His hope! I pray you know that He is working your circumstances for good. I pray that we will remain confident in His goodness.  

The Holy Spirit Loves 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

I have seen and studied this verse before to gain an understanding of what suffering will do for us in the long run and why we should rejoice in our sufferings. It’s not the suffering itself we rejoice in, but it’s what that suffering brings about in us. The endurance which produces our character which produces our hope. But there is an aspect to this passage that I think I had missed before today. We also can rejoice in our sufferings which leads us to hope BECAUSE of the love from God that is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

We can feel God’s love in our hearts because we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. That may not seem like a profound thought to you. Maybe it’s just my simple mind but think about it. Have you ever felt peace in a situation, or power in a situation or even hope in a situation that you couldn’t really explain? Have you ever felt loved in a situation that you really couldn’t explain? The explanation is the Holy Spirit. He is working in and through us and He is what pours Gods love into our hearts. 

I was talking with someone very close to me just last night who was so overwhelmed by what God is doing in their life and all we could do was sit in awe of the answered prayers. I don’t know why we do that, why do we sit in awe of God answering our prayers when we know that is who He is and what He does. I think it’s because it brings us to reality of how much He truly does love us. When we recognize God for who He is and we cultivate our relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, is when we truly begin to realize how God pours his love into our hearts. This is not to say every answer will come exactly how we think it will come. But truthfully when I leave some of these things completely to God and I don’t ask for something to work out specifically, is when He answers me in a way that blows me away. I do believe in asking for some specifics, but I also believe there are times when we just ask God to BE GOD in the situation and handle it, because He will do it so much better than I can think or imagine. 

And my friends that is just one of the ways that I truly feel His love pouring into my heart. And when I feel His love pouring into me, I can’t help but want to pour His love out of me and to love Him more, and to love His people more! It is through the love that God pours into my heart that I can love His people, that I can love even unlovable people. We live in a broken world that needs God’s love and God can love even the unlovable people any way He chooses, but He chooses to love this dark world through His people. I believe that God pours His love into us so that we will pour out His love. So that a dark, lonely, broken world can SEE HIM. 

Today, I am going to ask God to show me someone who needs to see His love. I am going to ask the Holy Spirit to pour so much of God’s love into me that it will spill out of me onto people who need to see Him. Won’t you do the same?