Following Jesus Through the Gospels During Holy Week

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This is “Holy Week” or the week of Jesus’ “passion.” Christians are following Jesus through the events of His life on the journey toward the Cross and to His Resurrection. Its a helpful practice to read and reflect on the events of “Holy Week.”  Professor Michael J. Wilkins has created a “harmony” of the Gospels for Holy Week and the publishers of the ESV (Crossway) have made it available in an interactive form.

I suggest you read and pray through the texts for each day. Jesus’ disciples followed Him into this week and the Gospel writers gave substantially more script to recording the last week of Jesus’ life in order to capture the significance of His death and resurrection. Set yourself into the very real and human moments of the week in which our Saviour persists in displaying His unity with our Heavenly Father’s plan to forgive sinners and draw them into His love.

When I was preparing for the “Palm Sunday” message I was floored by a little line I have just breezed past for years.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
Matthew 21:14

In the moments after Jesus cleared the Court of the Gentiles of the temple money changers and merchants it must of been quiet. Jesus began to teach. He declared, “My house will be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers.” As he taught in the quiet, the blind could make their way to Him. As he taught in the spaciousness, the lame could make their way to Him. And in His last public act of healing, Jesus turned outsiders into insiders. These blind and lame could have gone no farther into the Temple Courts. But now after being healed they could. They were no longer second-class citizens. The human realities of their imperfections would no longer preclude them from full participation in the covenant. Wow! The clearing of the Temple and this moment of healing is a prelude to the Cross.

Jesus is going to the Cross in order to prepare the way for our full inclusion in the communion of God.  He goes to the Cross in order to fulfill the love and justice of God. He goes to the Cross in order to fulfill the cost of a sinner’s forgiveness. He goes to the Cross in order to heal and include the spiritually blind and lame. He goes on to the Cross in order to heal and include you and me.

Praise the Lord!

 

I hope you will journey with Jesus through the Holy Week by using  the  “harmony” of the Gospels for Holy Week. And I pray asking our Heavenly Father to grace you with moments of new insight and awe at His love displayed through the life and death of Jesus.

Caught between God and the opinions of people

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27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  Mark 11:27-33

Its easy to miss the moral dilemma here. Its easy to say, “Oh that’s not me!” But, this interaction between Jesus and the authorities of Jerusalem illustrates the mess we are in.

Jesus made a scene in the temple. He made room for the nations in the Court of the Gentiles by stopping “business as usual” for the day. Jesus’ actions aligned Him with our Heavenly Father’s heart. God wanted Israel to be a blessing to the nations. God wanted communion with people.

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  Mark 11:15-17

These leaders were offended and outraged. Jesus kept acting like a person with authority. So they wanted to know who gave Him the right to do and say these things. They weren’t going to like Jesus’ answer, for his authority came from His identity as the Father’s Beloved. But that wasn’t Jesus’ concern.

Jesus’ concern is for the alignment of hearts with God’s heart. So, His question about John’s baptism is designed to draw out the duplicity of their hearts. Truly they were concerned for themselves. They needed the power, position, and prestige granted to them by people. And this kind of authority could only be theirs if they managed the impression that they were really “on God’s side.” But being “on God’s side” would require a humility and a submission to God’s strange work through John and through Jesus.

Yuck! That’s the mess we are in if we are managing the opinions of people. It is possible to be with God and for people. If you doubt this, just take a close look at Jesus’ life. However, when we are doing life for ourselves we are going to end up using both God and people.

Jesus will call us out.

Take care that you do not desire the applause and admiration of people over the applause of God.

Passion Week ~ Good Friday ~ barabbas

Reflections on Matthew 27:15-23

Barabbas, what’s in a name?  Son of God.

He got freedom.

Jesus got a cross.

A deal struck in a courtyard.

But this moment had been set ages before

in the court of heaven.

“What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

“Let him be crucified!”

In that moment the crowd did not see

the true Son of God suffering in love.

Suffering to set the children of God free.

(Josh Garrells singing “Good Friday.”)

Passion Week ~ Thursday ~ Unload your heavy heart.

In the week of Jesus’ passion, His passion ran strong.

But he warns that a heavy heart wears down passion.

What makes a heavy heart?

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down

with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life,

and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap.

For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have

strength to escape all these things that are going to take

place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:34-36

Dissipation:  like a drop of colour in water, purpose dissipates; it must be renewed.

Drunkenness:  fake passion fueled by consumption steals life.

Cares of this life:  can stand in for real purpose; they lose meaning when

disconnected from the Lord of life.  The normal tasks of life and relationships

where never meant to bear the weight of our souls.

Jesus draws us into the relationship with Him:  attentive prayer.

In prayer purpose is renewed.

In prayer consumption is held in check.

In prayer the cares of this life meet the promise of the Lord of life.

In prayer we discover His passion ~

the capacity to suffer, sacrifice, and love meaningfully.

In prayer we unload the heavy heart.

Passion Week ~ Wednesday ~ Blind no more.

Bartimaeus intrigues me. (Mark 10:46-52)

Blind.

He was intensely aware of his situation.

And he wanted a change.

He called out to Jesus until the crowd was annoyed.

“Jesus Son of David have mercy on me.”

They told him to shut up.

Jesus told him to “come here.”

Spiritual blindness is a silent condition.

When we suffer from it we do not call out to Jesus.

His grace, that’s what we need.

Grace gives us awareness.

Grace gives us courage to call out to Jesus.

Grace lifts us up, “Your faith has made you well.”

Grace gives us unction to follow the Lamb of God.

Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi

miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi,

miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei qui tollis peccta mundi.

Lamb of God, who takes away the

sin of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the

sin of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, who takes away the

sin of the world.