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The Day Before Passion Week

Dear God, I decided to go through all four gospels this morning and see what they record Jesus as being up to the day before the Triumphant Entry and Passion Week. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday so it seemed fitting to try to spend some time with Jesus today–the day before. He’s been through a lot at this point, and he knows where he’s going. He has been through the Transfiguration and visited with Moses and Elijah, perhaps even receiving clarity and encouragement from them. He has rebuked James and John for wanting to kill a bunch of Samaritans for not letting him stay in his town. And now it’s all come down to this.

Matthew and Mark actually record Jesus’s activities fairly similarly. They talk about him healing some blind men. because “Jesus had compassion on them (Matthew 20:34).” Mark 10 is more specific and identifies him healing Bartimaeus. I suppose they wanted us to know that Jesus was still having compassion on people and healing them as he prepared for his Passion.

Luke actually gives us a the story of Zacchaeus as Jesus enters Jerusalem but leaves out the blind men (Luke 19). Luke wants us to know that Jesus was still in the mode of extending grace and forgiveness as he entered his last week.

Finally, and true to form, John gives us a whole different perspective. He tells us about a specific scene in Bethany when Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) showed extravagant love to Jesus by taking our some expensive perfume and pouring it on his feet. One last act of genuine worship before the week began. I wonder if John didn’t appreciate Mary’s gift more in retrospect as he told the story of the fair-weather fans who lined the streets with their palm branches. What Mary gave cost her a lot. What they gave cost them very little.

Father, do I give anything that costs me? How selfish am I? Am I willing to stop and extend your power in the midst of my own strife like Jesus did in Matthew and Mark? Am I willing love someone else through their immorality and show them your grace? Am I willing to give all that I have for all that you are? In all of these areas, am I willing to give you my utmost for your highest? As always, the answer is that I am not nearly the man I aspire to be in these areas. If you’re grading on a curve, then I compare pretty well with people around me, but that’s a steep curve. The truth is, my righteousness is rubbish. Please speak to me and give me ears to hear your voice, your direction, and your conviction.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2022 in John, Luke, Mark, Matthew

 

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Passion Week – The Resurrection of Christ: John 20:1-10

The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. It is titled “Christ Risen” and was created by Edward Knippers.

John 20:1-10 [ESV]
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’s head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Dear God, I’m so grateful this morning. I’ve spent the week trying to sink into the depths of this Passion. Sure, I didn’t really go all the way. I had work. I had other things that took my attention. But I can say that this is likely the most thoughtful I’ve ever been about Holy Week. And here we are.

When I woke up this morning and made my breakfast, I played four songs. “Sunday’s on the Way” by Carman, “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco, “Easter Song” by Keith Green, and then “Gotta Tell Somebody” by Don Francisco. The first three were about Easter and Jesus’s resurrection in one way or another while the fourth was about a grateful father who just had to tell somebody what Jesus did for him. It was fun and worshipful. You are alive! And you have done great things for me.

Father do I “gotta tell somebody?” Have I counted my blessings and shared your greatness and mercy with others? Do I live with the joy that you are alive? Help me to do better. Live through me. Love through me. Let you kingdom come and your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Passion Week – Killing the Master’s Son: Matthew 21:33-41

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Parable of the Vineyard” and was created by Anonymous.

Matthew 21:33-41 [ESV]

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Dear God, one question I’m asking myself this morning that I’ve never asked before is, Why do we do it? As I look at this image of the two men beating and killing the son, I wonder about their motivation. It’s interesting that the artist drew them as being more in “Robin Hood” times than biblical times, but the question still remains: Why?

What do we think we will gain by kicking you out of our world and running it ourselves? Bringing it down to the personal level, what do I think I will gain by kicking you out of my life rather than living it under your authority? I suppose it comes down to instant gratification that ultimately kills vs. the idea that you might call me to delay my gratification or to never experience gratification at all. It’s easy to judge others and our society as a whole, but how am I doing with the vineyard of my own life that you have leased to me? When you come, do I embrace you or snuff you out?

I have been thinking about the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday. I know it is Easter week and a lot of people will make their once-a-year visit to church on Sunday, but I wonder how many more will be shaken by this sad tragedy. How many vineyard workers will be shocked into realizing that they have taken the master for granted. It makes me think of Congress standing on the capitol steps in September 2001 and singing “God Bless America” together. Will this shocking even that damaged something we have taken for granted for nearly 900 years remind us to worship you? Will you use this to call some of us home?

Father, remind me that all of this starts with me. I’m not here to judge anyone else. I’m not here to try and list the people I think have rejected your authority over their lives. I’m here to look in the mirror. I’m here to ask your forgiveness. I’m sorry for being a poor tenant and acting like the landowner instead. You are my God. This life I’m living is your life. Help me to be the steward of it that you need me to be.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Passion Week – Cleansing the Temple: Matthew 21:12-17


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image was created by Albrecht Durer and is called “Christ Driving the Moneylenders from the Temple.”

Matthew 21:12-17

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.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Dear God, I’ve read this story and heard about this story so many times that it can be hard to come at it fresh. But this image from Mr. Durer helps a little. There are some striking things about it:

  • Jesus is holding a whip. It’s different than the one that will be used on him later in the week, but it’s interesting to see a violent Jesus. Is there a time and a place for violence?
  • The man on the ground seems to be knocked out or incapacitated in some way. I know this is just the artist’s rendition, but it’s an interesting thought as to what extent of physical damage Jesus did.
  • There is a man holding a lamb. People were there to get what they needed for the Passover. Jesus would become their lamb. In fact, in reality, there would become no need for these things again. It makes me wonder what the disciples did for the Passover in the y ears to come. Did they still follow all of the Jewish rituals? I’ll be they did.
  • I think I see a Pharisee’s hat way in the background on the right.
  • Jesus is very heavily clothed. I don’t normally picture him with that much clothing.
  • The artist decided that Jesus was right-handed. I wonder if he really was.

Here i what the author of the book had to say about this image:

in contrast to Late Gothic depictions of a delicate or fragile Christ, in this piece, Durer created an intense, militant, and manly Christ. A modern Jesus would politely ask the money changers to leave. But that is not the Jesus of Scripture. He forcefully drives the money changers out, overturning tables and throwing seats. Jesus acts in this audacious manner because he knows he owns the temple. He is defending his place in the same way a home owner would defend his own house. Jesus is violent, defiant, and takes into his own hands the removal of those who desecrate the temple. This work was part of a larger series of prints called The Small Passion, and was quite relevant to the time. A Christ who as fighting for holiness rang true with young Reformers.

I guess the thing that I would also add is that this is the beginning of a violent week. Jesus is very intense in his emotion and his passion (little “p”). He only has a little bit of time left and there isn’t any to waste.

Father, help me to not grieve you the way these moneychangers grieved you. As I raise money for a nonprofit, help me to aspire to the best parts of philanthropy and not manipulate people for my own purposes. During this Passion Week, help me to be very mindful of who you are, what you did, and what that means to me today. Help me to worship you well and follow your leading.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Passion Week – The Triumphal Entry: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-16

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “The Triumphal Entry” and was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira.

Matthew 21:1-11

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’” The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Mark 11:1-11

As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it. Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!” So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

Luke 19:28-44

After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”

John 12:12-16

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s cold.” His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

Dear God, I want to spend some time with the Triumphal Entry today. It is Palm Sunday after all. My wife and I went to a special church service this morning where a man who is with “Jews for Jesus” came to walk the congregation through the different parts of the Passover meal. So now, as we enter Passion Week, I want to take some time to really sit with this week in a different way than I ever have before. Of course, that starts with Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups and what I’ve been getting out of the different artists’ interpretations of the stories.

So here I am with the Triumphal Entry. The first thing I did was look to confirm that the story shows up in all four Gospels. It does, although John seems to have a different focus than the other three. The first three give a lot more backstory, but John focuses on the crowds, the excitement, how the prophecy angle impacted the disciples after it was all said and done, and the Lazarus connection (remembering that one John gives us the Lazarus resurrection story).

So what did Diego Jourdan Pereira notice in this story? First, this image is a little difficult for a left-brained person like me to decipher. It’s hard to tell what I’m seeing here. I see the donkey with its head down. I see Jesus, who appears to have his head down. Are those lines in the background palm branches? I ended up having to go to the commentary on this piece a little sooner than I like. Here’s what Ned Bustard said about the piece, including a quote from the artist:

According to Jewish tradition the glory of God appeared through the Beautiful Gate and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1-3). And it is said that Jesus entered through this gate on Palm Sunday. But the gate, disciples, crowds, cloaks, palm branches, and hosannas are all missing from this depiction of the Triumphal Entry. All that remains is a downcast donkey and a sorrowful Jesus. The artist explains, “The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that while everyone else was celebrating around him, Christ’s mind was elsewhere. He was thinking about the destruction of Jerusalem and his own impending fate on the Cross. His tears are internal as well as external.” But Jesus would not turn aside from the path. Luke 9:51 says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

I’m having so many thoughts, it’s hard to sort through them. I guess my day started with a revelation that might have been more obvious to other Christians–you intentionally made Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection part of Passover. Jesus could have been killed any time and in any way, but your plan was to have his death and resurrection exactly coincide with the Passover celebration in Jerusalem that year. Why had I never thought of that? I guess I can be a little dense.

Then I have the thought from Luke 9 that Bustard brings out in the end of his description–that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” We’ll see the emotions of Jesus play out over the next few days. In fact, he probably shows more emotion during this week than he does in the rest of the stories about him. He clears the temple out of anger. He curses a fig tree. He sweats blood. But when it comes down to it, he didn’t have to do this. He could have bailed, except for the fact that he was following your will, and your will was for him to walk this path. He was to be our Passover lamb.

Father, hep me to sink into this week. Help me to spend this week worshipping you–every aspect of you. You are GREAT and yet you are humble. You are all powerful, yet you are sacrificially loving. You can look through the screaming crowds of the Triumphal Entry and see the wickedness in each of us, and yet you proceed. You knew better than to believe the love you were getting from the crowd. You knew that some would turn on you and some would simply disappear. The more I sit with these ideas the more humbled and thankful I am.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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