Holy Saturday 04.03.21

Holy Saturday

Can you imagine what the disciples felt the day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?  All of their hopes and expectations for who Jesus was to be, seemingly vanished in the tomb along with him.  All of that time following him, and what they had not only received but what they had given up in order to follow, now seemed for naught.  How could this happen?  The feeling of tension and waiting and disappointment and loss must have been paralyzing.

We know the end of the story and so it’s hard to put ourselves in the place of the disciples, but perhaps we can feel a measure of what they felt in our own “time between times” of Christ’s first coming and his much anticipated second coming. Where is God?  How can the evil that still continues to ravage our world be permitted to carry on?  When will God finally return and set all things right?  

You see, we long for the sad things of this earthly life, even now, to come untrue, the same way the disciples would have longed for the sadness of Good Friday to come untrue.  We long to be reunited with our Lord Jesus, the same way they would have longed to be reunited with him that confusing and agonizing Saturday.  And, we, like the disciples would have, long for Jesus Christ to reappear and in his reappearance mend our broken hearts and bring his promise to never leave us or forsake us to pass, once and for all.

Personal Reflection Questions:

How can you use this Holy Week to check what you really long for?

Do you long for a name, reputation, and worldly success more than you long to be reunited with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

How can you cultivate such waiting into a life of greater holiness and devotion?

Good Friday 04.02.21

Scripture: John 19

Formerly, when working with students, both as a youth pastor and a high school Bible teacher, I recall being amused by the reality that a word in my vocabulary could have very different meaning from the same word in theirs.  Words didn’t always mean what they appeared to on the surface.  For example, a student calling something “bad” often meant it was “good.”  Something “hot” was often, in reality, something very “cool” in terms of style.  A student calling something “sick” didn’t mean medicine was needed, in fact it usually meant that thing was “awesome.” 

In a silly, but truly helpful way, perhaps this aids us in understanding why we call the Friday on which Jesus Christ was crucified “good”?  Should not that day live in perpetual infamy?  Should it not be held up as the greatest instance of injustice and evil the world has ever known?  Is it not, in reality, a day of great evil and not goodness?  The answer of course is on one hand, yes, that Friday long ago was the pinnacle of evil and the greatest of injustices as the perfect, innocent Son of God was killed at the hands of humans he, himself, created.  That Friday long ago was the Devil’s best work on display for all the world to see…

Or was it?

You see the gospel teaches us that yes, the cross was evil, and, yes, the cross was unjust viewed through finite, human eyes.  And yet, the gospel teaches us that through those worldly means and through the Devil’s seemingly greatest triumph, the highest “good” was actually being achieved: the substitutionary atonement for mankind’s sin by God himself in the bloody and crucified body of the man, Jesus Christ.  God had taken the Devil’s greatest weapons – death and condemnation – and absorbed them into himself, thereby breaking their curse.  God had taken mankind’s sinful leger and attributed it to his perfect Son, allowing him to die for us, and allowing us to be given his righteousness in exchange.

That Friday long ago was terrible, and painful, and torturous, and agonizing for the One who carried our sorrows, who was smitten by God, who was pierced for our transgressions, and who was crushed for our iniquities.  Yet for those of us who have been healed by his wounds, it was and continues to be a day of eternal and unspeakable goodness and grace.  And amazingly, even for Jesus, Hebrews 12:2 tells us that it was “for the joy set before him” that Jesus endured that cross – the joy of knowing his death was our life, his sacrifice was our salvation, and that the good work that God was starting that Friday, would be carried to its glorious conclusion at the empty tomb of Easter Sunday.

How can you use this day of Holy Week to truly reflect on the magnitude of your sin that required Jesus to go to the cross? 

How can you use this day of Holy Week to then reflect on the utter goodness of God’s grace that he would provide pardon for sin at the expense of Himself?

Maundy Thursday 04.01.21

Scripture: John 13

The term “Maundy” as it is applied to Thursday of Holy Week comes from the Latin Mandatum Novum, which means “a new commandment.”  This is taken from John 13:34-35 where Jesus tells his disciples, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The beauty of the gospel is that what God commands, he gives first.  Jesus commands that a humble, generous, and sacrificial love characterize us as his followers, and yet it is Jesus himself who will first display what that looks like to the utter most.   The God of All Creation became a creature; he who knew no imperfection entered the frailty of human flesh; he who knew no sin became sin for us; the Lawgiver was willingly born under the law; he who possessed the riches of heaven became poor; the Bread of Life hungered and thirsted for us; and in this particular passage of John 13 we see the Lord of All Life stoop as a lowly servant, towel in hand, and wash the feet of his disciples.  Such servant leadership had been seen all through Christ’s ministry up until this point – surely this is the culmination!  How much more humble can this man they call the Christ be?  How much more of himself could he give to those he loves?  And yet, we know the answer is more than we could have ever imagined. 

After Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, he institutes the Passover meal where his disciples who are of Hebrew descent, mark the annual celebration of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt under Moses. Bread and wine are given, but are redefined in the spirit of Christ’s “new commandment” as Jesus says they foreshadow his body and blood which will be given at the cross, as he, the Perfect Lamb of God, the Perfect Passover Sacrifice will set not just Israel free, but set people of every tongue, tribe, and nation free from the bondage of sin and death upon faith in his name. His blood at the cross covers our sin and sets us free, just like the blood of the Passover lamb covered the doorposts of the Israelites and signaled the angel to “passover” them and allow them to go free in the Exodus. With Jesus, and what he accomplishes at the cross – the instrument of Christ’s greatest act of love and service, the instrument of our salvation and pardon – all now can come freely to his table, sins forgiven, death defeated, and in embracing his “new commandment” become part of his new people called by his name.

So, as recipients of this “new commandment” to love one another as we have been loved by Christ, ask yourself the following questions:

How are you being called to love those around you with a Christ-centered, self-giving love? 

We as followers of Christ and even his closest disciples were often stubborn and hard to love – who has God placed in our lives that may appear “unloveable” and yet have been put in our path providentially by God for our good and his glory?

Especially here at Lake Osborne, if our distinguishing mark as Christ’s disciples is to be our love for one another, where is God stirring you to serve and show love?  

How does our love form the gateway for people to desire fellowship with Christ at his table?

As you think of that Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples, and think of how by his grace, he has also invited us to his table – allow the song, “Come to the Table” by Sidewalk Prophets to guide your reflection: