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Lent Devotional

Lent Day 40 – The Grave

By Lent Devotional

Matthew 27:57-66 (ESV)

 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea,
named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.
He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud
and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock.
And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation,
the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate
and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said,
while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’
Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day,
lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people,
‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”
So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

The central claim of the historic Christian message is that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Tempting though it may be for us to jump quickly from Friday to Sunday, from cross to resurrection, Matthew pauses and brings us through the silence and stillness of the grave.

Many have tried to dismantle the hope of Christianity, suggesting that Jesus had not really died or that eager disciples had stolen his body to substantiate their claims of a risen Savior. Yet Matthew’s interlude between final breath and first appearance speaks unequivocally of a death that was real, a grave that was silent, and a situation that appeared beyond hope.

Romans were thorough in carrying out capital sentences, particularly for those accused of treason. That Joseph was able to retrieve Jesus’ body meant the executioners were satisfied with their handiwork. Jews, throughout the Old Testament, would heap rocks on the vilest of criminals to represent that for some, there would be no life beyond the grave. That a great stone would cover the entrance of the tomb meant that there was no expectation of life beyond this grave. The tomb is still, dark, silent.

This is the fate that should have been ours and the destiny of humanity. And yet, our hope is that through the one who went into the tomb before us, there is a way through and out into a new world of God’s creating. It is the hope that because one transcended the grave itself, we too may experience new life with him. Matthew’s description of the grave is a reminder that the tomb was silent and yet the silence would only last one more day.

Prayer

Our Father, remind us that the darkness of the grave will soon be overcome by the brightness of the third day. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

This devotional is courtesy of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Lent Day 39 – The Cross

By Lent Devotional

John 19:1-37 (ESV)

 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted
together a crown of thorns and put it on his head
and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him,
saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.
Pilate went out again and said to them,
“See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.
Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out,
“Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered him, “We have a law,
and according to that law he ought to die
because he has made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.
He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus,
“Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have authority to release you
and authority to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all
unless it had been given you from above.
Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

 From then on Pilate sought to release him,
but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man,
you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out
and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called
The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover.
It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews,
“Behold your King!” They cried out,
“Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross,
to the place called The Place of a Skull,
which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
There they crucified him, and with him two others,
one on either side, and Jesus between them.
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.
It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Many of the Jews read this inscription, f
or the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city,
and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather,
‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered,
“What I have written I have written.”

 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took his garments and divided them into four parts,
one part for each soldier; also his tunic.
But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,
so they said to one another,
“Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”
This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

 So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus
were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary
 the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved
standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished,
said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge
full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said,
“It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation,
and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath
(for that Sabbath was a high day),
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken
and that they might be taken away.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first,
and of the other who had been crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,
and at once there came out blood and water.
He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true,
and he knows that he is telling the truth — that you also may believe.
For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled:
“Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

Re-read this again slowly and prayerfully, engaging your imagination as each scene unfolds. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, in each scene? What is all this meant to mean to you? Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the story of Christ’s death for you today.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, it was our sins that sent you to the cross. There we beheld our king. There you finished the work of our redemption. There we looked upon you, whom we had pierced. There redemption was accomplished. Thank you for your astonishing love. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

This devotional is courtesy of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Lent Day 38 – The Washing

By Lent Devotional

John 13:1-15 (ESV)

 Now before the Feast of the Passover,
when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father,
having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot,
Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,
and that he had come from God and was going back to God,
rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments,
and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him,
“What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments
and resumed his place, he said to them,
“Do you understand what I have done to you?
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

The NIV translates verse 1: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” In this unexpected act of foot washing, Jesus was communicating something profound about the nature of divine love. Love is not simply what Jesus does, but love is who he is.

Often when we consider loving someone, we think in terms of actions and behaviors. We ask ourselves, “What’s the loving thing to do?” But Jesus’ unexpected, self-effacing act of service leads us to ask the antecedent question, “Who am I?” Without first asking this question, we can unknowingly place limits on our love because we are not operating out of a gospel-transformed identity. For example, if we functionally see ourselves as orphans needing to look out for ourselves instead of as God’s beloved children, we will limit our generosity towards others out of fear of not having enough. Likewise, if we think we are righteous by our own hard work, there will be boundaries to the way we are willing to serve others because our pride keeps us from serving those who “aren’t deserving.”

When we look to Christ we find a beautiful freedom to serve others, arising from the security of his identity: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …” (Phil 2:6-7, NIV). Jesus was able to serve in a way that no one expected because he knew the Father’s love intimately. The same heart that led him to wash the disciples’ feet would lead him to the cross. Because of Christ we have the same privileged status and security with the Father, and so we become free to serve in the radical, loving ways in which he has served us.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I forget each day who I am in Christ and the grace that envelops my life. My love has limits because I don’t embrace the truth of who you have made me to be. Help me to live out the reality of being your beloved child so that my love for others flows out of this new identity. Let me be a bewildering servant to those around me as you dismantle the limits I have placed on my love. In Christ’s Name, Amen.

This devotional is courtesy of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.