Category Archives: Holy Week Series

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

Read Isaiah 53:7-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Daniel‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Easter Sunday. He is risen! In Isaiah 53:7-12, the prophet talks about God’s suffering servant. He mentions that the holy sufferer will see what was accomplished as a result of his suffering and be satisified. The sufferer will know that the suffering had not been in vain; rather, he sees that his suffering has brought redemption to many. Many, as a result of him bearing the sins of the world, will find salvation.

Isaiah continued on to proclaim, “I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels” (vs. 12). Thus, the suffering servant suffered death but was honored like a victorious soldier. Isaiah, when writing this, may have seen himself as the suffering servant. He may have seen Israel as a whole as the suffering servant, and that Israel was bearing witness of their faith in God to a hostile world.

The neat thing about prophecy is that that, regardless of the original context, a prophecy comes from God and the visions revealed in them prove themselves true in ways we could have never expected. Even if Isaiah had Israel in mind as the suffering servant, the way this prophecy got fulfilled in Jesus Christ is beyond human comprehension. It is the power of God on full display for all the world! Surely, Jesus came from Israel and through Jesus (the righteous suffering servant), many found redemption from their sins. How awesome is our God!

Daniel also prophesied about the Son of Man, and the glorious victory he would have over the sinful world. In verse 17, he enters onto the scene in glory, in the very presence of the living God. Furthermore, in verse 26, Daniel wrote, “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him” (Daniel‬ ‭7:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬). In other words, the Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ) has established God’s Kingdom on earth and that all the kindoms of the earth will be given over to God’s people who serve and obey the soveriegn God.

Daniel’s verse is often seen as a prophecy for the future, for the second coming of Christ. While the future has yet to be revealed, it certainly makes sense being that the world has yet to be fully delivered from sin and evil. It is easy to understand that this prophecy could still have more unveiling to do; however, prophecy is the gift that keeps on giving and, while more may be fulfilled in this prophecy, it is also true that it has already seen fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me explain. Forty days after resurrecting and showing himself to countless people, Jesus ascends (coming on the clouds) into heaven and is “led into [the] presence “of the “Ancient One”. What happened from there? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which outpoured onto the disciples, filling them with God’s Spirit and power. From the day of Pentecost and onward, the disciples healed the sick, took care of the poor, visited the imprisoned, raised the dead to life and preached the Good News of Jesus Christ to all of the known world. Within 400 short years, this little sect of Judaism overtook the Roman Empire, the very empire that executed Jesus and his followers. Holy wow!!! Think about that. The impossible was made possible as a result of Jesus’ resurrection! Praise God!

Certainly, the resurrection was not the end of the story, but the beginning of it. Christians, being human beings, have fallen short and have sometimes put the institution of Christianity above Christ; however, Christ is still unfolding the salvation, redemption and sancitification of this world. What’s more, we are a part of that unfolding! We are a part of the story. We are the ones who, if we are faithful, will do even greater things than that of the disciples if we would only open our hearts to the possibility and to the call. With that said, happy Easter! He is risen! Now, rise up and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
He is risen and you can rise with him!

PRAYER
Lord, you have redeemed me and I choose to live the RESURRECTED LIFE in you! Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: The Great Sabbath

Read Zechariah 9:11-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.” (1 Peter‬ ‭3:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 The Great Sabbath. The Great Sabbath, also known as Holy Saturday, is the day following Jesus’ death. While some may wonder why it was called “the Great Sabbath” when Jesus was dead, it is obvious that death is the “final rest”, and Sabbath is the day of rest set apart by God. Thus, even on the surface, it makes sense that Holy Saturday would be considered the Great Rest.

Yet, we can take it one step further. It is also the day that the disciples and Jesus’ family all stayed in hiding for fear that they would be captured and crucified. The times were tense and, while I am sure that Holy Saturday was stressful (not “restful”), they weren’t out and about doing things on that day. What’s more, though they did not realize it at the time, they were lying in wait for what would take place early the next morning.

Still, while the above reasons are all insightful in some way or another, they are not ultimately what makes Holy Saturday “The Great Sabbath”. Saturday, in Judaism (sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening), is Sabbath and/or the day of rest. It was also Passover, which made this particular Sabbath even more special. When we look at the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels, we will notice that while Jesus took God’s call to observe Sabbath seriously, he did not do so legalistically. Yes, he would rest when and where he could. Yes, he would go up onto a mountaintop to pray; however, he would do God’s work on the Sabbath, which often landed him in trouble with the Pharisees.

On this particular Sabbath, while Jesus’ physical body was resting in the stone cold, dark, cavernous tomb, Jesus’s spirit was in Sheol, the place of the dead, preaching the good news to them and showing them the way to salvation (1 Peter 3:19-20). Thus, in God’s great mercy, those who came before Christ and had died in their sin, Christ came and gave them a way out of their sin.

This fulfilled the words of Zechariah “Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon” (Zechariah‬ ‭9:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬). The “dungeon” or “pit” is, in this context, is referring to both the grave and Sheol. This passage indicates that God’s plan was to uphold the covenant made with God’s people. This, by the earliest Christians, was seen to be fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ on The Great Sabbath.

While this was certainly awesome news back then, it is awesome news even to this day. While we were not literally dead, or literally in the place of the dead (aka the pit), we were once lost, and now we have been found. We were once blind, but now we see. We were once dead, but in Christ we have found TRUE and EVERLASTING LIFE! Hallelujah! Praise the LORD our God, for in Christ we conquer death (in all its aspects) and gain TRUE LIFE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Hell hath no power at all.” — Demon Hunter, “Storm the Gates of Hell”

PRAYER

Lord, thank you so much for what you have done for me. In your name, help me to storm the gates of hell and preach the good news to all who need it. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Maundy Thursday

Read Zechariah 13:7-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the way, Jesus told them, ‘Tonight all of you will desert Me. For the Scriptures say, God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (Matthew 26:31 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

011-last-supper

Maundy Thursday. This is the day that Jesus had celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples. It is possible that this day was the day that Passover fell, which would have been considered a Sabbath day, or a day of rest, as well. On the week of Passover, the day of Passover is a Sabbath, along with the high holy Sabbath day of Saturday. With that said, John had Jesus being crucified on the day before the Passover feast. Thus, Jesus celebrated the feast early and, on “slaughter day” (when the lambs were slaughtered for the Passover feast), the Lamb of God was being slaughtered on the cross as the final and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. This chronology would mean, if Jesus was crucified on a Friday as tradition tells us, that Passover that year fell on the high holy Sabbath day (Friday evening through Saturday evening).

This chronology aside, per tradition, Jesus celebrated Passover (his last supper) on Thursday evening. It is there that he wrapped a robe around himself and washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20). This, of course, taught his disciples that the master IS the servant of all. That no one was too high to do the lowliest of tasks. That the economy of Heaven dictates that those who wish to be master must be the slave of all. This is the day that Jesus gave his disciples his new commandment, to LOVE one another as he first loved them. The word Maundy by the way , from the Latin word mandātum, means mandate or command.

It was on this night that Jesus instituted one of the two sacraments instituted by Christ in the Scriptures. That, of course, is the sacrament of Holy Communion, also known as the sacrament of the Eucharist. It was on that night that Judas left the supper to carry out his plan of betrayal, and it was the night that Jesus warned that Peter, his most beloved friend, would deny knowing him out of fear for his own life. It was the night that all of the disciples would flee in fear of being arrested with Jesus.

The reality is that, in his moment of utter despair, Jesus’ closest friends and confidants fled the scene, leaving him alone with those who sought to kill him. This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, “‘Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, the man who is My partner,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs’” (Zechariah 13:7 NLT).

Yet, God being graceful and merciful, the story does not end there. Those who were scattered were not permanently lost; rather, they ended up coming back into the fold later, following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord. This fulfilled the words of God through Zechariah, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God'” (Zechariah 13:9 NLT).

How many of us have found, in anxious moments of confusion and despair, have found ourselves denying Christ? How many of us have found ourselves betraying Christ? Remember, our Lord knows our weaknesses and has shown nothing but grace toward us. Are you willing to accept that grace, or will you allow your guilt to consume you as it did Judas? Remember that God is sovereign and that God’s sovereignty is displayed through grace.  All you need do is accept that grace and find forgiveness for your sins. Let us now take the journey with Jesus to the cross, where God’s grace is displayed for all the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Saint Paul (Romans 3:23 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for I am a sinner. Bring me back from to the path I strayed from and lead me into your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Spy Wednesday

Read Zechariah 11:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:14-15 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

006-judas-betrays-jesus

Spy Wednesday. In Zechariah, we see the prophet giving up on his office as prophet. He had been embattled serving the people of God. They were divided over who should be high priest, many hardened their hearts toward God, and Zechariah felt that the time had come for him to simply let them have their own sinful way. This was not done because Zechariah was a quitter, but because God had given them the choice between their ways or God’s way, and they had clearly chosen.

Thus, the Lord God was speaking through Zechariah, when he said that he would remove the good shepherd and replace him with a useless, lazy, selfish one (Zechariah 11:16-17). As a result of their hardened hearts, they ended up following the prophets and leaders of this world, to their own demise. Thus, Zechariah requested, “‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver” (vs. 12). Continuing on, Zechariah declared, “And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD (vs. 13).

Yet, Zechariah’s situation aside, this particular verse was foreshadowing what was to happen to Jesus of Nazareth through one of his closest friends and disciples, Judas Iscariot. It was on what has become known as “Spy Wednesday”, that Judas met with the high priest and the Pharisees to plot against Jesus. Judas agreed to betray his Lord and master in exchange for none other than thirty pieces of silver. Thus, Judas became like a spy. He became a wolf among the sheep and waited for the right moment to betray Jesus and have him arrested.

This, of course, was directly following Jesus’ revealing to his disciples that he was going to be “handed over to be crucified.” It was also following Jesus scolding his disciples for their chastizement of the woman who anointed his feet. In Matthew, it is written that the disciples became indignant because such expensive perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus put the disciples back in their place and praised the woman for her compassion toward him.

The question that puzzles many is this, why would Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (about $600 in U.S. currency…a handsome amount in the ancient world)? Maybe it was because, as Jesus continued to press and antagonize the religious and political leaders in Jerusalem, Judas feared that they would all go down with Jesus. Maybe, for Judas, Jesus wasn’t doing enough against the Romans and he was among those who wanted to see a physical, bloody revolt. Maybe Judas, along with some of the other disciples, were indignant toward Jesus for the woman anointing him, or maybe for other reasons. There is, of course, the possibility that Judas was always a snake in the grass, was greedy, and looking for any opportunity to find a way to betray Jesus and gain money and status for doing so.

We can only speculate Judas’ motivations; however, we do know that the Judas regretted his decision so much that he took his own life. The blood money he was paid went to pay for a field, fulfilling the words of Zechariah in a new and most sorrowful way. The challenge for us is to look inward on this Spy Wednesday! Are our intentions pure? Do we follow Jesus for the sake of following the Lord, our Savior? Do we follow Jesus for the glory of God and for the Kingdom of God? Or do we have alterior motives for following Christ?

Do we seek out God’s agenda, or are we secretly trying to find ways of working in our own? Are we sheep in Christ’s fold, are are we wolves that have found our way in? Are we Christ’s own, or have we become snakes in the grass? These questions are not comfortable ones; however, they are important to ask. I think that we can find moments in our lives where we are truly aligned with Christ, and others where we are not. Let us be honest this Holy Week and pray for God to remove the inner-Judas that exists within all of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We have two choices in love, faithfulness and betrayal.

PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for the times I have betrayed in you in my thoughts, in my words, and in my deeds. Guide me toward a life of faithfulness. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Tuesday

Read Isaiah 49:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28 NLT)

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

AngryJesus

Holy Tuesday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem being hailed as the King of the Jews. He went into the temple and upset the peace by overturning the tables of the money changers. No doubt, this act had both the Temple priests and the Roman leadership looking intently on this individual…this “prophet.” He was showing himself to be a trouble maker.

By Monday, Jesus he began antagonizing the Temple leadership, as well as the teachers of religious laws (known as the Pharisees). He taught in parables that called the leaderhsip out for their hypocrisy. He proclaimed that hey was the the stone that God declared to be the cornerstone and decried the priests and the teachers fo religious law for rejecting him. He certainly did not win many of the priests and Pharisees over on Holy Monday.

On this day, Holy Tuesday, Jesus’ teachings took a sharp and dramatic turn. Instead of teaching in parables, he called the Sadducees and Pharisees out directlty. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.” (Matthew 23:2-3 NLT). Calling them hypocrites, Jesus levied a series of seven accusations against the religious leadership. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15 NLT)

Jesus called the leadership out on perverting the law for their own gain. He likened them to “whitewashed tombs”  that look pristine and beautiful on the outside, but are filled with bones and the dead on the inside. His words cut through them and caused their hatred of him to grow to an all-time high. They were already trying to find a way to eliminate him; however, after this display, they were even more determined.

Jesus did not stop there either. He went on to predict that the temple would be destroyed and began to share with his disciples that the world was going to experience a whole lot of darkness before it would see the light of God. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, for its refusal to accept him and the message of God who had sent him. He lamented, “And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD'” (Matthew 23:38-39 NLT)!

All of this a profound fulfillment of what was written in Isaiah 49:1-7. Jesus’ words were, indeed, “words of judgment as sharp as a sword.” On Holy Tuesday, Jesus was like a sharp arrow in God’s quiver. He was being loosed on the people who were supposed to be witnessing to the glory and love of God but were, instead, basking in their own status and glory to the detriment of God’s people.

Of course, it is easy for us to read this and point fingers at the religious leadership in Jesus’ time; however, Christians believe in the “priesthood” of all believers. That we are all called to bring people to a relationship with Jesus and represent God’s love in the world. The question is, are you doing that? Are you living into the call that God has placed on your life as a believer? Are you exonerated by Jesus, or his sharp words cutting through with convicting truth? I think we all can acknowledge that there is room for us to grow and transform. I pray that we all open our hearts and be transformed by Jesus’ words in fulfillment with what Isaiah prophesied, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NLT)

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Love does not always come in hugs and flowery words, but as words that cut like a sword through the aspects of ourselves that enslave us and bring us down.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for loving me enough to tell me the truth. Continually guide me and lead me back to you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Holy Monday

Read Isaiah 1:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see‘” (Matthew 21:42; cf. Psalm 118:22-23).

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

004-fig-tree

Holy Monday. On Monday morning, following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus begins his journey back into Jerusalem. In the evenings, during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples did not stay within the city, but stayed in the village of Bethany (presumably with his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary). Bethany is a mere mile and a half to the east of Jerusalem.

Holy Monday, though most people don’t really pay it much mind, was going to be busy day for Jesus. He was further going to push the religious leaders (the Sadducees/priests and the Pharisees/teachers of religious law), the Herodians and all those who had lost their way from God. On his way into the city, Jesus discovered a fig tree that had leaves, but did not bear fruit. Fig trees in that region, evidently, begin to bear fruit before they begin to sprout leaves. With that said, it was not the season for figs to be growing on the tree.

When Jesus saw the tree he cursed it for not bearing fruit. The disciples noticed that the fig had withered immediately upon Jesus cursing it. This action was symbolic of the religious and political leadership (of which the ancient world did not separate) in Jerusalem. They all had leaves so to speak. They looked the part and acted the part, but they were bearing absolutely no fruit. In fact, worse than that, they were bearing all of the WRONG fruit. Jesus’ action of cursing the tree was also a message to his disciples. The time for fruitlessness had passed, the time for God’s Kingdom had come. There was much work to be done. Bear fruit. Little did they know at the time, but the risen and ascended Jesus would send an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on them at Pentecost to help them accomplish just that.

In the Old Testament, we see the prophet Isaiah, as well as other prophets, calling out the religious and political leaders of their day. Through Isaiah, God denounced them, “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its Master. My people don’t recognize My care for them. Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.” (Isaiah 1:3-4 NLT)

In Jeremiah, the prophet scolded the King Jehoiakim of Judah when he proclaimed for the LORD, “’But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?’ says the LORD. ‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly’” (Jeremiah 22:15-17 NLT).

Jesus not only carried on the prophetic tradition of holding the leaders accountable; rather, he was the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets who proceeded him. Christ’s coming was both a judgment on the world order, and a way to salvation for all who chose to heed God and follow God’s only son, who was himself was the incarnation of God. Immanuel. On that Holy Monday nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus held the leaders accountable. He pointed them to their hypocrisy and pronounced that their rejection of him was their rejection of God. As a result of their choosing to reject the cornerstone of God’s kingdom, Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit had passed them by and left them desolate, just like the fig tree.

The time has come to bear fruit. The church is now in the same position of the leaders in Jesus’ day. We have a choice to accept Christ’s call on our lives and to bear fruit, or to continue on in complacency and ignore the very cornerstone of the Kingdom God is building. If we do the latter, the Holy Spirit will move on to those who will open their hearts to the presence and working of God. Let us not end up like the fig tree. Let us, rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit, witness to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the coming of God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The tree that produces little to no fruit is a dying tree.

PRAYER
Lord, prune the dead branches in my life so that I may continue to produce vibrant, hearty fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

Holy Week 2021: Fulfilled: Palm Sunday

Read Zechariah 9:9-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“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.’” Matthew‬ ‭21:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

When we read the Gospels, we get a sense that Jesus saw himself as a savior of his people. We can see how he he lived, how he taught, and how he ultimately took on the role of God’s suffering servant. We see that he claimed not only to be a teacher or a prophet, but that he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. What’s more, Jesus claimed to be one with, and the same as, God Almighty, the great I AM.

His disciples not only believed, but were transformed by their relationship with Jesus and, in turn they helped tranform the world. Jesus’ views were not only his own, but ones steeped in his Jewish beliefs and his understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Each day this week, let us look at the prophetic connection between Jesus and the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.

 Palm Sunday. There can be no doubt that Jesus sparked great controversy due to his actions on Palm Sunday. In the life of the church, we think of this day as a joyous celebration, one that involves little children whipping each other with palm leaves and, subsequently, their parents transforming those leaves into palm crosses.

Yet, for Jesus, all of the pomp and circumstance was bitter-sweet. It must have been a sight for him to see all of those people, thousands, crowded around him, laying branches before the donkey carrying him, and shouting, “Hosanna”, a Hebrew word that means, “Help”, or “Save, I pray.” It must have been awesome to witness those crowds hailing him as the Messiah.

With that said, he also knew that the Romans would not ignore the fact that the crowd was hailing him as “King of the Jews.” Nor would King Herod Antipas. Nor would the High Priest, who had much politically to lose if Pontius Pilate were to choose to intervene and stomp out any potential rebellion. Jesus knew that, even though the crowds were hailing him as king on this day nearly 2,000 years ago, they would not be hailing him as king by the end of the week.

But how could this act of riding on a donkey be taken to mean that Jesus was king? Simple. This was prophesied about the messiah that was to come in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (‭NLT)‬‬‬

Jesus’ choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey shows that he understood himself as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming messiah. He understood himself to be the coming King that would liberate God’s people. With that said, he also knew that the kind of liberation they were seeking was not the kind he was bringing.

The people wanted a liberation from the tyrannical rule of Rome; however, who would save them from the tyrannical rule of sin and death. Even if one could have overthrown the Roman Empire, what would stop him or her from becoming yet another tyrannical ruler. Look at the kings of Israel and Judah. Each generation of rulers became more wicked than the last.

It is important to realize that Jesus did not come to liberate in a worldly fashion. Jesus did not come to follow the world’s ways and methods of liberation; rather, Jesus came to change the hearts and the souls of a people who he knew had closed off their hearts to him. Still, with that said, that fact was no deterent for Jesus. He entered the city in triumphal fashion, went straight to the temple, overturned the money changers, and fulfilled another prophecy, “Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Psalms‬ ‭69:9‬ ‭NLT).‬‬ Jesus stayed the course and took the one-way march into Jerusalem; a march unto his bloody, torturous death. God’s suffering servant was ready to take on the weight of the world‬‬

MOMENT OF REFLECTION

In what ways have you closed your heart to Jesus, the Christ? Are you willing to allow the passion of our Lord to soften your heart, once again, and let him in?

PRAYER

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Bring me back into your presence and your loving care. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: SON OF GOD: Easter Sunday

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Then she gave them His message.” (John 20:18 NLT)

jesus-Is-laid-in-a-tomb-tomb-03-1800Happy Easter Sunday! This is the day to which all of the previous days and devotions of Holy Week have been pointing to. This is the day when the power of God was fully displayed in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s not enough that he lived the life of a prophet. It’s not enough that he lived the life of one who had compassion on the “least of these.” It’s not enough that he held to his beliefs even unto death. It’s certainly not enough that he bore his cross and died on it. For if that is how the life of the Son of God ended, if that is the end of the story, then what hope is there that evil will ever be overcome?

If the Jesus movement were to die with him at his death, then he would go down in history as just another poor peasant who dared to defy the powers that be and paid the ultimate price for it. What’s more, his teachings would go down as nice but unrealistic. His miracles would go down as nothing more than magic tricks, and his claims of divinity would go down as nothing more than an egotistical delusion. Yet, the story did not end there; rather, on the third day following his passion and death, the Son of God was resurrected from the tomb. What’s more, his resurrection was experienced by countless people, at least 513 people according to the Apostle Paul who was writing about 24-27 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.

The resurrection is not about a dead body becoming resuscitated back to life. The resurrection isn’t about faith that goes against reason, nor is it about believing in something ludicrous that cannot be seen or experienced. If it were about those things, no one would have believed Paul or the countless others who preached the resurrection of the Son of God to others. In fact, Paul would have never believed it either were it merely about belief in what cannot be seen or experienced. What’s important to note is that belief in the resurrection of Christ is not about blind faith, but about an experiential faith. The question is not about whether or not the Son of God resurrected from the dead, the question is about whether or not you have witnessed the resurrected Son of God, and whether or not you have experienced that resurrection in your life as well.

Whether you are celebrating Easter Sunday or not, ask yourself this question, have you experienced the miracle of the resurrection? If not, why not? Perhaps it is because you have not died to anything or, if you have, perhaps it is because you have not let that experience go. I can tell you that I have experienced both the risen Son of God in my life, and I have experienced the miracle of the resurrection too. But what I have experienced can only intrigue you, if that. You need to open yourself to experiencing it too. I pray that on this Easter Sunday, the power of the resurrected SON manifests itself in you and that you are aware and open to it. If you are, NOTHING will ever be the same again.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“People have been told so often that resurrection is just a metaphor, and means Jesus died and was glorified – in other words, he went to Heaven, whatever that means. And they’ve never realized that the word ‘resurrection’ simply didn’t mean that.” – N.T. Wright

PRAYER
Lord, reveal your resurrected self to me and a produce in me the resurrected life. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: SON OF GOD: Holy Saturday

Read Matthew 27:62-66

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“’Go out and stand before Me on the mountain,’ the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13a NLT)

Jesus in the TombToday is Holy Saturday, which is the day in between Jesus’ death and his resurrection. It is on this day that his disciples sat in hiding. It is on this day that the uncertainty of death hung over them like a shroud, clouding them with the fear of the unknown and paralyzing them in that fear. They had followed Jesus for three long years and had invested all of their hopes and expectations in him. Now he was dead, gone, and the silence of the tomb echoed in their psyche about as loudly as a shrill scream in the night.

On the flip side, the powers that be that opposed Jesus were scrambling to keep the silence from becoming to uncertain. Caiaphas and other religious leaders were holding a meeting with the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, regarding what they were going to do with this dead trouble maker named Jesus. The religious leaders were claiming that his disciples might come and snatch the body in order to make false claims about some sort of bodily resurrection. Out of fear that the body might disappear, they all decided that it would be best if guards were posted at the tomb to ensure that nothing happened to the body.” These men, too, were disturbed by the silence of the tomb, for they were afraid it might remain silent. So they did everything they could to ensure that it would.

The silence of death and the tomb affects each of us in many different ways. It seems so final, yet so uncertain, and we are left feeling not only loss by a sense of hopelessness. And I need not be talking about the physical death of any one person, but death in the broader sense. Throughout life, aspects of our lives die off. We come to identify ourselves one way, or another, and for a season that identification endures; however, there comes a point when that identity, that aspect, that part of us dies off and we are with a tremendous sense of loss and of fear. Who are we? How do we respond to this particular loss? Do we, like the disciples, hide in the shadows afraid of what lies next? Or do we, like the religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day, place guard over the tomb to make sure nothing is out of our control?

Both of the above questions are pathways that we can take? Both seek to hang onto whatever control we have left. Paralysis and overreaction are on the opposite side of the same coin of control. However, there is a third option. We need not hide in the shadows or overreact in some outlandish way or through some sort of crazy power grab; rather, we have the option of letting go. We have the option of allowing the silence of the tomb to speak for itself. We have the option of letting go of control and allowing God to work resurrection in our lives. The reality is that no matter what we do, whether we hide in the shadows or stand guard over the tomb, that stone will be bursting forth with or without us. The question is not “if”, but “when.” When the Son of God sparks resurrection in your life, will be open to it or will you let it pass you by? The silence of the tomb gives you ample time to reflect on that very question. May that reflection be rich in the darkness and the silence of the tomb.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs

PRAYER
Lord, prepare me for the death in life, and for the death of life, for I know that all ends are the beginnings of something new. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: SON OF GOD: Good Friday

Read John 19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
When the Roman officer who stood facing Him [heard His cry and] saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NLT)

2014-NIUE-AUGUSTUS-FEATUREUp until now, it might not be clear why I entitled this series of Holy Week devotions, “Son of God. I mean, sure, I am writing about Jesus of Nazareth who is known by billions of Christians to be the “Son of God.” That much is self-evident; and sure, I am writing about the activities, suffering and death of “the Son of God” because it is Holy Week and that is when billions of Christians celebrate the last days of Christ. But, other than that, why entitle this SON OF GOD.

What most people don’t realize is that the title, “Son of God”, was not held exclusively by Jesus during his lifetime. There was another person who was known to the world at the time as son of god and his name was Tiberius Caesar, just as Augustus Caesar was before him. Because Julius Caesar was divinized following his assassination, Augustus (whose birth name was Octavian) took on the title divi filius, aka son of the divine one, aka son of god. When Tiberius succeeded Augustus, he took on the same title, as did the Caesars that followed him. And, honestly, who was going to argue with them. They were truly the most powerful men in the known world and to argue their divinity with them was to order your own death.

When Jesus’ followers, and later the Gospel writers, started hailing the peasant carpenter from Nazareth as “the Son of God,” this instantly put him in immediate competition with Caesar, who did not take kindly to such competition. What’s more, Jesus wasn’t being called the equivalent of divi filius; rather, he was being called the equivalent of Dei Filius, which put him above the son of a deified mortal and made him the Son of the immortal God. Also, this Jesus claimed that being the Son of God meant conquering people with love and truth, as opposed to Caesar’s way of conquering people with fear and force. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that this peasant Nazarene came face to face with the Roman Empire. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that the Son of God challenged another son of god. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that LOVE and brute force crossed paths in such a dramatic way that the world would never forget it. While brute force may have won the battle, three days later it totally lost the war!

On this Good Friday, we are being called by the Son of God to reflect on the ways we oppose walking the path of LOVE. How often have we tried to force our way on others? How often have we put ourselves above the Son of God through our thoughts and through our actions? Christ is calling us to search our hearts and our souls. The Son of God is calling us to acknowledge his Sonship, his divinity, and his Lordship over our lives. The Son of God is calling us to abandon our ways for his ways, and he is calling us, at all costs, to return to the pathway of LOVE. While this is not always easy, it is what the Son of God calls us to do and his death on the cross is a reminder to us all of the extent to which he was willing to go in order to see that pathway through. The Christ on the cross is waiting for us to join him in his mission.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 10:45 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, precious Son of God, thank you for your sacrifice. Stir up in me a sacrificial love that reaches far and wide to those in need around me. Amen.