Tag Archives: Denial

Fulfilled: Maundy Thursday

Read Zechariah 13:7-9

“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-supperMaundy 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.

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

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.

A LOOK BACK: Denial and the Cross

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. This is the month of retreats for me, so as I am busy leading them, here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

Denial and the Cross

Read  Mark 8:34-38

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

REVDRMLKJRIf you are Christian you have, no doubt, come across today’s scripture reading before. In one fashion, or another, you have heard that following Jesus means that we need to deny ourselves and pick up our cross. Part of the problem of being a Christian is that, all of these centuries later, we hear Jesus’ words in ways that I believe he never intendeded them. For instance, when we come across today’s Scirpture passage we often interpret it in ways that both trivialize the cross and demonize ourselves into something less than valuable in the eyes of God.

An unhealthy understanding of Bible passages such as these can lead to an unhealthy, and perhaps damning perception of self, of neighbor and, ultimately, of God. So let me begin by stressing what this passage is NOT saying. First, this passage is NOT saying you should hate yourself or deny yourself your basic needs. It is not saying that at all! God created you and God does not create junk or rubbish. God created you, and all, with a divine and holy purpose in mind. Thus, Jesus is not telling us that in order to be his disciple we need to hate ourselves, look down upon ourselves, or neglect to take care of ourselves. To do such would be sinful and would not be in line with God’s will for us. After all, God calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation (in which we are included) and to go against that would be to go against God’s call.

Second, this passage is not intended to trivialize the cross. There is a TobyMac song called Irene, in which TobyMac sings “Pick up your cross and where it everyday.” This is both a reference to Luke’s parallel passage (Luke 9:22-25) and to the trinket people often where on a necklace fastened around their necks. But this is not what the passage is referring to at all. It’s not referring to a necklace, nor is it referring to a lamented obligation, or a personal challenge one has been going through; rather, Jesus is referring to the instrument of capital punishment he would be affixed to as a means of painfully and humiliatingly exterminating his life.

What Jesus is ultimately saying in this passage is that, if anyone wishes to be his follower, we must deny any part of us that would hold us back from following him. Regardless of what those things are (e.g. our sins, our hangups, our fears, our desires, our hopes, our dreams, etc.) we must be willing to put them aside and be willing to pay all costs for being associated with Jesus. Even if the cost is our very lives, we must be willing to give it all to follow Christ. It has nothing to do with self-loathing, though. It has to do with one’s identity! If one truly identifies as a Christians, and sees him/herself as belonging to Christ, then that will be the most important thing to him/her over and above anything else, including his/her own life.

There are numerous examples of people who saw Christ as being at the core of their identity. This week it behooves us to look at the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was a disciple of Christ who denied the fears and things that held him back from following Christ. Dr. King certainly picked up his cross, the burden of fighting for equality and freedom for all people regardless of their skin color, and ended up paying the ultimate price for doing so. When we look at Dr. King we see a man who certainly denied himself, picked up his cross and followed Jesus.

The question for us today is this, will we let our fears and our desires keep us from accepting Christ as our Lord? Will we refuse to pick up our cross because of the possible consequences? Will we deny Christ, or deny the parts of ourselves that keep us from accepting Christ? Will we be ashamed of Christ, Christ’s message, and the way of the Cross because it is more convenient for us to do so? Or will we deny our own convenience for the sake of Christ, for the sake of others and for the sake of God’s Kingdom? The choice is ultimately yours and I pray that your response is one of affirmation rather than one of denial and embarrassment. The world could use more disciples of Christ and the hope, healing and wholeness that such disciples bring in Christ’s name.

When we deny the poor and the vulnerable their own human dignity and capacity for freedom and choice, it becomes self-denial. It becomes a denial of both our collective and individual dignity, at all levels of society. – Jacqueline Novogratz
Lord, I give me the strength to deny the things that hold me back from you, to pick up my cross, and to follow you at all costs. Amen.

A Time to Reflect, part 1

Starting with last Friday, this week (Friday to Friday) is the week of retreats. As such, I decided to change things up for this week of devotions. Rather than publishing two full devotions this week, and rather than publishing two previously written devotions, I have decided to publish two scriptures and a couple of reflective questions. Read the Scripture, more than once even, and ponder the questions that are asked in regard it. If you are reading this on lifegivingwaterdevo.org, feel free to comment with your answers and/or reflective thoughts. If you are reading this in print somewhere, or on some other site that is publishing it, then perhaps write your answers and/or reflective thoughts on paper and save them to look back upon.

Next week, I will write two brand new devotions based off of the two Scripture passages and the reflective questions being asked.

Today’s Scripture:

Mark 8:34-38

bench1He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

  1. What does Jesus mean when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves…”?
  2. What did it mean for people in Jesus’ day to pick up their crosses? What does it mean for you to pick up your cross?
  3. What does Jesus mean by “those who are ashamed of me and my words” and why does Jesus call his generation “adulterous and sinful”?
  4. Do you feel uneasy by Jesus’ words in this passage? If so, why does it challenge you? If not, why doesn’t it?

Look for next Wednesday’s devotion in order to see the full devotion on Mark 8:34-38.