Tag Archives: Temple

God’s People, part 124: Sadducees

Read Acts 4:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.”  (Luke 20:27, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SadduceesPart 124: Sadducees. The Sadducees were a group of people who existed during the Second Temple period in Jerusalem (516 BCE – 70 CE). They became prominent during the second century BCE and were among the sects of Judaism during a very divided time in Jewish history. The division stemmed around the Hellenization (e.g infiltration of Greek culture) of Israel under the Seleucid Empire.

While some groups, such as the Pharisees, thought one ought to separate themselves from Grecco-Roman culture altogether, the Sadducees worked to regulate relations with their foreign occupiers. This is not to say that the Sadducees promoted Helenization; however, their role was a political one as much as it was religious. They were of the high social class of Jewish society, they were the aristocracy, and they had much influence and power in Judaea.

This was epsecially true when the Romans conquered and occupied Judaea. Annas and Caiaphas were both members of the Sadducees. Annas was appointed to the position of high priest by the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius. While not all priests and high priests were Sadducees, many of them were. They were responsible for maintaining the Temple and the life of worship. They performed rituals, sacrifices, and other duties related to the temple; however, they also served as politicians and judges.

They were on the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish Council, along with the Pharisees. They managed the state domestically, and represented the state internationally. They collected taxes, including collecting international tax from Jews living in other countries. They also equipped and led the Jewish army, and structured relations with the Romans. On top of all of those political roles, the Sadducees also mediated local and household complaints.

The Sadducees were a people of great prominence and importance. With control over the Temple and the worship life of the Jewish people, the Sadducees held a power that few Jewish groups in that time period had. They were an aristocratic sect that had utilized its status in ways that often benefited them to the detriment of the people beneath them. This angered many, and caused dissident sects like the Essenes and the Zealots to take matters into their own hands to usher in the Messianic age.

As we will soon see, this group would cross paths with the Christ, the anointed One of God, Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah would not be impressed by their power, nor would he be afraid to hold them and others accountable for the way they abused the authority God had given them. This imminent confrontation would lead to the most dramatic and powerful events the world has ever seen.

The challenge for us is to remember the Sadducees and recognize our own desire for power, control, and authority. We ought to keep that desire in check and remember that it is God who is power, it is God who is in control and who has authority, not us.

Let us submit ourselves to God rather than try to bend God into submission. The latter will NEVER happen and will lead us to our own downfall, just as surely as the power hungry Sadducees went down with their Temple when the Romans finally came in and destroyed it along with the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember, to God be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:6, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I surrender all to you, and place all that have and all that I am in your hands. Amen.

God’s People, part 123: High Priest

Read John 11:45-57

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Away with him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with him! Crucify him!’ ‘What? Crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back.”  (John 19:15, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

bible-videos-caiaphas-jesus-trial-1426886-printPart 123: High Priest. When we think of the High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem, we think of someone who was from the Levites and was chosen by God to serve in the position of High Priest, fulfilling the duties of ordering the worship life of the Temple and leading the kingdom of Israel in an ongoing and faithful relationship with God. We think of someone divinely chosen and independent of politics.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake. First, the High Priest WAS a political position as much as it was a religious one. The ancient world did not make any sort of distinction between the political and the religious spheres. That distinction is, strictly speaking, a modern one. This is extremely important to realize. The high priest was not just in charge of religion, but also of law. The TORAH was not just religious law, but the LAW of the land.

Second, the High Priest in the time of the Roman occupation became more of a political role than it was religious. This may sound scandalous and, if you are thinking that, you are absolutely right. It was scandalous. By Jesus’ time, some groups such as the Essenes had left Jerusalem and went out into the wilderness to live. They believed that the corruption of the office of the High Priest, and the ultimate corruption of the Temple, were signs of the end times. Thus, they waited in the wilderness for the Messiah to come, ready to join the holy war when that time came.

The first high priest to be appointed under the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea (aka Judea, pronounced Yoo-dee-ah), was Annas in 6 CE. What’s more, Annas was appointed to that position by Quirinius, the Roman legate governor of Syria. You read that right! A Roman aristocrat and politician appointed Annas as the High Priest of Judea. I am sure you can now see why groups like the Essenes “got out of Dodge” and headed for the wilderness hills.

Annas’ was deposed as High Priest in 15 CE at the age of 36. With that said he held great influence of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Legal Council made up of priests) through his sons who succeeded him in the role of High Priest. First, his son Eleazar succeeded him and was High Priest for one year (16-17 CE). Following Eleazar was Annas’s son-in-law, Caiaphas. He was High Priest from 18-36 CE and was the High Priest who plotted to have Jesus handed over to the Romans to be crucified.

As you can see, there were major politics at play here in the first century. We Christians like to pretend that everything Jesus did was “spiritual” and not “political”; however, this simply was not true. By accusing the High Priest of hypocrisy and corruption, by violently overturning the tables in the Temple, Jesus was intentionally upsetting the political and the religious order simultaneously!

This should challenge us as Christians. We often choose to remain silent on issues because we don’t want to be “political”; however, our silence is just as political as speaking out. In fact, when we don’t speak out we stamp our seal of approval on whatever it is that is going on. We ought not be afraid of upsetting the political or the religious order. If what is going on is wrong, we ought to take a stand against it. Our Lord did no less. We ought to carefully steer away from the status quo, which the High Priests were holding fast to for their political gain and power, and draw close to Jesus who would have us interrupt the silence for the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Damning are the politics of silence.

PRAYER
Lord, give me courage to interrupt the silence. For I know you are with me and strengthen me. You are my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

God’s People, part 111: Zerubbabel

Read Ezra 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when this happens, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, I will honor you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant. I will make you like a signet ring on My finger, says the LORD, for I have chosen you. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:23 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

ZerubbabelPart 111: Zerubbabel. By now, you are probably wondering who this “Zerubbabel” was, right? His name has come up here and there over the past several devotions, with little to no explanation as to who he was. Zerubbabel was a Jew born in Babylon during the Babylonian captivity. If the name has its origin in Hebrew, perhaps a contraction of the Hebrew word זְרוּעַ בָּבֶל (pronounced Zərua‘ Bāvel), it means “The one sown in Babylon”. Similarly, if it is Assyrian-Babylonian in origin, it means “seed of Babylon”. It could also come from the Hebrew זְרוּי בָּבֶל (pronounced Zərûy Bāvel), meaning “the winnowed of Babylon”. The latter would refer to the fact that, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the Jews were sifted through from exile in Babylon to freedom in their homeland.

Whatever the origin of his name might be, Zerubbabel was clearly born in exile in Babylon. Beyond that fact, he was also the grandson of the second to last king of Judah, Jehoiachin. This is the king, if you remember,  who was eighteen when he took the throne and who only reigned for a total three months and ten days before being dethroned and exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II. He was succeeded by his uncle, Zedekiah, who rebuffed Jeremiah’s warnings and  ultimately led all of Jerusalem down a path of destruction and exile.

Zerubbabel, quite ironically, was appointed to return lead the first wave of Jews back to their homeland by the Persian king Cyrus in the first year of his reign over Babylon. He was also appointed of governor of the Persian province of Judah. Thus, the grandson of the first king to be exiled to Babylon was appointed to be the governor of his people and to lead the first wave of his people home.

Zerubbabel was also the governor under whom the foundation for the second temple was laid. He was, if you remember, given the charge of rebuilding the Temple. With that said, he was also not successful in rebuilding that temple due to the opposition that he and the High Priest Jeshua (pronounced Yesh-oo-ah) faced. Instead of sticking with the plan, Zerubbabel became mired in endless diplomatic measures to get everyone involved on the same page. The result: NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH. The Temple was not rebuilt under his leadership and would not be rebuilt until Nehemiah, who did not make the same mistakes, took his place.

The challenge for us here is to realize how often we let the circumstances around us to pull us away from what God is asking us to do. For example, in churches we often weigh the “liability” of a ministry over and above the need for it. Are we supposed to NOT do something just because we could find ourselves liable? Is that how Jesus operated? Is that how the prophets operated? Then why do operate that way?

What’s more, we do the same thing individually. “Well,” one might muse, “I would be more involved in this or that ministry if I had more time…or money…or personal connection with those who are apart of it.” Another might allow politics or personal views to step in the way of their faithfulness to Christ. Let us be challeneged to resist such diversions and to be faithful to God’s plan to impact the world through RE-CREATION, rather than allowing the world to impact and recreate us in its own image.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Diversions from Christ’s mission are the devil’s playground, turf from which we should steer clear.

PRAYER
Lord, help us to remain focused on and faithful to you through Jesus Christ. Amen.

God’s People, part 107: Haggai

Read Haggai 1-2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne.” (Ezra‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 107: Haggai. In order to understand Haggai’s prophecy, one really needs to understand the historical and religious contexts that it was written in. As with all of the books in the Bible, Haggai was not written in a vacuum. In fact, Haggai lived and prophesied at the same time as Zechariah. Malachi lived and prophecied about a century later. Ezra was also a contemporary of the prophet and wrote of him and Zechariah being influential in the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple following their return from exile.

Let us look at the context surrounding Haggai’s prophecy. The year was 520 BCE, sixteen years after the Jews were first allowed back frome exile to Jerusalem. If you recall, this was put forth into motion under the Persian king Cyrus the Great, who was regarded by the Jews as God’s anointed king, the messiah. You will also recall that upon sending them back to their homeland, Cyrus commissioned them to rebuild their Temple to their God as well as to rebuild Jerusalem.

Sixteen years later, the Temple still had not been built. Upon returning home, there was a dispute between the Jews who returned and “the local residents” in Jerusalem. The dispute arose over who should have a part in rebuilding the Temple and how that Temple should be built. Thus, the Temple building campaign was halted for sixteen years.

It is this that Haggai was addressing. He found it egregious that God’s Temple lay in ruin, while the people of the land regained their homes and their prosperity. God had come through for them, how could they not come through for God. The issue is less to do with a temple building itself and more to do with faithfulness to God.

Were the Jews who were liberated from Babylon/Persia going to remain loyal to God, or were they going to fall right into complacency? What’s more, Haggai was calling them out on not having the moxy to stand up to the dissenters and do what they had been commissioned by God’s anointed king, Cyrus, to do.

By the way, it is important to note that Haggai is not the only book in the Bible to record these disputes. They are recorded in Ezra and also Zechariah. In fact, in the latter book, the “local residents” or “the people of the land” were opposing the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Yeshua. The opposition against them rose up after they listened to Haggai and Zechariah and decided to move forward with the Temple building campaign. To do so, they rejected the “people of the land’s” request to build the Temple and placed the building of the Temple in the hands of the ones who had been liberated from exile.

This caused an irrevocable division between the liberated Jews and “the people of the land”. As a result, the latter group eventually split off and built their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim near Shechem. These people, by many scholars, are believed to be the Samaritans and it is during that time where bitter enmity built up between the Judaeans and the Samaritans. That enmity would carry on for centuries, and would be included in some of Jesus’ own teachings (e.g. the parable of the good Samaritan). In fact, it was in the region of Mt. Gerizim that Jesus converses with the Samaritan woman in John 4.

Thus, we can see how this short prophetic book by Haggai had such a profound impact on shaping what would go on to be known as the Second Temple period in Jewish history. It was during this time that the One who IS GOD’s Messiah, would live, teach, die and resurrect in FULL GLORY. This only happened because the God’s people humbled themselves and listened to the warnings of God through the prophet Haggai. They were willing to meet human resistance head on in order to remain loyal to God their LORD.

We are faced with the same charge, to remain loyal when the people of the land are calling us to do things differently than God would have us do. Will we heed God’s warning and build a SANCTUARY for all people, or will we follow the divisiveness of Satan, which is calling us to do things in a way that appeases the current world order? Reflect on this honestly; choose this day, and all days, whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” Jesus of Nazareth (John‬ ‭4:21‬ ‭NLT)

PRAYER

Lord, steer me along the right path and give me the courage to remain loyal to you at all costs. Amen.

God’s People, part 106: Darius

Read Ezra 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬).‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

 Part 106: Darius. King Darius I of Perisa (aka Darius the Great) is yet another example how history is weaved in and throughout the Bible. While the Bible does not offer too much background information on Darius, he is one fo the Persian kings mentioned in Ezra and was an ancient ruler of historical significance. Darius was an influential king during the rise of the Persian Empire, especially in regard to the Jews exiled in Babylon. In fact, he brought the empire to its peak.

While an entire volume could be written on Darius. In fact, several volumes have been written on Darius. If you are a history buff and you are interested in getting a more in depth view of Darius’ life, you can search for “Darius the Great” on Amazon.com and if you have an Amazon Kindle, or the Kindle App and are a Prime member, you can download one of the books, “Darius the Great: Makers of History”. Otherwise, there are plenty of options that come up in the search results.

As for the purpose of this devotion, I will focus on a brief summary of Darius and how he is significant in the history of God’s people. Darius was born in 550 CE, forty-eight years following the first deportation (which included Daniel and his friends), forty-seven years following the second deportation, thirty-seven years following the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and third wave of deportations, and thirty-three years following a possible fourth wave of deportations. What’s important to note here is that the Babylonian Exile happened in waves spanning a time period of 15 years. Think about the devastating effects that would have on a people and/or a nation.

Darius was born into a noble family, but not one of royal blood. His father was a governor and was given the title of “king” (a fancy title for governor) of one of the Persian Provinces, and served under Cyrus the Great, who was king of the entire Persian Achaemenid Empire. While governors got the title of “king”, Cyrus was THE KING and was also known as Great King and King of kings. It can also be said that Darius was not trusted by Cyrus who had a dream that Darius was king of the whole world. The dream was seen as an omen that Darius had treasonous plans. As such, Cyrus sent Darius’ father back to Persis, where Darius lived, to closely watch over his son.

While Darius did not end up trying to immediately usurp the heir to the throne, Cyrus’ dream did become a reality and Darius became king, under suspicious circumstances, at the age of 28. Because he became king suspiciously, a number of rebellions rose up against him throughout the empire and he successfully put an end to them within a year as his powerful army was loyal to him. Following that, he focused the beginning part of his reign on strengthening and expanding his empire and began a successful campaign to conquer and control Egypt. In 516 CE he also invaded the Indus Valley, and by 515 CE had conquered that land and expanded his empire going as far east as what is now known as Pakistan.

Following those campaigns he turned his sights on Babylon, which had been conquered early by the Persian King Cyrus the Great (at a later point) but were rebelling against the empire. It his here where Darius the Great enters in to the Biblical narrative. He, of course, quelled the Babylonian revolt and ruled over Babylon in the same way that Cyrus had. Though a devout follower of Zoarastrianism, Darius, and his successors, were extremely tolerant and allowed for others to have religious and cultural freedoms so long as they were submissive to his rule and peaceable. This historical fact is clearly reflected in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Like Cyrus before him, Darius gained the respect of the Jewish people under his rule. Cyrus had permitted Jews, if they wished, to return home to Jerusalem and to begin to rebuild the holy city and its temple. To ensure that happened, Darius gave funding to help the efforts of rebuilding of the Jewish Temple. While he was not a Jew, nor did he worship the Jewish God, he certainly showed respect for their people and their God, just as he did toward the Egyptians and to the Greeks who allied with him (though the Greeks eventually united and defeated him at the Battle of Marathon, which set up the events of the film 300 about the 300 Spartan warriors led into battle by King Leonidas at Thermopylae against Darius’ son (who’s believed to be Esther’s husband) Xerxes I.

This goes to show us that God can and does work through anyone. The Persian King Darius was no observer of the Jewish religion, and yet he had a respect for the Jews and their religion and, as such, became the vehicle through which God fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy that one day God would bring the Jewish people back home as shepherd leads his or her sheep (Jeremiah 31:10). The challenge for us is to remember that all the children of the earth are God’s people, whether they realize it or not, for God created them and loves and can work through them. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

There is no one, and nothing, that can separate us from the love that God has for us.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to be less judgmental and more open to see your handiwork in the world. Amen.

God’s People, part 53: King’s Pride

Read 2 Samuel 7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But God said to me, ‘You must not build a temple to honor My name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.’” (1 Chronicles 28:3 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Eugène_Siberdt_-_The_Prophet_Nathan_rebukes_King_DavidPart 53: King’s Pride. I am hoping that by now we are seeing the complexity of King David. We’ve seen the best of humanity in him, seeing him step up in faith and face giants. We’ve seen his skill as a commander, his faithfulness as a friend, his humility, his artistry and musicianship. We have also seen the worst of humanity in him. We have seen how manipulative he could be, how deceptively he could operate behind the scenes, how politically motivated he was, how over-the-top ambitious he was, and how he would stop at nothing, including murder, to get what he wanted.

On the one end, David was a person after God’s own heart, on the other end he was a person that acted in ways that were far removed from God’s heart. It also would not be fair to David to not mention that he was repentant for the sin of his sexual relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, the Hittite. So, today’s scriptures may seem a little harsh on the part of God, right?

All David wants to do is build God a temple, a house for the God of Israel to dwell. What is so wrong with that? Why would God not allow David to move forward with such a “glorious” endeavor meant to inspire all of Israel to hold God in awe and worship the Creator of all things. Didn’t David admit to and repent of murdering Uriah? Why did God then throw the fact that David had “blood on his hands” at him. Doesn’t God forgive and forget?

As far as David’s repentance of the Bathsheba/Uriah scandal and murder, yes, he had repented; however, he did so only reluctantly after being caught, shall we say, with his pants down. Yes, David was humbled by the prophet Nathan, and did allow humility to win the day in his response. Yes, he did eventually accept responsibility for his actions.

But that is just one of a plethora of David’s sins. Let’s not forget that this is the man who killed, then circumcised, 400 Philistines “for God”. Okay, they were in war and killing is a part of war, but circimcising the dead? Really?!?! Let us not forget that David is the one who seemingly was offing his political opponents, and then executing the ones who carried out the orders in order to “save face” and put on a good, calculated, political show. Of course, as has been mentioned, it takes a bit of reading between the lines to see this, and there is nothing explicitly said in the Bible that shows David doing this; however, there is reasonable suspicion here.

This is the man who married a woman for political motivations and then abandoned her and married someone else, even though he was still married to her. This is the man who loved to hear the crowds cheering his name as the victor and savior of his people. I could go on and on regarding David’s flaws. The question we have to aks ourselves is this, was David repentant of all of those things? Did the Nathan scolding change David’s heart completely, making him acknowledge and repent of all of his sins?

While we cannot judge David’s heart, God can and we see the answer in God’s response: “You must not build a temple to honor my name. You are a warrior and have shed much blood.” It seems that God did not feel David’s heart was where it ought to be, and that the temple was more an exercise of David’s pride than it was an endeavor to bring God’s glory. After all, great kings are often known by their magnificent buildings, and the temple went down as Solomon’s (David’s son) crowning achievement. What’s more, let us not forget, also, that God’s response to David happened prior to his murdering Uriah, not following it.

The point of this is not to pick on David, but to learn from him. David’s pride knew no bounds and God knew the real intent for David to build a “home” for God to live in. Here’s the thing, can any building made of stone and wood house the Lord of all Creation? Of course not. Besides, the only home God requires is the human heart. If all the people of the world opened their hearts to God…now that WOULD bring God glory. Let us learn from David that our pride is our worst enemy when it comes our relationship with God and with others. Let us lay aside the king’s pride, and adorn ourselves with the humility of the Good Shepherd!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Saint Augustine

PRAYER
Lord, I hand my pride over to you and seek to serve you in humility. Help guide me to fulfill this prayer. Amen.

JOURNEY WITH JESUS: Holy Tuesday

  
Wow, can you believe Holy Week is here already? Lent has flown right on by and we now find ourselves in the midst of the holiest week in the Christian calendar. Take this time to reflect on this day within holy week as you read through a devotion I wrote during holy week a few years ago. Click here to begin today’s deovtion.

JOURNEY WITH JESUS: Holy Monday

  Wow, can you believe Holy Week is here already? Lent has flown right on by and we now find ourselves in the midst of the holiest week in the Christian calendar. Take this time to reflect on this day within holy week as you read through a devotion I wrote during holy week a few years ago. Click here to begin today’s deovtion.

SON OF GOD: Holy Wednesday

Read Luke 20:41-21:4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him. (Luke 21:37-38 NLT)

TempleWhen looking at Holy Week and trying to match what Jesus did according to the Gospels and trying to match it with each day of that week is a not as easy as one would think. We know that on Palm Sunday, a week before his resurrection, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by an energized crowd. We know that on that same day he went into the Temple. We know that the next day he went into the Temple as well. Depending on which Gospel you read, he either “cleansed the Temple” on Palm Sunday or on Holy Monday. We can guess that either Monday night or Tuesday night Jesus’ feet were anointed with expensive perfume.

We know that on Thursday night Jesus sat down with his disciples for the Passover Meal. We know that on that same very night he was betrayed and brought to the high priest’s house. We know that by Friday morning he had been found guilty of blasphemy and brought to Pontius Pilate to be tried for treason. It was on Friday that Jesus was eventually nailed to the cross and crucified. It was on Friday that Jesus died. From Friday afternoon to Saturday, Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, and we all know what happens on Easter Sunday.

But what about Holy Wednesday? What happened on that day? The Scripture isn’t real clear. According to Luke, Jesus went to the Temple every day during Holy Week, to worship, to pray, and to teach. Every day, Jesus came to the Temple in order that he could speak truth to power and stand up for the people that the power was crushing. Every day, Jesus brought truth to those who did not want to hear it, for it meant that they would have to change their ways and start living according to the plan of God rather than their own plan. They would not have it. Every day Jesus came to them temple, he met opposition, derision, and people trying to trap him at every turn.

While we cannot know exactly what the Son of God did on Holy Wednesday, we have every reason to believe that Jesus was in that Temple speaking truth to power. We Christians believe, in light of Christian Scripture, that our very bodies are Temples that are meant to be kept holy and pure. We are meant to act as living sanctuaries, bringing hope, healing, and wholeness to those in desperate need of it. The Son of God is within that Temple, this very Holy Wednesday, speaking truth to power. Will you listen to his cry for justice, mercy and humility? Will you align your plan with God’s plan? Or will you oppose, deride and ignore Jesus’ cry? Sit in silence and reflect on the Son of God’s call for change upon your life and allow Holy Wednesday be the day you begin to rebuild your Temple in God’s image.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.“ – The Apostle Paul of Tarsus (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I realize that I am to be a pure and holy Temple, and that I am called to bear witness to the hope, healing and wholeness of God. Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Palm Sunday

Read Mark 1:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.” (Matthew 21:11-14 NRSV)

PalmSundayThe mob rules, does it not? We all know about “mob mentality” and how it is really a force to be reckoned with. We have seen on the news how people in mobs can do some crazy, scary and unimaginable things. I instantly think of Beauty and the Beast, when Belle magically shows her fellow villagers the beast through her enchanted mirror. Once the villagers see him, once they lay eyes on him, terror over comes them. Seizing the moment, Gaston pulls out his sword and begins to sway the crowd to follow him in killing the beast. Of course, Gaston is successful and they do, indeed, take up arms and follow him.

When we think of Palm Sunday, we see such a fickle crowd. They were looking for a hero, for anyone, to come along and claim the role of Messiah. So, when Jesus comes (intentionally and prophetically) riding in on a donkey, the crowd was there and ready to hail him as king. “Hosanna, hosanna!” The crowd roared with excitement, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, hosanna!” But was it the Lord they were praising, or was it their idea of the Lord? Without being too critical or judgmental, they had good reason to hope for their idea of the Lord. After centuries of subjugation and oppression, they were longing for God to come and liberate them.

This “king”, however, was not going to live up to their hopes and expectations; rather, this “king” was going to ride into the city, head to the Temple and start turning stuff, quite literally, upside down. Jesus’ first move as the crowd-proclaimed “king” was to go into the heart of Jewish worship and call out the religious leaders of his day and age. This is a far cry from the anti-Roman Messiah that everyone was hoping for. That’s not to say Jesus was pro-Roman. No, not at all. He was pro-Jewish without a shadow of a doubt and it was from that passion for his people, and his God, that Jesus acted out in anger toward a temple and its leadership. As a result, the fickle mob changed its opinion of this Jesus and went from proclaiming him “king” to handing him over to Pontius Pilate as a criminal and a traitor.

We too, like the Temple, get corrupted by the surrounding world and its influences. We may be the church, we may be Christ’s community of faith, we may be proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God; however, does Jesus meet up to our hopes and expectations? Will Jesus come in and champion our “Christian” cause, will he love our theology, and uphold our rigorous doctrines? Or, like he did in the temple, will Christ come and start turning stuff upside down in a fit of cleansing anger? This holy week, let us be challenged to not be a part of the fickle crowd; rather, let us begin to reflect on who we are and what Christ is calling us to be. Let the things that need cleansing be purged from us, and let the Christ who would be king reign in our hearts forever.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A [person] who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado

PRAYER
Lord, give me the strength to turn my heart over to you regardless of what the “crowd” is shouting. Turn the tables in my temple so that I may see the need to change and so that I may act accordingly. Amen.