Saturday, April 15 (Holy Saturday)

READING

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross , by Isaac Watts

 

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

 

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

 

His dying crimson, like a robe,

Spreads o’er His body on the tree;

Then I am dead to all the globe,

And all the globe is dead to me.

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all

Today, think about what parts of your soul, your life, or your ‘all’ need to be sacrificed to Christ’s amazing, divine love.

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Friday, April 14 (Good Friday)

READING

Come Sunday, by Duke Ellington

 

Lord, dear Lord of love, God Almighty, God above,

Please look down and see my people through.

 

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky.

I don’t mind the gray skies ’cause they’re just clouds passing by.

He’ll give peace and comfort to every troubled mind,

Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that’s the day.

 

Often we feel weary but he knows our every care.

Go to him in secret, he will hear your every prayer.

Up from dawn till sunset, man works hard all day,

Come Sunday, oh come Sunday, that’s the day.

 

Today, reflect on what you’re hoping your ‘Sunday’ will bring, and ask God to give you the patience and faith to wait well.

Other Resources

 

Disciples John and Peter on their way to the Tomb on Easter Morning, by Eugene Burnand

 

Thursday, April 13 (Maundy Thursday)

READING John 19:38-42

It seemed like all hope was lost. Many people had put their faith in Jesus and believed that He was going to do something great – something to free the Jews from political oppression. And now, He was dead. His closest allies and disciples locked themselves away in hiding, afraid of what might happen to them for being associated with Him. In the midst of this chaos, we find Joseph of Arimathea and our old friend, Nicodemus. Knowing Jewish burial customs, they literally risked life and limb to find a place to bury Jesus that would honor His faith in God and put what they thought was the appropriate end to His story. Little did they know that their faithfulness and commitment to the right order of things was going to become the stage for the greatest comeback story the world had ever known.

So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:42

Other Resources

Removal of Christ from the Cross by Joseph of Arimathea, in Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Wednesday, April 12

READING Matthew 27:27-56

In the temple, there was a special room called the Holy of Holies. This room was guarded by an extremely heavy veil, and could only be entered once a year – and only then by the High Priest, after he had undergone extensive purification rituals. Inside the Holy of Holies, God’s presence was said to dwell. The veil was a permanent reminder of the separation between humanity and God. The moment Jesus breathed His last breath, the veil was torn in two – completely rent from top to bottom. Jesus’ sacrifice bridged the gap between God and humanity that had been opened the moment Adam and Eve believed the serpent’s lie. This was the moment God had been planning since His perfect communion with His creation had been destroyed – and it’s the moment that gives us complete, free, and unabashed access to the Creator of the universe and the God who loves us more than we can fathom.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Matthew 27:50-51

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Tuesday, April 11

READING Psalm 22:1-21

In all four Gospels, there are accounts of Jesus’ death. In Matthew, we read that as Jesus was hanging on the cross, taking in His final breaths, He called out the words of Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? There are two things to note here. First, Jesus was in a powerful place of despair. The Son of God, because of the weight and depth of our sin placed upon Him, lost His perfect connection with His Father. He felt the weight of loneliness and loss even more deeply than we can imagine – there is no pain we have felt that Jesus cannot understand. Second, even in the most painful moment of His life, Jesus used the wisdom of Scripture to draw Himself back to truth. He spent His life so deeply ingrained in the Word that even in His bleakest moment, it was Scripture that best expressed the depth of His despair. Isn’t it amazing that even in our lament and confusion, the Word of God can speak for us? There is no pain we have felt that Jesus cannot understand.

 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

Psalm 22:1

Other Resources

Calvary, by the Master of the Death of Saint Nicholas Munster

Monday, April 10

READING

The Ballad of Mary’s Son, by Langston Hughes

 

It was in the Spring

The Passover had come.

There was feasting in the streets and joy.

But an awful thing

Happened in the Spring –

Men who knew not what they did

Killed Mary’s Boy.

He was Mary’s Son,

And the Son of God was He –

Sent to bring the whole world joy.

There were some who could not hear,

And some were filled with fear –

So they built a cross For Mary’s Boy.

Today, pray that we would not be among those who cannot hear or those who are filled with fear, and ask God to point out places in our lives where either of those things are true.

Other Resources

Crucifixion, in Navarr Helev (Denmark)

Sunday, April 9 (Palm Sunday)

READING Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

PRAYER

God of our salvation,

We give you thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Who came in Your name

And turned the lonely way of rejection and death

Into triumph.

Grant us the steadfast faith

To enter the gates of righteousness, that we may receive grace to become worthy citizens

Of your holy realm.

Amen.

 

 

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 118:1

Other Resources

"At Pakarua Presbyterian the youth celebrate Palm Sunday in a traditional dance", in Port Vila, Vanuatu, 2004

Saturday, April 8

READING Matthew 27:1-26

In Pilate, we see the danger of caring too little for what God says and too much for what man says. The Scripture tells us that Pilate knew in his heart why Jesus had been arrested, yet his fear of what man could do to him was too strong to stand up for what was right. Instead, he released a violent criminal and condemned an innocent one – all to avoid the discomfort of making his constituents unhappy. Meanwhile, the mob mentality had taken over. The same people who had laid down their coats for Christ not a week before were now calling out for his crucifixion. When we let ourselves be guided by what the world around us says is right, we will inevitably be led into all kinds of chaos and evil. If, however, we can stand on the truth of Christ and live a life that is more concerned with God’s way than the world’s way, though we may still suffer, we will also find peace and order as chaos swirls around us.

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”

Matthew 27:22

Other Resources

"What is truth?" Christ and Pilate, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge

Friday, April 7

READING Luke 22:39-62

In Jesus’ final hours, He went to His favorite place and prayed. He knew what awaited Him, and His prayers were passionate, forceful, and almost violent. He was afraid of the pain that was ahead, and yet He submitted Himself wholly to God’s will, for our sake. In the matter of just a few hours, Jesus would endure abandonment, betrayal, mockery, and physical brutality. Yet, instead of lamenting His fate and cursing those who needed His salvation, He spent His last free hours praying for us, instead (a record of this prayer can be found in John 17). He knew Peter would betray Him, and yet He didn’t shy away from that pain. He knew the same mouths which had recently praised Him would mock Him, and yet He still willingly gave Himself over to be scorned. The depth of Christ’s love for us is beyond all level of discomfort. He was willing to endure every type of human pain for the chance to offer us restored relationship to our Creator. “Father, oh, what love.”

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Luke 22:42

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Thursday, April 6

READING John 13

If you knew you were speaking to your loved ones for the very last time, what would you say? What message would you want to leave for them? What imperative for them to follow? Jesus knew this would be the last time He was with all of His disciples in one place, and the message He wanted to get across was, “Just as I have loved you, so also are you to love one another.” It’s easy to get caught in the weeds of theology, to get tangled up in the distance of a social media debate, or to hold self-righteously to a doctrine. It’s less easy to wholeheartedly love people who don’t understand what you think or where you’re coming from. And yet, that’s the task Christ calls us to on a daily basis. At the end of the day, Jesus wants us to love each other as He loved us – with an unconditional, brave and bold, sacrificial love that stops at nothing and lasts for eternity.

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

John 13:14

Other Resources

Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet, mosaic in the Basilica di San Marco

Wednesday, April 5

READING Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16

It’s easy to read about Judas with a spirit of judgment and disbelief. How could someone who had walked with Jesus for three years and seen His miracles firsthand ever betray Him? And yet we see in the history of Israel and in our own lives how easy it is to betray Christ and run after other gods. For Judas, money was the goal. For the Israelites, security and comfort. For us, it’s something. Something that we hold up as the thing that will put our hearts at rest and set our minds at ease. When we lift up other things to God-status, it’s easy to ignore the truth of Christ and be deceived by what the world presents as true. Rather than look at Judas and shake our heads in contempt, perhaps today we should admit the many ways we have betrayed the truth of Christ and ask for continued faith to follow the Order in our chaos.

And from that moment Judas sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:16

Other Resources

Kiss of Judas, in the Sanctuario di Lourdes Navegal (Navegal, Italy)

Tuesday, April 4

READING Matthew 21:1-11

Instead of cowering in fear, knowing that He was a wanted man, Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem in a noticeable, and yet somehow subversive, way. Most Jewish people at the time would have expected the Messiah to be a political figure, riding in on a white horse and promising to overthrow the Roman government. Instead, Jesus entered on the back of a beast of burden, a lowly donkey – one of the same creatures present at his lowly birth. He turned the expectations upside down, and for one brief moment, people were ready to receive Him. They sensed that He was something special, and they lifted Him up in praise. However, Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that in less than a week, the same mouths would be chanting for His death and rejoicing over His demise. Even still, He humbled Himself and willingly entered Jerusalem, knowing that it would be there He would give the ultimate sacrifice to save His beloved creation.

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 21:9

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Monday, April 3

READING Luke 7:36-50

Imagine the indignity of bowing before someone’s feet in front of a room full of people. Imagine loosing your hair and using it as a towel to wash dirt off of someone’s feet. Imagine using not water, but your own tears and priceless perfume to wash away the filth on the bottom of His soles. The sinful woman in this story sheds all dignity in order to serve Jesus. In the same story in other Gospels, Jesus says that “everywhere the Gospel is told,” the story of what the sinful woman did for Him would be told also. Sometimes, serving God does require a lack of decorum and honor. It requires us to lower ourselves to uncomfortable places and recognize the depths to which we need Christ’s love and salvation. It was in her lowliness that the sinful woman was lifted up and made a shining example of faithfulness to Christ. It may be that we find that our lowliness is also the place where Jesus works most completely to raise us back up to honor.

 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

Luke 7:47

Other Resources

Mary of Bethany and Jesus, by Unknown

Sunday, April 2

READING Psalm 130

PRAYER

God of all consolation and compassion,

Your Son comforted the grieving sisters,

Martha and Mary;

Your breath alone brings life

To dry bones and weary souls.

Pour out your Spirit upon us,

That we may face despair and death

With the hope of the resurrection

And faith in the One

Who called Lazarus forth from the grave.

Amen.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope.

Psalm 130:5

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Saturday, April 1

READING John 11:28-57

Something truly miraculous had just occurred. A man who had been dead was now alive. It seems like plenty of reason to put faith in who Jesus said He was. However, for the Pharisees, all they could see was their fickle hold on power crumbling even further. Jesus’ power to heal and redeem was threatening their very way of life – and He had to be stopped. After raising Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees and religious leaders essentially put a bounty on Jesus’ head. Jesus knew He was a wanted man. All He had to do was stay put in the countryside and not show up to Jerusalem for Passover, and the whole thing might have eventually blown over. But Jesus didn’t avoid the pain He knew was coming. When the time was right, He headed in Jerusalem, and the last tumultuous week of His earthly life began.

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

John 11:57

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Friday, March 31

READING John 11:1-27

Martha was a woman who had been in Jesus’ presence, but she was also someone who liked to take matters into her own hands. There is an account of Jesus coming to visit her home, and while her sister sits and listens, Martha is busy and stressed preparing for the visit. She stays true to form here. While Mary sits home and grieves, Martha runs out to meet Jesus. But even though she doesn’t have a full grasp of what Jesus is capable of, she makes a bold proclamation – she knows that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. The words haven’t been uttered by many other people in the Gospels, but even in the midst of her personal tragedy, Martha holds tight to what she knows about Jesus and trusts that He is the only One who can turn her mourning into joy.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

Other Resources

The Raising of Lazarus, by Giotto di Bondone

Thursday, March 30

READING Mark 2:23-28

The Pharisees were starting to get fed up. It seemed like everywhere they turned, there was Jesus, healing someone, upending the political and religious system they had so carefully cultivated, and calling them out on their hypocrisy. Instead of recognizing His authority, the Pharisees turned their attention to trying to catch Jesus in violation of the Law. However, they couldn’t do it. In this instance, they accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. But as He does, Jesus revealed the heart of the Law. He explained that the Sabbath was designed as an act of love for God’s creation – a way to make sure we take a break and have a moment to refocus our eyes on what (and Who) truly matters. These insights turned the Pharisees’ world upside down, and their fear of losing their power lit the spark under what would become the greatest act of love and sacrifice the world would ever know.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27-28

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Wednesday, March 29

READING Matthew 9:9-13

These five verses are one of the richest indications of Jesus’ heart for us. He saw someone that all other Jewish people reviled and called him to be a disciple. He sat down and shared a meal with people that the religious elite turned their noses at. It should give our hearts rest that Jesus finds Himself at home with those whose need and brokenness are apparent and out in the open. He didn’t mince words with the Pharisees, who thought that their piety and acts of righteousness had put them in good standing with God. However, Jesus knew what others couldn’t see – that the piety of the Pharisees was really pride, and that their acts of righteousness were motivated by selfishness. Jesus praised Matthew’s honesty, who recognized his own need for healing, over the deception of the Pharisees, who valued appearance over truth. We serve a God who sacrificed Himself for us in full knowledge of our weakness. We can be boldly honest with God and others and watch Him bring our brokenness to order.

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

Matthew 9:12

Other Resources

Payment of the Tithes (The Tax Collector), from the workshop of Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Tuesday, March 28

READING Mark 2:1-12

Rather than be amazed at Jesus’ ability to heal the human body, when the paralytic man and his friends arrived, the Pharisees were angry that Jesus claimed to be able to heal the human soul. But Jesus’ goal is always our spiritual restoration – the perfect connection of the creation with its Creator. While we can often be distracted by our physical limitations, Jesus is able to see past the physical and discern the needs of our heart. He knew that above all, what the paralytic man needed was a way to be connected to the heart of the Father- and He gave him both that gift and the gift of physical wholeness. Are we like the paralytic man, being restored to wholeness, or like the Pharisees, caught in the trap of wanting Jesus to work in a way that feels safe and comfortable?

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:5

Other Resources

Lord, That I Might See!, in the Matyas Church in Budapest