Posted in Lent devotions

The green room?

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Saturday, February 27, 2021. Photo by Dawid Matyszczyk on Unsplash.

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26).

The Mount of Olives is east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. Jesus often traveled this route, to rest, pray or continue on to Bethany just a couple of miles away. As the name suggests, the hillside was once covered with olive groves. By Jesus’ time you would also find the tombs of kings, prophets and David’s son Absalom. Today, there are over 150,000 graves on that hillside.

Jesus staged his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1). He also taught about the end times here (Matthew 24:3ff). From this unique vantage point, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). It may also have been the site of Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:12).

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Singing with Jesus

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Friday, February 26, 2021.

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mark 14:26).

What hymn do you think Jesus and the disciples sang on their way out of the city? Amazing Grace? Beautiful Savior? Just As I Am? Of course not. Those hymns wouldn’t be written for another few millenia.

It would have been a psalm. Maybe it was one of the Hallel psalms (Psalms 111-118), praising the Lord for his mighty works, his many blessings, and his steadfast love that endures forever. Remember, it’s the Passover, a festive time for remembering God’s powerful deliverance. The songs they sang that night they might have sung many times with their families growing up. They all knew them and loved to sing them.

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Something old, something new

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Thursday, February 25, 2021. Photo by Serge Esteve on Unsplash

[Jesus said,] “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25).

So if you were on death row, what would you request for your last meal? The topic may be morbid, but we like to toss around creative ideas for the last food we’ll ever eat. Fried chicken and ice cream are among the most ordered items by those about to be executed.

Jesus is having his last meal, his “last supper,” with the disciples. He knows it. They don’t. They don’t realize all that will happen in the next twenty-four hours. By this time tomorrow night, Jesus will be dead and his body will be in a tomb. What do you imagine they thought when Jesus spoke those words at the end of their Passover meal together?

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It’s about him

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Artwork by Susan Zendt (c) 2021. Used by permission.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. (Mark 14:22-24).

How many times have you heard those words in church? I grew up in the Lutheran church, and have attended worship just about every Sunday for over sixty years. So for me, three thousand times? Give or take a few. I’m used to hearing those words weekly. For the last thirty-five years, I’ve spoken those words weekly at the altar.

What would it be like to hear them for the first time? What would it be like to hear them just hours before Jesus’ arrest in the garden? What would it be like to hear them less than a day before his death and burial?

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He knows

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:17-21)

Jesus certainly knows how to put a damper on the Passover festivities, doesn’t he? One moment they are drinking wine and remembering God’s powerful deliverance from Egypt. The next Jesus is accusing one of them of being a traitor.

The Chinese military general Sun Tzu and Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) in “The Godfather” both said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Who would have guessed Jesus followed that philosophy? After all, he hand picked the twelve. He knew their strengths and weaknesses. He knew all about their faith and their doubts. He knew who he could trust and who he needed to keep an eye on.

But for the disciples, Jesus’ words cut them to the heart. “One of you will betray me.” They all wondered out loud, “Could it be me?”

Imagine for a moment being in a room with Jesus and several of your closest friends. Imagine what it would feel like for Jesus to say, “I know that one of you is having an affair” “One of you is physically abusing someone in your family.” “One of you will is addicted to prescription medications.” “One of you is going to try and kill yourself.” How would you feel at that moment?

Can you feel the knot in your stomach? Are you wondering if Jesus is talking about you? Do you know that Jesus is talking about you?

Nothing escapes the eyes of our God. He knows when we wake up and when we fall asleep. He knows the number of our days. He knows the petitions of our prayers before we do. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows all about our faith and our doubts. He knows who he can trust. And who he can’t.

I hope you are really uncomfortable right now. I am. My deepest thoughts, fears, doubts, sins and secrets are all known to him. The one whom I invite to my meals with the words, “Come, Lord Jesus…” knows everyone of my secret sins. Every bit of my life is known to the one I praise, thank and witness about. He knows me better than I know myself.

And yet he loves me. He loves the twelve. He loves the one dipping bread into the dish with him. He loves all those who come and confess, “I deserve your temporal and eternal punishment…” He loves those who cautiously kneel at the altar to eat and drink his body and blood, fulling knowing that we are no better than any one of the twelve, not even the one who betrayed the Lord.

One of the blessings of our faith is confession. When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. A burden is lifted from our hearts and minds when we finally say, “I did it. It’s my fault. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” When our secret is no longer a secret we find grace in the one who knows, loves, dies for us.

We find grace in Him.

Heavenly Father, we know that you know. Thank you so much for making, knowing and loving me. Amen.

Posted in Lent devotions

Where do you want to eat?

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Monday, February 22, 2021. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, [Jesus’] disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. (Mark 14:12-16)

“Let’s go get something to eat.” “Okay. Where do you want to go?”

At any given moment, countless friends, couples and families are having that discussion. Do you prefer fast food, a favorite restaurant, down by the beach, take-out to bring home, an all-you-can-eat-buffet, or somewhere you can watch the game? The choices seem endless.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, just about everyone in Jerusalem is on the same page. “Where are we going to eat the Passover?” The disciples and Jesus have been observing this festival their whole lives. Having just arrived in Jerusalem a few days ago, it’s time to get ready for this year’s meal.

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A moment alone

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Sunday, February 21, 2021. Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

“Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus” (Mark 14:11).

Sometimes you have to be patient.

Like a hunter waiting in a blind for the deer to wander by. Or in the reeds, retriever at your side, waiting for the ducks. Or for that something you really want to go on sale. In recent days Jesus has been teaching in the temple, where there were too many people around. Judas had to find a moment when Jesus would be alone, or at least away from the crowds. Someplace where they could quietly arrest him.

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Let’s make a deal

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Saturday, February 20, 2021. Artwork by Susan Zendt copyright 2021 used by permission.

“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. When they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him silver. So he looked for how he might conveniently betray Him” (Mark 14:10-11).

For two thousand years, we’ve been wondering, “Judas, why did you do it?” Why did you cut a deal with the chief priests to betray Jesus?

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Do you smell that?

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Friday, February 19, 2021. Photo by Richárd Ecsedi on Unsplash

While [Jesus] was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at supper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment, a very costly spikenard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on His head.

There were some with indignation within themselves, saying, “Why was this ointment wasted? It might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they grumbled against her.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish, you may do good to them. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken of as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:3-9).

Yes, you can buy spikenard oil – from Amazon, of course. Depending on how much you want or need, it will only set you back thirty or forty dollars. In Jesus’ time, however, the jar was worth three hundred denarii, or three hundred days’ wages. Let’s do the math. If we allow for a $15 per hour minimum wage, and an eight hour day, times three hundred days, that totals $36,000! This was an extravagant moment! I would compare it to drinking an expensive bottle of old scotch you’ve saved for a special occasion. Or a once in a lifetime meal at a very exclusive and expensive restaurant. It seems to be that kind of special moment.

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