Each day, a member of the church’s Ministerial team will share a short reflection, taking us chronologically on his path. Our prayer is that walking with Jesus as he takes up his cross would move us in such a way to more adequately take up ours.
Matthew 16 records what may be the harshest rebuke ever given by Jesus. Looking into the face of his prized disciple, Peter – the same Peter who he praised just five verses earlier – Jesus pronounces these harsh words: “Get behind me, Satan!” We may chuckle to imagine the stunned disciples’ reactions, but this was no laughing matter. Jesus had just revealed the culmination of his plan for salvation – the reason he had come.
He would suffer.
He would die.
And then he would be raised.
Not able to comprehend the possibility of a suffering Messiah, Peter spoke for the others in expressing their disapproval. But Jesus was not done with his lesson. In verse 24, he continues with these powerful words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
While whole volumes could be written about this one sentence, let it suffice for us this week as a sobering foundation. Jesus is calling each of us to walk with him through his journey of Holy Week – to put our insufficient strides within the sunken depths of his mighty footprints.
Each day, a member from our church’s Ministerial team will share a short reflection, taking us chronologically on his path. Our prayer is that walking with Jesus as he takes up his cross would move us in such a way to more adequately take up ours.
May we walk with him this week and forevermore.
Author: Russ Allen
Who is the Jesus you follow this Holy Week?
Perhaps your mind immediately goes to the Jesus of peace, stoically looking towards the cross. The one who remained calm and quiet when worldly authorities spit in His face and bolstered their power through flashy weapons and intimidating pomp. Or maybe you imagine the Jesus of love, breaking bread with His betrayer and extending mercy to the thief hanging next to Him.
This Jesus of peace and love is the one I find myself wanting to walk with – the one I desperately want to invite into my heart to make his home there.
But herein lies the problem… The Jesus only (merely) characterized by peace and love is an imposter. He is a distorted caricature – the one we sometimes want, but not the one we truly need. The true Jesus begins Holy Week in a way that I am often uncomfortable with. He does not calmly tolerate wrongdoers or quietly break bread with his enemies. He drives them out. He flips tables. He rebukes.
Why? Because the peace and love of Jesus is inseparable from a third characteristic: holiness.
A perfectly holy God cannot be in an intimate relationship with imperfect and unholy people. People like you and me. This is the story of Eden, the story of the tabernacle and the temple, and what the Law itself was intended to communicate. The place of God’s dwelling must be holy. This is the crux of it all – the foundational narrative of the entire Bible.
This is why Holy Week begins in the temple, the place where God most clearly manifested His presence. Resolving the problem of a holy God dwelling with sinful man is the point of Holy Week. It is the point of the cross and the resurrection.
But God does not just want to dwell in the temple. After all, it was merely a placeholder – a symbol. No. He wants to dwell with you and in you. Your body is a temple, meant for God.
And what Jesus does in your temple tells you a lot about the Jesus you’ve invited in. The imposters will be happy to find a resting place and content with what they find there. The real one will go to work immediately, overturning tables and driving out money changers. One will leave your heart the same. The other loves you enough to change it.
Let us worship together the true Jesus – who peacefully endured shame, death, and God’s wrath out of his great love for you – so that your body might be a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, conforming you (sometimes painfully) more and more to His image.
Father, have your way with my heart. Reveal to me my sin and imperfections. Clear out those things that are not holy and do not please you – just as Jesus cleared out the temple. Please continue to make me holy as you are holy. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Author: Russ Allen, Student Ministries Pastor
“And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him. And they said to him, “by what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?… And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Mark 11:28; 12:34b)
As we read through the Gospel accounts of day 2 of Holy Week, this question stands out permeates the rest of the day. By what authority, Jesus, are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?
Perhaps as we read this account, we read with a sense of indignation: how could they ask Jesus such a question? How could they question his authority? And yet, as we examine our hearts, perhaps we ask this question of Jesus more than we might realize.
Each day can have enough in it to leave us feeling hopeless. As we engage with our neighbors, schools, workplaces, and local hangouts, it seems like evil just keeps winning. As we head to the doctor appointment, look at our grocery bills, consider our loneliness, or any number of dark clouds on the horizon, we wonder about the authority of King Jesus.
By what authority, Jesus, do you do these things? By what authority, Jesus, do you command my life? By what authority, Jesus, do you reign amid all of what seems terrible around me? Where is your authority Jesus? My life looks more like the overturned tables in the temple, than the beautiful temple itself.
Alas, perhaps we are more like these religious teachers than we like to admit…
As we fix our eyes on the pending death of Jesus, think for a moment what that would have been like for his followers at that time. They hailed him as the Messiah! And now it looks like everything has come to an end. They are about to witness the death of Jesus. Where is your authority, Messiah Jesus?
But our Good Shepherd knows our hearts and anticipates our needs. And He prepares a way for his disciples then, and for us today.
As you read through the text surrounding this day, notice the theme that keeps emerging: The Power and Heavenly Authority of our Father, coupled with a perseverant faith in Him. No matter what might come, keep your eyes fixed on Him. While Jesus acts in an authoritative way, He continues to point His followers and His detractors, to Our Father in Heaven.
You saw me overturn tables in the temple.
One day this temple itself will be overturned.
In a few days, you are going to see me die a shame-filled, gruesome death.
One day the whole earth is going to be consumed.
And yet through it all: “Have faith in God.”(11:22); “See that no one leads you astray.” (13:5); “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (13:13); “But be on guard: I have told you all things beforehand.” (13:23); “And what I say to you, I say to all: Stay awake.” (13:37)
In the middle of this text (12:29-30) are these words: “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Love God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, no matter what comes. Keep your eyes fixed on him and persevere in your faith. It is His authority that reigns overall.
If you haven’t ever pondered the Authority of Jesus, perhaps today is the day you do that. If you find yourself being caught up in the cultural tides and news headlines, perhaps today is the day you draw back to the truth of the Gospel and spend time in the Word. If you are finding yourself in a dark cloud of any sort, big or small, perhaps today is the day you need to pause and remember who is Sovereign over all, including the storms in life.
By what authority does Jesus do these things, and so much more? By the authority given to him from our Father in Heaven. We can Rest in that Authority. We can Trust in that Authority. And we can Anchor our lives in that Authority.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
(from the hymn Be Thou My Vision)
Father, thank you for giving Jesus authority over all things, even the things that are hard or we don’t understand. Help us to put our faith in him and to trust you through it all. Amen.
Author: Dan Spino, Train Pastor
Religious leaders in Jerusalem were conspiring to capture and kill Jesus, but the threat of public insurrection held them back. Jerusalem was full of travelers who had come to celebrate Passover and the crowd of people following Jesus was increasing rapidly. The chief priests didn’t want a riot on their hands, so they were pleased when one of Jesus’ closest friends came and offered them a deal.
Judas, a disciple from Jesus’ inner circle, initiated an exchange knowing it would lead to great suffering for Jesus. He had been with Jesus, hearing his teaching, witnessing his power, and interacting with him as a friend. But now he was intent on betraying the one he appeared to love. The gospel writers do not tell us why Judas betrayed Jesus. It wasn’t about the money; thirty pieces of silver was a relatively small amount and Judas didn’t need to be persuaded. He had set his course on betrayal. Was he jealous? Had disappointment turned to anger that Jesus was not acting like the Messiah he expected? One thing is clear: Judas had been harboring secret motives in his own heart.
Judas reminds us that it is possible to go through the motions but have unfaithfulness hidden in our hearts.
As we walk with Jesus through this Holy Week, we reflect on the motivations of our own heart, praying the words of Psalm 139:
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Jesus knew his betrayal was at hand. He did not change his habits to elude Judas – he still went to the garden where he frequently spent time with his disciples. When Judas arrived, leading the charge of a hostile crowd, Jesus did not run. When Judas came near with a cruel kiss, Jesus felt the sting of disloyalty, but he did not shrink back. When swords were drawn, Jesus instilled peace. He had set his course on sacrificial love. He faithfully continued his journey toward the cross.
In thanks, we make Psalm 108 our prayer:
“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”
Father, search me and know my heart. Forgive me for the times I am unfaithful and betray you with my actions, thoughts, and words. Continue to shape me more and more into the image of Christ. Amen.
Author: Renée Blanchard, Community Engagement Director
In all the accounts of Jesus and the disciples spending their last Passover meal together, we learn that two of Jesus’ followers are sent to find the Upper Room location that would serve as the venue for the feast/celebration. Jesus guided His disciples to the large, furnished room by identifying a man carrying water back home to his master’s house.
Later that evening, the disciples reclined at the table to share this meal and celebrated to remember the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Many think the menu might have included the typical fare for a seder meal; a bean stew, lamb, olives in hyssop sauce, a fruit and nut paste called haroset, and the traditional unleavened bread with wine. We know from the Gospels, that bread and wine were definitely on the menu, and it was these two elements that Jesus used to symbolize what would begin taking place within the next 24 hours.
In the accounts, found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, we experience more than just a typical supper with the normal banter. During this meal, we are invited, it seems, into a symbolic, liturgical ceremony, led by these students’ Rabbi. Jesus takes the Passover bread, breaking it; He offers a prayer of thanksgiving, saying, “Take, eat; this is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And here, what was formerly a symbol of God’s provision for the children of Israel, hastily leaving the slavery of Egypt for the land of promise, now marks the broken body of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s penultimate provision for the Jew and Gentile alike!
After eating the bread, Jesus takes the cup of wine. The disciples, like any lifelong Jew, would have clearly related this to the Passover blood, slathered across the top and down the sides of the doorways of the houses of God-fearing Jew’s, wanting to avoid the judgment carried out by the angel of death sent by God to destroy all the first-born sons of the Egyptians. This was a terrifying reminder of the fate of those who would defy Jehovah, God! It was also a symbol of Israel’s divine deliverance from their task-masters in Egypt.
Jesus re-purposes this Passover symbol as well, linking it forever to the blood of the ultimate Passover lamb – Himself. Paul references this in 1 Corinthians 5:7, writing, “Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast…” This feast, now referred to as the Last Supper, we are commanded to do, as often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, in remembrance of Him who died to deliver us from the slavery and oppression of sin, and present us faultless before our heavenly Father. May I ask you, as we next take communion, to reflect on the body of Christ, provided for you and me – broken for you and me. As you reflect, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. In the same way, meditate on the cup of His blood, without which there would be no remission of sin. Again, express your gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ, in fervent prayer.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our perfect Passover lamb. Thank you that because of his broken body and shed blood, we do not face wrath for our sins. Help us, through your Spirit, to respond to this grace in a way that pleases you. Amen.
Author: Ken Thompson, Care Pastor
I didn’t grow up going to Good Friday services. The hopeful anticipation of celebration and joy for Resurrection Sunday had us speed past the crucifixion, instead of pausing to reflect. The suffering of Jesus was too difficult to behold. It felt uncomfortable to be solemn, to reflect, and to lament the suffering our Lord experienced. Why not just focus on the resurrection, the “good” part, the happy things? After all, we know the end of the story. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death. Why reflect on the hard stuff? To this day, some part of me still wants to think this way; to skip the hard truth and go right to the party. Perhaps I’m not the only one.
Why not just skip ahead to triumphant refrains of “Crown Him with Many Crowns?”
Because one of those crowns was a crown of thorns.
It was that very crown of thorns – the punishment, both physical and spiritual – that Jesus took on our behalf. When we skip the suffering of Jesus, we cheapen the love of Jesus. Even sinful beings can stick around to love another when everything is easy. The love of Jesus cost him greatly – it is not cheap. When we allow ourselves to think upon the wrath he bore in our place, we realize the depth of love that he has for us. We understand that God himself so cared for us that he was willing, not simply to take on flesh and dwell among us, but to take our place of punishment – the likes of which we can scarcely understand. Who can fathom the full brunt of the wrath of God?
Today is a day of darkness. It is not meant to be comfortable. The events of Good Friday begin in the middle of the night, likely just after midnight, and end again in the dark of the tomb. Death, after beating, after betrayal; darkness bookends darkness. Jesus is betrayed by one of his own, for 30 pieces of silver. He stands trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin and is condemned to death. Juggled between Pilate and Herod and back again. Sentenced to a criminal’s death. Beaten, mocked, and adorned with a crown of thorns, on his way to Golgotha – the skull. Crucifixion is coming; a slow, violent, brutal end.
Our King, nailed to a cross. Stripped naked and striped with blood; alone. Our King, bearing the wrath of God. The wrath of God, for sin, poured out upon the only one who had never sinned. Our King, taking the punishment for the sin, not of one or two, but all the sin of all the people who would come to him in faith. Upon his shoulders was the iniquity of us all. The wrath of God, perfect, and holy, and complete – dispensed upon our blameless King.
When Jesus died, he said “it is finished.” The price for sin had been paid, perfect and complete. A sacrifice had been made; our sin had been atoned for. The veil was torn, but our God was dead; dead and broken. Sealed in a dark tomb and put there by our sin. It seems that death had won the day. Christ had bought us for God, but it cost him his life. It was the will of the Lord to crush him. Today is a day of darkness.
Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, had been fulfilled:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him…
Isaiah 53:7–10a (ESV)
Today is a day of darkness, but it is not the last day. We know at the end of the story, that death did not win. But let us not cheapen the love of God by diminishing the suffering of Christ. Let the fullness of the suffering of Jesus lead us to wonder and adoration at the depth of the love of God in Christ. Let us pray that God would give us the “strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Eph 3:18-19)
For a thought-provoking timeline of the day, see the Gospel Coalition’s Good Friday in Real Time.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Thank you for his perfect obedience to you through it all. Help me to meditate on his suffering and death today – so that I can be filled with greater joy celebrating his resurrection. Amen.
Author: Quay San, Junior High Ministries Pastor
It’s Saturday. Imagine yourself sitting a stone’s throw away from the tomb where Jesus was laid the night before. You can see the huge boulder covering the mouth of the cave. Now and then you hear the grumbling voices of the guards who are standing watch.
It is a sad and ominous day, isn’t it? To think that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is now lying in a cold, dark tomb… lifeless, his blood drained from his body for you and for me. It is finished! The sacrifice for sin has been laid down. Nothing more can be added. He has done it. The blood of God’s Son, untainted by sin, has been placed upon the mercy seat for our forgiveness.
As you sit looking at the tomb, is there anything more you can do? No! Jesus has completely finished the work the Father sent him into the world to accomplish. There is nothing you or I can add to it. It is complete. It is done, once and for all.
It is interesting that this is the Sabbath day. Why is that worth noting? Remember, it’s the day God rested after He finished all his work. Genesis 2:3 – “And He blessed the seventh day and declared it holy because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” God said: “It is finished!” And He rested.
That was the first Sabbath inaugurated by God, and it became His invitation for all humanity to rest weekly from our labor in remembrance of Him.
And today, on this unique Sabbath of all Sabbaths, Jesus has finished his work, and he is calling us into another day of rest. We are invited to enter into the rest that Jesus has won for us through his completed work on the cross. This mighty work of redemption for the forgiveness of our sins is finished, and he invites us to rest from all striving. Our sins have been totally covered. Our Passover lamb has been slain. His blood over our lives has cleansed us from all unrighteousness.
As you sit and look at Jesus’ tomb, are you able to fully rest in what He has done for you? Have you put your full trust and confidence in him? The price has been paid. The work is done. The tomb is sealed. The Sabbath rest has come. Just breathe and receive.
But look at the tomb again. There’s another dimension to Jesus’ grave that leads us to life-long rest. We all know too well that death is the ultimate enemy of us all. Because of our sin, we all are under the sentence of death. But in Christ, on this Sabbath day, death is being challenged for the first time ever. The power of death is confronted head-on by an opponent it has never encountered before. The One who is the Author of Life himself has entered its hideous domain. Ephesians 4:10 says that in dying, Jesus “descended to the lower earthly regions.”
In every other death experience, the body very quickly begins to decay. It is not long before things start to break down and become irreversible. This is how death wins every time. But as you sit looking at the tomb, try to imagine this. As death attempts its destructive work on Jesus’ body, for the first time ever in human history, the normal decomposition of cells does not take place. A thousand years earlier, the Holy Spirit revealed that this would be a sign to look for in how God would bring us eternal life through the Messiah. In Psalm 16:9-10 the Messiah says: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”
Jesus’ body, though pierced and disfigured for us because of our sin, would not see decay. Death had met its match. Instead of being overcome by death’s curse that ultimately turns everything back to dust, Jesus remained untouched by death’s finality. Looking back on his experience in the grave, Jesus says: “Yes, I was dead, but behold I live forevermore, and I hold the keys of death and the place of death.” (Revelation 1:18).
On this auspicious Sabbath of Holy Week, in some indescribable way that we can only marvel at without fully understanding it, Jesus wrestled the keys away from death’s grip, unlocked the gates of the domain of death and flung them wide open. There is definitely mystery here. But we need to notice that while that tomb remains sealed and lifeless on the outside, with death seeming to have the final word, the reality inside the tomb is that Jesus has descended into death, has snatched the keys away, broken death’s dominion, and made a way through, so that we too can walk through death into life eternal. He has won the battle for us against our most powerful enemy.
Jesus gives us this promise: “Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet will he live.” (John 11:26). And so he invites you and me to come into that rest, knowing that through him death has been dealt with once and for all. Are you living in that rest day by day?
Take some time to sit quietly and reflect on Jesus in the tomb. Recognize that something profound has been fully accomplished there for us as Jesus faced death itself and ultimately prevailed against it.
Lord, thank you that you invite me to find rest in your completed work, and through your death, you have opened up the way for me to experience eternal life. Help me remember that not even death is strong enough to separate me from your great love. Help me serve You boldly and joyfully all the days of my life on earth.
Author: Ian C., Multiply Pastor