Passion Week Devotionals
Everyone struggled on crucifixion Friday:
The disciples struggled to keep faith.
Pilate struggled to save face.
Faithful women struggled to help Jesus.
Pharisees struggled to discredit Jesus.
Soldiers struggled to hurt Jesus.
Mary... Mary struggled to watch as Jesus was killed.
We struggle, looking back, readng the account. We struggle to really grasp all that was going on.
But no one struggled more than Jesus.
The Crucifixion of Jesus guaranteed a horrific, slow, painful death. The word "excruciating" literally comes from this process. It means "out of the cross".
Having been nailed to the Cross, Jesus now had an impossible anatomical position to maintain:
How did Jesus endure such an ordeal?
It was love. Love for you. Love for me. Love for this world... but how did He anchor that love? If we were to listen to His words on Friday morning, before he was beaten, before he was crucified we can see how Jesus turned a day of immense suffering into Good Friday.
“…for the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV)
Jesus faced his Friday by looking into eternity. By making Heaven bigger, his pain became smaller.
At daybreak He tells his accusers,
“The Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Mighty God” (Luke 22:69 NIV).
Matthew’s Gospel adds these words: “In the future you will see the Son of Man…coming on the clouds of Heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NIV).
When interrogated by Pilate later in the day, Jesus’ mind still lingers in Heaven. “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 NIV).
Jesus kept lifting his eyes upward.
“You would have no power if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11 NIV).
On the cross, Jesus speaks to the man beside him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Jesus faced His Friday by facing eternity.
Let’s do likewise. As Heaven grows, our struggles lessen.
We can put our full hope and confidence in that fact. God did not leave us without a sign. He did not leave us in despair, with just this empty promise. We can know that as we fix our eyes heavenward... our struggles on earth will fade away.
By remembering, that Sunday is coming.
A lot of things happened on the first Maundy Thursday.
More than I could even hope to express in such a short blog post.
There is a painting I have been using as my inspiration for meditations on passion week for about five years now. I actually have this painting hanging in my office year round. THis week every year however it takes on deep meaning for me. It was painted by Matthias Grunewald and it is simply titled, "Crucifixion".
What I love about this painting though is the attention to detail and all the symbolic elements Mr. Grunewald put into this work.
Tonight I want to look closer at the bottom right corner:
There is a lamb, and the lamb is bleeding. The blood is dripping into a cup.
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” -Matthew 26:36-46 NLT
Timothy Ware suggests, and I happen to agree with him, that there is no Christological text in all the New Testament more important than Hebrews 4:15, which says,
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."
Tonight, I hope you will grasp how much Jesus went through in this moment. It is perhaps the moment of deepest temptation and where Christ is at both his weakest and strongest.
He knows His time is now up, He will be betrayed in a manner of minutes, he now has to decide if he will drink of the cup of suffering that is sitting before him or if he will allow the armies of heaven to come down and defend Him. Will he obey the will of His Father, or will He seek His own?
It's a decision we are faced with every single day of our lives. Will we obey or rebel?
Make no mistake about it, Jesus had the authority to call down help from above, to take the easy road and begin His rule and reign, right there, right then. He could have ushered in a Kingdom of oppression, subjugation, and demand worship. But... death would therefore not be reversed. Resurrection would not come. Love... would not be realized.
The battle for the heart of humanity would not be won.
The law would not be fulfilled. Sin would not be atoned for.
Understand what was at stake here in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Max Lucado in his book "And the Angels Were Silent" wrote:
"The battle is won. You may have thought it was won on Golgotha. It wasn’t.
You may have thought the sign of victory is the empty tomb. It isn’t.
The final battle was won in Gethsemane. And the sign of conquest is Jesus at peace in the olive trees. For it was in the garden that he made his decision... He would rather go through hell for you than go to heaven without you."
The story of God, the story of us... It all began in a garden. A garden where one man's decision ushered in brokenness, despair, and hurt.
It ends in a garden on Maundy Thursday... where one man made a decision to usher in love, mercy, and absolute surrender to the plan and will of His Father.
Jesus ushered in a lifestyle of sacrificial love. He drank the cup. Emptied himself and became obedient to death. He chose the cross. He chose you. He chose me.
And that kind of act compels us to obey Him as teacher, master, and savior.
"A new command I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)