Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 40

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Often the victims of crucifixion were left hanging on their crosses for days. Why? To be an example to others of what happened if you disobeyed Roman authority. But one bold man dared to ask for permission to bury Jesus, who had taken his last breath at 3:00 p.m. on Good Friday.

Who was this man? Scripture tells us his name was Joseph, a respected leader in Jerusalem. After Pilate agreed to his request, Joseph laid Jesus to rest in his own tomb—a freshly hewn tomb from the soft Jerusalem limestone located in a garden.

In Day 40 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “The burial and subsequent resurrection of Jesus points to yet another way of understanding the mission of Jesus as he died on the cross. On the cross, Jesus took all the evil that human beings could muster. He was persecuted the righteous. He was tortured by the powerful. He was crucified unjustly. And finally, he died.”

Did it appear on that Friday afternoon that evil, sin and death had won? Would Jesus be just one more innocent and good man who had been unfairly put to death by the Romans?

Hamilton adds, “The cross was a sign of injustice, jealousy, hatred, bigotry, abuse of power, and every other kind of sin. And on that day, the forces of evil and sin defeated God and goodness and righteousness and life. Death, the great enemy that had reigned since Adam and Eve first turned away from God, had once more proven the victor. All that was left for Jesus’ followers was grief, disillusionment, and despair.”

BUT we know it wasn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot. “On the third day, He rose from the dead!” What amazing words to hear!

When we look at Good Friday through the lens of the Resurrection, we can exclaim, “He has risen! He has risen indeed!”

On that third day, victory would come. We must remember this when the forces of darkness in our own lives threaten to have the upper hand. Because of that third day, Christ has defeated evil and even death.

Today, let the Lord know how grateful you are that His death and burial were not the end of the story.

Read the following scripture today as you come to the end of this 40-day lent journey: John 19:38-41.

 Note to my readers: Thank you for joining me on this 40-day Lent journey. It has been a challenge for me to write a post each day and get it out to you. However, I am grateful the Holy Spirit nudged me in this direction. I’ve heard positive responses from some of you who have shared it with others. Let HIS name be glorified as we celebrate the beautiful message of Easter. Shalom!

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 39

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Day 39 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reflects on the torn curtain. He says, “When Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the curtain of the Temple being torn in two, they mean for us to understand that Jesus has gone before the mercy seat of God, has made atonement for the sins of the human race, and has reconciled us to God.”

As Jesus drew His last breath, He gave out a loud cry. It was at that moment that the curtain of the temple was torn in two—from top to bottom. Most of those standing by Jesus when this happened still didn’t understand. However, Mark’s Gospel tells us this: “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s son!’”

God knew the Israelites would sin. Even before Jesus’ birth, He had made provision in the law for their restoration and healing through atoning sacrifices. As an expression of their remorse and to make amends for their sins, the people were to bring a sacrificial offering to God. Hamilton says, “The sacrifice was the worshiper’s way of saying, ‘Lord, I am sorry for what I have done. This gift is a small token of my desire to be restored to right relationship with you.’”

However, Jesus came, lived, ministered, taught, healed and sacrificed for us. Hamilton adds, “He offered to God not the blood of a goat, but his own blood on behalf of the people. He said, in essence, ‘God, I give myself for these sinful, confused and broken people. By the giving of my life, I ransom them. And by this sacrifice I mean for them to understand that their sins are forgiven.’”

We all fall short of God’s glory. Join me in asking God

  1. to create in each of us a clean heart
  2. to renew within each of us a right spirit
  3. and to live our lives in a grateful response to the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:37-39.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 38

Thursday, April 2, 2015

“It is finished.” Only three words—three powerful words from Jesus before His life ended. We could equate them with “The End.”

While it was the end of His life as it had been on earth, it was a beginning in other ways. Jesus had accomplished His goal. It was complete.

In Day 38 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Jesus’ dying words tell us that he did not understand himself simply to be the victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice. Instead, in his death, he had accomplished the mission for which God had sent him.”

Hamilton reflects on this fulfilled mission. “Theologians have devoted volumes to answering the question—what was the mission Jesus fulfilled by his death?”

The answers, says Hamilton, take three distinct but broad directions which are not mutually exclusive—more likely, adds Hamilton, they are complimentary.

  1.  According to the first view, the suffering and death of Jesus were meant to affect the human race deeply. “Recall that John began his Gospel by saying that Jesus was God’s Word become  flesh. Jesus revealed God, and God’s will for humanity, to us.”
  2. Jesus’ suffering and death was a mirror to the human race, revealing our own brokenness and sin.
  3. But these events also revealed God’s love—a God who willingly suffered on our behalf in order to save us from ourselves and to win our hearts to him.

Hamilton adds, “Jesus’ death changed how we see ourselves, God, and the world around us.”

As Good Friday approaches, imagine Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. How does the story affect you?  Ask God to help you love sacrificially and faithfully as His disciple.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:30a.

 

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 37

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Have you ever experienced true thirst—a thirst so great you would have given anything for a cool drink of water?

In John 19:28-29, we read that Jesus is nearing the end. He knew it was almost finished. He had been hanging on the cross after being beaten and humiliated and no one had offered Him a drink. According to John, it was in order to fulfill scripture (Psalm 69:21) that Jesus called out from the cross, “I am thirsty.”

But it wasn’t a glass of refreshing cool water His tormenters gave Him. Scripture says, “A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.”

In Day 37 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reflects on other references to water. “In Jeremiah 2:13 and again in 17:13, God called himself ‘the fountain of living water.’”

We read in John 4 that when Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman, He offered her “living water” by which she would never be thirsty again.

While estimates vary, we can go three weeks or more without food but only three to four days without water, depending on the conditions. Longer in cooler weather and a shorter amount of time in the broiling hear. Water is essential for all living creatures. However, the Living Water is even more essential for us to grow more Christ-like.

Pastor and author John Piper once said, “The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of sovereign joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.”

Thank the Lord today for His Living Water. Ask Him to give you a thirst for more of Him in your life.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:28-29.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 36

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

At three o’clock on Good Friday, Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” According to the gospel of Mark, darkness had descended over the whole land beginning at noon until three in the afternoon when Jesus’ words rang out.

In Day 36 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reminds us that “it was during the period of darkness, as Jesus’ suffering on the cross drew to an end, that Matthew and Mark tell us Jesus offered what is often called the ‘cry of dereliction.’ Jesus spoke the words of Psalm 22:1: ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ That Jesus would quote these words points to the fact that he was meditating upon the psalms as he suffered on the cross.”

Psalm 22 is known as a “lament” or “complaint” psalm. It is one of many by the psalmists expressing their feelings of disappointment or of being abandoned by God. What does this mean for us today? Hamilton says, “The very fact these psalms exist makes clear that even the most faithful people have moments when they feel forsaken by God.”

Have you ever felt forsaken by God? Have you had a life experience that made you call into question God’s goodness or even the existence of God?

Doesn’t it help to know that Jesus—the one you pray to in times of difficulty—once cried out in disappointment Himself, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Hamilton adds, “Psalm 22 and Jesus’ prayer from the cross were actually words of faith. In the face of despair, both the psalmist and Jesus appealed to God. When one is surrounded by suffering and pain, even a cry of disappointment to God is an act of faith.”

When you find yourself in moments of despair, remember to place your life in God’s hands.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:33-34.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 35

Monday, March 30, 2015

Do you think it was somehow fitting that Jesus was crucified between two criminals? Jesus had spent most of his public ministry reaching out to people like these two on either side of Him.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus had told the Pharisees, “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” In Mark 2:17, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

As Jesus hung on the cross, He showed the same compassion and concern for these two criminals as He had for others whose paths had crossed His during his three-year ministry.

In Day 35 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reminds us that both thieves had “initially joined the crowd and the religious leaders in mocking Jesus as he hung between them. But one of the men had a change of heart as he listened to Jesus’ words from the cross. This thief spoke to Jesus, saying, ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42).

Hamilton asks, “Was the man simply offering kind words to Jesus; or did he truly understand that Jesus, by his death, was ushering in his kingdom? In either case, at that moment Jesus promised the man that he would join Jesus in paradise.”

Do you think the criminal knew anything about Jesus’ teachings? He had not been baptized, yet Jesus offered him paradise. Why? Because this thief desired to be with Jesus in his eternal kingdom.

What does this teach us about God’s amazing grace?

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Luke 23:39-43.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 34

Saturday, March 28, 2015

If you’re a mother, I’m sure you can relate to Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was her beloved Son. If you can recall those first stirrings of life in your womb, you know the special bond that happens between a mother and a child before life outside the womb even begins. I can imagine Mary placing her hand on her swollen abdomen when Jesus began to reveal Himself, stirring inside His mother’s body, kicking and turning. It’s a special feeling, drawing mother and child closer each day.

In Day 34 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author reflects on John 19. “From the time she felt the first stirrings of life in her womb, their souls were intertwined. As she held him in her arms, she loved him more than she had ever loved anyone in her life. As he grew, so did her love for this child she had brought into the world. He was a gift from God.”

As she stood at the foot of the cross, I wonder if Mary remembered the words of Simeon, the old man who had spoken these words to her when she and Joseph brought Jesus for circumcision when He was eight days old. Simeon had been waiting for this very day. Even though his eyesight was dimming, he offered these prophetic words found in Luke 2:34-35:

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

I’m sure she not only recalled them, but she finally understood Simeon’s words. Standing by while your son was crucified and listening to the taunts of the crowd—would cause any mother unbearable pain. So much more, I’m sure, for the mother of Jesus.

But just when she thought she couldn’t stand anymore, her beloved son gazed at her and said, “Woman, this now is your son.” Turning to the disciple, John, Jesus said, “This now is your mother” (paraphrase of John 19:26-27).

Hamilton says, “This scene at the cross is a call for us to follow Jesus’ example in caring for our mothers, but it is more than that. It is a reminder of the sacrifice and suffering Mary made for us and for our salvation. No human being, aside from Jesus himself, did more to bring about our salvation than Mary. She bore the Christ Child, nurtured him, prayed for him, worried over him. She suffered more than any other human being as she watched her son tortured and crucified. The price of our salvation was not only the suffering and death of Jesus, but also the agony and pain of his mother.”

Reflect today on John 19:25b-27, recalling how Jesus cared for His mother. Let it be a reminder for those of us whose parents are still alive and remember our responsibility to take care of them when they need us.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:25b-27.