Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 33

Friday, March 27, 2015

Matthew’s gospel tells us the crowd and the Roman soldiers weren’t the only ones who taunted Jesus as He hung on the cross dying. The two bandits who were crucified on either side of Him also hurled insults.

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders,

were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now,

and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if

he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s son.’”

The bandits who were crucified with him also

taunted him in the same way (Matthew 27:41-44)

Jesus not only had to endure the humiliating remarks of the religious leaders, He also had to experience the taunts of two common criminals.

In Day 33 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Jesus hung bleeding, naked, dying; yet there was no compassion, only the cruelty of words meant to break His spirit. In essence the people said, ‘You who thought you were really something—look at you now! You spoke as though you were the Messiah; but now you are naked, humiliated, and dying. You are nothing.’”

Can you recall being a child? You might have been taught to respond to taunts and teasing with “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But, that’s certainly not true. While physical pain inflicted on us often leaves a scar, so do the mocking words of others. The scars may be invisible, but they still hurt the same.

Hamilton speculates, asking the following questions:

  1. What was Jesus feeling as the people hurled their insults?
  2. Did He want to argue with them?
  3. Did He wish to hurl insults back?
  4. Did He find himself angry and ready to call down fire from heaven to destroy them?

In Matthew 5:11, Jesus taught His disciples, “Blessed are you when people revile you…and utter all kinds of evil against you.” Furthermore, he had spoken to them: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45).

While it might have been easy to teach those things to His followers, can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Jesus—while experiencing the cruelty that Friday—to practice what He preached? Yet, while hanging from the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus not only taught us how to act in the face of those who would ridicule us, He exhibited it while praying on the cross.

Ask the Lord to forgive you for the times your words have wounded others as well as to help you forgive those who have hurt you.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Matthew 27:38-44.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 32

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It’s the climax of the story—the high point—by which God has planned to save the world. For Jesus, it brings pain and humiliation as He is nailed to the cross and then suffers further taunts from the Roman soldiers.

While Mark, in his gospel, says only that “They crucified him” (Mark 15:25), movies and sacred art portray a gruesome image. Yes, it was violent. Cicero called it the “cruelest and most disgusting penalty.”

Usually portrayed as wearing a loincloth, Jesus was most likely crucified naked. The Roman’s intention wasn’t just about torturing and killing their victims, it was about humiliating them as well. Although the Romans’ intent was to humiliate Jesus, in his gospel, John portrays the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior as glorification (Read John 19:16-30).

In Day 32 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “This King of the Jews hung there, naked and suffering, to save his people. He laid down his life for them. It was here that God demonstrated his true character to the human race, his willingness to suffer and die to save his people.”

We can’t fully comprehend the humiliation and suffering Jesus endured on the cross. Ask God to help you understand and to be affected by this story. It’s your story too. Jesus gave His life so that you might live.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:25-26.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 31

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Five minutes. That may not seem like a long time for us. But if you were Jesus, forced to walk between the traditional site of His sentencing and Golgotha, where He was crucified, five minutes might seem more like five hours.

He had been beaten almost to death. Then, He was forced to carry the 75-pound horizontal beam of the cross, also called the patibula. What should have been a five-minute walk probably turned into more than 30. Jesus struggled. He couldn’t carry the cross any farther.

What happened next probably changed one man’s life—and possibly that of others—when he was ordered by a Roman solider to help Jesus carry the cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. Not only was Simon not a follower of Jesus—he was merely passing by—but he probably didn’t expect his day to be interrupted while he made his way through the streets of Jerusalem.

In Day 31 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Frightened and perhaps frustrated, Simon picked up the beam, slung it over his shoulder, balanced it there, and then sought to help the bloodied and beaten man. The sooner he reached Golgotha, the sooner he could leave, go back to his tasks, and forget about the entire experience.”

Hamilton adds, “What Simon did not know was that this unexpected interruption to his otherwise busy day would ultimately be the most profound and important experience of this entire life. For in this interruption, he had carried the cross for the King of Glory.”

Mark’s gospel mentions Simon and his sons, Alexander and Rufus. Hamilton says, “…in a matter-of-fact fashion, assuming the Christians at Rome (the most likely recipients of his Gospel) would know them. They were likely leading figures of the church there. In that frightening and burdensome interruption of Good Friday, Simon’s life would forever be changed.”

Ask the Lord today to help you be aware of any interruptions and to see them as an opportunity to serve Him.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:21.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 30

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, or any other movie portraying the last hours of Jesus, you know the horror He faced. I, for one, cannot wrap my mind around the cruelty inflicted on Him, let alone any human. Yet, this was a common practice during those times.

In Day 30 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “There are many dimensions to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Among them is the idea that in Jesus’ suffering and death, God was fully identifying Himself with us and was able to experience what we go through as human beings.”

I find that comforting, and thankful that most of us will never experience that kind of cruelty. Hamilton adds, “God knows what it means to feel small, to be attacked mentally and emotionally, and to be physically abused.”

In three of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark and John—we read of the humiliation Jesus experienced at the hands of the Roman soldiers. Hamilton adds, “He was taken before the entire cohort—some three hundred to six hundred soldiers—who stripped him naked, mocked him, crowned him with thorns, struck him, and spat upon him. He stood there naked, accepting the meanness, the hate, the cruelty. I envision his strength, staring at his tormentors with determination and perhaps a glint of pity. He took their spittle, their blows, their taunts.”

As a child growing up in southwestern Louisiana, I often felt left out because I didn’t fit in. I had friends—several close ones—but we were not a part of the “in” crowd. My best friend, Gwen, and I were not athletic and tended to gravitate to the library where we usually had our noses in a good book.

Because of our “differences,” Gwen and I were often picked on. I realize now that God has had His hand on me from the beginning and He knew how small I felt back then.

Hamilton adds, “For every child who was ever picked on, taunted and humiliated, Jesus stood there that day. For every man and woman who was ever made to feel small by others, he stood there that day. For every victim of torture, everyone falsely condemned, everyone who has been abused by another, he stood there as if God were saying, ‘I subjected myself to the hate and meanness of others so that I could identify with you.’”

Think about the pain Jesus suffered for you and thank Him for identifying with your hurt and pain. Also, ask Him to forgive you for the times when you may have been on the giving end of hurt.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Mark 15:16-19.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 29

Today’s scripture focus is only one verse, but it is a powerful one. Although we don’t know much about the form Jesus’ flogging took, we learn in John 19:1 that “Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.”

In Day 29 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author says, “Far more time is devoted to describing the humiliation He endured at the hands of the soldiers.”

From other sources, however, we know that those who were beaten by the Romans with their whips and rods on occasion died while suffering a flogging. Sources also reveal that the flesh was ripped from the bones when the guards used leather whips which had been embedded with sharp objects. Hamilton adds, “This was a serious punishment for wrongdoing. But for whose wrongdoing was Jesus being punished?”

According to scripture, Jesus fulfilled over 350 Old Testament prophecies. In Luke 24:44, Jesus says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

In Isaiah 53:5, we read the following prophecy:

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

 Hamilton says, “While the suffering and death of Jesus can be seen through many different lenses. One of these is the lens of punishment and forgiveness. Jesus volunteered to take upon himself a punishment that rightly belonged to us. As described in Isaiah, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions’ and ‘by His bruises we are healed.’

Today, thank God for His Son and ask Him to help you comprehend fully the sacrifice He made for you.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: John 19:1.

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 28

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Have you ever done something to please others, even when you knew it was wrong? This is the situation Pontius Pilate faced when he chose “to satisfy the crowd.” Doing so meant he sent an innocent man to his death and released a known criminal.

In Day 28 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the author asks several questions about Pilate’s decision to satisfy the crowd?

  1. Was it merely that he feared a rebellion if he did not crucify Jesus? Perhaps
  2. Did he want to accommodate the crowd because he was tired of dealing with Jesus? Probably
  3. Was it even possible that, like many of us, Pilate wanted the crowd to accept and affirm him? It seems unlikely. Pilate was a cruel man who routinely abused his subjects.

Hamilton says, “I am fundamentally a people pleaser. Most pastors are. We are wired to like people and to want them to like us. I suspect the same is true of politicians as well. Maybe it is also true of you”

However, what happens when you face doing something you believe is right, knowing it will upset a large number of people? It might even cause them to turn against you.

Hamilton adds, “I came to realize some time ago just how easy it is to betray God, even to lose your soul, if your primary objective is to satisfy the crowd.”

God knows when we’ve had a crisis of courage. He knows when we’ve remained silent and when we should have spoken out. Today, pray for God’s boldness, courage and love.

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

Lent: A Time for Reflection

40 daysLENT REFLECTIONS: Day 27

Friday, March 20, 2015

“Let Him be crucified!” These are the shouted words from the crowd when Pilate asked, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” According to Matthew’s gospel, “All of them said, ‘Let Him be crucified!’”

In Day 27 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the focus is on the shouts of the crowd. Even when Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has He done?” they shouted all the more, “Let Him be crucified!”

I don’t know about you, but those words send shivers up and down my spine. This fickle crowd—many of whom had welcomed Him just the Sunday before—with palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” now called for His death.

Hamilton also focuses on Pilate. He says, “Pilate is portrayed in almost sympathetic terms in the Gospels as he tried to convince the crowd gathered outside the praetorium that Jesus was innocent. Likewise, the crowd gathered there is portrayed as bloodthirsty and on the verge of riot.”

Hamilton adds, “When we read the story of the crowd shouting ‘Crucify Him!’ we are meant to remember several things:

  1. Jesus and nearly everyone in the earliest church were Jews.
  2. Some of the crowd members were most likely merchants whose tables Jesus had overturned earlier in the week, and certainly not all the Jews in Jerusalem were present
  3. And, if we look, we can see ourselves in the crowd.”

What? See ourselves? Hamilton says, “There is an evil that lurks within all of us, a capacity to hate and an ability to participate in hateful activities.”

Hamilton asks us to examine ourselves. “Do you see any darkness in your own soul? Bigotry? Hatred? Anger when your sin is exposed? Frustration when others do not see eye to eye with you? Can you see yourself in the crowd?”

Ask the Lord to help us see the darkness lurking in our souls and by His spirit change us to overcome our fears and hate with faith and love.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent journey: Matthew 27:22-25.