March 28, 2015
Holy Week, March 29-April 4
The days before Easter are often called “Holy Week.” This does not mean they are any more holy than other weeks, just as Sunday is no holier than Monday. All days are holy days because we keep all days as days of worship and service to God. Yet, the things we commemorate this week are holy in the highest sense, for in them Heaven and hell, holy and profane, God and Satan meet on the cross, and the greatest and most holy transaction takes place when God the great Creator dies for man the creature’s sin.
The daily readings take us through the four Gospel accounts of the trial and crucifixion of Christ. We end appropriately with John’s account on Good Friday. Easter Eve somberly is the record of His burial. These readings both humble and sadden us as we see in Scripture the horrible sufferings Christ endured. A kind of holy stillness will probably overcome us.
Having spent Lent in self examination, confession, and repentance, we are reminded that the cross should have been ours. Worse, the eternal fire should be our fate forever. Indeed, it would have been, if not for this horrible, wonderful, terrible, beautiful crucifixion, where God took our sins upon Himself, and paid for them on the cross.
There are only two readings for each of these days. They are intended to be read together in quiet reverence, having all distractions removed in order to be still and give the Word a thoughtful and reverent “hearing.” A Collect is given for each day, to be read before the Scriptures, or in the place of the Collects for those doing full Morning or Evening Prayer.
March 29, Palm Sunday
Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 27:1-54
Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Matthew 27:1-54
The innocence of Christ is asserted throughout the Bible. In tonight’s reading Judas says, "I have betrayed the innocent blood.” Pilate”s wife warns him, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man." Pilate himself says, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” How different his words and intent are from those of the chief priests and elders who took council against Jesus to put him to death (vs. 1). The remorse of Judas is not true repentance. It is merely the pangs of a guilty conscience. It is easy to feel remorse for our sins. Turning away from them and replacing them with righteousness is far more difficult, yet this is our calling as Christians.
What amazing hypocrisy we see in the actions of the chief priests who paid silver for blood, but will not accept blood money. The choice between Barabbas and Christ is an opportunity to repent and honour Christ. But, once again, they choose against Christ: “Let him be crucified."
A Gentile, a Roman executioner, accustomed to the suffering and death of the crucified, has more knowledge then the religious leaders of Israel. "Truly this was the Son of God,” he cries (vs. 54). The Jews asked for signs, and seeing them, believed them not. The centurion asked for no sign, but seeing it, he believed.
March 30, Monday before Easter
Isaiah 63, Mark 14:1-72
Almighty God, whose most dear Son, went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Mark 14:1-72
Notice first, the woman’s worship. Soundly criticised by the other followers of Christ, she gives a costly ointment to anoint our Lord. In Matthew 20:2, a penny is a reasonable wage for a day’s physical labour. Three hundred penny worth, then, is almost a full year’s income. So, this ointment is truly “very precious.” Our Lord accepts this as his due worship, and says the woman is anointing his body for burial.
Notice second, the disciple’s denial. In sharp contrast, bold and brawny Peter, cowers before a servant girl and denies knowing Christ. The priests also, educated in the Scriptures and charged with the spiritual oversight of Israel, deny Christ. Their denial is in their rejection and abuse of the Saviour. Thus, Peter, after three years with Christ, and the priests with their vast education and knowledge of Scripture, should have known Christ and stood with Him. Yet, they are the very ones who deny Him. The woman, certainly had less knowledge than the priests, and probably less than Peter. Yet, she knew Christ had come to die. She grieved for His suffering, and ministered unto Him. Peter denied Him, and the priests killed Him.
March 31, Tuesday before Easter
Isaiah 50:5-11, Mark 15:1-39
Oh Lord God, whose blessed Son, our Savior, gave his back to the smiters and hid not his face from shame; Grant us grace to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary Mark 15:1-39
After an illegal trial, marked by false accusations and attested by false witnesses (thou shalt not bear false witness), and after much ridicule and physical violence, the noble leaders of Israel take their God and King in bonds to their sworn enemies, the Romans.
Barabbas means, “Son of the Father.” It is almost certainly not his real name, but a self-given title and claim to be the Messiah. To him, the Messiah is a military leader who will drive the Romans out of Israel and establish Israel as a free and sovereign nation. He has already killed some Romans in an attempt to begin the war. To the Romans, Barabbas is a traitor. To the Jews he is a hero.
Two Messiahs are being offered to Israel. Barabbas is a revolutionary who wants to build a worldly kingdom. Christ is a spiritual Saviour who wants to establish the kingdom of God in the hearts of people. Barabbas’ weapon is the sword. Christ's weapons are love, peace, and the Gospel of salvation through faith in Him. Barabbas wants to kill his enemies. Christ wants to die for His.
April 1, Wednesday before Easter
Hebrews 9:16-28 Luke 22
Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation; that we may enter with joy upon the meditation of those mighty acts whereby thou hast given unto us Life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Luke 22
Luke takes us from the Upper Room to the phony trial of Jesus. After several attempts to condemn Him on phony charges, they condemn Him for the truth.
April 2, Maundy Thursday
First Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 23:1-49
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood; mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him, who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal; the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Commentary, Luke 23:1-49
Our Lord is in Jerusalem again. He has gathered His disciples in the upper room of a house believed to belong to the family of Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark under the direction of the Apostle Peter. It is a solemn occasion. Our Lord presides over the ancient liturgy of the Passover, the disciples chant the Psalms and recite the Scriptures and prayers. Copies of the Bible are rare, so the liturgy and Scripture readings are said from memory. During the meal, our Lord reveals that His betrayal and death are at hand. After the meal, He takes the Passover bread and wine and gives His Church the Sacrament we know as the Lord’s Supper. There is great significance in this. It means He is our Passover sacrifice. He is the Lamb whose blood saves His people from spiritual death and frees us from spiritual slavery. “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast.”
Knowing well that His crucifixion is near, and that His disciples, to whom He will give the seemingly impossible task of establishing His Church, are weak and ignorant men, Christ uses the evening to teach and pray for the disciples. The Gospel of John gives the fullest account of the Lord’s words and actions in the Upper Room.
It is late when our Lord takes the disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. Here He can see the city, knowing that, even on this holy night, many of the people celebrating Passover are simply going through the motions of worship; honouring God with their lips but far away from Him in their hearts.
Things have not changed much since then. Tonight millions of people will gather in churches around the world to partake of the bread and wine known variously as the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. And, like many in Jerusalem on that Passover night, many will come to the Table with hearts that are far away from God. They will receive these holy mysteries, but they will leave the Table unchanged and untouched by the reality behind the bread and cup. They will very literally honour God with their lips, but their hearts will remain far away from Him.
On the Mount, our Lord retreats into long, deep prayer in which He gives Himself completely to the task ahead. Judas arrives. The ordeal has begun.
April 3, Good Friday
Hebrews 10:1-25, John 19:1-37
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, World without end. Amen.
Commentary, John 19:1-37
The Lord endures the emotional and physical abuse of the priests and Pharisees throughout the long night before His crucifixion. At daylight, He is bound and taken to Pilate, where the same pious men who rigged His trial contrive to force Pilate to torture Him to death. Hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, He is given over to the Roman executioners. His physical suffering is unimaginable. His spiritual suffering is worse, for on the cross He bears the wrath of God for His people’s sins. Many physicians and scientists say the water is plasma that has separated from the rest of the blood due to the fact that our Lord’s heart had burst within Him. Whether this is scientifically true or not, it was the spiritual pain of the wrath of God that killed Christ. He died long before the Romans could end His life with the spear.
April 4, Easter Even
1 Peter 3:17-22, Matthew 27:57-66
Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by our continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commentary, Matthew 27:57-66
Joseph was a wealthy man from the small Judean town of Arimathea. The location of the town is lost in history, and, therefore, not known today. He and Nicodemus remove Christ’s body from the cross, anoint it with spices, and place it in a tomb carved into solid rock. Where are the disciples? We don’t know. We only know that His body is dead. It is lain in the tomb. The tomb is sealed with a large stone and an official seal. Let the stark reality of this penetrate the deep, deep recesses of your soul.