March 4, 2012

Scriptures and Comments for Week of the Second Sunday in Lent

March 5, Day Eleven

The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 39, Genesis27:1-29, 1 Corinthians 5
Evening - Psalm 50, Jeremiah 4:23, John 10:11-21

John 10:11-21
11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
19There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.
20And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

Commentary, John 10:11-21

The Good Shepherd is Jesus who gives His life for His sheep. Jesus knows His fate and walks without hesitation toward the cross. People have been tempted to reduce Jesus to a mere social/religious reformer who was killed for His efforts. But Jesus makes it clear that His death was an intentional sacrifice for us. No one took His life from Him; He laid it down of His own accord to bring His people into one fold, which is His Church. We must not read verses16 and 18 without also reading verses 4 and 5. Christ came to lay down His life for His sheep. His sheep know His voice, follow Him, and will not follow another. These aspects of God's sacrifice and human response are essential elements of the Gospel of Christ.

Devotional Thoughts

Self examination is an honest look at the whole tenor of our lives. We have looked at the way it includes attitudes and thoughts, now we finally look at the self examination of our actions. Are they sinful? Do they honor God? Do we sin by inaction; by failing to do what we know we should? In more Biblical language, do we hear and follow the voice of Christ? Do we flee from the hirelings, the thieves and the predators? Or do we happily follow them to our doom?

March 6, Day Twelve

The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 41, Genesis 27:30-40, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Evening - Psalm 51, Jeremiah 5:1-9, John 10:22-38

John 10:22-38
22And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
24Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30I and my Father are one.
31Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
34Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
37If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
38But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Commentary, John 10:22-38

John 10:22 finds Jesus in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, known to us as Hanukah. The "Jews" of this passage are the religious leaders who live in Judea and who oppose Jesus because He is a threat to their power and money. Two things stand out in this passage. First, Jesus gives eternal life to His sheep (10:28). Jesus is stating again His reason for coming to this planet. He came to lay down His life for His sheep, so we can have eternal life in Heaven with Him. We see His face set boldly toward the cross, never faltering, never turning aside, always moving toward it with faith and determination. Second, we see a clear statement of His Divinity. He calls The Father "My Father," and says, "I and the Father are one" (10:30). The Jews understood this as what it was, a direct answer to their question, and a claim to be nothing less than God Himself (10:31). Again it is stated that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him, while those who are not His sheep do not hear Him or believe in Him (10:26). Let us hear His voice.

Devotional Thoughts

We have not completed our self-examination until we have also given serious attention to our motives for doing what we do, for our motives are at least as important as the things we do. The Pharisees spent hours in prayer and fasting, and gave extravagantly to the Temple and synagogue. Yet Christ had no praise for their actions (Mt. 23:14). Why? Their motives were wrong. They did it to be known for doing it, rather than for God. James tells us one reason God refuses to give what we ask in prayer is that we ask amiss, for the wrong motives, that we may consume it upon our own lust, rather than for the glory of God (Jas.4:1-3). Simon wanted power to bestow the Holy Ghost, but his motives were impure (Acts 8:18-21). It is difficult to honestly examine our motives, yet we cannot really begin to confess and repent until we know what motivates us in our daily activities.

March 7, Day Thirteen

The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 56, Genesis 27:46-28:22, 1 Corinthians 6:12
Evening - Psalm 65 and 67, Jeremiah 5:10-19, John 11:1-16

John 11:1-16
1Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
2(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
3Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
4When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
7Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
8His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
9Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.
10But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
11These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
12Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
14Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.
16Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Commentary, John 11:1-16

John 11 finds Jesus going back into Judea. He had left the area to stay in Perea, east of the Jordan River, though He travelled widely during this time, making trips to Galilee and Judea. Much of this time was spent teaching the Twelve, but He also took time to preach and teach the multitudes that followed Him. In today's reading, He crosses again into Judea to raise Lazarus, showing that He has power over death. This is an important step on Christ's journey to the cross. He has already said that He lays His life down of His own accord and no man can take it from Him (see Jn. chapter 10). Now He shows His power over physical death. There is no doubt about Lazarus' death (11:14). Our Lord waited for him to die before going to him because He wanted to show His authority one more time before going to the cross. In a sense, Lazarus represents the spiritual condition of all people apart from Christ. We are as dead toward God as Lazarus was toward this world. And we are as unable to give life to our souls as Lazarus was to give life to his flesh. Christ came to give us life by laying down His own for ours. In another sense, the raising of Lazarus is proof that Jesus lays down His life of His own free will. If He can raise Lazarus, He can keep His own flesh alive, and no human treachery or power is able to take His life from Him. This will be important for His disciples to remember when He is dead and in the tomb. He gave His life. He allowed this to happen to Him. This was an intentional act on His part. We must never read the raising of Lazarus without also remembering the tenth chapter of John's Gospel.

Devotional Thoughts

What do we do in Lent? Lent is simply a time of seeking God. It is simply a time of intentional holy living. This requires that we turn away from sin and turn to God. We generally call this process repentance. We cannot repent of sin unless we first find the sin in our lives. We find sin through an intense process of self examination. We simply put our lives under the microscope of God’s word to discern where we are missing the mark. Once we find our sin, we must admit it. The Bible's term for this is confession, which simply and profoundly means to agree with God. In confession we agree with God about our sin. We agree that we are sinners. We agree that we have sin in our lives. We don’t cover it up. We don’t ignore it. We admit it is there, and we face it. Without this, repentance is impossible, and without repentance we have no part in Christ.

March 8, Day Fourteen

The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 62, Genesis 29:1-20, 1 Corinthians 7:1-17
Evening - Psalm 66, Jeremiah 5:20, John 11:17-27

John 11:17-27
17Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.
18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
19And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
20Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Commentary, John 11:17-27

Verse 17 is the proof of Lazarus' death. He was in the tomb four days. We will find this proved again when they open his tomb and know the truth of Martha's words, "he stinketh." Jesus wanted everyone to know without doubt, "Lazarus is dead." If he is not dead, Christ's words in John 11:25 are meaningless. What power is required to wake a man that is merely sleeping? Cannot any mere mortal do that? But to restore life to this stinking, rotting corpse requires power no mortal can possess. He is the resurrection and the life. Therefore, those who believe in Him, though they were dead in their souls as well as their flesh, will live, and those who live in their souls through His gift of eternal life, will never die.

Devotional Thoughts

We are experts at justifying our actions. If we are disrespectful to someone, we convince ourselves he deserved it. If we fail to seek God in prayer and Bible study we convince ourselves we just don’t have time. If we fail to worship God, we say Sunday is my only time to rest, or play, or _____ (fill in the blank). If we fail to keep the spirit or the letter of God's commandments we tell ourselves we have some special excuse, or convince ourselves it is the commandments, rather than ourselves, that are wrong.

In stark contrast, true confession admits that sin is sin. Confession agrees with God that my sin is disobedience to God. My sin causes hurt to others. My sin wrecks my relationship to God and prevents me from experiencing the full joy of Christ. My sin embarrasses the cause of Christ on earth. My sin brings shame on the name of Christ’s Church. My sin is a stumbling block to others. My sin contributes to the general malaise of this sin-sick world, and because of my sin I am as much a cause of the problem as any other person, and apart from the grace of God in Christ, there is in me no good thing.

March 9, Day Fifteen

The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 95, Genesis 32:22-31, 1 Corinthians 8
Evening - Psalm 69, Jeremiah 6:1-8, John 11:28-44

John 11:28-44
28And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.
31The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.
32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
34And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
35Jesus wept.
36Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
37And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
38Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Commentary, John 11:28-44

John 11:37 voices the question that was on everyone's mind as they gathered at the grave of Lazarus. "Could not this man [Jesus] ... have caused that even this man [Lazarus] should not have died?" Jesus had healed the sick, caused the blind to see and made the lame to walk, why didn't He keep Lazarus alive? This reminds us of the question, if God is so good, why does He allow suffering and death? The answer is that the only way to prevent suffering and death is to create unthinking robots without any freedom of choice at all, following a given program. Freedom requires the ability to make wrong choices, and do wrong things, and to suffer the consequences of them.

But Jesus allowed Lazarus to die for a much greater reason. Lazarus died so Jesus could show that His power is much greater than simply the ability to heal the living. He can actually raise the dead. He can give life to a decaying corpse as easily as He can multiply bread and fish, or still the storm, or heal the blind. He is the Lord of Life, and if He can raise the dead, He can surely keep Himself alive. Thus His crucifixion is an intentional act of self sacrifice. He lays down His life; no man takes it from Him. He lays it down for us.

Devotional Thoughts

Confession means to agree with God that our sin makes us worthy of the wrath of God. We acknowledge that we deserve to be punished, and that God is righteous when He judges us guilty. King David was told a story about a thief who stole the single lamb of a poor man. David became livid with righteous indignation. He wanted to execute justice on the thief. Then the prophet said to the King, “Thou art the man.”

David saw that the sins of the thief deserved punishment, and was willing to be the hand of God to deliver the thief unto death. When he learned that he was the thief he had to admit that his guilt made him worthy of death, and of the wrath of man and God. All of us, when we are honest, agree that certain acts require restitution and retribution. Justice demands not only that wrongs be righted, but also that the guilty be punished for their wrongs in some way that will force them to experience something of the pain their actions have inflicted upon others This is the true meaning of, "an eye for an eye." If this is true of our sins against other people, should our crimes against the Righteous and Holy King of Heaven go unpunished? Confession admits that we are sinners, and that our sins alone have justly placed us under the wrath of God.

March 10, Day Sixteen
The Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 63, Genesis 35:1-20, 1 Corinthians 9:1-14
Evening - Psalm 72, Jeremiah 6:9-21, John 11:45

John 11:45
45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
46But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
47Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
48If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
49And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,
50Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
51And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
52And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
53Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
54Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
55And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
56Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?
57Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.
Commentary, John 11:45

Will Jesus come to the feast? This question is on the lips of all in Jerusalem as they prepare for the Feast of the Passover (Jn. 11:56). The chief priests and Pharisees are there, along with the devout Jews from all Israel and the Roman Empire. The conflict of the priests and Pharisees with Jesus, and their intent to take Him is well known (Jn. 11:57). It is also known that Jesus has been staying in Perea on the east side of the Jordan, and that He has made trips into Israel, as He did to raise Lazarus. Caiaphas' words show the deadly intent of the religious leaders (Jn. 11:50). John 11:53 shows their unanimity of purpose. Thus, for Jesus to come to the Feast is to face certain death. It is to accept the cross, or, more correctly, to embrace it. The moment He crosses the Jordan His fate is sealed, and He knows it.

Devotional Thoughts

One of our great problems is our ability to look at ourselves and say, “I’m not so bad. My sins aren’t so bad. I’m really O.K.” You may be familiar with the parody of that great Gospel song, “Love Lifted Me.” You recall that the song begins with the words, “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.” The parody says, “I was sinking deep in sin, yipeeee!” This makes sin something to be joked about, winked at. It carries the assumption that it really isn’t sin. Today people march and organize to protect their right to sin. Even clergy and denominations say sin isn’t sin. It is right and good, and must be condoned. It seems the only “sin” left is to call sin “sin.”

By contrast, confession agrees that sin is sin. Confession agrees that God hates sin, I hate sin, and I hate my sin. If sin is as wicked as the Bible portrays it, we should not be surprised to learn that the One who is of purer eyes than to look upon it hates sin. He hates it for all the suffering and death it has caused to people He created to love and to enjoy the blessings of life. He hates it for putting children to bed at night in fear and hunger. He hates it for making the streets of our cities crime-filled death traps. He hates it for the abuse it causes, and for the way it causes us to use and discard people like paper plates. He hates it for the wars and oppression, and crime, and hate, and grief and loss it has caused through the blood stained millennia of human history. Do we not hate this sin? And do we hate, not just sin in general, but our own sins in particular? Can we not say with tears the General Confession of our Communion Service, “the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable?” Repentance is not complete until we confess, and confession is not complete until we learn to hate our sin as God hates it. God help us to confess our sin.

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