March 17, 2013
Scripture and Commentary, Week of Passion Sunday
Monday after Passion Sunday, Day Twenty-nine
Morning - Psalm 119:1-16, Exodus 3:1-15, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Evening - Psalm 119:17-32, Psalm 117, Jeremiah 20:7-13, John 12:1-11
Tonight's Gospel reading returns us to the Gospel of John. It also takes us back to the Friday prior to the crucifixion. Remember Jesus had crossed the Jordan into Judea at Jericho, and stopped in Bethany to spend the Sabbath. That evening, Mary washed the Saviour's feet and anointed Him with an extravagantly expensive ointment. For this she was soundly criticised by Judas, but defended by Jesus. Our Lord's words remind us again that He knew and accepted His fate; "against the day of my burying hath she kept this." He has come to Judea to go to the cross. A week from the date of Mary's anointment, Jesus will be dead.
What would you do if you knew you only had a week to live? Jesus spent His last Friday and Saturday keeping the Sabbath. It is certain that He joined the liturgy of Sabbath evening prayers with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and that He kept His custom (Lk. 4:16) of worshiping in the synagogue on Saturday. "Custom" as used here means far more than a convention or habit. It is a way of life, an ethos. It is something that defines who we are and directs the way we live. Worship was a way of life for Christ, which He continued to the very end.
Tuesday after Passion Sunday, Day Thirty
Morning - Psalm 123, Psalm 127, Exodus 4:10-31, 1 Corinthians 15:20-34
Evening - Psalms 120, 121, 122, Jeremiah 22:10-23, John 12:12-19
This week's evening readings take us through the twelfth chapter of John's Gospel by Thursday night. Curiously, this is all John records about the events from the Sabbath in Bethany to Maundy Thursday. Though many events of the week are omitted, one very significant event is recorded. This event is often overlooked, yet its importance cannot be overstated. It is found in verse 19, "Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the whole world is gone after him."
These were the words of the Pharisees as they talked among themselves and lamented the popularity of Christ as shown in His Triumphal Entry. The verse shows the complete inability of the religious leaders to capture Jesus or reduce His influence. It was their intention to kill Him, yet He had evaded all their efforts, and now had come into Jerusalem in a great, symbolic act that was a bold announcement of His presence, and of their inability to stop Him. All their efforts had prevailed nothing.
Wednesday after Passion Sunday, Day Thirty-one
Morning - Psalms 128, 129, Exodus 5:1-9, 19-6:11, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Evening - Psalm 132, Jeremiah 28:1-2, 10-17, John 12:20-33
Last night's reading showed the absolute inability of the Pharisees to capture Jesus, or to reduce His popularity. Tonight's reading shows Christ's absolute commitment to the cross. He has proven that the Pharisees cannot kill Him, now He shows that He goes to the cross of His own volition. "For this cause came I to this hour" (12:27). "This he said, signifying what death he should die" (12:33). These verses are a graphic demonstration of the truth of Christ's words in John 10:17-18: "I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No 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."
One of the most important aspects of repentance is replacing ungodliness with godliness. It is good to be sorry for sins. It is good to end or reduce particular sins, but repentance is not complete until we have replaced the sins with righteousness. Grubbing weeds out of a garden merely results in bare dirt. It is not until the good seed of desirable plants are sown that the garden blossoms with flowers and fruits.
Thursday after Passion Sunday, Day Thirty-two
Morning - Psalm 144, Exodus 11:1-8, 1 Corinthians 15:50
Evening - Psalms 133.134.137:1-6, Jeremiah 30:12-17, 23-24, John 12:34-43
The masses who welcomed Christ into Jerusalem were entirely confused about His nature and work. Expecting a military deliverer, they did not understand His statement about the Son of Man being lifted up (12:34). In Hebrew and Greek, as in English, to lift up can mean to elevate in altitude, or to elevate in dignity or status. The people have welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as the Messiah (12:13). But now He is talking about lifting up the Son of Man. Jesus, of course, is talking about Himself being raised up on the cross (12:33), but the people think He is talking about elevating someone else to the status of Messiah. Thus, despite all their enthusiasm and show, "they believed not on him" (12:37) because they believed in Him only as they wanted Him to be, not as He really is.
The Bible requires us to believe in Jesus as He really is, not as we would like Him to be. Likewise we are to live as He wants us to live, and worship as He wants to be worshiped. These things are not left our own imaginations. God clearly reveals His will in Scripture, demanding us to conform to Him. One of the great problems of the contemporary Church is the continuing attempt to re-create Christ and remake the Church according to our own desires rather than conforming to the Bible.
Friday after Passion Sunday, Day Thirty-three
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 141:1-4, Psalm 146, Exodus 12:21-28, 1 Corinthians 16:1-14
Evening - Psalm 139, Jeremiah 32:36-42, John 12:44
Verse 44 says, "Jesus cried and said." It means He spoke out loudly and suddenly, not in anger or fear, but in a way that demands to be heard. One theme runs through His words, as though He wanted to state it once again as clearly as possible so the disciples would have it burned into their memories. The theme is simple; Christ's words are God's words, hear them well.
Many people are so busy with themselves they have shut themselves up to God. They may go to church and do a few religious things in a mechanical way, but they are not really open to God. To be open to God is to reject unbiblical actions or doctrines. It is to seek God, rather than ecstatic experiences and feelings. To be open to God is to be receptive to His word and Spirit through which He speaks to you and leads you into Himself. To be closed to God is to shut Him out of life, or to limit Him to "safe areas" where He can't "bother you." To be open to Him is to invite Him into all of your life.
Saturday after Passion Sunday, Day Thirty-four
Morning - Psalm 147, Exodus 12:29-39, 42, 1 Corinthians 16:15.
Evening Psalm 145, Jeremiah 33:1-9, 14-16, John 13:1-7
John barely mentions the "Last Supper" (13:2 & 4) but devotes much of His Gospel to the actions and words of Christ after the supper. Again our reading shows the Lord's progress toward the cross by recording Judas' intent to betray Him (13:2). It is important to see that, while it was the devil who put the intent into Judas' heart, it was Christ who allowed the betrayal for the purpose of bringing Himself to the cross. Through Judas, Christ gave Himself over to be crucified.
While our Gospel readings have followed Christ to Jerusalem, our first readings for the mornings of the week have been from Exodus, bringing us to this morning's reading of the Passover. The devastation of Egypt presented in Exodus is like that of a war zone. The stench of death and the sound of mourning covered the land. Among the Hebrews things were different. They were spared from the ruinous effects of the plagues, and delivered from the plague of death. The Egyptians even paid them to leave. They were free. They were going to a new land, to establish their own homes and govern their own lives. We can only imagine their joy. What marked the Hebrews so they were saved from the plague and set free of their bondage? It was the blood of the Lamb. It was no accident that Christ took the cup after the after the Passover meal and made it represent His blood as the Lamb of God. Christ is our Passover Lamb. His blood delivers us from our bondage of the soul and delivers us into the Heavenly "Promised Land."