God Almighty, Lord of Heaven & Earth, God-Who-Sees, God-Who-Provides, Judge & Counselor, our sinful lays before You revealed, nothing is hidden, everything is known to You. The darkest corners of our hearts & the false impressions we put on to impress others are exposed for what they are in Your sight. There are no secrets we can keep from You, nowhere we can run or hide from Your gaze. You know our going in & our coming out, our lying down & our rising up again. Grant us this mercy today, remind us of Your best, the good You have provided because of our worst. Let us see You & be reminded of our own condition in the light of Your glory. Let us remember today, pace ourselves with the footsteps of Jesus along the Way of Suffering & the Hill of the Skull. May we be present there today & turn our hearts heavenward. Remind us, sweet Jesus, of Your love, mercy & grace over us. Forgive us our deep failings, every one & restore our hearts with Your blood & Spirit. We pray this in the power of Your precious Name, Jesus, amen.
Close Your eyes & imagine at the paragraph breaks.
Be present, an observer in the crowd today.
Walk through today aware of what He did for you as your day progresses.
(Friday, Early Morning)
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
(Friday, About 9am)
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
“43 While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. With him was a mob, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 His betrayer had given them a signal. “The One I kiss,” he said, “He’s the One; arrest Him and take Him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, he went right up to Him and said, “Rabbi!” — and kissed Him. 46 Then they took hold of Him and arrested Him. 47 And one of those who stood by drew his sword, struck the high priests slave, and cut off his ear.
48 But Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as though I were a criminal, to capture Me? 49 Every day I was among you, teaching in the temple complex, and you didn’t arrest Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then they all deserted Him and ran away.
51 Now a certain young man, having a linen cloth wrapped around his naked body, was following Him. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.”
One of the most unbelievable parts of the events of this evening comes from Judas, that the betrayal would come in the form of a kiss. A sign of familiarity and closeness, friendship and community becomes the seal of final betrayal and the ushering in of death. Judas’ betrayal is no small thing, it is not lightly taken. Everything that happens to Jesus from this point on is born in that kiss and the naming of Him as the Rabbi.
This is the nature of betrayal, that closeness would be feigned for the sake of the destruction of another person. We have no idea what exactly was going on in the heart and mind of Judas, but we do know that Scripture says that the devil entered into him that night. The speculation that it was politically motivated, that Judas had a reason that he thought was valid does nothing to excuse his actions. Some people try desperately to forgive and write off Judas as much as they can. And I wonder if it isn’t because they feel like they have let Jesus down and they want there to be some hope for themselves.
But there is no hope in Judas’ shoes. He is the of whom Jesus said, ‘For the Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’
Judas is not someone to identify with. If we feel the need to identify with someone in the midst of failure, Peter and Paul are much better choices. We want hope for people who have fallen because we want that hope for ourselves, but Judas is that exception beyond all others.
In Christ, Peter is reinstated and forgiven his denial, Paul is given a new identity after his murderous past, and we have hope for ourselves because of what Jesus did personally for both of them. The hope we share in Christ as we GoLove others echoes from the examples we are given in them, but not in Judas, he remains as one set apart, one who is condemned. He is called the ‘son of perdition’ (Jn 17:12) for a reason.
“17 When evening came, He arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining and eating, Jesus said, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me — one who is eating with Me!”
19 They began to be distressed and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?”
20 He said to them, “It is one of the Twelve — the one who is dipping bread with Me in the bowl. 21 For the Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
And while there would be only one betrayer, there would also be a triple-denier and nine who would abandon Him. Only John would stay nearby until everything was over. They all swore it wouldn’t be them, that they would stick with Him, support Him, die with Him. But only one out of the twelve would be faithful through it all. Loyalty to self overruled loyalty to Jesus for most of His closest disciples when push came to shove that night.
This makes me wonder about us today. So far and so long removed from Jesus being here physically, how many of us give in too easily when things get difficult? How quickly do we step back from our faith and commitments when things get hard? How often do we choose self and selfishness over loyalty and devotion?
For example, given the opportunity, how many remain quiet about their faith at work and school rather than speak up and share? Given the opportunity, how many people choose the easy path of ineffectiveness rather than press against discomfort and reach out to people in their community? Given the opportunity, how many people neglect their commitments to the ministries of the church because they are a) tired, b) forgot, c) just didn’t feel like it, lacking discipline and commitment to the body of Christ?
When Jesus warned against those who cry ‘Lord, Lord’ but had no actual relationship with Him, and I wonder where that line is sometimes. Where does grace finally turn over to resignation to the flesh? Where is that line where self-concern finally won out over submission? Where did faith give way to fear? When did convenience win out over conviction? What is the line between John and James or John and Peter?
If we have our eyes set on Jesus, desiring to grow in Him, wanting to be conformed to His likeness, then we should have no fear of crossing those lines. The committed disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t daily wonder how close they are to abandonment and/or betrayal. Rather, they are daily seeking Him out, abiding in Him, taking up their cross and living out their faith. They are working out the salvation that has been freely received in grace by faith in Christ in their daily lives. There is no fear of abandoning Jesus because they are following Him, walking with Him, imitating His example as they GoLove others.
The heart that has received Christ won’t flirt with abandoning Christ. The heart that has been baptized into His death, burial and ressurection won’t seek how far it can stray from Him. Dedication, devotion and discipleship are firmly embedded in the heart and mind of those who daily take up their cross.
We all know what it is to be let down and disappointed by people who are important to us and close. But here, David experiences something even worse, intentional betrayal. His wounded heart cries out to God, and he seeks justice. We know that Jesus knows this feeling all too well, and even in the worst of times, like these, we have faith that He knows our pain and will guide us through.
As we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, we will encounter people who know this pain all too well. We need to remember passages like this so we can share with them that God bring hope and comfort through His compassionate love, even in our darkest hours.
For the choir director: with stringed instruments. A Davidic Maskil.
“1 God, listen to my prayer
and do not ignore my plea for help.
2 Pay attention to me and answer me.
I am restless and in turmoil with my complaint,
3 because of the enemys voice,
because of the pressure of the wicked.
For they bring down disaster on me
and harass me in anger.
4 My heart shudders within me;
terrors of death sweep over me.
5 Fear and trembling grip me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, If only I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and find rest.
7 How far away I would flee;
I would stay in the wilderness. Selah
8 I would hurry to my shelter
from the raging wind and the storm.
9 Lord, confuse and confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city;
10 day and night they make the rounds on its walls.
Crime and trouble are within it;
11 destruction is inside it;
oppression and deceit never leave its marketplace.
12 Now it is not an enemy who insults me —
otherwise I could bear it;
it is not a foe who rises up against me —
otherwise I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man who is my peer,
my companion and good friend!
14 We used to have close fellowship;
we walked with the crowd into the house of God.
15 Let death take them by surprise;
let them go down to Sheol alive,
because evil is in their homes and within them.
16 But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
17 I complain and groan morning, noon, and night,
and He hears my voice.
18 Though many are against me,
He will redeem me from my battle unharmed.
19 God, the One enthroned from long ago,
will hear and will humiliate them Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
20 My friend acts violently
against those at peace with him;
he violates his covenant.
21 His buttery words are smooth,
but war is in his heart.
His words are softer than oil,
but they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
23 God, You will bring them down
to the Pit of destruction;
men of bloodshed and treachery
will not live out half their days.
But I will trust in You.”
In another verse, God reassures us that victory belongs to Him, He is the one who repays. Here, David is dealing with personal betrayal, something that most of us are acquainted with, and he comes to God seeking justice, comfort and reassurance. It is the care of the Father that sustains him, the hope that He gives that keeps David running.
Today. We need to be assured that God will indeed do the same for us and all His children, when we turn to Him. We praise Him for being just, right & fair in His dealings with us and with our enemies, and we seek His heart, that ours my be made more and more like His as we GoLove, in Jesus’ Name, even those who would do us harm.
Victory in Spite of Betrayal
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm.
“1 Happy is one who cares for the poor;
the Lord will save him in a day of adversity.
2 The Lord will keep him and preserve him;
he will be blessed in the land.
You will not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
3 The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed;
You will heal him on the bed where he lies.
4 I said, “Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against You.”
5 My enemies speak maliciously about me:
“When will he die and be forgotten?”
6 When one of them comes to visit, he speaks deceitfully;
he stores up evil in his heart;
he goes out and talks.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me;
they plan to harm me.
8 “Lethal poison has been poured into him,
and he wont rise again from where he lies!”
9 Even my friend in whom I trusted,
one who ate my bread,
has raised his heel against me.
10 But You, Lord, be gracious to me and raise me up;
then I will repay them.
11 By this I know that You delight in me:
my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.
12 You supported me because of my integrity
and set me in Your presence forever.
13 May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and amen.
“They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
“Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.”
Matthew 26:22, 33, 35 NIV
Our heart of good intention is a beautiful thing. Our supposition that we will have the strength to carry through, that we will behave properly, make the right choices, use wisdom, and come out on the other side utterly victorious is a beautiful thing, if a bit naive. We want the best from ourselves. We expect that we can do what it is we set out to do, and we thoroughly convince ourselves that it is indeed possible.
But as we continue forward, as we take our first misstep, telling ourselves it will be the last, and being shocked as more and more occur, we find ourselves becoming increasingly disappointed with…ourselves. Frustration builds, we begin trimming back our grandiose plans and expectations and our hearts seem to dwell in between embarrassment and resignation.
We find ourselves silently looking heavenward and apologizing for failing yet again. Our hearts were willing, but we were indeed weak in our flesh. Intentions weren’t going to propel us to success. Plans weren’t going to guarantee success, and we found that our best efforts fell well short of our oversized goals.
But we promised! We said we would stand firm! We gave Him our word!
And sorrow draws near bringing his dark friends, doubt and dispair.
We should never have promised so much, we tell ourselves.
But Jesus warned us as we sat around the table that this was going to happen. ‘How did He know me so well?’ we ask ourselves. And then it hits us, we’ve been relying on ourselves an awful lot…wow…A LOT, a lot. Our spirit was willing, yes. But when we rely on our own plans and strength, our own wisdom and will…and life happens? All our good intentions don’t buy us an inch of ground.
“With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51 NIV)
And so we may try for one last burst of effort to cover our shortcomings, but Jesus still stands there. He is shackled, already being mocked and hit. And we see that He is the strong One, He is the One whose spirit and flesh were both able to carry through. And as we watch Him walking away with His so-called captors, He is still in control. The plan of the Father is being carried out, and His intentions cannot and will not fall short.
He is strength. His will does not falter. His plans are secure.
He will carry out His task to perfect completion, and He will do it all in love.
He prayed that we would be in Him as a He is in the Father, and this is how it must be done. He is our only real hope in life, because so often, and in every way imaginable, we are so small, so weak, so frail.
Thank-You, Jesus for being our strength.
Thank-You, Jesus for being our will.
Thank-You, Jesus for being our direction.
Let us walk today as You have taught us, in the Spirit and in Your truth.
Steady our steps, give us faith to take the next ones, and may you be glorified in every moment that we draw breath.