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.”
“15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers — the number of people who were together was about 120 — and said: 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it; and
Let someone else take his position.’
21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us — from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.”
What do you do to recover from a painful memory? How do you move forward? What is the rough way to behave? How do you pick up the pieces and move ahead?
Jesus had obviously chosen to 12 men for a very specific reason. There was a mirroring of the tribes of Israel, and from a numerological standpoint, it was the combination of God (3) and man (4) multiplied out together. It was highly symbolic and meaningful, and so there was a need to restore what was broken.
Now, Jesus had plenty of time to do this before He ascended, but the community needed time to heal and He was also leaving them tasks to accomplish in their own. They needed some victories and some healings to take place in their hearts that required them to take steps of faith and seek out God.
Now, the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out on the church, so they resorted to the best method they knew to involve God in the choosing, and so they cast lots. Today, we have no need for lot-casting, but instead should rely on the Holy Spirit to help us in moments where we don’t know quite what to do. But that being said, we do need to rely more on Him than we often do.
Sometimes my life is in difficult to carry, hard to move pieces because I have been trying far too hard to make things happen on my own rather than trust God to move. I push and press and shove and cram until shards snap off and things get pointy and I wind up wounded. And God is always there to bind me up, bring me healing and help me move forward, the moment I give the reins back over to Him. The messes of me are totally fixable for Him, and I must again resign myself to His leading.
Judas, the ‘son of perdition,’ left a wound in th community that needed to be addressed, healed and moved beyond. His betrayal was used to usher in grace for us, which just goes to confirm that God can and does use even the worst bits of our lives to still work His will.
We are not beyond redeeming if we still have breath. Even our worst mistakes can be learned from and God can work wonders from the ashes and rubble we leave in our wake. But it takes faith, humility and a resigned spirit to help bring about this change. Pride will always keep healing from happening. Humility draws us close to God and allows Him to do that work in us that enables us to GoLove in His Name and in His grace. It must be through His power and in His strength that this is accomplished. Just like it takes an expert to restore a shattered artifact or to retouch a masterpiece, we must leave the work of restoration in the hands of God. Our own efforts will always come up short of perfection.
“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.
“1 After two days it was the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a treacherous way to arrest and kill Him. 2 Not during the festival, they said, or there may be rioting among the people.
3 While He was in Bethany at the house of Simon, who had a serious skin disease, as He was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of pure and expensive fragrant oil of nard. She broke the jar and poured it on His head. 4 But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this fragrant oil been wasted? 5 For this oil might have been sold for more than 300 denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.
6 Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me. 7 You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed My body in advance for burial. 9 I assure you: Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to hand Him over to them. 11 And when they heard this, they were glad and promised to give him silver. So he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.”
There are lots of opinions on the heart of Judas and why this was the last straw for him. Some people want to say that he was just tired of hearing Jesus talk about His death, since Judas was looking for a revolution. And that Judas thought a direct conflict with the authorities would spark Jesus into action. Other theories abound, some equally valid, others a little harder to swallow. The point of the matter being that Judas got tired of Jesus being Jesus and he wanted Him to be something else.
It was his dissatisfaction with Jesus that led him to try to make Jesus become someone different. He liked the idea of Jesus, but he wanted Him to fit in his confines and carry his agenda. He had a plan, and Jesus wasn’t fitting into it, and so something had to give.
We still do this today, don’t we? People come to Jesus, but find He demands too much, or or that He condemns something that is close to their heart. And so they plot out their new, acceptable Jesus. They cover Him with this new costume that makes Him fit their social agenda or political designs. They dress Him as they see fit so they can continue feeling like they’ve bought into Him, but in reality, He’s not really Jesus anymore, they have created a Jesus-shaped false god.
Judas, in essence, told Jesus that He needed to be something different, and he was going to force His hand into change. But that Jesus can’t exist and still be Jesus. We do not get to customize Him. We must take Him as He is and adjust our worldview to Him, not the other way around. As we GoLove others in His Name, we will only be effective for the Kingdom if we carry Jesus Himself with us, not some cheap imitation.
We must not try to force His hand or make Him fit our mold. We adapt to Him, changed by Him.
“Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.”
“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.”
Matthew 27:1, 2, 12-14 NIV
With every year that passes, it becomes that much easier to feel the quick passage of time. Days and weeks zip by, I blink and a month has passed, and I’m just in my late 30’s. When, Lord willing, I reach my 60’s and beyond, I’m imagining it must almost be a blur.
Be then there are days, that for good or bad reasons, seem to stretch on forever. Anticipation of a celebration or of seemingly bad news or even times to mourn can take one of our light-speed days and drag it out into eternity.
When Jesus and His disciples were making their way into Jerusalem on what we call Maundy Thursday, I wonder how long that walk took in His mind. When He was approaching the gates of the Holy City, I wonder if He looked off toward the direction of Golgotha and felt compelled to rub His wrists and forehead. I wonder if the chatter of His disciples faded into so much garbled mumbling as His mind ran through prophecies and the nature of the Roman’s brutality. Did He look at their smiles and hear the joy in the people flooding into the city and find Himself pleasantly distracted for a few moments?
What was Thursday like?
Did He have that feeling in the pit of His stomach that we all get when we know we are waiting for punishment? Was He already beginning to feel that for us? Was this day full of tangible reminders of joy and pain? Did He see legitimate and sincere worshipers mixed in among the disgruntled and greedy? Did He think about how worship was supposed to be, and how The Father longed to be close to His children? Did He see the sneers of the doubters and the haughty glances of the proud and the injustices done to the poor as He walked those streets that morning? Did He pick our the roads and pathways that He would carry His cross down, anticipating difficult stretches and tight passageways?
What was Thursday like?
Was it this full day being confronted with the mass of humanity in this one city that drove it all home for Him? When He would say, “I am sorrowful to the point of death.” Were the events of the day and the faces He saw still fresh in His mind?
When day turned into night and they began the Passover meal, and He finally sat down to this last Passover with His friends, and He said, “I have greatly anticipated this Passover meal.” Was that because it meant that Thursday was finally almost over? Were the strands of His mind, threads of love, justice, anticipation, grace, hope, prophecy, truth, were they all streaming around all simultaneously present and noticed yet difficult to grasp?
What was Thursday like?
To assume He walked through the day like a passive observer, indifferent to the crowds and the weather and the noises and smells, that He wasn’t affected by the events of the coming days and that He was some stoic, unfeeling wall…that denies the man in Him, and to say He didn’t care denies the divine in Him.
As the meal ends, feet washed and Judas long gone, and they make their way to the garden to pray and as the darkness of night sinks in, I still wonder, what was Thursday like?
Because we get a full picture, in Technicolor and CinemaScope of what Friday brings. Because by the time He reaches Pilate, we can see that He is focused, He is now in the midst of events that all of human history had been leading up to, and love guides Him, mercy steers Him and grace propels Him forward. And as terrible as Good Friday is, we all who stand with Him stand thankful, appreciative and amazed at grace.
This Thursday, today, let the events of Christ’s Thursday dwell in your mind, anticipating what tomorrow brings, and GoLove as you have been so richly loved.
“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.