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The Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner

Gracious Father, Sweet Holy Spirit, Precious Jesus, this moment of remembrance catches me in my heart every single time. It is difficult thinking about those who betray you, let alone sharing a meal with them where you pour out your heart for them. You looked them in the eye and You saw their brokenness. You knew what they would do, and so soon. What an awesome example You have set for us. What an amazing grace & love You’ve shown. Please bless us with this grace, may we do the same & may You be glorified in it. In Jesus’ holy Name, amen.

Luke 22:7-22
“7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

If we needed an image for shocking compassion, this is certainly it. To say that the act of remembering is beneficial is a gross understatement. When I try to think through, in detail, the events of this evening, picturing myself as a silent observer, I am shamed along with the apostles & wonder if I have let my Lord down. It is easy to stand up like Peter and say that we would draw our sword & die for Him, but it proves to be much more difficult in practice. Jesus knew all that would happen with these men whom He called friends, and yet the Sacrificial Lamb hosts a dinner for them.

He gives them ownership, a part in the proceedings, and tells them to “…prepare so we may eat.” They have a task, a mission, to perform for the One they love. Their Master has asked them to do something they are capable of doing, something familiar, something they grew up experiencing, a meal they could recite by heart.

When He gives them this task, though, the elements are already present. The place is already secured. They are to do the work of preparing the meal, a hands on experience, remembering what each part means, remembering the story of Moses, the people enslaved & the bitterness of their lives. They folded napkins, prepared the bitter herbs, laid out the matzoh & lamb shank. Each part a reminder of something written deeply on their hearts, something that resonated even more deeply into their present condition & lives. The thing they wanted to see so much from the Messiah they followed: freedom & restoration.

In faith we find it so, even today. Jesus has prepared the dinner, He Himself the Sacrificial Lamb. He has tasted the bitterness, was moved in haste, broken & hidden away like the afikomen. As He moved through the dinner with those who would desert & betray Him, I have to wonder if their hearts were awakened to something new happening before their eyes. I have to hope that they saw something different this time. I wonder if the Time was bearing down on them like it was on Jesus, if there was a sense of urgency & expectancy like on that night in Egypt thousands of years before. I wonder if the air was electric that night, if pauses were pregnant with meaning & if Jesus allowed them to feel the weight of that gathering.

He brought them to His rest before suffering. He invited them in between the warp & the woof of the tapestry of time & showed them connections prophesied and planned. They were integrated forever into this holy plan, this divine coming together of God & man. This reclining would be His last rest before He suffered for them & for us. He invited them into this moment that the rest of us would have probably spent alone, withdrawn. He gave of Himself, served them, a meal with broken people before He would be broken for them.

The New Promise given by the New Sacrifice. Given so we may live. It is right & good to pause & remember this, watch & listen. You are invited into the rhythms of His grace, a seat at the table where Master serves the servant. Acceptance is found, repentance brought to mind & love is deepened at the table of Christ. Pause. Be present there & remember. He has invited you.

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The Lowest Moments Begin

Sovereign Lord, I must confess there are things I do not understand, & events that are difficult for me to fully comprehend. Betrayal by a close friend, a compatriot, a partner in ministry is such an abhorrent thing, but Jesus experienced it, too. Divisive, poisoned thoughts, selfish prioritizing, & an apparent refusal to express what was on his heart to Jesus…this all led to his downfall. The world is full of this type of behavior, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. Father, give us strength to be honest & open with one another in love. Give us the grace to walk in the light as You are in the light. Release us from selfishness & pride as we walk with Jesus. May we glorify You. It is through Christ we pray, amen.

Luke 22:1-6
1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

So the Passover celebrations were beginning, a day of remembrance & delivery from slavery. So much speaking to freedom, a removal of the yoke of oppression & there is no doubt that Judas had felt that yoke from the Romans for as long as he thought he could stand it. He saw what he thought was the perfect timing, the perfect opportunity to stand up & point things in what he thought was the right direction. He felt his motives were right, he was convinced that he knew best & there was no way that he could mess this up.

I know some people speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus in order to provoke Him to do something miraculous, something that would force His hand so He might begin the overthrow of the Romans. Others say he did all this because he was tired of seeing Jesus refuse the kingship that the people were trying to press on Him. He made his own plans for the Messiah. There are plenty of other ways to attempt to explain the actions of Judas Iscariot, but no matter how the events came together in his heart & mind, he still wound up betraying Jesus & it resulted in His death by crucifixion.

It seems like everyone was aware that something was coming. Judas knew, the chief priests & scribes knew, the people had picked up on it & things were coming to a conclusion of some sort. Desperation comes into play. Social pressure leans heavily on people & impatience becomes a minute-by-minute struggle. Justifications are made & evil’s presence is secured. Judas was entered by Satan, who is always looking for opportunity, & things were set for this most horrendous betrayal, this ultimate rejection of God by humanity.

Betrayal is ugly. There is no way to make it less than what it is. It is painful. It is cruel. It is unfeeling. It is soul-wounding. But Jesus came to bear it all for us. He wasn’t spared anything. Judas would betray, a stab in the back by a close friend. The High Priests would betray God, the final snub that expressed their desire for self over submission. The people would shout “Crucify,” their voices echoing the hollowness in their spiritual walk. Even His closest friends would abandon Him. And Jesus would experience every moment of it.

This is the love of God poured out for us. That Jesus would come, take on our flesh & all the suffering that comes with it. The Prophet reminds us that He is a man of sorrows & acquainted with suffering, David saw His bones exposed through skin & God the Father had spoken of this moment from the beginning with Adam & Eve at the Fall of humanity. Everything was coming to a climax, & God allowed what needed to be allowed while He orchestrated our release from death & the bondage of sin. Pride & betrayal began it all & pride-laced betrayal would bring about the solution.

Father, give us eyes to see & ears to hear the correction that comes from You & in Your love. Teach us to obey You & reveal the intentions of our own hearts to us as we walk in the rhythms of Your grace & in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Open our eyes so we might see, open our ears so we might hear. Open our heart so we would be aware of our own struggles & receive the light of Christ as our daily guide. Please forgive us our pride-filled weaknesses & poor judgment. In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith Lives in Action

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Hebrews 11:23-31
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Living a life that is deeply rooted in faith means our eyes are focused on something different, something higher than the low lying fruit of the world. There are plenty of options, plenty of things to distract us from living as God intends and avenues for setting up our life as a shrine and altar to the god of ‘me.’ Our culture promotes it, encourages it and even provides moments of slacktivism where we can feel like we’re a part of something without ever having to lift a finger. We can use a feeling like solidarity to link our emotions to a cause, but never do any real work to see that goal accomplished.

But faith refuses to operate that way, and in reality, it cannot. Faith demands action. Faith demands self-sacrifice & self-control. Faith demands that we live our lives with a real purpose laid out before us, with a goal that is greater than ourselves. And so God grants us a community of faith to walk in the daily rhythms of faith, in steps of mercy, loving-kindness and grace. And it is in this life of selflessness, walked out in rhythms of grace, that we find action happening, real results coming from the desires placed on our hearts by God.

Look at these examples form Hebrews. Moses’ parents exampled to him so that he might one day example to others what it means to resist evil and seek the ways of God. They stood up against harsh, ungodly leadership within their nation by resisting a call to death. They refused to take part in it, and so a life was saved that would bring deliverance to their people. A quiet faithfulness preserved in the way & will of God brought benefit to countless others because they had faith to do what was right and what was hard.

The nation later followed in footsteps of Moses’ faith, even though they struggled deeply with faith themselves. They marched through parted seas & rivers, defeated armies by walking away from them, and cities by walking around them. God fought battles for His faithful people. They learned through action and hardship what it means to follow and go and be faithful because faithfulness has a price. We lose comfort, earthly/temporary comfort, and we lose the ability to live selfishly.

When you and I live this way, living as those blessed by faith so that we might be a blessing to others, we will find sudden value to sacrifice, like Rahab did before Jericho fell. It doesn’t matter whether we have been good at it before, we simply need to repent of our self-centered lives and walk in the faith God provides through Christ. He writes the story, we walk in His plan, trusting in love and the outcome for His glory. This is how the world is changed.

Father, give us faith and sight-by-faith to live this life looking to the reward of heaven, not present sinful pleasures. Let us live lives of self-control and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and Your Name. Give us faith and strength to keep our eyes and hearts focused on Christ. Amen.

Mark 15:33-41 // It is finished

“33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “Look, He’s calling for Elijah!” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, offered Him a drink, and said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”

37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. 38 Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem.”

Mark 15:33-41

There were many witnesses to the death of Jesus. The city was buzzing at fever pitch because of the holiday of Passover, the occupying Roman force was undoubtedly doubled for the occasion. Vendors and merchants from all around surely filled every nook and cranny where they could set up shops and stalls to feed the needs and wants of the thronging crowds. If you’ve ever been to a supermarket the morning of  holiday, or out shopping the day before Christmas, you know what chaos these situations bring. Add in the fact that executions like this were done in high-traffic areas to stand as an example to others, mixed in with the morbid fascination of the dawdler and on-looker, and you find a very visible and public death happening here for our Master. 

There couldn’t have been a busier day for this to happen. God had designed this moment, He had perfectly plotted out the timing. This highly visible moment of excruiating pain was in no way accidental or coincidental. God chose to finish things in this way, with maximum effectiveness. 

Visitors to Jerusalem would be here for days and experience the full measure of the situation. They would all know about the executions, they would all hear about the oddity of a tomb being guarded and they would hear from the apostles and others about this now vacant tomb in the days that followed. Three hours of darkness at midday are hard to ignore. The story of Jesus would have been thick in their air, and it would travel home with them wherever they were going. 

 God made this finishing stroke happen in a way that would not be quickly or easily denied. Those looking to ritual in the temple, instead of to the sacrifice that God offered on Calvary, could not ignore the impossible tearing of the curtain and the exposure of the Holy of Holies. They couldn’t ignore the earthquake or the darkness. God was speaking through the blood of His own sacrificial Lamb, and He would have their attention. 
This finishing move, His checkmate on death and sin, would get full press. 

And Jesus, faithful in every way, would continue in His pain to fulfill Scripture. Quoting the prophetic Psalm 22, receiving the vinegar wine, and yelling out the victorious statement that completed the whole, Jesus pointed faithfully to the Father, fulfilling His labors and then gave up His Spirit. In His moment of death, He provided a witness that even a Roman solider couldn’t deny, truly He was God’s Son. 

His life, ministry and witness to God’s glory inspired this group of women to faithfulness, along with the Apostle John, to stand and keep watch over Him and to mourn His suffering at the cruel hands of the Romans and the cruel hearts of the Jewish leaders. 

As we remember what Jesus di, we cannot forget that God did everything to make sure people would know the extent of His love. As we GoLove, then, in His Name, we must be sure to be just as visible, just as open and just as vocal about what He has done so that all eyes, hearts and minds are drawn to Him. The work of Christ was finished on the cross, but the work of the empty tomb is not finished until He returns and completes His victory. 

We do not rest until that moment. 

Mark 14:12-16 // Jesus is prepared to meet with you

“12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrifice the Passover lamb, His disciples asked Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare the Passover so You may eat it?”

13 So He sent two of His disciples and told them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him. 14 Wherever he enters, tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, ‘Where is the guest room for Me to eat the Passover with My disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.’ 16 So the disciples went out, entered the city, and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.”

Mark 14:12-16

— 

This preparation, in addition to the colt for the Triumphal Entry, reveal to us that Jesus has already made all the preparations necessary for us to come and meet with Him. There is still work for us to do, but He has prepared and provided before we even think to begin. Just like the disciples simply had to acknowledge their desire to prepare the Passover meal, we need to come straight to Jesus and acknowledge our desire to be near Him. 

We like to make this overly complicated or make excuses why we don’t have time, but Jesus stands before us, time and place already secured, opportunity for communion close at hand. We have to make the effort to go there, and we should prepare for that meeting, but there should be no question over whether or or we do this. 

As a Christian, our first desire should be for Christ. We should desire to grow with Him, to grow in Him and to seek out maturity. He should be our passion, our longing. Jesus Christ should be the cry of our hearts! 

If we are ‘too busy’ for Jesus, we should pray that the Father disciplines us, prunes us, so that our hearts and attitudes are corrected. I cannot imagine Jesus telling me that He was too busy to meet with me, that He just had too much on His plate. What a sad state of affairs that would be for all of us. But Christ showed His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, He took the time to die for us. He created the hill He would walk up, the will of the Father spawned the tree that would hold His body, the cow from whose hide the leather flagellum would be made and the stone and iron whipping post where His back would be laid open. If God took the time to prepare the sacrifice, His Son, surely we can carve out time to meet with Him daily. 

As we GoLove others in His Name, people should see the place of priority that Christ holds in our life. Not because we are acting pious and obvious to draw attention to ourselves, but because our days and nights contain so much of the reality of Christ’s presence that we cannot deny Him these daily, sacred moments. Our dedication speaks to His dedication, our devotion to His, of course His example far overshadows our own.

Numbers 28 // An interactive faith

“1 The Lord spoke to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘Be sure to present to Me at its appointed time My offering and My food as My fire offering, a pleasing aroma to Me.’ 3 And say to them: ‘This is the fire offering you are to present to the Lord:

Each day present two unblemished year- old male lambs as a regular burnt offering. 4 Offer one lamb in the morning and the other lamb at twilight, 5 along with two quarts of fine flour for a grain offering mixed with a quart of olive oil from crushed olives.’ 6 It is a regular burnt offering established at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a fire offering to the Lord.””
Numbers 28:1-6

And along with these daily sacrifices, there was a double sacrifice for each Sabbath, and then monthly offerings as well. In total, each month would see about 75 lambs, two young bulls and a ram, in addition to all the drink and grain offerings. This does not include the possibility of a festival or holy day during that month, which would then increase the work of the priests and the people depending on what is to be done. Every day, every weekend and every month there was a constant line of sacrifices going through the tabernacle, a constant aroma of incense and burnt offerings, trumpets, prayers and songs, all being offered up to God as part of the worship His people would give Him.

And this wasn’t a dull, dusty, ritualistic, just-because-you-have-to type of faith. No. God set this all up to first bring honor and glory to Himself because He is worthy, but He also did this so we would have a way to interact with Him, to fulfill that primary component of our humanity, which is to worship Him with every facet of our being. There were always going to be daily, weekly and monthly opportunities to lift God up in praise. There were always going to be times of extra worship, celebration and somber remembrance.

God has blessed us with a faith that goes with us daily, that is always wafting around us, like the smoke in the Israelite camp. Little whiffs, aromas, that remind us of Him all throughout the day. A rhythm of worship, sacrifice, prayer, praise and His love, established to make that all important connection between the Maker and the made, the Shepherd and His sheep.
Again, every moment of it is meant for His glory, and is intended to be worship for Him. It -is- all about Him, after all. We benefit from this because this is what we were made for, and so our hearts find fulfillment, deep, lasting fulfillment, in worship.

As we GoLove others in the Name of Jesus, our lives should be a reflection of our acknowledgement that this is indeed our purpose. We should live lives of worship, praise, prayer, sacrifice, and all done in love of the One who first loved us. That sacrificial life is a clarion call above the pride and selfishness of the world, and the sinful behavior of mankind. We have been made for something far greater, and we will never find fulfillment until we find it in worship of our Great King, Jesus.

Numbers 9 // Worship, purity & priority

“9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 10 Tell the Israelites: When any one of you or your descendants is unclean because of a corpse or is on a distant journey, he may still observe the Passover to the Lord. 11 Such people are to observe it in the second month, on the fourteenth day at twilight. They are to eat the animal with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; 12 they may not leave any of it until morning or break any of its bones. They must observe the Passover according to all its statutes.
13 But the man who is ceremonially clean, is not on a journey, and yet fails to observe the Passover is to be cut off from his people, because he did not present the Lords offering at its appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin.”
Numbers 9:9-14

There are several components that go into our worship that are essential and should not be neglected. Worship is an act of service to our Great God, and seeing that we were created to be creatures of worship it should be our top priority in life. And while we can worship God in so many ways, our worship of Him with our community, our corporate worship, is not to be neglected, pushed aside or replaced for or with anything else.
These men in Numbers 9 recognized that and didn’t want to be left out of something so special to the community and vital to their identity. They were ceremonially unclean, not by choice, but out of necessity, because they had just buried someone close to them. But they knew and respected the Law of God that said that His worship must be pure and perfect.
And so they came to Moses with their quandary, seeking how they might honor God properly and still be a part of the community, and The Lord responded to the desires of their hearts.
As Christians, we should seek to honor God in this same way, not making excuses or only attending church if we don’t have something ‘better’ to do, not honoring self and worshipping sleep, because ‘it’s so hard to get up and be ready on Sundays.’
That attitude is simply an indicator that God’s priorities are not your priorities and that He is not one either.

God is to be honored first. We worship Him in spirit and in truth, and we set Him as our first priority over all else. If we are going to truly walk with Christ, following His commission and command to GoLove, then we must keep that priority straight and give Him the pure worship of our lives.

Good Friday and silence // Luke 23

“And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.

And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
Luke 23:50, 51, 53-56 NASB

Emotionally, the disciples needed a sabbath. As much as they had been through in the past 24 hours, their hearts were shattered. Minds numb, bodies exhausted from crying, they sat around in different corners of the room doing what all of us do when we mourn. They cried. They stated blankly at the wall. They tried to remember through the events and sift for clues to see what they could have done differently. They blamed themselves, they blamed others. They especially blamed Judas.

But for all their talk and ‘what if’s’ they still weren’t listening to the words Jesus had spoken to them.

Sure, they remembered His claims that He would be handed over and executed, but that never seemed right. Maybe He was just being dramatic or speaking in metaphors again. But it really happened. He was dead. Wrapped up, sealed away in the ground. Dead.

He had been the One to disrupt funerals and raise the dead. But never anything like this…

••••••••
‘I guess I get my boat out of dry dock and start fishing again.’

‘Maybe I can start back at the tax office.’

‘I hope my father-in-law has a job for me.’
••••••••

Friday night turns into Saturday morning and someone finally realizes they haven’t eaten since the Passover meal. Not really hungry, but not knowing what else to do, they share some matzah and cold lamb. They weren’t supposed to leave any of it after the meal, but Jesus didn’t even drink the fourth cup, they never finished the Seder…

•••••••
‘I guess we jut wait until the coast is clear and we all head home.’

‘Yeah, whatever “home” means now…’

‘I know, nothing’s ever going to feel right anymore.’
•••••••

And so they waited.
And we wait, too.

As Dr. Campolo is famous for saying (among other things),
“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

Thursday must have been a long day // Matthew 27

“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.

Keeping watch with Christ // Matthew 26

“Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

“And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

“And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26:38, 40-41, 43-46 ESV

Going to stay a week at the monastery every August is becoming one of my favorite times of the year. The simplicity of the days, the set times of prayer all throughout setting the routine and tempo for your moments is wonderful. Seeing that I am not catholic, there are a few things I do not take part in. I don’t pray to the angels or to Mary while I am there. But the singing of the the psalms, the reading of the Word, the time of reflection is like a soothing balm to my heart.

By far, my favorite prayer times are the last and the first each day. The final prayer time, ‘Compline’ thanks God for His guiding hand in your day, and asks for restful sleep in Him. The first, ‘Vigils’, is meant to mirror this passage of Scripture that we read today. Growing up in the independent Christian Church, there have been some terms that were not used that are spoken regularly in some of the other, more formal, gatherings of the Church. And this is one of them, ‘to keep watch with Christ.’

That account is familiar, as it should be, but to -actually- keep watch with Christ, like at 3:15 in the morning? That never came up as something to actually do, to experience, and having spent the time doing it, I have to say it is immensely valuable. At 3:15 in the morning, once you have stirred and set to moving, your mind is remarkably clear.to spend that time focused on Him, beginning your day in prayer and thanksgiving…I didn’t mind that in the least.

But here, in Matthew 26, it isn’t a new discipline the disciples are trying to undertake. They have just finished the Passover meal, there have been songs sung, stories shared, great things remembered and strange things beginning to happen (Where did Judas go? Who was Jesus talking about betraying Him? Why would Peter, of all people, deny Him?) and so they fell asleep from the wear and tear of the day.

As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this weekend, we know what is coming. We know who the betrayer is, and what comes from Peter’s denial. We have the benefit of the full account in our hearts and in the Word. But for the disciples, we watch this unfolding for them in real time, and we see the reactions of each as they all eventually run away on this fateful night.

To keep watch with Christ, we must devote our hearts to Him, even when it isn’t easy. Even when our eyes are heavy or our minds burdened with questions. To keep watch with Christ, we put aside religion and repetition, and instead we focus on spending time with our Master, asking Him to guide our hearts into greater understanding, that we may contemplate His suffering and the moments leading up to it. That we may seek to grasp Hs heart and the will of the Father at work in Him. That then, in turn, we look into our own difficulties, our own struggles, and seeking His example, we learn that His strength to do the Father’s will is something He offers to us. That, in keeping watch with Christ, we come to understand, feel and know that He also keeps watch with us as we sit in those still, dark hours of the night when sleep eludes us and worries come crashing down on our hearts. And that we take this example, and learn what it means to GoLove others by keeping watch with them in their hours of need, as this is simply a part of what we do and who we are as the bride of Christ.

To keep watch is a part of living love, it shows care, companionship and compassion. Pray that God guides your heart to keep watch this week as we remember the suffering and glory of our Master, Jesus.

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