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Good for the Worst

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.

Read slowly.
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.

Luke 22:54-23:56

(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.”

(Friday, Morning)
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.”

(Friday, noon)
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.

(Friday, 3pm)
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.”
(Friday, ~6pm)

Remember.

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Mark 15:42-47 // Silent as the tomb

“42 When it was already evening, because it was preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went in to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. 44 Pilate was surprised that He was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether He had already died. 45 When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 After he bought some fine linen, he took Him down and wrapped Him in the linen. Then he placed Him in a tomb cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Now Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching where He was placed.”

Mark 15:42-47

Mark records no dialogue from the moment when Jesus died until the morning the women go to the tomb. He narrates the goings on, but no words are audibly spoken. The fast-paced nature of his writing slows and we are left to examine the situation on our own. We are left watching, anticipating but not interacting. The tomb is silent. 

Here we find:

A dead man

A faithful, caring man

A surprised man

A man who confirms 

Two women watching

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

Ritual

Government

Hope

Sympathy

Resignation 

Shock 

The tomb is silent.
Here we find:

A religious leader

A military/political leader

A military follower/leader

Two regular people

The tomb is silent.
Here we find: 

A day closing out

Desire turning to introspection

Devotion being lived out

Uncertainty spectating 

The tomb is silent.
There are still a lot of things going on, even though we hear nothing. Hearts and minds are louder than any words might be, more incessant and numbing than any conversation could possibly accomplish. In the silence, activity still happens, hearts still beat and the machine rolls on. Disciples are hidden, leaders feel justified and the masses are left wondering. 

The tomb is silent, but only from an audible perspective. There is no physical noise coming from within, in reality, the tomb is screaming at us, jumping around, waving its hands in the air. It draws our hearts, minds and eyes. It focuses our will on itself and it begs us to pay attention to it. There is no noise, but the silence is deafening. We are forced into confrontation with it, we are demanded to answer to it all. 

The tomb is anything but silent. And as Christians, the tomb still speaks through us today. As we GoLove in the Name of Jesus, the tomb continues to find its voice through us all. It speaks loudly in us, to us and through us. It’s not a point to pass over on the way to Easter morning, it is the vehicle for the ressurrection. We must examine it, we must speak for it. Death and the grave are ever hungry and they do not give back what they have taken, but this tomb stands forever as testimony to the fact that they have been beaten…

But that comes tomorrow. 

Mark 15:6-15 // Handed Over

“6 At the festival it was Pilate’s custom to release for the people a prisoner they requested. 7 There was one named Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. 8 The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. 9 So Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” 10 For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead.

12 Pilate asked them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?”

13 Again they shouted, “Crucify Him!”

14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why? What has He done wrong?”

But they shouted, “Crucify Him!” all the more.

15 Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”

Mark 25:6-15

How often do we hand Jesus over in favor of us getting what we want? How often do we squelch the Spirit because our unwillingness to listen, to live humbly and to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus in our lives? What sinful urges press in on us that blind us to our calling and purpose? Why do we let the obvious darkness creep in over our hearts, captivating our minds and distracting our efforts? 

What a sad state to be in. What a lost and wandering heart. We want to be saved but we will not be ruled and so we sacrifice the sacrifice made for us. We resign ourselves to sin because “it’s just too much work to be good.” We call for the murderer, the violence of sin, rather than the goodness of God because it is more familiar to our flesh. 

How much ministry, how many opportunities have been lost to selfishness and a lack of a resigned will? Why do we continue to choose sin over His Lordship? 

This is that classic struggle that Paul points out in Romans 7. Sin is at work in us and we desperately need to be saved from ourselves. We need to cry out. We need to acknowledge our brokenness rather than call for the things that drag us down over and over again. 

Humility was only present in Christ that morning outside of Pilate’s residence. He was the only one standing properly before the Father, while everyone else struggled with varying degrees of pride, hatred, worry, envy and confusion. 

Jesus is the One who was handed over. He was the Blameless One who bore the consequences of our sinful, selfish pride. The marvelous truth here is that Jesus wasn’t captured by our sin like we are, He voluntarily took it on out of His great love for us. 

Praise God for His infinite mercy and His wonderful grace! 

Mark 15:1-5 // Acknowledging the Insults of Children

“1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests had a meeting with the elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin. After tying Jesus up, they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate.

2 So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered him, “You have said it.”

3 And the chief priests began to accuse Him of many things. 4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, “Are You not answering anything? Look how many things they are accusing You of!” 5 But Jesus still did not answer anything, so Pilate was amazed.”

Mark 15:1-5

“Pilate was amazed.” Why? What struck him about Jesus? What made Him different than everyone else in his experiences? 

Imagine, if you would, that Jesus was the only adult in that room. Pilate was maybe 8 years old and the Jewish leadership were all 3-5 years old and then re-read that passage. 

As these petty, shallow men bickered and fought against Jesus, He didn’t answer them. Why? Because He didn’t need to, and their childish, selfish hatred of Him wasn’t hardly worth acknowledging. They had no authority over Him. They had no valid arguments against Him. Pilate could hear and understand what they were doing, but didn’t quite comprehend why Jesus wasn’t responding to them. He saw as the encounter continued, that Jesus did hold some kind of power, some kind of authority. It came through in His demeanor and in the few spoken answers He provided. But it was veiled to him at the same time, and so Jesus’ responses and lack of responses intrigued and confused him. 

Just like a parent doesn’t need to explain their reasoning to a toddler throwing a tantrum, Jesus had no requirement to respond to the baseless accusations of these ‘religious’ men. But because of the love of God, He was still providing for them (and us all) what they needed most despite their protests. 

People who care for children are not required to explain to the children why they are doing what is best for them. They simply love and provide. If your toddler gets a taste for cake, you don’t submit to their foolishness and only provide cake for their meals from then on. Instead, you, as the loving, responsible adult, bring them the vegetables, grains and protein their bodies need to grow, despite their protests for more desserts. It takes maturity to understand the need for proper nutrition and discipline to actually make the good choices required to maintain it. 

Those angry, frightened men needed something they didn’t understand they needed. They were not in a place to grasp anything Jesus might tell them, and so He would have to just show them what needed to be done. Love would have to provide and speak what needed to be spoken. 

Sometimes the best response to an insult is to ignore it and just do what is right. Sometimes the best answer to a wrong is simply to love in return. Jesus knew what the proper response was, and the will of the Father pressed Him forward to reveal it on the cross.

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.

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