In the traditional Jewish calendar, Saturday is a day of rest – it is the Sabbath. During the Holy Week, it is the day after the crucifixion of Jesus. While Saturday is a day of rest, this Saturday is a day of waiting. For the disciples it also must have been a day of confusion or unknowing, despite Jesus teaching them "that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8: 31). On Friday evening, a few women, including Mary the mother of Jesus: “And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23: 55-56). They rested on the Sabbath, and they waited.
Today, we also remain in a place of waiting. According to the Holy Scriptures, Jesus told us that He will come another time and gather His believers to be with Him (Matthew 24). But what do we do in the waiting? Look at the parable of the ten virgins: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25: 1-13).
Since today is a day of waiting, reflect on the disciples and what their waiting must have been like. Also, think upon your own waiting for the Lord. How are you preparing for His return? Do you have enough oil in your lamp? And we look forward to tomorrow as we proclaim “He is risen! He is risen, indeed.”
Today is known as Good Friday. At first glance the day does not look so good: counterfeit charges against the Savior, a pardon is exchanged for a guilty man (Barabbas) rather than the innocent man, a gruesome torture, mocking of our Savior, and finally the brutal crucifixion of our Lord. It is difficult to look upon these events as good, but they are. It is more than good that He took your place upon the cross, it is more than good that the Father’s love is perfect and sacrificial, it is more than good that your redemption is secure in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, it is more than good to fully know that because of what happens on Friday you will see the Lord face-to-face for all eternity.
Read the following scripture from the gospel of John depicting the final moments of our Savior upon the cross. Reflect on the significance of these events and consider what is “finished” for you through Christ’s sacrifice. Spend time today in silent reflection.
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19: 28-30)
During the events of Holy Week, Thursday is often referred to as Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday, and it is when the Last Supper takes place. There are several significant events on Thursday. Jesus sent His disciples ahead to gather what they needed for the Passover meal, so this was an event that would have been happening in every Jewish home to remember the faithfulness of God delivering His people from slavery out of Egypt. And, Jesus is the fulfillment of Passover – for all who surrender to Jesus, He has delivered us from the bondage of sin. Jesus gives new meaning to the bread and the wine of the Passover meal: “As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take it, for this is my body.’ And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.’” (Mark 14: 22-24). The final Passover is completed in Jesus – for those who proclaim Jesus as Lord, death will pass over, Jesus holds the victory over sin and death.
Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, which means “mandate” or “command.” Jesus demonstrates a new command for how we are to treat one another. On this same Thursday, after washing the disciples’ feet Jesus says, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13: 12-15). How can we still demonstrate this kind of humility and compassion with others? It may not look like actual foot washing, but how can you serve others as a demonstration of the Lord’s love for us?
After supper, Jesus and His disciples walked to an olive grove called Gethsemane. Earlier, Judas left the very sacred Last Supper to meet with the religious leaders who wanted to arrest Jesus and bring Him before the council. In the olive grove, Jesus prays to the Father and expresses His anguish over the events to come on Friday, “‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’” (Mark 14: 36). There is so much expressed in this prayer: the plea of a Son to His Father, acknowledging that God can do anything, the knowledge of suffering to come, the petition to be relieved from suffering, yet complete surrender to God’s perfect will. Even in His anguish, the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray. Then Judas comes, and betrays Jesus with a kiss. In the early twilight hours of Friday morning, Jesus is arrested, and at the same time “all his disciples deserted Him and ran away” (Mark 14: 50). It is hard to imagine that after such an intimate evening with the Lord, all His closest friends would abandon Him. But we are like them in many ways. When we need the Lord most, we often turn to our own means and ability, or we don’t seek His presence through prayer, or we have become too busy to make time for the Lord. How will you make room for the Lord today? Being mindful of His great love for you. Won’t you come to the table today?
During this Holy Week today is known as Holy Wednesday. This is the day before Jesus celebrated the Passover with His twelve disciples. On Wednesday Jesus went to Bethany and had dinner with His friends at the house of Simon the leper. That evening a woman took an alabaster jar filled with the finest fragrant oil, and in a worshipful and adoring way she poured the oil out on Jesus. Judas was critical of her actions, but Jesus called Judas down because the woman had done such a beautiful thing. Jesus said “she has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14: 3-9). The most notable part of this encounter is that the woman was preparing Jesus for burial by anointing Him as a King with the most expensive and fragrant oil. The holiness of this anointing ritual makes this a Holy Wednesday. This woman is described as having come to Jesus "beforehand" with her offering. We, too, live with beforehand knowledge. We know that Jesus will soon return to gather those who follow Him, so how shall we live in the "beforehand" time? Let us prepare for His return in a similar way as the woman in Bethany: worshipful and adoring Him with all that we have. A final thought: some Biblical commentators remark that the fragrant oils would have remained on Jesus as He was tortured, and the fragrance could have been an encouragement for the purpose set before Him. Our daily offerings to God are a sweet aroma to Him. Spend time today reflecting on the scripture from Mark 14, and also spend time with God worshiping and adoring Him like the woman with the alabaster jar.
Today concludes our journey with the Fruit of the Spirt, but for the next four days I will post brief devotions for each day of the remaining days of Holy Week. But for today we focus on spiritual formation pertaining to self-control. For self-control the best spiritual practice is obedience. In Psalm 119 verse 165, David says “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. And in the New Testament Jesus says, “Do not think I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5: 17). The law of the 10 commandments, and the greatest commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind are the beautiful ways that God forms us as His children. Yes, we are saved by grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus; at the same time God still desires for us to love His Law because it is good for us and keeps us in right relationship with Him.
For today’s spiritual practice of obedience, be mindful of the following scriptures and commit yourself to loving the Law and being obedient.
The 10 Commandments – Exodus 20: 2-17
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Greatest Commandment – Matthew 22: 36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The Ransom – John 3: 16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There can be an abundance of gentleness in silence, and that is why the spiritual practice for today is silence and solitude. Spending time in solitude and silence not only makes for a richer relationship with God, but also helps to soothe racing thoughts and reduce anxiety. For many believers this practice of silence and solitude can be a challenge, so here are a few helpful suggestions. First, find a space where you can be alone with God - undistracted, and in silence. Come empty handed. If silence and solitude is a a challenge for you, start small – plan for just 10 minutes. Begin by taking some deep breaths and clear your mind of worries or distractions – this is time for you and your Most Holy God.
Silence and solitude is a practice of “being” and not so much “doing.” However, if this is a new practice for you, here are a few thoughts for your silent time with God: spend time just thinking about God, or spend time listening for His direction through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, or spend time being mindful of His abiding presence, or spend time thinking about a scripture.
Focusing again on faithfulness, we remember that faithfulness is found in devotion and found in promises kept. The faithfulness of God to us is devoted and His promises are good and true. He is perfectly faithful. We practice our faithfulness, too, when we are mindful of whom is worthy to receive our devotion. Where do we place our faith?
The spiritual practice for today is called visio divina – a time of prayer allowing our hearts and minds and imagination to be moved as we reflect on an image, and see what the Holy Spirit might reveal to us. Below is an image of a lamb followed by a few scripture references about the lamb. Spend some time in quiet reflection about the symbolic significance of a single lamb.
“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”
Luke 10: 3
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?”
Matthew 18: 12
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.”
John 21: 15
“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.”
Revelation 7: 9