Reflections on Holy Week 3

Reflections on Holy Week 3

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.  – Romans 6:4-5

I must confess – Saturday has to be one of the most neglected days in what we consider holy week. Not to say that people haven’t speculated on what Jesus did for the days He was in the tomb. I’ve often contemplated that question as if Jesus needed to somehow fill His time with something spiritual while in the tomb. Something that has struck me in the past few years is what His disciples must have been going through and how the three days of waiting for Christ’s resurrection must have benefited them, even if they didn’t know it at the time. Here are three things that died along with Christ that should also die in us as we reflect this weekend:

An Earthly Kingdom

One of the biggest misunderstandings about the coming Jewish Messiah was the idea that He would come and destroy the Romans and return Israel to a world power. This power would elevate the lowly state of Israel from being oppressed to being oppressor, from powerless to powerful, from impoverished to prominent. The masses longed for an earthly king and an earthly kingdom that they might live in comfort and security. It is unclear how deeply rooted this idea was in the hearts of Jesus’s disciples, but it is clear that any delusions of grandeur that they may have had in following Jesus died with Him as He hung shamefully on the cross. Likewise, we would do well to allow our earthly constructs of Christ to die. Some popular ones of late are the ideas that Jesus is pro-American, pro-Republican, pro-Democrat, pro-gun, pro-prosperity, and any number of other misunderstandings of the King of kings. We must return to an understanding of Christ as He is revealed in His Word.

Our Self-Righteousness

Humans in general have traded the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1). We have rebelled against God’s Word, trusting our own wisdom and abilities over what He has proclaimed. In this, we have attempted to build our own tower to heaven despite the warnings that there is only one way to heaven. And yet, human history, indeed the history of every human being, has proven that we are determined to try and make it to heaven on our own. We have come up with our own plans and at times twisted God’s plan in order to achieve salvation for ourselves. Christ’s death on the cross speaks for all eternity that He is the only way to reconciliation with the Father. The people of Israel had historically attempted to use the law as a means of earning right relationship with God, although the law was never meant to save. Jesus work on behalf of sinners as the perfect sacrifice for our sin kills any self-righteousness we might attempt to present as enough for entrance into glory. As we remember the Cross this weekend, remember that it stands as the final resting place of any form of self-righteousness that we may have achieved in our lives. At the Cross there is no longer a record of wrongs or rights done in hope of earning salvation.

Our Self-Preservation

Much like the misunderstandings of Christ’s Kingdom that we’ve mentioned above, the Cross kills in us any hope of self-preservation. When Christ is our example of how to be obedient to the Father, we are left with no chance for preserving our self-glorifying hopes and dreams of comfort and security. We will constantly be called to service, sacrifice, humility, and self-control. All of these contradict our natural bent towards self-preservation. Our hopes that this life will be comfortable, neat, and profitable for us must be buried with Christ as He shows us a better way. Any thought that the disciples had that Jesus’s words about dying to themselves, being hated by the world, and the like were somehow figurative or abstract were dashed as Christ died upon the Cross. We must allow our hope of self-preservation to be buried with Christ and stay with Him as we are raise to a hope beyond this life.

There were many things that died with Christ on the Cross. The misconceptions of who He was and what He was about were buried with Him. His disciples faced nagging questions about who He really was and how they would proceed. They were forced to wrestle with questions of whether His words about resurrection were true – whether the life to come was really worth throwing away comforts and self-righteousness here. We must wrestle with the same. One this Saturday of holy week, may we wrestle with our own preconceived notions of Christ and what He has purchased for us in His life, death, and resurrection. Lord, may allow our misunderstandings of Christ to die with Him and awaken us to the glory of who He truly is. Amen.

Reflections on Holy Week 2

Reflections on Holy Week 2

It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers.   Luke 19:46

One of the most memorable moments of holy week has to be when Jesus enters the temple and starts turning tables and driving out money-changers. Many people celebrate this as an overthrow of religious abuse. Many rejoice that Jesus gives what’s coming to the crooked, greedy religious authorities who have abused God’s house for monetary gain. All this is right and good, but neglects an important aspect of Christ’s rebuke. Christ’s primary concern is not for the physical temple and the ceremonies that surrounded it. Christ’s primary concern is the heart of the people, and specifically the failure at their mission. Christ was fully aware that His life, death, and resurrection would dramatically change the worship of His people. He also knew and had announced the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1-2). Jesus primary concern in overturning the tables was the view of God projected by the people who claimed His name.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 56 as He forcibly removes the money-changers and their tables. Most people don’t know the context of Jesus’s quote and therefore misunderstand the heart of Jesus’s gesture. Here are three points that helps us understand Jesus’s disgust with those in the temple that day:

A Heart for God’s Glory

The money-changers and the current religious system was first and foremost an affront to God’s glory. They were using the things of God for personal gain with no regard for how it made God look to true worshippers or those outside of the covenant people. This is what is referred to as blasphemy in the Old Testament. Jesus in quoting Isaiah and physically dealing with the blasphemers shows us how seriously Christ took the glory of God.

A Heart for the Nations

The nation of Israel, as the covenant people of God under the Law, were supposed to missionally engage the nations first and foremost by being obedient to God’s Law. The obedience and justice that was to be represented in the nation of Israel was intended to reach other nations who would then be drawn to the God of Israel by His work through His people as they obeyed His Law. Israel’s history is littered with failures in following His Law leading to God’s judgment. Whenever God’s people blasphemed His name to the nations, God often responded with wrath that caused the nations to fear Him despite the failure of His people. Jesus in dealing with the money-changers not only addresses blasphemous disobedience of His people but also reveals the Father’s heart in wanting to draw the nations into worship through His people.

A Heart for His People

Christ, in His unique way, also condemns the leaders of Israel for their allowance of such blasphemous practices. This condemnation reveals God’s heart for those who would truly desire to worship Him. There are many times in the Scriptures that we see men abusing leadership among God’s people. Men who would lead people away from true and right worship of God into something that was more profitable for them personally. God is seen throughout the Scriptures to have great care and compassion for those who are preyed upon by societal leaders. Christ shows great concern for those afflicted by the leaders who would not only allow but encourage such practices in God’s house.

Christ’s life is an example that we are to follow. Just like in our previous reflection, we must look to Christ and be ready to stand where He stands. Many of us are so caught up in the distractions of our world that we do not often notice when God’s glory is blasphemed, when the nations are neglected by our disobedience, or when people are disregarded for the sake of convenience or tradition. May this story constantly remind us of our call to obedience, compassion, and especially concern for the glory of God for the sake of His people and the nations.

Reflections on Holy Week 1

Reflections on Holy Week 1

He set His face to go to Jerusalem… Luke 9:51

One of the most difficult realities of the Cross is Jesus’ journey to it. He knew what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem. He had been preparing His disciples for the trial ahead. He was undeterred by their misunderstanding and rebuke. They could not conceive of Him being arrested much less killed. Christ was resolute. His path was set. He would go to the Cross. Where things get difficult for us is when we are called to our cross as well. Many people in the church today have no problem with Christ taking His Cross for us, but we have major problems when we are called to our own. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, just before Luke recounts Christ’s resolve to go to Jerusalem, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”(emphasis added) Many people in the church today love Christ until it is time to bear their cross.

Unfortunately, many of us misunderstood what following Jesus was going to be. Some of us were told that life would be better with Jesus. Some of us were told that Jesus would heal all of our wounds. Some of us came to Christ looking for His forgiveness and unconditional love. Some of us came because we needed something and weren’t finding it on our own. The message we heard was rarely, “All who are ready, come down the aisle and receive your cross.” I don’t think many churches would baptize as many people as they do with that message. Many of us came to Christ under the illusion that the road before us would be easy and prosperous not difficult and dangerous. But Christ, in setting His face to Jerusalem, has paved a different path for us.

Our journey in following Christ is not meant to be easy here. The promise for the Christian is not wealth, health, and prosperity. It’s not that everyone will like us and we will live out our days in relative peace and harmony with this world. In fact, Christ tells us that we will have trouble in this world. This trouble will not simply be that every now and then we won’t be able to purchase the new car we’ve always wanted. The trouble Jesus talks about isn’t that we won’t be able to retire at 55 or that our work won’t get a promotion. When Jesus says we will have trouble, He means we will be opposed, unwanted, hated even because of Him. If we truly follow Him, this world and those who love it will hate us because of Christ. They hated Him, why would we expect them to love us?

As we prepare to celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Christ this year, let us take time to examine our lives. Have we bought in to the lie that we can follow Jesus without having to bear our cross? Have we imagined that day to day inconveniences in life must be the cross that Jesus was referring to? Have we traded the mission of a holy God for our own comfort and security? As we reflect on the work of Christ on the Cross, may we remember that He has called us to follow Him. Our lives should reflect His. Our lives should show the immeasurable worth of Heaven over every other thing. The road will be difficult at times, but take heart, our Savior has gone before us.