Day 3 – the betrayal

March 31, 2010

Day 3 – The Betrayal
Read Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:1-6; John 13:2, 21-27

While all of the Gospels speak of the important role of Judas in the death of Jesus, writers generally speculate as to his motives. We see that Satan put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him (John 13:2) and John even tells us that Satan enters into Judas (John 13:27). Beyond these statements the Gospels are generally silent as to motives.

Speculation says that like most human motives, Judas’ were mixed and doubtless included greed and jealousy combined with profound disappointment that Jesus was not acting like the Messiah he had expected. If John’s account in John 12:1-8 is the same as Matthews account in Matthew 26:6-13 then John clearly tells us that Judas was a thief and was angered that the expensive perfume was used to anoint Jesus instead of being sold (enabling Judas to get his hands on the money). Judas was treasurer for the Twelve, but certainly not and honest one. John 12:6; 13:29

Also, it could be argued that from Judas’ perspective, Jesus was acting less regal and more like a defeatist on his way to death. Some have tried to link Judas (through the name Iscariot) with a Zealot like movement with a similar name which might account for any disillusionment on his part.

In verse 15 we see that the chief priests “weighed out to him” thirty pieces of silver. This is rather a paltry sum (Zechariah 11:13). It was the price to pay for the life of a slave accidently gored to death by an ox. (Exodus 21:32)

Regardless of the motives of Judas, the amazing thing is that God uses this betrayal to bring about salvation for the world. (Romans 8:28)

As you pray today, consider how God can bring good even out of evil. In His sovereignty, if we are a child of God, He is working out His plan for our lives, even now for our good.

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Day 2 – the examination of the Lamb without blemish – Jesus in the Temple

March 30, 2010

Day 2 – The Examination of the Lamb Without Blemish – Jesus in the Temple
Read Matthew 21:23 to 26:13 (If you want to read the accounts in Mark and Luke consider Mark 11:27 to 14: 11 or Luke 20:1 to 21;37 and John 12:2-11)

We have seen how, in the time of Jesus, each year at Passover a lamb without blemish was taken outside the city and then lead in through the East Gate in a triumphal procession with people waving palm branches crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Of course we know that Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God was led in the same fashion on that very same day. The parallel is unmistakable.

After the sacrificial lamb was brought into the city, it was taken to the Temple courtyard where it was examined and put on display for all to see that it was truly without blemish.

In our reading today, Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, comes to the Temple court where He teaches the people and is examined by the chief priests, the scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. As the day progresses, with each encounter, it becomes apparent that Jesus is truly the lamb without blemish while the scribes and priests are the ones who are blemished and stained with sin.

When the chief priests and elders challenge Jesus’ authority (Matthew 21:23-27), He turns the question on them with His own question (a common practice in rabbinic debate). This is not a rebuke to say that if they cannot make up their minds about John, neither will they be able to do so about Jesus. Rather, His question is far more profound. If they correctly answer Jesus’ question they will have an answer to their own question. If they say, “From heaven,” then they are morally bound to believe John, who pointed the way to Jesus. (Matthew 11:7-10; John 1:19, 26-27) They have their answer about Jesus and His authority. If they say, “From men,” they are wrong but they will not say it for fear of the people. Jesus answers the question in a way that the honest seeker of truth will not fail to see who He is. But those seeking to trap Him are trapped by a hurdle of their own making.

Jesus then rebukes the Jewish leaders with three parables. In the first one (Matthew 21:28-32), the parable of the two sons, He says straight out that the scum of society, though they say no to God, they repent, do the Father’s will, and enter the kingdom. But the religious authorities loudly say yes to God, but never do what God says, and therefore fail to enter.

In the parable of the “Tenants” (Matthew 21:33-46), the landowner is God, the vineyard Israel, the tenants the leaders of the nation, the servants the prophets, and the son is Jesus the Messiah.

The parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) is vague in its imagery. Generally it is considered that the invitees who refuse are the Jews. Those invited from the highways are the Gentiles. The wedding clothes represent righteousness given by God (through Christ). The “Chosen” refers to the sovereignty of God.

The paying of taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22) involves the Herodians, supporters of the ruling family (strange bedfellows with the Pharisees because they hate each other). It involved paying of the poll tax as a sign of submission to Rome. The trap was to put Jesus in a position where he would either alienate a major portion of the population or else lay himself open to a charge of treason. Jesus’ reply lays down a foundation for His people to relate to the government. This response is later twisted by Jesus’ enemies into a lie to accuse Him before Pilate. (Luke 23:2)

The challenges continue and at the end of the day Jesus has met and answered all His critics. None of the attempts to discredit or trap Him have succeeded. But the end is in sight. The cross is before Him and Jesus knows it full well. He tells the disciples plainly what will happen (Matthew 26:1-2)

As you pray today, consider all that Jesus went through. What must the disciples be thinking at this point? How could anyone take it all in? How could they understand what would happen? Events are moving fast and furious. Time is running out.

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Day 1 – The road to the Cross: hypocrisy, prophesy and judgment

March 29, 2010

Day 1 – The Road to the Cross: Hypocrisy, Prophesy and Judgment
Read Mark 11:12-26; Matthew 21:18-22

After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He returns with His disciples to Bethany (which is about two miles away), to spend the night. The following morning on their way back to Jerusalem He sees a fig tree by the road. We are told that He is hungry, but because it was out of season, there were no figs on the tree. (Mark 11:13) Jesus’ response is to curse the tree (Mark 11:14). (On their return trip at the end of the day, the disciples see that the tree has died. (Mark 11:21)

Some scholars have had trouble with this passage. Is Jesus being ill-tempered? Could He not have just used his power to make the tree produce fruit? What we overlook here is that Jesus uses this occasion for what we would call today a “teachable moment.” The fig tree has long been a symbol of Israel (Jeremiah 8:13; Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 29:16-17). This is a picture of judgment on the hypocrisy of the nation of Israel and their failure to bear fruit. Israel was to be an oasis for hungry souls seeking the Lord. Israel offered false hope to those who were far from God and were also disappointed. (Upon their return trip Jesus takes the opportunity to teach the disciples about producing fruit based on true faith (Mark 11:22-24; see also John 15:8; 2 Timothy 4:2)

Contrast this event with the experience that is to follow when Jesus and the disciples enter the Temple in Jerusalem. He goes into the Temple complex and overturns the tables of the moneychangers and the chairs of those selling doves. The problem is that the money changers would overcharge the people. By one account the moneychangers would charge a 6% fee to exchange money and would charge an additional 6% for giving change. This would amount to half a day’s wage for the common man.

The other problem involved the purchase of animals for the sacrifice. Worshippers did not have to buy animals at the temple, but it was very difficult for pilgrims traveling from long distances to bring sacrificial animals. Remember, the law said that the animals must be without blemish. This was left up to the determination of the priests, who could reject the offering so one would have to buy the animals they sold.. One writer records that a pair of doves could cost as much as 50 times more inside the temple complex than outside.

All these transactions were being carried out in the house of the Lord. With over 100,000 people coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, the temple became a center for fraud and exploitation of the people. No wonder Jesus cleansed the temple. He certainly had just cause. But this was not the only reason.

The act of Jesus cleansing the temple was also a fulfillment of prophesy. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came, He would cleanse the Temple. (Malachi 3:1-4) But the Jews interpretation was that He would cleanse the pagan nations (Romans) from the land. Little did they know that He would cleanse the Temple of their practices.

The events of the day teach the disciples that hypocrisy brings sever judgment. The events of the day fulfill another Messianic prophesy. And the events of this day also serve to set in motion the events that will lead to Christ’s death on the cross. (Mark 11:18)

Today as you read and pray put yourself in the place of one of the disciples. What do you see? What do you learn? What does the Lord say to you?

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Lent – Behold, Your King is Coming to You

March 27, 2010

Lent – Behold, Your King is Coming to You
Read Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 62:11; Psalm 118:26-27; Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-16; John 1:29.

At the time of Jesus, 80,000 people lived in Jerusalem. But, at the time of Passover, an additional 100,000 people came into the city to celebrate the festival.

The week before Passover marked a special event. Each year the Passover lamb was chosen to be sacrificed. The perfect lamb without blemish was selected and taken outside the city gates. It was then led in triumphal procession from the Mount of Olives down the road and through the East Gate (now known as The Golden Gate). Each year on that occasion the people would line the side of the road and wave palm branches, shouting Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, as the sacrificial lamb would pass by.

In our reading today, we see on this special day, in fulfillment of the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9), Jesus makes a triumphal entry through the East Gate as the people shout Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

While this story is familiar to most Christians since childhood, the prophesy that many are not aware of is Ezekiel 44:1-2 ( from 600 BC). The prophet Ezekiel says, Then He (the Angel of the Lord) brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces the east; and it was shut. The Lord said to me,This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.

Since Old Testament times, (Ezekiel 43:1-2; Zechariah 14:4-5) Jews have long understood that, when the Messiah came, He would descend onto the Mount of Olives and enter into the city through the East Gate (Golden Gate). The Golden Gate is the most important and most impressive gate in Jerusalem, and the only visible entrance to the city of Jerusalem from the east. This oldest of all the gates to the city was the only one not rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent in AD 1539-42. Monolithic stones in the wall just above ground have been identified as 6th Century BC masonry from the time of Nehemiah (Biblical Archaeological Review [BAR], Mar/Apr 1992, p40). Knowing of the Old Testament prophecy, the Muslim conquerors walled up the East Gate in the year 810 and put a Muslim cemetery in front of it (thinking the Jewish Messiah would not cross it) and thus prevent its fulfillment. It has remained closed now for nearly 12 centuries.

The interesting thing is that no one has made a triumphal entry through the gate since Jesus entered it on what we call Palm Sunday. Various conquerors have tried (including Napoleon), but all met either untimely deaths or military defeats.

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Lent – the period of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem

March 26, 2010

Lent – The Period of Jesus’ Final Journey to Jerusalem
Read Luke 9:28-45; Luke 18:31-34; Isaiah 53

Jesus is on the final leg of His fateful journey to Jerusalem. His face is set toward Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51-53) He has prepared His disciples for His departure by instructing them about the walk of faith. Now He reminds them of what He will face in Jerusalem. This is the sixth prediction of Jesus’ death in Luke, (Luke 9:22, 44; 12:50; 13:32-33; 17:25). Luke stresses these predictions to keep the specter of Jesus’ approaching death before us and to make us aware that Jesus was fully preparing the disciples for what was about to happen. They would have to carry on after His death.

Here Jesus addresses the Twelve. Throughout the entire journey He has stressed that He will suffer, and throughout the entire journey the disciples have struggled to understand how this could be. The Old Testament indicated that suffering would occur in Jerusalem. (Referenced in Luke 13:33-34; Acts 13:27-29.) The suffering servant is a major theme of this teaching (Is 50:6; 52:13–53:12).

Also, we see here the prediction that Jesus is to be handed over to the Gentiles. This is because under Roman Law the Jews did not have the right to exercise capital punishment. Jesus will be mocked. The fulfillment comes in Luke 22:63-71 and 23:11, 36, where Jesus is subjected to the ridicule of scoffers. He will be flogged, die and be raised from the dead.

All this detail does not enlighten the disciples. It is not that they do not understand His words, but that they cannot comprehend how this would fulfill Scripture or how the Messiah could suffer. They just cannot see how fulfillment could come this way. The unveiling occurs on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24:13-49.

The key point of our reading today is that Jesus knows where His journey leads. All the events that follow are not a surprise to Him. He is not a victim. He will suffer the rejection of His own, and of the world. He suffers knowingly and willingly. He has the courage to stand up for God and to suffer according to His will.

As you pray today consider Jesus’ resolve to be obedient to the Father to die on our behalf.

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Lent – a special time of prayer

March 25, 2010

Lent – a special time of prayer
Read Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23-24; Matthew 26:36-42; Psalms 145:19; 1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 7:7-8

During the life and ministry of Jesus when He became pushed by the crowds, tired and worn out, He would pull away, go up in the mountains and spend time in prayer, to spend time with the Father.

Jesus, Himself told us that He never did anything but what He saw His Father doing. He had to spend time with Him to know what the Father was doing. (John 5:19-20) This was Jesus’ time of refreshment and renewal.

Lent is an excellent time for you to start a regular time of prayer. Find the refreshment that comes from regular prayer as did Jesus.

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