Daily Devotionals Mar. 12- 18

Lent Day 12: MAKING IT PERSONAL

Sunday, March 12, 2017

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”  Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”  Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:20-25

THE TEXT: (Jesus said) “But behold, the hand of him who betrays Me is with Me on the table” (Luke 22:21).

From the beginning Jesus knew Judas would choose to betray Him. For long months He has tried to break through the betrayer’s selfish greed, speaking of the dangers of the overpowering love of money, and teaching the need to seek first the kingdom of heaven.

But Judas’ love for money has been too strong; Jesus’ words have fallen on deaf ears.   So Jesus chooses this very moment, while He sits in the upper room surrounded by faithful disciples, to reveal His knowledge. He chooses words which strike hard at Judas’ conscience.

They are stark and chilling because they are so intensely personal: at the very table where Jesus dined was His betrayer.  And even more He says, “His hand is with Me on the table.”

Jesus appeals to this friendship even while exposing the hideous nature of this act. Perhaps the shock of the moment will break through and stir Judas to repentance and faith. After all, he has shared Jesus’ food, His ministry, His prayers, and His confession of faith. How can he be plotting to commit this-the greatest of hypocrisies?

It is shocking that this man who had spent so much time eating, drinking, travelling and sleeping with Jesus could turn against Him so completely-and for such a small price. Even more shocking is the fact that Judas is unmoved by Jesus’ words. Absorbed in his own selfish greed, he continues in his reckless course.

How often do we ignore Jesus’ loving warnings and follow our own twisted, self-destructive desires?

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, when I travel along paths of disobedience and defiance, turn my heart to repentance and faith that I may return and glorify You, rather than follow Satan’s road to eternal destruction.   Amen.


Lent Day 13: REACHING OUT TO A HARDENED HEART

Monday, March 13, 2017

They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. Mark 15:17-21

THE TEXT:  (Jesus said) “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).

The sin Judas is plotting is not unforgiveable, but he has spent days plotting his betrayal. With each passing hour he pushes Jesus further and further out of his heart.  But Jesus clings to Judas. He strives now, before the act, to stir Judas’ conscience; to help him see the horror of what he is about to do. Better to bring him to repentance here and now, where Jesus can assure him that he is forgiven and at peace, than wait until after the fact when the chief priests turn a deaf ear to him (see Matthew 27:3-4).

If Judas repents and turns from this sin, he will in no way jeopardize God’s plan of salvation. Once Jesus has prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He will be willing to turn Himself over to those who seek His life. Jesus will go to the cross and death as the Father has determined.

The Lord can give no stronger warning than His words, “Woe to that man by whom He is betrayed.” Woe is a word that foreshadows the agony and desolation of hell. Jesus clearly points out Judas’ guilt in choosing this course-and reveals the end of this sad road if Judas will not repent and seek his Lord’s forgiveness.

Our Savior’s unfailing love is incredible. Even at the moment of the betrayal in the garden, He will try once more to bring Judas to repentance and faith. But in love God never forces us to repent and believe. He holds out the free offer of grace, forgiveness and eternal life, but He gives Judas, you and me the freedom to walk away, even to our own eternal destruction.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, forgive my stubborn waywardness, and bring me to repentance, faith and salvation. Amen.


Lent Day 14: TURNING THE TABLES

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.  One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”  But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.  Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.  As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. John 13:21-30

THE TEXT:  And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this (Luke 22:23).

Jesus isn’t done with Judas yet. He’s going to use the reaction of the other disciples to help Judas understand the full nature of the act he is plotting.

The disciples clearly understand Jesus’ prediction that one of them will betray Him, but they are utterly dumbfounded. The thought had never crossed their minds that one of their number could be capable of such a hideous act. So they begin to question each other and ask who it is.

It is hard to imagine Judas being completely unaffected as the reactions spread around him. He has to be asking himself, “How does Jesus know? What is He going to do?” He can’t possibly fail to realize the great danger he now faces. Jesus has completely turned the tables, and Judas is completely at His mercy. What if Jesus chooses to save Himself by betraying Judas to the other 11?

Jesus wants His traitorous disciple to know how it feels to be betrayed. He walks Judas right to the brink of betrayal. It should be enough to send a shudder through Judas, and a stab of remorse and regret in his heart.

But tragically, Judas refuses to allow the Holy Spirit to bring repentance; instead, he opens his heart wide for Satan. He quickly takes the morsel of bread, and goes off into the night to perform his foul deed. Every Gospel makes it clear that during the meal none of the disciples realized Judas was the one. Jesus was careful to shield and protect him from them, just as Judas should have protected Jesus.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, guard my heart from such cold indifference and unbelief. Move me to sincere repentance and faith that I may always cling to You, my only Savior. Amen.


Lent Day 15:  THE SERVING KING

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:1-19

THE TEXT:  A dispute arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest (Luke 22:24).

Here in the upper room is an amazing contrast. Jesus is totally focused on His followers, but all they can think about is themselves. While He is busy reaching out to Judas, teaching each of them about His coming suffering and death for our salvation, and giving them His own body and blood in a new and wonderful testament, all they can think about is their own honor, and which of them should be considered greatest by others.

How often are we so preoccupied with our own honor and glory, our reputation and well-being that we pass by hurting people all around us?

In tomorrow’s devotion we will read what Jesus said about this dispute. But today we focus on the action He took in response. As we just read in John’s Gospel, Jesus rose from the table without a word. He silently removed His outer garment, wrapped Himself in a towel, then stooped down and began to wash each of their feet like the lowliest household servant. Peter almost prevented Jesus from washing His feet because it seemed so beneath Him.

But Jesus insists. And He teaches them this is not the time for quarreling and arguing about our importance and our fame. It’s time to focus on the people around us who need our encouragement, support and attention. More importantly, it’s time to focus on Jesus: to contemplate His astonishing love and the tremendous sacrifice He is freely making for us and all people.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, whenever I start to compare myself to others and promote my own recognition and glory, please stop me in my tracks. Remind me that You came as our Servant, submitting like a slave, and now that You have saved me, may I truly serve others in Your Name.  Amen.


Lent Day 16:  TRUE GREATNESS
Thursday, March 16, 2017

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27

THE TEXT:  (Jesus said) “Who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27). With infinite patience Jesus responds to His disciples’ strife about which of them will be considered the greatest. He reminds them they are thinking the way worldly people do-striving for recognition and self-promotion. His followers will follow a different path.

The greatest among His people will regard themselves as though they were the youngest, the lowest people who have absolutely no claim over anyone else. Christian leaders will be humble people who pour themselves out in lowly service. And these apostles, when they go out to share the good news about what Jesus accomplished for all people, will go out as equals, serving the same cause, sharing the same Gospel.

That is why pastors are called ministers. That title reminds us of Jesus’ humble, lowly service to us. Like Him, pastors don’t do their work for their own glory or recognition, but for the benefit of those around them, and for the glory of their Savior Jesus Christ.

As He lays aside the water basin and towel and resumes His place at the table, He brings their focus back to Himself. He is the glorious Son of God, yet He set aside that glory and became human. He reminds them that He has come to serve, and not to be served. He will soon show them the greatest example of lowly, self-sacrifice as He offers Himself unto death to remove our guilt and sin.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, my world seeks fame, honor, glory and distinction. But You alone deserve this attention. Give me joy in humbly serving, just as You stooped down to serve each of us.  Amen.


Lent Day 17:  A GLORIOUS PROMISE

Friday, March 17, 2017

You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Read Luke 22:28-30

THE TEXT:  (Jesus said) “You are those who have stayed with Me in My trials, and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).

Though Jesus was generally well-received by the crowds throughout His ministry, He faced ever stiffening opposition and hostility from the Jewish religious leaders. But the disciples faithfully stood by Him through it all. Peter said it well: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68b-69).

Jesus looks around the table at them. A moment ago they disputed which of them was greatest, but He knows in the future they will suffer as He will-beatings, imprisonment, exile, even death. So Jesus points them beyond those sufferings to the glorious reward that waits for them at the end. When their earthly lives are completed, they will receive a greater honor, privilege and glory than anything they could have sought on earth. Here they will serve in humility and suffering, but in heaven they will find true glory and honor. The promise is true for you and me as well.

Though our daily work for the Lord often seems to go unappreciated and unrecognized, Jesus assures us that God marks it well and will faithfully reward it in eternity..

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, thank You for teaching us a new way to think about ourselves and our place in Your world. Help me grasp the beauty and grandeur of it all, that I may live as You did, in humble service and self-sacrifice.  Amen.


Lent Day 18:  POWERFUL PRAYER

Saturday, March 18, 2017

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

THE TEXT:  (Jesus said) “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. …” (Luke 22:31).

Already in this meal Jesus has foretold His coming suffering and death, established a new Sacrament to give us His own body and blood in bread and wine, and exposed the betrayer who will set it all into motion. Now He turns to the leader of His disciples, bold and impetuous Peter. His words seem totally at odds with the Peter we meet in the Gospels-confident, strong, impulsive. But Jesus knows.

With deep concern and tender care He speaks Peter’s given name twice, “Simon, Simon.” Back when this disciple expressed his faith that Jesus was God’s Son, the promised Savior, the Lord had given him the name Peter, which means “rock.” But this night Peter will be the furthest thing from a rock as he crumbles before servant girls and soldiers.

Confident in his foolish pride, Peter will put himself in great danger. Satan will seek to use that bitter moment of denial to shake Peter with deep guilt and regret in an attempt to crush his faith. Peter’s leadership will be severely hampered as he asks how he could possibly remain one of Jesus’ chosen apostles.

But Jesus steps in to reassure Peter. “I have prayed for you.” The gracious voice of God’s Son will overpower the tempter’s foul accusation. By Jesus’ power, Peter will turn from his denial, and follow his Savior yet again. Then a restored Peter will strengthen his brothers and sisters. As we recall the depth of Peter’s fall and see Jesus’ gracious restoration, Peter’s experience encourages us to leave behind our guilt and regret and boldly trust in Jesus’ full and complete forgiveness for all our sins and failings.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, You plead for me before Your Father in heaven. Reassure me of Your complete and free forgiveness every time I fall.  Amen.