Daily Devotions Mar. 26-Apr. 1

Lent Day 26: REACHING OUT TO A HARDENED HEART
Sunday, March 26, 2017

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51

THE TEXT: And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him (Luke 22:50-51).

The sleepy disciples quickly awaken at the soldiers’ approach. Even though Jesus has stepped forward to shield them (see John 18:4, 8), they ask their Master if He wants them to strike with the sword and defend Him. One doesn’t wait for His answer. Peter attacks the servant of the high priest.

Jesus is deeply concerned about the safety of His disciples and those who have come out to arrest Him. Peter’s rash act threatens to escalate the tense situation into violence and bloodshed, forcing the soldiers to rush in with drawn weapons to put down the violence. Jesus immediately steps in and defuses it. He commands His disciples to put away their swords (see Matthew 26:52).

Then He demonstrates incredible care for the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter has severed. Jesus immediately restores his ear and heals him. He brings peace and calm out of impending chaos.

His actions perfectly display the love He feels for His Father and for each of us. It’s a love that will prompt His first words from the cross in a few hours: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34b). And whether that servant ever comes to faith in Jesus or not, for the remainder of his life he will bear the evidence in his body of the last miracle Jesus performed in His earthly life.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You protected Your disciples while demonstrating Your concern for a wounded soldier who had come out against You. Give me such love toward my enemies that I may treat them kindly and You may bring them to faith. Amen.


Lent Day 27: ADDRESSING HIS ENEMIES
Monday, March 27, 2017

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” Luke 22:52-53

THE TEXT: … (Jesus said) “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52b-53).

Jesus now turns to the Jewish leaders. He protests the way they are going about arresting Him. Like Judas a moment ago, He wants them to realize the true nature of their deeds. They think they are serving God, but in reality they are serving the prince of darkness.

First, He points out the large armed guard they assembled. Jesus is neither a lawbreaker, nor a violent man. He has never preached armed rebellion or insurrection. He has only preached repentance and the coming of the kingdom of heaven. His deeds have all been good and kind, benefiting the sick, the hurting, and the dying.

He then reminds them of all the times He preached and taught before them in the temple courts. If they really had grounds to lay their hands on Him, they should have done it then. But Jesus had given them no cause to arrest Him-and the fact they came out at night is proof of that.

Like cowards they emerge under cover of darkness when the crowds are far away. This late hour of the night is their hour-when the power of darkness reigns.

This may be the hour when they seem to have the upper hand, but Jesus implies another hour is coming-an hour when God’s truth will be manifest, when Jesus will burst through the gates of death at the resurrection.

THE PRAYER : Lord Jesus, You exposed the evil intentions of Your enemies in order to bring them to repentance and faith. Turn me from my evil ways that I may live to Your glory. Amen.


Lent Day 28: INTO HARM’S WAY
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. Luke 22:54-60a

THE TEXT: Then they seized Him (Jesus) and led Him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance (Luke 22:54).

Simon Peter shouldn’t be anywhere near here. Over and over Jesus told His disciples what will happen. He will be condemned and crucified, and on the third day rise again. But Peter wants to see for himself. So he follows at a distance.

Peter enters the enclosed courtyard of the high priest and stands among the guards waiting there. It is extremely dangerous for him to be here-and extremely foolhardy. But he doesn’t seem to realize it until he is trapped in the courtyard. When a servant girl questions him, he cowers in fear-even though her testimony would not be considered dependable in a Jewish court.

Just a few hours ago he boldly promised he would go to prison and to death with Jesus. A few minutes ago he initiated a defensive attack by striking the high priest’s servant with his sword. Yet now, when his life is on the line, he goes into a panic.

After two initial questions and his quick denials, Simon is able to escape attention for another hour. But as the sky brightens with the approaching dawn, another man studies him closely. This accusation is far more dangerous than the earlier two: Simon’s northern dialect is giving him away. It is plain to hear he is from Galilee, like Jesus. What was a Galilean doing here in the high priest’s courtyard in the middle of the night when all the guards were Judeans from the south? Simon Peter is exposed and desperate. He has nowhere left to hide.

We often thoughtlessly put ourselves in harm’s way too. But Jesus is already on His way to rescue him, and you and me as well.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, forgive the times I put myself in danger for no good reason. Come quickly to rescue, forgive and restore me. Amen.


Lent Day 29: A POWERFUL GLANCE
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:60b-62

THE TEXT: … And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. … (Luke 22:60b-61a).

While Peter is still uttering his third denial, the rooster crows. And immediately the Lord Jesus turns and looks at Peter.

How does Jesus happen to be here right at this very moment? He was first tried before the high priest and Jewish high court in the middle of the night (see Matthew 26:57-68). It is likely He has been held in a place of confinement and now is being brought back before the court so it can render a legal verdict.

Despite all He has suffered and all the agony that still awaits Him, Jesus’ greatest concern is for Peter. He has already prayed for him, and now He looks upon him. Not with anger, judgment and retribution, but with loving concern for His disciple’s salvation. With a look He brings Peter back to repentance and faith.

Peter sees the haunting face of Jesus, and hears the rooster’s crow. Suddenly, the Lord’s words come flooding into his mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:75b).

Peter is cut to the heart and dissolves into tears. Not just tears, Luke’s word describes loud, audible sobbing. It may seem strange that the guards don’t move in, but they are busy moving Jesus. Once again, Jesus offers Himself to protect His disciple, providing Peter the opportunity to escape to safety. But He didn’t just save Peter from the soldiers-He saved him from Satan’s trap, and through His suffering and death He will save Peter and all of us from God’s wrath.

If Jesus can forgive Peter’s denial, be assured He can forgive your worst sins.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, with Your glance You brought about Peter’s repentance. Look upon me, that I may turn from my sins with repentant tears-and follow You. Amen.


Lent Day 30: BEARING THE PUNISHMENT WE DESERVE
Thursday, March 30, 2017

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him. Luke 22:63-65

THE TEXT: 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 (Luke 22:63-65).

For months the Jewish authorities have held a deepening grudge against Jesus. Now they unleash their pent up frustration and hatred. Luke the physician tells us their blows bruised and tore Jesus’ skin. Matthew and Mark add that they struck Jesus with their fists and spat in His face. All the Gospels point out that this abuse-both physical and verbal-went on and on. These were the dignified, high officials of Judah lashing out against a bound man.

But the abuse takes on a mocking tone which we will see repeated many times this day. They blindfold Jesus and take turns striking Him, asking the Prophet which of them had struck Him. They condemn Jesus for blasphemy because He claimed to be God’s Son, but they are unaware they are the guilty ones, blaspheming the Son of God who stands meekly before them.

Jesus knows full well who is hitting Him, yet He remains silent. He is suffering exactly what each of them-and each of us deserves to suffer for our disobedience to God and our mistreatment of one another. Yet Jesus patiently bears it all in our place. He does not retaliate or curse; instead, He remains silent. We wonder what He is thinking. He’ll show us shortly when He cries out from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34b).

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You endured the abuse and mistreatment I deserve. Forgive my sins against You, and give me patience when I suffer wrongly for Your sake. Amen.


Lent Day 31: REACHING THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LISTEN
Friday, March 31, 2017

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” Luke 22:66-71

THE TEXT: … And they led Him away to their council, and they said, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” … (Luke 22:66b-67a).

When Jesus stands before the Jewish high court they ask if He is the Christ. His answer sounds elusive, but He is laying bare their dark hearts and forcing them to look at their motives. If He utters the truth that He is God’s Son, they will not believe. If He asks what more He can do to prove He is the promised Messiah, they will refuse to answer. They’ve already closed their minds and aren’t interested in searching for the truth.

So He points past the cross. After His suffering and death are complete He will be enthroned at the right hand of God. That is the kind of Christ He is: a saving Christ-a heavenly King, not an earthly king. It is a powerful confession and testimony-and a dire warning of their future. Today, they sit in judgment on Him, but on the last day He will be their judge-and their eternal destiny will rest in His hands.

Ignoring His warning they demand, “Are You the Son of God, then?” (Luke 22:70b). Again, His answer might sound evasive to us, but not to the Jewish leaders. He calls their own words as witnesses against them; they are confessing the truth: He is indeed the Christ, the Son of God. Without giving it another thought, they pounce on His words and condemn Jesus to death.

He has done all He can at this time. He has made the great confession. After His death and resurrection, Jesus will send strong men of faith to once again share the story of His salvation and offer them His complete and free forgiveness.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in love You persistently reached out to stubborn men who hated You for no valid reason. Break through my stubbornness and lead me to repentance and faith. Amen.


Lent Day 32: REACHING OUT TO A ROMAN GOVERNOR
Saturday, April 1, 2017

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” Luke 23:1-4

THE TEXT: Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no guilt in this Man” (Luke 23:4).

Even though the Jewish high court condemned Jesus to death, it has no authority to execute criminals. Their decision must be ratified by Pontius Pilate, the Roman military governor. Perhaps worried that Pilate is unlikely to condemn Jesus for a religious matter, they bring three political charges against Him.

The governor quickly dismisses the first two: Jesus is no insurrectionist inciting the crowds to rise up against Rome. Nor is He teaching the Jews to stop paying taxes to Caesar: “He said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s'” (Luke 20:25).

The only charge worth investigating is Jesus’ claim to be the Christ. If Jesus were to exploit the Jewish desire for their Christ to come and drive out the Romans, He would be a threat to Caesar’s empire and Pilate would have to act.

Jesus’ answer again may sound elusive, but He knows Pilate’s biggest interest is ending this trial with as little fuss as possible. The governor is ignoring his Savior who stands before him. Jesus answers, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:64b). This deflects the question back to Pilate, inviting him to think about what those words really mean. Pilate isn’t interested. He returns to the Jewish leaders and reveals his findings. He finds no threat, no guilt in Jesus.

But that’s when he makes a fatal flaw: he doesn’t enforce his verdict. He should rule the case closed and disburse the crowds-even with his troops, if necessary. Instead, he leaves an opening which the Jewish leaders will be quick to exploit.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You graciously reached out to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Give me the concern and the words to share my faith with people who do not yet know You. Amen.