Daily Devotions – April 9-16

Lent Day 40:  COMFORTING HIS MOURNERS

Sunday, April 9, 2017

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.  Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’  Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:26-31

THE TEXT:  And there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him (Luke 23:27).

Today is Palm Sunday. We remember the great crowds of Jewish pilgrims who filled the streets of Jerusalem and cheered Jesus as their victorious King. Now, barely five days later, they line the streets to jeer and heckle Him on His way to execution. Jesus is too weak and weary to carry the crossbeam to the place of execution. He tries with all His might, but keeps falling beneath it. The flogging and the beatings have taken their toll. Finally, the Roman soldiers enlist a man named Simon to carry it for Him.

But not everyone in the crowd taunts Jesus. Many still believe in Him, and are greatly perplexed and grief-stricken to see Him going to His death. In shock and horror they mourn and lament for Him.

Jesus could have joined them in self-pity, but instead He turns aside their weeping and lamenting. He warns of the future when they and their children will suffer at the hands of the Romans because the Jewish leaders will not humble themselves, confess their sins, and believe He is their Savior.

As we enter this Holy Week and remember Jesus’ sufferings and passion, He doesn’t want us weeping for Him. He wants us to weep for ourselves-for our sins-just as Peter did when the rooster crowed, and he saw Jesus’ face. We are to weep for our sins that deserve God’s judgment; then look in faith to Jesus’ cross where that payment was made in full. There we see God’s mercy and forgiveness.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, You carried my sins to that place of execution, a load I could never carry. At the foot of Your cross help me see my sin rightly, and turn from it in bitter tears, that I may find in You full forgiveness and peace.  Amen.


Lent Day 41:  A PLEA FOR FORGIVENESS

Monday, April 10, 2017

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.   Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:32-34

THE TEXT:  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” … (Luke 23:34a).
In a procession with two condemned criminals, Jesus is led to the place of execution. The locals know it as “The Skull” (see Luke 23:33)-possibly because of its shape, possibly because it is the grisly place of execution and death.

And right away Jesus utters His first words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Of all the people who should be pleading for forgiveness-Judas, the high priest, Pontius Pilate, his soldiers-the one who asks on their behalf is Jesus, the sinless Son of God.

How amazing that even in this hour where His agony reaches its climax Jesus doesn’t turn inside Himself. He could pray for justice-for vindication-for punishment on those who have done this to Him. Instead, He pleads with His Father to forgive them.

Jesus’ prayer is not restricted to Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers who abused and nailed Him to the cross, nor to the Jewish high priest and high court, or even to Judas, Peter and the other disciples, who abandoned Him. He prays for you and me, for all people of all time whose sins He has carried to this dismal place.

But forgiveness isn’t easy, or cheap. God the Father can’t set aside His holiness and justice-not when humans are doing this to His pure and innocent Son. For the Father to be able to forgive us, Jesus must step into our place and bear the divine punishment we all deserve. That makes this one of the most incredible prayers ever uttered in human history. “Father, forgive them”-by punishing Me instead.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, break through our ignorance and give us knowledge of our sin. That we may repent of that sin and receive full and free forgiveness for Your sake. Amen.


Lent Day 42:  SAVING OTHERS, NOT HIMSELF
Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” Luke 23:35

THE TEXT:  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35).

Luke shows us two groups of Jews who have gathered around the cross-the people and the rulers. The Jewish people stand by curiously watching the gruesome spectacle. Luke lets them fade into the background as he turns our attention to the Jewish rulers.

The second group, the rulers, includes the entire Jewish court. During their trials they had thrown all honor, integrity, dignity and decorum to the wind as they called for false witnesses against Jesus (see Matthew 26:59), personally abused and tormented Him (see Matthew 26:66-68). Then they hounded Him to Pilate’s court, over to Herod’s court, and back to Pilate again. They had stirred up the crowds to demand Jesus’ crucifixion, and when

Pilate surrendered Him to their desires, they had gleefully followed His procession to this place to celebrate their victory. Now at the place of execution they put on an air of superiority and scoff at Him. They play on His name, Jesus, which means “The Lord saves.” Speaking of Jesus’ many healing miracles, they mock, “He saved others, let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!”

They mistake Jesus’ choice not to save Himself as proof that He cannot save Himself. But Jesus is not here to save Himself: He is here to save each of us-and these Jewish rulers as well. To do that He must remain on the cross until every last sin is paid and God’s justice is completely satisfied. His death is their only hope of salvation-and ours.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, You endured mockery and shame to save me and all people. Let me gladly bear mockery and shame for Your Name.  Amen.


Lent Day 43:  THE TRUE KING
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”  There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Luke 23:36-38

THE TEXT:  The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him sour wine and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” There was also an inscription over Him, “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:36-38).

The Roman Empire used crucifixion as a powerful warning and deterrent to crime. So an inscription was written to identify the criminal and the crime for which he or she was dying. Jesus’ inscription read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (see Matthew 27:37).

This was the mocking theme the Roman soldiers had picked up during Jesus’ trial before Pilate. When they scourged Him, they wove a crown out of thorns and put it on His head. They put a purple robe over His torn shoulders, and a reed as His royal scepter. They knelt before Him, then snatched the reed from His hand and beat Him over the head with it (see Matthew 27:27-31).

Now, at the cross, they pick up the theme again. Knowing He is suffering from agonizing thirst, they come up and offer Him sour wine-knowing full well He cannot reach it with His hands and feet nailed to the cross. Then they take up the chant of the Jewish rulers and add their own little twist: “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”

But they don’t understand true kingship. They assume a king rules for his own welfare and benefit. But a true King rules for the benefit of His subjects-even if that means sacrificing His life to save theirs. It’s what a true King does for His people.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, my King and my Lord. Thank You for sacrificing Yourself for the benefit of all of us, Your subjects. In Your goodness and love, rule over all my life.  Amen.


Lent Day 44:  REMEMBER ME
Thursday, April 13, 2017

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

THE TEXT:  And he (the criminal) said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

From every direction Jesus hears mockery and ridicule. Even the criminals hanging on either side join in with the Jewish rulers and Roman soldiers (see Matthew 27:44).

But after a while one falls silent. When the other criminal takes up his taunt again, the first speaks out, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Luke 23:40b-41a).

Clearly, he has been thinking back over his life, considering the deeds that led to this torturous end, and of the fearful judgment that soon awaits.

Then he jumps to Jesus’ defense, revealing the faith that now fills his heart: “But this Man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41b). With firm confidence and faith that Jesus truly is the King of the Jews, the Chosen One, the promised Christ, he turns to Him and prays, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42b).

This night we honor our crucified Lord by gathering in His house and rehearsing His Last Supper with His disciples. Like the criminal, we will confess our sins and ask Jesus to remember us when He comes into His kingdom. And through Holy Communion He will give us His body nailed to the cross and His blood poured out for us. We will remember His suffering and death as we eat His body given for us, and drink His bloodshed for the remission of all our sins.

And like the criminal, we will hear the dying Savior assure us, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43b).

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, remember us when you come into Your kingdom as this night we remember Your great sacrifice of Your body and blood on the cross for us.  Amen.


Lent Day 45:  FINISHED
Friday, April 14, 2017

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”  When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:44-49

THE TEXT:  Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” And having said this He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46).

An unnatural darkness fell upon the land from noon to three in the afternoon. Luke explains, “The sun’s light failed” (Luke 23:45a). This profound darkness marked the judgment of mankind’s sins, the bitter darkness of hell.

At Jesus’ death at the end of those three hours, the curtain of the temple was torn in two: a powerful sign for the Jewish rulers. Throughout the Old Testament this curtain symbolized the separation sin had caused between God and humanity. In Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, that boundary of sin is completely removed, and we have direct access to God through Jesus (see Hebrews 9:11-12).

With His Heavenly Father’s anger stilled, our salvation secured, and His work completed, Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” and He breathes His last.

The centurion, seeing how Jesus’ suffered and died, and the signs that accompanied His death (see Matthew 27:51-53) praises God, and proclaims Jesus’ innocence. Clearly, Jesus was no criminal, and He didn’t deserve to be executed with them.

Luke next points us to the crowds standing nearby. Having seen the darkness and the other signs accompanying Jesus’ death, they return home beating their breasts. This Jewish sign of regret and sorrow shows they knew a guiltless man had been put to death. They cease to be spectators and become repentant Jews, ripe for Peter’s wondrous sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-24).

Finally, at a distance, stand some of Jesus’ acquaintances and faithful women who had followed Him from Galilee. In the coming days they will play an important role in our story.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, the miracles that accompanied Your death proved that You are indeed the Son of God, Savior of the world. Strengthen my faith that I may always trust in Your all-sufficient ransom for my sins.  Amen.


Lent Day 46:  A FATHER’S TENDER CARE
Saturday, April 15, 2017

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Luke 23:50-56

THE TEXT:  … Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea.  … This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Luke 23:50b, 52).

While the crowd returns to Jerusalem beating their breasts, Jesus’ faithful followers stand at a distance, staring in shocked grief. Jesus’ body will soon be cast into a common grave along with the two criminals. They stand helpless to stop it, clueless what to do.

Then an amazing sight meets their eyes. One of the prominent rulers of the Jewish high court steps up to the centurion in charge of the crucifixions. He carries orders from Pilate giving him custody of Jesus’ body. As the women follow, Joseph removes Him from the cross, wraps His body in a linen shroud with spices, and lays Him in a new tomb.

This Joseph is a prominent member of the Jewish high court, a good and righteous man who had not consented to their plan to condemn and crucify Jesus. Formerly, he had been a secret disciple of Jesus, now he takes courage to openly display his loyalty.

Oh, the tender care of our loving Heavenly Father! At Jesus’ birth, God the Father provided a Joseph to wrap His infant body in swaddling bands and lay Him in a manger. In His death God provides another Joseph to wrap His body in linen and lay it to rest in a new tomb.

The women follow behind so they can note where Jesus is laid. Then they return home to prepare spices and ointments to give the body a more proper burial after the Sabbath ends.

THE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, thank You for the faithful men and women who came forward at Your crucifixion and death-the repentant criminal, the centurion, Joseph, and the believing women. Give me courage and loyalty to come forward and honor You through the days of my life, until I rest in Your Paradise.  Amen.


Lent Day 47:  OPENING THE SCRIPTURES

Sunday, April 16, 2017

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.   It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.  One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.  The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.  In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.  Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24:1-35

THE TEXT:  Then they (two of the disciples) told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35).

It is Sunday afternoon. Two grieving disciples are leaving Jerusalem and slowly making their way home. Along the way they talk about recent events. In time a stranger joins them in their travels, a stranger who is oddly unaware of the recent happenings in Jerusalem. They tell him about Jesus, about the crucifixion, and the strange tale their women told about angels and the empty tomb. But it is clear their dreams died along with Jesus, and still remain buried in the borrowed tomb.

The Stranger calls them foolish, a word always used in the Bible to describe people who view this world as if God didn’t exist. He patiently leads them through the Old Testament writings that foretold the suffering, death and resurrection of God’s promised Messiah. As He speaks their hearts burn within them, filled with astonishment and excitement as it finally dawns on them the cross is not a sign of failure and shame, but God’s glorious plan to save humanity.

This day when we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection our hearts burn anew-filled with wonder and holy joy. Our Lord has conquered sin and Satan. He has risen victorious over death and hell. We no longer grieve the death of believing loved ones because we know they are with Jesus Christ in Paradise, and on the Last Day He will raise them as He Himself was raised. And we ourselves no longer fear death because it lies crushed and vanquished beneath His feet. On the Last Day He will return, and we will live with Him in triumph forever.

HE PRAYER:  Lord Jesus Christ, Victor over sin and death, stay with us, for it is evening and the day is almost over. Comfort us through life and death until You raise us to live with You in glory forever.  Amen.