Daily Devotions – Mar. 19-25

Lent Day 19: A SURE PREDICTION
Sunday, March 19, 2017

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:33-34

THE TEXT: Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:34).

Jesus’ warning should humble Peter, but the proud disciple will hear none of it. With characteristic boldness and overbearing self-reliance he protests his loyalty to his Lord, and promises to stay by His side-even if it costs his freedom and his life. He doesn’t say, “With God’s help,” or “With Your help.” He is confident he can stand on the ardor of his own adoration and commitment to Jesus.

But Jesus knows precisely what Peter will do in a few short hours. That’s when this quiet upper room will be exchanged for a threatening courtyard filled with menacing soldiers. The Lord gives a simple, assured answer. Echoing Peter’s misplaced self-confidence, Jesus shifts from “Simon” to “Peter”-the rock. His words are poignant: the rooster will not crow to mark the coming of the sunrise before the rock has crumbled and denied knowing Jesus three times.

From that next morning on, Peter would never hear a rooster again without being reminded of that dreadful, shameful sunrise. But at the same time, the sound of that crowing will be a daily reminder of Jesus’ gracious salvation. It was that fateful hour when the rooster’s crow recalled Jesus’ words to Peter, and that brief glance from Jesus’ eyes called Peter back, rescuing him from Satan’s grasp, and springing forth the tears of godly repentance that poured from his eyes and led to his restoration.

We all stumble and fall, disowning our Savior in our silence and in our disobedience. Yet Jesus prays for us, strengthens us, and restores us by His constant grace.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in Your still small voice, humble my pride and foolish self-confidence. Guard and protect me as I flee to You, the Rock of my salvation. Amen.


Lent Day 20: THE WORLD IS CHANGING
Monday, March 20, 2017

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. Luke 22:35-38

THE TEXT: (Jesus said) “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’…” (Luke 22:36-37).

The meal is complete and Jesus prepares to leave the guest room. But first He wants to make His disciples aware that their world will change drastically this day. It will become a much more violent and dangerous place.

Up to now Jesus has been quite popular. Everywhere He went with His disciples throughout Galilee they found friends who welcomed them into their homes and fed them. And it was that popularity that was frustrating Jewish leaders, making it impossible for them to lay their hands on Jesus. But today that will end.

When Jesus is crucified, many Jews will misjudge the evidence. They will falsely assume the cross proves the carpenter from Nazareth is a fake and a fraud.

The coming situation will become desperate. The disciples will need a cloak because they will no longer be welcomed into peoples’ houses. But the danger of physical violence is so great they would be wise to sell their cloaks for swords, and shiver through the night. For Jesus’ sake they will soon face opposition, arrest, mistreatment and martyrdom.

When the disciples report they have two swords, Jesus tells them it is enough. He doesn’t intend to make them a defensive fighting force; instead, He wants to make them aware of the deadly hostility the Gospel message will bring. When these apostles tell Jews and Gentiles that a man crucified as a criminal is their Savior-they will face great persecution.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, our brother and sister Christians throughout the world face great opposition and danger, even death. Shield and defend all those who are being attacked for their faith, and give them courage and faith to boldly stand and declare Your Name. And move their persecutors to repentance and faith. Amen.


Lent Day 21: PREPARE YOURSELVES BY PRAYER
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:39-40

THE TEXT: And when He (Jesus) came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40).

Having left the upper room behind, Jesus leads His disciples to the Mount of Olives, which rises opposite Jerusalem. During this Passover Week Jesus has spent the nights out in the open, sleeping under the stars (see Luke 21:37). John tells us Judas was familiar with this place (see John 18:2). Of course, Jesus could easily foil his betrayal plot by choosing a different, unknown place this night. But He returns to this familiar ground, voluntarily yielding Himself up to His Father’s plan.

On this mountain is a garden into which Jesus now leads His disciples. He is greatly troubled, telling them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38b). He has every reason to think first of Himself and the heavy burden He is already beginning to carry, but first He urges His disciples to pray. He feels for them, knowing the pain and heartache they will soon suffer.

He knows Satan will use the coming events to press them sorely, to try to pulverize their faith. Already with the Lord’s Supper, the prediction of Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial this very night should have made it clear to the disciples that a difficult trial was looming before them. They should have been on their knees in prayer; instead, the doom and gloom left them weary, and soon they all drifted off to sleep.

In the hour of His greatest need Jesus is left alone by His friends. Like them, we frequently sleep when moments of great danger and temptation are coming toward us. Our Lord also urges us to stay alert and pray.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Amen.


Lent Day 22: CRYING OUT
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:41-42

THE TEXT: And He (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:41-42).

Jesus doesn’t go far from His disciples, about as far as one can throw a stone. Matthew and Mark tell us He brings along three disciples: Peter, James, and John. After strongly encouraging them to keep watch with Him and pray, He withdraws a few paces. This is a burden they cannot share. He has to face it alone with His Father, but still it comforts Him to know they are listening and praying for Him.

Jews normally stood in prayer, but Jesus kneels down, showing tremendous humility, coupled with the weight of the grief bearing down on Him. Immediately, He cries out in pain and distress. Surely, His three closest disciples hear and join in fervent prayer. He pleads with His Father to remove the cup-the physical suffering, the abuse, the pain-but more than anything, the prospect of coming under the wrath of God for the sins of the world. Yet He immediately surrenders His will to His Father, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” He isn’t afraid of death-but dreads the thought of being cut off, forsaken by His Father, and suffering the terrible wrath of God. Yet He casts aside His own desire, His own will, and in genuine love for His Father, accepts God’s perfect plan as His own.

In our hours of greatest need our prayers often focus on ourselves-but notice how Jesus focuses instead on His Father and what He wants. Again, Jesus casts His own needs and interests aside, embracing His Father’s will-and our desperate need.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in awe and holy fear we listen as You lay Your heart bare before Your Father. Teach us so to pray. Amen.


Lent Day 23: POURED OUT IN PRAYER
Thursday, March 23, 2017

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:43-44

THE TEXT: And there appeared to Him (Jesus) an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:43-44).

At some point in our lives, many of us will face a moment when the doctor says, “There’s nothing more I can do.” You get word that a loved one has died unexpectedly. As the realization sinks in so does hopelessness, shock, and the unrelenting pain of reality. Like Jesus, all we can do is come to our Father on our knees, and pour out our hearts.

The Father has laid a burden on His Son that no human can bear, and even Jesus’ perfect human nature becomes faint under the burden. In tender love and compassion the Father sends an angel from heaven to His dear Son. Through that angel He provides the strength Jesus’ body requires to fulfill its part in accomplishing God’s gracious plan of salvation. Later we will see Jesus’ physical strength give out again as He attempts to carry the cross and collapses under its weight. But for now, strengthened by the angel, Jesus can fully face the dread welling up inside Him.

In agony, He prays even more earnestly, deeply, emotionally than before, and the inner turmoil in His soul pours itself out through His body. Doctors tell us severe mental stress can cause small blood vessels in the skin to burst, mingling blood into the sweat. The physician Luke tells us, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” This was the intense struggle our Savior wrestled through, working to accept as His own His Father’s will to suffer and die for our salvation.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help me never to shrink back from life’s troubles, but to always bring them to You in prayer; as You brought Your needs to Your Father in heaven. Amen.


Lent Day 24: LAST-MINUTE ENCOURAGEMENT
Friday, March 24, 2017

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Luke 22:45-46

THE TEXT: And when He (Jesus) rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:45-46).

Matthew and Mark’s Gospels tell us Jesus’ prayer lasted about an hour-and He repeated it two more times. And each time He went to check on His disciples. He longed for their prayers, their presence, their support. How disheartening is must have been to find them asleep. Instead of rising up in prayer to meet the sorrow that weighed heavy on their spirits, they sunk beneath it in defeated sleep.

Jesus’ exhausting struggle in prayer had prepared Him for the grueling trial to come. Yet in their sleep His disciples left themselves unprepared and vulnerable. He awakens them, urging them to pray so they can overcome the temptation to doubt and fall away from faith when they see Him condemned and executed. They will need to continue to pray in the hours and days to come until they see Jesus’ standing alive before them on Sunday. Though they had failed to be there for Jesus, He is there for them.

When we face difficult trials in life-especially trials of faith-it is easy to grow weary and fatigued. Like the angel He sent to Jesus, God strengthens us through His Word and His gifts of Baptism and Holy Communion. We are empowered to bear up under those burdens, and wrestle our fears, struggles and heartaches. Through prayer God prepares our hearts to embrace His perfect, fatherly will, and to accomplish the amazing things He has planned for our lives here on earth.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, strengthen my faith through the trials I face, and teach me to persistently pray as You did. Then by Your mighty power, glorify Your Name through all I do and say. Amen.


Lent Day 25: CONFRONTING HYPOCRISY WITH LOVE
Saturday, March 25, 2017

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48

THE TEXT: While He (Jesus) was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48).

As Jesus wakens His disciples, a large company of soldiers with torches, lanterns and weapons draws near. The Jewish leaders intend to take no chances, so they bring enough guards and soldiers to prevent any interference when they take Jesus into custody. At their lead is Judas. He has arranged a sign with the soldiers so there will be no confusing Jesus with any of His disciples in the shadows of the garden. “The one I will kiss is the man; seize Him” (Matthew 26:48b).

Jesus points out the betrayer’s heartbreaking hypocrisy, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Judas could have chosen any impersonal way to single out Jesus. Instead, he chooses a kiss, a gesture intended to show affection, kindness and love. Jesus’ gently pricks at Judas’ conscience, trying to lead him to see his horrendous sin.

Judas should melt in tears, but he feels no guilt, no regret-at least not at this moment when Jesus is present to forgive, restore and comfort him. Yet none of us should conclude that Jesus didn’t try hard enough to reach Judas. He washed his feet in the upper room, He shared his meal, and here in the garden He gently called him by name, Judas; and then even called him “friend” (see Matthew 26:50). Jesus was still holding out peace and forgiveness for Judas. It wasn’t too late for Judas; it’s not too late for you and me.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your deep love for Judas is simply amazing, especially when we see how deeply he hurt You. Give me grace to forgive those who cut me to the heart. Amen.