Daily Devotionals March 1-5

Lent Day 1: A New Passover 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the door frame. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the door frame and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.  “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants.” Exodus 12:21-24

THE TEXT: “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover”. Luke 22:1

The backdrop for our Lenten journey is the Jewish Passover. Long before Jesus’ day this Jewish festival enjoyed a rich, long history, dating back to the time of the Exodus when God delivered His people Israel from slavery in Egypt. The Passover was the tenth and final plague God brought upon Egypt. Since Egypt’s leader, Pharaoh, had stubbornly refused to obey His command to free the Israelites, at midnight God would send a destroying angel to pass throughout the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn children, including Pharaoh’s own heir. But in love, God provided a way to escape this devastating plague. A lamb could be slain in place of the firstborn and its blood spread over the door frame of the house. When the angel of death reached a blood-marked house, God would command it to pass over and leave the firstborn unharmed. Now we join Jesus as He prepares to celebrate His last Passover festival. While reminding His followers of that first great deliverance, He prepares to accomplish an even greater deliverance by sacrificing Himself and shedding His own blood on the cross of Calvary. All who believe on Him are marked by His blood. Then on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns to raise the dead, He will command the angel of death to pass over all believers who are marked in His blood by faith.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Passover Lamb of God, thank You for offering Your own body and blood to deliver us from the angel of death. During this Lenten season deepen my appreciation for Your great sacrifice that I may be so thankful I won’t be able keep the glorious news to myself. Amen.

Lent Day 2: Hard But Loving Words

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” John 12:12-19

THE TEXT: “And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death, for they feared the people” Luke 22:2

People don’t take too kindly to being told they are wrong-not today and not in Jesus’ day either. When someone confronts our decisions-or even worse, challenges the way we have chosen to live our lives-we are tempted to write him off as narrow-minded and intolerant. It’s fine for him to believe what he thinks is right, but he should leave me free to believe and live the way I think is right. The only trouble with that is we don’t get to decide what’s right and wrong: God does. For many months Jesus has been confronting the Jewish religious authorities. They cling to a religion of works: human rules and traditions by which they believe they earn blessings in this life and eternal life with God afterward. But Jesus knows better. He knows His Father in heaven is holy and perfect. God cannot simply overlook the wrongs we do. That would make Him unjust. But even though the Father is just and holy, He is also filled with grace, love and mercy. That is why He sent His own Son, Jesus, to save us. But the Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus-and they are pushing back hard against Him. Even so, Jesus won’t go away. He keeps coming back again and again when all they want is to be left alone. So now this huge confrontation is looming. Jesus cares too much to leave the Jewish authorities in darkness. So He shows them their error by teaching them God’s truth. But His words don’t sit well with them. They reach the conclusion that He must be silenced.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You for caring enough about me to show me my failings and how to be right with my God by confessing my sins and trusting in You as my Savior. Amen.

Lent Day 3: Fully Aware

Friday, March 3, 2017

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you? So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16

THE TEXT: Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them (Luke 22:3-4).

The religious authorities desperately want to get rid of Jesus, but the huge swell of Passover pilgrims that fill the temple courts are hanging on His every word. If they take any action against Jesus, the crowds will rally to His defense. So they concede they will have to wait until the Passover is finished and the crowds return to their homes (see Matthew 26:5). For the chief priests this is extremely frustrating-and dangerous. Jesus is completely beyond their control. If He steps forward during the Passover, claims Himself King, and begins a rebellion, they will be powerless to stop it, or to control the Roman military response to it. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a possible solution appears. One member of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, Judas, comes to them offering to deliver Jesus to them. Judas’ faith and love for Jesus has dried up, choked out by his lust for money (see John 12:4-6). The Jewish leaders are overjoyed, but cautious. They describe the conditions they are looking for: a time when Jesus is in the city, yet separated from the crowds. But even while they conspire together behind closed doors, Judas and the chief priests have no idea that Jesus is well aware of everything; He knew it from the start. We might expect Jesus to be furious and vindictive; instead, He loves Judas. He prepares to reach out to this lost disciple in every way He can, trying to touch his heart, prick his conscience, and bring him back to faith.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your love is amazing. Where most of us would have been furious at Judas’ plotting, Your chief concern was bringing him back. Give me a heart that loves my enemy and seeks to share Your salvation. Amen.

Lent Day 4: Waiting for The Perfect Moment

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Mark 14:1-11

THE TEXT: And (the chief priests and officers) were glad, and agreed to give (Judas) money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of a crowd (Luke 22:5-6).

The priests were glad to have the possibility of eliminating Jesus before the Passover-before He could start a revolt against Rome. Who better than an insider to spy on Jesus and find the perfect opportunity to spring their trap? They agreed to the price of thirty pieces of silver and considered it a bargain. The Jewish leaders would no doubt have been willing to spend far more to remove Jesus from the picture. So Judas began watching and waiting. He needed an opportunity to betray Jesus when He was separated from the crowd, and thus vulnerable. Judas held his secret close in his heart. None of the other disciples had a clue. He went on acting the part of a friend-and none were the wiser. But Jesus knew. He’d known it from the day He first chose Judas. He’d even dropped hints here and there (see John 6:63-64, 70-71), along the way. He could easily use this knowledge to avoid the situation for which Judas was watching. He could even use it against Judas, turn the tables, and betray him to the other 11. But Jesus will only use it for Judas’ benefit. He is waiting for that moment when He can make the biggest impact, reveal the devilish nature of this sin, and hopefully turn Judas back and save him. In the meantime, He lets Judas keeps watching for his opportunity. The betrayer quickly learns it is not as easy to hand Jesus over as he had first thought.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, nothing takes You by surprise. Thank You for working so hard to call us to repentance and salvation. Amen.

Lent Day 5: A Pivotal Day

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:1-15

THE TEXT: Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. (Luke 22:7).

The day has come. The Jewish leaders and all the people see this as just another remembrance pointing back to that first great Passover in Egypt. But Jesus is aware that all human history hangs on this pivotal day. For this is the day when God’s own Passover Lamb will be sacrificed. His blood will not save the Israelites from slavery, or the firstborn from physical death. His death will deliver every man, woman and child who has ever lived, or will ever live, from slavery to sin, and from everlasting death in hell. He makes that sacrifice for all people-freely offering forgiveness to all people, to you and to me. But on Judgment Day the angel of death will only pass over those of us who, by faith, are marked in the blood of God’s Son. Jesus’ holy angels will separate believers from unbelievers, and cast all unbelievers into the eternal fire of hell. Our reading from Hebrews today speaks about what Jesus will accomplish through His suffering and death on the cross. Jesus will bring His own blood into His Father’s presence in heaven, and by that blood cleanse us from all our sins. That is the depth of Jesus’ love for you and me. That is why He was willing to become human, to be born in Bethlehem’s lowly manger. It’s why He will allow Himself to be betrayed, beaten, slapped, punched, flogged and crucified. By His sacrifice and His shed blood we are forever forgiven and we are free.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You came to take our sins upon Yourself and bear the punishment of God in our place. Thank You for that great sacrifice. Now give us courage and true concern for those dying around us so that we may share Your victory with everyone You bring into our lives. Amen.