God’s Plan

God’s plan INCLUDED the cross and every step along the way there.

It’s morning now and we are continuing our walk with Jesus as He follows His Father’s plan. This is the hardest day in history but it also brings the greatest gift. Jesus’ life for mine according to the God’s ultimate plan.

When we began our Passion Week progression I stated that one of my premises was a Wednesday crucifixion. We haven’t adhered to any timeline but followed the events as they unfolded. Today we will walk with Jesus on His last earthly journey this side of the grave. I don’t believe it matters to Him which day we reflect on His amazing gift to us, so long as we acknowledge and accept the work He did. Read more »

An Emotional Night

Take control of them and choose wisely which way you should go.

WARNING: Long read ahead!

We are walking through the last evening with Jesus, this side of the grave. This night is jam packed full of emotion. It is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to peek under the surface and see what is driving the different participants.

Because this night is so complex and the participants widely varied, I want to break it down by event and then by participant. We will NOT be able to look at ALL the participants but I will try to touch on several during each different event. I’m going to confine our time to the hours of the night which will take us from the dinner table to Jesus’ “trial” before Caiaphas. We will have to back up a couple of steps to find motivations in some of our participants though. Read more »

A Place at the Table

ALL seats are reserved for family of the Groom. Are you a family member?

We have come to Jesus’ last meal with His disciples. He has asked His Father to let Him eat this special meal with His disciples, one last time.

Luke tells us that Jesus wanted one last Passover with His disciples before going to the cross. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14). God took this request seriously and set it up LONG before this night.

I don’t know if we discussed this already but I feel drawn to it again. The Jewish calendar relies on the moon. The new month always begins on the first day of the new moon is visible. There weren’t calendars printed that you picked up at the store, and as for lunar phases. The new month had to be verified and decreed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Communication was not always perfect either when you got further away from Jerusalem. So not all calendars were synchronized.

The Jewish Calendar

The short history is that the Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar. Every Jewish month begins with the earliest visibility of the moon at the start of its 29.5-day cycle. In the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the new month was to be declared by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Israel, based on if and when witnesses testified to having seen the crescent moon. If the new crescent moon was seen (by two witnesses) on the 30th night of a month’s cycle, then upon accepting their testimony the Sanhedrin would declare that day (the 30th) as the 1st of the new month. If there were no sightings of the new moon on the 30th night of a month’s cycle, the 30th day would be treated as the last day of the month, and the 1st of the new month would begin the following night (day 31 of the last cycle).

Jews living far from the land of Israel would not be aware which day had been declared the 1st of the new month in time to know which day would the 15th—when the holidays of Passover and Sukkot begin. In order not to miss the correct day, the distant exiles observed the holiday on the two days that could possibly be the 15th of the month.

God allowed this “exception” in the calendar issue and I believe it was with Jesus’ dinner plans in mind. Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal together on the first night while the “sanctioned” celebration was the next night. This also allowed Jesus’ death to be in timing with the Passover Lamb’s sacrifice.

So why did Jesus want one last Passover with His disciples? He could have easily taught all the lesson He did that night during other dinners. He could have washed His disciples’ feet at any time. He confronted their arguments on who was the greatest on multiple occasions. He could also have chosen another night to institute what we celebrate as communion. So why wait? What was the difference?

First of all, Jesus KNEW it was their last meal together and He wanted it to be special. “Father, can You allow Me one special meal with the guys? One that they will never forget.” This meal and together time would hit on ALL the important aspects of being His follower in demonstrable ways. He wouldn’t just tell them to be servants; He would become their servant instead. He wouldn’t simply tell them again that He was going to die; He would hand them “pieces of Himself” instead. He would instill in them living memories that, once viewed, would spring up in their hearts and testify of Him for the rest of their lives.

Secondly, Passover held the significance of His sacrifice. He was their Redeemer. His was the blood that would protect them from eternal death. He was ALL that Passover embodied. The four cups of wine used during this celebration are representative of: 1) “I will take you out…; 2) “I will save you…; 3) “I will redeem you…; and 4) “I will take you as a nation…

Jesus did ALL of these. He took us out of the world. He removed us from the pit of sin. He saved us by giving His life a ransom for us. He paid the price to redeem us from Satan. And He makes us one for His Kingdom; His nation.

There is a fifth cup that is set out during the meal for Elijah. This cup is for the Messiah. I’m wondering if this is the cup Jesus used to represent His blood. Is this the cup Jesus instructed His disciples to drink from in remembrance of Him? Maybe that is the cup Jesus refers to drinking when God’s Kingdom comes.

I was looking through the accounts of that night from our gospel storytellers and noticed that in Luke we are told that Judas also partook of that special cup. It amazes me how deeply disguised Judas was in their ranks. Jesus knew but He didn’t point His finger at him and scream, “BETRAYER!” He treated Judas to exactly the same lessons and reminders that He gave to the rest of His disciples. He washed Judas’ feet. He dipped bread with him. He served him His body and blood. He did EVERYTHING for Judas, including dying for him. But Judas threw it all back at Him.

This didn’t make Jesus love Judas any less. He still set a place for him at the table, KNOWING what was to come. He sets that same place at the table for EACH of us. Even when we come in pretending to be one of His, He welcomes us. He teaches all who come. He gives of Himself freely. He wants all who are weary to come and receive from Him. I’m glad Jesus had one more night to say “Come and dine with Me.”

BUT God’s table is a little different. He welcomes all who come IN HIS SON’S NAME. He opens His arms to all who ARE DRESSED FOR THE WEDDING. The “dress code” includes being washed and covered by Jesus’ blood. Without accepting His sacrifice that night YOU exclude yourself from God’s table.

Father God, please don’t let me sound like I have it all figured out. I pray I’m following where You lead in our time together. I honestly believe that I won’t know the full story until Jesus shares it with me personally. I’m looking forward to that day! I wonder if it will be over dinner. Will He break the bread and pass it to each of us at the wedding feast?

I bet the disciples there that night with Jesus never looked at a piece of bread and cup of wine the same again. It is exciting that that very act is what clued the two disciples in Emmaus in to Who they were sharing their meal with. That Passover meal changed lives forever. Even more than the first one did. Both impacted lives far in the future but the last one with Jesus set the stage for the best dinner yet; the one I will eat with You! Thank You for setting a place for me!

Thank You Jesus for taking the time for “one last meal.” Thank You Father for setting it up so Jesus could eat His meal and be the sacrifice too. Talk about advance planning!

Eyes On The Prize

This is really where Mary was kneeling that night. In a storm tossed life, clinging to Jesus’ love.

This is day three in our walk through Passion Week. Today I want to look as a special dinner with Jesus. This would be where He was anointed for His death.

This story is told by all four of our gospel writers. Luke’s telling of this story may be from a different encounter than the others share. The reason I say this is because the other three mention Jesus’ burial and Judas’ heart. Luke focuses more on the heart of the woman and of the Pharisee observing this act of love. Also the woman in Luke’s story was “a sinful woman” while the other three accounts make no mention of her past. John identifies this woman for us and gives us an exact date this happened too. He identifies her as Mary, the brother of Lazarus and this anointing took place six days before Passover.

Regardless if the accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are one event or two, what I want to look at holds true for all accounts. I want to look at where the focus was for the people in the room. What did they set their eyes on? And why were they looking at what they were. Read more »

A Clean House

Jesus “cleans house” with gusto! “This is my Father’s house and it WILL be HOLY!” Is my “temple” clean?

When reading the gospels accounts of Jesus’ final days with His disciples Mark tries the hardest to put Jesus’ activities in specific date order. I’m not really sure why this is but his daily divisions are troubling to me. I’m trying to reconcile his timeline with the Wednesday crucifixion for the dividing day for the women to prepare the spices. I can’t because I’m NOT a scholar. I also find it interesting that those who do agree with the Wednesday crucifixion haven’t seen fit to put out a “Holy Week timeline” showing events from that point of view. I am NOT qualified to present one either and will not attempt to do so in our study time. Instead I will choose “exciting events” during Jesus’ time in Jerusalem that final Passover to highlight during our study this week.

We looked at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in our last time together. Now I want to look at Jesus’ preparation of the city to receive what God had in store. This would be His cleansing of the temple. We see this event recorded in at least Matthew, Mark and Luke. John includes this event too but scholars debate whether this one was enacted on a previous Passover or if it is the same one the other three gospel writers share with us. Honestly, we don’t know and it could be either way. John uses VERY LITTLE chronology in his presentation of Jesus’ story.

Matthew and Luke appear to have Jesus cleansing the temple on the same day He arrived for the week. Mark has Jesus visit the temple on the first day but not clean it out. He saves that for the next day. I don’t believe the “date” is as important as the “act.”

Cleaning the temple right away makes a LOT of sense to me. He was just hailed by the masses as King. His demonstration of cleaning the temple for God’s special work would naturally flow with the authority the “crowd” bestowed on Him. Talk about a way to get them on your side! Disrupt the dishonest procedures that are robbing the people.

So let’s look at His “clean-up efforts.” Jesus’ accomplished several things by cleaning the temple. The first was establishing His zeal for His Father. He didn’t go to the camel races and stop the betting happening there. He didn’t get indignant about the condition of the roads or those begging by the roadside. He went after those making a mockery of His Father’s house and His Father’s laws. He put an immediate stop to the money changers activities and those who sold sacrificial animals. Jesus removed the offensive items from God’s house. Mark tells us that He wouldn’t even let anyone carry anything through the temple. I’m assuming that means He wouldn’t let people with business on another area carry their wares through the temple as a shortcut. He allowed only those who were there to worship God to enter.

The second thing He accomplished was getting the people’s interest and support. This was supposed to be a time for the people to bring their best gifts to God. But these robbers were standing in their way. Nothing they brought was good enough and they were expecting to be “fleeced” by those in charge. Jesus saved them a WHOLE LOT of money by removing the thieves at the gate. The people were happy to see the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals thrown out. Now their best could actually make it to the priests. He removed the corrupt intermediaries and opened access to the people. I’m sure they were grateful for His work.

The third thing it did was to enrage the religious leaders. They might not have been the ones manning the stalls but they certainly were the ones who granted permission to those who were. Jesus told them that their way of deciding who got “entrance” into the temple was over. At least for now, Jesus wouldn’t let them decide the “gatekeepers” based on who lined their pockets. “How dare Jesus question our authority! Who does He think He is anyway?!”

I wonder if the next day’s “gatekeepers” were actually doing the job God called for. Did the “robbers” return or did they clean up their act for the rest of the week? Jesus was in the temple daily. Did His actions impact them enough to keep at least this Passover season holy? Did His presence impact the others coming to the temple to come with a right attitude? Was His zeal for God catching? Maybe even for just a day?

Lord Jesus, is my heart clean? Are the “moneychangers” barring the way between You and me? I want to come to You with ONE purpose; to spend time with You in fellowship. I don’t want to come to “generate readership” or impress others. I want our time to be personal and meaningful. Forgive me for coming with wrong motives! Please clean my “temple.” Don’t let anything separate us!

On another issue Jesus, help Steve heal from his surgery. Take his pain away. Help me to be understanding when he lashes out in pain. I know he is hurting and what he wants is simply to stop the pain. Help me know HOW to help him too. I want to use ways to move him that don’t aggravate the pain OR put either of us in danger. Show me how to make him comfortable as he heals. Thank You for getting us through surgery easily and for even bringing this opportunity to be out of constant pain to us. Get him to the real point of relief SOON Lord Jesus. Heal his body and calm his spirit! Thank You for caring about every aspect of our lives!