Overcoming the Violent Tyranny of Death – John 11:17-44

In John’s narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, a gnawing statement surfaces not once, twice, but three times. “Jesus, if you’d been here, this would not have happened!” Couldn’t Jesus have prevented the death of his friend, Lazarus? The neighbors mumble: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Could he not have prevented all this horrible pain and heartache we see in front of us? Mary and Martha both lament Jesus’ delay in coming to heal their brother.

Dios Escondido! Literally, “A Hidden God!” At times God does seems so hidden that it appears that He doesn’t care at all. The world seems so inhospitable. Despair is a natural result of divine hiddenness. What are you presently enduring and you are wondering why God seems hidden… silent to your cry for help?

In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we notice three things about Jesus: We have a Savior who challenges our faith, who shares our grief, and who triumphs over the violent tyranny of death!

  • A Savior who challenges our faith (vv.17-27)

How does he challenge Mary and Martha’s faith? Two primary ways. Jesus initially appears indifferent and unconcerned about the violent tyranny of death.

He challenges their faith by His scandalous delay… (vv.15 and 40).  It leads to greater blessing. “I was not there so that you may believe.” “To see the glory of God”

He challenges their faith by His outrageous claim (v.25-26). That the life that comes through believing in Christ is not interrupted by physical death.

Two groups of believers are mentioned here.

First, “He who believes in me, though he dies…” Here Jesus refers to those who have already died. What about those who have died, those whose bodies are now dissolving in the dust? All of us have relatives and dear ones who are in that category. This is a word of hope addressed to those left behind: “He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.”

D. L. Moody once said, “One day you will hear that D. L. Moody of Northfield, Massachusetts is dead. Don’t you believe it! In that day I will be more alive than I have ever been before.” That is what Jesus is saying here: “Though he dies [death seizes someone you love], if he believes in me, yet shall he be living.” What a hope that brings!

Then the second group: “Whoever lives and believes in me…” That is talking about us. We are not dead; we have not yet passed from this earthly scene; what about our future? The word of Jesus to us is, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Actually the Greek phrasing here is very strong. It literally says, “He will never, ever die forever.” He will pass from this scene, yes, through what to all appearances looks like death, but there will be no darkness, no loneliness, no separation; he will pass immediately into life.

Why does Jesus do this? – Two purposes… The stated purpose of Lazarus’ sickness – to reveal God’s glory (vv.4, 40). God’s glory is thus seen in his victory over death–indeed, it is “possible only through death–first the death of Lazarus, and then the death of Jesus himself!”

To stimulate faith in His followers – Martha’s confession (vv.14, 27)

What do I need to confess?  Our tendency to doubt and challenge Jesus and His plans and ways.  “If you would have been here, this would not have happened.”  Remember the lament of Frodo in the Lord of the Rings:  “I wish the ring had never come to me.”

  • A Savior who shares our grief (vv.32-37).

Jesus rails against the violent tyranny of death and grieves with his friends. He groans because “the violent tyranny of death which had to be overcome stands before His eyes” (Calvin 1959:13).

How does Jesus grieve?  Jesus’ grieves like we grieve. He is  simultaneously mad and sad.Jesus immersed himself in the grief that death brings.

Notice his sharp anger…Verse 33.  He was “deeply moved in spirit” is a word that is associated with a sense of indignation, of anger. It is a word that the Greeks used to describe a horse snorting with anger. Jesus is indignant, he is moved with anger.

See his profound grief.  Verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” However, there surely is a connection between 11:35 (“Jesus wept – burst into tears”) and Rev. 7:17 (“God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes”): because of his tears ours shall be wiped away.

Why?  He is angry at death and saddened with grief. In both cases the reason is the same, namely, his love for his friends. The love of God for us and his wrath toward that which corrupts and destroys us are two sides of a single coin.

He had come for the express purpose of turning their tears into joy.  He wept in sympathy for human sorrow.  He groaned as he beheld the evidences of death’s grim power.  See how he loved him.” I think they misunderstood. It is true Jesus loved Lazarus, but he is not weeping for that. He knows he is on his way to raise him from the dead. He knows that in a few minutes this whole weeping crowd will be transformed into rejoicing people who can hardly believe what has happened; and that Mary and Martha are going to have their dear brother back again in their arms. No, he knows that. He is weeping because he is sharing their heartache.

Can there be anything more beautifully descriptive of the nature of our God than this? He sympathizes with us. It is a precious thing to have someone sympathize with us.

Where do you go in the midst of your pain and grief? In coming to Jesus in the midst of suffering, the sisters provide a model for all believers.

What is the traditional approach to dealing with grief? Stoic, bite your upper lip.  Show no emotions.  What is the liberal approach to dealing with death and grief? It’s a natural thing… the circle of life.  Flippant, casual attitude…NO! Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that death is the last enemy that will be destroyed.

What are we to do when our friends and family experience grief like Mary and Martha? Move humbly into the situation not with answers but with God’s presence and with your prayers. Weep with those who weep. Provide a ministry of tears!

He does not sympathize as a spectator who is powerless to do anything to reverse the situation. “Christ does not come to the grave as an idle spectator, but like a agitated wrestler preparing for a contest because the violent tyranny of death which He had to overcome stands before His eyes” (Calvin 1959:13)

  • Our Savior triumphs over the violent tyranny of death by restoring life (v.38-44). He restores our lives.

We read in verse 43: “Jesus called in a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!” At the sound of that voice, the king of terrors at once yielded up his lawful captive, and the insatiable grave gave up its prey. At once “He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes.”

A life which knows no death.  John 8:51 – Anyone who keeps my word will never see death.  He tasted death for us (Hebrews 2:9).

The Irony –  Jesus is the one who gives life. The irony, of course, is that he gives life by giving up his own life on the cross. A further irony is that by giving life to Lazarus, Jesus sets in motion his own death (See John 12)

  • How shall we now live?  So what?

Has what happened to Lazarus physically, happened to you spiritually?  John 5:25 – “An hour is coming and now is…when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear (in faith) will live.”

Have you come to a point where you have and are trusting in Jesus as your resurrection and as your life?  If you do, you will receive the life that is no longer subject to the power of death.  The life that comes through believing in Jesus is not interrupted by physical death.

Faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrection and the life brings freedom from fear, especially our fear of death (cf. Heb 2:14-15). The call to loose Lazarus and let him go picks up “the biblical imagery of `loosing’ for victory over death and the powers of evil.  As such, this story speaks to all Christians bound by the fear of death and, on another level, bound by various sins. The Christian is in union with the one who himself is resurrection and life and if the Son will unloose you (set you free) you will be free indeed!

Prayer: O Father, may your salvation surround us who live and walk under the shadow of death. Draw near to your dying children. By simple faith in your undying grace may they have peace in the hour of their departing. Draw near to those caught up in the rawness of a new grief. Enable them to weep well, free from bitterness or despair.

Empower by Your Spirit all who care for the dying; in hospitals or at home, in a hospice or on a battlefield; give them your quiet strength. Be close to those who fight against untimely death – those who spend their days working for the elimination of cancer, AIDS, and other diseases; the carnage on our highways, and the butchery of warfare. Empower all of Your preachers of the gospel of grace and peace. By your tireless Spirit, may inadequate words take flesh and become powerful agents in helping people to begin living eternal life now. Through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!

Prayer of Supplication and Confession – Easter Sunday

O Mighty Father, the tomb calls forth my adoring wonder,
for it is empty and Christ is risen!
Grant me to be crucified with Christ
that I may live a new life,
for I wish to be dead and buried to sin,
to selfishness, to the world;
that I might not hear the voice of the charmer and be seduced by his lusts.
Purge me from selfishness, pride, the fear of man,
and the desire to be highly esteemed by others.
Grant me to stand with my dying Savior,
to be content to be rejected, and to be willing to hold to unpopular truths.
Grant me more and more of His resurrection life:
may it rule me, may I walk in its power,
and be strengthened through its influence,
through Jesus Christ my resurrected and ascended Lord! Amen.

Learning Faith in a Risen Savior from a Doubter like Me

In First Person: Doubting Thomas is synonymous with one who refuses to believe something without direct, personal evidence. Doubting Thomas now serves as a succinct way to describe a skeptic. I’m sad about that because I am Doubting Thomas. My name is Aramaic and it means twin. You might read about me in the New Testament and hear my Greek name – Didymus. Some people call me the Great Apostle to the Parthenians or the Missionary to India, but honestly I would rather be called Doubting Thomas. It reminds me of God’s amazing and sovereign grace in stooping to rescue me and grant saving faith to a doubter like myself. May I tell you a bit of my story.

I grew up a commercial fisherman around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, a carpenter turned preacher from Nazareth, came to Capernaum and challenged me and several of my friends to become His disciples. For three years I followed – I was a loyal, outspoken, courageous and oftentimes a rather pessimistic follower of Jesus, but nonetheless I was closely attached to Jesus who loved me in spite of myself.

DOUBTING THOMAS: The day my world fell apart.

We had just finished a very moving Passover seder and we retreated to our normal place for evening prayer – the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s usually a very quite, peaceful place. Not that night. All of sudden there were torches, swords, and soldiers. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss. The soldiers grabbed Jesus and whisked him away. Fear overcame me and I fled trying to save my skin. Our worst nightmares became reality on Friday. I watched at a distance as they spiked Jesus to a cross on the Roman killing grounds of Golgotha . As Jesus’ life drained away, so did all of my hopes and dreams. Maybe some of you here today have personally experienced the shock into which intense grief plummets you, like it did me on that Friday long ago. The next days are a blur. On Sunday I was so disillusioned and full of despair that I just couldn’t bring myself to gather with my friends for our evening meal.

Monday morning, the disciples came barreling into my house: “Thomas, we were in the upper room. We locked the doors for protection. Yet, all of a sudden, Jesus appeared saying ‘Peace, Shalom.’ Then he showed us his hands. There were scars where the nails had been. He pulled back his tunic and showed us where the spear penetrated his side. But he wasn’t weak or sick or dying. He was alive. Jesus is risen from the dead!”

“I don’t believe it.” “I don’t believe a word of it. You’re hallucinating and seeing only what you want to see. Jesus is dead. I saw him die. Guys, he’s dead, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you’ll be. Give it up!” Peter pleaded with me. “Thomas, I saw him myself, I tell you, and he was as real as you are!”

With an edgy, icy, cynical, angry, unbelieving tone:  I emphatically said: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” But over the next week my anger, despair, and disillusionment subsided. My life was about the change in an incredible way.

Transition: I was on the road to a despairing, cynical unbelief but Jesus rescued me. Let me tell you about the night when Jesus challenged me to “stop becoming an unbeliever and become a believer.”

THOMAS THE BELIEVER: The day my life changed forever. – It was Sunday night – one week after Jesus’ purported resurrection. I was eating with my friends in the same locked room. Suddenly, Jesus stood among us and greeted us, “Shalom, peace be with you.”

All the blood drained from my face. For a minute I thought I was going to faint. Jesus turned to me and spoke without any hint of ill will or frustration, “Put your finger here, see my hands.” Jesus holds out his scarred hands for me to examine. I initially recoil and step back. Jesus begins to open his outer garment and says, “Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Then, Jesus reaches out and put a hand on my shoulder. Then all I could do was fall on my knees and proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

What are the practical Implications from my life? What can you learn from a doubter like me? 

What was it about Jesus that dissolved my doubts into a living, vibrant faith in my Lord? Basically five things: What I saw, what I heard, what I said, what I didn’t do and what I did.

WHAT I SAW – Oh the remarkable evidence that our Lord supplied us of His resurrection. He graciously appealed to our senses. He showed us “His hands and His side.” He exhorted us to see and test that he had a real body and was not just a disembodied spirit. “Handle Me and see,” were His words, — a spirit has not flesh and bone, as you see Me have.”

WHAT I HEARD – The way He spoke to us upon His resurrection. “Peace” and not blame—“peace” and not fault-finding—“peace” and not rebuke–was the first word which I heard from my Master’s lips after His resurrection. He could have rebuked me sharply, but he dealt very gently with me. My life is a testimony to how kind and merciful Christ is to those who doubt. Jesus bears with the infirmities of all His people. How do you respond to people when their faith is feeble and their love is cold?

Remember my case and be compassionate and tender. Our Lord has many weak children in His family, many dull pupils in His school, many raw soldiers in His army, many lame sheep in His flock. Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away. Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brothers.

Secondly, it was absolutely startling to hear Jesus quote my very words. Jesus challenged me to take the test that I had suggested.

WHAT I SAID.  Don’t miss the lesson I learned that day: Jesus did not rebuke me or prohibit me from calling him God.  For me, the bodily resurrection of Jesus proved His divinity. The Apostle Paul would say to you this day of resurrection: Christ Jesus… “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”

Some claim that my confession of faith is the greatest recorded in the Bible. However, you need to know that my confession was weak in that it depended on sight. Remember Jesus words to me, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Faith which results from seeing is good; but faith which results from hearing is more excellent. Blessing is promised to those who come to faith without the aid of sight. The Apostle Peter writes in I Peter 1:8-9: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Have you personally believed? Have you come to a place in your life where you call Jesus your Lord and your God? Faith is not taking a blind leap in the dark. I come to you this morning as an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus. My own skepticism and unbelief ought to serve as testimony that the resurrection of Jesus was not an illusion induced by wishful thinking. IT HAPPENED.

Why does it matter? We daily rest our sinful souls on Christ alone with confidence, as one who is perfect man as well as perfect God. He is man, and therefore can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is God, and therefore is “able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him.” Those of you who look to Jesus by faith, and can say with me, “My Lord and my God” have no cause for fear in this life or the next.

WHAT I DIDN’T DO. I was absent the first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, and consequently I missed a blessing. Mark well how much Christians may lose by not regularly attending the public assemblies of God’s people. I was shut out in the cold chill of unbelief, while others were warmed and filled with an encounter with the resurrected, living Christ.

We shall all do well to remember the charge of the Apostle Paul—to not “Forsake our own assembling together, as is the manner of some.” (Heb. 10:25.) The very assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away, may be the very gathering that would have cheered, established, and relieved our burdened hearts. My life stands as a testimony to this fact!

WHAT I DID. I WENT OUT FOR THE SAKE OF HIS NAME. The inspiring commission which our Lord conferred upon us. When you’ve got good news, you’ve gotta tell somebody. We heeded Jesus’ last command – to make disciples of all ethnic groups. By God’s grace, I first went to reach the Parthenians – most notably the present-day countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Ultimately, I was sent to the great country of India. In 52 AD, I began preaching Christ, establishing churches, and winning to Christ the Brahmins of India. Many have since followed in my train: William Carey, the father of Modern missions heeded God’s call to India and said: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”, Francis Xavier “Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.” – Henry Martyn – “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”, and Amy Carmichael – “You can give without loving. But you cannot love without giving.”

Jesus had told us not to be afraid of those who can kill the body. For me personally, My day came to hold onto this promise of His. It was off the east coast of India. In the year 72 AD near present-day Madras, I was thrown into a pit, then pierced through with a spear thrown by a Brahmin. You say, wow what a sacrifice!

Have you seen your hopes and dreams destroyed lately? Are you being tempted to doubt God’s provision, God’s goodness and God’s plan? Take a cue from my life:

I was a bruised reed that Jesus didn’t break. He snatched me from the fires of despair and unbelief. He wants to do the same for you!

Holy Week Worship Services

Here are several worship services that we have offered during Holy Week.

Palm Sunday Worship Servicehttp://www.box.net/shared/meuhlgyx82

Messianic Passover Sederhttp://www.box.net/shared/hg219v3srs

Good Friday Worship Service – http://www.box.net/shared/yqd2e5yyt2

Resurrection Sunday Worship Service – http://www.box.net/shared/vufzp8ne68

Consider and Avoid the Snares of Death this Easter

What’s it like to be caught in a death trap? To be tricked and ensnared by a supposed gift? Ammi Ortiz, the 16 year old son of a Messianic Jewish pastor, was seriously wounded by a basket delivered to his family’s doorsteps with a simple greeting “Happy Purim!” When he opened it, it blew up in his face. It was a bomb designed to kill and maim.  It was a snare that was designed to extinguish life.

How ironic that this happened during the Feast of Purim which celebrates the preservation of life in the book of Esther in the OT. The deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s plot to annihilate them. Ammi’s family lives in the town of Ariel for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Yeshua.

We may not face physical death traps like missionaries such as the Ortiz family, but along life’s journey we do encounter spiritual snares that lead to death. According to the book of Proverbs, what are they? And, secondly, how are we rescued from them?

What are the snares of death? What I’m talking about here is not necessarily a premature death, or even a physical death, but a death-like existence. Death is an entire realm that is in constant conflict with life. Derek Kidner puts it best: “You can stray into death’s territory and find yourself among its citizens long before you ever quit this earth” (p. 56).  They are many snares. We all have a need to be turned from mortal perils.

Two key Proverbs… 13:14 – The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. 14:27 – The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

Word picture: Death is compared to a hunter of birds of prey. It conceals its traps to capture and kill the unsuspecting.

A snare is a type of trap. According to the book of Proverbs, there are multiple death traps in this journey called life! These snares can totally disrupt our relationship with the Lord who is the source of life and bring about death which is a severance from the fullness of life that comes from a relationship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ.

What are some of these snares?

Choosing the wrong friends. Proverbs 13:20 He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. The selection of the wrong friends and work associates can ruin you.

A biblical character who chose the wrong friends and suffered for it – Rehoboam was the son of one of the writers of Proverbs – King Solomon. Perhaps no other king in history inherited as much as Rehoboam. His father spent his 40-year reign in Israel by building extensively. Rehoboam rejected the sages’ advice and sought counsel from the friends with whom he had grown up. His epitaph – “And he (Rehoboam) did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD.” (II Chronicles 12:14)

Immorality – Loving the wrong woman/man. A relationship with an immoral woman leads a man into a death-like existence.

Loving the wrong woman/man leads us into death’s territory before we die. Proverbs 2:18 – For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. Proverbs 5:5 – Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. Proverbs 7:27 – Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

Do you doubt that this is one of the snares of death? Go ask Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor whose extramarital encounter caused him to lose almost everything for which he had worked. Ask King David about the price he paid for his treacherous act of adultery with Bathsheba.

Inordinate desires for wealth will lead us into death’s territory before we die. The love of money has mercilessly destroyed many people.

Key Scriptures:

Proverbs 17:1 – Better a dry morsel with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.

Proverbs 18:11 – The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.

Money has a way of supplanting one’s trust in the Lord.  We tend to cling to our possessions for security and significance. When we do so, we live foolishly in the realm of death. “You, O man of God, flee these things.” (1 Tim. 6:9-11)

Money is so incredibly limited in what it can do. “It can build a house, but not a home; it can put food on a table, but not fellowship around it; it can give a woman fur and jewelry, but not the love she really wants” (Bruce Waltke, p. 103).

The Movie – The Ultimate Gift – starring James Garner who play the billionaire tychoon Red Stevens. He dies and the vultures he calls his family circle greedily maneuver to collect their portion of estate. This movie hammers the theme that money, the love of it and the ease it provide, often ruins a family.

Biblical Example: Judas was religious for the money bag for he coveted what was in it. It doomed him to destruction.

Withholding discipline from defiant, rebellious children leads us and them into death’s territory.

Proverbs 23:13-14 – Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. It is cruel to withhold discipline from defiant children. A father is charged to deliver his son from death by timely discipline.

Eli’s sons – Hophni and Phinehas… (1 Samuel 2) The Lord put them to death. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest…(v.35).

How are we delivered from these snares? There are multiple death-dealing snares, but there is one fountain of life – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ rescues us from the snares of death to experience His resurrection life and immortality.

Key verse: Proverbs 14:32 – When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.

The wise man of Proverbs saw beyond this dying world; and caught the sunbeams of glory “brought to light by the Gospel!” Even from the book of Proverbs, we see that death does not have the last word.

Our Savior has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” The gospel of Jesus Christ delivers us “from the snares/traps of the devil, who takes men captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26)

Thus, what is God calling us to do this Easter? Two things: Receive God’s gift and pursue God’s path!

A GIFT –  Receive the gift of righteousness that delivers us from death and its snares… physical, spiritual, and eternal death.

What is it that delivers us from death and its snares? This wisdom writer has one word for us – righteousness!

Proverbs 10:2 – Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:4 – Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

In the gospel, a righteousness is revealed.

Corollary Verse: Romans 4:25 – Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Question 33 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ask: What is justification?

Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Do you have this righteousness? Do you cherish this gift of  righteousness in your own heart? Martin Luther reminds us that if we do not, we will be continually buffeted by fears and depression!

Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf declares in his hymn: “Jesus thy blood and righteousness, my beauty are…my glorious dress…”

Our acceptance and right standing before the Lord leads to godly living!

A PURSUIT – Resolve to pursue God’s path of righteousness!

Proverbs 12:28

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

Pursuing the way of righteousness means…Wisely choosing your friends

Loving your wife or husband well.

Committing yourself to the thankless work of shepherding the hearts of your kids by careful discipline.

John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress – The word “progress” in The Pilgrim’s Progress means a journey. Christian makes a danger-filled pilgrimage from the city of Destruction to the Celestial City on the King’s highway. Along the way, he encounters many snares: Slough of Despond… Christian mounts the Hill of Difficulty, and reaches the house called Beautiful. On his way down the hill, Christian faces more obstacles. He battles Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. He enters the town of Vanity, which hosts a year-long carnival called Vanity Fair, meant to tempt pilgrims to abandon their journey. They stumble onto the grounds of Doubting Castle owned by Giant Despair. They have to pass through the Valley of the shadows. Then they reach the Delectable Mountains called Immanuel’s land. Christian and Hopeful pass through the River of Death and are received with joy into the Celestial City.

I come to you today as Evangelist throwing you the rope…

A Devotional Guide for Holy Week

The upcoming week ranks supreme in our church calendar as well as in the life of any follower of Jesus. Thus, I would encourage you to not let this week go by without intentionally spending time in God’s Word asking the living Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit to speak to you.

In our day, the church has lost much of its observance of Holy Week and we are spiritually impoverished because of it. The prayers and Scriptures below are designed to walk you through the events surrounding the passion and sufferings of our Lord. You don’t have to implement the whole guide, but the Lord has a blessing for you in some part of the devotional guide below. I commend it to you as a simple resource to spiritually engage with Christ at this important time of year! This simple guide comes from my days of serving on the staff of a great church called Intown Community Church in Atlanta, GA.

Devotions for Holy Week

Lord Jesus Christ, in this solemn week when we see again the depth and mystery of your redeeming love, help us to follow where you go, to stop where you stumble, to listen when you cry, to hurt as you suffer, to bow our heads in sorrow when you die, so that when you are raised to life again we may truly share in your endless joy. Amen.
– Prayer for Holy Week, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland, 1994

We hope that you can find time each day to remember and celebrate all that Jesus endured to rescue us. When reflecting on the gospels, be mindful of certain questions: What is this passage telling us about Jesus – his person, work, and teaching? What difference should this make in my life? How would I live differently if the truths of this text were more powerfully real to me?

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

O Everliving God, let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; that as he from his loftiness stooped to the death of the cross, so we in our lowliness may humble ourselves, believing, obeying, living, and dying to the glory of the Father; for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.  – Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 -1894)

I Timothy 6:12-16    Fight the good fight
Matthew 21:12-17    The Temple cleansed

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross may find it none other than the way of life: Grant us so to boast in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Philippians 3:1-14    The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ
John 12:9-19    The Triumphal Entry

Tuesday in Holy Week

Almighty Father, Everlasting God, you permitted your son to suffer the anguish of the cross for us, so that you might drive the power of the enemy from us: Grant us that we may so commemorate and give thanks for His suffering that we may thereby know forgiveness of sin and redemption from eternal death; through the same, your Son. Amen.
– Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Philippians 3:15-21     Our citizenship is in heaven
John 12:20-26    The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified

Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Philippians 4:1-13    Rejoice in the Lord always
John 12:27-36    Now my heart is troubled

Maundy Thursday

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave his life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

I Corinthians 11:23-34        The Lord’s Supper
John 13:1-17        Jesus washes his disciples’

Good Friday

My Father, enlarge my heart, warm my affections, and open my lips to proclaim the love of Calvary. There Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory. My savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might ever live. O Father, help me to adore you by lips and life. O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise, my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my enemies crushed, Satan baffled, defeated, and destroyed, sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood, hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open. God forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save. Amen.
– Adapted from The Valley of Vision. A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (1975).

Hebrews 10:4-17    The true sacrifice
John 19:1-42    The crucifixion

Easter Saturday

O God, whose loving kindness is infinite, mercifully hear our prayers; and grant that as in this life we are united in the mystical body of your Church, and in death are laid in the ground with the sure hope of resurrection; so at the last day we may rise to the life immortal, and be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                    – Anonymous

Hebrews 4:1-16    A sabbath rest
Matthew 28:1-10    The resurrection

Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord

God our Father, creator of all, today is the day of Easter joy. This is the morning on which the Lord appeared to men who had begun to lose hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend before his Father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.                – Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

Exodus 12:1-14    The Passover
Luke 24:13-35    The Emmaus Road