We begin the Lenten season Wednesday, March 1. Forty days have been set aside, among other things, to be a kind of “reckoning with God.” As you move day-by-day through these next 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, may you see the health of your faith more clearly than ever before as we journey with Jesus during His last days on earth. Make these days a conscious effort to grow in faith.
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SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:1-15
28 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.
2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. 12 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. 13 They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ 14 If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” 15 So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 6:8-10
8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.
Reader: “This is the glorious word of the Lord."
Response: “The best news ever announced!”
Thank you all for this journey through the Lenten season concluding with the Resurrection. It’s my prayer that through seeing how the Old and New Testaments are so intricately telling the unfolding of God’s story, we’ll all have a greater understanding, love, and relationship with the Triune God we worship. But remember, there is so much more. God’s story has not ended. Forty days later Jesus ascended to His Father in heaven in a glorified physical body where He sits and His Father’s right hand interceding on our behalf. The story is continuing even now and we are in it. At a time known only to the Father, Jesus will return to bring to final completion and restoration of the entire created order. The greatest story ever told will continue forever and we’ll be living characters in it. He will establish His Kingdom and He will reign forever and ever…and we’ll be there!
-Dr. Daniel Sharp
MUSIC: "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Messiah Part III, by Sylvia McNair
"Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah, with Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus with Robert
"Complete Messiah" by Cambridge Choir, Kings College
Eerdman’s Book of Famous Prayers, ed. Veronica Zundal, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI
A Diary of Private Prayer, John Baillie, Charles Scribners Sons, New York, NY
The Quiet Corner, ed. Sherwood Wirt, Fleming Revell, Westwood, NJ
Lift My Spirits Lord, Jeffery Bryan Leech, Augsburg, Minneapolis, MN
The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer, Christian Publications, Harrisburg, PA
Peter Marshall’s Lasting Prayers, Droke House Publishers, Inc. Anderson, SC
The Worship Sourcebook, ed. Emily Brink & John Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Faith Alive Christian Resources, and Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI
The Oxford Book of Prayer, ed. George Appleton, Oxford University Press, London, England
The Book of Common Prayer (1928), The Seabury Press, NY
The New Living Translation, Tyndale House Pub. Carol Stream, IL (Scripture translation used)
Just a reminder, watch on our church website, fpco.org around the latter part of November 2017 for information regarding the Advent-Epiphany Devotional. You will need to re-subscribe if you are interested. It will be all new material.
It is free to pass the word along. There were well over 1,000 email subscriptions from people all over the world – Nigeria, Ghana, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, England, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and thirty states in the U.S. fpco.org/lent
The early Church observed what was called the Easter Vigil. The service began at midnight and ushered in Easter morning. One of the central aspects of the service is the reading of the story of God’s redemption of His creation. In telling that story, various portions of Scripture are read starting at the beginning. It helps in placing the Resurrection in the context of the whole of the working of God. The following are those passages.
Reader: "The following passages tell God’s story of redemption.”
Response: "This is a day of Sabbath rest."
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:1-2
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 3
The Fall of Humans
3 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
17 And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
Paradise Lost: God’s Judgment
20 Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. 21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. 24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 14:10-31
God Provides Deliverance for His People
10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”
13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Escape Through the Red Sea
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”
19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.
21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”
26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
SCRIPTURE: Exodus 15:20-21
20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. 21 And Miriam sang this song:
“Sing to the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 55:1-11
55 “Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
4 See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
5 You also will command nations you do not know,
and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”
6 Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
7 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 24:1-12
24 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 6:1-11
Sin’s Power is Broken
6 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Try something different this year, or maybe you already do this. Make today a day of solemn rest and reflection. Here’s something to think about. After the six days of creation, God rested on the seventh and made it a Sabbath. After Jesus completed His work on earth, “it is finished,” he rested in the tomb on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, just as God did after creating the world. At the end of each of the first six days of creation, the Scriptures end with “it was evening and it was morning.” That phrase does not occur at the end of the seventh day. Have you ever wondered why? Is it because we have not yet entered the Sabbath rest, our eternal home? That eternal rest comes with the eighth day, the day of the Lord’s return and ultimate resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection on that first day of the week ushered in a new era and not only defeated death, sin, and evil but also served as a marker for the final resurrection of all the living and the dead. The Sabbath rest is not completed yet! The most glorious day lies ahead! See you at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts tomorrow at 9AM & 11AM. You can also watch it streamed live at fpco.org/live.
MUSIC: "St. Matthew Passion" by J.S. Bach
(In German and has translation running across the screen. This is the gospel sung. Many music critics consider this one of the greatest pieces ever written along with Handel’s Messiah. Interesting that both tell the gospel story with Scripture as the text.)
"Lux Æterna" by Morten Lauridsen, Los Angeles Master Chorale
(This is one of the exquisite choral pieces of the 20th century. It reflects some of the thoughts of this day. 28 minutes in length. Listen and reflect on the text. The translation can be found here.)
“Agnus Dei” by Samuel Barber, Choir of New College, Oxford
(“Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.”)
Gracious heavenly Father,
You are the Great God-he who is in heaven.
You are the creator of life; you make the regions above.
You are the hunter who hunts for souls.
You are the leader who goes before us.
You are he whose hands are with wounds.
You are he whose feet are with wounds.
You are he whose blood is a trickling stream.
You are he whose blood was spilled for us.
-Prayer of a Xhosa Christian, South Africa
"A Rich Man’s Grave"
Reader: "He was buried like a criminal;"
Response: "He was put in a rich man’s grave.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 53:8-9
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:57-61
57 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, 58 went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. 60 He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.61 Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “God’s word is trustworthy always.”
Countless books, articles, discussions, debates and artistic expressions in music and other forms of art have addressed the meaning, purpose, necessity, and significance of the death of Jesus Christ on this day. We have barely touched on some of these topics in past days. I’d like us to look at a more personal aspect of the events of Good Friday. There is a grace and courage in Joseph of Arimathea. Think of the hostility present in Jerusalem from the Jewish priestly leadership toward Jesus. Pilate certainly knew of it with his first-hand experience. Now Joseph, as evening was approaching, took the bold step to ask Pilate for the body. The Romans had control of those they crucified. They would leave the bodies on the cross to rot or be consumed by animals. Certainly, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders wanted nothing to do with Jesus and had no respect for any part of Him or His dead body. At the same time, Jewish law forbade leaving a body on a cross or gallows overnight. Joseph would have known that and also, as a follower of Jesus, wanted to treat Jesus’ body with honor and respectful dignity. Pilate may have accommodated his request because he knew of Jesus’ innocence. At any rate, he gave Joseph permission to take Jesus’ body. In Jewish culture, the corpse would be washed, anointed with spices (75 pounds), and wrapped in a burial cloth. It was then placed in a tomb. Note also that Joseph and Nicodemus (from John’s account), wrapped Jesus in a “clean linen cloth and placed Him in a “new tomb that had never been used” thereby observing Jewish law regarding ceremonial purity. These two Jewish leaders had been transformed by their encounters with Jesus. Nicodemus first came by night in the beginning of John’s gospel to inquire as to who Jesus was. He came again as evening approached, (he was not in the “dark” this time), to offer his final respects by caring for his Messiah. I am equally sure that both men, at this point, thought this was the end and that their hopes were dashed. Yet, out of love for Jesus, they had the courage to make this last tribute. This story simply points to the clear truth that following Jesus has a very personal impact. Walking with the Savior is not simply believing an idea, but expressing and living out a relationship, even in the toughest of circumstances. The results can be quite surprising, just ask Joseph and Nicodemus when you see them!
MUSIC: "O Sacred Head Surrounded” by J.S. Bach (text below)
O sacred head, surrounded
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Death’s pallid hue comes o’er thee
The glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore thee
and tremble as they gaze
In this thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in thy dear love confiding,
and with thy presence blest.
Words: Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877), 1861;
after Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)
Music: harmonization J.S. Bach
HYMN: (from the Good Friday liturgy, Orthodox)
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed I a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon his face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also thy glorious Resurrection.
Because of Good Friday, the following prayer is possible. All glory to God.
Lord Jesus Christ, Thou wast poor and in misery, a captive and forsaken as I am. Thou knowest all man’s distress; Thou abidest with me when all others have deserted me; Thou doest not forget me, but seekest me. Thou willest that I should know thee and turn to thee. Lord, I hear thy call and follow thee; do thou help me.
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945
We will see you tonight at 6:30PM, in the Sanctuary for our Maundy Thursday service with the Lord’s Supper, Scripture, and the Chancel Choir singing the Faure Requiem. About a 65-minute service.
"The Servant Is Exalted"
Reader: "I have given you an example."
Response: "Do as I have done to you.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 52:13
13 See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
SCRIPTURE: John 13:12-17
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:5-9
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
and gave him the name above all other names,
Reader: “These are the words of the Servant God.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
What does it take to be a servant? To start off, there needs to be someone to serve. And someone has to be willing to serve. Elementary! The servant takes the position of submission to the one served. We are all very familiar with Jesus’ words “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mt.20:28) Jesus’ referring to Himself as the Son of Man harkens to the title used in the book of Daniel to refer to His preexistence. In a real sense, Jesus has assumed that position in relation to His heavenly Father for all eternity, before creation came into being. At every point in His earthly ministry, Jesus bowed to His Father’s will. (John 8:29) Jesus has always served His Father. The fact that His ministry was “service to people.” He serviced in every conceivable way: healing, comforting, feeding, teaching, loving, telling people the truth, pointing out hypocrisy, and even washing the feet of His disciples, even the one who betrayed Him. It was on this night, Maundy Thursday, that the foot washing took place. The following story sheds light on what it means to be a servant.
I grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. Our little Mennonite church had maybe 125 people. One of the common practices of the Mennonites then was foot washing as a part of the observation of the Lord’s Supper. As a little boy of eight who had just given his life to Christ, I was enabled to participate in the foot washing. Given this setting, I want to tell you what happened in one of my first foot washing experiences, an encounter that remains burned in my memory and heart over fifty years later.
I happened to be paired with a wonderful old gentleman by the name of Pete Oyer. Pete was one of the solid saints in the church and community. He was a janitor at our little grade school. (There were twelve in my grade.) He drove the school bus. He had since retired. I’m guessing he was in his late 70’s or early 80’s. He was a kind of “saint” who had a very bad hip and walked with a cane with considerable difficulty. I was honored and humbled that I wound up being paired with Mr. Oyer. The foot washing happened in the church basement with two wooden chairs on either side of an oval pan on the floor.
I kind of gingerly got down off my chair and knelt down to wash his gnarly old feet which possessed discolored toe nails. (Our feet are not our most beautiful feature, especially after seven or eight decades! There is also a vulnerability being shown, as we allow another to see a rather humbling part of who we are.) Apart from this physical aspect, I was greatly humbled to be washing the feet of this man. It truly was an honor, a privilege to serve this man in this way. Being on my knees seemed like I was right where I should be, serving someone I respected.
I finished drying his feet and slid back onto the seat of my wooden chair. Then, the most powerful, moving moment occurred which changed my perspective on foot washing forever. Pete struggled down off his wooden chair, assisted by his cane, and proceeded with great difficulty to kneel down and wash my little eight-year-old, smooth skinned, barely broken in feet. He shouldn’t be doing this. I don’t deserve any of this. I haven’t accomplished anything. I have no place of honor in the community or church. The elder should not be serving the younger, especially when it brings physical pain and difficulty. Everything about this was wrong! I connected easily and quickly with Peter, “Lord, you shall never wash my feet!” It is not right! I realized then and am convinced to this day that foot washing is not a cultural thing at all. It is a servant thing, a humility thing, and above all, a deeply spiritual thing. It’s what Jesus told us to do. We are servants. Our model is no less than the Son of God.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Lord Jesus Christ, who on that treacherous night, did display unending, unconditional love and proclaimed the fulfillment of a New Covenant of grace, we can find no words to express our love and gratitude for the difference your action makes in our lives today so many years later. We are nourished by the bread and the cup, your life-giving body. We live into that holy night rejoicing in the power unleashed by the Holy Spirit. You lived servanthood to the fullest. You live servanthood even now as you intercede before the Father on our behalf. Receive this our prayer through Christ our Lord, who reigns with you, the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, forever and ever. Amen.
"Numbered with the Transgressors"
Reader: "He was counted among the rebels."
Response: "He interceded for rebels."
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 53:11-12
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
SCRIPTURE: Mark 15:27
27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
(Some manuscripts add a v.28 “And the Scripture was fulfilled that said, ‘He was counted among those who were rebels.’”)
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
In this translation of the Isaiah passage, the word “experience” is used in verse eleven. It would seem we need a word with more gravitas. The actual word is “knowledge,” but even that is a “knowledge plus.” The Son of God was obedient, endured suffering, humiliation, betrayal, rejection, abandonment, and intimacy with His Father, all in the unfolding of God’s plan of restoration for the whole created order. Using the word “experience” seems a little thin! Sometimes our language doesn’t have the capacity to carry the significant meaning of such an event. There is something else worth mentioning. Isaiah writes that the Messiah will be killed among the rebels. As we have mentioned previously, the Scriptures remind us that there must be at least two witnesses to verify a truth. At the crucifixion, the witnesses were actually two rebels. They, as well as those standing at the foot of the cross, verify the historicity of the ultimate sacrifice. Did you also notice that Isaiah mentions, not only did the Messiah bear the sins of the world, He “interceded for rebels.” This was written 700 years before it happened! The accuracy of the Scriptures to detail is another argument for the inspiration of the Bible. In these passages, we see again how outwardly focused Jesus was in His attending to those around Him, even as he was dying on the cross. There is a rebel in heaven today because of Jesus’ intercession on His behalf. To the thief, He said, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” All glory to Christ forever and ever. Our words still fail and seem so small to grasp the weight of what Christ has done. Hallelujah!
MUSIC: "Behold and See if There Be Any Sorrow” from Handel's Messiah by Francesc Gamón Olmo
O merciful Father, who in compassion for Thy sinful children didst send Thy Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world and suffer for our sake. He did not shun the lost and the rebels. The load of sin he bore was not his own, but that of those he loves. So give to us grace to serve one another in all lowliness, and to enter into the fellowship of his sufferings, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
–Book of Common Worship, adapted by DS
Reader: "He was despised and rejected."
Response: "A man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest grief.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 53:3
He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:20-23
20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”
The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
After reading these two passages, what do you think is at the core of rejection of the Messiah? Why didn’t the people care? (Isaiah) Why were they so hostile? (Matthew) Earlier we read how (1) Jesus spoke with authority, not like the other teachers of the law. Within the human heart is the clear desire to answer to no one. All our hearts say, “I will do as I will. I am in charge of me.” Jesus’ authority challenged the heart to submit. The result was serious resistance then and now. (2) Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Shining light on inconsistency was not well received! Who are you to call me a hypocrite? (3) The lack of caring comes from the fact that “I don’t want someone intruding into my life. I will ignore that person’s claims about how my life could be lived. I want nothing to do with them and I want them to stay away from me. (4) My anger and hatred of that person comes from their pointing out my sin to me. I don’t want to hear what God thinks. I don’t want to be told I am wrong. I don’t want my sin being pointed out and I resent very strongly anyone telling me such. I must say, we find these very attitudes in our culture today as people try to reinterpret the Scriptures on the one hand, or on the other hand, dismiss the Word of God altogether. There is hostility toward Christianity, make no mistake. Those who reject Christ, are often annoyed at Christians because, here is someone who did bow before the Savior, which reminds them that there are those who do follow Christ. It says to them that not everyone has their perspective of rejecting Christ and that in itself is condemning in their minds. The Christian has accepted Jesus’ perspective and rejected their worldly view. In Isaiah, the phrase, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest grief” speaks of the pain of taking the weight of our sin upon himself and the ensuing heavy grief. Having been pure and holy from all eternity and then to bear the weight of the sin of the world would bring to Jesus an agony we cannot imagine. Being rejected is one of the more difficult things to grasp. Add to that hostility, with the desire to kill, is very hard to comprehend, especially in Jesus’ case, when the whole purpose was to bring redemption to the very people who screamed for His death.
Yes, I would say our loving Savior was a man of sorrows and acquainted with the deepest grief there ever was. Be a light where you walk today; we do care.
MUSIC: "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” by Matthew Curtis, vocals by Fen Frehner
God of mercy, you sent Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost. We confess that we have strayed from you and turned aside from your way. We are misled by pride, for we see ourselves pure when we are stained and great when we are small. We have failed in love, neglected justice, and ignored your truth. Have mercy, O God, and forgive our sin. Return us to paths of righteousness through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
–The Worship Source Book, p.563., #8
"Jesus’ Sacrifice Brings Peace"
Reader: "Hear the words and enter into this final week.”
Response: "Thanks be to God for his great love.”
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 53:5b
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:19-20
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
When there is a conflict of any size, what are the elements that bring peace? At some point, those involved must realize and acknowledge there is strife, separation. In finding peace with God, people must realize they are at odds with God. Frankly, I think that is one of the great challenges of our day. Many people around us do not realize that they are at odds with God. There is no peace with God. As a culture, we have not yet figured out the connection between the strife in our world and the rejection of God. In Christ’s death, He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth. The peace you and I have was purchased with Jesus’ blood. I’m not sure we always grasp the nature of God’s peace. This is shalom peace. Let’s flesh that out a bit. You have heard it defined as “completeness, or wholeness.” It can refer to physical conditions: my body is at peace, I’m healthy, well, feel good, I’m at rest, I’m happy. It can refer to moral value: I am at peace with this decision; it is right. The struggle is over. It is what I should do. It’s the way I should think. It can also have a more cosmic sense: I’m at peace with the world. Of course, it relates to God as one of His attributes. I’m at peace with God. Peace comes to us as a divine grace given by our Creator. Shalom also has to do with familial and social relationships. Have you ever had a moment in your life when absolutely everything was perfect? Were you at complete peace at every point? God’s plan and offer to all is the peace he gives. The peace for everything in heaven and on earth was purchased by the blood of Christ as it says above. Jesus further defined shalom as He talked with His disciples at His last supper on earth. John writes Jesus’ words: “I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Be careful you are not chasing other pursuits hoping to grasp that elusive peace, it’s found only in the Prince of Peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
"Riding into Jerusalem on a Donkey"
Reader: "This is the transforming week.”
Response: "The history of the world changed during the next eight days.”
SCRIPTURE: Zechariah 9:9
9 Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21:1-9
21 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
The latter part of the book of Zechariah is very prophetic in nature as it refers to future events. Such is the case with this passage. Verse nine refers clearly to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, yet it was about 500 years until this prophecy was fulfilled. A king from the line of David would be the one riding on the donkey. Kings rode horses into battle. When a king rode a mule, he was bringing peace. When Absalom tried to wrest the throne from his father David, to escape, David road out of Jerusalem on a donkey, an animal of peace. David was in effect saying I’m not going to fight my son. Meanwhile, Absalom rode around in a chariot pulled by a team of horses. He was at war. Now you have the drama of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, a royal limo! In the people’s minds, He should be on a white horse. In the book of Revelation (19:11), the heavens are opened and Jesus, the warrior, is riding a white horse bringing judgment and defeat to the forces of evil. What was a phrase in the Old Testament, became a physical reality in the New Testament, the mid-point? What was a physical reality in the New Testament, the King riding on a donkey, will yet become the eternal reality when Jesus returns to reign on earth forever and ever. We live in the midst of the Bible verses! We are living somewhere between the “donkey ride” and the “white horse” ride. Don’t ever think of the Bible as an ancient history book. Part of it is old and part hasn’t yet happened and we live in between the two. You see, we are actually in the Bible, we’re in God’s story as it is being written.
(See you can pin the tale on the donkey!! – I know that was really bad, but your little kids will enjoy it!)
If you are in Orlando, join us on Maundy Thursday evening for the Lord’s Supper and the Faure Requiem and then again on Good Friday for the “Christ and the Passover” presentation by Jews for Jesus. If you are not in Orlando, there is still time to get here!
God, my father, I come before Thee with a heart of repentance. I am not famous or influential in circles of power. Few people actually know me, considering how many people there are. I will eventually leave this world and few will notice. May we never get confused with our place and role in your grand story. The donkey played the role of carrying the Savior amidst the cheering throngs. The crowds were not cheering the donkey. Lord, do not let us get confused. All our role is to carry the Savior, the source of peace, to the people. Thank you for the “donkeys” who brought you to us.
"He Came as a Teacher"
Reader: "I tell you the truth,”
Response: "unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God."
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 48:16-18
16 Come closer, and listen to this.
From the beginning I have told you plainly what would happen.”
And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit
have sent me with this message.
17 This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow.
18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands!
Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river
and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.
SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-8
3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Have you ever noticed that while God is clear about what will happen, the “how” and the “timing” are often not as specific? In the Isaiah pericope, we are not sure who has been sent with the message of the Lord. But it is quite clear that the ultimate messenger of the Sovereign Lord is none other than the Messiah. In the days leading up to the final week in Jesus’ life on earth, the crowds were kind of all over the place on the “how” and the “timing” of God’s working. Tomorrow we look at the Palm Sunday reception and see that the people were convinced of both the “how” and “timing” of God’s working. To them, it was clear. Jesus would set up His kingdom and be even a greater king than David. Jesus had been teaching all along of the nature of the Kingdom of God but the people failed to grasp it. The way of the Lord leads to ultimate peace, not simply the elusive earthly peace. When Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus “in the dark” literally (!), he already recognizes Jesus as a masterful teacher having been sent by God. In Nicodemus’ mind, the miracles verify the hand of God is on Jesus. Theirs is a very interesting exchange between two rabbis as such. One of the rabbinical techniques is to answer a question with another question that demonstrates you know the answer to the first question. Jesus did such often in His teaching. In this case, however, Jesus goes straight to the point and picks up on the “God is with you” comment and responds with “I tell you the truth.” The phrase means “listen very carefully. This is most significant.” (Jesus’ response to the woman at the well in John 4 follows the same pattern as His conversation with Nicodemus.) Christ does a masterful job of helping Nicodemus grasp the meaning of being born of the water and the Spirit, yet the Pharisee struggles. Jesus continues drawing from the Old Testament with the reference to Moses and the serpent in the wilderness. In this account, Jesus explains very clearly the “how” of rebirth. Notice also how in this section of the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus, while it began with Nicodemus coming to Jesus “in the dark,” it ends (v.18) with ”those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” Take some more time to digest verses 10-21. You have the Master Teacher teaching! When you study what Jesus says, note not only what He said, but ask yourself, “Why did He use those words?” As you study the “why ” listen for the still small voice of God.
MUSIC: "A City Called Heaven” byJubilant Sykes
O Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking Voice. Amen.
–A.W. Tozer, from The Pursuit of God, p. 83
"Darkness Upon Calvary"
Reader: "The word of the Lord."
Response: "Thanks be to God.”
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 22:2
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
SCRIPTURE: Amos 8:9-10
9 “In that day,” says the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth while it is still day.
10 I will turn your celebrations into times of mourning
and your singing into weeping.
You will wear funeral clothes
and shave your heads to show your sorrow—
as if your only son had died.
How very bitter that day will be!
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:45
45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
The circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus were remarkable in so many ways. With the most significant thing that ever happened in the history of the world, one would expect unusual phenomena to occur. There were all the legal abnormalities in Jesus’ arrest and trial, but perhaps one of the major signals to the unbelieving onlookers was the miraculous darkness in the middle of the day as God expressed great sorrow with the death of His Son. The Jewish priests and leaders would have been reminded of the plague of darkness as God brought the children of Israel out of bondage in the Exodus. This darkness was the last plague before God rendered the death of all the firstborn of the Egyptians. At Calvary, the darkness again came right before the death of God’s first-born of all creation (Col. 1:15) just like in the Exodus. God demonstrated His absolute power over nature in miraculous ways. With the atoning death of Christ during Passover, the shadow of the Exodus was fulfilled. In the book of Amos, the prophet was speaking of God bringing judgment on His people for their unbelief. Associated with the judgment was darkness at noon and earthquakes. In the case of the crucifixion, with the darkness and the earthquake, the unbelievers were confronted with “this man truly was the Son of God.” From the beginning of creation on, our God is in the business of separating darkness from light. That is always the direction of His working. “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters….Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” The day moved from night to morning, from darkness to light. The Hebrew word for “evening” (ereb) is “chaos” and the word for “morning” is “order” (baqar). In the death of Christ, God brought order and restoration to all of creation.
MUSIC: “Psalm 130, Out of the Depths” from Rutter Requiem Cambridge Singers
Almighty God, who hast created men for Thy glory and hast in Thy Son Jesus Christ opened the way by which they may enter into Thy peace: open the eyes of all men that, being delivered from the bondage of human vanity and corruption, they may find their freedom in obedience to Thy laws and their brotherhood in the unity of Thy service through Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Prayer for the Lambeth Conference