April 18, 2014
“I slew him—this right hand struck the dagger to his heart. My deeds slew Christ. Alas! I slew my best beloved; I killed him who loved me with an everlasting love. Oh eyes, why do you refuse to weep when you see Jesus’ body mangled and torn? Give vent to your sorrow, Christians, for you have good reason to do so.”
- adapted from “The Tomb of Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon
H/T: Bible Gateway
April 17, 2014
At Stand Firm, there is wonderful commentary from the Rev. Tim Fountain about the symbolism and significance of the common Anglican practice of veiling the cross during Holy Week:
There’s a certain contradiction or at least irony in the tradition. We are proclaiming the cross, after all, and with intensity in Lent and Holy Week as we look at the burden of our sins and the Lord’s gift of his body and blood for the forgiveness of same. [...] So why veil what we’re so busy exalting?
My working answer is that veiling the cross does exalt it, via a negative path. Hiding it reveals a tremendous absence, “What if the cross of Christ never existed? What if that reference point didn’t exist for our understanding of life? What if that sign never intruded into history and culture?”
I worked questions like those into a Lenten sermon decades ago. I still remember a woman who came up after and said, “I felt all the air go out of the church when I thought about those questions you asked. They were terrifying.”
So there’s power in veiling crosses for Lent. It intensifies big questions, “What if we are left in our sins and our own self-justifying efforts to ‘balance them out?’ What if there’s no decisive God-given remedy for the human dilemma?”
And in aggravating that tension, the veiled cross sets up the strong medicine of Good Friday and the glorious recovery announced at Easter…
Go read the full entry.
April 16, 2014
Of course, the four biblical Gospels, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke, concur that Jesus suffered a great deal for us as he gave his life for our salvation so that we could be forgiven of our sins.
And yet, there is another aspect to the Easter story. It is best encapsulated in John’s statement that Jesus, when he “knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world … loved them to the end” (13:1, ESV). When introducing not only the scene of the foot-washing, but his entire passion narrative, John writes the following: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…” (13:3–4; cf. 14:28).
In other words, John is at pains to show that the Cross was not a dead end but a station on Jesus’ way back home to the Father! This is why he strikes a triumphant note at the outset of narrating the Crucifixion: The Father had given all things into Jesus’ hands, and Jesus was on his way back to his pre-existent glory which he enjoyed with the Father (17:5, 24)! It is, as the writer of Hebrews put it, “for the joy that was set before him” that Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (12:2). This Easter, let’s make sure we don’t leave out the “glory” part when we tell the story of Jesus’ suffering. No doubt, the Cross was glorious in and of itself in displaying Jesus’ perfect obedience, God’s love for humanity, and the God-man’s rendering of substitutionary atonement for sinners. Jesus’ earthly work is indeed “finished” (John 19:30), but his glorious work of ruling, reigning, and interceding continues to this day.
- Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor
April 1, 2014
“The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued sacrifice—whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for and knowledge of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary deeds, acceptable in the sight of God. “If we live by this principle, if Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all our actions, then our lowliest actions are acceptable sacrifices; but if this principle is lacking in our lives, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are nothing but a spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own gain and make an idol of ourselves. We make ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions: and therefore such actions are so far from being acceptable by God, that according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church, ‘We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not from an experimental faith in and knowledge of Jesus Christ.'”
— adapted from George Whitefield’s sermon “The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge”
H/t Bible Gateway’s Lenten devotional
The reflection question included in the Bible Gateway devotional is also worth noting:
Christ’s salvation is offered to us freely, and cannot be earned by our actions. Despite this, Christians have struggled since the earliest days of the church with the temptation to try and earn God’s forgiveness by doing good works, following the law, or just living “good” lives. Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ’s gift? Is this a struggle for you?