Today’s Devotional for “Spy Wednesday” from Desiring God

April 16, 2014

The Holy Week Devotional series at Desiring God’s blog continues…  (these are excerpts from the new book by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger, The Final Days of Jesus,)


Wednesday went quietly. Too quietly.

With the previous three days awash in drama — Sunday’s triumphal entry, Monday’s temple cleansing, and Tuesday’s temple controversies — now Wednesday, April 1, A.D. 33, comes like the calm before the storm.

But out of sight, lurking in the shadows, evil is afoot. The church has long called it “Spy Wednesday,” as the dark conspiracy against Jesus races forward, not just from enemies outside, but now with a traitor from within. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the greatest sin in all of history, the murder of the Son of God.

The Plot Thickens

Jesus wakes again just outside Jerusalem, in Bethany, where he has been staying at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. His teaching again attracts a crowd in the temple. But now the Jewish leaders, silenced by Jesus the day before, will leave him be. Today they will avoid public confrontation and instead connive in private.

Caiaphas, the high priest, gathers to his private residence the chief priests and Pharisees — two competing groups, typically at odds, now bedfellows in their ache to be rid of the Galilean. They scheme to kill him, but don’t have all the pieces in place yet. They fear the approving masses, and don’t want to stir up the assembled hoards during Passover. The initial plan is to wait till after the feast, unless some unforeseen opportunity emerges.

Enter the traitor.

Keep reading at Desiring God…

A Good Friday Hymn: In Evil Long I Took Delight

April 2, 2010

April 2014 – see the end of the post for an update.

This hymn by John Newton was part of the famous “Olney Hymnal”  of 1779.  (available online at CCEL) You can hear the tune at the Cyber Hymnal

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit is now filled;
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.

John Newton


Song Writer and worship leader Bob Kauflin has written a modern arrangement / adaptation of this hymn.  He reflects on the meaning of the lyrics as follows.  (see below for an update)

For years, C.J. Mahaney referred to a John Newton hymn that began with the lines, “In evil long I took delight.” Newton imagines the Savior looking down at him twice from the cross. The first look communicates our guilt and responsibility for the death of Christ. The second look assures us that this sacrifice forever secures our forgiveness before God. The two looks together fill us with a “pleasing grief and mournful joy.”


2014 Update:  I’ve posted an updated entry with current links to a video with the modern adaptation of the hymn, and links to purchase it, as well as an audio recording of John Newton’s original hymn.

Holy Week Homily of St. Ephrem: Our Lord was Stripped that We Might be Clothed

April 8, 2009

Our Lord subjected his might, and they seized him,
so that through his living death he might give life to Adam.
He gave his hands to be pierced by nails
to make up for the hand which plucked the fruit.
He was struck on his cheek in the judgment room
to make up for the mouth that ate in Eden.
And while Adam’s foot was free, his feet were pierced.
Our Lord was stripped that we might be clothed.
With the gall and vinegar he sweetened
the poison of the serpent which had bitten men.

–St. Ephrem (A Syrian deacon who wrote around 360 A.D.)

from the Crossroads Initiative

Christine Sine: Reflections on Christ’s Triumphal Procession

April 7, 2009

A great reflection from Christine Sine for Holy Week – it’s not Palm Sunday that was the true or complete triumphal procession:

Jesus entry into Jerusalem was actually only the first part of his procession. Jesus triumphal procession ended on Good Friday when he processed alone bearing his cross to Golgotha. While the Roman troops proudly bore their standards of golden eagles that proclaimed them as imperial troops, Jesus entered Jerusalem without a standard. His standard, the emblem that proclaimed his Messiahship was taken up on Good Friday. His standard was the Cross which would be lifted high with him on it – God’s royal standard which proclaims the victory of God through Christ – the redemption not just of those who looked upon Christ, or on those who believed because they encountered him after his resurrection, but the redemption of the entire world – past, present and future.

Read it all at Christine’s Godspace blog.

A Prayer for Holy Week

April 7, 2009

From  Eric Swensson’s blog:

Invitatory: “he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and… he bore the sin of many,” Is 53.12

O God, holy and eternal, you permit us to enter into the fellowship of that holy suffering by which your dear Son, our Savior, conquered sin, death and the power of the devil. Grant that we may celebrate his passion with true devotion, accept the cross as his disciples, and thus fulfill your holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [K.B. Ritter, Gebete fur das Jahr der Kirche, 2nd edition (Kassel: Johannes Stauda-Verlag, 1948), p. 249.]

Music and Prayer for Monday in Holy Week: Turn the Tables on Me

April 6, 2009

Music links updated 2014

The Gospel reading in today’s Eucharistic lectionary focuses on Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with perfume. However, today I want to focus  on Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Tomorrow I’ll return to the story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus.

cleansing_templeWhen I decided to post music here at Lent & Beyond during Holy Week, I knew immediately what song would accompany a reflection on Jesus’ cleansing the temple. It may be a surprise to some of our readers who associate Anglican orthodoxy with classical music, but for me the obvious song choice was Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre’s “Turn the Tables on Me” from his 1989 album Big World. (Unfortunately it’s not available on iTunes, the link is to Mylon’s myspace page where you can listen to the song for free. I’ve also included the song in the embedded playlist below.)

The refrain is a prayer:

Buyers, sellers, cheaters, liars have had their way too long inside of me.  Jesus, Master, take this temple, set me free – Turn the tables on me!

This Holy Week, I’m very conscious of one particular area of sin in my life, of how I need the Lord’s “violent grace.” I’ve let sin have a hold in my heart in recent weeks, I’ve tolerated compromise and I need the Lord’s power to cleanse me so that I can be the holy temple He desires.  Lord help me open the door to the temple of my heart today and allow You to clean all the dark places where I’ve let sin rule just as the money changers ruled in the temple courts.

How appropriate that Psalm 51 is included in today’s daily office reading!

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right  spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Even without knowing that Ps. 51 was included in today’s Daily office reading, I’d been praying the words and listening to several songs based on this Psalm in the past 24 hours:

  • John Michael Talbot & Terry Talbot: Create in Me a Clean Heart (from the 1980 album, the Painter) Listen Online, iTunes link
  • Keith Green:  Create in Me a Clean Heart (originally on the 1984 album Jesus Commands us to Go, but also included on several other compilations of Keith Green’s songs) Listen Online, iTunes link

Lord help us long for clean hearts. Help us humble ourselves to confess and repent of our sins as David did so that we can receive the cleansing and restoration, renewal and transformation that You offer!


In closing, here’s today’s Collect:

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 and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Note: I’ve provided each iTunes link for each song I’ve posted when the song is available for online purchase. Please respect copyrights.

Prayer and Songs for Palm Sunday: Ride on to die – the contrast between exuberance and sorrow

April 5, 2009

Music links updated 2014

Palm Sunday:  palm-branch-cross

I spent some time last night creating a Holy Week playlist in iTunes.  I have an extensive collection of contemporary Christian music (CCM) and worship music and while I greatly enjoy classic church music and hymns, it was fun last night to pull out some of the “classic CCM” tunes I used to listen to during Holy Week when I was in high school and college.

Below you’ll find four CCM classics and one slightly more recent worship song that I find best express the contrasts  of Palm Sunday – the exuberant joy and excitement of the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the heart cry of longing for a Redeemer and the deep shadow and sorrow that lies over the day as Jesus knowingly “rides on to die.”  But first, a prayer:

A Prayer for Palm Sunday (from the Lenten Devotional blog)

I worship you Lord! You did not enter your holy city Jerusalem on the back of a war horse, but humbly and on a donkey. You knew that you were surrounded by murderers, yet you came in peace, and by your sacrifice you would utterly conquer death before the week had passed. You, oh Lord, are blessed and worthy of my praise. You have saved your people. I say, “you are my king!” … I long to live in the city where you sit on the throne! Establish your Kingdom, so that your people can live in peace. Jesus, I bow before you, and I will sing your praises until your Kingdom comes and is established, and forever after.


Here are all of the above songs as a streaming playlist:


If my internet connection is good enough, I’ll hope to post a variety of worship songs – including some classic choral music too – each day of Holy Week, in addition to daily prayers and reflections.

Note: All of these songs are available for download at iTunes. 

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