Week commencing 14 April 2019
Devotions for Holy Week 2019
These notes are for your Easter reflections – our sermons over next weekend may not be directly from these passages, but we hope nonetheless, these notes assist your devotions this holy week.
DAY 1: Read Luke 22:66-23:25
We pick up the story at daybreak on Friday, when a formal council could legally be assembled. It is curious that no accusation is brought against Jesus. Instead the council invites Jesus to incriminate himself by telling them that he is the Messiah. But it is not as simple as that. Jesus’ response is: If I tell you, you will not believe. His understanding of Messiahship was so different to theirs that he could not have given a simple ‘yes’. They would not have believed him had he made the claim he was entitled to make. He goes on to say if asked you, you would not answer. He had asked questions previously in order to flesh out the concept of Messiah (see Luke 20: 3 and 20:41). He knows that if he tries the same approach once more, they will not commit to an answer, nor would they believe him if he simply affirmed his position. But Jesus goes on to point out that his death, resurrection and ascension will change everything. He speaks of himself again as ‘Son of Man’ and proclaims that he will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God. When his saving work was done, he will have the place of highest honour. It is interesting that they come back and ask him now if he is the Son of God. His answer is a little ambiguous in the Greek; the ESV rendering it “you say that I am”. It is a tentative affirmation, and as far as the Sanhedrin was concerned that ended the matter. In their eyes he was guilty; they had heard the blasphemy with their own ears.
The Jewish leaders had condemned Jesus from a variety of motives. The Pharisees saw him as a blasphemer and they smarted under his biting rebukes of their hypocrisy. The high priests doubtless found their revenues hit when he cleared out the temple. So they all had reason to be rid of him but they lacked the power to inflict the death penalty: that remained the prerogative of the Roman governor. The charge of blasphemy was of no interest to the Romans however, so the religious leaders had to find an accusation that would be serious to the Romans. This they did by accusing Jesus of being a king – a political revolutionary!
Neither Pilate nor Herod found reason to condemn Jesus. But when Pilate proposed his release, the crowds called for Jesus’ crucifixion and for the release of Barabbas in his place. Note the weakness of Pilate in the end, as recorded in v24: So Pilate decided to grant their demand.
As Jesus was crucified that day, Barabbas could well have looked at Jesus on the cross and thought to himself ‘that should have been me; he died in my place.’ And you Christian – they are your words as well this week – ‘that should have been me; he died in my place’. Give quiet thanks today for this great reality.
DAY 2: Read Luke 23:26-43
It must have been an incredible scene. Jesus, weakened from the beating he had suffered, is too weak to carry his cross so someone in the crowd from out of town is made to carry it for him. There is a crowd following Jesus including women in great distress. Jesus speaks to them. He is thinking about others rather than himself. He is weeping for Jerusalem once more! He begs them to weep for their sin and not for him.
The account of the actual crucifixion is brief and to the point. Those who first read the gospel, knew all about how crucifixion worked. They needed no more detail than we have here. Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness is moving, but then the cross is all about providing the means for the forgiveness of sin!
What is fascinating about Luke’s account is the story of the two thieves crucified with Jesus. One realised he was in the presence of greatness; one was completely oblivious to who Jesus is and continued ridiculing him. The irony of the ridicule from both the thief and the religious leaders when they propose that surely Jesus could save himself, is that he could have indeed done just that at any point in this tragic ordeal! Yet had he saved himself, he would not have saved them!
The account of the interchange between the two thieves and Jesus is unique to Luke’s gospel. We learn a lot here!! We see all that is needed for someone to come into relationship with Jesus. First they need to recognise who Jesus is: Don’t you fear God he said to his mate on the other side of Jesus. Second, they need to acknowledge their own failure and brokenness. We are justly punished, for we are getting what our deeds deserved. Then there has to be an acknowledgment of Jesus’ innocence this man has done nothing wrong. Finally, a throwing of yourself on the mercy of Jesus. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Note that the thief was utterly underserving and that it was completely impossible for him to do anything about his situation or to make up for lost time. He could only turn to Jesus’ mercy to be saved. Christian, this is our story also. We were unable to help ourselves, but we came to see who Jesus is, to admit our sin and failure and to throw ourselves utterly on his mercy. And Jesus’ promise to the thief is the same for us upon our death, if we like the thief have acknowledged our sin, acknowledged who Jesus is and have thrown ourselves on his mercy: that day we will be with him in paradise! Praise be to God for Jesus’ sacrificial death!
DAY 3: Read Luke 23:44-56
Luke’s account of Jesus’ death stresses its peaceful end and its effect on those who watched. The three hour period of darkness is not explained however; you will recall that Luke also records that when Jesus was born at night, all was bright because of the glory of the angels. Now as he is killed in the day time, all is dark. It’s a sign of great moral darkness and supernatural evil.
The curtain in the temple which ripped at the time of Jesus’ death was the curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. It symbolised separateness, the remoteness of God. The tearing of the curtain at this point gives symbolic expression to the truth that the death of Jesus has made the way open into the very presence of God (see Hebrews 9:3, 8; 10:19ff).
Once Jesus commits his spirit into God’s hands and breathes his last, the centurion who would have been in charge of the execution, praises God. He recognised that something utterly unique took place that day – that a righteous man died a guilty man’s death. Those who usually watched crucifixions for entertainment, go home beating their breasts in grief. They too had seen something completely different that day. This was no ordinary execution. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself!! See again today the Saviour’s love for you. For God so loved the world…!
Note regarding Jesus’ burial, that the women who had been watching at distance at the cross, followed Joseph to whom the body had been trusted and saw where the tomb was and how his body was laid in it. This is important because we can be assured that when they found the tomb empty on the Sunday morning, it wasn’t because they had turned up at the wrong tomb! They knew where it was and had seen Jesus placed in the tomb.
DAY 4: Read Luke 24:1-12
The Sabbath being Saturday, meant that the first day of the week is Sunday. The women are up very early in the morning so that they might anoint Jesus’ body with the spices and perfumes they had prepared. They must have been shocked upon arrival at the tomb to find the stone at the entrance, already rolled away – but quite traumatised when the discovered that Jesus’ body wasn’t there! So – no stone, no body; and now two men in gleaming white clothes that looked like lightning standing beside them! They are now very frightened.
The questions these messengers ask address what has happened here overnight. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” The angels remind them of Jesus own words each time he predicted what would take place in Jerusalem. He had always said that he would be raised on the third day and now – here it is. It happened just as Jesus said.
The women head back to tell the eleven remaining disciples what had happened but women were not to be believed (v11) and their words seemed to them like nonsense. This is a sure sign of course that this account is not fabricated: no-one in their right mind if they were making this up would invent women as being the first to see the empty tomb! No, we can be totally confident that Jesus rose from the dead and that he is who he said he was and that by his death and resurrection we have been wonderfully and completely rescued! Praise God this Easter; worship and adore him; and live in such a way that others may see Jesus!