Tag Archives: Holy Week

Feeling Abandoned and Lonely

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was his cry as the weight of life pressed down overbearing him. He felt completely alone and abandoned. He cried out, but there was no one. No one there; no one to pay attention to his needs. His enemies encircled him. He had nowhere to go, and he was met with silence. His cries seemed to only echo in the wind.

For most, when we think the above phrase and the emotions, we can assume came with it, we think of Jesus on the cross, and we should (more on that in a moment). But they were also David’s words and emotions. Amid intense suffering, David cries out to the Lord only to be met with silence. The weight of life coupled with the silence of God is unbearable for David, so he cries out, “Why God?”

David certainly isn’t the only one with this experience. Feeling the unbearable pressure of life is common; we all face it. We may feel forsaken by the Lord as life crumbles around us. The person who has lost 6 family members in the past year may feel abandoned. The family whose home and possessions were blown away by this week’s tornado may feel lost and lonely. The weight of life may be overbearing and pressing down so violently that we are crying out, “Why God?”

In these moments we can find courage though. We can find our courage by looking at the cross and Jesus.

You see, looking at the cross helps us realize Jesus understands how we feel. No one, including Jesus, desires to go through times of abandonment, loneliness, and deep sorrow in life. This is why Jesus prayed if it was possible for the cup to pass from him, yet the time on the cross came. We are unable to fully comprehend the agony of that experience. We comprehend just enough to understand those hours on the cross were excruciating. Jesus endured the misery of the cross, so he knows how we feel when it seems the full weight of life is pressing down on us. And, he has promised he will be there with us.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.” Looking at the cross gives us courage in knowing Jesus understands how we feel.

Looking at the cross also gives us courage in knowing vindication is coming. On that day, as Jesus endured the full weight of God’s wrath, he knew vindication would come. He knew victory was on the way, and this would not be the last word. His despair would be replaced with peace and his agony would be replaced with joy. Speaking of Jesus, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” The cross was definitely not the end.

The cross was followed by an empty tomb and risen Savior. As Jesus felt the full wrath of God on the cross, he looked ahead to the awaiting vindication. As we are under the unbearable weight of life’s pressure, we too can look ahead to vindication because of the cross. This season will be followed by a victorious one.

Psalm 22 begins with a cry of despair, but it does not end there. It ends with a proclamation of victory. Verse 24 says:

“For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
    He has not turned his back on them,
    but has listened to their cries for help.”

When it seems, we are crushed and there is no escape, we can look to the cross and Jesus for victory. If life has you crushed and feeling like there’s no way out, concentrate on the cross and Jesus.

Dirty Work

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I’ve been watching the series Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe spends time with men and women who have jobs considered to be dirty. Worm farmers, garbage collectors, and junk yard workers are just a few of the individuals Rowe follows. In one episode, he is working with a sewer inspector for the city of San Francisco. The inspector is tasked with finding weak spots in the sewer system. The work requires manually inspecting the underground tunnels carrying the sewage. It is definitely dirty; walking in raw sewage amid the rats and roaches is not the ideal place for a stroll. However, the work must be done. If the sewage system collapsed, it would cause havoc for the city. The inspector does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.

Jesus too does what needs to be done even though it might be a little dirty.

Jesus’ Dirty Job

The excitement of the week was reaching its climax as Jesus and his disciples dined in the upper room. John’s Gospel tells us it was time for dinner, and Jesus got up to wash his disciples’ feet. We don’t know why one of the disciples had not already performed this ordinary act of hygiene. Perhaps they were focused on discussing the week’s events or they could have been arguing about who was the greatest. No matter the reason, this essential task was left undone. So, Jesus wraps a towel around himself and washes everyone’s feet.

This is an amazing example of Jesus’ humility. This dirty job was usually reserved for the lowest servant in the household. No one really wants to wash feet that have been in sandals all day. These feet have been on dusty roads plowing through manure and mud so it is vital they be cleaned, but who really wants to grab the pitcher and towel to clean them. It was a dirty and humiliating task, but Jesus does it. He’s not above the work or too good for it. He sees the need and does something about it. He’s not afraid to get dirty.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

The Bible encourages us to follow Jesus’ example of not being afraid to get dirty.

  • Mark 9:35 says, “He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
  • Mark 10:42-45 says, “42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 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.”

Life can certainly be messy. Folks may have the “manure” of a messy past or the “mud” of guilt and heartache on their “feet.” Their “feet” are in need of washing, but they need someone to help them understand how to wash them. This is where Christ-followers come in sharing the Good News which can cleanse their “feet.” It may require humility; it may require patience, and it may mean a stroll through life’s messiness. As we drudge through the messiness, we can use Christ’s dirty jobs an example and encouragement.

Not only was Jesus willing to wash the disciples feet, he was willing to do the work of the cross. Scripture reminds us this was humiliating, painful, and outright torture. Yet it was essential. Jesus knew the need for the cross, and he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

In what ways is the Lord calling you to help someone wash their feet?

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Sunday…A Risen Hope

Don’t look for the living among the dead.

As the sun rose, the ladies were up and gathering spices. They planned to give Jesus as proper of a burial as they could. They didn’t find what they were expecting when they arrived at the tomb.

Luke 24 says, “They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance, so they went in, but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them clothed in dazzling robes. 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? He isn’t here. He has risen from the dead. Remember what he told you back in Galilee. 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.’ Then they remembered that he had said this, so they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples, and everyone else, what had happened.”

This would have been quite a scene. The disciples were still processing events and trying to figure out what to do next. Suddenly the door flies open and Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James rushed in followed by several other women. Perhaps all talking at once as they gave the exciting news to the Apostles.

Put yourself in the room. What would have you thought? What did the disciples think?

Luke 24:11-12 says, “But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 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.”

The news seemed like nonsense to the disciples. They thought the ladies were so grief-stricken they were hallucinating. It certainly would have taken me a minute to grasp everything the ladies were saying, so I can understand the disciples struggle.

It took a minute, but the disciples started to grasp the fact Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had risen. The hope they thought they lost on Friday is found.

The same hope is still here today. We celebrate today because Jesus has struck a death blow to death. Enemies defeated; Jesus is preparing Heaven for our arrival. That is what we celebrate today.

Our celebrations may look different than previous years. No matter the look or size of the celebration, the hope is the same. We can celebrate an eternal hope in Christ Jesus, who has risen, and that is worth celebrating.

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Saturday…In Between

In between hopeless and hopeful.

Yesterday was Friday, and it was an eventful day for the disciples. They watched as Jesus was crucified, and it was an emotionally draining day. They are unaware tomorrow is Sunday, and it too will be an eventful day. Today, Saturday, the disciples are in between. They are in between hopelessness and hopefulness. They are recovering from a devastating week, and they must decide what to do next.

Some of them go back to the only thing they know. They go back to fishing. If only they were aware of tomorrow’s events. They could anticipate what was to come.

Life sometimes puts us in between. We find ourselves having to recover from devastation. We are in between illnesses and healthy tomorrows. We are in between a broken heart and great relationship. We are in between loss and life after the loss. We are in a season when we must decide what to do.

Thankfully, we have hope because Sunday has already come. We can base our decisions on hope. We can anticipate what the Lord is going to do. As you find yourself in between, cling to the hope that you have in Christ.

Cling to this hope that will never erode or fade, never perish or spoil. As you are in between, cling to this hope that is eternal and in Christ.

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Friday…Did Hope Go?

Had their hope ended?

It was quiet. The day ended differently than it started. The events of the previous night boiled over as the sun rose. The crowd, who shouted, “crucify him,” was now lining the road as he carried his cross. Stumbling and weary, he finally made it to the hill where the crucifixion was to take place.

The crowd followed cheering and mocking, but there were some who followed at a distance. They were grieving and horrified, and they were wondering if hope had ended. They were confused and perplexed. They had hoped in him, but now he was being put to death.

As these followers processed their thoughts in the noise of the crowd, the events of the day rolled on. The horizontal and vertical pieces of the cross were put together. His feet were fastened in place, and as the soldiers waited, they played dice for his clothes. The climax of the day came at noon.

“By this time, it was about noon and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone, and suddenly the curtain in the temple was torn down the middle,” records Luke 23. “Then Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands,’ and with those words, he breathed his last. When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshipped God and said, ‘Surely this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow, but Jesus friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.”

Everyone went home. An overwhelming feeling of sorrow captured them. What had they done? Was hope gone?

It was Friday evening, and they did not understand in a few hours Sunday morning would arrive. Those searching for hope will soon be filled with overwhelming joy. The did not understand hope was not lost.

Hope is shared today because of the events started on that Friday.

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Neighbors First

Neighbors first mindset is modeled by Jesus.

Thursday of Passion Week has two events where we see Jesus placing others first amid much tension.

First, Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room partaking in the Passover meal. They are about to eat, but no one has washed feet. This was a dirty job reserved for the lowest servant in the household, but none of the disciples bothered to do it. Perhaps because they were too busy arguing about being the greatest. It could have been the disciples were so involved in themselves they forgot about washing feet. Jesus, on the other hand, did not.

He wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciple’s feet. This would have been upside down logic in the disciples’ minds. They should have been the ones washing Jesus’ feet. Nevertheless, Jesus serves them. He places their needs above his own.

Jesus would have had a lot on his mind in the upper room. He knew what was getting ready to take place. He knew of his betrayal, his arrest, and his crucifixion, yet he served his disciples. Though carrying a heavy load, himself, Jesus was concerned about the needs of his disciples. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

Second, Jesus was praying in the garden. He requested some of his disciples keep watch, but they kept falling asleep. In his anguish, Jesus could have scolded the disciples, but he didn’t. He told them to pray for themselves. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

We know this was an excruciating time for Jesus. The Bible records Jesus sweating drops of blood as he was agonizing over the cross; however, his mindset remained neighbors first.

You and I find a challenge in these events. We should strive to have a neighbors first mindset. This Easter season may be different than any other in our lifetime. Many of us our carrying heavy loads as we navigate through an uncommon time. This is more reason to have a neighbors first mindset.

By having a neighbors first mindset, you and I can help one another get through this historical time. We can check on one another, pick up supplies for one another, and encourage one another. All this can be done while maintaining social distance, and a neighbors first mindset does make a difference.

Just ask Amy McDonald. Amy was headed to the store a few days ago, and she stopped to check on an elderly neighbor. The neighbor needed groceries, so Amy obtained the list. She stopped at two stores and returned with the requested items, but something seemed wrong.

Amy spent some time with her neighbor, and it turns out the lady was having a heart attack. She was having what is known as the “Widow Maker.” Amy was able to call EMS and the neighbor’s daughter. A life was saved because Amy had a neighbors first mindset.

Here’s more folks with a neighbors first mindset.

We find in the events of Passion Week’s Thursday a challenge to adopt a neighbors first mindset. This mindset makes a difference. Amy’s neighbors first mindset saved a life. What will your neighbors first mindset do today?

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Back on Track

The 3 Rs put Peter back on track.

The week had been action packed. Peter and the other disciples watched Jesus enter Jerusalem to cheering crowds. They witnessed a temple cleansing and a fig tree withering. Passover was being celebrated and it was only midweek. Peter and his companions still had much to witness.

As they are having the Passover meal, Jesus delivered shocking news to Peter. Jesus told the disciples before the night ended; they would all desert him.

“Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth. Peter, this very night before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ ‘No,’ Peter insisted, ‘even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you,’ and all the other disciples vowed the same,” records Matthew 26:33-35.

Peter didn’t understand the intensity of pressure was ramping up, and under pressure, he would live out the words Jesus said.

Luke 22 records, “So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home, and Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sit around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally, she said, ‘This man was one of Jesus’ followers.’ But Peter denied it. ‘Woman,’ he said, ‘I don’t even know him.’

After a while, someone else looked at him and said, ‘You must be one of them.’ ‘No, man, I’m not,’ Peter retorted.

About an hour later, someone insisted, ‘This must be one of them because he is a Galilean too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ and immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

At that moment, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind, ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And, Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”

Have you ever had this moment? You realize a mistake has been made, and now it is time to fix it. We find in Peter’s story a pattern to follow.

Remember

As Jesus looked at Peter, Luke says Jesus’ words came back to Peter. Suddenly, he remembered the earlier conversation. He remembered his own words. He remembered Jesus’ words, and he realized he was in error.

When we are in error, our memory triggers our conscience. We remember the conversation, the words, the Lord. Suddenly, we are struck with the reality of a mistake. We remember, and what we do in this moment is up to us.

Repent

Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly, and we know from the Gospel writers Peter repented. His sorrow turned him from the direction he was going back in the direction of the Lord. Peter allowed his sorrow to put him back on track with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow, but worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

We too can allow our sorrow to turn us in the direction of the Lord. This is not a sorrow we got caught in an error, but a sorrow that drives us to make things right. It creates action, alarm, and zeal in us to do the next right thing. How you and I handle sorrow in an error is up to us.

Reconcile

Peter remembered, he repented, and he was reconciled.

In one of his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus has an honest conversation with Peter.

“After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘You know I love you.’

‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love you.’

“Then take care of my sheep,’ Jesus said.

A third time he asked him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep.”

When you and I turn in the direction of the Lord, he will reconcile with us. He will not leave us but run to us. Jesus’ work on the cross made it possible to reconcile with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Acting

It is not that we make mistakes but how we handle the mistakes that makes the difference. Peter gives us a pattern to get on track, but how we handle things is up to us. How are you handling mistakes?

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Hope in Heartache

Psalm 22 presents hope for the future.

The time had come. Jesus was on the cross, and the Gospel writers record…

“Then at three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘…My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” writes Mark in 15:34.

While we do not completely understand or fully comprehend Jesus’ experience in that moment, his words go back to Psalm 22.

David wrote this psalm in a season of suffering. Nothing was going well, so he pinned these words.

David writes in verses 1-2, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer. By night, but I find no rest.”

Can you relate? It seems as if nothing is going well. Everyone has abandoned you and life is a disaster. You are not alone. David felt that way, and even Jesus experienced abandonment for a period.

It was not the end of the story for David or Jesus, and it will not be the end of your story.

Psalm 22 goes on to speak of better times for David, a resurrection for Jesus, and hope for you and me.

Verse 24 says, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one. He has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

David’s suffering was only for a season which passed. The abandonment of Jesus was only for a period, which ended in an exciting fashion. As David proclaimed, God did not hide. He heard the cry, and he was faithful to deliver.

God is not hiding. He hears your cries, and he will deliver. Meanwhile, Psalm 22 suggests praising the Lord faithfully knowing he will deliver.

 

Where is our trust?

Was Jesus the political leader for whom they were searching?

The streets were lined with crowds of people waiving palm branches. They were singing. The city was in an uproar of excitement. Jesus was entering, and the citizens believed he was going to be their political king. The people were overjoyed, and excitement was in the air. The next few days were going to be action packed, but not for the reasons the people were celebrating on this day.

Today is Palm Sunday. This is the start of Passion Week, the week leading up to the events of Easter. Where is our trust? It is a good question to answer today.

The Gospel writers record Jesus entering Jerusalem to much cheer and applause. The people thought Jesus was entering to overthrow Rome. They believed Jesus was going to be their political leader. He was the one who was going to establish a reign and replace Rome as the ruler. Jesus, however, had a more significant purpose.

The people misunderstood, and they placed their trust in the wrong place. They were looking for a political leader and missed the true mission of Jesus.

Psalm 118:8-9 proclaims, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

Where is our trust today?

A Way to Greatness

Who is the greatest?

This was the question on the disciples’ minds, and two of them had the audacity to approach Jesus. James and John wanted to be the greatest, so they requested positions of honor. Jesus’ answer may have confused them, and it was certainly contrary to their thinking.

Jesus gives them the formula to greatness, but when compared to the world’s, it’s upside down.

According to Mark 10:42-44, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

“Greatness is found in serving,” Jesus says. If we want to be great, we must serve. Great leaders serve the individuals being led. Great bosses serve their employees. Being great is being a servant.

Greatness is not yielding authority, or having people jump at one’s every command. It is working from the bottom up. It is making the least the most. Jesus shows us an illustration of greatness.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus says in Mark 10:45.

Jesus became the least to serve everyone. In humility, he met the need of the world. As Passion Week begins, we remember the extent of his service. This is a picture of greatness.

Acting

Identify ways to be a servant. Perhaps it is checking on a neighbor, being generous to someone in need, or calling someone who may be lonely. How can you be a servant today?

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