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Devotions for Holy Week

What’s So Maundy about this Thursday?

Pray: Ask God to bless and change you as you encounter Him by His Word and Spirit.

Text: John 13.34-35 (ESV)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the amazing week that began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and that ended on the evening before his triumphal rising from the grave, the Thursday of that week was big.  So much occurred on that day!

On that Thursday of Passion Week Jesus continued his practice of honoring and fulfilling every detail of the Old Testament as He made preparations for and ate the Passover meal.  And then He revealed to the disciples and to us a new meal, the Lord’s Supper, that would commemorate an even greater reality of the Passover and point to a heavenly banquet to come.

On that Thursday He promised to send the Holy Spirit; He taught more about His own Person and Work (I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I Am the True Vine); and made His High Priestly Prayer, in which He showed his heart of intercession for us.

What a day!

But how did this Thursday come to be known as “Maundy Thursday”?  And why does it matter that it is?

The word “Maundy” is derived from an old Anglo-French word which comes from the Latin “mandatum”, meaning “commandment”.  In the passage from John’s Gospel we read above, Jesus takes a moment to challenge the disciples.  In this challenge He shows them that what He’s about to do doesn’t mean the end of their work.  Far from it!  This week that will culminate in Jesus’ death and resurrection will launch them into a mission like they’ve not known before!

The Son of God came to rescue a people and to reconcile them to Holy God. And for the rest of our days, that rescue and reconciliation makes possible and empowers a charge upon our redeemed lives.  The command to us, our marching orders, tells us to go forth and to love.  The command tells us to love in such a way that we put our allegiance to Christ on clear display.  Preach Christ to the world with a love that the world does not know!

Love others like Jesus has loved us.  It’s like wearing an ID badge that says, “I belong to Christ”.  When our love for others demonstrates self-sacrifice, when it demonstrates the courage and conviction to do others real and meaningful good, when our love is not merely something we “feel” but something we “do”, it proclaims Christ.  But it’s not just an ID for others to see.  We also are to be amazed and encouraged when we are reminded that we belong to Christ!  Every time it happens, every time that we actually love in this way, it proclaims to us the incredible truth that we are Christ’s.

In God’s counter-cultural economy, when we give of ourselves instead of take for ourselves, when we are moved by what’s good for the other, when we live by conviction instead of fleeting emotion…we come away with the incalculable reward of knowing it happened because we are Jesus’ disciples, the beloved children of God.

Jesus, by His Gospel, has set us free to love in this new way, and He has promised to send the Holy Spirit to teach us and equip us and empower us for it.

There was a new command that Thursday, and it is ours to have and enjoy by His grace!

For Thought/Discussion:

  1. This passage challenges us to consider what love should look like.  In what ways could love like Jesus’ love find more expression in your life?  In what ways should you repent from seeing love in a self-serving way?
  2. What role does the Holy Spirit play in this?  What role do we play?
  3. Our temptation is often to think that God would be more pleased with us if we did better at things (like love!)  How do you accept the challenge to love more like Christ without falling into that trap? 

Pray: Thank God and praise Him for the Gospel of Grace.  Thank God for challenging us to love like He loves.  Ask God to change your character more and more into the image of Christ.  Declare your trust in His promise to bring to completion that which He began in you.

Happy Maundy Thursday!

 

 

“Good”? The Biggest Understatement Ever!

Pray: Ask God to amaze you again by the cross.

Text: John 19.30b (ESV)

(Jesus) said, “It is finished”, and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

In one of Winston Churchill’s more famous speeches, he implored his listeners to “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy[1] .”

Mr. Churchill was visiting his old school, Harrow, in 1941 and was seeking to encourage the audience that buckling against opposition when one is in the right is never an acceptable thing to do. Mr. Churchill was firmly convinced that Britain and her allies stood in the right against Nazi Germany, and there was no question of wavering in that conviction.

But Mr. Churchill’s courage and conviction was a far cry from the greatest courage and conviction ever put on display, a courage and conviction that we remember on this day, Good Friday.

On this day, some 2000 years ago, the Son of God faced the most terrifying prospect imaginable. On that cross, Jesus wasn’t unique in the horrific physical suffering He endured, as repulsive as that punishment was. Indeed, there were thieves on either side of Him who endured the same terrible physical demise.

No, what made His suffering unique was the spiritual anguish He endured on account of our sin. The spiritual anguish that came from the break in fellowship with the Father that our sin caused.  How could the indivisible Godhead be torn asunder? How can it be that the perfect relationship that the Father and Son enjoyed for all eternity be made imperfect?

The distinguishing attribute of God’s character above all else is “holy”. The angels worship Him with that praise (see Isaiah 6). And it describes perfection, especially perfection with regard to sin. There is no sin that stains Holy God. There is no sin that Holy God will allow to go unchecked, un-dealt-with, unpunished. It cannot remain in his presence.

So what does that mean for people like us, whose lives have been marked by sin? What eternal future could we possibly have with a record like ours? Who will rescue us from this body of death?

Herein lies the incredible mercy and love of God toward those who are helpless to rescue themselves. There is only one way to deal with an offense that is infinitely bad (as any transgression against God’s holy character is): there must be a punishment that is infinitely worthy, or justice would not be served.

God the Father, out of His incredible love toward a people, desired for that infinite price to be paid. God the Son, out of His incredible love toward a people, willingly sought to pay that infinite penalty. Infinite worth to pay the infinite price.

It would mean a break in the fellowship between the Father and Son that had never occurred before. A one-time stain upon the Holy Son, made up of the sins of the people He came to save. Jesus, the beloved Son, would endure the wrath of his beloved Father in order to save his beloved people.

He would never, never, never give in until He had won the freedom and reconciliation of his people from their sin. He would endure, because He knew the joy that would come from saving his people. He would do everything necessary to make things right between us and Holy God.

And so it is most astounding to consider that He uttered those words before His suffering was over. “It is finished” is the guarantee from Jesus Himself that our salvation has been secured, and that our ultimate good has been completely won. 

Perhaps we need to adjust our appreciation for the word “good” or perhaps we need a new adjective to describe this Friday, because the infinite goodness of what Jesus did on this day seems to demand a word of infinite glory!

For Thought/Discussion:

  1. This passage could easily be read over quickly, and its importance missed.  In what ways could we seek to grow in our appreciation for the greatness of Jesus’ work on our behalf?
  2. How does the love of the Father in yearning for your reconciliation affect how you might seek to love others?
  3. How does the love of the Son in securing your reconciliation affect how you might seek to love others? 

Pray: Thank God the Father for His mercy and love in saving you.  Thank God the Son for His sacrificial love in saving you.  Ask God the Spirit to make you ever more aware of the lengths God has gone to secure your redemption.  In light of the Gospel, declare your trust in his love for all the details of your life.

Happy Exceedingly Good Friday!

 

[1] www.nationalchurchillmuseum.org; accessed 06 Apr 20.