Expecting the Worse

In Worship by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Devotional Guide:

Monday, April 3. Read John 3:1-10. 1) What do you think Nicodemus had to lose by his curiosity about Jesus? 2) How does John express that caution? 3) What do you sense is Jesus response to Nicodemus?

Tuesday, April 4. Read John 19:38-42. 1) In this text, what does Joseph do? 2) How was his faith similar to that of Nicodemus? 3) Who helps Joseph out in this text?

Wednesday, April 5. Read Matthew 28:16-20. 1) What occurs in this text? 2) What were the two emotional reactions to the event?

Thursday, April 6. Read Mark 16:1-8. 1) What was the reaction of the women who went to the grave? 2) What in this text makes you wonder how their faith developed from this moment?

Friday, April 7. Read Luke 24:1-12. 1) This is another post-resurrection text. How did the women respond to what they saw? 2) What about the response lets you know at what stage their faith development was? 3) How did the apostles respond in verse 11?

Saturday, April 8. Read Matthew 26:57-66. This is Sunday’s sermon text.

Prayer for the Week:

O God of Easter. How soon we forget about this day. Tomorrow we will begin again with our lives, forgetting what it was like for Joseph as he found his empty tomb or Cleopas as he found Jesus holding pot luck luncheons with his disciples. Help us to dwell on the way that faith was shaped, daily, in to the lives of people like Nicodemas. And may we see the same Way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn of the Week:

In the Cross of Christ I Glory
by John Bowring, 1825

In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
light and love upon my way,
from the cross the radiance streaming
adds more luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the cross are sanctified;
peace is there that knows no measure,
joys that through all time abide.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time;
all the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.

Devotional Article of the Week:

I Will Cling to the Old Rugged Cross
Like him, and because of him, we live and die to live again.
by Phillip Morrison

If I could turn the calendar back about 21 centuries and relive a week from the life of Jesus, I think this — the most awful and the most wonderful week of his young life — is the one I would choose. In this week, he would be the guest of his Bethany friends, be anointed by Mary and another Mary, make his heroic entry into Jerusalem, teach from the Mount of Olives, share the Last Supper with his apostles, experience betrayal, denial, endure one mock trial after another, then finish his mission on earth on a cross. This week would be endured because of the victory to be celebrated on a single day of the week to follow. On the first day of that week — Sunday, what we call Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday — would come the joyous news that He is not here; He is risen; He is risen indeed! Like him, and because of him, we live and die to live again.

Remembering and Reliving:

It was an ordinary church service… until a college student rose to announce that he and some friends had been asked to help create a mood for communion, the Lord’s Supper. Our part was to sit quietly, with heads bowed and eyes closed, no matter what we might hear or sense. Suddenly, the silence was broken by WHAM! It was the sound of a heavy hammer blow followed by cries of pain. And, from different parts of the room, cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” were heard. Muted, but still heard in the background, was the noise of hammer blows and the anguished cries of unbearable pain. Some thought that communion devotional 30 years ago had profaned something sacred. I thought it had made real the raw emotions we usually gloss over with a bit of bread and a sip of wine. For me, it was a communion like no other, and every Sunday I still hear those screams and hammer blows all over again.

In 1957, a journalist and author named Jim Bishop created a stir in the religious world with his best-selling The Day Christ Died. More recently, no less a media personality than Bill O’Reilly has included in a series of books one titled Killing Jesus. Countless others, beginning with all four gospel writers, have tried to make the passion of Christ so real that we really do feel like we were “there when they crucified my Lord.”

Telling Jesus’ Story:

Twenty-one centuries later, we still struggle to tell the story so effectively that our questions are all answered and our emotions so involved that the story just won’t let go. It’s a story that takes place in less than a day — about 22 hours ending shortly before the beginning of Shabbat, the Sabbath.

Jesus and the apostles gathered in an upper room for the Passover meal, which we know as The Last Supper. From there they made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, was betrayed, and arrested. If you’re keeping score, there were seven trials or hearings in less than 24 hours.

Preachers tell the story over and over, trying to capture its essence. Lawyers discuss the legality of the various trials. And doctors describe in all the gory detail what death by crucifixion was like. Whether the Romans invented crucifixion or copied the practice from the Persians, they were interested in swift, public, painful punishment, convinced that it would serve as a deterrent for would-be criminals.

Only Luke describes the agony of Christ beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, where, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22: 44). A physician, Luke recorded that medical phenomenon and left us to decide whether the sweat was only similar to blood or a rare condition called hematidrosis, where tiny capillaries in sweat glands burst from stress actually causing a mixture of blood and sweat.

The blood of Gethsemane was only a portent of the blood Jesus would shed that same night. It’s tempting to just read about the scourging that took place and pass quickly over a word we don’t use anymore. But, it takes on new meaning when we visualize the flagrum or flagellum, a handle with leather thongs and lead balls near the ends. Applied vigorously to the prisoner’s back, the scourge would initially inflict surface cuts, and then deeper ones, until muscle tissue was torn to shreds, and arteries spurted until prisoners would eventually bleed out if the executioners were willing to wait.

Because of Jesus:

But, they were not paid to wait. And Luke, as if he couldn’t bear the details he was writing, summed them up in a short sentence: “And they crucified him” (Luke 23:33). That sentence doesn’t capture the pain of nails through hands and feet, or the blood streaming down from thorns puncturing Jesus’ scalp, or the excruciating thirst, or the pain in hands and shoulders as his body sags, or the pain in feet and legs as he struggles to rise and exchange one pain for another, or the pain of breathing in, and the greater pain of breathing out. Somehow, he manages to gasp out his words, his sayings from the cross, finally summoning the strength to cry with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Because of Jesus, “I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown!”

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