Today we remember that at the time of Jesus' arrival, Jerusalem was in a place of great tension. On the one hand, rumors of a social uprising had begun to spread because of the Roman occupation. On the other hand, the religious leaders had put out the word that they wanted Jesus dead because they wanted to remain in Roman favor. And so at the beginning of the week, Jesus, unafraid of what awaited Him, chooses a humble donkey to ride into the Holy City, demonstrating not only His position as the prophesied King and Messiah but the kind of King and Messiah He was going to be: one of humility and peace. And yet, alongside the crowd's cheers of "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Jesus, the King, shed His tears. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, His holy heart broke because the people He loved and came to save missed the point. He didn't come to set them free from Roman tyranny, He came to set them free from their sins, and He knew that the same voices shouting out "Save us!" on Sunday would be shouting out "crucify Him!" by Friday.
Question to consider: As you see Jesus' heart for the lost, does your heart break in the same way for those in your life who don't know Jesus?
READING: Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:41-44
Today we remember on Monday, as Jesus was heading back into Jerusalem, He was hungry, and so He stopped off at a fig tree only to find there were no figs on it. So Jesus curses the tree. At first, it seems like Jesus overreacts but what He's really frustrated at is how the Nation of Israel (a fig tree symbolically represented Israel in the Old Testament) appears to have life but produces no fruit. After the disappointing fig tree experience, Jesus walks into the temple. He visited the night before, so he knew exactly what He would find: money changers, thieves, those manipulating and stealing from anyone who had come to worship God. So, Jesus, displaying His authority in the temple, chases out those trying to profit from the people's devotion. To say "that angered the religious leaders" is a massive understatement, and so their hatred towards Jesus grew, but you have to see Jesus' heart not only for authentic worship but for those who had come to worship.
Question to consider: Is there anything in your life that is hindering your worship?
READING: Matthew 21:18-19, Mark 11:15-18
After Jesus turned over the tables in the temple on Monday, He walks back into the temple on Tuesday and begins to teach. The religious rulers start to question Him and try to get Him to submit to their authority, but Jesus flips the script and starts asking them questions proving His authority over them. Then they bring in outsiders to try and trick Jesus into saying something that gets Him in trouble with the people, but again Jesus responds in such a way that the questioners marvel at His answers, and they fall silent. Finally, it says that no one wants to ask him questions anymore (Matt 22:46). In the Pharisees' and Sadducees' minds, this defiance was the last straw. No longer would threats and warnings work; now they knew they had to have Him killed. Jesus has drawn a line in the sand. It seems like this can only end one of two ways: either Jesus overthrows the religious and political system, or they have Him killed (no one knew God had a third option in mind.). The day ends with Jesus and His disciples heading back to the Mount of Olives, and Jesus instructs them about the coming times: both the destruction of Israel and about His second coming.
Question to consider: The religious leaders had a real problem with Jesus demonstrating His authority over them. Is there any area of your life where you struggle with Jesus' authority?
READING (its long but worth it): Matthew 21:23-23:39, Mark 13:1-37
Wednesday is known as "Silent Wednesday" because, after the incredibly controversial actions of Jesus Sunday-Tuesday, it's more of a low-key day as He spends it teaching in the temple, but sadly what He teaches is not recorded. However, today is anything but silent. In fact, today should be called "Shady Wednesday" because today is the day where the Pharisees and the Chief Priests secretly gather together in Caiaphas; house to plot out how they were going to have Jesus killed. They had to be careful, though, because Jesus was growing in popularity during the feast, and so they were concerned there would be a riot if they just killed him. If only there were some way they could get someone to turn on Jesus...enter Judas. Still frustrated by Mary's perfume's waste on the feet of Jesus because it would have made them some many, Judas approaches the Pharisees and offers to help them get Jesus...for the right price.
Question to consider: There are so many sinister actions done in the shadows on this day. Are there any areas of your life that you are hiding from Jesus? He came to draw it out into the light to set you free.
READING Mark 14:1-2, Luke 21:37-22:6
Today is a day known as Maundy Thursday. The day that Jesus shared His last passover meal with His disciples. These are Jesus' final moments before going to the cross and He's spending them with HIs closes friends and sharing what is nearest to His heart. This is a day that seemed to never end: From teaching His disciples about love through action by washing their feet, to teaching them through words about how to treat one another after He's gone, to establishing the practice of communion to remember His sacrifice, to sending Judas on His way to the Pharisees knowing what He was going to do, to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to His Father, to Judas' kiss of betrayal, to Jesus' arrest, and finally the beginning of what would be an all-night mockery of justice as Jesus was brought through illegal trial after illegal trial...ultimately ending in His death tomorrow.
No question to consider today...just take some time today and tonight to remember our Lord. Remember what He shared with those closest to Him on the night before He died.
READING John 16:16-33, John 17, Matthew 26:17-75
Today we remember the moment that all of history was either looking forward to or looking back at, the moment Jesus saved the world from their sins. How in the world can the incredible tragedy of that day, the day where the only innocent man in the history of the world, was brutally killed for crimes He didn't commit be considered "good"? Because it was our crimes He was paying for. He took on death to kill our death. It's good news because Jesus declared from the cross "It is finished!" Now we can be with Him forever and ever and ever. And it's Good News because we know Sunday is coming...but this is the path to the celebration.
After a night of illegal trial after illegal trial, today Jesus will be brought before Pilate, will be beaten, scourged, spat upon, mocked, laughed at, humiliated, and ultimately murdered. And He never stopped it, He never ran from it. Like a sheep lead to the slaughter, He opened not His mouth. And do you know why? Because He had YOU on His mind. You were the joy set before Him and so He endured the cross.
Instead of a question to think about today, consider fasting. Abstaining from food is a good way to remember the pain Jesus went through on your behalf. Every time you feel that hunger pain, plus and pray. Give Him thanks, confess sins that need to be confessed, sit in adoration of the love displayed on that Friday.
READING: Matthew 27:1-61
Also known as "Holy Saturday"...the silence of Saturday would have been deafening. For many of us, Saturday is a day to get ready for Sunday. It's a day of excitement and anticipation...but that is not what the disciples would have been feeling. What they just witnessed the day before would have shaken them to the core. Sure, maybe it takes a lot of faith to believe Jesus rose from the dead...but how much more faith does it require when you still have the image of the lifeless body of your friend and savior in your mind? When you helped wrap Him in the burial clothes and helped carry His body to the tomb?
Now it's the day after and nothing has changed....Jesus is still dead. He’s still in the grave. They are probably terrified that they are next; that the mere association with Jesus will lead to their own crucifixion. They’re grieving the loss of a friend and teacher. They’re humiliated they really believed that he was the Messiah–the savior of the world. Doubt begins to creep in.
On top of that...hopelessness because on Saturday, the Pharisees go to Pilate and ask for extra security at the tomb, just in case the disciples try to steal the body to trick everyone into thinking Jesus rose from the dead (even His enemies knew He talked about rising on the third day)
But silence can be overwhelming...and the disciples are hurting...but Jesus is asking them to wait....wait...wait one more day...."now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)
Despite the silence, Jesus promises that joy is coming. In our times of pain, grief, misunderstanding, and confusion… In our moments where we are left wallowing in the silence of God and unanswered prayers… When we are stuck in our Saturdays - the days following our darkest moments, we can hold on to this promise-one that Jesus gave his disciples some 2000 years ago: joy is coming. A joy that no one can take away.
READING: Matthew 27:62-66 (the only 4 verses that describe Saturday)