The Bible has nothing to say about this Saturday. This day is silent. Jesus had died, he had gone through with what he came to do. He had done what the Father sent him to do. There was nothing else to do but wait.
For the disciples, their master had just died. Only three days earlier, Jesus was healing the sick, rebuking the religious leaders and teaching the crowds - and now he lay in a tomb.
Although Jesus had foretold his death a number of times, the disciples still didn’t quite understand what was going to happen. Saturday would have been full of pain and sadness. For the disciples Saturday probably looked like just sitting around in mourning, not sure what to do next. It seems they were not expecting the resurrection!
For us though, this side of history, we wait in eager anticipation.
Do: (Thanks again Ruth!)
Perhaps you have seeds in your house, or perhaps lying around in your garden? If you look at the seed, it doesn’t look very alive does it? It looks very much dead! Then we bury it in the earth and it seems to have gone. But when you bury that dead looking seed, new life springs from it.
So it was with the death of Christ. Read John 12:23-25 and, if you have any seeds, go and plant one in the garden or in a flower pot and reflect on this idea from Jesus that out of his death, there came a chance for life.
Go to the sermons section of the website for our Good Friday talk.
Today we reflect on the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples before going to the cross. Many of us are familiar with the meal itself, which we’ll come to shortly, but a number of other interesting things happened at this meal.
It is evening when Jesus arrives with his disciples for the meal (Matthew 26:20, Mark 14:17) and Jesus tells the disciples that he has earnestly been desiring this passover meal with them all before he suffers and dies. He tells them that he won’t eat again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:14-16). Jesus was going to treasure this meal with this close group that were both his disciples and friends. But what an extraordinary dinner it was!
Firstly, there was a dispute amongst the disciples about who was the greatest amongst them. Imagine sitting around the table with Jesus at this last meal and a debate, based on human pride, fires up! This goes to show how much we are in need of a saviour.
Incredibly, Jesus had just told them that he wanted to share one last meal with them before he suffers and dies and they respond by arguing amongst themselves who is the greatest!
But such is the heart and grace of Jesus that he uses this moment to both teach and encourage his disciples. Jesus gets up from the meal and washes his disciples' feet and by doing so Jesus shows them that true greatness comes through serving others. (Luke 22:24-30, John 13: 1 - 20).
Jesus then, greatly distressed in spirit, speaks about betrayal. One of his disciples was going to betray him.
“I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me”. (Matthew 26:21)
The Bible says that the disciples became greatly distressed by this revelation. “Surely not I, Lord?” each of them asked him!
Jesus replies by saying “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27).
So Judas gets up and leaves. Judas had already been previously tempted by satan to steal money from Jesus, he had also been tempted to betray Jesus to the authorities and now finally he was possessed by satan himself. Jesus being both fully man and fully God must have felt or known the presence of the enemy amongst them. Jesus allowed this to happen to fulfil the prophecy of the betrayal of the Messiah.
Finally, following the shock amongst the disciples around this betrayal, Jesus had one more surprising revelation to share! Quoting prophecy, Jesus revealed that they would all desert him!
“Then Jesus said to them, “This night you will all fall away because of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter said to him, “If they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away!” Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, on this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will never deny
you.” And all the disciples said the same thing.” (Matthew 26:31-35)
(Also in John 13:31-38, Mark 14:27-31, Luke 22:31-34)
Peter says that even if he had to die with Jesus, he would never leave him.
That’s when Jesus prophesied that before the morning rooster crows, Peter would deny he ever knew Jesus, three times!
What an extraordinary meal! Human pride, betrayal, the forces of darkness and the scattering of the disciples all played a part in this incredible evening.
But in amongst it all, Jesus would institute a practise that Christians have done ever since. He took two simple elements that were already on the table, bread and wine, and would use them to establish a practise by which we can remember what Christ has done for us. Jesus broke the bread to symbolise that His body would be broken and then would drink from the wine to indicate how his blood would be poured out for us.
“ While they were eating, he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it. This is my body.” And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many. I tell you the truth, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day
when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:22-25
Jesus' blood poured would replace the blood of the passover lamb as the fulfilment of the law and the final sacrifice to reconcile fallen humanity back to our creator God. The start of a new covenant between us and God! (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
So let’s remember, in between the imperfections of fallen humanity, amongst the works of satan,under the scattering of his people, God was at work to bring about his determined will to save those whom he loves!
This is still true today as it was on that last supper night! Let’s take comfort in the sovereignty of God and the compassion and love that Christ has for us.
Do: (Thank you Ruth for this idea)
As we sit down for our evening meal today, read together (or yourself) Mark 14:17-26 and then 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
After that, in a quiet and mindful way, wash each others' feet or hands (or your own if it is just you).
Then before you eat, take some bread (any bread will do) break it and eat it and similarly with wine/juice/water. Then, keep a minute in silence reflecting on this Lord’s supper.
Wednesday marks the day that Jesus taught the crowds publicly for the last time before heading to the cross. Which was quite a significant moment when you think about it.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Passover celebrations and later that Thursday evening, Jesus would be arrested.
Incredibly this final teaching session from Jesus, which we are about to read, was authenticated and signed off by the audible voice of God.
Reading the account of this final act of teaching, is a bit like watching the last ever episode of your favourite TV show. There is sadness knowing that what had become so familiar to us, Jesus teaching the crowd, was finally coming to end!
After delivering this last discourse, we read that Jesus returned to Bethany (45 min walk from Jerusalem) and only returned back to Jerusalem the following evening for the final meal, the Lord’s supper.
So what is it that Jesus chose to speak about for his last public appearance before going on to complete his mission?
Let’s read it together, I think you’ll find it quite moving!
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
Then Jesus continues in John 13:44 -50:
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
So what did Jesus choose to preach on for the last time?
Hear Jesus’ determination as he talks about his death and about his mission to save the world. Using the analogy of a seed, his death will bring life to many! He then challenges us, his disciples, to follow him and serve him!
Jesus openly admits that he is feeling troubled and fearful, knowing what was to come the following day.
Verse 27: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?
Then we see Jesus’ steadfast focus on achieving his mission in response to his own question, I can almost picture Jesus shouting this next line!
“No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Nothing was going to stop Jesus! It was in this moment of public resolve that the audible voice of the Heavenly Father could be heard.
“I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Imagine being there, in that moment, hearing Jesus talk passionately about coming to die, to save the world and to bring glory to God. Imagine hearing the audible voice of God like thunder.
Jesus had come to deal with the judgement of God on this world. He had come to drive out Satan, the prince of this world. He had come to conquer death and to draw people from every nation and tribe to himself!
He finishes with one last plea to the crowd. I’m only with you for a little while longer, believe and become children of light before the darkness overtakes you!
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
“I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Those were likely the last words that a significant number of the crowd ever heard from Jesus.
Wow. What a powerful last sermon! Death & new life, bringing glory to the Father!
How can we reflect on reading this today?
Despite the personal cost and fear, Jesus was determined to get the job done. He calls us to do the same. He calls us to follow him and lay down our lives for His mission and to bring glory to God. For some in the world, 'laying down our lives' means in the very real sense of dying for Christ. But for us here in Wales, laying down our lives means surrendering all of our own personal ambitions and plans and saying “God, your will be done, not mine! I will go wherever you send me”!
We too have a mission, a job to get done and we are to give our lives for it! To be sold out for it.
We are called to tell people everywhere the same message that Jesus just taught. That through his death, he has made a way for people to come to him and be saved. It may cost us personally, we may be scared, but we must follow the example that our Lord set for us.
Pray and ask the Father to give you the same resolve as Jesus. Recommit to giving your life in service to Him.
Write on a piece of paper, all of your own personal ambitions for your future, for your life and for your family. Then prayerfully draw a line through them all and surrender your plans to him. Write a simple prayer at the bottom saying “I surrender my plans and ambitions to follow you”. By doing this, we are not saying that God won’t, or doesn’t want to, do the things on your list for you. God loves to bless us. But Jesus does tell us to deny ourselves, give up everything to follow him. (Luke 9:23).
Let’s be willing and determined, just like our Lord and Saviour.
Yesterday, we reflected on the fact that God had a plan from the beginning to rescue His children and in this Holy Week we are starting to see the plan reaching it's pinnacle.
Over the next two days we are going to reflect on some of the key elements of what was achieved by Jesus through his dying on the cross.
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, access to God was restricted. God is so Holy, His presence so magnificent and pure, that it was impossible for any human to enter the very presence of God and live. God’s glory is so great and our sin so defiling, that there was no way for us to draw near to the presence of God and survive the encounter!
But God’s will and pleasure was to draw near to us! God’s presence inhabits all of His creation but mankind could only access this presence at that time in the Holy of Holies at the Temple in Jerusalem, the most sacred place on the earth. The Holy of Holies was the epicentre of the universe. The presence of God dwelt there. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil, a large curtain. See the image below.
As many of you will know, only the high priest was able to enter through the curtain into the Holy of Holies once a year to make atonement (making amends) for the sins of himself and for the sins of all the people.
Did you know that there were more than 35 steps that the high priest had to go through to prepare himself to be able to enter the presence of God? (Read Leviticus 16!) Those steps included specific clothing, lots of washing and bathing and choosing the right animals. Entering God’s presence was a sacred, fearful, awe-inspiring thing to do and was always approached soberly and respectfully. That was how things were.
Right up until this point in history, the people of God did not have direct contact with the presence of God.
They could pray to God, they could make sacrifices to him, but they could not enter His presence. God dwelt amongst His people by dwelling in the temple, not in them. Only one person could enter His Holy presence, for just one time, once a year. For that High priest it was the pinnacle of their lives. The greatest of honours.
This is so hard for us to grasp now, from where we are now, but this was how God had always dwelt with his people, right from the fall, right up until the point that Jesus approached the cross.
God was not content to just dwell amongst His people from the temple. He was not content to limit access to His glory to just one person.
It was part of God’s rescue plan to make access to His presence available to all of His Children.
At the moment of Jesus death, when our sins atoned for, once and for all, something dramatic happened in the temple. What happened would have shaken the current priesthood to their very core.
Let’s read it together in Matthew 27:51-54:
So this is what happened immediately after Jesus died:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[a] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
The curtain, separating God’s presence from His people, had been torn in two. The way to God had been opened up to everyone who would come. From every nation and language, the way had been opened!
So let’s pray and dwell on the fact that we too now have access to God’s presence! More than that! God now dwells in us! Our bodies are now the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)!
A reflective challenge for us:
Although we no longer have to go through 35 steps to enter the presence of God, are we treating our bodies, which is the temple of the Spirit of God, with the proper care and respect that this privilege demands?
Jesus had suffered and died, in a way that is beyond our ability to comprehend, to earn us the right to enter God’s presence.
God is so amazing!
So let’s remember, in prayer, the absolute privilege it is for us to be able to enter God’s presence whenever we choose!
Although we can talk to God in prayer at any point, no matter what we are doing in that moment. As a way of recognising the privilege that it is to enter God’s presence, why not today go and find a quiet place in your home and enter a more formal prayer posture (perhaps kneeling, or bowing down) than you usually would do when praying.
Thank God that he made the way for us to enter His presence. Thank Him for the privilege that it is to be with Him. Thank Him for sending His Son to make the way for us.
The Final Week by Max Lucado (On Calvary's Hill)
It’s early in the final week. The props and players for Friday’s drama are in position. Five-inch spikes are in the bin. A crossbeam leans against a shed wall. The players are nearing the stage—Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas, Judas, the centurions.
Players and props. Only this is no play; it’s a divine plan. A plan begun before Adam felt heaven’s breath, and now all heaven waits and watches. All eyes are on one figure—the Nazarene.
Commonly clad. Uncommonly focused. Leaving Jericho and walking toward Jerusalem. He doesn’t chatter or pause. He’s on his final journey.
Even the angels are silent. They know this is no ordinary walk or week. For hinged on this week is the door of eternity.
He knew the end was near. He knew the finality of Friday.
Let’s walk with him. Let’s see how Jesus spent his final days.
Enter the holy week and observe.
Feel his passion. Sense his power. Hear his promise that death has no power.
Let’s follow Jesus on his final journey. For by observing his, we may learn how to make ours.
Matthew 21: 6 -11
Watch & Prayer:
Is anything in your house broken? A broken draw, shelf? Or perhaps something has run out of batteries? Or perhaps there are some weeds in your garden? If so, why not come up with a plan today on how to fix this issue! Come up with a solution, what you need to get to make it happen and then execute the plan later in the week. As you do, reflect on the fact that God had a plan, He had the solution and this is God executing the plan!