Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Resurrection Sunday (also known as Easter). I have been blogging since 2008 and have posted many times on the events of Holy Week. On the one hand I don’t wish to keep writing and posted material that is already here. On the other hand there are constantly new friends discovering The Master’s Table and following that have not read those previous posts. And we are talking about the greatest story ever told; it is central to our identity as Christians and never gets old. Continue reading
The Bronze Serpent
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numbers 21:4-9
So if you were bitten by a fiery serpent, all you had to do was look at the bronze serpent set on the pole in order to live and not die. We are not told how obedient Israel was in this matter but we can safely assume that some people did just that while others failed to believe it would make any difference… and died anyway. Like I say, we don’t know that for certain but we are given many, many examples of incomplete obedience. Now consider the parales: the fiery serpents represent sin. Because of our sin nature from birth we are all “bitten” by it and will die. All one must do to live is look in faith to the Lamb of God lifted up on the tree at Calvary. Look up and live, it’s as simple as that. And just in case it were possible to miss the symbolism of this Old Testament story, consider these words of Jesus:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15
Easter is coming up. The last Sunday in March (there are five this year) is Palm Sunday and the first Sunday in April is Easter. The dates are March 29th and April 5th. Those of you that observed Ash Wednesday and/or the season of Lent are aware of these dates already, as well as anyone planning church activities and worship services. And it is those individuals – pastors, preachers, minsters and directors of music, all worship leaders – that I wish to address.
I spent several years in a ministry that included a daily chapel service. Not only did we observe Palm Sunday and Easter but we had the opportunity to celebrate each day of Holy Week. We could talk about the Triumphal Entry on Sunday and focus on the different aspects of Jesus’ final teachings with the Apostles each day that week. We could give a full day to the Last Supper, another to the arrest and false trial, and spend Good Friday detailing the events of the crucifixion. With all of that said and done the focus of Easter Sunday was entirely on celebrating the resurrection. Continue reading
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and wheneveryou want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9
So to summarize: A costly vessel was broken, a precious substance poured out, something valuable was given away but not wasted. Continue reading
If this is the day Jesus died, why is today good?
In the sense it is used good means holy when we say Good Friday. It is also called Great Friday, Holy Friday and Easter Friday in other traditions around the world. This is the day we commemorate Jesus as the atoning sacrifice. Holy Week is a time of preparation and consecration that seeks to take things one step at a time. Don’t jump ahead to the celebration; today is about the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Today we observe the crucified savior. If you’ve been reading the Gospel accounts all week, save that last chapter for Sunday. Continue reading
The Bible records several different occasions on which Jesus prayed. He taught the disciples to pray, though the Lord’s Prayer is something of a misnomer; we should rightly call that the Model Prayer or even the Disciples Prayer. Jesus always spent extra time in prayer before a big event, sometimes praying all night. He regularly went out alone very early each morning to pray, and even though he had some harsh words regarding public prayer we have a few of his prayers recorded, including the High Priestly Prayer of John 17. But every year at this time there is always one in particular I come back to. Continue reading
There is an old saying about Hindsight being 20/20. Thinking back on past events allows a clearer perspective than being in the midst of the present. It’s easy to imagine how we might have handled a particular situation, or to criticize others for what they they did wrong. It has to do with perspective. Being in the heat of the moment is not the same as looking at cold stats. Watching a game from the stands offers a different vantage point than being on the field. It also takes away pressure to perform, adrenaline rush and the intimidation factor of the opposing team. Your team always win when you coach from the recliner. The same is true when watching the game film. We’ve all heard people say “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Continue reading
There are many well-known passages of scripture that make their way onto Christmas cards and into sermons this time of year. Prophesies of Isaiah and Micah foretelling the Messiah are common, and the birth of Jesus is recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. While Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child, there’s a lot more going on than just a birthday. The incarnation is about God robing himself in flesh. Emanuel is God with us, and the New Testament has much more to say about the incarnation than it does the night it happened.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV)