Tag Archives: Holy Week

Saving Jesus

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

A few years ago, I played the part of Pilate for a church’s Easter drama. As I rehearsed my lines and got into character, it dawned on me that I was the one sentencing Jesus to death. My first thought was, “I don’t know that I want to play this part.” Of all the characters in the drama, I’m the one who has the power to save Him and keep Him from being crucified. Even though I find no fault in Him, I still have to release Him to the mob to be killed. I have to give in to the mob rather than stand up for the truth. I have to disregard my wife’s warning and set a guilty man free instead.

As I struggled with playing that character, it hit me that it wasn’t Pilate who sentenced Jesus to death. It was me. Me! Chris Hendrix. It was my sin that condemned Him. It was my faults that nailed Him to the cross. These are things that I’ve known my whole life, but as I began to play the part of Pilate, I realized I’ve not really fully accepted that blame. I’ve been shifting it to those who actually crucified Him. It’s easier to point fingers and wash our hands of the guilt, but the truth is that water doesn’t take away the blame.

Each of us in our own way condemned Him to death. Even though I thought that as Pilate I had the power to save Him, I really didn’t. His ultimate plan was to die on the cross. If He hadn’t been crucified, we would still be in our sins and without hope. He kept that in mind as they hurled their accusations at Him. He loved them enough to stay silent in the face of their lies. He loved them enough to not perform a miracle for Herod. He loved you enough that He willingly died so He could pay the price for your sin. The real power was in His hands, not Pilate’s, and He used it for us. He took our “guilty” verdict on Himself to make us “innocent”. This Easter weekend, if you haven’t thanked Him for that, let me encourage you to. If you’ve never accepted Him for who He was and is, it’s time to recognize Him as the Son of God and invite Him to be Lord of your life. He died for you. Will you live for Him?

Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash

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Save Yourself

From the time Jesus left Pilate’s court until He arrived at Golgotha, there was a crowd of people. Some people in that crowd were people who loved Him and were for Him. Some were people who were passing by and got caught up in it. Then there were those who were railing against Him while the top religious leaders were trying to create a mob to make sure Jesus wouldn’t be rescued. There were so many people that Pilate assigned an entire battalion of 600 guards to the crucifixion.

After being severely beaten, and paraded through the streets, Jesus made His way outside of the city walls to the place of the skull. There, after they nailed Him to those roughly cut boards,, they raised Him up for all to see. The crowd began to taunt Him even more. Matthew 27:40 records them as saying, “‘Look at you now!’ they yelled at him. ‘You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!’” (NLT)

I often wonder where I would have been in the crowd that day. It’s easy to think I would have been with the disciples, quietly watching in shock. Jesus’ accusers knew His sermons. They were quoting the things He had said. These were people who saw the miracles and shouted, “Hosanna” just a week before, yet here they were mocking Him. Would you and I have been caught up in the rush of the moment to attack a person who was being humiliated publicly? We do it every day on social media. Why would this have been different?

I’m sure every bit of Jesus’ human nature was screaming at Him to come off the cross to prove to them that He was the Son of God and to silence them. Thankfully He obeyed the Spirit’s voice that had Him die on the cross that day. Because He stayed on the cross, He was able to open the doors of Heaven to all those in the crowd that day who were insulting Him. His blood that was spilled that day was enough to pay the debt of any sin that was ever committed or ever would be. He didn’t save Himself that day so that He could save you and me.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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The Power Of The Resurrection

  

Several years ago, I had the incredible privilege to celebrate Good Friday at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. As I attended the sunrise service, I kept staring over at the door to the tomb. I imagined the size of the rock that once covered that entrance. I pictured Mary weeping just a few feet away. I wondered what direction Peter and John came running from. It was surreal to be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus by the tomb that once held Him. As the sun came up, my mind turned its attention to the Angels who were there and the message they gave to all who came to that place.

Mark 16:6 records them as saying, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” All of christianity hinges on that last statement.  I Corinthians 15:14 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. (NLT)” Jesus didn’t come just to die. He came to rise again. He wasn’t just going to be crucified for our sins, He was going to be raised from the dead to give us life. His resurrection brought life where Adam’s sin brought death. Jesus defeated the power of death the moment He burst out of that tomb.

In Luke 24:5, the Angels asked the women, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?” Jesus had told them He would be raised on the third day, so why were they visiting the borrowed tomb with spices to embalm Him? They were looking for a crucified Jesus instead of a resurrected Jesus. Their message goes out to us today. Quit looking for the right thing in the wrong place. Our Lord was crucified, but He rose from the dead. You don’t have to go to a tomb to find Him. He left the place of the dead so that He could walk with you today among the living. 

The final thing I thought about as I sat there came from Mark 16:7. The angel said, “Now go tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” My favorite part is where he said, “including Peter”. After Peter denied Jesus, I’m sure he no longer felt like a disciple. I’m sure he was beating himself up for the mistake he made. The Angels wanted to make sure he knew that he was still loved and considered by God as a disciple. They sent him a clear message that he was forgiven no matter what he did. 

Too many times we beat ourselves up over sins we have committed. We think keep ourselves from the grace that has been given to us because we beat ourselves up. While Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for your sin, His resurrection gives you new life after it. You can put your name in that message where Peter’s name is. The Angels are speaking to you too, they are saying you are loved, you are forgiven and Jesus is waiting for you. All He’s asking is that you trust the power of the resurrection, that you leave the cemetery of your past and that you move ahead where He is waiting for you.

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Silence Before The Storm

I recently watched an interview with Jesse Martin who was the youngest person to sail around the world solo and unassisted. He was 17 years old when he set sail. During the interview, they showed some footage from the documentary “Lionheart” that was made from his trip. In one of those clips, he looks at the camera and says, “Something’s wrong. It’s too quiet. I’ve been watching the barometer and it just keeps falling. It’s eerily quiet out here. I’m going to prepare the boat for the worst and get ready for anything.” He started tying up all loose ends, putting things where they went, securing anything that might be lost as it was tossed about. His instincts were right and his preparations weren’t in vain.

A bad storm came that night and flipped his tiny ship on its side several times. Winds reached 80 miles per hour, the boat was damaged, he lost a couple of things too, but he survived. When asked about how that affected him, he said, “The day after the storm was over was one of my happiest days. I knew that I had survived and was going to make it.” He felt a sense of accomplishment because his losses were minimal and because he recognized that something was wrong and did something about it.

Days before the crucifixion, Jesus felt that same calm. The barometer was falling and there was a sense that something was wrong. He knew what was coming and began preparing for the storm that was coming. He spent all day Tuesday battening down the hatches in the temple. He gave many parables and answered lots of questions to get everyone else prepared for what was coming. On Wednesday, I believe He was finished getting ready for the storm and just spent time with His disciples savoring every moment. He was all about relationships and He knew what Thursday evening would bring. 

The storm that was coming would toss about people’s faith. He would lose one disciple in it. Many would be afraid and take cover. The storm may have caught them off guard, but it didn’t catch Him off guard. For three days this storm raged on. The disciples must have questioned everything. They didn’t anticipate the Messiah being killed. They envisioned Him fighting Rome and setting up an eternal kingdom on Earth. This was nothing like they had imagined and everything that God had. They couldn’t see God’s plan in the storm. They couldn’t see how His death would bring them life until the storm was over.

Our lives don’t always go the way we plan them, but they do go the way God has planned them. We don’t always see through the storm, but God does. Every drop of doubt, every tear of pain and every puddle of pity are dried up on the other side of the storm. It’s in God’s light that we begin to see the reason for the rain. It’s on the other side of the storm that we see the rainbow of His promises. If it’s raining in your life right now, hold on. A day of rejoicing is coming. The storm will end and you will survive.  You can make it through anything because God will not abandon you. He endures with you. There is nothing that can come against you that will run Him off. 

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Fighting Temptation

At work, part of what I do is role play with people. I take a real life scenario, give it to them and then have them walk me through how they handle it. I will often do something unexpected in it to see what their response is. As we go through it, I offer input and shape their responses. Most people don’t like to role play so they give the excuses of it’s weird, it’s uncomfortable, or it’s not real. What role plays are intended to do are to show me what you do now, but they’re also used to condition your mind to behave a certain way in a given circumstance. I once heard someone say, “If you don’t know ahead of time how you’ll handle different temptations, you’ll probably fail.”

Since hearing that phrase, I’ve tried to think of different temptations that could come up and think through what my response should be. I’m not saying I haven’t failed at any of the ones I’ve rehearsed for, but I can say that my success rate is higher on those than others. Each one of us face different temptations. Each one of us will fail from time to time because none of us are perfect. Does that mean that we should give in to the temptation and not worry? No! We are to be on our guard against temptation and ready to beat it any time.

In John 12:27-28, Jesus knew He was going to face the temptation to back out of the crucifixion. He said, “Right now I am storm-tossed (deeply troubled). And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.‘ (MSG)” Jesus was already thinking about how He would face the temptation to quit when faced with dying. He had two choices. He could say, “You know what, Father? These people have treated me badly. I change my mind. Get me out of here.” Or He could say, “I told you I would do this and I’m going to. I love each one of them as much as you do. Here I am. Do what you want.”

In Luke 22, we read what happened in the moment Jesus was preparing for. In verse 42 He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. (NLT)”  A couple of verses later, it says that Jesus was in such agony of spirit over what he was facing, that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. He was facing the greatest temptation of His life. He had a choice in the matter just as you and I do in our temptations. He had prepared ahead of time and was able to choose the right path.

You and I have the same ability to resist temptation. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it. (MSG)”  Paul used the words “always” and “never”. That means that each and every temptation you face, you can count on God to help you. You may not be able to beat temptation every time, but you can count on God to be there to help you every time. He is your ever ever present help in time of need.

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Holy Week: Day 6

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Jesus didn’t get to sleep on His final night. The mob had taken Him to Pilate after the Sanhedrin held a mock of a trial and convicted Him. Pilate was wise, but he was also a people pleaser. I learned a lot about him last year and wrote “Playing Pilate”. After He found out that Jesus was from Galilee and not being a person who wanted to condemn an innocent man, he sent Him to Herod who was over Galilee. Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. Many people think of Jesus as a good man, a prophet or just a good teacher. When we don’t see Him as God’s Son, we dismiss Him so we won’t have to deal with the consequences of condemning Him.

Herod was excited to see Jesus. He had heard about the miracles and demanded to see one. He treated Jesus like a court jester or magician. Jesus only had entertainment value to him. Jesus didn’t say a word even as they mocked Him. The dressed Him as a king to make fun of Him and sent Him back to Pilate. He tried again to release Jesus finding no guilt in Him. The crowd yelled out, “Crucify Him!” Pilate decided to flog Jesus and release Him, but the crowd went nuts. They cried out for Barabbas, the worst criminal they had, to be released instead of Jesus. Pilate argued with them, but to no avail. He released Barabbas and sentenced Jesus to die. Just like the crowd traded the murderer Barabbas for Jesus, we can trade our worst sins in for the work He did on the cross.

Luke 23:26 says, “As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the country side. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. He was taken away from his two sons and led up To the top of Golgotha along with Jesus. You and I are modern day Simons. We are to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus just as he did. We need to crucify our flesh and its desires so that we will do what God’s Spirit wants us to. That cross may lead us away from the ones we love, but we must follow Jesus wherever He leads us.

Verse 32 says that there were two thieves who were led out to be executed with Him. After nailing all three to their crosses, the crowd started scoffing and making fun of Jesus. “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldier joined in and messed with Him. One of thieves called over to Him, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself – and us, too, while you’re at it!” The other criminal protested and said, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes.” He then looked at Jesus with repentance in his voice and said, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Which thief are you? We are all hanging on a cross. Either we have no fear of God and treat the crucifixion as ordinary or we realize our sins will cause us to miss Paradise and we ask Jesus to let us into Heaven.

At noon, the whole earth was covered in darkness for three hours. Jesus cried out, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.” He then said, “It is finished!” He gave out His last breath and died. The curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The captain of the guard at the cross knelt down and said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” After piercing His side to ensure He was dead, they released His body to Joseph of Arimathea to have it buried before the Sabbath began at sundown.

Just as the Israelites leaving Egypt were backed into a corner at the Red Sea, Jesus, who was leading us to freedom, was cornered. Things weren’t happening in either case the way the people thought. The Israelites thought they were just going to March away free with no problems and the disciples thought Jesus was going to set up an earthly kingdom. There was a barrier to freedom in both cases: the Red Sea. For Israel, He parted it so they could walk through it to freedom and closed it on their pursuer. For us, we have to walk through the Red Sea of Jesus’ blood. It will cover out sins and set us free. We just have to walk through it to get our freedom from our past. God will enclose our sins in His blood, no matter how bad they are. If you have not walked through His Red Sea, all you have to do is pray. Tell Him you recognize what He went through and that it was for your sins. You will be set free from the burdens you are carrying.

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Holy Week: Day 5

John 13 – 18 tells us what all happened on Thursday during Jesus’ final week before the crucifixion. It starts at the Last Supper. I think we forget sometimes that this was the Passover Meal. Many Christians don’t understand what all this meal entails because we don’t celebrate it like a Jew would. It is a meal that is eaten in order telling a story taking you from slavery to freedom. I find that interesting since that is what Jesus was doing for us during that particular Passover. He was taking us, who were slaves to sin, to a life of freedom in Him. Because of what He was about to endure, you and I could be set free spiritually.

Jesus also washed His disciple’s feet that evening. If you’ve ever been to a foot washing service, you know how humbling this is. Peter wouldn’t let a Him do it. He pushed back, but Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Peter then popped back, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” We act like Peter a lot when Jesus tries to do something truly great for us. We resist Him. We resist the work He’s trying to do in our life. We resist when He tries to cleanse us of a sin. We resist when He tries to put us in position to do ministry. Jesus is patient with us though our resistance.

Jesus then instituted the Lord’s Supper, communion or the sacraments depending on how you refer to it. Matthew 26:26-28 tells us that He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples. He said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body which is given for you.” Then He took a cup of wine and gave thanks for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Each time you and I partake in this, we are to remember what He did for us on the cross. The price He paid for our freedom was His life. You are worth more than you can imagine.

They then went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to pray and reflect on the evening. Jesus went to pray by Himself. He asked God if it there was another way to do this. He said, “If it’s possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet, I want your will to be done not mine.” Jesus struggled with the thought of being beaten, being whipped, being hung on a cross, bearing the sins of the world and being separated from the Father. His human nature was trying to walk away from the cross, but He submitted to the Father’s will. He understood that to follow God’s will means we’ll have to give up our will. Through prayer, we can overcome the doubt and thoughts that try to stop us from fulfilling our calling.

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