LENTEN DEVOTION – 2017
March 19, 2017 at 11:02 pm #29547
A LONE VOICEAnd he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. … (Luke 18:38-39a).Read Luke 18:35-43Jesus is approaching Jericho. It’s one of His last stops before Jerusalem. Along the road sits a blind man begging. Hearing a loud commotion passing by, he asks what’s going on. Someone from the crowd answers, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
Immediately, the beggar begins shouting at the top of his lungs. He knows Jesus is somewhere in that crowd, which is shuffling past him. But unlike the stranger from the crowd he doesn’t call Him “Jesus the Nazarene.” Instead, he calls him, “Jesus, Son of David.” He is convinced that Jesus is the promised Messiah, David’s Son.
Jesus indeed is the King marching on to save His people from their enemies. Some in the crowd try to silence the blind man, but he shouts all the louder to get Jesus’ attention. That is the character of faith: the more people and circumstances rise up to silence us, the louder we cry for our Lord to be merciful to us.
We might expect Jesus to be so preoccupied with His approaching death that He wouldn’t notice a lone voice, crying out to Him in the midst of the clamor of the crowd. But His ears are attuned to cries for mercy from His faithful ones. Now that He has accomplished His mission and won complete forgiveness, we can be confident He hears our cries for mercy and pity too.The man is blind no longer. He rises and follows Jesus on His way.THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, even as You were journeying toward Your bitter death, Your ears were wide open to the pleas of the blind man. Give me confidence that You hear my prayers for mercy too. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.March 19, 2017 at 11:07 pm #29548
WHERE’S MY HOST… “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5b).Read Luke 19:1-10Jesus’ final week is just a few days away. He has come to Jericho to spend the night, but His host is not home. So Jesus passes through town to find him.
Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector and extremely wealthy. But he left his tax office when he heard Jesus had come to town. He knew Jesus’ reputation – while the Jews and their leaders despised tax collectors as traitors and thieves – Jesus was known as a friend to tax collectors. Rushing to the far edge of town, he climbed a tree to see the Lord.
Jesus comes right up to that spot, stops, and looks up into the tree. Calling Zacchaeus by name, He tells him to come down quickly. Jesus wants to spend this night in his house.Zacchaeus scurries down and receives Jesus with great joy. The crowd hears this and is terribly scandalized. How could Jesus choose to stay in the home of a notorious sinner? What they didn’t know is that Jesus had already begun to change Zacchaeus’ heart. The chief tax collector was repenting of his sins and planning to make amends for his past wrongdoings.Jesus points out that Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham just as are those in the crowd. True children of Abraham share Abraham’s faith in God’s promise to send the Christ or Messiah. Zacchaeus knew Jesus had given him a great honor by staying in his house. But did he know His Lord had chosen to spend one of the last precious nights He had on earth with him?THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, with amazing grace, You sought out the despised chief tax collector Zacchaeus and honored him by staying at His house that night. Help us appreciate the honor You give us, by promising to remain with us always. Amen.March 22, 2017 at 9:31 am #29656
“NOT YET…BUT SOON”(Jesus said) “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us'” (Luke 19:14).Read Luke 19:11-27Jesus’ choice to stay with the chief tax collector Zacchaeus divides the crowd. Some are upset Jesus is associating with such an open sinner. Others think God’s kingdom will appear at once when He reaches the Jewish capital Jerusalem. Jesus tells a parable that answers both ideas.
The people have no trouble picturing His story of a nobleman traveling to a distant country to have himself proclaimed king. That was the way the Roman Empire worked. Herod the Great left the land of Palestine and travelled to Rome before Emperor Augustus proclaimed him king. Only then could he return to rule.Jesus pictures Himself as that nobleman – the great Son of David and Son of God. Instead of beginning His reign when He enters Jerusalem, He will be murdered by His enemies. But after His resurrection He will leave the earth, ascending into heaven where the Father will proclaim Him King. Then on the Last Day – and not until that Day – Jesus will return to reward His faithful servants and establish His kingdom on the new earth.
Now Jesus turns to His enemies. He has shown great patience, humility, grace, mercy and love toward them, but they have hated Him, without cause. He warns that the time of judgment is coming. He will return with His angel armies to capture His enemies and slaughter them.To our ears that judgment sounds harsh. But Christ your King has given you fair warning. If you will not bow your knee to Him in faith, you will forfeit your life and suffer eternally in hell.THE PRAYER: Almighty God, You have established Your Son as the Ruler of all things in heaven and on earth. Break through my rebellious heart that I may love Him and serve Him now and through all eternity. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.March 22, 2017 at 9:35 am #29657
DAY TWENTY ONE
THE KING ENTERS… the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen (Luke 19:37b).
Read Luke 19:28-38Jesus has travelled to Jerusalem many times in His life, but this trip will be the last time. Every other time He walked through its gates, but not this time. Today, He rides into the city as Jerusalem’s King, its Messiah. But the King of kings does not ride a splendid war horse, instead He sends His disciples to bring Him a humble donkey, a lowly beast of burden. This animal fits Jesus’ entire earthly life. He came as the meek, humble Baby born in Bethlehem’s manger; He will lay down His life in humility on the cross.
The crowds are caught up in excitement. They shout “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord.” The term “blessed” points to the Father, who chose this King and continues to bless Him. Even though He rides a humble donkey, Jesus enters Jerusalem as our King, coming to conquer our great enemies-Satan, sin, death and hell.
The crowds add “peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” the same words the angels shared with the shepherds at Jesus’ birth. Peace in heaven celebrates God’s peace coming down upon the earth through the Messiah. His victory brings praise to God from His angels in heaven and from all of us who have been saved by His mighty Son.
Jesus accepts this praise sweeping through the crowds, because it is right and true. He is the King riding into Jerusalem to prepare to fight to the death to defend His people. In a few days, He will stagger out through the city gates, carrying His cross to the battlefield.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, our great conquering King, You rode into Jerusalem to wage war for Your people. Receive our thanksgiving for the victory You won through Your suffering, death and resurrection. Amen.March 22, 2017 at 9:44 am #29658
DAY TWENTY TWO
TEARS FOR THE HOLY CITYAnd some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:39-40).Read Luke 19:39-44Jesus enters Jerusalem with a large crowd joyfully singing His praises. Some Pharisees come out of Jerusalem and urge Jesus to silence His supporters. But Jesus refuses; this King will have His rightful praise. Even if the people remain silent, the stones themselves will cry out.
In a few days, the Pharisees will have their way. These praises will fall silent as the crowds begin shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” Reaching the ridge of Jerusalem, Jesus begins sobbing. If only the city realized how easily it could escape disaster. All its citizens have to do is turn from their wrongs and trust in Jesus. Woefully, that great peace is hidden from their eyes.
Jesus’ tears flow because His all-knowing eyes see what will happen here in 40 years. He sees the Roman legions arriving, encircling the city, and cutting down the trees to build their siege weapons. He sees violence and disease breaking out through the doomed metropolis. He sees starvation and plague ravaging those who remain. He sees the Romans breaking through the city walls and savagely attacking the last defenders at the temple walls. He sees the temple in flames and the defenders being slaughtered, as they turn from their Roman attackers in a desperate attempt to extinguish the fires. He sees the temple reduced to rubble, with not one stone left upon another.
And He weeps bitterly because all this is so needless. If only they would recognize God graciously visiting them through His Son.THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your heart broke at the senseless devastation Jerusalem would suffer because of its foolish unbelief. Guard my heart and mind against unbelief, so I may live with You in heaven, and not suffer eternally in hell. Amen.March 23, 2017 at 5:14 pm #29774
DAY TWENTY THREE
TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE
And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold (Luke 19:45).Read Luke 19:45-48The Jerusalem temple was a reminder of God’s presence with His people, and animal sacrifices were a central component of the worship there. As the worshipper laid his hands on the animal’s head and confessed his sins, God transferred his guilt to the animal, which was put to death in his place. All these sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who would take our place and be put to death for the sins of the whole world.
Since Jewish pilgrims travelled great distances for the Passover feast, they were unable to bring along their own sacrificial animals. Jesus has no problem with sacrificial animals being available for sale or with moneychangers converting foreign currency into temple currency. His problem is where those animals were being sold – in the courtyards of the temple.
In holy wrath, Jesus drives all of them out. He quotes Isaiah, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers'” (Matthew 21:13; see Isaiah 56:7). It is bad enough to make themselves robbers by selling the sacrificial animals at unreasonable prices. But even worse, they carry on their trade in the very courtyard of the temple, where worshippers are trying to pray to God amidst all these distractions.
The Jewish leaders are infuriated that Jesus would challenge their authority and interfere with their trade. But they cannot destroy Him because the great crowds of pilgrims are hanging on His words. As we’ll see in the coming days, His teachings will grow more pointed, and His popularity will continue to increase.
THE PRAYER: Almighty God, Your Son drove out all distractions from Your temple courts. Clear my mind of all distractions that I may worship You with all my heart, mind and soul. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.March 27, 2017 at 1:34 pm #29842
DAY TWENTY FOUR
“WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT?!”… “Tell us, by what authority You do these things, or who is it that gave You this authority?” (Luke 20:2b).The Jewish Sanhedrin or high court led by the high priest is the recognized authority in Jerusalem. They aren’t crazy about Jesus driving the animals and moneychangers out of the temple and teaching huge crowds right under their noses. So a group from the Sanhedrin comes to ask who gave Him the authority to do these things.They expect Jesus to say His authority came from God. Then they will demand proof, which they will refuse to recognize, thus discrediting Him in front of the crowds. Jesus recognizes their intended trap. He politely answers, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell Me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”
Suddenly, their trap is sprung, but they are the ones caught in it! They could give an answer that would please the crowds, saying John’s authority was from God, but they know Jesus will ask why then did they not obey him and receive his baptism. If they tell Him what they honestly think, saying John’s authority did not come from God, they fear the crowd will rise up and stone them to death because the people held John to be a prophet.So the only answer they can give is no answer at all: “We don’t know where his authority came from.” This is hardly a suitable answer, since they are considered the leaders who are responsible for religious instruction in Israel. They are completely humiliated by the answer they have to give.
Jesus turns it back against them. If you will not answer Me, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, Your authority indeed came from God Your Father, the same source of John’s authority. Help me accept Your authority and trust in You always. Amen.March 27, 2017 at 1:38 pm #29843
DAY TWENTY FIVE
A THINLY VEILED PARABLEAnd He began to tell the people this parable … (Luke 20:9a).Read Luke 20:9-19The representatives of the Jewish high court have been humiliated in front of the crowd. They just want to slink back to the high priest’s house, but Jesus isn’t done with them yet. Since they won’t be honest enough to say what they truly feel about John the Baptist, Jesus uses a parable that answers their original question and asserts His authority to carry on His ministry.
In His parable, Jesus uses a few brush strokes to quickly paint a picture of God’s people. He planted them in the Promised Land, as a man would plant a vineyard. He lent His nation out to the priests and religious leaders, who should use His Word to tend His people and prepare them to serve one another and glorify God with their lives.
When the leaders failed to lead His people correctly, God sent servant-prophets to call them back to faithfully fulfill their work of leading the nation in repentance, faith and good works. But the leaders beat and mistreated the prophets and sent them away empty-handed. Finally, the owner sends His beloved Son-and they plot to kill Him.
The drama is intense. The leaders know Jesus is speaking about them, and their rage and fury grow, even as their hidden plan to murder God’s own Son is openly exposed by Jesus to all the pilgrims, who have gathered at the temple courts in Jerusalem.THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You loved the Jewish leaders and used a parable they understood to reveal the enormity of what they were planning to do. Help me see my sins and run to You for forgiveness and peace. Amen.March 27, 2017 at 1:42 pm #29845
DAY TWENTY SIX
ANOTHER TRAPThe scribes and the chief priests … sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor (Luke 20:19a, 20b).Read Luke 20:20-26The leaders of the Jewish high court are furious at Jesus, especially for the parable He just spoke against them. But since the crowds are hanging on Jesus’ every word, the leaders cannot directly attack Him. They know they will only be able to destroy Him if they can turn the people against Him.They decide to attack Him indirectly. So they send spies posing as genuine believers to trick Jesus into saying something that will get Him into trouble with the Roman governor. First, they flatter Jesus to try to throw Him off; then they slyly ask, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not?”
It’s a devilishly brilliant trap. If Jesus answers, “Yes, you should pay taxes,” He’ll risk losing His popularity with the pilgrim crowds. But if He says, “No,” Pilate will be forced to move in and quickly silence this troublemaker, especially with the dangerous crowds gathered for the Feast.
But Jesus perceives their craftiness and recognizes their trap. So He asks them to show Him the coin used to pay the tax. When they produce the denarius He asks whose image and inscription it bears. They answer “Caesar’s.” Jesus then answers, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Unable to catch Jesus in His words before the multitudes, they marvel and grow silent.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Satan sent so many enemies to lay traps for You, yet none were able to trip You up. Forgive my pride and failings and guide my steps that I may honor You in my words and actions. Amen.March 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm #29846March 27, 2017 at 1:48 pm #29847
DAY TWENTY SEVEN
DOUBTS ABOUT THE RESURRECTIONThere came to Him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection (Luke 20:27).Read Luke 20:27-40
The scribes and Pharisees make up part of the Jewish high court; another group is the priests who are Sadducees. They accept only Moses’ writings from the Old Testament and reject the resurrection, angels or heaven. But that doesn’t stop them from posing a resurrection riddle to try to make Jesus look foolish.
They refer to a Mosaic law that preserved the line of an Israelite man who died childless. If the man’s brother married the widow, the first son born could be considered the dead man’s son. In their riddle a man died childless, each of his six brothers married the widow in turn, but each died childless. So whose wife will she be in the resurrection?
It seems a no-win question for Jesus. She couldn’t be the wife of all seven. But if God chooses one of the brothers to be her husband He would be wronging the others. Jesus easily smashes their house of cards. God’s gift of marriage holds only for this earthly period of time – not at the resurrection.Now Jesus turns to their rejection of the resurrection. He even refers to Moses, the only authority they will accept from the Old Testament. When speaking to Moses out of the burning bush, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (see Exodus 3:6). If there was no life after death God would have had to say “I was their God,” not “I am their God.” God’s “I AM” proves the human soul survives physical death and implies the resurrection when Christ returns.
Jesus has corrected the Sadducees so well, even the hostile scribes commend Him.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we are often slow to believe things we cannot see. Remove my doubts and unbelief and give me firm confidence in the resurrection and eternal life You have promised to all believers. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.March 29, 2017 at 1:57 am #29915
DAY TWENTY EIGHT
JESUS HAS A QUESTION OF HIS OWN“David calls Him Lord, so how is He his Son?” (Luke 20:44).Read Luke 20:41-44Jesus has completely silenced His enemies, easily evading their traps. Now it’s His turn to ask the questions and show the priests and scribes – those who are considered experts in the Old Testament – how little they truly understand of God’s Word.
The scribes readily accept that the Messiah is David’s Son, a human. For them the hard leap is the transition from thinking of the Messiah as a mere man to believing He is God’s Son. But Jesus starts on the other side. First establishing from Psalm 110:1 that the Christ is David’s Lord, Jesus asks how God’s Almighty Son can possibly be human?
Jesus is revealing the very heart of the Old Testament, which the scribes had missed despite all their careful study. The promised Savior is the Son of God, begotten of His Heavenly Father from eternity, before all creation. But here in time, God’s Son became human by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, when He was conceived of the Virgin Mary. This should sound familiar. Jesus is talking about the mystery of Christmas!
But that Baby lying in the manger was not just Mary’s human child; He was God’s own eternal Son, who had become human. That’s the reason the angels proclaimed His birth, and the reason the wise men bowed down to worship Him. Being human He could submit Himself to God’s Law and earn our home in heaven by His perfect obedience. And since He is human He could take our sins upon Himself and suffer and die. Since the Christ is also God’s Son, His suffering and death will suffice for all humans of all time.THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank You for humbling Yourself to leave Your glorious throne, for becoming human, and for saving us from our sins. Amen.March 29, 2017 at 2:01 am #29916
DAY TWENTY NINE
BEWARE!And in the hearing of all the people He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes …” (Luke 20:45-46a).Read Luke 20:45-47Jesus has faced every question, challenge and riddle from His enemies, and has come out shining, while they have been completely humiliated. We might expect gentle Jesus to turn down the heat on His enemies now. But no, turning to His disciples He speaks loud enough for everyone to hear. And that includes the great crowd of Jews filling the temple courts as well as the scribes standing nearby. They certainly weren’t pleased to hear Him say, “Beware of the scribes.”
The scribes started as simple copyists, laboriously copying the Old Testament scrolls into new ones. They had come to be seen as Bible experts, but in their busyness had completely missed Scripture’s central message of salvation from sin, death and hell through the coming Messiah. The people looked at them as experts, and the Pharisees based their living on the traditions and interpretations of these scribes.Jesus exposes them, warning His disciples to avoid their false teachings. He points out how they love to be recognized and honored in the marketplaces, sitting in the front seats of the synagogues and at the choicest seats at meals.They greedily devour widows’ houses and cover up their robbery with long, elaborate prayers to deceive and impress the unknowing masses. On the Day of Judgment, they will face steep punishment for the way they misused God’s Word for their own selfish benefit.Publicly embarrassed and put to shame, yet unable to find any way to turn the crowds against Jesus, the scribes rage within, looking for an opportunity to take their revenge. That opportunity will come sooner than any of them expect.THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I easily fall into the same sins as those scribes, possessing my own pride, selfishness and arrogance. Forgive me and teach me to live in truth and humility. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.March 31, 2017 at 2:27 am #30021
THE TRAITORNow the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover (Luke 22:1).Read Luke 22:1-6Luke tells us the great Jewish festival of the Passover with its Feast of Unleavened Bread is drawing near. It is the reason the huge crowds have come from all over the Roman Empire to Jerusalem. It recalls Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the death of the Egyptian firstborn. It was called “Passover” because the Lord caused the angel of death to pass over the Israelite houses marked with the blood of the Passover lamb.The Jewish high court is meeting. Having already determined to put Jesus to death, they are looking for the best time and manner to accomplish this. They won’t consider an assassination; they want to find Him guilty of a capital crime and persuade Pilate to execute Him.They keep coming back to one key problem: the huge crowds of pilgrims are thronging around Jesus, hanging on His every word. As long as the crowds are in town there is nothing they can do to Jesus. They decide they must wait to kill Jesus after the Passover is complete, when the crowds leave Jerusalem to return home.Suddenly, an unexpected possibility arises. One of Jesus’ hand-picked disciples, Judas Iscariot, offers to betray Jesus to them for the modest price of 30 silver pieces. The priests rejoice in this unforeseen opportunity. They never could have predicted a defection from within Jesus’ camp. Now they have a man on the inside, watching for the opportunity to hand Jesus over to them before the Feast.Jesus’ predictions are falling into place: “the Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You knew Judas was plotting against You, yet You continued to reach out to him in love. Reach out to me with Your forgiveness and grace. Amen.March 31, 2017 at 2:33 am #30022
A NEW MEMORIALAnd He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).Read Luke 22:7-20The day has finally come when the Passover Lamb must be sacrificed. Jesus’ time is drawing near. He sends Peter and John to make preparations for their Passover. This memorial feast recalls the night when God sent His angel of death to kill the firstborn of Egypt. However, the angel passed over the houses of His people whose doors were marked with the blood of the Passover Lamb. By His mighty hand the Lord forced Pharaoh to free His people Israel.When evening comes they are reclining at the table. Jesus tells them how much He has desired to share this Passover together. He has just a few hours to prepare His disciples for an ordeal that will shake them to the core.Everything He says and does points to His sufferings they have been trying so hard to ignore:“This is the last Passover I will eat with you.”“Take, eat, this is My body, do this in remembrance of Me.”“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”And yet with the sorrow of these words, Jesus institutes a new feast-a memorial feast far beyond Moses’ Passover. In, with, and under the bread He miraculously gives us His body, which suffered God’s wrath in our place. In, with, and under the wine He gives us His blood, poured out in death, so we might live with Him forever. Forgiven, fed and nourished with this heavenly meal, we have the full assurance the angel of death will pass over us on Judgment Day.THE PRAYER: Almighty God, Your Son gave Himself to suffering and death to satisfy Your wrath at my sins, and to secure my place with You in heaven. Receive my thanks and praise. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
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