This is the day known as Holy Saturday. As Christians, what does this mean to us? Here's a little help:
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the glorious celebration of Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday in the Bible, people lined the streets shouting the praises of Jesus as He rode in on a donkey (John 12:13). Maundy Thursday is the next observed day, followed by Good Friday. Holy Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath before Easter, and a day to be observed during Holy week.
Holy Saturday is referred to in each Gospel, but Luke gives a glimpse into the law behind this specific day. Luke 23:55 shares, “As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law."
Saturday in Jewish tradition is the Sabbath, so it was against the law of the land for the women to place the oils and spices they had prepared for the body. This timing is no coincidence, for after the Sabbath is over at the dawn of Sunday they attempt to go and honor the body again, and it is then in Luke 24 that the glorious miracle is revealed that indeed Jesus was true to His word to rise again.
The day preceding the miracle is yes, a Sabbath, a day to rest, but it is also a day to be still. Exodus 20:8 is the original verse explaining to God’s people how to observe this law, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.” The act of keeping something Holy is to keep it set aside or reserved for a purpose, and this specific day is meant to rest in dedication to the Lord. On Holy Saturday Christians today can take this a step further in resting or abiding in what the Lord is doing today.
Just as Jesus’ followers waited the tedious hours of that Saturday to see what would occur Sunday, so we wait to see the hand of the Lord in our own lives. The prayers that are yet to be answered and the hopes left lingering still can all be placed at the throne of God as we rest and abide in His presence. Exodus 14:14 shared to, “be still and wait for the Lord” as the Israelites stood at the banks of the Red Sea waiting for the Lord to act, and so in that they yielded their fears, their worries, and their own actions to the Father for movement. When it was time to move, the Lord made it clear to them, but there came a time of trusting in being still before He revealed what was next.
Holy Saturday is a time for us to lean into being present in the Lord, placing our own agendas at the door and coming before Him to simply be with Him. The Lord desires relationship with us, and a requirement of relationship is time together. Holy Saturday is a great day not to ask for anything, but to simply spend time within the Spirit of the Lord.
It is encouraged to read the four accounts throughout the Gospels (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19) of the death and resurrection of Christ on Holy Saturday. Preparing hearts for the weight of what Easter means can be the blessing of Holy Saturday.
We recognize the significance of Holy Saturday for the Easter season. It is not merely a day between Good Friday and Easter, but it is a day to observe in consecration of what You did for us. We leave our own agendas, our own desires, and our own pleas at the door and crave today to be still and rest in Your presence. We are so grateful for the ability to quiet our hearts and stand in Your presence, we want to come to know Your heart more this day. Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus to die for us, and thank You that You kept Your promise that Easter Sunday. Let us not be so hurried in our own lives that we forget the glory that You brought forth that day.
In Jesus name, Amen!
For the women who would come to the Tomb the next day, Holy Saturday was a day of rest and preparation within their hearts. The oils and spices were finished, but the preparation of their hearts took place that Saturday. We too can prepare our hearts for the joy that is to come dawning Easter Sunday even though we will not be together.. Taking part in that joy can include leaning into what He has to share to our hearts on Holy Saturday. Spend some time this evening with the Lord and listen, just be still and listen. And may God fill you with the delight of His love, and the elation of what is to come by His hand.
Blessings & Peace,
We are here - Good Friday. The day we face the cold hard truth of what happened to Jesus. A day many do not like to face, talk about, or look at. Yet, without this most gruesome event, there is no resurrection, there is no salvation, there is no victory over sin & death. HALLELUJAH - THAT'S WHY IT'S CALLED GOOD FRIDAY!
We read from Matthew 27 today that begins with Jesus being bound up and led to Pilate the governor for judgment. What an abrupt movement, however, from verse 2 to verse 3 as we are witness to Judas' suicide. Remorseful, deeply saddened, & filled with guilt, Judas returned the money & went and took his life. If he had only listened & heard what Jesus had been trying to teach - he could have found forgiveness in the one he betrayed. Have you, or do you know someone, been so overwrought with guilt you have felt like the sin is unforgiveable. The good news is - you cannot out-sin GOD!
The next several verses of Matthew 27 takes us through Jesus' trial, the judgment pronounced by Pilate, the beating, the mocking, & His body being placed on the cross. I would highly recommend that you read each of the Gospel writers' version of these events...each one speaks to events a little differently but they all bring the story together. One commentary I read points out something I missed in my readings. The religious leaders had arrested Jesus for blasphemy (claiming to be God), but that charge would have meant nothing to the Romans. So instead, the religious leaders had to come up with crimes that would have concerned the Roman government so He could be charged. Jesus was actually accused of things like encouraging the people not to pay taxes, claiming to be the king, & causing riots. Yet we all know now of the claims against Jesus were true. Pilate washes his hands of any responsibility in Jesus' death. Do we still try to do that today? We are all responsible - for Jesus died for ALL OUR sins. Ouch!
In verses 32-44, the chief priests & the teachers of the law mock Jesus & make attempts to tell Him (as He hangs on the cross) that if He really is who He says He is, well, He should be able to save Himself. If Jesus would just come down from the cross, well...….they would believe Him. What do you think? Would they have believed? We all know that was not the plan...we all know that Jesus could have called on the legions of angels to save Him...we all know He had to die on that cross.
As we read the passages about His death, we are saddened, maybe distraught. But we know the ending don't we? I am always amazed at the little symbolic parts throughout the Bible that we will never notice if we don't study. So in verses 45-56, we read of this agonizing death. We're told that for 3 hours, from noon until three in the afternoon there was darkness. It's at 3 that Jesus cries out & eventually gives up His spirit. It's at 3 in the afternoon that the innocent lambs lost their lives for the Passover meal - this occurred at the original Passover that we read about in Exodus, as well as the Passover that is taking place in Jerusalem - not far from the hill of Calvary where our own innocent Lamb of God gave up His life.
Verses 57-66 tell us of the finality of this event as Jesus' body is prepared to be laid in the tomb, the tomb is sealed, & guards are posted at the entrance. I leave you with this thought as you read through these Scriptures - come back for THE REST OF THE STORY!
Day 4 is Maundy Thursday. That time when Jesus continued to show His disciples who He was & what He had come to do for them, for us, for the world.
Our Scripture is Matthew 26:17-75 - yes another long one - but oh so meaningful.
So much happens in verses 20-30. Just imagine eating dinner with Jesus & 11 of your best friends. Jesus all of sudden tells you that one of you will betray Him. As you all are trying to figure out who this betrayer is, Jesus takes the bread & the wine & gives it to you with new words in a new way. All 4 Gospel writers record the Last Supper; also known as the Lord's Supper which commemorates the Passover Meal that Jesus ate with His disciples; also known as the Eucharist (thanksgiving) because in it we thank God for Christ's work in us; also known as Holy Communion because through it we commune with God & with other believers. The Gospel of John is the only record of Jesus washing the disciples feet (Jn 13:1-20); you might read that also as we think about the events of this Thursday. Jesus speaks of the wine as "my blood of the covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." What is your understanding of this new covenant? What are your feelings each time we commune with God?
As we move back into the story in verses 31-35, we read of Peter's betrayal. Not only did Jesus explain that he would betray Him, but exactly how it would happen. Have you ever made the promise not to betray Jesus, never to fall away, never to be ashamed of who He is? We praise God for the blood of the new covenant, don't we?
The disciples now follow Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane (vs 36-45) where Jesus is in agony. He takes Peter & James & John with Him as He goes to pray to His Father. Luke records that the anguish that Jesus felt knowing where He would soon be, He began to sweat like drops of blood that fell to the ground. I have heard that this is something that can happen when someone is in tremendous agony. I would imagine Luke recorded this event due to the fact that he is a physician and would recognize that it could very well have happened. Now, as Jesus goes to pray & asks these 3 disciples to keep watch & pray...it is the one thing they do not do. Three times Jesus returns to these disciples & each time they have fallen asleep. It is very easy for us to think, "I would never do that...that's Jesus I am praying for." We can't be too hard on these disciples: (1) they still were not fully aware of what is about to happen; (2) they had just had 4 glasses of wine with their meal; & (3) it is late into the night. How many times do we fall asleep while we are praying? Yep, it happens to the best of us.
These last verses 47-75, tell of the events of Jesus betrayal & arrest - with the betrayal happening just as Jesus said it would. Jesus is led to Caiaphas the high priest late in the night to avoid possible rioting by His followers. And then, just as Jesus said, Peter denied knowing his friend 3 times. These events were prophesied in the Old Testament through different prophets - Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. Somber events, leaving the disciples fearful, without hope, discouraged, disappointed.
Are these not many of the same feelings we all share this week? Yes we probably feel this way every Holy Week, but maybe just a little differently this Holy Week. We are living in a time of unknown - things change every day, things that we have no control over causing fear, panic, anxiousness. The economy has taken a rapid downward turn, leaving us discouraged & also fearful. Everything has been cancelled from graduations to church services & we find ourselves discouraged & disappointed. We begin to wonder if things will ever return to normal.
My prayer is that things never return to what we used to know as normal! Yes, that sounds odd I know. I pray things will return to God's new normal. A normal where we stay engaged with Jesus every day; a normal where we love our neighbors at all times; a normal where God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven; a normal where God's justice prevails; a normal where we spend time with our families being thankful for each moment we have; a normal where people return to church & church is all about "being" the church, not just "doing" church. You see I refuse to see this through the lens of unending hope, but believing in the God of HOPE UNENDING! My prayer for you is the same. God holds each one of us by the right hand; He is our anchor in a stormy sea; & most importantly He will never leave us nor forsake us. AMEN!
Day 3 comes a little late as I have been working on ZOOM meetings & how to make that work for livestreaming worship. I ask for your prayers as I enter into this new phase of doing worship. I also ask for extra grace as we will continue to work out glitches.
On this day we are going to look at Matthew 26:14-16. Just as yesterday's Scripture was incredibly long, today's is quite short. In this passage we read of Judas Iscariot & his willingness to hand Jesus, his friend & teacher, over to the authorities for a measly thirty pieces of silver. This is the amount of money that slaves were typically sold for.
I'm sure we've all asked ourselves many a time, "Why would Judas betray Jesus?" It had to do with the same temptations that we see in our world today - MONEY & POWER. Judas, as the treasurer of the money given to these disciples, just knew Jesus had come to establish a new government & he would receive a very high position. Like Secretary of the Treasury & maybe even get his picture put on a coin. When Jesus allowed Mary to pour an entire bottle of perfume on him, costing about a year's salary for most, he realized Jesus had not come to set up this kind of a kingdom...it would not be a political kingdom, or physical kingdom. His chances to make a name for himself were wiped out. Yet, he did make a name for himself, did he not? But not the name any one would want to be remembered for.
Judas had spent three years with Jesus hearing every message, every parable, witnessing every miracle, walking the dusty roads, eating meals together. Judas had seen heaven breaking into this world & turning injustice, injury, illness upside down. Everything did not just change on this Wednesday of Passion Week. Judas had been backsliding for some time. Maybe he was no longer showing up for prayer time. Maybe he was off trying to collect more money while Jesus was teaching. Little by little, Judas was turning away from the only One who could give him the things he really needed in his life. Judas' backsliding had been a slow process, just a little bit over time. Skipping a Sunday at the temple, reading the scrolls maybe only every other day, praying always, finding other things to do then spend time with Jesus. Does this sound familiar? It's a part of a path any of us can certainly stray onto if we're not careful. I've always wondered why Judas' eleven friends didn't notice a change. That's what brothers & sisters in Christ are supposed to do. We check in on each other.
Maybe some "stuff" was just happening in Judas' life that we don't know about. You know discouragement, hurts, disappointments, bitterness & the list goes on. Although Judas was the one who took the bait of temptation & turned Jesus over to the authorities, it could have been any one. Have we ever had a Judas moment...where our emotions overrode what we knew to be true about our Savior? I pray that we all have Christian people in our lives that we can go to & seek guidance. Please know I am always here if you just need to talk, cry, vent, or just BE.
I want to leave you with a story that my oldest daughter Lindsay used that was passed on to her by her pastor as she lead on-line devotions for her Bible Study group this evening. It will give you goosebumps!
How the Virus Stole Easter
By Kristi Bothur
With a nod to Dr. Seuss 😊
Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.
People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.
As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.
People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.
April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.
“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”
Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.
“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.
The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.
“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.
“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.
“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.
And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.
But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!
The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!
Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine
Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”
“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”
Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
And what happened then?
Well....the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?
The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.
So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.
May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that -
Let it start a revival.
And all God's people said...……..AMEN & AMEN!
Day 2 of our Passion Week Devotions
We are called to read 3 chapters of Matthew; 23-25 yes that's a lot & I will only touch on a few. But each story is only a part of Jesus' journey.
All of chapter 23 is Jesus confronting the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. Vs 5 - "Everything they do is done for people to see..." Jesus uses many word symbols in describing these hypocritical leaders: blind guides; those who strain out a gnat but swallow a camel; white-washed tombs; snakes; brood of vipers. Everything they did was for show & for power. They had murdered God's prophets, gave a tenth of their firstfruits but neglected justice, mercy, & faithfulness, looked real nice on the outside but on the inside they were full of greed & self-indulgence. Jesus then once again grieves over Jerusalem - the rejection of the Messiah & the Good News He brings. Has worship become just the place we come all dressed up, going through the rituals, putting something in the offering plate, & singing our favorite hymns? Surely our worship does not look like what Jesus was rebuking the Jewish religious leaders for.
Chapter 24 is all about the future. Jesus first warns His disciples about false prophets, false Messiahs; those who will come & even possibly do great signs & wonders only to deceive followers of Jesus. He let them know they would be persecuted, put to death, & hated by all nations because of Him. Many will turn away from their faith & there will be an increase in wickedness. Vs 21 - "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again." After this disturbing news, Jesus tells of His return. Vs 35 reminds us that heaven & earth will pass away, but Jesus' words will always remain. Then Jesus tells that no one will know what day He will return. We are just to KEEP WATCH! What does this mean to you?
Our final chapter #25, Jesus first teaches about those who are ready & those who are not for His return. He uses the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids & the Parable of the Loaned Money to make His points. Then, those verses 31-46 - "Jesus Tells of the Final Judgment." Sheep will be separated from goats. We are reminded that whatever we have done on earth for the least of our brothers & sisters, we have done for Jesus Himself. Or what we have not done for the least of our brothers & sisters, we have not done for Jesus Himself. There are only two paths; eternal punishment or eternal life. Reflect on what this means for you.
As you read each of these chapters, hear these words as if Jesus Himself is saying them to you. They are "written in red." Jesus' words still teach us today, still apply to us today, & still guide us today! Let's use this time of social distancing as a time to move closer to God!
Blessings & Peace to all.
I will be sending out a daily blog to help us stay connected and do some Bible Study/Devotion Time together. This week is known as Holy Week or The Passion Week. Let's look at the events as Jesus continues His journey to the cross.
READ MATTHEW 21:12-46
In verses 12-17, Jesus leaves the parade as He rode in on a colt to the shouts of Hosanna! He enters the temple courts only to find merchants who were buying & selling in His Father's house. Not just buying & selling, but taking advantage of the Gentiles, the poor, the foreigners by selling sacrificial animals at very high prices. Today we would call that price gouging. If that isn't bad enough, they were crowding out those who had come to worship God. The question has been asked many times as we read that Jesus was angry, "Isn't anger a sin?" I have found a better way to word this is it's Jesus' "righteous indignation." What do you think?
Then in verses 18-22, we read again that Jesus just might be angry at a fig tree causing it to wither. This was one of Jesus' "acted-out" parables. He was rightfully upset at all of the religious activity going on that had no real substance. That fig tree looked good from a distance, but had no fruit when you looked closely. Just as those worshipers who were offering hollow sacrifices & worship in the temple. Our worship is to come from our heart - not just something that looks good. How's your heart of worship this day?
We move to verses 23-27. The religious leaders are once again questioning Jesus, only Jesus answers their question with a question. Don't you just love that when that happens? I use this technique in Sunday School class & Bible Study time. Only for a different reason. You see, Jesus knew the Pharisees did not really want an answer to the question; they were only trying to trap Jesus once again. They only wanted the truth if it lined up with their own views. I wonder, when we ask God something, do we only hear the answer if it lines up with what we want?
Then on to verses 28-32. How about this parable of the Two Sons? What were you thinking when you first read it? Was your answer the same as the answer given Jesus? Do we say we want to do God's will & then forget, ignore, disobey? We can't say, "Yes," & then just go through the motions. How are you doing in being obedient to God?
Then, finally verses 42-46. Look at the elements this way (if you have never done so before) & reread the parable. (1) God - the landowner; (2) Israel - the vineyard; (3) Jewish religious leaders - the tenants; (4) Prophets & priests (who remained faithful to God & preached to Israel) - the landowner's servants; (5) Jesus - the landowner's son; & (6) Gentiles - the other tenants. Do you know anyone who has rejected the cornerstone? How can we help others come to recognize the love & grace of our Almighty God?
I decided to start "blogging" daily so I can feel like I am still in contact with all of you. I do miss each of you & pray for all of you daily. We have come to a time in our lives that has made us all feel out of sync. But we hold onto all of the events of Jesus' life, especially this week. We are reminded there is always hope. I pray that once this crisis is over, we will have found a new normal - one where we first "love God," & then "love our neighbors." Don't give up, God is still with us & creating something new (Isaiah 43:19). Grab hold, hang on, & let God be God!
I pray that you will continue to follow our worship on Sunday mornings as we learn how to do worship live bringing us all together through cyberspace! Continue to look at our website & facebook pages for words of encouragement & hope. Be ready, I may just show up in your computer or on your smartphone one day just to say HI!
Blessings to all of you!