Good Friday

No matter how much I try to write a Good Friday post, I can’t seem to muster up any good thoughts. For one thing, this day confuses me. How am I supposed to feel? Happy? Sad? I know how to feel on Christmas or Easter day, but in this day there is a tension I don’t think should be resolved.

Anyway, because I am an inarticulate hick, perhaps these words, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux and translated into English by J.W. Alexander (based on Gerhardt’s German translation) will provide something for you.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,

Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;

O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!

Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;

Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.

Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;

Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,

Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.

How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!

How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;

From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.

Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;

Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.

I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;

Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.

Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.

Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;

Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;

O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,

When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,

Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,

When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.

O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,

Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;

Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!

When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,

But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

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Holy Thursday

Holy ThursdayAnd as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Mark 14:22-25

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 6:54-58

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God

the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”–

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:6-9

Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Today’s morning Psalm is especially poignant during the Lenten season.  It is during these 40 days we are brought face to face with our sins and the only remedy for our condition.  Our sin is put under the microscope and revealed for the cancer that it is.  We beg the Father to come and cure us, to clean our hearts as his Son cleansed the Temple (to mix illustrations).

As I read this Psalm, written by David after he was called out by the prophet Nathan, I realize how little sin affects me.  I realize how easy it is to rationalize it and call evil good.  I realize that I, like Israel, have gone off to bow to idols.

 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,

and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence,

and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

build up the walls of Jerusalem;

then will you delight in right sacrifices,

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Psalm 51 ESV

The Triumphal Entry

Triumphal EntryRejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall speak peace to the nations;

his rule shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will stir up your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Zechariah 9:9-13 ESV

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

Revelation 6:1-2

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:11-16

Out of the Depths to Thee I Cry

Out of the depths to Thee I cry,

Whose fainting footsteps trod

The paths of our humanity,

Incarnate Son of God!

Thou Man of grief, Who once apart

Didst all our sorrows bear,

The trembling hand, the fainting heart

The agony, and prayer!

Is this the consecrated dower,

Thy chosen ones obtain,

To know Thy resurrection power

Through fellowship of pain?

Then, O my soul, in silence wait;

Faint not, O faltering feet;

Press onward to that blest estate,

In righteousness complete.

Let faith transcend the passing hour,

The transient pain and strife,

Upraised by an immortal power,

The power of endless life.

by Elizabeth E. Marcy (1877)

The Temptation of Jesus

Gethsemane Icon of Jesus’s Temptation(Note: this is the first in a series of Lenten observations on the Gospel of Mark).

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (Mark 1:12-13 ESV)

Traditionally when you hear of the temptation of Jesus, it is in reference to our struggle with sin and temptation.  Because Jesus went through temptation, and because we can call out to him in our time of need, we can, as it were, overcome the worst of what the Enemy would throw at us.  (I understand it would usually sound a lot less man-centered than that.)

Allow me, if you will,  to suggest another way to look at this account.  While I don’t discount the interpretation given above, especially in light of Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:14-16, I do believe there is more going on in this story than that.

First, by going to be tempted in the wilderness, Jesus did what Israel could not.  Immediately after their own baptism (crossing of the sea), the children of Israel were sent into the desert for forty years where they failed.  Despite the numerous signs and gifts, Israel decided she would bow down and worship Satan rather than God.

Jesus, on the other hand, went into the wilderness, was tempted by Satan, and rebuked the Enemy.  He did what Israel could not; He remained faithful to Jehova despite the allures Satan offered.

And this, secondly, is where we come in.  Knowing ourselves and our spiritual condition, we would have failed in the desert as well.  But Jesus was tempted for us, he rebuked the Enemy in our place.  When Israel sinned, God swore in his wrath they would not enter into his rest.  Yet now that Jesus has endured the temptation, God swears in his mercy we will enter into his rest (Hebrews 3 and 4).