A collection of short thoughts, one for each day of Holy week from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem up to Jesus raising from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Sunday - A Triumphant Arrival
Reading: Matthew 21: 1 - 11. The Jews expected a Messiah who would take the city by storm: the reality of Christ’s entry is very different. On the first day of the week, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling an ancient prophecy (Zechariah 9:9), demonstrating that he is coming as a servant. His Kingdom is not of this world and it will not be brought about by worldly methods. Isaiah 53 shows Jesus the Saviour coming as a suffering servant, stooping to conquer: love and sacrifice stands in place of force and fury.
Thought for today: It is easy to get carried away in praise yet it can be so hard to follow Jesus when it means taking up our cross. We can easily be tempted to use worldly means to achieve spiritual ends, where power, eloquence or position takes the place of prayer. Pray that God will inform and transform you this Easter week as you read and reflect on the meaning of the Cross.
Monday - Clearing The Temple
Reading: Matthew 21: 12 - 17 What Jesus found in the temple drove him to righteous anger: the temple was a thriving business community where commerce not commitment took pride of place. The greatest shock for some was that Jesus’ anger was directed not at the Romans, but at the hypocrisy he saw within the religious system of Israel. Are we keeping our own house in order? Are we right with God and with one another?
Thought for today: Take time today to confess your sins to God, especially in those areas of your life where you have allowed your witness to Him to be compromised by other events and ambitions. Pray for forgiveness of sin, release from anything that holds you in an unnatural way and for those who have been hurt by your actions or words. Pray that we will all turn the tables on attitudes and ways of life that do not glorify God.
Tuesday - Controversy and Parables
Read Matthew 21: 18 to 22: 22 Everyone was amazed at Jesus' teaching. The parables which follow tell us what the rule of God (His Kingdom) will be like. There is no place for those who arrogantly assume or presume that they have some divine right to be there. Rather, the Kingdom is reserved for those, who in the eyes of the world have little or nothing with which they might be commended. It reminds us that we are saved by God’s Grace (His work, not ours) having been called to respond by faith. Our lives and hands may be empty but Christ is always ready to fill them.
Thought for today: How much do we still hold onto the values of the world as opposed to Kingdom values? Ask God to help you to focus on what is important to Him rather than to ourselves. Be prepared to give generously out of our riches in Christ.
Wednesday - A day of rest?
The gospel accounts do not directly refer to this day - perhaps Jesus and his friends took time to rest before the approaching climax of the Passover festival. Take time today to prepare for Easter: pray, fast if that is right for you, read Matthew’s account of Jesus' last days (chapters 21 - 27) and bring your prayers of adoration and thanks to Jesus for all that he did for you.
Thought for today: Reflect on Jesus’ prayer in John 17. What does it say about him, us and those who will hear about him through us?
Thursday - Passover Celebrations:
The Last Meal
Reading: Matthew 26: 17 – 30; John 13: 1 – 17. The scene is set as the final drama begins to unfold. In an upper room in the house of a friend, Jesus prepared himself and his disciples for his death, fully aware that this would be the last Passover of his life. As the meal was being served, Jesus assumes the role of a servant and washes the feet of His friends. With this one action He emphasis the true nature of His Kingship - that in the Kingdom of God, leadership and servanthood go hand in hand.
Thought for today: Consider what it means to serve others in the name of Christ. When did you last wash someone's feet, fetch their shopping, make them a meal, or just encourage them in their Christian walk? When did you last offer a kind word or your time (that valuable commodity) to someone whose need was greater than yours? Spend time thanking God for saving you, thank him for the provision of all you need for the day, ask him to help you grow closer to him. (You may wish to use the Lord's Prayer in your prayer time - take time to reflect on each phrase).
Friday - Interrogation and Crucifixion
Reading: Matthew 26: 31 – 27:53 A night of interrogation, torture, rejection and abuse climaxes in public humiliation and execution by crucifixion - a criminal's death. Right at the last, the pain of separation that Jesus had begun to experience in Gethsemane the night before, reaches its climax; His own Father's face is turned away.
We cannot imagine the pain and anguish of Christ as he hung on the cross. Physically the nails ripped his hands and feet. His breathing would, at best, be laboured as he struggled to keep upright. Spiritually, the world went dark as he hung there. In that place, within that short span of time, the sins of the world from ages before and ages to come were heaped onto Jesus - our sins amongst them. Jesus went to this place and to this punishment voluntarily; it is the only way that you and I could ever be free.
Thought for today: What has impressed you most about the way Jesus behaved through the last week of his life as he went to his death? His humility? His love? Thank God today that Jesus was prepared to die for you, to take your punishment and in doing so, release you into the opportunity of a new relationship with God.
Saturday - In the tomb
Reading: Matthew 27: 54 - 66 Centuries ago, a Chinese Emperor had his tomb surrounded by hundreds of full sized terracotta models of fighting men, as if to defy death and somehow hold on to glory in spite of it. But it was all in vain. That wasn't the case with the death of Jesus it was not in vain and His glory was about to be revealed.
As the Sabbath fell at 6pm on Friday evening, the body of Jesus had been removed to a nearby tomb. What had already happened was remarkable: a criminal receives forgiveness; an army officer becomes aware of who Jesus is, a wealthy member of the ruling council declares his hand for God. The great harvest has begun!
Thought for today: We cannot exclude or ignore the impact that the blood of Christ brings to the story of salvation. It is His shed blood that cleanses us and sets us free to serve God. Prepare for tomorrow (Easter) today by confessing your sins and bringing your witness to Christ “under the blood” – in other words, ask him to clean you up, forgive you and renew your spiritual life.
Sunday - He is Risen!
Reading: Matthew 28 An empty cross, a vacant tomb and folded grave clothes. On their own they may mean little but taken with the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, for us and for a world in need, they speak of a risen, living Saviour.
He walked, talked and ate with His friends – this was not the mark of a ghost, a spirit or of wishful thinking: He was real; He is real. He was dead, was resurrected and is alive today! Hallelujah!
Thought for the day: Verse 6 reminds us of the act of resurrection and the evidence for it. Praise God that Jesus conquered death, is alive and that His resurrection means that those who believe don’t merely hope for but can expect the same. Praise Him that death does not have to be the end, and that eternal life has already begun for those who believe. Praise Him and be prepared to tell others why you are doing so!