Holy Week – Saturday: The Gospel, Epistle, and Psalm Passage – Being at the In-Between Times

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:38-42)

This is where things were when Good Friday came to an end. By late Friday afternoon preparations were being made for Sabbath. And expediency took priority over planning. And grieving was folded into worship of Yahweh. Let us also set aside this scene and look back at some things I had deferred, namely Peter.

It is in John chapter 13, verses 36 to 38 that Jesus foretells Peter’s betrayal of him. The lectionary does not pick up this passage during Holy Week, for whatever reason. Each of the Gospels is pretty consistent in the account.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

Interestingly, the gospel of John does not chronicle Peter’s reaction to the cock crowing; the other gospel speak of his anguish. There are several streams, it seems to me, to consider in the disciples’ reactions to Jesus arrest, trial, and crucifixion. First I want to say that the gospel of John focuses on Jesus’ Divinity and does not have much narrative on what the disciples did. So we must look to the other gospels. We know from the gospel of Matthew that Judas killed himself when Jesus was sentenced to death. He felt remorse for what he had done and tried to return the money. But his guilt would not allow him peace, so he took his own life. If it were the previous lectionary year, I would say this is a failed attempt at confession,penance, and forgiveness. Would have Jesus forgiven Judas? Is there a sin so great that Jesus our Lord God would not forgive it? I hesitate to say, but I think Judas’ answer to that question would be yes. Let us not, beloved reader, make the same assumption.

And we know that Peter felt guilt and remorse when he denied three times in a short period of time that he was part of the followers of Jesus. However his guilt did not drive him to injure himself. In fact, it inspired to deepen his faith, and strengthen his believe. We know this because of what we read later in the New Testament.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.
But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:1-8)

There is not just a little bit of questioning as to whether it was Simon Peter who wrote I & II Peter. In any case, Peter seems to have taken up a position of leadership in the early Christian church that bespeaks to a maturing and deepening of faith. I like to think that the travail he went through at Jesus’ death forced him to dig deeper into his own soul and spirit. But I suspect we are getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Let us look instead at the psalm passage that was written for times of stress and difficulty.

In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16)

Words, prayers, petitions, and intercessions fervently and sincerely made will give good results. Let us remember that at this in-between time. Selah!

 

 

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Holy Week – Maundy Thursday: The Old Testament, Gospel, and Epistle Passages – The Last Supper, and the beginning of a new way of living

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.” (Exodus 12: 1- 4 )

I was planning on having the entire section from Exodus stand with out comment – but I wanted to draw your attention to the provision about small households. I suspect this is one of the reasons that Jesus wanted all the disciples gathered together; singly they would not be a large enough household. But all together the Passover meal would be like close neighbors joining together. And in the years to come, who would be closer neighbors than fellow believers?

The middle verses, verses 5 to 10 are left out of the strict lectionary passages. They are instructions for Jews prior to the Last Supper and Passover that Jesus had with his disciples. Not that the disciples and early Christians would have ignored these important traditions; but for us, later believers the instructions do not apply as much.

“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood [which verses 5 – 10 refer to] shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Verses 11 – 14)

The Last Supper (which is understood as the last Passover meal that he shared with them) that Jesus had with his disciples was eaten hurriedly or with staff in hand and sandals on feet. At least not has it has been painted and imaged throughout history. And the fact that there was reaching out and dipping of bread argues against it. But there was girding of loins as Jesus prepared himself for this last supper, and Judas prepared himself for where his thoughts went to.

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.” (John 13: 1- 2a)

From what we read yesterday, it was only after Judas was accused by Jesus and accepting the dipped bread that Satan’s sway took hold. But the writer of the gospel of John makes note of it here, earlier in the supper. That is significant for what happens next.

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (Verses 2b – 12)

Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Knowing full well what Judas was going to do, he washed his feet humbling himself as a servant to the man who was planning his arrest. Some may say Judas did not know it would lead to Jesus’ arrest. Some say Judas was trying to motivate or incite Jesus to act when it seemed as if Jesus was not fulfilling the role of Messiah as some Jews understood it. But Judas knew full well how much the Temple rulers and authorities, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, hated Jesus. What did Judas think they were going to do? But, Jesus washed his feet.

“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Verses 13 – 17)

Remember, it was not until a little later that Judas left. Do you think, beloved reader, this had any impact on Judas? And before you answer, consider and remember my questions from yesterday as to how isolated Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was, and how I set that along side other straying from the authentic Christian path.

I want to spend a little more time on this, and then we will move on. The reason I want to emphasis this is because in Year A of the lectionary we are focusing on coming to new faith – either that it is a new believer or someone coming to deeper or broader faith. If it is a new believer, then the sins that were there are absolved and redeemed in Christ’s death. That is one of the large messages of Easter. Coming to deeper or broader faith means that one’s understanding has grown, and things done in the past are seen in a new light. The other lectionary years are: Year B – renewal of faith; and Year C – confession, penance, & forgiveness. What I am talking about here is a greater understanding of faith in Christ and our Lord God. A realization of what it means to live an authentic Christian life; what must be set aside and what must be picked up and lived out. It means, for Judas, realizing what he has done.

I am not talking about all of you. I know the people I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must happen: ‘The man who shared my food has turned against me.’ I am telling you this now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I Am. I assure you, whoever accepts the person I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the one who sent me.” (Verses 18 – 20)

After Jesus said these things, the above verses, it troubled him. And he told his disciples that one of them would betray him. That is the interlude we looked at yesterday. We continue from that point on today – with a little bit of overlap.

When he [meaning Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. [What follows is Jesus’ words to the disciple who would form the nucleus of the early Christian church.] Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Verses 31b – 35)

And Jesus’ disciples were known. As the years past, other people became disciples of Jesus Christ. And those years past. The term disciples changed and evolved into being followers, which we are beloved reader. As we are able and as we understand, we pass along the Messiah Jesus Christ’s teachings. Some things we pass along clumsily, awkward and mutated through our own perspectives and understandings. Other things we pass along with the same clarity that they were taught by Christ.

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, 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)

Holy Week – Wednesday: The Gospel and Epistle Passages – Hope is Nigh

We approach this gospel passage sort of backwards. Tomorrow we read the first part of chapter 13 in the gospel of John. Today, we are focusing on the portion of the passion where Jesus singles out Judas.

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:21 – 25)

Who is it? Who do we point the finger at? Who is guilty of turning against God and the Messiah Jesus Christ? Who has acted contrary to authentic Christian living?

You see, once you start asking the broader questions, Judas’ guilt starts to look like other sinful behavior. I am not sure if that is a good thing . . . . . or not. Many tend to have a “superior attitude” towards Judas’ sin. They think, I would never betray the Master like that. But that is a journey onto a slippery slope.

“Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” (Verses 26 – 27)

Now the writer of the gospel of John gives Judas an exit plan. It was not truly Judas the follower of Jesus who betrayed him, but Judas who allowed Satan to influence his choices. But again, I caution you gentle reader, do not think you are immune to the influence of evil and really bad choices. The influence of evil was with Adam and Eve in the garden, and they did not ignore it. Why should we suppose that hundreds of generations down humanity is resistant to that influence. And in the same way, we now are not any more resistant. I am not talking about at in individual level, but humanity as a whole. Yes, sin is wide spread throughout humanity but each of us has a thresh-hold where we do and do not go astray.

“Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” (Verses 28 – 30)

No one but the Divine knows completely what is in our hearts. What our intent is, and what our thresh-hold of sin resistance is. I do not know yours, beloved reader, and you do not know mine. In the same way, you do not know what I need to be forgiven for, and I don’t know what you need to be forgiven for. The truth and hope that we carry with us is that Jesus and our Lord God has forgiven us. Beloved reader, even Judas is forgiven.

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” (Verses 31 – 32)

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. The week is half gone, depending on when you read this. We turn our attention now to the latter part of the week, and the events that are to come. In the first Holy Week, the hope of forgiveness is not quite there yet; hoped for, but not quite realized. By the time Paul writes, however, our hope has come. Let us endure through the next few days then, knowing that the greatest event that humanity might know about is just a few days away.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)