Lenten Devotions Week 5 Death and Burial

Mid Week Devotion Week 5good-friday-cross of life

Mark 15:33-47 The Death and burial of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[a]
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[b] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[c] and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
The Burial of Jesus
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

If there is ever any doubt that the God of the bible knows human suffering, pain and abandonment, it is dispelled here. “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

These are words cried for anyone who has ever been abandoned, left for dead, cut off from a relationship, felt the full weight of their guilt before God or anyone else. This is the pits and he is in it – and he is innocent and willing.

They think he is calling down God’s judgement – calling for Elijah. In that that are missing everything. They are still waiting for God’s new era to come. They don’t know that he is the new kingdom and the new king.

Same for us when we go looking for human achievement and power over our circumstances and over our own weaknesses?

He is right in front of us and his Word is easily heard, and yet we overlook him and keep searching for something…

Then the curtain. The whole of the world view of an ancient people is ripped I two right there and then as the Son of God rips open God’s gifts of heaven for the whole world, not just the Chosen people.

The early church would spend three centuries figuring out what this really meant for themselves and the mission of God in their communities. This man and this death and this forgiveness is really for everyone. His kingdom is without curtains or walls. God is openly accessed by sinners now.

The Mary’s and Salome are there. They cared for him deeply and practically from the start. They still care for him as they stand with him while all others have fled his shame. Courage, faith, trust – all shown by simply standing with him in their sorrow.

Pilate still has one task. He has the authority to leave the body dangling in shame for all to see or let that faithful man, Joseph from Arimathea respect it and bury it properly before the holy feast begins.

Strange how God uses pagans. Strange how those without faith think they are in charge and in control only to discover that he is ahead of them and yet still using human means to ensure his mission to draw all people to himself reaches his ends.

Strange how the holy one is new truly dead – dead and buried while the rest of the world prepare for what was a holy feast. God has shifted the goalposts, rejuvenated the feast, renamed the King and established a new community – they don’t know it yet, but they will soon enough.

We are that new community under that new king. We are a local living sign of the king and his holy presence in an unholy world – a world he loves and calls into his holiness and love.

The stone is rolled and they think it is over. Those who rejected him are glad as the supposed holy feast goes on. This who knew him are shattered. They will be consecrated, re-formed, re-ignited in love soon enough.

For my doubt that God knows my suffering, my shame, my regrets and the unwillingness to trust him in these things.

For my making of other things and people and myself holy rather than letting Jesus make me holy and acceptable and loved by God.

For my narrowness of mind on pagans – non-believers, and how the Lord is at work before I ever turn up or know anyone.

For my dismissal of the ordinary things as being thing of God’s love and holiness – a simple thing like just standing with the unjustly treated without saying a word, being present rather than being right, being open to others rather than closed off, being willing to stand with another in shame or sorrow or grief or a big mistake – and hardly say a word – just be there as those women were with him.

For that telling call of pure unadulterated aloneness – of total abandonment. It means so much to me in my times of aloneness and much to so many with whom I have lived and work who feel cut off, shamed, empty, abandoned by others, even abandoned by God. They are not because he was. I am not because he did this. We are not because he cried these words and we heard them.

For the ripped curtain of separation between the ins and outs, the right and the wrong, the holy and the unholy, the closed out and the welcomed in. We are in. We are welcome. We have open access to our heavenly Father by the blood of this sacrifices man- a sacrifice that is once and for all, complete in it completeness.

He has done it all and we bask in the light of God acceptance by faith in this divine man. I can hear God speaking and I can speak to him in the power of the Holy Spirit who prays with me and for me. I am never abandoned or without my heavenly Father’s presence and power. That makes life, life!

Lord, please make me more like this man – unwavering in heart and mind to do all that is needed to bear their sin and get them to you – even when it costs plenty.
For a heart that is willing to leave behind the self and truly welcome the other so that his death and resurrection create one more relationship of grace and love between a sinner and a holy God welcoming that sinner.

For our congregation – that we bask in the light of his grace and love and give ourselves to his ongoing mission to draw many more to him through us.

For Easter coming – for those believing that God has abandoned them, that God shames them that they are either too good or too bad for faith in Jesus – that they simply hear him telling them their assumptions are wrong and that he is with them and for them still. This cross still works. The man is still alive. His Word is good news.

Lenten Devotions Week 4

Homilygood-friday-cross of life
Mid Week Lenten Devotions
Wednesday March 18, 2015.

Mark 15:1-32 The Trial and Crucifixion
……It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

With a firm belief that the Word of God needs to shape our prayer, we use the Instruction, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication way of “warming up the heart” from Luther’s Simple Way to Pray.

Instruction: What is The Lord instructing me in this Word?
Confession: What is the Spirit calling me to confess before God?
Thanksgiving: What might I thank God for in this Word?
Supplication: What do I find myself asking God for?

Satisfying the crowd is such a major concern here. The Pharisees, Scribes, Law Teachers; and even the Roman Governor of the whole province, Pontius Pilate, are very worried about the crowd and their fickle will.

The Pharisees use the crowd to pressure the Governor into action – an unjust action – and action that goes against the justice he is in charged to keep.

The rule law suffers at the expense of fear of uprising. This is understandable given that the Roman military did rule with an iron fist. If the crowd in any city rioted too many times, any governor, including Pilate would be lose his job, his name, his status. He may even go on trial in a Roman court and be sentenced to imprisonment of death. No wonder Pilate is nervous. No wonder he lets himself be manipulated by fear.

The treatment of Jesus is mocking and inhumane; Public shame is the aim. The way to deal with someone who is threatening power is to shame him mercilessly so that he is so very weak looking in the eyes of all. Jesus claims to be King. His shaming by those who hold human power. So his shaming must be complete – and it is.

Simon does not willingly carry the cross. He is forced to do this. I wonder if this is how it is with us at times. The burden of carrying the gospel of Jesus sometimes is heavy. It can put strain on relationships, make it impossible for us to participate in some things that might feel very good to bring more power, status and wealth. Carrying the gospel in our words and actions can border on being shameful in our 21st century secularising Australia. We may cave in to the established patter, the fickle crowd too at times.

That word Jesus spoke about the destruction of the temple and his crazy sounding word that he would rebuild it in just three days pops up again in the passers-by derision. Jesus is the laughing stock of the city now.

Shame is complete. Death’s tentacles encircle him. Even law breaking criminals join in the fun. For them at least Jesus is taking the shame off them and their deserving punishment. In Mark’s gospel, there is no quarter given by one of the criminals. Just more abuse.

Jesus takes the shame and the abuse and stays the course for those killing him.

Is that what he doing for us tonight?

For my unwillingness to bear the gospel cross at times – not saying a word, protecting my reputation rather than putting my reputation in His hands and trusting that his cross is enough – it is pure grace and the mighty power of God for the freedom and love of the world.

For wanting power and even glory for the self at times. Rather than sacrificing my time, money, reputation, food, income for the bearing of the gospel cross, feathering my own nest, being first among others, even pulling others down with words of judgement that putting the best construction on what I can for the sake of the other.

For being as fickle as the crowd – easily led to at one point sing “Hosanna – God save us”, to “Crucify him” and everything in between.

That he did not flinch and that he completed it all. He “left nothing on the field” at all.

There was shame, no God-forsakenness, no physical pain, no human suffering left to drink. He drained the cup. He drank the poison chalice. He took it all for the team. All we can do is thank, praise, love and obey him after this.

We thank him for his courage, his resilient love, his willingness to take all the shame and suffering death could muster.

A new willingness to bear the gospel well with trust that it is the highest thing of most value and longest lasting benefit no matter how things look.

Eyes to see and ears to hear so I continue to see and believe and be an instrument of his healing gospel truth.

To keep his name Hallowed – keep it holy, respected, of high place in my own life as I hear his Word and put it into practice where he has placed me.

Lent Devotions Week 3

St Petri Mid Week Lenten Devotions 2015good-friday-cross of life
Wednesday March 11, 2015

Mark 14:53-72
Jesus Before the Sanhedrin
53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
Peter Disowns Jesus
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.[a]
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.[b] Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice[c] you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Following Luther’s simple way to pray and his way to let the Word of God warm up our hearts ad shape our prayers we reflect on this part of Jesus’ suffering tonight.


We hear that those trying to land the killer blow of accusation that would sink Jesus forever struggled to do this. Like a scene from some B grade cop show, their stories did not match. They just could not find the one thing that would justify their dismissal of him and his message.

I wonder if this is how it is today too. Those who oppose Jesus and his gospel find it hard to land that killer blow that resigns him and his church to the annuls of a by gone era.

Jesus seems to hand himself to them to help them do their condemning work. When the High Priest asks him if he is the Messiah Jesus finally says, “I am” “I am” – Yahweh – the God of the Old Testament – here in the flesh.

Jesus is innocent. Jesus has loved the world. Jesus has challenged the world – but not to land his own killer blow that would rightly condemn the world. He has spoken and acted to save us from our own delusions and the pain and suffering this causes.

We, the church, are not innocent. We have made mistakes because we are at best forgiven sinners battling with the evil within us and outside of us in an imperfect way.

But Jesus is doing all of this bearing of fierce accusation in his own body to make us holy and innocent before Almighty God who has the power to condemn us all – but doesn’t.

In Jesus he is loving the world, forgiving the world. By the gospel of Jesus we carry, Jesus is loving the world, calling the world, gathering the world into his grace and love.

In the end they settle for one condemnation; one charge. Blasphemy; to claim to be God. Our perennial sin. The humans assuming God’s authority in condemning God’s son with the charge of claiming to be God – ironic!

So often I am only a spectator in this gospel we have received. I am following Jesus at a distance for fear of getting shown up – like Peter did. I end up ashamed and alone – devastated by my lack of faith and courage.

So often I don’t trust that his Word is enough, that his plan is wise, that his call is secure – no matter what may confront me. For my lack of trust and caving in to fear I look to his cross of forgiveness this Easter.

I sense a solidarity with all human beings here. The Jewish leaders were not some isolated group who were particularly evil or hard-hearted. They are all of us and their attempts to dismiss Jesus and get rid of him from their lives is something we all share at some level.

So I plead for forgiveness not just for myself but for all humanity – all the hard=hearted people I know, all those resistant to the grace of God in Christ.

I thank Jesus for going through all this.

I thank Jesus for loving Peter even though he could only be a spectator at this point and not a true disciple as he promised to be just a few hours before.

I thank the Lord that he knows my weakness, my over-reliance on what I can see and what I myself can do, and he still goes to the gallows for me and for all those who are inflicting the harsh words and actions on him.

I thank the Lord that because of his unfailing and unwavering love and commitment to his world, the world still has hope and there is light and life in the world, despite the darkness he knew and we still know.

I thank the Lord for willingly subjecting himself to the worst of us in love for us and that my life and freedom and hope for now and the future is only trustworthy because he did all of this for us and still does and he proclaims himself in our community.

We ask God for his Word of law and gospel to penetrate our hard hearts. We may weep with Peter but there is joy in the empty tomb coming.

We ask that through these 40 days he will enlighten our hearts so that we may know him better.

We ask that he make us more like him in his suffering service to others – courage to take the abuse, to be dismissed, to be further marginalised and even laughed at as Jesus’ disciples, trust that his cross is still at work and his love is divine power for the salvation of all.