Lent — Week 5

Monday, April 8

Read: John 2:13-16

Consider: Matthew, Mark and Luke record this event as taking place in the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry—right after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46). John places it much earlier. That has led some scholars to believe that Jesus may have done this more than once. He may have taken this stand in the Temple on two separate trips to Jerusalem. We don’t know for certain. But we do know that Jesus attacked the religious power structure in an unforgettable way.

To say that the Temple was God’s house does not begin to convey what it meant to the nation of Israel. When I was growing up, my parents referred to our church as God’s house. They were trying to teach me reverence for what happened in that place. But I knew it was not literally the place where God lived. Even as a child, I understood that God was not confined to the building where we worshipped.

But to the first century Jews, the concept of the Temple was much different than our idea of a church building. They really believed the Temple to be the dwelling place of God. His presence was there like no other place. Though he transcended time and space, the Temple was the place where you would go to put yourself in physical proximity to God. Jesus called it, “my Father’s house” (John 2:16).

But the system that supported that holy place had been corrupted. Those who administrated the workings of the Temple used it to consolidate their wealth and power. The money changers—who exchanged common currency for Temple currency—and those who sold animals to sacrifice, were ripping off the poor who came to worship. Jesus was infuriated. He said…

“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of thieves.’” (Mark 11:17, where Jesus was quoting Jeremiah 7:11)

How do we keep our worship pure? How do we keep from allowing the pollutants of our culture to encroach on God’s presence in our lives?

It is important that we come to God in humility. He is to be the object of our worship and not our own agenda or our own needs. Whether in our quiet place at home or in the company of other believers at church, we must never be takers. We are givers—giving God our worship and offering ourselves to him.

We’re often tempted to be shoppers, or consumers, of church. We’re tempted to come for what it will give to us. We want to enjoy the music, the fellowship, the preaching. We want our needs to be met.

Of course, our needs are met in communal worship. With an open heart, we will receive much. But we must enter worship to give. By our presence and by our humility, we give glory and honor to God.

Pray: As you pray today, place thanksgiving at the center of your worship. Declare his glory. Before you ask for daily bread, honor his name. Pray in the manner that Jesus taught us to pray…

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

 

Tuesday, April 9

Read: John 2:13-22

Consider: In first century Jewish thought, the Temple was the place where heaven and earth met. God was present with his people in that place. There, divinity and humanity, eternity and time, heaven and earth, came together. That is why it was revered as God’s house.

So, the people were shocked when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (2:19). They weren’t simply shocked at the outlandish claim that the most amazing structure in the world—which took forty-six years to complete—could be rebuilt in three days. They were shocked at the audacity of Jesus to challenge them to destroy it. Didn’t he get it? Didn’t he know what the Temple was?

Well, yes, he did get it. But they didn’t. They didn’t understand that “the temple he had spoken of was his body” (2:21). They didn’t understand that Jesus is where heaven and earth meet. The divine and the human, eternity and time, heaven and earth met in Jesus, the Christ. The God-man who transcended time, brought the new kingdom to earth. God stood before them, but they didn’t recognize him.

The disciples didn’t even understand. How could they? But later, the truth became clear to them.

“After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” (2:22)

Pray: “Lord, thank you for bringing heaven to earth. Thank you for coming to our time and space with eternity. Help me today to understand how I live in this new kingdom. Help me to live by eternal values in a world that can’t see you. I want your light to shine through my life this very day.”

 

Wednesday, April 10

Read: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Consider: When Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthian believers, he was writing to a troubled church. They were divided, there was great tension among them, and there was awful sin in the church. Paul wrote about what life in Christ is supposed to look like. In the great thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians—Paul’s poem of love—he described God’s intent.

In today’s passage, Paul was addressing sensuous sins—particularly sexual immorality. But there is one important statement there that not only bears on our sexual ethics, but on every aspect of our lives.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (6:19-20)

Recall our discussion of the last two days. The Temple was where heaven and earth met. But Jesus redefined the Temple. No longer was it a building made of stone and wood and gold and fabric. Now his body was the Temple—the place where God meets humanity and the new kingdom invades the kingdoms of this world (John 2:21).

But now Paul helps us understand another mystery of grace. Now he tells us that “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Yes, you heard that right. It is God’s intent that his Spirit lives in us—individually, and as a community. So now the divine and the human, eternity and time, heaven and earth meet in the people called the Body of Christ—the church.

Ours is a high calling that humbles us and drives us to our knees. God has ordained that the world would see him through us.

Pray: Pray for the church—the church around the world, the persecuted church, and your local manifestation of the church. Pray for God to protect and purify his church. Pray that he will use you to help the church be what he calls it to be.

 

Thursday, April 11

Read: Matthew 21:1-11

Consider: Kings don’t ride donkeys. They ride chariots or magnificent horses. They enter a city dressed in splendor, accompanied by symbols of power. Their troops, fully armed, march in lockstep behind them. They must present an aura of power and invincibility. People must respect them or, at least, fear them. So, they don’t ride donkeys.

So, it must have been strange when the people of the Old Testament heard the Prophet Zechariah’s words…

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matthew 21:5 quoting Zechariah 9:9)

Zechariah went on to say…

“I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10)

The “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) had entered the city. But he came to “proclaim peace to the nations” in a manner that was unlike any other king—before or since—has ever done. This is the story of the cross.

The story of the cross is much different from the story of the sword. The people of Jesus’ day could not see that it was God (John 1:1) who was being bludgeoned, tortured and killed by the Roman Empire and the religious establishment. And, to be honest, we have a hard time seeing, too. When push comes to shove, we still want to retreat to the ways of the kingdoms of this world. That is why the days ahead—Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter—are so important. If we miss the cross, we miss the good news.

Pray: “Lord, in the Holy Week that is almost upon us, give me a new perspective on the meaning of the cross. I know that I cannot comprehend it unless I am willing to submit to it. Show me your way and help me to be willing to hear and know and live your truth.”

 

Friday, April 12

Read: Luke 19:36-40

Consider: On Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, he performed miracles and taught about the new kingdom that had arrived. Some recognized who he was. Others did not. The same held true on that day when he entered the city. While some said…

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (19:38)

…others said…

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (19:39)

But even among those who hailed him as the Messiah, did they really understand what that meant? Their concept of a king was that of a dictator who ruled by strength. Could they comprehend that the king who rode the donkey would lay strength aside and submit himself to the cross?

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.’” (19:41-44)

Jesus’ words came true in 70 A.D. when the Romans sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and burned the city to the ground. Jesus saw it coming and said, “If you…had only known on this day what would bring you peace” (19:42). Peace does not come through strength as the world reckons strength. Their decision to use the sword, and the strength of their enemies, destroyed them.

Jesus went to a cross and called his people to conquer in the manner that he did, not in the ways of the world. When we can’t see that, he weeps over us and says, “If you only knew…”

Pray: “Lord, you ache when we refuse to listen and hear your truth. I humble myself before you, to listen—and to hear—no matter what you tell me about the cross and what it means for me today. Thank you for your heart. Thank you for your grace. Thank you that you didn’t kill for us. You died for us.”

 

Saturday, April 13

Read: John 12:12-19

Consider: We commonly refer to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as “The Triumphal Entry.” But what may be more accurate is to refer to it as the “Anti-triumphal Entry.”

The people of that day were accustomed to triumphal entries. That is what the Roman generals would do after battles they had won. They would ride into town trumpeting their victories, displaying the spoils of war, and pulling behind them the conquered people who were now their slaves.

It was about this time of the year that Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Jerusalem, would ride into town to display his might and to warn people that they would be crushed if they opposed him. It was a way of keeping the peace during the Jewish festivals—in this case, Passover.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the other direction—the opposite side of town from which Pilate would enter. He came on an undersized donkey, rather than a great horse. Instead of the swords and spears thrust in the air by Pilate’s entourage, the people around Jesus raised palm branches. Some scholars believe that Jesus was lampooning the pomp and so-called strength of the Roman Empire. It makes sense. The word teaches us the folly of the kingdoms of this world.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One…. The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” (Psalm 2:2, 4)

“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

When it was happening, it was difficult to comprehend. In John’s account of Palm Sunday, he tells us that “At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him” (John 12:16).

On our side of Good Friday and Easter, we have a clearer picture—much clearer than those disciples could have had on that first Palm Sunday. Yet we still need to submit our understanding to Christ. It still goes against our grain to believe that he conquered by suffering and that he won by dying. We are still prone to believe in the kingdoms of this world. We must constantly let Christ re-orient our minds to the reality of the New Kingdom. And we need to be willing to conquer by suffering with him.

Pray:“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)