‘Day One’ Blog

Two Days of Silence – April 06, ’20

disbelief & disorientation

(The Holy Shroud – 1488 B.C.)

Meditation for the Soul ~

Truly, truly I say to you,
you will weep and lament,
but the world will rejoice.
John 16:20
For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water.
For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
Job 3:23-25
The Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:26


Reflection for the Mind ~

This Lent we have committed ourselves to being occupied with thoughts of Jesus and who He showed Himself to be in the last days of His earthly life. As we approach today’s entry, we do so with the premise that those who followed Christ were very much occupied with thoughts of Him in the two-plus days after He died.

There is no way to understand what Jesus’ followers would have been experiencing at the time of His death. Their Beloved had just been savagely tortured and then executed. The psyche’s immediate response to trauma is to put a temporary stop on all normal responses and shift into a shutdown mode for self-preservation. So I don’t think the extent of their bewilderment can be measured.

But the thing that takes their experience even further out of the known stratosphere is this: Jesus wasn’t just their beloved companion and teacher. He was the one who was going to save them. He was the Christ, the Messiah. He was the Son of God. He was their future hope – and He was dead.

Fear also gripped those left behind. They hunkered down trying to stay off of the Jewish leaders’ grid. That adds yet another complicated, significant layer to all the followers of Christ were trying to navigate. It was just a terrible, terrible time for them. Honestly, Jesus was so detailed trying to prepare them for His absence, but it didn’t appear as though much of it was able to come to bear for the disciples and others.

A few of Jesus’ followers, mainly the women, were able to make themselves useful by preparing His body for burial and taking care of the burial details. That might have been a helpful “if temporary” distraction. But the majority were left to do nothing but wait (in hiding) and pray that the cloud of disbelief and disorientation would mercifully dissipate.


Response for the Heart ~

Lord, even as Your Spirit takes me back to that terrible day, I grieve Your death. The idea that one could be without You, for a moment, let alone three interminable days is beyond my comprehension. I know You sustained Your devastated followers, though I doubt they would have been able to feel it. What would You have me understand as I sit in these days of silence? Speak to me Lord and teach me. I praise You and I worship You! ~ Amen

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All Was Now Finished – April 04, ’20

The Death of Jesus

Crucifixion of Christ (detail). Crete. 17th Century.
The Menil Collection, Gift of George R. Bunker.

(There will be nothing added to the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ death. My reflections would diminish the holiness of the scene.)


Luke 23:44-49 ~

It was now about the sixth hour,
and there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour,
while the sun’s light failed.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
And having said this He breathed His last.
Now when the centurion saw what had taken place,
he praised God, saying,
“Certainly this man was innocent!”
And all the crowds that had assembled
for this spectacle,
when they saw what had taken place,
returned home beating their breasts.
And all His acquaintances and the women
who had followed Him from Galilee
stood at a distance watching these things.
Luke 23:44-49


Mark 15:33-39 ~

And when the sixth hour had come,
there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried
with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means,
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
And some of the bystanders hearing it said,
“Behold, He is calling Elijah.”
And someone ran and
filled a sponge with sour wine,
put it on a reed and
gave it to Him to drink, saying,
“Wait, let us see whether Elijah
will come to take Him down.”
And Jesus uttered a loud cry
and breathed His last.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two,
from top to bottom.
And when the centurion, who stood facing Him,
saw that in this way he breathed His last, he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:33-39


Matthew 27:45-56 ~

Now from the sixth hour
there was darkness over all the land
until the ninth hour.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out
with a loud voice, saying,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is,
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said,
“This man is calling Elijah.”
And one of them at once ran and took a sponge,
filled it with sour wine,
and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink.
But the others said,
“Wait, let us see whether Elijah
will come to save Him.”
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice
and yielded up His spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two,
from top to bottom.
And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.
The tombs also were opened.
And many bodies of the saints
who had fallen asleep were raised,
and coming out of the tombs
after His resurrection
they went into the holy city
and appeared to many.
When the centurion and those who were with him,
keeping watch over Jesus,
saw the earthquake and what took place,
they were filled with awe and said,
“Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there,
looking on from a distance, who had
followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him,
among whom were
Mary Magdalene and Mary
the mother of James and Joseph
and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Matthew 27:45-56


John 19:28-30 ~

After this, Jesus,
knowing that all was now finished,
said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
A jar full of sour wine stood there,
so they put a sponge full of the sour wine
on a hyssop branch
and held it to His mouth.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said,
“It is finished,”
and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

John 19:28-30

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The Crucifixion – April 01, ’20

(The crucifixion is recounted in all four of the gospels. I highly recommend reading all of them carefully so that you have the fullest picture possible. There are links for your convenience.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

So they took Jesus, and He went out,
bearing His own cross,
to the place called The Place of a Skull,
which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
There they crucified Him, and with Him two others
one on either side,
and Jesus between them.
Pilate also wrote an inscription
and put it on the cross.
It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Many of the Jews read this inscription,
for the place where Jesus
was crucified was near the city,
and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate,
“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather,
‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus,
they took His garments
and divided them into four parts,
one part for each soldier; also His tunic.
But the tunic was seamless,
woven in one piece from top to bottom,
but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”
This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things,
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus saw his mother
and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby
 He said to his mother,
“Woman, behold, your son!”
Then He said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother!”
And from that hour the disciple
took her to his own home.
John 19:16-27;
(See also: Luke 23:26-43; Mark 15:21-32;
Matthew 27:32-44)


Reflection for the Mind ~

John, “the disciple whom He loved,” was recalling what he witnessed at Golgotha. He is the only one to record Jesus’ words in this part of our Lord’s ordeal, and they are highly personal. Once again Jesus was the caregiver, knowing what His inner circle’s needs were. As He hung on the cross dying, He saw to it that His mother would be properly cared for. It’s a stunning act of other-centeredness, something no ordinary human would be capable of.

Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders were straining at gnats about the wording of the sign Pilate had hung over Jesus’ head. The soldiers who crucified Jesus gambled for His clothing, and passersby jeered as Jesus was suffocating to death. The thieves who hung on either side of Him made their own contribution to the degrading dialogue, but that exchange ended in the salvation of a man’s soul… one more act of other-centeredness from Jesus.


Response for the Heart ~

Jesus, the pain of crucifixion was known to be beyond description. Just the thought of it would send fear into any heart. So, I cannot understand the level of pain you were in let alone how You were able to care for Your mother, for the soldiers who nailed You to the cross, and for the criminal beside You. Praise You for all Your marvelous, sacrificial works in those final moments. I pray You would lead me in my thoughts and feelings as I meditate upon You there. I love You, Lord, and I thank You!
~ Amen

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Do Not Weep For Me – March 30, ’20

(Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary,
Raphael, 1516–1517)

Meditation for the Soul ~

And as they led Him away,
they seized one Simon of Cyrene,
who was coming in from the country,
and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
And there followed Him
a great multitude of the people
and of women who were mourning
and lamenting for Him.
But turning to them Jesus said,
“Daughters of Jerusalem,
do not weep for me,
but weep for yourselves and for your children.
For behold, the days are coming when they will say,
‘Blessed are the barren
and the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed!’
Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 
‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’
For if they do these things when the wood is green,
what will happen when it is dry?”
Luke 23:26-31


Reflection for the Mind ~

Weep for yourselves,” said Jesus to those who followed Him along the road to Golgotha. Those deeply distressed women caught Jesus’ attention, and in His grave condition He paused to speak to them. Their sorrow was understandably directed at Jesus but He needed them to understand it was misplaced. His chilling, prophetic warning was meant to help them shift their focus and consider what was actually at stake. They did not understand.

Jesus came to rescue sinners. He came to give life. While His death was imminent, He was perfectly secure in His own destiny. There was no need for tears. But the future of the multitude following Him was NOT secure, and so our Lord addressed their need. He would use even those arduous moments to try to waken sleeping hearts.


Response for the Heart ~

Jesus, only the Holy Spirit in You could have caused You to be able to think clearly, let alone respond to those grieving for You. Simon was just given Your cross to carry because You could not bear it. But the Spirit WAS alive in You and so You made one more passionate plea to those following You on the road. I praise You for Your selflessness. I praise You for showing me what it looks like to love with every breath and every ounce of energy; to love even when one has no strength. Thank You, Jesus! And now, what would You have me understand about Your words to that crowd? Speak to me, Lord. ~ Amen

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Behold, Your King! – March 28, ’20

(By (James) Jacques-Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902.)

(These moments are recounted in all four of the gospels. I highly recommend reading all of them carefully so that you have the fullest picture possible. There are links for your convenience.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

From then on Pilate sought to release Him,
but the Jews cried out,
“If you release this man,
you are not Caesar’s friend.
Everyone who makes himself a king
opposes Caesar.”
So when Pilate heard these words,
he brought Jesus out
and sat down on the judgment seat
at a place called The Stone Pavement,
and in Aramaic Gabbatha.
Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover.
It was about the sixth hour.
He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
They cried out,
“Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.
John 19:12-16
(See also: Matthew 27:27-31;
Mark 15:16-20; Luke 23:11;)


Reflection for the Mind ~

Jesus was mocked by people assuming there was no possible way He could be who He said He was. I cannot get the irony of that scene out of my mind. There was Jesus, beaten nearly to death, taunted, spit upon, and endlessly ridiculed for claiming to be the Son of God and King of the Jews. His mock-kingly attire made for the cruelest kind of make-believe. But the pièce de résistance: “Hail, King of the Jews!” Mock-worship.

God the Son, presumed to be either a lunatic or a dangerous insurgent, was on display before the crowds and in full view of God the Father and perhaps even the celestial beings. No one viewing from heaven or earth was on the fence in those horrible moments. Of course, Pilate’s radar was up for sure, but he was in no way ready to defend Jesus’ innocence in the face of the demands of the frenzied crowd. And there’s a big difference between finding Jesus innocent and believing Him to be the Son of God.

When Pilate brought Jesus out before the masses that morning, he presented Him saying, “Behold, Your King!” Truer words were never spoken. All of Heaven understood precisely who Jesus was. A few believers were likely scattered in the crowd too, but their voices would never have been heard above the cries to crucify Jesus. And so the King of all kings was given over to be executed, immensely pleasing His enemies.

One day you and I will find our King coming down from the heavens just as He ascended. I make up in my mind the Father saying, “Behold, Your King!” and in response, the Church crying for joy. There will be no mock-worship that day. Every knee will be bowed before Him. All will know who He truly is!


Response for the Heart ~

Lord Jesus, how I long for Your return. How I long for the day when the whole earth will understand who You are! And You will finally be worshipped by all humankind, even by those who refuse Your gift of life. I am sorry we mocked You and abused Your body so terribly. I am sorry we would not see You as our King and worship You then. I thank You for the few who did believe, and for their faith in the midst of all the staunch opposition. I am humbled by their faith in You. Speak to me now Lord, in these passages that describe what You endured. I ask for this in Your name, Jesus.
~ Amen

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He Opened Not His Mouth – March 25, ’20

(Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ Before Pilate Again)

(A slow read through the passages below is essential to grasp the whole recorded picture of what took place as Jesus was unjustly and brutally tried and convicted. There are links for your convenience.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth
Isaiah 53:7
What is it that these men testify against you?”
But He remained silent and made no answer.
Again the high priest asked Him,
“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power,
and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
And the high priest tore his garments and said,
“What further witnesses do we need?
Mark 14:60-63
“My kingdom is not of this world.
Then Pilate said to Him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this purpose I was born and for this purpose
I have come into the world
—to bear witness to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this,
he went back outside to the Jews and told them,
“I find no guilt in him.
John 18:33-38
(See also: Matthew 26:57 – 27:26;
Mark 14:53 – 15:15;
Luke 22:54 – 23:25; John 18:12 – 19:16)


Reflection for the Mind ~

For every false accusation put to Jesus, not a word was spoken in reply. He did not refute or defend. He did not try to explain or correct. He remained silent. Annas, Pilate, Herod, and the swarm of Jewish leaders spewing their hate-speech, received no satisfaction whatsoever from Jesus. While their fury escalated, Jesus remained poised. And we cannot forget that all the while Jesus was being subjected to merciless taunting and physical abuse.

While Jesus remained silent when wrongly accused, He never missed an opportunity to speak regarding His identity. So when a simple question was put to Him about who He claimed to be, He answered succinctly and unhesitatingly. In whatever manner He chose to phrase His response, He made it known: He was the Son of God, the King of the Jews whose kingdom was not of this world.

No one was ultimately in charge in those night and morning hours but God. No power was in play that was not subject to the power of God. Pilate suggested otherwise, but Jesus quickly set him straight: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above,” (John 19:11).

What I’m gleaning as I pay attention to how intentional Jesus was with His words, is that He was in no way a victim. There is no comparison whatsoever between a powerless victim and the Son of Man, a willing subject of torture and injustice. While my heart aches for the extent of His suffering, it matters that I remember He suffered of His own accord. These atrocities were embraced because of the unquenchable love of God for humankind. That takes me to my knees!


Response for the Heart ~

Lord, – You shone brightly out from among those around You as You were being so terribly mistreated and abused. There are no words for the sacrifice You made in those horrible hours. I am the beneficiary of Your sacrifice. I bow before You now, without an adequate way to thank You. But I love you and I worship You, and I praise You for who You are, and for the life I have because of what You did for me and for all of humanity. You are “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1 John 2:2). Thank You, Suffering Savior! ~ Amen

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The Supreme Perversion of Justice – March 23, ’20

(Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ Before Pilate Again)

(A slow read through the passages below is essential to grasp the whole recorded picture of what took place as Jesus was unjustly and brutally tried and convicted. There are links for your convenience.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

Now the chief priests and the whole council
were seeking false testimony against Jesus
that they might put Him to death,
but they found none,
though many false witnesses came forward.
Matthew 26:59-60
(See also: Matthew 26:57 thru 27:26;
Mark 14:53 thru 15:15;
Luke 22:54 thru 23:25; John 18:12 thru 19:16)


Reflection for the Mind ~

In two-days we will focus on the words of Jesus to the various authority figures He stood before. In the meantime let’s get reacquainted with the narrative found in the four passages at the top of this post. I encourage you not to skip any of them, otherwise you will miss some critical pieces of what’s recorded for us.

There is so much activity surrounding the hours Jesus was moved from place to place until He was finally sentenced to death. Six trials took place over the course of eight or nine hours. Three Jewish religious trials rendered three guilty verdicts including a death sentence. A trial with Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again all found Jesus innocent of any wrongdoing.

A read through each of the gospel narratives will have anyone with a justice-meter dumbfounded by the absence of anything resembling justice. There was not a single aspect of the content of those hours that was in alignment with the Jewish judicial system God established, (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). It stands as the supreme perversion of justice in history.

The friends of Jesus were silent in Jesus’ defense if not absent altogether. The Jewish leaders were clearly ready to do anything at all to see Jesus put to death. The Roman authorities were the least offensive, even though Pilate finally cowered to the riotous crowd and gave Jesus up to be executed. Jesus, and Jesus alone was the single ray of light in that whole mad scene.


Response for the Heart ~

Lord, as I open these passages in Your presence, I ask You to allow the narrative to seep into my heart. This is a huge, terrible sequence of events. You endured so much, pressing forward toward the cross. I praise You, Jesus, for the immeasurable sacrifice You made. You made it willingly, and all for the joy set before You, (Hebrews 12:2).
Thank You! ~ Amen

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The Arrest of Jesus, March 21, ’20

The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas) 1290s Fresco Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

(The arrest of Jesus is recounted in all four of the gospels. I highly recommend reading all of them carefully so that you have the fullest picture possible of those moments. There are links for your convenience.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

When Jesus had spoken these words,
He went out with His disciples across the brook Kidron,
where there was a garden,
which He and His disciples entered.
Now Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place,
for Jesus often met there with His disciples.
So Judas, having procured
a band of soldiers and some officers
from the chief priests and the Pharisees,
went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him,
came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.”
Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
When Jesus said to them, “I am He,”
they drew back and fell to the ground.
So He asked them again, “Whom do you seek?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He.
So, if you seek me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken:
“Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”
Then Simon Peter, having a sword,
drew it and struck the high priest’s
servant and cut off his right ear.
(The servant’s name was Malchus.)
So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath;
shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
John 18:1-11
Then Jesus said to the chief priests
and officers of the temple and elders,
who had come out against Him,
“Have you come out as against a robber,
with swords and clubs?
When I was with you day after day in the temple,
you did not lay hands on me.
But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Luke 22:52-53
(See also: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:42-50; Luke 22:47-53)


Reflection for the Mind ~

All four of the gospels give us a look into the moments of Jesus’ arrest. Betrayal, confrontation, violence, healing, abandonment… all played out as the scene unfolded. But Jesus was calm and poised and definitely in charge there in the company of His captors.

Jesus was ready to face His arrest head on. He had prepared Himself through prayer. He stood in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was strengthened through the tending of an angelic being. There would be no more asking for another way, and so when His accusers approached with their substantial reinforcements, Jesus moved toward them and disarmed them immediately, not through force but through His authoritative presence. His declaration, “I am He” sent them backward and to the ground. Jesus was the master of the scene.

This was the accusers “hour, and the power of darkness.” But their limited power was under the watchful eye and controlling hand of God! Every step Jesus took toward the cross, beginning right here with His arrest, was directed by God. This was the carefully constructed plan of God playing out to the smallest detail.


Response for the Heart ~

Dear Lord, there in the garden – in the moments surrounding Your arrest, You were magnificent. Praise You, Jesus, who allowed Yourself to be led, as a lamb to the slaughter, (Isaiah 53:7). You were enacting the plan that You made with the Father from eternity. They were fools who thought they were getting the better of You that evening. Now speak to me, Lord! Here in Your presence, what would you have me see, or feel, or hear as I ponder those moments?
~ Amen

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Lent – Gethsemane

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The War in Gethsemane, March 18, ’20

(detail of the mosaic of the passion at the Basilica of the Rosary, Lourdes)



(Each Lent entry will give us a few days to ponder and sit with the Lord surrounding the scripture passages in that entry. The paragraphs following the passages are intended to give some guidance as we draw into the presence of God and dialogue with Him.)


Meditation for the Soul ~

And when the devil had ended every temptation,
he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13
And when He came to the place, He said to them,
“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw,
and knelt down and prayed, saying,
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.”
And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven,
strengthening Him.
And being in agony He prayed more earnestly;
and His sweat became like great drops of blood
falling down to the ground.
Luke 22:40-44
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mark 14:38


Reflection for the Mind ~

Jesus’ humanity was stretched to the tearing point as He repeatedly asked, “Let this cup pass from me.” If those hours were the “opportune time” referenced in Luke chapter four, then the attack that Satan waged in the garden was unprecedented. This would have been the last opportunity for the adversary to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross, and Jesus would never have been more vulnerable than He was in the garden.

Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to be within earshot of His prayers, allowing them to practice resisting the tempting presence permeating that garden space. Their souls too were sorrowful. Jesus knew that and instructed them to do what He was going to be doing. Here both Savior and those being saved were allowed to be tested by the great tempter, their weakened flesh being Satan’s point of entry.

The collision of forces battling that evening in both the seen and unseen worlds would have been the battle of the ages, literally. The whole course of history was about to dramatically shift, sealing the fate of the adversary once and for all, and bringing the hope of real redemption to humanity.

Nothing that took place there in the garden was unknown to God. The strategy of battle was in place from eternity and God knew who would win. Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of a ministering angel, stayed the course throughout the entire ordeal in Gethsemane. In those final moments before His arrest, when He still had time to opt-out, Jesus stayed the course!


Response for the Heart ~

As I see the garden in my mind, my eyes are drawn to You, Jesus. You were prepared for the battle. You were not alone in the battle, relying upon the Spirit and the love of the Father to provide for you where Your flesh would not be able to. I know nothing of the anguish You endured or the sorrow of Your soul. But I praise You, victorious one, who prevailed in those most torturous hours! Speak to me, Lord so that I might know all You mean for me to know about Your hours in the garden.
~ Amen

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Jesus, Sorrowful Even to Death – March 16, ’20

(detail of the mosaic of the passion at the Basilica of the Rosary, Lourdes)


(Each Lent entry will give us a few days to ponder and sit with the Lord surrounding the scripture passages provided. The paragraphs following the passages are intended to give some guidance as we draw into the presence of God and dialogue with Him.)

____________________

Meditation for the Soul ~

Then Jesus went with them
to a place called Gethsemane,
and He said to his disciples,
“Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee,
He began to be sorrowful and troubled.
Then He said to them,
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;
remain here, and watch with me.”
And going a little farther
He fell on his face and prayed, saying,
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’
And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping.
And He said to Peter,
“So, could you not watch with me one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed,
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it,
Your will be done.’
And again He came and found them sleeping,
for their eyes were heavy.
So, leaving them again, He went away
and prayed for the third time,
saying the same words again.
Then He came to the disciples and said to them,
“Sleep and take your rest later on.
See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man
is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand. ”
Matthew 26:36-46
(see also Mark 14:32-41; Luke 22:39-46)


Reflection for the Mind ~

The garden of Gethsemane was ground central for a few of the most critical hours in all of history. After the comprehensive instructions and care given by Jesus to His disciples, Jesus drew away to pray, becoming profoundly distressed. Judas Iscariot was carrying out his betrayal, and Jesus’ arrest was impending.

Jesus’ confession of the depth of His suffering to His closest friends is striking. I wonder how they dealt with His extreme vulnerability with them. There isn’t one recorded word that tells us they were able to provide consolation. They were in their own distress, likely trying to process the words Jesus had been speaking to them. The gospel of Luke tells us they actually fell asleep “from sorrow,” (Luke 22:45). The hours passed with Jesus moving between the location of His friends and His place of prayer; all the while experiencing the escalation of His own sorrow.

I marvel that while Jesus was enduring this level of anguish, He still managed to be the friend, teacher, caregiver and comforter to His inner-circle. He prevailed in His own battle where His friends failed in theirs, even with Jesus’ frequent cautioning. I sympathize with the disciples in the garden, glad it was not me asked to watch and pray. I would have failed Him too.

For me, those few hours in the garden are the most heart-wrenching in all of scripture. The physiological suffering Jesus bore would have been the death of anyone else. Can you fathom enduring anguish even to death and remaining submitted to the will of God? Can you imagine pleading with the Father for another way to fulfill your mission, under that level of duress, but not losing your resolve to honor God? There has never been anyone like Jesus! Not ever!


Response for the Heart ~

Praise You, my suffering Savior. It is beyond me to understand the depths of what You endured in Gethsemane. As I picture You in prayer that evening, I’m blown away that while there was space for Your honest pleas to the Father, there was no space within You to move against His will. There is truly no one like You. And now Lord, speak to me. What do You want me to know about those hours in Gethsemane? Teach me now as I meditate on Your Word. ~ Amen

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Jesus, the Comforter, March 14, ’20

(This entry is the fourth and final drawing from John, chapters thirteen through seventeen. The purpose is to allow us a deeper look into the character of Jesus in the final hours of His ministry. It will enhance the way we see Him as He approaches Gethsemane and beyond.)

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Meditation for the Soul ~

Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God; believe also in me.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so,
would I have told you that I am going there
to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going.
I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:1-4; 6: 27
None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
Rather, you are filled with grief
because I have said these things.
But very truly I tell you,
it is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send Him to you.
I have much more to say to you,
more than you can now bear.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes,
He will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
He will speak only what he hears,
and He will tell you what is yet to come.
He will glorify me because it is from me
that He will receive
what He will make known to you.
Very truly I tell you,
you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
A woman giving birth to a child has pain
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish
because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
So with you: Now is your time of grief,
but I will see you again and you will rejoice,
and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:5-7; 12-14; 20-22

Reflection for the Mind ~

From the moment Jesus and His disciples sat down to have their last meal together, Jesus started engaging with His disciples – instructing, encouraging, informing, rallying, comforting, et cetera. He was giving them the download of all downloads knowing full well the necessity of His words. But much of Jesus’ words were difficult and unsettling. As their dialogue progressed, a sense of grief began to set in. No one but Jesus understood the breadth of the fears taking hold and the sense of panic growing within His inner-circle. And Jesus was prepared to do all He could to assuage their angst by comforting them.

Imagine having only the right words, only the right body-language, only the right countenance, only the right tone of voice. Jesus had everything His friends needed as they began to grieve. The idea that they would be separated from Him was devastating. They certainly had no idea how much worse things were going to get in the next twenty-four hours. But Jesus knew, and He was speaking into their lives in a way that would bring comfort both in the moment and after His death.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that part of their conversation was about the coming of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus called the Comforter or Advocate. The Father would send them the Spirit, even as the Father sent Jesus to them. Jesus said that the Spirit would, “glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you,” (John 16:14). Jesus had no intention of leaving His followers without the comfort they had come to rely upon. In some unexplainable way, the coming of the Comforter was actually an upgrade (John 16:7) though that would have been impossible for them to imagine at the time. Equally unimaginable was the fact that the comfort of the Holy Spirit would come to them on behalf of Jesus, as powerfully as if Jesus remained among them.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, thank You for the beauty of Your comfort. Thank You for the gift that Your comfort was to Your disciples and is to me! You never leave us in our grief. You are by our side, comforting us in a way that only You could. Speak to me in the days ahead about the beauty of the comforting nature of Jesus as He spent those many hours preparing His disciples for His departure. I worship You, God of all comfort! ~ Amen

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Jesus, the Caregiver – March 11, ’20


(This entry is number three of four that will draw from John, chapters thirteen through seventeen. The purpose is to allow us a deeper look into the character of Jesus in the final hours of His ministry. It will enhance the way we see Him as He approaches Gethsemane and beyond.)

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Meditation for the Soul ~

My children, I will be with you only a little longer.
You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews,
so I tell you now:
Where I am going, you cannot come.
Where I am going, you cannot follow now,
but you will follow later
John 13:33; 36
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Before long, the world will not see me anymore,
but you will see me.
Because I live, you also will live.
John 14:18-19
I have told you this
so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11
All this I have told you
so that you will not fall away.
I have told you these things,
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:1; 33
Holy Father, protect them
by the power of Your name,
the name You gave me,
so that they may be one as we are one.
While I was with them, I protected them
and kept them safe by that name You gave me.
John 17:11-12

Reflection for the Mind ~

No one cared for people like Jesus did. His care was comprehensive so that while He was with His followers, they had need of nothing. But especially in the days leading up to His arrest and ultimate departure from the world, Jesus provided a quality of care that ought to leave us in awe. Jesus never wavered in His role as caregiver even though He knew He would be betrayed and profoundly neglected by those He provided for. As His death approached, Jesus remained as focused as ever, caregiving for those the Father had entrusted to him.

I’m encouraging all of us to spend these three days meditating upon John chapters thirteen through seventeen and asking the Lord to speak to us about Himself as a caregiver. The whole objective of caregiving is to do for one what they cannot do for themselves. That warrants a pause.

I wonder if we have an adequate awareness of our need of God so that we understand He isn’t just being nice to us, but providing what no one else would be able to provide. I know I can fight Him, just like a child does when they are feeling especially independent, but I always cheat myself when I do. Maybe you can relate. Most importantly, I wonder if there isn’t room for growth in our level of gratitude for His flawless, all-encompassing care of us. No one cares like Jesus – absolutely no one.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, You are the ultimate caregiver. Please Lord, speak to me in the days ahead about the beauty of Jesus’ care of His followers as He was getting ready to leave them. You care for me like no other and I praise You and thank You for your lavish provision. I need what You provide. But You give over and above the need. Teach me as I read and wait upon You. I know I take your care of me for granted. Please help me to gain ground there so that gratitude abounds in me. ~ Amen

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Jesus, the Teacher – March 09, ’20

(This entry is number two of four that will draw from John, chapters thirteen through seventeen. The purpose is to allow us a deeper look into the character of Jesus in the final hours of His ministry. It will enhance the way we see Him as He approaches Gethsemane and beyond.)

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Meditation for the Soul ~

“And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me,
believes not in me
 but in Him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light,
so that whoever believes in me
may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come
to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me
and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken
will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority,
but the Father who sent me
has himself given me a commandment
—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore,
I say as the Father has told me.” 
John 12:44-50
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in me
he is thrown away like a branch and withers;
and the branches are gathered,
thrown into the fire, and burned
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish,
and it will be done for you.
By this my Father is glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and so prove to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me,
so have I loved you.
Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments,
you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you,
that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.
John 15:5-11

Reflection for the Mind ~

As we contemplate the life of Jesus in the days leading up to His arrest and death, let’s consider how He tended to His followers as their teacher. All those who listened to Jesus teach throughout His three years of public life had the gift of hearing the greatest teacher who ever lived. But few had the added gift of watching Him live His life from day to day. Those who did witnessed the flawless execution of everything Jesus taught. Jesus lived what He preached.

For all the diversity of Jesus’s teaching in those final days, a few thoughts have surfaced for me that have launched from the scripture passages above. The first is this: Most teachers work from a curriculum that is not their own. Jesus made it very clear He was no different. While He was in complete agreement with all He spoke, the instruction He gave came exclusively from the Father, and He made sure everyone understood that. Whatever was important to the Father was important to Jesus. Jesus had a specific agenda but it was not His own. It was NEVER His own, (Note to self).

In case His followers (that means us too) couldn’t make the connection between how He lived and how they were supposed to live, Jesus taught them using a very comprehensive analogy. John chapter fifteen might be one of the most familiar passages of scripture there is. A vinedresser, a vine, a branch connected to that vine, and the nutrients that flow through the vine: it’s a picture of connectivity that drives home our comprehensive need of God.

Jesus’ life of deference and submission to the Father was not a path among other paths for fruitful living. It was the singular path to fulfilling His life purpose. The same holds true for us.  We will live the way we are designed to live, bearing fruit if we abiding in Christ.

Jesus’ teaching days are far from over. You and I are meant to glean from Him no less powerfully than those who literally walked the earth with Him. My hope is that as we prayerfully sit with the passages above, we will experience Jesus as the attentive, perfect teacher He is.

Response for the Heart ~

Lord, will You teach me as You did those who walked the earth with You? I understand, however faintly, that if I’m going to live out the things You teach me, it’s going to happen as I “abide” in You. Teach me more about what it means to abide. Teach me more about how You practiced that kind of abiding in the Father. Thank You that You continued to be the great teacher, even as you approached the cross. And now, as I approach the remembrance of Your death, I praise You for the great teacher You are! ~ Amen

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Lent 2020, Jesus (John 13-17)

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