Jesus Before Herod (March 18)

March 18

Read: Luke 23:6-17

Have you ever wanted to avoid making a decision?  Pontus Pilate (the Roman leader who ruled over Israel) did NOT want to make a decision about Jesus.  The Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus in, and wanted Pilate to execute Him, but Pilate wanted nothing to do with this political hot potato.  He looked for any opportunity to avoid making a decision.  Upon hearing that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas (a figurehead leader of Israel’s northern region), hoping Herod would take care of the situation.  However, Herod Antipas did nothing but mock Jesus.  Pilate wanted to avoid Jesus.  Herod wanted Jesus to entertain him.  Neither of them were willing to embrace Jesus as the Savior of the world.

Question of the Day:  What are some of the ways people today avoid Jesus?  What are some excuses people use to keep them from seriously considering the claims of Christ?

Jesus Before the Council (March 17)

March 17

Read:  Mark 14:53-65

After Jesus arrest, His first stop was before the chief priests, elders and scribes.  This group represented the Jewish religious leaders.  They wanted to convict Jesus of a crime and turn Him over for death.  Their problem was, they could not make any charges stick against Him.  Even those they had enticed to give false witness against Him could not tell a convincing story.  Eventually, it was Jesus Himself who told them that He was the Son of God and that He would come again in glory.  It was on Jesus’ testimony, not the testimony of others, that the chief priest condemns Jesus a criminal worthy of death (the claims Jesus made of Himself would have been blasphemous if they were not true).  in this way, it is made clear that no one took Jesus life from Him, but He willingly gave up His life Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

Question of the Day:  Jesus was not killed because He did anything wrong.  He was killed because the religious leaders failed to recognize who He really was.  Who do you say that Jesus really is?  (Who we think Jesus is constitutes the most important thing about us – eternally speaking.)

A Young Man Flees (March 16)

March 16

Read: Mark 14:51-52

Have you ever felt all alone?  Ever felt abandoned by others?  You might have felt this after friends failed to include you in their plans, after a divorce, after the death of a loved one, or after a move to a new city.  Most people (at some time in their life) know the sting of what it feels like to be be alone.  Guess what – Jesus also knows what it feels like to be alone. After His arrest, all His followers and friends immediately left Him.  In fact, some left so fast (as in the verses you read today) they left their clothing in a pile behind!  That’s right – Jesus’ friends risked the shame of public nakedness instead of standing by their friend in His time of need. 

Question of the Day: Have you ever “abandoned” Jesus in public conversation?  Ever avoided a conversation that was turning to Christ because you did not want to “out” yourself as one of His followers?

Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (March 15)

Art by Josh Martin
Art by Josh Martin

Read: Mark 14:43-50

At times, law enforcement officers take part in a “man hunt.”  In these circumstances a criminal is on the run and needs to be tracked down so he can be arrested.  When we read Mark 14, at one level it looks like a “man hunt” for Jesus.  Though Jesus was no criminal (far from it), He was viewed as such by the Jewish religious establishment, and they wanted to arrest Him.  As we reflect on these events at a deeper level though, it becomes clear that no man hunt was ever needed to find Christ.  Daily Jesus was in the most public places in Israel!  The mob that gathers in 14:43 to go arrest Jesus was formed NOT to find Jesus generally (they could have just met Him at the Temple the next day) . . . but to find Him when He was away from the crowds in the city.  The religious leaders feared Jesus’ popularity, so they wanted to arrest Him in private.  Judas, therefore, becomes the conduit to lead them to Jesus without the crowd around.  Jesus was not hiding from the people . . . and He is not hiding from you today either.

Question of the Day: In His day, you could find Jesus in the Temple or ministering in the countryside.  Today, you can “find Jesus” by reading about Him in the Bible and gathering together with His followers.  What have you learned about Jesus from reading God’s Word throughout this Lent season?

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (March 14)

Art by Abbie Schuermann
Art by Abbie Schuermann

Read: Mark 14:32-42

Is it possible to be troubled and be godly?  Is it possible to be greatly distressed, yet not sin?  Is it possible to be honest with God in prayer about what we are going through?  The answer to each of these statements is a resounding YES — and it is demonstrated for us clearly through the person of Jesus Christ and His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before His arrest.  These verses tell us that Jesus (the Son of God) was troubled about what He was about to face.  These verses also tell us that Jesus was greatly distressed about it, and yet we know He is sinless.  We also see that Jesus even asked for “the cup to pass from Him if possible.”  Gethsemane is a great reminder for us that if we face difficulty, it does not mean that we are out of God’s will.  Gethsemane also reminds us that we can be deeply troubled in our spirit about what is happening around us, and even boldly pray to God about what we are facing.  I am so thankful for the Garden of Gethsemane because it reminds us that we can trust God in the middle of the storms we face in the “real world.”

Question of the Day:  What are some challenges you are facing in life right now?  Spend some time in prayer about these situations today.

The High Priestly Prayer (March 13)

March 13a

Read:  John 17:1-26

I grew up in a great church in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.  When I was in sixth grade, I participated in our church’s confirmation program. This class was led by the Senior Pastor of the church, Dwight Darrah.  I always had a nice relationship with Dr. Darrah, but I never really realized the gift he had given me until later in life.  When I graduated from the University of Oklahoma (11 years after taking that confirmation class) Dr. Darrah let me know that he had been praying for me every week for the past 11 years that I would accept a call into the ministry.  I had no idea he  was praying for me all those years, but his prayers were a true gift – something I treasure to this day.  In John 17, we see Jesus praying for His disciples . . . and you and me (see John 17:20-26)!  Did you know Jesus prayed for you during the last few hours before the resurrection – we were on His mind!  We probably are aware of so many of the things that Jesus has done for us . . . but what an added blessing to know He is praying for us as well.  We have been on His prayer list for thousands of years!

Question of the Day: What is Jesus praying for His followers in these verses?

“I Have Overcome the World” (March 12)

Art by Anna Cornwell
Art by Anna Cornwell

Read: John 16:25-33

Stonewall Jackson was a General in the confederate army during the U.S. Civil War.  He got his nickname because he would stand like a stone wall when enemy troops approached.  Jackson often pointed to his faith in God for the courage he demonstrated in battle.  It is rare in this world to find peace in the midst of great tribulation.  Because of our connection to Jesus, we can have peace – even if the circumstances around us are difficult.  Our peace comes from WHO we know, not from WHAT we are going through.  God gives us peace in the midst of tribulation by assuring us of at least three things: 1) God loves us.  (2) God will listen to us when we pray.  (3) Jesus has overcome the world, so what do we have to fear?

Question of the Day:  What in your life today is threatening “peace”?  How do Jesus words today encourage you in your time of trial?

Your Joy Will Turn to Sorrow (March 11)

March 11a
Art by Casey Massey

Read: John 16:16-24

Life is full of hard moments.  However, it is also full of wonderful moments.  Part of the challenge of living life is that we do not have a schedule that details when the next wonderful moment will come or how long the current hard time will last.  Without a program detailing the “order of service” we are left at times anxious and impatient.  For instance, a man who is laid off from his job can struggle (in part) because he does not know how long it will be until a new job is secured.  Jesus knew His disciples were soon facing a VERY difficult three days.  They would see Jesus die — and for three days He would lie in the tomb.  However, after three days, Jesus knew that the disciples would be overjoyed as they would discover that He was raised from the dead!  In John 16, Jesus lets His disciples know the program, so they might know what lay ahead.

Question of the Day:  What do you think it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples during the 3 days between Jesus’ death and resurrection?

The Work of the Holy Spirit (March 10)

March 10

Read: John 16:4b-15

As amazing as it must have seemed to them, Jesus actually told His disciples that it was “to their advantage” that He go away. This must have seemed like crazy talk to the disciples.  After all, Jesus being beside them allowed them to witness the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, and the dead rising!  What a wild thing for Jesus to say (that the disciples would be better off if Jesus “left them.”)  Of course Jesus was correct in His assertion.  Jesus knew that if He went away, He would go to the cross to offer forgiveness to His followers.  Then He would rise from the dead offering the promise of Eternal Life to His followers.  Then He would send the Holy Spirit as a helper to empower the disciples in a number of areas.  Though Jesus statement at first appears odd, it was (in fact) gloriously right. 

Question of the Day:  In what ways does the Holy Spirit “help us” according to the verses you read today?

The Hatred of the World (March 9)

March 9

Read: John 15:18-16:4a

A few times in my life, I have had the privilege of attending the OU/Texas College Football game.  The game is played each October at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, TX.  The game is played in a unique environment:  half of the tickets are sold to Texas fans, and the other half to Oklahoma fans.  Everyone in the stadium is wearing the color of their favorite team.  Oklahoma fans tend to be extra kind to those wearing Crimson and Cream and rather hostile toward those wearing burnt orange.  For Texas, the converse is true.  It is not uncommon to have one of your team’s fans high five you on the way into the stadium, while one of “the other guys” are booing you loudly.  Though you may not know EITHER of these people, they treat you a certain way based on the color you are wearing.  In John 15:18-164a, Jesus lets His disciples know that the unbelieving world will mistreat the followers of Christ simply because the Christians are wearing Jesus’s colors on their bodies.  Jesus explains this so that the disciples would not be surprised when persecution came their way.

Question of the Day: Have you ever experienced rejection simply because of your connection to Christ?  If not, do you know anyone (or have heard) of anyone who has?