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March 22, 2017: Truly Son of God

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 27-28, Psalm 69:1-18, Matthew 27:45-56, Romans 14 Matthew 27:45-56: Ne’er was love like this. The very land itself mourns: darkness hangs over the earth. Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” (27:46). Misunderstood ‘til the end, some think he is calling Elijah (“Eli, Eli, Lema, sabachthani”) (27:47). Jesus cried out again with a louder voice and then died (27:50). What happened next could surely never be forgotten. First of all, the temple curtain is torn in two, from top to bottom (27:51). A divine hand reaches down and rips the barrier that kept sinners out of the holy of holies. Now through Christ’s death and faith in him, the way was clear for us to have access to the very presence of God! The very earth shook, rocks split (27:51). The cosmos reeled as its Creator God incarnate suffered and died for the...

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March 21, 2017: Christ Crucified

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 22-26, Psalm 68, Matthew 27:27-44, Romans 13 Matthew 27:27-44: Being reviled and treated as nothing is hard enough without excruciating pain thrown in too—but add to that the anguish of bearing the sins of the world. The moral curse that was ours is to be borne by him. The biblical account is sparing in its description of the physical horrors of the cross. There are descriptions of the physical brutality, but the drawing is drawn faintly (not as in a horror movie), and it is intended to set the context for the real drama, which is that Jesus is dying for those who mock him, sinners such as these. He is indeed, ironically, “King of the Jews,” and each of these elements is in fulfillment of the prophetic destiny which he has determined to fulfill. He will come down from the cross, he will rise again, and he will save those...

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March 20, 2017: Barabbas

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 18-21, Psalm 67, Matthew 27:11-26, Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 27:11-26: The crucifixion is getting closer and closer. Jesus gives no answer to the accusations brought against him. The governor was amazed that Jesus gave no answer. Led like a lamb to the slaughter. Pilate’s discomfort at the possible innocence of Jesus is greatly increased by an apparently predictive dream that his wife had which made her urge him to have nothing to do with Jesus, that “righteous man” (27:19). He tries to find a way out of the predicament he found himself in (wanting to appease the Jewish leaders, and at the same time not wanting to kill Jesus). He offers to them the opportunity to have Jesus released (27:17). But instead they choose Barabbas (a notorious criminal, Luke 23:29) (27:20-21). The prince of life they condemn; a murderer they set free. Even at this moment Jesus is showing that he is...

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March 19, 2017: Betrayal and Salvation

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 13-17, Psalm 66, Matthew 27:1-10, Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 27:1-10: How extraordinary it is to find the leaders of God’s people “taking counsel” together to oppose the work of God, and to do so in such a gross manner as to actually seek to kill the Son of God (27:1)! The truth is that all of us are sinners, and within us (this side of glory), there stir venomous serpents of opposition to God. To see our sin, by the work of the Holy Spirit, is to realize, by the illumination of that same Spirit, that Christ loves us and died for us, that while we were sinners, at the same time God demonstrated his love for us in sending his Son to die for us. What a strange and beautiful realization! That though I build my righteousness in my own strength as high as the mountains, the distance to heaven is...

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March 18, 2017: Betrayal

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 9-12, Psalm 65, Matthew 26:57-75, Romans 11:25-38 Matthew 26:57-75: In an illegal court, the high priest gathers to bring false accusations against Jesus to be able to take him to the Roman governors to ensure he is crucified. Peter follows at a distance (26:58). Many false witnesses come to accuse Jesus, but nothing wrong can be found (26:59-60). Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is himself sinless and pure. The high priest, in desperation, asks him directly, and with religious force, to tell them whether he is the Christ, the Son of God (26:63). Jesus puts the words back on his lips: “You have said so” (26:64). In the high priest’s accusation there is truth. He is pointing out that their driving towards charges against him in the end rests on their opposition to his central claim to be their, and the world’s, Messiah,...

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March 17, 2017: Gethsemane

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 6-8, Psalm 64, Matthew 26:36-56, Romans 11:1-24 Matthew 26:36-56: What a prayer is this—take this cup from me, but not my will, but your will be done (26:39). Jesus is expressing his desire, if it be possible, that the cup of suffering would not be his. At the same time, through this torturous moment, he is both modeling obedience to God as our example, and also by his obedience to God winning for us a crown of righteousness. The disciples cannot stay awake (26:40). In his hour of need, they are unable to watch with him. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (26:41). So often we find that to be the case; in our true self, we desire to do what is right, but there is another part of us—the finite, the fallen, the sinful and the weak—that is unable to follow where Christ leads. How merciful he...

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March 16, 2017: Love to the Loveless Shown

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 4-5, Psalm 63, Matthew 26:17-35, Romans 10 Matthew 26:17-35: Was ever love like this? Jesus prepares to eat the feast of Passover, and as he sits down at the meal, he tells them that one of them will betray him. He knows full well who it is—“You have said so” (26:25). And yet, out of love, Jesus goes like a lamb to the slaughter, to give himself for us. Love to the loveless shown. At this very meal, the communion of the Christian meal is instituted. The bread and the cup. “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (26:28). Was e’er such love as this? Not even his friends will stay by him. “You will all fall away because of me this night” (26:31). Peter is confident he will not, but his denial after the rooster crows, is also coming. My...

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March 15, 2017: Anointing Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 1-3, Psalm 62, Matthew 26:1-16, Romans 9:19-33 Matthew 26:1-16: The movement towards Jesus’ death, betrayal, execution (and then resurrection) now appears inexorable. Once again, Jesus predicts his death (26:1-2). And, indeed, in the background, in the smoke-filled rooms of the religious leaders of the time, there is a plot being hatched to kill Jesus (26:3-4). There is only one hitch: they cannot do it now. They are too afraid of the “people” and their response (26:5). A deed that cannot be done in the light is seldom a good deed. Evil deeds like darkness, hiding. The popular vote is not always a token of moral uplift, and a mass of people can be deceived to go in the wrong direction; but those who fear God will not ultimately fear the occasional reversals that come in the court of popular opinion. We have a different Master, whose love is secure, and whose...

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March 14, 2017: Sheep and Goats

Today’s Bible Reading: Numbers 33-36, Psalm 61, Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 9:1-18 Matthew 25:31-46: This is no doubt one of the scariest passages in the whole Bible, and from the lips of Jesus. It does though first need to be correctly understood before its full weight can be appropriately felt and applied. The critical text to notice is the repeated, first positively and then negatively, statement of Jesus’. “As you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (25:40). “As you did not do to one of the least of these my brothers, you did not do it to me” (25:45). Behind this is the theology of the church, so well understood by the apostle Paul, that the church is Jesus’ body, and that when we persecute the church we are persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4—“why are you persecuting me,” when Saul was persecuting the church). In other words, when...

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March 13, 2017: Talents

Today’s Bible Reading: Numbers 31-32, Psalm 60, Matthew 25:14-30, Romans 8:18-30 Matthew 25:14-30: Carrying on with Jesus’ teaching about how to get ready for his return, now is the famous parable of the talents. A “talent” was a monetary unit worth around twenty years' work for a laborer. In very rough contemporary terms, then, if we say a reasonable but not expansive working wage was about $50,000, each unit equates to about $1 million. This is not a small amount of money. They are being given a considerable responsibility. The story unfolds along familiar lines—they are each given responsibility according to their abilities. One receives five talents, another two, and another one. The ones with five and two talents find ways to multiply what they have been given. But the one with one talent instead buries the talent to keep it safe. Why does he bury the talent? Because he is afraid (25:25). While then the other...

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