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September 20, 2017: A Good and Righteous Man

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 51-53, Proverbs 28:1-14, Luke 23:50-56, Hebrews 11:17-31 Luke 23:50-56: Joseph of Arimathea, many fables have been told about him, but here is the truth. He was a member of the council that had condemned Jesus, but he himself had not consented to the condemnation. He was a “good and righteous man,” and he was “looking for the kingdom of God.” By this we learn that by faith and faithfulness, he had established a reputation for upright living towards God and people—and also that he had heard the preaching and teaching of the Bible to cause him to look for God’s coming kingdom. Whether or not he at this point believed that Jesus was the King of that Kingdom is not clear; it is clear that he was a good and righteous man. He had not consented to their decision to kill Jesus, and so while he had failed to prevent that cosmic...

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September 19, 2017: The Curtain Was Torn in Two

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 49-50, Proverbs 27:15-27, Luke 23:44-49, Hebrews 11:1-16 Luke 23:44-49: It is as if the whole universe, all of creation, all of reality in existence, is in mourning—for it is. There is darkness, perhaps an eclipse, over the whole land for three hours. This somber portent of the event taking place is recorded for us to give a sense of the true spiritual and cosmic scope of Jesus’ death. The sun hides its eyes from the death of the Son. The curtain was torn in two. This curtain separated the Holy of Holies from all entering except on very special occasions, symbolically indicated the holiness of the presence of God and the impossibility of sinful people being in God’s presence. But now that curtain is ripped apart, by the hand of God. The way into the Holy of Holies is now opened. Jesus’ last words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” indicate his...

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September 18, 2017: Paradise

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 46-48, Proverbs 27:1-14, Luke 23:38-43, Hebrews 10:19-39 Luke 23:38-43: The picture of Jesus hanging between two thieves is so shocking that on occasion we miss the meaning. Here is represented two possible responses to Jesus. The one thief mocks Jesus. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” This thief lacks faith, and can only sneer—if it is a desperate sneer—as he faces his own painful mortality in this extremity of human suffering. He “railed” at Jesus, shouting at him, badgering him, sneering, and with disdain. The other thief, however, understands the situation with far more clarity. He rebukes the thief who is railing against Jesus. Does that thief not fear God? They are under just condemnation, but Jesus has done nothing wrong. This thief, then, accepts that he is in the wrong, accepts that he is justly (if cruelly) condemned. What is more, he turns to Jesus with a simple expression of...

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September 17, 2017: They Crucified Him

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 44-45, Proverbs 26:17-28, Luke 23:32-37, Hebrews 10:1-18 Luke 23:32-37: The two other criminals who were crucified with him will play a famed role of significance in this drama, as we will find out tomorrow from verse 38 and onwards. This section, verses 32-37, is particularly filled with deliberate irony. But first, there are the most astonishing words uttered by a crucified man ever: Forgive them (23:34). They do not know that they are crucifying the Son of God. They do not know the extent of their crime. Christ’s thoughts, even at this hour of crucifixion, are not for himself, but for those others around him. And his thoughts are thoughts of love, peace, and in particular forgiveness. Note: we who follow in the Master’s footsteps are not to harbor grudges against one another, or labor to avenge perceived wrongs, but instead to forgive as we have been forgiven—even when unjustly accused...

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September 16, 2017: Dry Wood

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 42-43, Proverbs 26:1-16, Luke 23:26-31, Hebrews 9:11-28 Luke 23:26-31: As we approach the crucifixion itself, we come across two sets of characters that interact with Jesus as he goes to The Skull (23:33). The first is Simon of Cyrene. Unwittingly, he is employed as a cross bearer for Jesus, to carry the cross behind Jesus. He is the first in a crowd that is gathering, and indicates that this deed done to Jesus is in reality and illustratively the expression of the wrath of God against the world. At the cross, love and justice mingle, truth and mercy meet, though my sins condemn me, Jesus died instead; there is full forgiveness in the blood he shed. But in the first section, verses 26-31, the text emphasizes the wrath. Simon, dragged to carry the cross, follows on behind Jesus. Then a great multitude gather to mourn and lament. They are crying and weeping...

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September 15, 2017: Crucify Him!

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 40-41, Proverbs 25:15-28, Luke 23:13-25, Hebrews 9:1-10 Luke 23:13-25: (23:13-16) Pilate is now insistent that because he, and also Herod, have found there to be no guilt in Jesus, that he should be set free. Not, however, before he is punished (23:16), presumably as a sop to the accusers of Jesus, intending to mollify them with at least some expression of punishment. (23:17-25) Instead, however, this attempt to gain Jesus’ release through political expedience fails. The Jewish leaders are determined to have another person released instead, Barabbas, a freedom fighter, an “insurrectionist” and a “murderer.” Pilate objects, they shout. Pilate objects more; they shout louder. Eventually “their voices prevailed” (23:23). Their cries of “crucify, crucify” had the intended effect of forcing Pilate’s hand to kill Jesus to pacify the angry crowds. Samuel Crossman (1623-1683) puts it beautifully: They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away; A murderer they save, The Prince of life they slay, Yet...

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September 14, 2017: Mocking the Savior

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 37-39, Proverbs 25:1-14, Luke 23:1-12, Hebrews 8:7-13 Luke 23:1-12: (23:1-5). Now begins the more formal Roman legal process. The Jewish leaders are seeking the death penalty, so they bring him before the Roman authorities and accuse him of matters that amount to treason (23:2). He is, they say, enacting a political movement that is putting himself as a rival to Caesar, a “king,” and is also effecting the revenue stream of taxes to Rome. The two aspects of the charge—political and financial—were measured to give maximum possibility of a lethal judicial sentence. Pilate picks the most incendiary of the two, that he is acting as a king in rivalry to Caesar (23:3). But when Jesus replies with an implicit acknowledgement (“you have said so”), but evidently without any political or revolutionary zeal, Pilate concludes that Jesus has done nothing wrong. The fact that Christians were not political revolutionaries was an important...

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September 13, 2017: Suffering Servant

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 34-36, Proverbs 24:23-34, Luke 22:63-71, Hebrews 8:1-6 Luke 22:63-71: (22:63-65) They mock Jesus. How can this be? People are cruel, and cruel authority is cruelest of all. If they do such things when the trees are green, what will they do when it is dry? If they treat the Master in this way, how will they treat his servants? Let us pray for those followers of Jesus who are being persecuted today, and do what we can to care for those Christians thrown in prison, beaten and mocked. And let us also rejoice—with sheer amazement—at the Christ who suffered all the pain and degradation that we deserved, that we might go free. (22:66-70) How frightening that a body of religious people, religious leaders no less, meeting in authoritative council, could act in such a way. Yet is the testimony of history that false believers have often treated real believers far worse than...

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September 12, 2017: Denial

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 31-33, Proverbs 24:1-22, Luke 22:54-62, Hebrews 7:11-28 Luke 22:54-62: How is it that such a faithful man as Peter would deny Jesus three times? He starts out well enough. He follows Jesus as Jesus is taken away into custody, following albeit at a distance (22:54). He is bold enough, though, to go right into the courtyard and sit down among those who are declared enemies of Jesus (22:55), even within eyesight and earshot of the action (22:61). This is no coward. He is boldly going into the lion’s den. Yet, three times he does deny Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted (22:61). First, he denies it to a servant girl (22:57). Then another man (22:58). And finally someone becomes convinced he must be among the followers of Jesus because so many of them came from the North of the country, from the region of Galilee, and Peter’s distinctive accent gives him away...

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September 11, 2017: This Is Your Hour

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 29-30, Proverbs 23:19-35, Luke 22:47-53, Hebrews 7:1-10 Luke 22:47-53: The most extraordinary few verses ever written. Who could have believed it? One of Jesus’ own, Judas, one of his very disciples, acts to betray him. And does it so apparently callously: with a kiss. The logic of sin is illogical; the rationality of evil is irrationality; trying to understand evil is impossible, for evil is the opposite of all truth and beauty and light, and exists in darkness and confusion. Do not bang your head against the brick wall of understanding the origin of evil; instead, let light shine in your hearts through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. One of the other disciples attempts to defend Jesus with a sword. He took his warning earlier (22:37) too literally, and cuts off the ear of the servant of the...

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