Category Archives: Lent

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Crucified with Christ

The Liturgy of the Palms

The Liturgy of the Word

It was the best of times. Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. From Luke’s Gospel we read:

After telling a parable to the crowd at Jericho, Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.'” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”   (Luke 19:28-40)

It was the worst of times. How could the Jewish people, in less than a week, go from “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify Him?” Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the state. Jesus, the triumphant leader, became Jesus, the criminal whom they wanted to crucify.

“How could the people change so quickly?” we ask. In defense of those who got caught up in the frenzy, we must remember that the chief priests and religious leaders of the day had much to do with inciting the crowd. Truth is the first casualty with tyrannical leaders. Propaganda and lies were used to sway the people. The government, and even the synagogs, were the last places to discover the truth. In fact, both church and state were perpetuating a false narrative on purpose, Their agenda was to obscure what was really true.

When manipulation and control supplant faith and proclamation, the people are deceived and confused. Betrayal of God’s purposes becomes the order of the day. Does that ring a bell for us today?

Even Jesus’s most loyal disciples would leave him as Jesus had foretold:

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”   ()

Why did Peter betray his Lord when Jesus said that Peter would be the rock? Perhaps Peter did not understand the crucifixion. We remember when Jesus foretold of his death on the cross:

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:22-23)

The new creation in Christ only comes through crucifixion. Before there is new life there must be death.

Today, we need to look upon the cruel death or our Lord:

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely 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 this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two criminals hung on the crosses with Jesus, one on either side. What follows is a prime example of the new creation:

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   ()

This second criminal had not kept the commandments of God. He had not been baptized by the church. He had not been formally taught and trained as a disciple. But he was accepted by Jesus. The criminal had confessed his sin. He had given up justifying himself. He had an idea who Jesus might be and what he hoped Jesus would do for him.

Through the cross., Jesus won the victory over sin and death for all os us. In some ways we are all criminals who should have hang a cross. We can only win our over victory over sin and death by identifying with the victory of Jesus.

We may be praising Jesus like many of the Jews did as he rode into Jerusalem. But are we are able to go the distance and not deny him in troubling times? Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”   (Matthew 16:24-25)

As Jesus strengthened Peter, so will he strengthen us. But we must die to ourselves. Like the criminal on the cross, we cam no longer justify ourselves.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,[a] who loved me and gave himself for me.   (Galatians 2:19-20)

The flesh does not want to understand the cross. The cross is where we die to the flesh. We need the mind of Christ, not the carnal mind. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:5-8)

The best of times for us is when we empty ourselves, pray, and worship God. The message of the cross and resurrection is the power of God to set us free from the way of sin and death. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The worst of time is when we follow the wisdom of this world.

See Crucified with Christ.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Spiritual Eyes

We begin with a pivotal point in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.    (John 12:1-7)

Jesus had been teaching his disciples that he would enter Jerusalem and be arrested and ultimately killed, and that he would rise again on the third day. His disciples did not understand what he was saying and were not prepared for what was about to take place.

For Judas, it was business as usual. The other disciples of Jesus did not speak out against what he said. Only Jesus spoke up for Mary of Bethany. Jesus understood who Mary was. Remarkably, Mary bettered understood who Jesus was than his disciples.

What did Mary understand? She certainly must not have fully understood the ministry of Jesus. But she was aware of what he would soon be facing. Jesus said: “She bought the perfume so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.” Mary knew in the Spirit something terrible was about to happen.

God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Do not remember the former things,
    or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.   (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God was about to do a new thing. He would provide a way for our new creation n Christ Jesus that only he could establish. The disciples of Jesus could not perceive it. They were stuck on the old. Are we stuck on the old today?

Mary was more attuned to what God was doing because of her love for Jesus brought here near to the heart of God. She had spiritual eyes because she was attuned to the Spirit of God. She longed to see and understand all that God was doing and would be doing. Is that who we are?

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul did not want to hold onto the past. His concern was answering the heaven call. We, too, have heavenly call.

God is doing a new thing. He is doing a new thing in our nations all over the world. He is doing a new thing in our churches. And he is asking us: “Do you not perceive it?” A great awakening is occurring

God also wants to do a new thing in our lives. Do we perceive it? It is a matter of our answering the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

The psalmist wrote:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then were we like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy.

Those who sowed with tears
will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.   (Psalm 126:1-2, 6-7)

Some of us have been dreaming. But many are now awake. Those who sowed with tears are the intercessors. Some of you are intercessors.  You have helped pave the way for us. Let us all grab onto the new thing God is doing.

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The Annunciation

Trusting the Promises of God

Today we read about the greatest announcement ever:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”   (Luke 1:26-37)

Mary had been selected by God the Father to become the mother of Jesus. She believed and received the gift promised to her by the angel Gabriel. Mary’s reply to the angel demonstrated her faith and trust in the Lord:

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.   (Luke 1:38)

The blessing is in the receiving. This was not the case for King Ahaz in today’s Old Testament reading who refused to do what God asked of him.

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.  (Isaiah 7:10-14)

The message from God was not only for Mary. It is a message of hope and salvation for the entire world. Believing and receiving this message brings to each of us the greatest blessing from God. We are destined to participate in the eternal kingdom of God under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we an Ahaz or a Mary? King Ahaz said that he did not want to trouble God. He did not want to Bill Johnson Ministries from God. He did not want to listen to His Word.  The reason for all his objections is that he did bot want to obey God.

The Season of Lent is a time to open up to God and not be so busy or distracted. This is not so easily done by people who are full of this world. We need to empty ourselves before our maker and hearken unto His Word. Jesus has set the example for us. We read in Hebrews:

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”   (Hebrews 10:4-7)

The sacrifice that God requires is the sacrifice of our will to his will. He fulfilled his mission that God the Father had divinely established. In so doing, Jesus provided atonement for our sins and eternal life for all who believe.

God has written about each one of us in his book. He has a plan for us. What is our response? In today’s readings two people heard from God. One was a king and one was a peasant. God made promises to them both. One refused to listen and one welcomed the promise of God. We give thanks to God for Mary and for her example. What will be our example?

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Third Sunday in Lent

The Heart of God

Moses encountered God at the burning bush that would not consume. There he was given an assignment by God, a very big assignment: Reading from Exodus:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”   (Exodus 3:9-12)

Moses was reluctant. Then he became impatient with God’s plan due to the way the children of Israel were responding. We remember the numerous plagues God brought against Pharaoh and Egypt, the many signs and wonders he performed through Moses.

Moses learned to trust and be patient. God’s timing is not always our timing. But his timing is perfect. He brought a great victory. He delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought everyone out safely while their enemy was destroyed.

How did they respond. The Apostle Paul writes:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.   (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

Israel had seen more signs and wonders of God than anyoney. How could so many of them rebel against God? They misjudged the character and heart of God. For them, God had become the cause of all their problems. How do we relate to the Israel in the wilderness?

At times we find ourselves in our own wilderness? When things do not go the way we wanted, we may grow impatient with God. God’s timing is perfect. His plans for us may be better than our plans.

Let us look a little deeper. What might be the first words out of our mouths when, suddenly, an unanticipated attack or offense comes our way?  Do we blame God? We may say “no” but our initial words may have sounded life a “yes.” The enemy wants to make us believe that the evil deeds he is doing is God’s evil.

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”   (Luke 13:1-5)

The question must have grieved Jesus. He responded by going directly to the heart of the matter: repentance. Imagine how God fells when we blame him for all the tragedies in this world. That may far surpass taking God’s name in vain.

The psalmist wrote:

You are good and do good;
    teach me your statutes.   (Psalm 119:68)

Is it loving God’s desire to destroy the ones he has made in his own image for eternal companionship? Do we really think that?

God does allow our faith to be tested:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.   ( 1 Corinthians 10:13)

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.   (1 Peter 5:10)

If we misunderstand God and become angry at him, then it is a good indication that we need emotional healing. We may have been wounded in our souls. God wants to heal us, and he will if we allow him.

There is a limit on how many times one rejects God. Jesus told this parable about a fig tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”   (Luke 13:6-9)

The fig tree stood for Israel. It also stands for us. Do we wish God’s tender care in order that we may bear fruit?

God wants to heal us and forgive us. Repentance is the key. When we find ourselves hating God and blaming him for every tragedy and atrocity that we see, we need his healing and deliverance from the lies of the enemy. Here is the good news:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

This should establish our love relationship with God. He loves us enough to give of his all.

Today, Jesus i9s calling us to his altar:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

He wants to make us whole in him.

See Healing the Soul.

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