Easter Meditations for Holy Week
Readings: Isaiah 54:1-3; Mark 11:12-19
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
Genuine faith always challenges religion. These 2 stories, the story of the fig tree and the story of Jesus in the temple, are related. The fig tree explains what is going on in the temple. The tree looks good, it has leaves, but it is of no use because it will not produce fruit. Things in the temple may look good, but in reality, is not producing genuine faith. There is sacrifice but no mercy. The area where the gentiles are supposed to worship has been turned into a market. The gentiles are being kept out. It’s not about God’s plans, but their religious activities. It is not about what God has done, but about what they do. So concerned were they for their ceremonies and their services that they had lost their focus in reaching out to the nations.
Father, forgive us when our religious, selfish and racist ways have got in the way of your plans and purposes. We pray we would grasp afresh what you have done for us in Christ, that we would depend not on our activities, but on your mercy, and that this would be evident in the way we show mercy to others. Amen.
Readings: Isaiah 54:4-8; Mark 11:20-25
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
The background to the reference about the mountain is found in Zechariah 14 where in verse 4 the prophet speaks about the mountain being split into two. This will happen so that God’s people can escape from his judgment. God is saying, when he comes in judgement for those who are his people, he will provide for them an escape route. That escape route will be by way of an awesome and amazing miracle, described here as the moving of the mountain. When God comes in judgement, he will save his people, he will flatten the mountain to save them. This is through the death of Christ. The cross moves the mountain. We are to ask him in prayer to receive us and to forgive us, and his answer is always yes.
Gracious Father, thank you that the mountain can be moved. That there is because of Christ, an escape route from your judgment. I pray that this Easter you would renew my confidence in you and in what you have done through Christ. Please help me to forgive as you have forgiven me. Amen.
Readings: Isaiah 54:9-10; Mark 13:28-31
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The Easter message reminds us that the Christ who has died and risen from the dead, the Christ who has dealt with sin and judgment, will come again. And he will inaugurate a new kingdom. We can be assured of this because He has always kept his promises. His word can be trusted. So, this world and everything in it is temporary, but His word remains, and his promises come true. We can sing blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Gracious Father, we pray we would look at the Easter events and be assured of all your promises. Restore our confidence in your word. Renew our hope, and fill us with Christ.
Readings: Isaiah 51:1-6; Mark 14: 32-44
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”
Why is Jesus so overwhelmed? It is as if Jesus is having an anxiety attack. Jesus knows that he is about to go to the cross. He knows the physical pain that he will have to endure. But it is not the physical pain that is overwhelming him. Jesus knows that on that cross, as he takes onto himself our sin, he will be abandoned by His father. He knows that he will experience the wrath of God. The greatest most beautiful relationship that ever existed will be shattered. Why? The answer is striking. It is so that you and I can come into his presence, the presence of the Father, and experience love and mercy. It is so that you and I can have the relationship he had and now enjoys with the Father. Praise be to God for the cross!
Thank you for the cross Lord, thank you for the cross. Help me this Easter time to grasp again and afresh the wonder, the glory and the beauty of the cross. Amen.
Readings: Isaiah 53:1-12; Mark 15: 33- 41
The Death of Jesus
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Good Friday is called Good Friday for many reasons. On that day human beings performed an evil act. They put an innocent man to the cross. They crucified the promised Messiah. At the cross we see human sin on display, for there is a sense that we were all there crucifying him, because he took on our sin and the judgment we deserve. But on that day God performed a saving act. Jesus willingly went to the cross. That day was a demonstration of God’s love. It is on that day that Jesus took on himself the wrath of God. He did not deserve it, he was innocent. But we, the guilty, deserve it. Yet he took on himself our sin and the judgment we deserve, so that we may be forgiven and pardoned.
Prayer for Good Friday
Heavenly Father, you have led us singing to the cross, where we fling down all our burdens and see them vanish; where our mountains of guilt are levelled to a plain; where our sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist. For there at Calvary your Son died for us in our place, fulfilling all your purposes so that we can stand before the Judge in his presence, welcomed by him as his precious child. For this great historical event, we thank you. Amen.
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-12; Mark 16:1-7
Jesus Has Risen
1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
He has risen! As a result of Jesus death and resurrection, judgment will come on the world, Satan will be defeated and people from all the corners of the earth will be drawn to him. Jesus can now prepare a place for his people in heaven. Jesus has achieved all that has been promised. And so, all the blessings of the Gospel are available to those who believe. The Saviour of the world has risen from the grave, he has been seen. We are therefore to go and rejoice in the victory and proclaim the good news. This is the glorious victory of God. It is done!
We sing triumphantly for you have conquered death, and so we can celebrate life, life that is eternal. We rejoice on this Easter Sunday in the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ. We now live and wait the final glorious resurrection of the dead. Fill us with joy and confidence so that we may boldly speak to others of the death and resurrection of the Saviour of the world. Amen
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