On Monday morning, Jesus went back to Jerusalem after spending the evening in Bethany. Today, he would curse a fig tree and it would wither, and cleanse the temple of pretentious religious men. The lame followed him, children sang his praises and the chief priests tried to kill him but couldn't because the multitudes adored him.
As He walked toward the city, Jesus stopped beside a fig tree because He was hungry. Small figs often appear from the sprouts of the previous year, preceding the larger figs which come from the new growth. The tree was full of leaves and could therefore be expected to have fruit. But it had nothing but leaves! It promised much but provided nothing!
This pretentious but barren tree was an emblem of Israel, bustling with religious activity but no substance or sincerity; tremendous promise but no performance. Some churches are like that today; they resemble a place to feed the spiritually starved who attend, but stop short of offering food to take away the hunger. By cursing the tree Jesus was predicting the downfall of Israel as a nation which brought forth leaves but no fruit. Once the Land of Promise, it now stood as a pretentious but barren nation, incapable or unwilling to provide anything which would take away the real hunger of the world.
GospeLines Prayer:MY LORD AND MY GOD... in your church we have confused activity with fruitfulness, replaced spirituality with emotionalism, and substituted performance for worship. We have enticed the multitudes with our bling bling and state of the art technology, but have failed to give them what they really need. We have lost our way. Restore us to the mission for which we were called, to unapologetically feed the world with the Word of God, the ONLY way to find everlasting life. Amen and amen.
Jesus spent the day dodging the deadly religious and philosophical projectiles hurled by the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was to be his last day to spend time in the Temple, a place he remembered and loved from his childhood, where at age 12 he amazed the local religious leaders with his wisdom and understanding. On this Tuesday, he continued to impress them.
“What is the greatest commandment?” the Pharisees asked. Jesus must have looked at the little leather boxes (phylacteries) they wore on their foreheads, which contained the tiny parchments of the Law (Schema). His answer quoted the very words which his adversaries carried with them for all to see. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your faculties.”
Now why would the Father give us a commandment like that? Oh, my dear friend, do not hasten past this too quickly; you will hear the heartbeat of heaven if you but listen! This is not just a commandment for us to obey. It is a plea from your heavenly Father. “LOVE ME,” he begs us. The message sent to us is that Jehovah God wants to be loved by us! This One and Only God of all creation calls me out to love Him. I am so humbled by that thought.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, forgive me when I am a selfish brat. I DO love you. I love you, O my God, I LOVE you! Amen and amen.
Auschwitz struck terror into every Jewish family faced with its evil work. It was their personal hell, not only because of the physical horrors, but also because of the cruel separation of husband and wife, parent and child. The tearful cries of those frightened children could be heard late into the night, “Daddy… Mommy!”
At Gethsemane, Jesus learned for the first time what His hell would be like, facing evil on behalf of the world. HE MUST DO IT ALONE! Until now, He had been secure in the presence of His Father, and enjoyed the trustworthiness and companionship of the Disciples. In the prayer garden, my Jesus cried out, “Abba… Daddy!” But there would be no answer to take this cup from the Son of God. While our Lord was sweating blood over His plight, the disciples slept.
GospeLines Prayer:O Jesus, thank you for choosing to accept the will of your Father in that lonely garden of the Kedron Valley. I know you will not forsake me when I go through my own Gethsemanes, but you will surround me with family and Christian friends in my hour of need. Praise God, though others may wish to desert me, you will not leave me to face evil alone. Amen and amen.
Amen and Amen!
≈ Devotional for Thursday, April 21, 2011
“Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
Friday – Matthew 27:32-56;
The vision in the Garden of prayer the night before, now becomes a reality. What Jesus foresaw in Gethsemane he experiences on Golgotha. All the brutal sins of mankind, past and future, pounded the life out of our Lord; and worse, drove Him out of the presence of His heavenly Father.
There was no more cruel way to die than by Roman crucifixion. Nails were driven into the wrists which broke the tendon connected to His shoulder, making breathing almost impossible. The entire weight of His body now rested upon the larger nail in his feet, tearing the flesh a little more with each struggling breath. From those injuries every ounce of His blood poured out in three hours. When there was no more blood in His body, water flowed from the wounds.
Suspended in the darkness between two criminals, straining against the nails in his torn flesh to expand his parched lungs, He finds energy to prevail upon the Father once more: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In that dreadful moment, judgment caught up with my sin and dealt with it by the only punishment possible... Jesus died for me on that rugged cross, all alone.
GospeLines Prayer:Dear Jesus, I will never know how you were able to look at me and love me enough to die for me, but you did. Saying thank you with my lips is not enough, so help me to say it with my life. I love you so much! Amen and amen.
The Gospels are far too silent about Saturday, the day after the execution. So, imagine this. You are a follower of that revolutionary they call Jesus of Nazareth. Openly, you professed that you believed his message and even saw Him as the Messiah. You huddle in disbelief and fear that the next voice you hear will be one of the Roman soldiers seeking others who believed His teachings. With your own eyes you saw them take that lifeless body and give it to Joseph of Arimathea for burial. What now? Where do you go from here? Was Jesus really the One or should you seek another?
GospeLines Prayer:Precious Jesus, you have allowed me to live on this side of Calvary and now I know that Sunday, resurrection day is coming. Why then do I live as though it never happened? Why do I hide in fear that the next voice I hear will be that of someone who needs to hear the Good News from me? O, my Redeemer and my Lord, this Easter, let the message of the cross ring unashamedly true from my lips, that others may know what I know. Amen and amen.
My parents died three weeks and a day apart, on December 13th and January 4th. Not unlike millions of others, I like to spend part of Easter Sunday visiting their graves. Each time I do this, it is a time of remembrance and weeping.
Suppose the next time, as I approach the site, instead of seeing manicured lawns covering their resting place, there would be a large empty hole where their bodies once lay. Bereavement would be displaced by bewilderment, shock, fear and anger, and my frantic search to find them would begin.
So it was on that first Easter with the women who found the stone rolled back and the borrowed tomb of Jesus empty. What began as reverence and service to the memory of their Lord, was now a time of exasperation. It wasn’t until they were told the Good News by the angel that their fear subsided and their joy returned. GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST. HE IS NOT HERE, BUT HE HAS RISEN!
GospeLines Prayer:Dear Savior, O Lamb of God, roll back the stones of disbelief in the hearts of your people. Let the resurrection message ring out in the churches of America today so that deaf ears and silent hearts will again rejoice that on Sunday, the shackles of death could no longer hold Your body in that tomb. Amen and amen.