Easter Meditation 6 – Jesus Dies

For this, our Good Friday Meditation I am not going to comment. Let Scripture speak for itself.

Mark 15 v 25 – 41 (NKJV)

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Easter Meditation 5 – Jesus on Trial

The next part of the short series of meditations leading up to Easter.

Reading: Mark 14 v 53 – 65, Mark 15 v 1 – 15

These verses give an account of the trial of Jesus.

Firstly, he was taken to the High Priest together with other priests, elders and teachers of the law. They were already prejudiced against Jesus. They had heard his teaching and did not like the way that it challenged them. They were looking for any excuse to put him to death. But, they could not find anything. So they resorted to misquoting him and making up things. Except that they could not even agree amongst themselves!

Jesus remained silent throughout all of this. Until, that is the High Priest asked him if he was the Christ. He confirmed that indeed he was – in fact he went on to remind them that one day he would return to earth from heaven as King. This was all they needed. They clearly did not believe that he was telling them the truth, and they knew that the penalty for falsely claiming to be God was death.

So early the following morning they handed him over to Pilate who was the Governor. He asked the same question, and Jesus gave the same answer. The chief priests wanted to continue to press further charges against Jesus, but he didn’t answer them – which amazed Pilate. He obviously felt that Jesus was innocent, as far as he was concerned it was a matter for all these religious people to sort out.

Pilate offered to release Jesus. At this time each year, one prisoner would be released. Pilate suggested that it be Jesus. The chief priests disagreed – and stirred up the crowd to disagree too! Instead they wanted to release a murderer called Barabbas. So Pilate gave into the pressure from the crowd, and released this other man. We don’t know what happened to him after this – but if he realised the enormity of what it meant that Jesus should be put to death instead of him, he may well have become a follower.

Pilate was obviously still not happy, as he could not find a reason to put Jesus to death, he saw him as being innocent. However, the crowd became louder, crying “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate gave in, released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

So what is our response to all of this? We see the attitude of the religious leaders who did not like Jesus challenging them. It can be the same for us today, perhaps we don’t like some of the things that Jesus said, or what he wants us to do, so we would rather he was out of the way.

We could also be like Pilate, and see Jesus as being a good man – perfect – the Son of God even. But we could see it as being easier to follow the crowd and disregard him.

Anyway, these events paved the way for Jesus to go to the Cross to take the punishment for our sins. That is what we will focus on tomorrow.

He stood before the court
on trial instead of us;
he met its power to hurt,
condemned to face the cross:
our king, accused
of treachery;
our God, abused
for blasphemy!

Christopher Idle

Easter Meditation 4 – Remembering Jesus

The next in the series of Meditations leading up to Easter.

Reading: Mark 14 v 22 – 26

On the night before he died, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. During the course of it, he revealed that one of their number would betray him. As we saw yesterday, he knew that it would be Judas.

Jesus then explained to them, using symbols of bread and wine, what would happen to him. He had already told them that this would happen, but here he reinforced it using real, everyday examples.His body would be given in the sense that he would be put to death. Note it does not say broken, neither here nor in the other Gospels, nor in Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians. Not one bone of his body was broken (John 19 v 35 -37)!

There was tremendous significance in the shedding of blood that went back to the Old Testament sacrificial system. An animal would be killed and sacrificed as a symbol for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. Of course, animal sacrifices could not forgive sins, but they foreshadowed what Christ would do when he shed his blood. He was making a new covenant which would truly and completely bring forgiveness to those who avail themselves of it. The old covenant was based on the imperfect animal sacrifice, the new covenant was based on the perfect sacrifice of Christ who willingly gave himself up to death, shedding his blood.

We continue to remember what happened on that night when we gather around the Lord’s Table and eat bread and drink wine (or juice in some cases!). It is a shame that it has been a cause of so much controversy in the history of the church, usually centring around how much and in what way is Jesus actually present. For what it’s worth, and I’m not trying to cop out here or indeed distract from what this passage is teaching, I don’t believe that the elements of bread and wine literally become flesh and blood. However, I do believe that Communion is more than just a memorial, as some would see it. I believe that God does meet with his people in a very real and particular way as we eat bread and drink the wine together.

Jesus said that this was the last time he would do this while on earth, but this would continue when he went back into heaven. As believers, we continue to remember him in this way “until he comes.”

So we share in this Bread of Life,
And we drink of his sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King.

Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

Easter Meditation 3 – The Betrayer

Here is the next in this short series leading up to Easter.

Reading Mark 14 v 10 – 11 and 43 – 50

We don’t read as much about Judas in Mark’s Gospel as the others, but he is still portrayed as an intricate part of the events leading up to the death of Jesus. He is, in many ways, a sorry figure. He always had it in his heart to betray. Jesus knew this, and yet still chose him as a disciple.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples a few times that he was to be betrayed, put to death and raised to life again. (eg. Mark 8 v 31, Mark 10 v 32 – 34). He realised that this was his mission – the reason that he had come to earth. Therefore he knew that there would be a betrayer, there had to be for this to be fulfilled – and he knew that it was Judas.

What really motivated Judas, we don’t know for certain. Maybe it was that he wanted to try and win favour with the authorities by pointing out the one who, in their eyes, wanted to cause trouble. Maybe he didn’t really believe that Jesus was who he said he was and that he actually agreed with those who wanted him put to death for blasphemy. Either way, Judas succeeded in giving Jesus away, leading to his arrest.

So what can we learn from this sad character? Firstly that we need to examine our own hearts. If we claim to follow Christ, do we find it easier to go with the vast majority of people who reject him? Maybe we don’t outwardly betray him, but our silence can speak volumes.

And do we really believe that Jesus is who he says he is? If we don’t then we will not find a reason to stand for him, after all that would make him no different from anyone else. If we really do acknowledge that Jesus is truly God, then we will not want to betray him.

These are serious issues. We know from the other Gospels that it didn’t end well for Judas. Jesus was very clear in the words that he used:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8 v 38 (ESV).

These are indeed challenging words. What about us?

Ashamed of Jesus! that dear Friend
On Whom my hopes of Heaven depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His Name.

Joseph Grigg

Easter Meditation 2 – An act of great devotion

Continuing in our series leading up to Easter. Today we meet a woman who showed great devotion to Jesus.

Reading Mark 14 v 3 – 9

Jesus was invited to have a meal at the house of a man called Simon. He had been a leper and may well have been someone that Jesus had previously healed. Also there was a woman who had a bottle of expensive perfume. She obviously recognised in Jesus someone who was worthy of having it poured over his head.

This did not meet with total approval from those who were there! They obviously considered it a waste to pour it over Jesus in such an extravagant way. They sounded as if they were saying the right things – if the woman didn’t want the perfume, it could be sold and the money given to the poor. But they had missed the point completely.

Jesus wasn’t saying that the poor didn’t matter – his whole life demonstrated the opposite. It was that they would have many other opportunities to show help and compassion, but on this occasion it was what was being done for him in this act that was more important.

First of all, it demonstrated great love and devotion – that someone would be willing to give something valuable to Jesus. That would have cost her a great deal.

Secondly is the symbolism – the anointing of Jesus meaning that he really was King, although the woman mentioned here may not have fully realised the implication of what she was doing.

We need to acknowledge who Jesus is – the King. Yes, by the way of the Cross, but the King none the less. As God he is worthy of all we can give him. It cost the woman greatly in the account here. Not as much as it would ultimately cost Jesus – giving his life in the place of sinners like you and me. If we claim to follow him, what does it cost us to give him our devotion and worship?

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so Divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts

Easter Meditation 1 – Palm Sunday

This is the first in a series of posts leading up to Easter. My intention is to focus on events as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.
We begin on what has become known as Palm Sunday.
Reading: Mark 11 v 1 – 11

Here we have the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We see from the passage that crowds of people were there cheering him on. It may seem to be strange that this was the animal used, but we can see from the first few verses that Jesus quite deliberately chose it. He knew exactly what he was doing, and gave his disciples very specific instructions. Of course, he well knew the prophecy of Zechariah from some 400 years previously:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (ESV)

The donkey was a symbol of humility. A King riding into town would have had a strong, powerful horse. Yes, Jesus was to ride in as King, but there was a foreshadowing of his humility in death. It was showing, too, that God himself had humbled himself to become human in the person of Jesus.
Most of the people in the crowd would have had no idea of the significance of this. Some of them may have recalled the prophecy, but would not have understood what it meant. They just thought that Jesus was some great political and military leader who would free them from Roman rule.

For us today, nearly 2000 years later, we need to acknowledge what all this means for us. How amazing that God should come to earth as a human being. Yes, as King most definitely, but as One who, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 7b (ESV)

This was the first day of the most important week in human history, the first step on the road to Calvary, to death and resurrection in the place of people like you and me. His kingly reign is all bound up with that. And that is something to rejoice in.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, Thy power, and reign.

Henry Milman