March 12, 2014
“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly awaiting for Him.”(Hebrews 9:28, ESV)
Lent was never her favorite time of year. She had to give something up. It had to be carefully calculated. What could she live without that would be a sacrifice but would not severely impact her social life. In addition, there were all these other rules she had to follow. She never quite got the point of Lent.
Lent was one his favorite times of the year. Sure, it may sound awful to have to give something up and for the first few days, it is hard. But it quickly gets easier. And - bonus! - it helps declutter his life! He usually surrendered something that consumed large amounts of his time and was unproductive. He was always amazed at how much time he suddenly had. A portion of that time was dedicated to spending more time with the Lord.
Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a celebration of the anticipation of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which occurs on the final day of Lent. With His resurrection, our sins were forgiven and we can spend eternity with Him, if we choose to accept His gift.
There are 40 days of Lent, not including the Sundays of Lent. The number 40 has several significant mentions in the Bible. These include the 40 days when God flooded the earth (Genesis 7:4), the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18), the 40 days Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8), the 40 days the city of Nineveh had to repent or face destruction (Jonah 3:4), and the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted by Satan in the desert to abandon His mission (Matthew 4:1-11).
There are many ways of celebrating Lent. Traditionally, Lent is celebrated through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time to focus on prayer and repentance, seeking forgiveness of sins in anticipation of the Second Coming. Fasting occurs in many different ways. Some churches observe a rigid fast on certain days of Lent, which includes giving up meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Some Christians choose to fast in their own way. They give up something that they do regularly, such as eating fast food or desserts, abstaining from social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or not playing video or computer games, spending that time studying God’s Word instead. Some churches focus more on almsgiving, doing good deeds for others, specifically those in need, than on fasting. Whatever way you choose to celebrate, it should mean something to do you and act a way to bring you closer to your Savior.
How will you celebrate the season of Lent?
There was the hint of spring in the air while walking around the college campus one Wednesday. The warmer weather, and bright sun, was the reason my head was up instead of bowed against the cold and wind. If it had not been for the warmth I might never have noticed that every other person appeared to have a black smudge on their foreheads. Even some professors had the smudge! Well, it was a Catholic college, it must be one of those things Catholics did? Then I heard talk of giving up Facebook, chocolate, and video games for Lent. Lent, I vaguely knew what that was. Yep. It was definitely a Catholic thing. Wait! I did a double take. Was that my Lutheran friend with a black smudge? So maybe not just a Catholic thing? Although...they are both liturgical churches; maybe it is a liturgical church thing? It was a few more years before I understood that those "liturgical church things" are a way of growing and deepening my relationship with Christ.
The black smudge, as later learned, did not start as a smudge. It was given by a priest to those who attended Mass that morning. The priest dipped his thumb in ash and drew the sign of the cross on each person's forehead, as a reminder of what God said to Adam and Eve after they succumbed to sin and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: "for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19b, ESV) The ash mark symbolizes inner repentance. The Old Testament is littered with examples of people covering themselves with ash - 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1,3, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 6:26, Ezekiel 27:30, Daniel 9:3, and Job 42:6 - just to name a few! Jesus even alluded to the practice in Matthew 11:21! Many people leave the ashes on their foreheads all day as a witness that all are sinners and in need of Christ's forgiveness.
Ash Wednesday, this year on March 1, is the first day of the season of Lent. Although popularized by the Catholic Church, neither Ash Wednesday, nor Lent, are just another "Catholic thing." Lent, and by extension, Ash Wednesday, date back to, at least, the legalization of Christianity in AD 313. Legalization of Christianity helped formalize the practice of Lent. Following the Council of Nicea in AD 325, Lent became even more widely practiced.
Lent is the practice of fasting for the 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Resurrection Sunday. What is the first thing you think of when fasting? Food, right? In the Bible, fasting is associated with, but it is not limited to, food. Love to play video games or computer games? You can fast from them. Spend hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr? You can fast from them. Love all things sweet? You can fast from them. It is up to you, but remember, it is suppose to be hard! If it is easy, it would not strengthen your relationship with Christ. Lent is to remind us the sacrifice Jesus Christ made, so that we may spend eternity with Him. Through a sacrifice of our own, and our reliance on Him during our struggle, we can deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him.
In the church year, the two biggest holidays are Christmas and Easter. Church attendance soars on these two days, the days celebrated as Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ resurrection. Many churches have additional services, or move the service to a larger space, to accommodate the increased crowd size. Whether you are a twice-a-year churchgoer or attend weekly, Easter Sunday is a cause for great celebration.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb,taking the spices they had prepared. And they foundthe stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold,twomen stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they werefrightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you,while he was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men andbe crucified and onthe third day rise. ”And they remembered his words,and returning from the tomb theytold all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1-9, ESV)
After resting on the Sabbath several women went back to the tomb in which Jesus had been buried. Jesus’ body had not been prepared with the traditional spices used in burials. The women were returning to complete His burial. Instead of finding Jesus lying dead in the tomb, the linens, which had been wrapped around His body, were empty. There was no body. The women were told by angels that Jesus had risen, just as had been foretold.
Our faith, as Christians, is rooted in Easter Sunday. Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again?We are saved not only because Jesus, the perfect, sinless man died for our sins, but also because He rose again!Jesus defeated death. His resurrection showed that He was who He said He was. He was not just another prophet; He was the Son of God.
Resurrection Sunday. Easter. Both refer to the day that Jesus defeated death and rose again, granting everyone who believes, eternal salvation. What a glorious and joyful day!
March 19, 2013
Overview of Holy Week
The final week of Lent, the week before Easter Sunday, is known as Holy Week.Many churches use this week to focus on the last days of Jesus’ life.Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and remembering Jesus’ triumphant entry in Jerusalem.Maundy Thursday often includes a variety of events, including the Last Supper, Jesus’ fervent prayer in the garden while His disciples slept, and Jesus’ betrayal.Good Friday is the day of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial.Holy Week ends with Holy Saturday, a day that Jesus remained in the tomb.
Holy Week is immediately followed by Easter Sunday, which celebrates Jesus defeating death and rising again, granting us all eternal salvation, if we chose to accept it.As with Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday is an extremely joyous occasion.
Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first His disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.(John 12:12-16, NIV)
In this passage, Jesus fulfills the prophecy written in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus is announcing Himself as David’s descendant and as the Messiah.Jesus is the Savior for which they have been waiting!
Those cheering Jesus’ triumphant arrival would, only five days later, be cheering Jesus’ suffering, His pain, and demanding His death.
In most churches, this Sunday is known as Palm Sunday, for the waving of the palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem.Palm Sunday is often a celebratory Sunday, as it was on that Sunday in history.Jesus is celebrated as being the Messiah.Celebratory hymns such as “Hosanna” are often sung, with some churches waving palm leaves while singing.Many churches also find ways to incorporate children into the service with reenactments of Jesus entering Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches.
THE JOURNEY TO CALVARY
SIN DEFEATED – RESURRECTION SUNDAY
The Last Supper
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” Matthew 26:17-29 (ESV)
Christ’s Anointing At Bethany
When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to His disciples, (2) “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” (3) Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, (4) and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him. (5) But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
(6) Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, (7) a woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on His head as he reclined at table. (8) And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?” (9) For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” (10) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. (11) For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. (12) In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. (13) Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
(14) Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests (15) and said, “What will you give me if I deliver Him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. (16) And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him. Matthew 26:1-16 (ESV)
Christ’s Triumphant Entry to Jerusalem – Palm Sunday
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethpage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples (2) and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. (3) If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” (4) And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they united it. (5) And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” (6) And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. (7) And they brought their cloaks to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and He sat on it. (8) And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. (9) And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! (10) Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
(11) And He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:1-11 (ESV)