2019 Lenten Devotional

Week 7- He Has Risen!

WALKING WITH CHRIST TO THE CROSS

A LENTEN JOURNEY THROUGH SCRIPTURE

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

The invitation of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lamentations 3:40 MSG). On our six-week journey through Scripture, we have walked with Christ to the cross by reflecting on our need for repentance and God’s lavish grace for all who seek him. With Jesus’ disciples, we have witnessed his crucifixion, death, and burial. And now our journey through Lent brings us at last to the joyous conclusion of the gospel story, to those first moments of the first Easter morning.

  1. Having witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial, the women who had traveled with him to Jerusalem from Galilee (Luke 23:55) arrive at the tomb to perform a final act of devotion by anointing his body. As you read the story below in Luke 24:1–12 (NIV), pay particular attention to how the women, the apostles, and Peter respond when nothing is as they expected.
    1. Luke 24:1-12 (NIV)

      Jesus Has Risen

      24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’  Then they remembered his words.

      When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

For insights into the setting and characters of this story, see the note “The Resurrection Discovered (24:1–12)” in this link to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (notes on the right-hand side).

  • How would you characterize the initial responses of the women to the empty tomb and the angels’ proclamation? The response of the apostles to the women? Of Peter when he heard the news and then saw the empty tomb?
  • All of Jesus’ followers loved him and believed him to be the Messiah, but everyone in this story responds differently to the unexpected good news of his resurrection. The women believe (v. 8), the apostles do not believe (v. 11), and Peter appears to fall somewhere between the two. Given that this should have been astonishingly good news for all of them, how do you account for their differing responses?
  • What might their differing responses suggest about their expectations for who Jesus was as the Messiah?
  • How do the angels’ words to the women demonstrate God’s plan and providence?
  • What is it that ultimately convinces the women of the resurrection?
  1. Acts 10:34–43 (NLT) is one of several sermons by Peter recorded in Acts. The setting is the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who became one of the first Gentile converts. In anticipation of Peter’s arrival, Cornelius has assembled a large gathering of his relatives and close friends (Acts 10:24, 27). As you read the passage, note how Peter appeals to his Gentile listeners in presenting the gospel.
    1. Acts 10:34-43 (NLT)

      The Gentiles Hear the Good News

      34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

      39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear,41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

  • How does Peter stress the universality of the gospel? Consider his choice of words and phrases as well as his statements.
  • First-century Jews, including Jewish Christians, believed that only those who lived by the law of Moses and abided by Jewish rites and customs could find favor with God. They considered Gentiles unclean and avoided contact with them, which Peter acknowledges when he says to Cornelius, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you” (Acts 10:28 NLT). With this as background, how do you understand the significance of Peter’s statements in verses 34–35? How do you imagine these statements might have impacted his Gentile listeners?
  • Why might Peter choose to describe the Good News as peace with God? What would his listeners likely have expected from God instead?
  • In telling the gospel story, Peter could have chosen to share the things that Jesus taught, but he doesn’t. What does he focus on instead?
  • How does Peter acknowledge Jesus’ humanity as well as his divinity?
  • How does Peter demonstrate God’s plan and providence?

Questions for Reflection

  • The resurrection was something no one, not even Jesus’ closest followers, expected. Out of suffering, humiliation, and death, God brought something mind-blowingly unexpected—new life! The challenge for Jesus’ followers was to be open to it, to believe that the impossible was possible.
    What current circumstances in your life would you describe as impossible? It might be a situation in which you feel trapped, defeated, cold to God, or stuck in self-defeating or sinful patterns. What thoughts or emotions arise when you consider being open to the possibility that God might have something unexpected for you? How might you follow the example of Peter and run toward your questions or whatever you don’t yet understand but hope to be true?
  • It is in remembering the words of Jesus that the women are convinced of the resurrection. As you look back on your relationship with Christ, what do you remember of him? What truths has he spoken? When has he brought new life from suffering or anything that felt like a death? If you could give these memories a voice, what would they say? How might they speak resurrection hope into your life now?
  • In presenting the Good News, Peter stresses God’s acceptance, peace, goodness, healing, power, and forgiveness. As you read his presentation of the gospel story in Acts 10, what stood out most to you? Which of these aspects of Good News do you need most right now?
  • The invitation of Lent is to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God” (Lamentations 3:40 MSG). What did you discover about your life and your relationship with God during this Lenten season? In what ways, if any, has it helped you to experience the joy of Easter personally?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)

A Song of Victory

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

---

14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
    he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
    the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
    and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
    but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Week 6- The Cross

WALKING WITH CHRIST TO THE CROSS

A LENTEN JOURNEY THROUGH SCRIPTURE

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

In this sixth week of Lent, we walk with Christ as he reaches his destination, the cross. Our study focuses on his crucifixion, death, and burial as recorded in Luke 23. If you would like to read through all the events leading up to the crucifixion—from the Last Supper to Jesus’ trial before Pilate—begin with the list of passages included at the end of this study. Reading one to two passages a day between now and Easter will allow you to experience all of the events of Holy Week.

As you read the three passages below, we invite you to do so slowly and prayerfully. Imagine yourself physically present as each event unfolds, and use your senses to take in all the details the passages relate. What do you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste as the soldiers mock, the women weep, the skies grow dark, Jesus’ body is taken down, and the women prepare spices for the tomb? Allow these sensory details to draw you more fully into Christ’s Passion, and to help you reflect on what his suffering and death might mean for you now.

1. The Crucifixion (Luke 23:26–43)

For insights into this passage, read the corresponding note “I. The Crucifixion (23:26–56)” in this link to the Asbury Bible Commentary (notes on the right-hand side).

Luke 23:26-43 (NRSV)

The Crucifixion of Jesus

26 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. 27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 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.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

  • How does Luke demonstrate Jesus’ innocence and righteousness?
  • In what ways is Jesus’ compassion and love evident even as he is being put to death?
  • Luke spares his readers details of the act of crucifixion, writing only, “they nailed him to a cross” (v. 33). To learn more about the Roman practice of execution, see the corresponding note “Crucifixion” in this link to Easton’s Bible Dictionary (notes on the right-hand side). Jesus, the sinless son of God, experienced the most shameful and excruciating form of death. In addition to prolonged physical torture and violence, he was mocked, cursed, and profoundly shamed. What does the brutality of Jesus’ suffering and death reveal about his humility and obedience (he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. --Philippians 2:8 (NRSV))? About the depths of his trust in God?
  • Luke records a remarkable conversation among Jesus and the criminals who were crucified with him. The two criminals had committed the same crimes and received the same death sentence, but had radically different responses to Jesus. What do their words suggest about what was different between them? How would you describe the fundamental condition of each man’s heart?
  • In an effort to prepare his disciples for his impending death, Jesus had previously said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again” (18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” --John 10:18 NLT). Jesus makes it clear that he is not a victim. Instead, his death is a sacrifice, an empowered choice made from a position of authority. Why is it so important that the disciples understand this distinction? What insights does it provide about how Jesus responds to the people and events in this passage?

2. The Death of Jesus (Luke 23:44–49)

Luke 23:44-49 (NRSV)

The Death of Jesus

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

  • This passage includes important symbolism. The supernatural noontime darkness conveys judgment. The sudden tearing of the temple curtain conveys new and direct access to God. Why might it be important to Luke to note these two details together (vv. 44–45)?
  • “Jesus dies uttering words from a Psalm of confidence, Psalm 31:5,” notes the author of The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. “The righteous sufferer has suffered and won by trusting God every step of the way” (you can read more in this link to “The Crucifixion (23:26–49)” The IVP New Testament Commentary Series [see notes on the right-hand side]). What significance might there be in the fact that Jesus utters these last words not as a feeble whisper, but as a shout (v. 46)?
  • Luke notes three responses among those who witnessed Jesus’ death: the centurion worships God (v. 47), the crowds go home in deep sorrow (v. 48), and Jesus’ friends stand at a distance watching (v. 49). Imagine witnessing Jesus’ death from all three perspectives. What do you see that leads you to worship? To experience deep sorrow? To stand at a distance and watch?

3. The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50–56)

For insights into this passage, read the corresponding note “The Burial of Jesus (23:50–56)” in this link to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (notes on the right-hand side).

Luke 23:50-56 (NRSV)

The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

  • Jesus has died a shameful death at the hands of enemies, but is buried with honor by devout and faithful friends. How do the details of his burial begin to point to what his death has accomplished?
  • Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and devout religious leader, had already purchased a tomb for his own burial. How would you describe the significance of the fact that he gives his grave to Christ?

Questions for Reflection

  • How does understanding more about the brutality of Jesus’ suffering and death impact you and your relationship with Christ?
  • How does the way Jesus’ suffered and died demonstrate what it means to live “cruciform,” to allow our lives to be shaped by a cross of sacrificial love? In what circumstances or relationships do you sense God may be inviting you to live cruciform—to make an empowered choice to love sacrificially?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Psalm 31:9 (EHV)

The Prayer for Delivery

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress.
My eye grows weak with sorrow
—my soul and my body too.


Events Leading to the Crucifixion

Use the following list of passages and resources to walk with Christ through all the events leading up to the crucifixion, as told in Luke 22 and 23.

  • The Last Supper (Luke 22:14–28)
  • Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (Luke 22:31–38) 
  • Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39–46) 
  • Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested (Luke 22:47–53)
  • Peter Denies Jesus (Luke 22:54–63) 
  • Jesus before the Council (Luke 22:66–71) 
  • Jesus’ Trial before Pilate (Luke 23:1–25) 

Week 5- The Losses and Gains of Knowing Christ

WALKING WITH CHRIST TO THE CROSS

A LENTEN JOURNEY THROUGH SCRIPTURE

Adapted from the 2019 Lenten devotional from Bible Gateway.

 

On our journey with Christ to the cross, we gain two companions this week, Mary of Bethany and the apostle Paul. With their actions and words, both Mary and Paul help us to understand the necessary losses and inestimable gains of knowing Christ.

  1. Jesus is now in the closing days of his earthly ministry. In a brief calm before the tumultuous events to come, he and the disciples are having dinner with dear friends. But even among his closest companions, there is trouble. Read the story in John 12:1-8 (NLT).
    1. John 12:1-8 (NLT)

      Jesus Anointed at Bethany

      12 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

      But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said,“That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.

      Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

For insights into the setting and characters in this story, see “Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany (11:55–12:11)” in this link to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (notes on the right-hand side).

  • How does Mary’s anointing both fulfill the purpose of a royal anointing and also constitute a “great reversal” of it? In what other ways is her act a unique fulfillment of the various purposes of anointing?
  • The story contains other “reversals” as well, particularly in the contrasts between Mary and Judas. What contrasts are evident between Judas and Mary? In what ways do they constitute opposites?
  • It is the scandalous extravagance of Mary’s offering that Judas criticizes—and that Jesus affirms. The great value of the perfume suggests that Mary’s offering was sacrificial. Purchasing the nard likely required a lifetime of savings. It may also have been her financial security for the present as well as the future. What does the costly nature of her act demonstrate about the true scope of what she sacrificed for her devotion to Christ?
  1. In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul describes how “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” led to a great reversal in his own life. Read the passage in Philippians 3:4b–14 (CEV).
    1. Philippians 3:4-14 (CEV)

      although I could. Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else. I was circumcised when I was eight days old,[a] and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses. And I was so eager that I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God.

      But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11 so that somehow I also may be raised to life.

      Running toward the Goal

      12 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.

  • For background and insights into this significant passage, see the corresponding note “The Example of Paul" in this link to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (notes on right-hand side). How does Paul use his own life to illustrate what it means to “know Christ”?
  • Paul stresses his desire to know Christ in both his power and his suffering (v. 10). Why is it significant that he includes both? In other words, what would be lost if Paul sought to know only Christ’s power, or only Christ’s suffering?
  • Paul imagines himself as an athlete running and struggling for a prize. For a fresh perspective on these verses, read Philippians 3:12–14 in both the CEV and The Voice (VOICE). What insights does reading the two translations side by side provide about what it means to “run toward the goal”? What does “struggling to take hold of the prize” require?

Questions for Reflection

  • Both Mary and the apostle Paul are examples of what it means to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (St. Benedict of Nursia). Few would have faulted them for “preferring” other things—their reputation, social norms, or their own security—but they considered such things “worthless.” In the past, what have you tended to prefer to Christ or been unwilling to sacrifice for love of Christ?
  • What, if anything, do you tend to prefer to Christ in this season of life? How do you imagine your life might be different if, for love of Christ, you could release whatever you are withholding?
  • In the days ahead, how might you be “scandalous” as Mary was, extravagant in expressing your love for Christ?

A Prayer for the Week Ahead

Psalm 126:4-6 (NIV)

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

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