On This Day: Wednesday of Easter Week

There isn’t a great deal recorded in Scripture about what happened on Wednesday of Easter week, but what is recorded is significant.

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people met together in the palace of the high priest, who was named Caiaphas. They planned to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

(Matthew 26.3-5, NET)

“Two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. For they said, “Not during the feast, so there won’t be a riot among the people.”

(Mark 14.1-2, NET)

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. The chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find some way to execute Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.”

(Luke 22.1-2, NET)

Not much recorded by way of controversial conversations between Jesus and others (as in Mark 11.28, for example) but significant in that we see that it was now becoming pretty clear that Jesus’ death was actively being sought.

Those seeking His death were powerful enemies to have: the chief priests…the elders of the people…the high priest…experts in the law…It seems that Jesus had alienated those people who should, in theory at least, have been the first to recognise who He was and what He was about. Feeling secure in their particular positions of power they agree to bide their time (“Not during the feast…”) and wait until the crowds start to disperse. 

By Wednesday of Easter week then, the verdict was in: Jesus was going to be put to death. In the meantime it seems that Jesus was sticking to the plan (Luke 21.37-38). As we continue with our daily business this next few days, consider that on this day all those years ago Jesus had, essentially, already been condemned to death. 

On This Day: Tuesday of Easter Week

The Tuesday of Easter week is an interesting day: we’re almost at the point in the week when the major events happen, yet we’re close enough to the beginning for the shouts and songs of Palm Sunday to be easily called to mind. 

Leaving the temple complex Jesus listens to His disciples discussing the spectacle of the surrounding buildings (Mark 13.1-2). Jesus tells them that “not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!” 

Three of His disciples then ask for an explanation (v.3) and Jesus explains to them that, essentially, the destruction of the temple (that happened in A.D. 70) and the finale of life as we currently know it before He returns are both very much connected. One serves as a preview, a picture, or a type ¹ of the other (Matthew 24–25, Mark 13.1–37, Luke 21.5–36).

In a book titled ‘The Final Days of Jesus‘ we read this:

With this overview of the early events of Passion Week in mind, we have a good foundation for our closer look at Jesus’s final days. The stage is set for the final act. The characters are in place. Their goals, motives, and intentions are clear. The king has come for his kingdom and has issued a clear and direct challenge to the reigning structures of political, economic, and religious power. The drama can end in only one of two ways. Either Jesus will topple the reigning powers and establish his messianic kingdom—or he will be killed. No one at that time could possibly comprehend that in God’s mysterious plan, there was a third option.

Jesus has arrived to much Messianic expectation and He has set out His stall, so to speak (Matthew 21.18-19, 21.12-13) and now the events of Easter are poised and ready, the characters are in place, as we just read. 

Tomorrow we will see plots against Jesus formed but for today consider how things must have felt on this day all those years ago: Jesus is here, there is a swell of Messianic expectation, and the Tuesday is almost the calm before the storm…the clouds are forming but the storm hasn’t started…everyone is here and everything is ready…the anticipation must have been palpable. 


¹ – https://www.theopedia.com/biblical-typology

Palm Sunday: The Sound of Peace, The Sound of Choice

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. It’s a great day to commemorate and celebrate the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem and what was the beginning of the most important week in the history of the world. It’s also a day of choice. So, why is Palm Sunday a day of choice for you and for me, and what choice do we need to make?

Well, perhaps you’ve heard or read about this before, maybe you’ve even heard me reference this before, but, Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was not the only procession the city saw that day. Growing up and hearing the Palm Sunday story every year, I had no idea.

In a book called The Last Week ¹ we see that Roman historians recorded that the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, led a procession of Roman cavalry and centurions into the city of Jerusalem on the same day. Are you starting to see where the choice might come in?  

Think again of the sound of Jesus’ procession; the waving of branches, the Messianic shouts and rejoicing, the singing…it’s joyful, it’s loud, it’s spectacular (see John 12.12-16).

Then, think about the sound of the other side of town:

It’s large, it’s loud, and it’s all very legalistic looking. Soldiers in armour, the sound of steel clinking, leather creaking, horses neighing, wheels and chariots rolling, boots marching. Put yourself there in your mind’s eye and listen in with your mind’s ear…what a contrast!

Messianic singing and palm branch waving versus the might and power of earthly kingdoms. On that day, there was on display a huge contrast between kings and kingdoms.

Physically and literally, these two processions and entrances into Jerusalem would have sounded very different, but, what are they really saying?

One is a procession of peace and passion, one is a procession of power and posterity.

Those in Jerusalem, those present that day, those who watched those processions enter will have made a choice. This is where you and I come in. For us, this is the choice we need to make each and every day day.  

We can choose power or peace.

We can choose the way of the world, or the way of the Word.

We can choose our way, or His way.

When we read stories like this in the Bible, accounts of what happened all those years ago, naturally we want to put ourselves into action, don’t we? We imagine ourselves there: what did it look like, feel like, sound like?

I think here, when we read the story of Palm Sunday, we put ourselves as those welcoming Jesus, don’t we?

We’re there reciting Psalm 118.25-26 whilst watching the Lord arrive.

We’re waving our palm branches and thinking back to the tales we’ve hard in other literature from this period (1 and 2 Maccabees).

We’re welcoming Him as coming King, recognising Him as Messiah.

But do you know what? That’s not us.

More likely, we are the ones watching all this happening and thinking, huh, what, who is this guy…we are the ones that this coming Prince of Peace came to save, we are the sinners that He came to call to repentance. Honestly, we are not the triumphant onlookers cheering, no, we are the bemused, lost, and confused people stood in the second or third row back, if we’re even there. We’re drawn to this procession, drawn to this God-man, drawn to this coming King even if we don’t know why. That is us.

On that day, all those years ago, there were two processions representing two kingdoms and two theologies which leaves you with one big choice. 

Which would you choose?  

What kind of king do you expect?

We need to choose one.

Naturally we are going to choose the one that we shouldn’t, and then we hear our own voice by the end of the week crying out against Him. See, we want ourselves to be those spreading cloaks and palms on the street because we think, yeah, that would have been me, I’m a good person, I would have been team Jesus. The simple fact is that, naturally, we’re not good people and we needed the sacrificial Saviour that rode into town that day in the traditional way of a king coming in peace. He came and died to rescue and restore those that need rescuing and restoration. Are you willing to admit that’s you?

Despite us, despite our selves, despite us not being there waving palm branches for Him, He died for us.

So, on that day, on that very first Palm Sunday, we saw a huge contrast: two rulers entering one city, a picture of our lives. As then, as each and every day now, we need to get in line with something, with someone. This speaks to us all no matter where we are from, no matter how far down the discipleship path we are, whether we are even a believer in Jesus or a not-yet believer in Jesus, we all have the inbuilt sense that there is more than us, we crave more, more stability, more security, just more…God’s Word, written on our hearts tells us that we are made to know eternity. We know deep down that there are two choices, we need to choose between those two processions and which one we will follow. 

We can choose power or peace.

We can choose the way of the world, or the way of the Word.

We can choose our way, or His way.

Palm Sunday, then, is a day of choice for you and for me, and that’s what choice we need to make.


¹ – (The Last Week, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, p.2)

How Sweet The Sound


Before we get into today’s devotional, today is Palm Sunday – don’t forget to join us for our Palm Sunday Service!

Everything you need is at www.saarfellowship.com, and we’ll be LIVE at 6pm Bahrain time.


Now on with today’s devotional…

 

The crux of Paul’s letter to the Romans finishes after 15.33, and  in chapter sixteen there are various greetings, some final instructions, and a word of blessing. Today we’ll have a look at the greetings, of which there are many, so go ahead and read Romans 16.1-16 (click here to do so!).

So, a long list of real people that show us this letter was written by a real person to other real people addressing read problems with real answers. 

From this collection of greetings we see a couple of things; first, the business of the Gospel (v.2, 4, 6, 12, 13b), but mainly we see that Paul is generous in compliments

Often times nowadays people are quick to complain, but seldom as quick to offer thanks and compliments. This isn’t right. How different would the world look if people were as quick to praise as they are to publicly shame others and trash companies?

Paul didn’t finish his letter with a list of what-could-be-betters, rather, he finished with a list of thank-yous, praise for those living out their faith, and words of encouragement and edification.

So, today, let’s not be quick to complain, quick to shame others, or quick to jump online and publicly trash people and companies. Instead, let us be people of encouragement, of edification, and people who live out their faith with their lives. 


Point to ponder – Am I as quick to offer praise and thanks as I am criticism and complaint?


This devotional was originally part of a series through Romans.

You can find it on kindle here and iBooks here for less than the price of an espresso.

and in print here.

Uncommon Sense – 2 Thessalonians 3.1-15

2 Thessalonians 3.1-15 is quite a firm passage to end a letter with, but serious situations need firm words. If the church family was broken (or starting to break) and not functioning properly, it was only right that Paul wrote to them and corrected what was broken before it became broken beyond repair.

Again, as we’ve said as we’ve moved through this letter, we are not the Thessalonians, are we, but the principle that Paul is teaching them is so, so applicable to us. 

He is writing to correct Christians who are not willing to contribute, those who are claiming Christ as Lord and Saviour but who are choosing not to live the life He died to provideIt cannot be like this. It should not be like this.

We said last week that God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification and faith in the truth and that we can’t tell if people are truly chosen but we can see if they are being sanctified. Paul here is saying look, you’re claiming Christ but then just kinda busying around and not really doing anything that shows that He has a claim on youThe principle for the Thessalonians, well, the explicit teaching was to live an active, God-centred life, whilst awaiting hopefully the return of Jesus. Be busy with His work, be active. 

From them to us then, the principle is the same: we need people to be part of the family who are actively contributing to the health and building up of one another. For the Thessalonians it was not having a job and just sponging off one another practically, financially.

For us, when we resume meeting in person, which Lord willing will be soon – maybe you saw the news this week that as the church in Bahrain we are knocking on all the possible doors we can to get that green light – it’s a fresh start. We’ve had a break from mass-gatherings that’s been long enough that means we can totally reevaluate how we do things, and we will be doing that. Old rhythms and routines and ‘this is just how we do it’ have all gone, it’s a fresh start. People have moved on, people have been moved on, and we’re gonna be smaller in number but closer in connection having been through this together. We won’t be able to rely on the same old people doing the same old things. Honestly, it will take everybody contributing their time, their talents, and their treasures, simply, everybody to give all of themselves for us to be all that we can be, and to be a church as the Bible defines a church. For us to share a church life as God intended us to do so, in the same way that Paul is commanding the Thessalonians to share a life together, we will need everybody contributing. We need contributors and not consumers. 

Honestly, people don’t like hearing this, do they? As Paul has written, you know, if people don’t wanna work they don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10), and, if they don’t contribute remove the community from them to show them what they’re missing out on (vv.14-15).

People don’t want hear that, people want to consume, not contribute, because naturally we are takers, not givers, but what happens if we turn into a group like that?

N.T. Wright wrote this, 

In our own hyper-individualistic culture, the temptation is to try to opt out of the church family, especially if it means chores, responsibility, and the prospect of discipline. But the Thessalonians didn’t have that option. There were only a few of them, and there were no other ‘churches’ to belong to. They had to deal with the problem head on, just as in a family or a small village. Unless the whole family remained loyal to the gospel, pretty soon they would cease to exist altogether. It would not be an overstatement to say that when the church sees itself as a family, and acts like a family towards its members, it will not only succeed in caring for its own but also flourish in its mission in the world. ¹

So to be all that God wants us to be, 

to be all that we can be in our wider community, 

to experience the deep and meaningful relationships we are made to have in our lives,

we need to see ourselves as a family, 

with Jesus at the head, 

with the love of God and the endurance of Christ at the centre (v.5),

one where everyone contributes and nobody just consumes. 

Then, as we just read, we will succeed in caring for our own, but also flourish in our mission to the world. This sounds like a lot to take on, doesn’t it? This sounds like a heavy burden to carry. Again though, let’s not forget that Paul began this section of command by writing pray for us, as we do for you, and we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…(vv.1-6).

This is His church of which He is the head, and nothing will prevail against it when it works how He wants it to work. So when Paul is commanding and teaching and exhorting people on how to contribute to local Christian life, the power and the ability to do so comes from the head and it all works together for the glory of the head. It doesn’t rest on you, or me, or even on us collectively. This is Jesus’ church, He is the head, He has the authority to tell us how to do it, and we’re part of the the bigger picture global, capital C church when we do.

This is the ultimate uncommon sense for us, isn’t it: it’s so easy and somewhat more natural in our flesh just to be concerned with ourselves and what we want to do and what is good for us, simply, to be a consumer. This is true because we’re a group of sinners. But, we’re a group of sinner who know that we need a Saviour, who want to live like that Saviour says we should live, so, instead of seeing ourselves as just ourselves getting on with our own individual lives, we need to see ourselves as a small part of a bigger thing: locally that is our church family here at Saar Fellowship. Bigger than that, we want our church family here at Saar Fellowship to fit into the wider, global, capital C church, and that happens when we do church life like Jesus commands us to. It’s His church, why would we do it any other way?

In one of the songs we sang together this morning, we worshiped with this, a great thought for the Thessalonians, and for us to take into this next chapter of our church life:

Now we know who we are, precious children called by God

Let us serve and exalt our King

With our hearts and our minds freely offer up our lives

Run the race fix our gaze on Him


¹ – The New Testament In Its World