Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday of Holy Week: A Devotional Commentary

Isaiah 50:5-10 "My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the peoples; the islands shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and those who dwell therein shall die in the same way: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; don’t fear the reproach of men, neither be dismayed at their insults. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool; but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” Awake, awake, put on strength, arm of Yahweh; awake, as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times. Isn’t it you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the monster? Isn’t it you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?

John 12:1-23 Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. So they made him a supper there. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. Mary, therefore, took a pound of ointment of pure nard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, one of his disciples, who would betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the money box, used to steal what was put into it. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She has kept this for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me.” A large crowd therefore of the Jews learned that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests conspired to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. On the next day a great multitude had come to the feast. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet him, and cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it. As it is written, “Don’t be afraid, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King comes, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples didn’t understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him, and that they had done these things to him. The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it. For this cause also the multitude went and met him, because they heard that he had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him.” Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But for this cause I came to this time. Father, glorify your name!” Then there came a voice out of the sky, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice hasn’t come for my sake, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” But he said this, signifying by what kind of death he should die. The multitude answered him, “We have heard out of the law that the Christ remains forever. How do you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus therefore said to them, “Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness doesn’t overtake you. He who walks in the darkness doesn’t know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.” Jesus said these things, and he departed and hid himself from them. But though he had done so many signs before them, yet they didn’t believe in him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, “Lord, who has believed our report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this cause they couldn’t believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and would turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things when he saw his glory, and spoke of him. Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they didn’t confess it, so that they wouldn’t be put out of the synagogue, for they loved men’s praise more than God’s praise.

There's a popular praise song by Jonathon Butler called "Gonna Lift You up" which says:

You said if you be lifted, You’d draw all men to you
So draw me, draw me closer
So draw me
Draw me closer to you
I’m gonna lift you higher, higher….
Gonna lift you up
Oh Lord, I’m gonna lift you up And I’m never gonna stop
Oh with everything I’ve got…
I’m gonna lift you up

The author of this praise song has absolutely no idea what he is saying but he's absolutely right. The author of the praise song, no doubt, meant that he would lift Christ up by praising Him and that by his own act of praise he would draw all men to Christ and that's what people mean who sing this song. It's as if they think that if it weren't for them, people would not be drawn to Christ. They may have developed some evangelism tool or new way of repackaging the Gospel or they may just that their singing is so important that everyone will come to Christ because of them. When we bring Christ to people and people actually believe we forget the great gift that Christ is and start thinking we really did something special and start thinking that it all depends upon us--I once heard a sermon by a Baptist evangelist from BJU about how those who won people for Christ would get a soul-winners crown (I don't remember that in the Bible). I would argue that those who sing this song "lifted" Jesus up but not in the way that they think they did. We all lifted Jesus up 2000 years ago. We did not lift Him up by our praises or good works. We lifted Jesus up by our sin. We lifted Him up by nailing Him to a cross. John says very plainly that Jesus said He would be lifted up to tell what kind of death He would die by. Even if we don't sing this song, this song reflects the way we think. We want to pretend in some way that it all depends on us.

We love men's praise more than we love God's praise. We don't direct people to the crucified Christ and if we do, we try to turn the Crucified Christ is something that He is not. We like say things like, "it was there by grace I received my sight and now I am happy all the day" as if following the crucified Christ resulted in nothing but happiness all the time. Some churches begin their services by saying, "God is good all the time. All the time God is good." Taken literally, it is true. But usually people mean that they are happy all the time because they are Christians which is not true. They meet together to deny reality. They may call what they worship God, but it is really the power of positive thinking. The suffering person who comes is ignored or treated as if they have done something to deserve their suffering.

The theology of glory is always popular. It is man's natural religion. The people would have been okay with a Christ who comes to destroy their enemies and set up His kingdom--that would not have been offensive. It's not offensive today to talk about "kingdom building." But the crucified Christ is always offensive. The crucified Christ shows us how bad our sins are. The crucified Christ shows us that Christianity does not mean a life free from suffering, it shows us that Christianity is all about suffering. We receive the praise of men by presenting them with a suffering-free Christian life whether it's through movies like "Facing the Giants" or by telling them some personal testimony about how we no longer struggle with some sin now that we are Christians.

The crucified Christ is never popular, we always want to turn away. The crucified Christ shows you what you really are and what your sins deserve. But only by seeing the crucified Christ can you receive true healing and true forgiveness of sins. The crucified Christ reigns from the cross for you.

No comments: