Introduction: Our celebration of the events leading up to Passion week must always begin with the sacrificial purpose of Christ’s coming to earth. He did not come to earth to start a political or military revolution, or to take up the sword to bring an immediate judgment of all evil in our day, or to make a name for Himself as a human leader. He came to earth to glorify God His Father, and to serve His Father’s will by dying for the sins of His people, thereby purchasing the church for Himself with the price of His blood. It is for this sacrificial and saving work that Christ was “ordained as the Lamb from the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). No wonder the hymns of the church focus on the Cross as the great glory of God revealed in the suffering of His Son! May we glory in that Cross in this week’s notes.
Monday: read 1 Corinthians 11:26 and Romans 5:6-10. We are to remember “Christ and Him crucified” at all times and in all seasons of the Christian life! Why such enthusiasm for a Cross which the world counts to be shameful? Because of the emphasis on the Cross in the Bible.
For example, even at the darkest moments in the Gospel accounts of Christ’s sufferings, the Cross of Christ is glorious. As Paul emphatically declares in his transmission to us of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:26, the church is to be known at all times as a body which “proclaims the death of Jesus Christ until He comes”. Consider the following words of hymn writers, in hymns which we never merely associate with Holy Week or certain Lenten seasons of the year:
- It is to be “In the Cross of Christ we glory, towering over the wrecks of time”, as John Bowring wrote.
- It is “Beneath the Cross of Jesus, we fain would take our stand”! (Hymn # 251 in our Red Trinity Hymnal).
- It is during the moments we spend before the Cross that we, “find the dawn of heaven, while upon the Cross we gaze” (Hymn # 258, verse 3).
- It is through the Cross that Christ promised to draw men and women from all tribes and nations, as John 12:32 puts it
Meditate and Pray: No wonder Paul magnifies the death of Jesus, for example, in Romans 5:6-10, arguing so effectively there that it is through the blood death of Jesus that we are saved from the “wrath of God” (v.9) and from eternal death. Paul cannot contain himself when he says, “If by his death we were reconciled, how much more shall we be saved through His life” (v. 10)!
Tuesday: read 1 Corinthians 2:1-3. We are to resolve with the Apostle Paul to know nothing but “Christ and Him crucified”, even though such a Cross-centered focus does not resonate with a world obsessed by the pursuits of this life. In this world, it is the lust of the flesh, the pleasures which earthly eyes can behold now, and the pride of living life to the fullest in the present, which unbelievers are driven to pursue. As Jesus Himself says in Matthew 6:32, “The pagans run after these things”!
Meditate and Pray: In contrast to the world, may we by grace resolve to pursue the path of the Cross. As Horatius Bonar puts it in hymn # 584: “It is the way the Master went, should not the servant tread it still”?
Wednesday: read John 12:23-33. Some of the most instructive references to the Cross occur in the Gospel accounts of what drove Jesus forward in His mission on earth. It is in the motives of our Savior’s saving work that we see the Cross as central. For example, what is Jesus’ goal as He comes to Jerusalem and declares that the hour has come for Him to be ‘glorified?’ (John 12:23) Verse 24 tells us: falling into the ground to die (on the Cross) as the beginning of a new harvest of salvation. He goes on to speak explicitly about the Cross in verses 32-33. To die was Jesus’ goal. Jesus did not come to Jerusalem to become king: He already was ‘The King’ and didn’t need to come down to earth to become one. He came to earth to be planted in the ground by death on the Cross. This explains why every time the crowds spoke about Jesus as the royal ‘Christ,’ (John 12:34) or tried in their zeal to make Him king (John 6:15), He “hid Himself from them” (John 12:36) – but when it came time to present Himself for death, He openly met His captors in John 18:4-8. He was determined to lay down His life voluntarily, though “no one could take it from Him” (John 10:18): all for the sake of His love for us.
Meditate and Pray: Do we love Jesus for the same reason His Father’s heart was so full of affection for Him? “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life.” (John 10:17) Do we make enough of the Cross as the center of our joy? May we enter more and more into the Cross-appreciating spirit of hymn #255 from our Trinity Hymnal:
“O Jesus, we adore thee, upon the cross, our King!
We bow our hearts before thee, thy gracious name we sing.
That name hath brought salvation, that name in life our stay,
our peace, our consolation, when life shall fade away.”
“Yet doth the world disdain thee, still passing by the cross;
Lord, may our hearts retain thee; all else we count but loss.
Ah, Lord, our sins arraigned thee, and nailed thee to the tree:
our pride, our Lord, disdained thee; yet deign our hope to be.”
Thursday: read John 1:35-41. Our Lord Jesus, in His consuming desire to keep His focus on the Cross, submits early in His ministry to His Father’s command to live a life of suffering in our place. Even as early as John 1:29, Christ is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – a clear reference to His sacrificial calling. When Jesus calls His first disciples in John 1, His focus again is on the life of sorrow which He would endure, instead of on the glory of His Messiahship. Let’s look at Jesus’ commitment to suffering in John 1:35-51.
Here we have the early impression of Christ’s Messiahship formed by His first disciples. The point is that, when Andrew finds his brother Simon and announces that, “He has found the Messiah” (John 1:41), he means that he has found one whom he thought fit the popular idea of the Jewish Messiah. At that time in Israel, there were many Jews who looked with expectation for the Messiah’s coming. Scholars tell us that there were even many who claimed during that period to be ‘messiahs’. Andrew thought He had found the true one, who in glory would bring victory over Israel’s enemies and restore the kingdom of David. Alas, it would take a long time before Jesus’ followers, such as Andrew and Simon, would form the proper idea of what Jesus’ Messiahship really meant. As Leon Morris puts it in his commentary on John’s Gospel:
“It was easy to call Jesus “Messiah”. It was quite another thing to understand what this should mean as Christ interpreted His vocation (before His disciples’ eyes).”
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for the painstaking efforts which the Gospel writers expended to guard the Person and Work of Jesus from the corrupted messianic ideas of the day. Ask the Lord in like manner to help the elders of your church to zealously guard the Gospel as it is preached in your church. May the Lord raise up many heralds of Good News in our midst who will carefully proclaim who Jesus is and what He did to save sinners. Above all, may the Cross of Christ be central in our presentation of the Word of God to a dying world.
Friday: read John 1:42-46. John’s current theme in John 1 on witnessing about Jesus Christ should warm our hearts and prompt our prayers for our witness as a church family! As we hear Andrew’s invitation to Peter in John 1:41-42, and Philip’s to Nathanael in John 1:45, may the Lord help us to pray for similar opportunities to invite many to, “come and see” who Jesus is and what He has said in His Word. And may those we invite be sovereignly called and converted to become His disciples through our invitations and witness!
Meditate and Pray: Use hymn # 452 to pray for the evangelistic efforts of your church, especially this Easter season:
The vision of a dying world is vast before our eyes;
We feel the heartbeat of its need, we hear its feeble cries:
Lord Jesus Christ, revive Your Church in this, her crucial hour!
Lord Jesus Christ, awake Your Church with Spirit given power.
The savage hugs a god of stone and fears descent of night;
The city dweller cringes lone amid the garish light:
Lord Jesus Christ, arouse Your Church to see their mute distress!
Lord Jesus Christ, equip Your Church with love and tenderness.
Today, as understanding’s bounds are stretched on every hand,
O clothe Your Word in bright new sounds, and speed it o’er the land;
Lord Jesus Christ, empower us to preach by every means!
Lord Jesus Christ, embolden us in near and distant scenes.
The warning bell of judgment tolls, above us looms the cross;
Around are ever-dying souls – how great, the loss!
O Lord, constrain and move Your Church the glad news to impart!
And Lord, as now You stir Your Church, begin within my heart.