Reflections for Holy Week.
Friday 10 April 2020
Scripture Readings and reflections for each day of holy week.
Kilrenny Worship team
These are based on the selection of bible readings and reflections for Lent by David Winter: Journey to Jerusalem
For Christians Holy Week is a momentous and pivotal time. Palm Sunday is the first joy of the season as Jesus is welcomed by crowds in Jerusalem laying down palm leaves before him. As we well know, it eventually escalated into a week of sorrow and agony as he was betrayed, tortured, and crucified by Good Friday.
Luke 22: 54-62 Peter disowns Jesus
Mark 15: 1 - 21 Jesus before Pilate & Simon carrying the cross
Luke 23: 39-43 The penitent thief
Mark 14: 12 - 26 The Lord's Supper
Luke: 23: 44 - 49 The spectators
Monday. Luke 22: 54-62
The claim put to the test
V 61: The Lord turned and looked at Peter; Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.
In the upper room, Peter protested that he was ready to die for Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he claimed that, although the others might desert Jesus in his hour of need, he never would. It’s not clear whether or not he really took on board the stern warning that before the next dawn he would deny knowing Jesus, but, if he did it was not enough to prevent him actually doing it.
However, we must give credit where it is due. Most of the disciples fled into the darkness, Peter among them, but he couldn’t simply leave Jesus to his fate, so he followed behind, keeping discreetly out of sight but making his way towards the house of the high priest, where Jesus was to be put under examination. When he got there, a crowd had gathered, rumours of the arrest of the Galilean prophet having reached the ears of the supporters of the temple party.
In the middle of the open courtyard there was a brazier and Peter made his way towards it and sat down with a number of others to warm his hands.
He probably hoped that nobody would recognise him in the darkness. After all, he had only been in the city for a few days, and public attention had been focused on Jesus rather than his followers. To Peter’s consternation, however, his cover was almost immediately blown. A servant girl saw his features in the light from the flames of the brazier and recognised his Galilean accent. “This man was one of his followers”, she said. Everybody turned to look at him.
Peter felt trapped. He had hoped to be an anonymous observer. He hadn’t planned to expose himself to the risk of being arrested as a co-conspirator with Jesus. Whether it was simply fear, embarrassment or even a panic-stricken reaction to an unexpected development, Peter blurted out, “Woman, I do not know him (v. 57). Probably unconvinced, the servant-girl moved away, but another person in the crowd – according to John 18:26, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off – pursued the subject. “I saw you in the garden with him”, he said. Again, Peter rejected the accusation curtly.
For a while, the crowd around the fire let the matter drop, probably to Peter’s relief. An hour or so later, however, a man who had been listening to the conversation started it up again: “This man definitely was with Jesus – He’s a Galilean, just listen to his accent, (see Luke 22: 59). Peter tried to ignore him but the man was persistent; “He’s one of them!”
At this point, Peter seems to have lost control. Mark, tells us that Peter began to curse and swore an oath that he didn’t even know Jesus (14:71). At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. For some reason, Jesus was within sight of Peter, perhaps waiting under guard to be taken into the office of the high priest. Luke tells us that “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (22:61), and instantly Peter remembered the warning he had been given the previous evening – a warning he had so comprehensively ignored, the cock had crowed and he had denied Jesus.
It is clear that the denial by Peter was three-fold, as Jesus had predicted (v. 34). That is significant because, in Jewish thought, a statement made three times was legally sealed. A divorce, for instance, could be affected by the husband saying three times over, “I divorce you”.
The failure of Peter was absolute and inexcusable, and that is the whole point of the story. Solemnly and formally, as it were, the very disciple who had been the first to confess Jesus as the Messiah of God became the first solemnly and formally to deny that he even knew him.
There is something chillingly recognisable about the whole incident. It is frighteningly, appallingly human, to the extent that no-one reading it would be inclined to cast the first stone at poor Peter. We have all been there, though perhaps not in such dramatic and critical circumstances.
As the cock crowed and Peter realised what he had done, he went outside and “wept bitterly”. (v. 62)
Even when we stand with Peter in our failure and guilt, we can also stand with him in the forgiveness and restoration that Jesus gave to all of them and us after his resurrection.
Praise: CH4 400
When we are tempted to deny your Son,
because we fear the anger of the world,
and we are few who bear the insults
Your will, O God be done.
Tuesday Mark 15: 1 - 21
Barabbas and the bystander
v 21 They compelled a passer-by who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross.
In today’s reading we are nearing the close of Mark’s account of the life of our Lord. The 15th chapter of Mark’s gospel is the account of our Lord’s appearance before Pilate, and the issue today is, “Is he the King of the Jews?” ‘Very early in the morning’ (we don’t know how Jesus spent his last hours before this, but any sleep must have been very fitful as you can imagine) the council met, held a consultation, and then took Jesus to Pilate as soon as possible after sunrise. They had to consult first as they knew that the charges on which they condemned Jesus would never stand before Pilate.
“And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate wondered.
Pilate was only interested in the charge that Jesus was ‘King of the Jews’, the Romans had many ‘gods’, and claiming to be ‘The Son of God’ would have been of no real interest to Pilate, but claiming to be ‘King of the Jews’ could represent a threat to the Roman rule. However, Jesus was not ‘King of the Jews’ in the traditional sense, i.e. not in a political or military sense, so that is why he answered ‘yes’ to Pilate’s question, but with a reservation; ‘You have said so’, and made no further answer. In verse 5 Pilate is said to be ‘amazed’. No doubt Pilate had seen many men grovel for their lives before him. He also stood in judgment of many men as the governor of a Roman province. Yet there was something different about Jesus that Pilate ‘marveled’ at. Verses 9 – 14 show Pilate’s obvious reluctance to find Jesus guilty, concluding with verse 14; “Why, what crime has he committed?” It could be said that Jesus could have saved himself, for it must have been evident to him that Pilate knew he was innocent, wanted to deliver him, and was seeking some way to do so, but Jesus remained silent throughout. There is an interesting thought to ponder here; what if Jesus had not died on the cross; what form of ‘religion’ would the world have had today, if any?? Jesus had already predicted his death, what was destined to happen is to be found in the scriptures, and he was determined to see it through.
We are told that; “it was the custom at the feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested.” A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.” So Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted him to release the ‘king of the Jews’, as a means of getting over his problem. But the chief priests had stirred up the crowd and encouraged them to save Barabbas instead.
All the gospel writers tell us of Barabbas; ‘insurrectionist’ basically amounts to ‘terrorist’. Barabbas was a real political enemy of Rome, not a falsely accused political enemy as Jesus was. ‘Barabbas’ means ‘son of the father’, and according to some sources, there is some evidence that his name was Jesus Barabbas. Consequently, the crowd is now confronted with choosing between Jesus, the son of the father, who rules by force, and makes his living by violence; and Jesus, the Son of the Father, who rules by love, and is ready to sacrifice himself. When Pilate asks “What shall I do then with the one you call king of the Jews?” The crowd call for him to be crucified, and when Pilate asks what crime he has committed, they repeat their call for him to be crucified. Why did the crowd choose Barabbas; there are many theories as to why they did, but could they have been disappointed in Jesus for not being the bloodthirsty revolutionary they were expecting, who would free them from the yoke of Rome? We too sometimes have to face those sorts of decisions. Have you ever been disappointed in Jesus, disappointed in God? I’m sure many of us have been disappointed in not having our prayers and wishes answered on demand.
Pilate now saw that he was on dangerous ground, as it was obvious the crowd would only settle for one thing, and any other decision was likely to cause a riot which would not go down too well with his Roman superiors. Consequently, he released Barabbas to them and had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified. The soldiers then led Jesus away for further humiliation and maltreatment, before he was finally led out to be crucified. Ironically, Barabbas is the only person who could literally say that Jesus died for him.
It was the custom of the Romans to make the condemned man carry his cross, but in this case Jesus was probably too weak to carry it now after the treatment he had received, so Simon, a passerby who came from Cyrene was forced to carry it, rather than incur the wrath of the local Jews by asking one of them to carry it. No doubt Simon was visiting Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim from his native land, some 800 miles away on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. He knew little if anything of who Jesus was, and possibly had no desire to be associated with this Man who was condemned to die as a criminal. Yet the Romans were the law, and Simon was not given a choice. We also are sometimes blessed by the things we are compelled to do. Simon did not want to carry this cross, nevertheless it possibly became the most special and memorable in his life.
Interestingly, Mark is the only gospel which adds, ‘the father of Alexander and Rufus’ to the story. If this is the same ‘Rufus’ mentioned in Romans we can surmise that Simon came to know what it meant to ‘take one’s cross and follow Jesus’. We may know that his sons became leaders among the early Christians.
Sometimes the Lord’s servants are backward where they are expected to be forward. If this has ever happened to us, it ought to gently rebuke us as long as we live.
Praise: CH 4 v380
There is a green hill far away,
outside a city wall,
where the dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.
Wednesday: Luke 23: 39-43
The Penitent Thief
v 42 He said 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom
The gospels agree that two criminals were executed alongside Jesus. (Matthew 27: v 44, Mark 15: v 32. John 19 v 18). But Luke gives us a different insight into the behaviour of the two thieves. Luke's source for this information must have come from someone who was near to the cross to hear what was said, possibly John or Mary. The gospels say that Jesus was being taunted that if he, Jesus, were the Messiah he could save himself. Luke records that one of the two criminals must have detected 'something' about Jesus - the man named in the notice of charge against Him - nailed to the Cross - as 'The King of the Jews'. This criminal rebuked his co-criminal hanging on a cross saying 'Have you no fear of God, since you are under the same sentence of death as He is?'
The thief then addressed Jesus - saying 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom' (v42). This is an expression of repentance and simple faith. He was not asking for much, just to be remembered.
Jesus responded, 'today you will be with me in Paradise'. i.e. Today, not sometime in the future.......In Jewish thought at that time Paradise was believed to be a place of rest where people waited for resurrection. Jesus was promising that the penitent thief would be with Jesus himself, in a place beyond which lay resurrection.
The thief on the cross reminds us that it is never too late to turn to Christ. This man's plea for mercy has all the hallmarks of sincerity and the response of Jesus is instant. The request was for remembrance, the gift given was promise of redemption and resurrection.
Praise: CH 4 v775.
Jesus, remember me
When you come into your kingdom,
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.
Thursday. Mark 14: 12 - 26
The Upper Room
v 12 On the first day of the Feast of unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb'
Jerusalem, with a population of about 25,000 trebled at Passover, with visitors and pilgrims. Passover was (and is ) a family, a national and a religious occasion. It was (and is) a solemn remembrance of great salvation in the past and looks to the future with the hope of a coming Messiah. It was (and is) about Israel's dependence on God, bringing the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and identifying them as the people God redeemed.
The Passover meal recalls the last meal of the Israelites before they left Egypt and Jesus told his disciples precisely how they were to make preparations for the celebration. Jesus was in the Upper Room at Passover, establishing a new family relationship, not one in the biological sense but, one based on a new covenant with all people - the family of God.
The Upper Room and the night Jesus was betrayed has great significance for Christians. The Passover had been observed by the Jews for over a thousand years, acknowledging that it was through the sacrifice of a lamb that their forefathers had been saved - (Lambs were sacrificed in the temple at Passover). Jesus, the one described by John the Baptist as the 'lamb of God' was about to celebrate with his disciples that same deliverance, but at the same time would also look to the future pointing to an even greater deliverance with a new sacrifice for all the people.
Praise: CH 4 510 v 4.
Jesus calls us to his table
rooted firm in time and space,
where the Church in earth and heaven
finds a common meeting place,
Share the bread and wine, his body;
share the love of which we sing;
share the feast for saints and sinners
hosted by our Lord and King.
Good Friday:Luke: 23: 44 - 49
v 48 When all the crowds who had gathered there...
Executions were public affairs and drawing large crowds of onlookers. At the crucifixion scene, a few of the spectators were close to Jesus.
Whilst the gospels do not make clear where certain persons stood to watch the awful event, John's gospel does describe a small inner core of those closest to Jesus, standing at the foot of the cross. Next of kin were permitted by the authorities to do so, and John tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus was there, with John beside her. Two other women called Mary were also there, one the wife of Cleopas and Mary Magdalene. Whilst Jesus had several close friends, Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and the inner group of the 12 disciples usually named as Peter, James and John, it was John whom it appears was the closest to him, and here at the moment of Jesus death, he is at the foot of the cross whilst the other disciples have kept at a distance, including Peter. And It was to John, that Jesus from the cross charged with responsibility for his mother, and also asked Mary to accept John as her son.
Peter, who seems to have been the natural leader of the group of disciples, swore that even if the others deserted Jesus he never would, yet when the moment came, he denied that he had anything to do with Jesus. He kept his distance and watched from afar.
Mary, his mother, was there. One can only start to imagine how she felt as her son died in this terrible manner.
Marks gospel tells us that there were also many women spectating, in addition to those at the cross who had come with Jesus to Jerusalem, faithful disciples who would assist with his burial and anointing rites.
Also in the crowd of spectators at Golgotha, standing alongside his followers, were his enemies, the priests and the mob chanting insults, and the Roman soldiers whose duty it was to carry out the executions. This was routine work for them as crucifixion was the penalty for a wide range of offences and It would have been as we say 'all in a days' work' for them.
However, on this occasion it seems there was a difference. The centurion in charge of the soldiers and execution certainly recognised something was different this time. Luke quotes the centurion as saying ' surely this was a righteous man' and Mark quotes the centurion as saying 'Truly this man was God's Son' This was a remarkable tribute from a man who had watched the whole event so closely, observing all that had happened and hearing whatever words Jesus spoke from the cross.
Finally, there was the general crowd, those who came for the gruesome spectacle, those who came simply to witness executions. What did they make of what they had seen? Luke records their reaction 'when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.'
What is clear is that they were not indifferent, they were not unmoved, breast-beating was a sign of grief and repentance, which would not be the normal reaction of people who went to watch the public execution of a criminal.
Luke's picture is of desperate sorrow and grief. Mary's heart was surely broken, John watched his dearest friend slowly and painfully put to death. In this dreadful scene of Darkness, tears and cries of anguish, there is an element of hope, from the 'penitent thief,' (see Wednesday's reflection) the grieving crowds and perhaps most surprisingly the officer in charge of the execution, they all see something special and unique in the man whose death they witness.
We may reflect ourselves about where we stand amongst the spectators at the cross? Whilst impossible to share the grief of Mary as the mother of Jesus, perhaps we stand alongside Mary Magdalene, conscious that it is His death that delivers us from sin, or with the penitent thief, leaving things to the last minute, but turning to the Saviour for a promise of hope, or do we stand with John, his faithful devoted friend who recognised him as the Son of God, or perhaps with the centurion, maybe not fully able to believe but recognizing the marks of divinity, or with the crowd, grief stricken and guilty.
Whoever we are, wherever we stand as spectators, Jesus from the cross has words of forgiveness and hope for each of us.
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Where you there when they crucified my Lord?
OH! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Where you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Where you there when God raised him from the dead?