These are unusual and difficult days in our world. I want to encourage you in the truth. In response to quite a few subscribers asking if I might consider writing more than just Lent or Advent devotionals, after some prayer, I decided to continue writing daily devotionals through Pentecost, which occurs fifty days after Easter and will take us this year to May 31st. So you can expect to continue to receive daily devotionals through the end of May. They will continue to appear in your emails each morning after Easter. You need do nothing. The Lord is sovereign.
Reader: “This is Jesus,”
Response: “the King of the Jews.”
Scripture: Matthew 27:27-38
Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). The soldiers gave him wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it.
After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
Reader: “This is the loving word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice on my behalf.”
This is a familiar heart-rending passage. There is such irony. In mocking ignorance, the soldiers wrote the truth on the placard, “He is King of the Jews.” And you’ll notice, once again, the thieves are two witnesses to the truth, even though one does not believe. But one thief testifies to the truth and believes. One of the things that stands out to me in this whole passage is Jesus’ restraint and acceptance of the abuse in all its forms. Can you imagine having the power to “fry” the mockers with a single word, and not only not using it, but saying nothing, not even “Do you have any idea who is in your presence, your Creator and the Creator of the entire universe?” What was Jesus’ basis for keeping quiet and not responding? Obedience to the Father and an unmovable commitment to fulfilling his mission of redeeming the entire created order, not just people. In spite of the taunts, mockery, ridicule, and sick curiosity, Jesus remained on course. God the Father, however, did speak. The curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom, the earth shook and split rocks, tombs opened and many people were raised from the dead and left the cemetery in affirmation and acceptance of the Son’s sacrifice. (That must have been a sight!) The soldiers quickly gained perspective in their words, “This man truly was the Son of God.” In reading this passage again, I’m quite sure we have no idea of the depth of Christ’s love for the Father and the Father’s love for his Son. That they have made it possible for us to experience being loved by God is really more than mortals can grasp. What a gracious God we have.
Music: “Agnus Dei” Samuel Barber Robert Shaw Festival Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6ilqJW3fV8&list=TLPQMjkwMTIwMjCrAh08LRSyCA&index=1 There are many recordings of this piece. It is extremely difficult to sing with very long phrases. Many conductors speed it up so it is easier to sing. This recording has terrific singers and Mr. Shaw lets the text determine the tempo. “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.” This recording is also beautifully balanced among the parts. The music aurally paints the meaning of the text.
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded” Fernando Ortega
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
-Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century
O sacred head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown,
O sacred head, what glory,
what bliss till now was thine,
yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call thee mine.
What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners’ gain,
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
and grant to me thy grace.
What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee.
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon his face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We venerate thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also thy glorious Resurrection. ―Hymns for Good Friday, Orthodox