Day 205 The Soldiers Mock Jesus Matt 27: 27-31; Mark 15: 16-20

Guided reflection:

It is one thing to kill someone.  Bang, he is dead.  But to torture and humiliate a person on their way to being dead, is the most loathsome thing humanity has ever devised!   People, just dehumanizing another person!   I guess that is why bullying is so horrific to me… it sets up another as more powerful for the very sake of torturing another.  Cruelty at its cruelest!   We cannot go back and fix any of this story, but we can do something about making sure we teach our children (and ourselves) that all persons were created in God’s image and Christ went through all if this for all humanity – even those who make you mad or think differently than you.   Let’s do something about bullying – OK? 

Guided prayer:

“My heart aches to imagine what Jesus went through in this story.  Even if it is a person I do not even know, my heart breaks, but this is my Savior we are reading about!  How you must weep at our inhumanity to each other. .  Forgive us, I pray.  Amen” 

Day 204 Jesus is sentenced to death Matt 27: 15-26; Mark 15: 8-15; Luke 23: 17-25

Guided reflection:

Isn’t it hard to believe that people would be so filled with hate that a hardened criminal would be chosen for favor over one who just made you uncomfortable with his teachings?  How did things get so out of hand so quickly?    Crucify Him!  The mob mentality is a frightening thing.   And religious intolerance is also a frightening thing.  Do you hold to your beliefs so tightly that when someone crosses you - you want to cross them out?   In a twisted way, these priests and scribes thought they were keeping their religious traditions pure!  Where do you see intolerance in how people think?  How do you hold on to your beliefs without compromising them when you accept others who think differently?

Guided prayer:

“O God of the universe, our ways are not your ways, and our thoughts are not your thoughts.  So how can we be so arrogant as to think that we hold ALL the truth?  Loving God, help my heart be able to handle ambiguity- the not knowing of all the answers.  Forgive us our lack of tolerance.  Amen” 

Day 203 Jesus goes before Herod Luke 23: 6-16

Guided reflection:

Oops, Pilate found out Jesus was a Galilean… so Pilate had a way out.  He would send him on to Herod… and maybe mend a few fences.  Perfect timing, Herod was in town right then!  And to make it even sweeter, Herod had always wanted to see this man, Jesus.  Herod asked Jesus questions, but Jesus did not give him the time of day.  More beatings and more accusations, and Herod gave up and sent him back to Pilate.  What a story…Pilate told those who accused Jesus that neither he nor Herod found anything wrong with Jesus…He would release him and get rid of this mess.   People in leadership do not always realize all the ramifications of their actions.  Today, let us pray for our worlds’ leaders that they might have wisdom in their dealings.  If you are a leader, treat those you lead with utmost respect.

Guided prayers:

“This story gives us the facts of what happened… but all the players have their own story, their own agenda.  Right now, I pray for our leaders… those who make decisions that affect others’ lives.  Give them your wisdom.  Amen” 

Day 202 Jesus goes before Pilate Matt 27: 11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23: 2-5

Guided reflection:

The chief priests and other religious leaders tried to cover all their bases – they needed the governor to be on their side.  They had a laundry list of all the ways in which Jesus had done things wrong… but Jesus never made a comment.  He did not say a word in his own defense.  Pilate was frustrated - he realized these men had trumped up charges, but what could he do?   Why didn’t this Jesus say something in his own defense?

Guided prayer:

“Dear God, I still do not understand why Jesus did the things the way he did them in his trial.  It is not mine to decide what was wise or unwise… the whole proceedings just made Him closer to the cross and the empty tomb.  Forgive humanity, O God, for the ways we twist the truth.  How you must cry over us.  Amen” 

Day 201 The Death of Judas Matt 27: 3-10

Guided reflection:

I wonder why only Matthew records this part of the story.   Judas tried to make things right – he went to get his money back – to take back what he had offered.  But he found that they could care less about his guilty conscious – they wanted Jesus and they had him - who cared about Judas?  Judas threw the coins on the floor and ran out…. And overcome with what he had done, hung himself.  Hopelessness… despair… guilt... shame.    My friend, if you are ever at a place where the only option seems to be to end it all… remember this story… this was not the end of it!  Your story is not completed!  You will find Jesus there at the end of your rope!  Remember Judas!

Guided prayer:

“For all those who feel there is no hope, please, Dear God, help them hear your word of hope.   For those who do not know the love of Christ, help me show them your love.  Amen” 

Day 180 The Signs of the Times Matt 24: 4-8; Mark 13:5-8; Luke 21: 8-11

Guided reflection:

This section is called the “synoptic Apocalypse” - the words of Jesus about the end of time. Even today we wonder about the same things – when will the end of time come?  Are we living in the end times?  It does seem that nation is against nation… there do seem to be famines and earthquakes.  What kind of birth pangs are these?   I chose to not live in fear.  I do not know about the signs of the times, but I do know that Jesus is Lord and that God has the final say.  Just hours after Jesus talked about this, he was hanging on the cross.  Their world was about to fall apart.  If it is time, it is time, and I cannot do anything about it.  I can only live for Christ one day at a time.

Guided prayer:

“O God, sometimes I wonder about all the wars and natural disasters that do not seem so natural… I wonder where you are in all of this.   Help me to choose hope and love instead of fear. You are my rock, my strength, and my very present help in times of trouble. Thank you.  Amen.” 

Day 179 Prediction of the Destruction of the Temple Matt 24: 1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7

Guided reflection:

Again, remember this is just days before the crucifixion.   When Jesus leaves the temple on this day, he begins to speak as one who knows the future.  Over the next few days we will look at Jesus’ predictions.  Maybe he stood and looked at the building itself, in awe of its grandeur.  But with his insight, he knew that it would soon be destroyed.  This temple that everyone saw as their spiritual center was going to be destroyed… would they be able to see that it was just a building and their real center – IN HIM – would rise again?  In 70 AD it happened, and all that is left is the “wailing wall” where Jews from all over the world come and “wail” and wait for the rebuilding of the temple.  Right now the “Dome of the Rock Mosque” sits on that sight – a fact that fuels the animosity between the Jews and the Palestinians today.

Guided prayer:

            “Your Word tells me that I am the temple of the Lord… that the Spirit dwells within me.

Because of Jesus, I need not fear destruction, because you are with me… you are within me… you are Immanuel, God with ME!”  Amen”

Day 178 The widow’s gift Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21: 1-4

Guided reflection:

I love this story!  It lets me know that God knows my heart and my circumstance and realizes that even if I cannot give much, if I give what I have, God knows.   Isn’t it good to know we do not have to be all puffed up nor make a big production about our gift giving to God… we just show up, just as we are, and give what we have.  But also notice that even though she had little, she still gave.  Giving is part of making our heart match God’s heart.  Even if we have very little, we still give because we want a heart like God’s! 

Guided prayer:

“Giving God, I want my heart to match your heart.  In your eyes, am I more like the Pharisees who gave out of their abundance… or am I like the widow, who gave out of her little? Make my little become much when placed in your hands.  Amen” 

Day 177 Jesus gives it to the Pharisees! Matt 23: 1-36; Mark `12:37b-40; Luke 20: 45-47

Guided reflection:

The writer of Matthew gives the broadest account of this confrontation.   I see at least seven times Jesus said“Woe to you… hypocrites, scribes and Pharisees, blind guides, vipers”   Jesus really used the word Hypocrites because they stood in the way of others finding God; instead of setting people free, their converts become more bound up!   They placed their trust in the physical altar in the temple; they strained at a gnat and ended up swallowing a camel; they worried so about washing cups just right, but ignored what when into the cup; they were dead bones walking around in robes… he ended his diatribe with “You brood of vipers!”  He called them snakes!  No wonder they shouted “Crucify Him!” Have you ever been a hypocrite?   Don’t read that real fast… take time to ask yourself, have you ever been a hypocrite?

Guided prayer:

“Wow, Jesus, you really got going on those Pharisees!  Are there places in my life where I am a hypocrite?  Do I bind folks up with rules? Do I judge others on whether they do things the way I think they should be done?  Forgive me, Lord. Amen”

Day 176 Jesus’ riddle Matt: 22: 41-45; Mark 12:35-37a; Luke 20:41-44

Guided reflection:

Jesus is really getting worked up over the Pharisees.  As a matter of fact, today and tomorrow’s readings show Jesus putting the Pharisees in their place.   We are just days away from the crucifixion and these readings add fuel to their fury at Jesus.  Since Jesus knows He is the Messiah, he messes with their minds.  How could David call the Messiah “Master” if he was really his son?  It was a riddle – because Jesus, the Messiah, was born of Mary from the linage of David and is Lord of all – the living and the dead – so that includes David of old!

Remember the song ‘Mary, did you know that the child you deliver will deliver you?”

Guided prayer:

“Open my eyes, Lord.   My thoughts are not your thoughts, so free me from thinking that I can have all the answers.  I place my trust in you.  Amen”