Daily Devotion for March 21, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in your way today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself. Through Christ I pray and live,
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
A Prayer for Fasting
Holy Lord God, who by your word reminds us of all who have offered you the gift of fasting as a symbol of contrition; Guide me in my denial of worldly pleasure during this season of repentance, that I may always be reminded of the sin that Christ died to overcome; and accept, I pray, the offering I give you with my body in memory of Christ's suffering.
Now unto him that is able to keep me from falling, and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Poem by Charles Dickens
Give me strength for days to come;
Guide and guard me with Thy blessing
Till Thy angels bid me home.
John 11:45-57 (GWT)
The Jewish Council Plans to Kill Jesus
Many Jews who had visited Mary and had seen what Jesus had done believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council. They asked, “What are we doing? This man is performing a lot of miracles. If we let him continue what he’s doing, everyone will believe in him. Then the Romans will take away our position and our nation.”
One of them, Caiaphas, who was chief priest that year, told them, “You people don’t know anything. You haven’t even considered this: It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”
Caiaphas didn’t say this on his own. As chief priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. He prophesied that Jesus wouldn’t die merely for this nation, but that Jesus would die to bring God’s scattered children together and make them one.
From that day on, the Jewish council planned to kill Jesus. So Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews. Instead, he left Bethany and went to the countryside near the desert, to a city called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
The Jewish Passover was near. Many people came from the countryside to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. As they stood in the temple courtyard, they looked for Jesus and asked each other, “Do you think that he’ll avoid coming to the festival?” (The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that whoever knew where Jesus was should tell them so that they could arrest him.)
Notes on the Scripture
Today we reach a turning point. Jesus' time has come. The "council", which is known to historians today as the Sanhedrin, commits to the arrest and execution of Jesus. But the matter has become almost entirely political, in the eyes of the Sanhedrin; and the tone of John's Gospel changes abruptly from philosophical and poetic to straightforward and historical.
Caiphas was the nominal chief priest of Roman Judea for sixteen years, the longest term of any chief priest in the New Testament. He was at the height of his power, but his father-in-law, the powerful Sadducee named Annas (who had been chief priest earlier), continued to enjoy great influence. Annas, like Caiphas, had some very non-religious bones to pick with Jesus; the Sadducees derived income from the vendors in the Temple, and Jesus' major demonstration against them -- when he threw the money-lenders out of the Temple -- would have made Annas his enemy.
Understand that the worry about Romans "destroying us" has nothing to do with the Hebrews. It is clear that Christ has made no attempt whatsoever to overthrow Roman rule (and Pontius Pilate will refuse to judge him). The Romans are not going to punish Judea for anything Jesus has done. What Caiphas is worried about is that he and his cronies will be forced out of power and replaced by another set of priests.
The passage is mostly straightforward, but John adds one double meaning to enrich it. Caiphas cynically states that "it is better for one man to die" than for the Hebrews to be destroyed. (Cynical because, as he well knows, it is not the Hebrews whom the Romans might possibly destroy, but Caiphas' political power.)
Caiphas does not realize what he is saying, because it will become the foundation of Christianity: One man will die so that the entire world may be truly saved. But not in the sense that Caiphas means it. Christ will die, but not to save the Pharisees or the Sadducees or even the Jews; he will bring salvation to all humanity.