Daily Devotion for April 29, 2014
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.
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For a Day Filled with Joy
Oh Father God in heaven: What a great day! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this and every day when I have woken up, with my heart beating and my mind able to read and think. Whatever physical limitations I may have, whatever aches and pains or illnesses I have this day, they can never diminish the greatness of life itself and the great world in which I have found myself.
By the power of your Holy Spirit, fill my heart with joy for all that I have been given. Help me to shoulder the burdens of my life with strength and courage, finding my solace in your promise of eternal life. I look forward in absolute faith to the glorious new body that all of Christ's children have been promised; but I pray to enjoy this not-so-glorious body, to see all of its wonders and remember that, being a gift, I am in no position to complain about its imperfections. Let me celebrate today all the little things I take for granted.
And bless all the people of this earth, O Lord, with the joy of gratitude for their life; and I pray that their gratitude might lead them to your holy Gospel, that they may someday know the life eternal, which can come only from your Son, Jesus Christ.
[The wonderment of being alive.]
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Holy God, I pray to be filled with your Holy Spirit for the rest of this day. Let me go forth, walking with your Spirit in my heart, that I may be filled with the joy and energy and praise for your entire creation, thankful in the many gifts you have given me, and showing forth your light in my every word and deed. This I pray in Christ's name,
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.
Psalm 22:11-13 (ESV)
Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
Matthew 27:24-31 (ESV)
Jesus Is Mocked
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Notes on the Scripture
This short narrative is loaded with meaning. There are four characters, and an examination of them gives us parallels for our own lives; for they all live within every one of us.
The soldiers are a pack of hyenas. Scourging consisted of whipping the subject's bare back with a lash studded with sharp bone and lead; many died from it, for it tore the subject's back into shreds. The soldiers, those who actually scourged and mocked Christ, are the bullies of the world, people with no conscience or scruples at all, whose amusement is bloody violence and the torture of the weak. They are the incomprehensible human capacity for animal violence that lies deep within each of us. Psalm 22 likens them to bulls and lions, and the comparison is not meant to be complementary.
The second character, the crowd calling for his crucifixion, is a testament to social pressure; our tendency to take our values from those surrounding us rather than our own values; for many in the crowd were Jesus' supporters only a day before. A mob is the ultimate embodiment of peer pressure, the compromise of personal values to conform to those around us. We see it today, specifically, whenever we compromise Christ in order to “get along” in a secular society with no moral compass.
When the crowd shouts, “his blood be on us,” they are speaking for all humanity. If we do not abide in Christ, his blood is on our hands:
The third character, Pilate, represents hypocrisy. In his handwashing, we see a perfect parallel to the “whitewashed tomb” of the Pharisees. It is ritual without meaning. It cannot possibly affect his spiritual culpability in allowing Jesus to be crucified. And he is surely culpable, for the Sanhedrin had no control of the Roman soldiers and no power to impose the death penalty.
Pilate knows that it is wrong to kill Jesus, but refuses to use his power to stop it, fearing damage to his career. Again, one can see a parallel to the Jewish leadership: “[A]mong the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” (John 12:42.)
And our final character is Christ. The King of Heaven, the Son of God, humbles himself to the very bottom of the human totem pole: could there possibly be anything worse, in individual terms, than being thrown to a pack of human jackals to be mocked and tortured to death? It is the ultimate act of love, for Christ is the most powerful man ever to dwell on earth, who willingly gives himself to the worst fate imaginable, so that we might be saved.