Lent readings 2022

These are the daily readings for Lent 2022

2 March to 16 April

These readings are taken from "The Crucified is My Love" by Johann Ernst Holst

available as a free download from www.plough.com

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Lenten Readings 2022

Turning Point Church

 

Week 6 - 4 April to 10 April

 

Day 34 - Monday 4 April

 

The Weeping Daughters of Jerusalem

 

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. (Luke 23:27)

 

Whereas many cross-bearers may today strive towards the eternal goal quietly and unobserved, the Lord was followed on his road to the crucifixion by a great multitude of people. They were the crowds whose cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children!” probably still sounded in his ears. They wanted to enjoy the triumph of their evil deed and accompany their victim with scornful looks and words.

 

Such great suffering calmly borne, however, usually finds sympathy somewhere, and here in the crowd there were daughters of Jerusalem who had tender hearts.

 

“They mourned and lamented for him.” Some preachers have suggested that their tears made little difference. It is true that Christianity does not consist merely of tender feelings; it is deed and life. Tears without change are worthless. Tears that come from superficial emotion are dried by the next breath of wind. Some people are able to weep bitterly below Christ’s cross and a few moments later laugh in the enjoyment of worldly pleasure. The worst thing is that people often deceive themselves with such tears. They imagine that they are very devout because of these tears, but their hearts are not changed. Their manner of life belies their tears. Let us be on our guard against such self-deception!

 

Nevertheless, we are glad to know that among the wicked people who accompanied the Lord to his death there were at least some souls whose tears showed natural human sympathy. Let us not forget that worse than the superficial tears of the easily moved is the immense indifference to God and to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus which has settled on many hearts like a mountain.

 

We have to ask: Don’t these daughters of Jerusalem put us to shame? We are Christians and understand the significance of the Lord’s cross, yet hasn’t an awful insensitivity to the Lord also come over us? Aren’t there many among us who have compassion for people and animals but care little about the Lord’s cross? They have not even a tear for the great Man of Sorrows, this heart of compassionate love that shed its blood in the agony of death for us. Doesn’t this indifference make us uneasy? Don’t we feel uneasy when we consider that the tears of those women will witness against us on the great day of reckoning? The Lord himself, who had no answer for Herod and Pilate, did so far recognise the tears of those women as to count them worthy of a serious and noble

 

The Lord’s Last Call to Repentance

 

But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28–31)

 

The cross-bearing redeemer had veiled himself in deep silence on the first part of his sorrowful road, but when he became aware of the tears of the women accompanying him, he lifted himself out of it and turned his thorn-crowned head to the daughters of Jerusalem. The condemned man has now become a prophet. Powerful words proceed from his mouth, proving that he has not broken down under the cross, but that he has preserved his eternal majesty. “Do not weep for me!” By that he means, “I do not need your pity. The cross will become my sceptre and the crown of thorns my glory. It is true that I am dying, but I shall rise again. I am condemned, but I shall come again to judge the world. Weep for yourselves and for your children.”

 

With this last call to repentance, the Lord knocks once more at the hearts of Zion’s children. Before his prophetic range of vision the future of Jerusalem is unrolled. He sees the fall of the royal city, the walls razed to the ground, the temple burning. He hears the furious clamour of the victorious enemies and the despairing lament of the conquered and crushed.

 

He wants to direct the minds of those accompanying him to the terrible might of the approaching divine judgment. “If this is done to me, the green wood, the tree of life, how you – branches cut off from the tree of life and withered in sin – will burn in the fire of God’s judgment!” But the Lord does not say this as a threat, but in order to save. Here too he bears in mind that he has come to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He points out to them the only way that can still save them before the day of wrath dawns. This way consists of tears – not tears of weak pity for our own suffering or for that of others, but tears of holy repentance. That is the way of salvation for Jerusalem’s children and also for us.

 

Fellow Christians, do you know these tears? Have you learned to weep for yourself and for your sins? Such tears are essential but not as though they were a merit that will buy heaven. (Was Peter thinking of gaining something when he went out and wept bitterly?) They alone open our heart to the Saviour. They alone melt the ice of our old nature, and under them alone a new heavenly life comes into bloom. So weep for your cold, weak hearts. Weep that you have not yet grown better in spite of your Saviour’s indescribable work of love. Weep for your sins! You young men who have sworn loyalty to the Lord, such tears as Peter’s tears do not disgrace you. You older men, who have grown firm in the storms of life and regard it as a matter of honour to suppress pain and master all emotionalism, these tears do not disgrace you. They spring from a divine sorrow and yield the fruit of peace and righteousness in all who shed them. And you womanly souls, let your tears have free course – not as a sign of fleeting emotion but of a deep repentance.

 

Day 35 - Tuesday 5 April

 

Golgotha

 

And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). (Mark 15:22)

 

Jerusalem was surrounded on three sides by deep ravines. Only to the north did the landscape stretch out more evenly. Here, close to the city wall, some wealthy families had built country houses in which to spend the summer and had planted pleasure gardens. From their flat roofs they had a fine view of the royal city with its gleaming golden temple and proud palaces, and toward the east, the Mount of Olives with its olive and palm groves. But bordering on those pleasure gardens, close to the military road, there was a sad and desolate spot. It was the little hill Golgotha, the place of a skull. Here the lowest and meanest of humankind, criminals condemned to be put to death by crucifixion, were executed. A passerby felt a shudder go through him when he hurried by the accursed place.

 

This spot was the end of the Via Dolorosa, the Lord’s way of suffering. Here he and two evildoers, surrounded by large and mixed throngs, were brought from the praetorium by the soldiers and executioners. We too have accompanied our Saviour thus far. With him we have reached Golgotha. Let us stand here quietly and reflect upon the immense significance of this place.

 

No matter where our pilgrimage takes us, the end is always a place of a skull. No matter what ages our minds pass through, nowhere do our hearts, full of sin and longing, find true peace and new life except in what was now about to take place at Golgotha.

 

The shining peaks of the Alps are beautiful; the jagged rocks of Sinai are holy; it is good to be on the Mount of Transfiguration. But all these proud heights are far surpassed in importance by the little hill Golgotha. Here is the turning point of all ages. This is the place of the greatest pain, of death, and of the curse, but at the same time it is the place of the greatest, most glorious, and most blessed revelation of God’s love in Christ. Here is the spring from which the stream of grace flows as eternal blessing over the whole world. This is the place of refuge for the erring and the lost, for those who labor and are heavy laden; the place where the wounded and hard-pressed fighter finds peace. Here the old man dies, and here the new man is born for eternal life.

 

A grand vista is opened up for us at this spot, Golgotha. Behind us lies the lost paradise, and from where we stand we lift our eyes to the hills whence our help comes (Ps. 121:1). Before us we can see the golden turrets of the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

The Cross

 

There they crucified him . . . (John 19:18)

 

With the help of Simon of Cyrene the Lord had carried his heavy cross to Golgotha. Then it was set up and firmly implanted in the ground by the henchmen. In silence the exhausted, thorn-crowned Savior stood, watching their work. He remembered the prophecies of his suffering and death and saw in the cross the altar on which atonement was now to be made for the redemption of the world.

 

We, too, look at the Lord’s cross at this hour and consider in quiet worship what it has to say to us. There it stands on Golgotha, and its dark form towers above the world, above all ages. It speaks to us of sin and pain, of death and damnation. It shows us how wicked the human race is in God’s eyes, for in increasing disobedience it feeds on the forbidden fruit of the tree of destruction. The cross is the tree of the curse and of death, but it also testifies powerfully to the transforming power of God’s love and mercy.

 

Since Christ bore the cross and since it bore him, it has become to the Lord himself the sign of his glory, of his victory and lordship, as the prophecy says, “The government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa. 9:6). The cross is the sceptre with which he rules the world, the sword with which he overcomes his enemies. It is the shepherd’s staff with which he leads his flock to pasture on the eternally green meadows of his grace. For the lost world, the cross is now the altar of reconciliation, where it finds forgiveness and peace. For the redeemed children of God it has become the tree of life. Its fruits win for them healing from all wounds and sickness, and the eternal joy of paradise. As a banner of salvation it lights the way for all nations.

 

The foot of the cross that sinks into the earth says urgently to us, “From the dust you were taken, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). “Set your house in order, for you must die” (2 Kings 20:1). Conquer death while you are alive.

 

The two arms which are stretched out over the earth call to us, “The earth is yours. The redeemed are all your brothers and sisters. Embrace, bear, and comfort them with the love of Christ. Love as long as you are able to love!”

 

The head of the cross lifted up to heaven says to your soul, “Seek the things that are above where Christ is at the right hand of the Father” (Col. 3:1). It shows you the wonderful goal of your pilgrimage, your eternal home. All the sorrow and suffering that a Christian still has to bear in this earthly life changes for him henceforth into a blessed cross.

 

 

Day 36 - Wednesday 6 April

 

The Crucifixion

 

And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (Mark 15:23)

 

The proceedings before Pilate had taken place early on Good Friday morning. It might have been about nine in the morning when the escort with the three condemned men reached Golgotha in the hot spring sunshine. The work necessary for the execution was quickly undertaken and the three crosses erected.

 

Crucifixion was the Romans’ most cruel and ignominious means of execution. It meant that the criminal was not worthy to touch the earth with his feet and that his elevated head was given to the vengeance of the gods. The Lord let this terrible form of capital punishment be carried out upon him. But first the condemned men were offered wine mixed with myrrh, a numbing drink to lessen their torment. The Lord refused it, however, for he wanted to be fully conscious as he drank his Father’s cup. Not a drop was to be taken unperceptively.

 

Then the dreadful sentence was carried out.

 

Now he hangs on the accursed tree, an outcast between heaven and earth. His pale face is bent forward. His arms that opened lovingly to the weary and heavy-laden are drawn taut against the crossbeam. His hands that healed the sick and blessed little children are fastened to it with iron nails, and his feet, which had walked the path to salvation, are bored through and securely nailed to the lower end of the cross. His holy blood, flowing from the burning wounds, runs down into the sand of Golgotha and blesses the earth that has rejected him.

 

What pains shoot through his quivering body and what thoughts and feelings pass through his holy soul! No one can fathom his sorrow that all his loving efforts for the welfare of his people have to end like this. No one at the time could conceive that all the misery of the whole of lost humanity was concentrated in this one heart. He alone knew and felt it all, and he alone pondered the immense guilt that the human race brought upon itself with this blackest of all crimes.

 

But he saw still deeper. He saw that his murderers were just unhappy tools of an invisible power: he saw how the kingdom of darkness stormed upon him, rousing his human enemies and fighting desperately to gain victory.

 

His pain was heightened by the fact that the devil was permitted to triumph mockingly over him and to ensnare Jews and Gentiles in his power. Jesus alone was fully conscious that his suffering was atoning suffering: that the Father’s eternal plan of love should be fulfilled through his crucifixion and that in his excruciating death the salvation of the lost world would be brought about. He knew that with his last breath a tremendous change must take place: the fall of the prince of this world, the beginning of the glad tidings of peace, and the fulfilment of his own prophecy, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

 

As for us, we fall on our knees, cover our faces, and worship the love that surpasses all thought.

 

Accounted a Criminal

 

And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”(Mark 15:27–28)

 

“The hour is coming when you will leave me alone,” the Lord said at his farewell meal with his disciples (John 16:32). This time of his loneliness came all too soon. We can imagine how hard that was for him, since we are born for fellowship, and only in fellowship can we feel joy and happiness. But people who are misunderstood by their loved ones in fulfilling a higher task, who are constantly opposed by those around them, feel especially lonely.

 

What task could be compared to that of the Saviour of the world? What forsakenness could be compared to his? He was alone in Gethsemane where he wrestled with death while his disciples slept. He was alone when he was arrested and led away while his disciples fled. He stood alone before the Sanhedrin, before Herod, and before Pilate. He stood alone under the lash of his executioners, and alone he hung dying on the cross. For even the few faithful souls who were close to him there did not understand him and his suffering and could neither comfort nor help him. What pain that must have been to his loving heart!

 

Yet he was given company on his last road and at Golgotha: two common criminals were brought out with him and crucified, one on his right and one on his left. In this way the prophecy was fulfilled, that he was to be numbered with the transgressors (Isa. 53:12).

 

Any decent man would have regarded it as deep humiliation to have to sit with such evildoers even in some secluded corner. He would find the disgrace unbearable to be considered one of them in public and treated like them. And Jesus, the pure and exalted one, was not only regarded as one of this murderous gang but was slandered as their leader.

 

Jesus, however, made no objection to this. He did not consider the disgrace, nor did he reject this company. Indeed he spoke words of love to one of these thieves.

 

He himself came down to evildoers. He wanted to be regarded as one of them and to take their curse upon himself. This will become our greatest comfort as soon as we realise that in God’s sight we so-called respectable people are evildoers on whom the sentence of condemnation has already been passed, and who with every step are drawing nearer to death and judgment.

 

How comforting it is to have the Lord accompany us! For by becoming one of us and taking our disgrace upon himself, he frees us from the evil enemy and brings us into community with himself and his angels. Thus he makes us living members of the heavenly family.

 

Now it is important for us to avoid all destructive relationships and yet to treat the evildoers whom we meet with kindness. Most of all, we must strive with all our powers to live and walk in personal fellowship with our still invisible Saviour until we see him face to face.

 

 

Day 37 - Thursday 7 April

 

The Gathering of the Nations

 

Pilate also wrote an inscription, and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’. Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’, but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19–22)

 

Pilate had suffered a heavy defeat. He had allowed himself to be compelled by the Jews against both law and conscience to condemn to death one who was innocent. He tried to take his revenge by means of biting satire, by the inscription on Christ’s cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” This taunt infuriated the Jews who demanded that the inscription be changed. But in this instance the usually fickle and inconstant governor remained firm. He answered, “What I have written I have written.” In this too, though he was not aware of it, he was a servant of divine providence, for with his inscription he made a grand statement and bore witness powerfully to truth. In accordance with God’s plan, this title was to remain as it was written, never to be erased by the opposition but to shine out through all times and into eternity. It was written in the three most universal languages of that time and place, and most who went by could read it.

 

The building of the tower of Babel had split the human race into many nationalities. These forgot their common origin, formed isolated hostile groups, and tore each other up in bloody civil wars. Thus they destroyed the morals and well-being of the whole human race. But what was dispersed by the building of that tower shall now come together again and unite in brotherly love under the cross on Golgotha. That indelible inscription contains the core of the whole gospel. Now it is written and read in numerous languages, and through the work of mission it calls and gathers all nations of the world into the one great kingdom of the eternal King.

 

At present the constant hostilities of the nations with their wars and instruments of murder and mass slaughter testify that the spirit of the gospel has not yet pervaded the life of the peoples. The spirit of heathendom has remained in power.

 

But where deep, complete conversion has taken place and pardoned sinners have really surrendered to the Crucified One, barriers fall, enmity disappears, and people are bound together as brothers and sisters. Peace appears, love rules, and Christ’s kingdom is established. The prophecy of a glorious future is contained in what has taken place so far only in small circles, mostly unseen by the eyes of the world. When the Lord Christ destroys the antichrist and his gospel wins complete victory, then all the nations will be united under the banner of the eternal King. In his great kingdom of peace they will experience the blessed fulfilment of the promise, “There will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

 

The Inscription on the Cross

 

“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)

 

The inscription on the cross was “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It was written in three languages and designated the name, origin, office, and sphere of jurisdiction of the Crucified One. How much was contained in one brief phrase!

 

The name is Jesus and is the name above all names, for Jesus means God’s salvation, the Saviour, the One who makes blessed. The angel had told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He has brought God’s salvation to us as well. He wants to save us too and lead us, as the true Joshua, into the heavenly Canaan. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts  4:12). So that must remain for us the most precious and most holy of all names.

 

“Of Nazareth” tells his origin. Actually he was born in Bethlehem, and the scribes would have done well to research his birthplace more exactly, which had been foretold by the prophet Micah. But Nazareth was the home of his childhood and youth, and so this small and despised village in Galilee became world-famous. It will never be forgotten, even when all the magnificent palaces in the world have become rubble. Happy the house and happy the village where Jesus found his home. Here we can also remember the related word, “Nazarite” (“One consecrated to God”), for as one consecrated to God, the Lord accomplished his work and suffered his sacrificial death.

 

The word “King” tells us his office. It was as king that the prophets foretold him, as king that the wise men from the east worshipped him, and as king that he was hailed by the jubilant crowds on Palm Sunday. He testified before Pilate that he was a king, and as king he hung upon the cross. In the dark hours of his death struggle he probably felt nothing of royal glory. Poor and naked, forsaken and mocked, he hung on the accursed tree. But we know that the cross has become his throne and the crown of thorns his diadem. Living and dying, he is the King of Glory in accordance with God’s plan, and he will be king forever, raised to God’s right hand. He consecrates his redeemed as kings and priests on earth. In the humbleness and grief of their pilgrimage, they likewise feel little or nothing of this glory; but when their Lord appears in his majesty, they too, with all the angels and heavenly hosts, will wear the crown of life with joy (Rev. 2:10).

 

The additional phrase “of the Jews” tells us his immediate sphere of influence. As the Son of David, as the Messiah sent by God, he is Israel’s King. It is true, the Jews rejected him and the heathen jeered at their messianic hope. But the Lord remains the eternal Messiah, and through his death he has spread his rule over all other nations as well. For he died for all. He dearly bought them all and made them citizens of his kingdom. All who obey him in faith and love are now his pardoned subjects. All who reject him are rebels. But they remain under his authority and must one day kneel before him.

 

At the same time, as the Son of God, he is the King of all worlds. He himself bears witness, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Consequently he rules in the realm of nature as he does in the realm of grace and will one day rule in the realm of glory. His kingdom has no end and his sceptre is everlasting. Blessed are all who serve him with joy and continue steadfastly praying, “Thy kingdom come!”

 

 

Day 38 - Friday 8 April

 

The First Word from the Cross

 

And it was the third hour, when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25)

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

 

The Lord’s crucifixion was carried out at nine o’clock in the morning of Good Friday. He had not uttered a word since calling the daughters of Jerusalem to repentance, and even during the cruel act of crucifixion he had remained in deep silence. It was only when it was done that he opened his pale lips and cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

These words reveal his heart to us and the thoughts that fill his holy soul while in dying torment. He is not angry. He neither threatens nor complains. Painfully but at peace, he cries, “Father!” Thus even in death he testifies that he is the Son of God, that his conscience is clear, and that now as always he shares in the closest fellowship of love with his Father. Hatred and mockery play their grisly game below the cross, but on the cross above them the breath of heaven, the spirit of prayer, holds sway. Here the Crucified One shows us the way to the Father’s heart, the way that we too must take when we are in distress and dying. But he does more than show us the way; he opens its portal to us through his bloody sacrifice.

 

In a like situation others might have cursed their murderers or cried out for help and mercy. Christ overcomes his own pain. He sees the tremendous bloodguilt of his murderers and the darkness that fills them. He sees the clouds of judgment piling up above them and the earth opening to swallow them all. Filled with compassion, he prays for his wretched enemies, “Father, forgive them!”

 

He is the only one who can save them. He takes all the horror of the judgment into the depths of his soul, comes into his Father’s presence adorned with his holy wounds, and pleads and gains forgiveness for his enemies. Thus he hides the godless from the lightning of the Almighty with the shield of his intercession.

 

What love and compassion, what power and majesty are in this prayer of the Crucified One! He has procured help and deliverance for all humanity. He has obtained forgiveness of sins for the whole world. He has become the Saviour who brings blessing to lost sinners.

 

Now, if his intercession is to become our salvation, two things are necessary. We must first realise that we share the guilt of his murderers. It must cut us to the marrow that we have brought him to the cross: our pride crowned him with thorns; our fleshly lust lashed his back; our evil deeds nailed his hands and feet. We put him to death.

 

Then, we must believe with our whole soul in the forgiveness of sins, in the power of Christ’s intercession and of his vicarious death for us. When old offences rise up in our consciences and try to accuse and torment us, when new guilt makes the old burden still heavier and we are ready to despair, then one thing alone can give us comfort and peace: the living trust that “I too have been baptised into his death. He has washed me clean with his blood. He has included me and pardoned me in his prayer, ‘Father, forgive them!’”

 

They Know Not What They Do

 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

 

In the crucified one’s prayer for his enemies, he modified their guilt before his Father by saying with amazing gentleness, “They know not what they do.” How comforting for all sinners is this merciful verdict by him who one day will judge the world! He knows what wretched creatures we are; he remembers that we are dust. The cruel soldiers certainly did not know what they were doing. Pilate knew more, the Jewish people still more, and the Sanhedrin most of all. The people knew not only that he was innocent but that he was a great prophet and had done great deeds. The fact that the whole population rejected him and so passionately supported his crucifixion is a baffling mystery. The gospel, however, explains it, for it tells that the chief priests had delivered him up out of envy.

 

It always irritates envious people to meet someone great who stands out more than them. They cannot bear to be reminded of their own pettiness by the presence of such a person. This was the case of the leaders of Israel. In addition, they not only feared losing their influence on the people through the Lord’s growing power but were enraged and embittered by his merciless exposure of their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. So their envy turned into deadly hatred, which blinded their minds, and then could not rest until nobleness was overthrown and meanness had come once more to power.

 

That was the attitude of the leaders; but how was it possible that they succeeded in changing the crowd so suddenly? The people had experienced nothing but good from the Lord. They had followed him with enthusiasm and only five days earlier had hailed him jubilantly as their Messiah. Were the cries of rage on Good Friday due only to incitement by the leaders? No, the source of the people’s guilt lay deeper: in their aversion to repentance and change of heart; and in the unbelief and worldliness of their hearts.

 

It had been so for centuries. That was why the prophets had foretold the tragic fate of the coming Messiah and why from the beginning of his ministry the Lord himself foresaw his painful death. The crime of Good Friday was not simply a matter of hastiness; it was the dreadful end of a long-prepared, destructive line of development. To be sure, the people did not want to kill their Messiah, but they gave in to the delusion that Jesus was an impostor and was misleading them. Because of this the mystery of his nature was hidden from them and, however guilty they were in their ignorance, they did not know that they were bringing the Lord of Glory to the cross. They had no idea that here at Golgotha the decisive battle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness was being fought – much less that they themselves were instruments in the hand of Satan. That is why the Lord prayed for them and said with deep compassion, “They know not what they do.”

 

May we learn to judge all evildoers and our enemies as kindly as the Lord Christ does! May we learn to forgive sincerely those who insult and persecute us personally and pray to God for their forgiveness! What peace there would then be in the church of Christ and what joyous fellowship would then flourish in her!

 

Day 39 - Saturday 9 April

 

Lots Cast for His Clothes

 

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (John 19:23–24)

 

Thousands of years beforehand the psalmist prophesied that lots would be cast for the Lord’s clothing: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Ps. 22:18).

Into what deep poverty and nakedness the Lord had to sink! The birds have their nests and the foxes their holes, but the Son of Man had no place of his own on earth where he could lay his head (Matt. 8:20). Today we try as far as is possible to care for, comfort, and refresh even the poorest among us who are dying. But the dying Lord had no quiet room, no comfortable bed, and no loving hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. Even his last belongings, his clothes, were taken from him. Nailed to the rough shaft of the cross, he had to hang naked in the burning heat of the sun under the open sky, and lay his weary head down upon his own breast. But by giving up everything he had – his life – he paid our debts and made us rich through his poverty. He earned for us food and clothing and all that we need for body and soul so that we may sing, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1).

 

In times of happiness, when we enjoy all the rich benefits of our God, and even in times of sickness when we are cared for by others, let us remember with tears of gratitude that the Lord Jesus earned all this for us through his deprivations and suffering. If we ourselves are tested by want and hard circumstances, let us lift up our eyes to the Crucified One. In comparison with him we are still rich. Let us understand that it is an honor to become like him and strive for the poverty of which the Lord himself said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). We have to consider the precious seamless and indivisible garment of his innocence and holiness as our true treasure and put it on daily. He wove it for us with his great pain and deep wretchedness. When we are adorned in this garment, our miserable pride in wealth and vanity in dress will disappear like mist before the sun, and we shall be rich and joyful in God even in times of deprivation.

 

The Mocking of the Crucified One

 

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:40–43)

 

If the enemies of Jesus had any natural human feeling, they would have been silent under the cross where he hung bleeding and dying. Sympathy would have made the watchers serious and thoughtful. When someone is dying, tears are usually shed. At a cruel execution even hardened bystanders are often shaken into silence. But the Lord was denied a quiet hour of death.

 

The high priests were so full of bitterness that they had the impudence to strut about below the cross, slandering the holy victim of their hatred with malicious jokes and loud mockery. They now make up for the fear this great man caused them by saying he would come on the clouds of heaven. They triumph over him, who only a short time previously was so highly praised, and avenge themselves on him while he is dying. They jeer at his claim to royalty and to being the Son of God. They mock at his power to do miracles. The executioners are amused, and even one of the thieves crucified with Jesus joins in the abuse.

 

Many who had followed Jesus were admirers only of his outward success. Now that power and fame had left him, they also turned away. They regarded his silence as a confession of guilt. They now looked upon him as a condemned impostor. Angry at having been misled for so long, they too called out jeeringly, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself!” They also wanted to curry favour with the rulers who were now triumphant.

 

Of the mass of the people, however, it is written, “The people stood by, watching” (Luke 23:35). That was a gruesome spectacle. Dull-witted and without thought, they gaped at the unprecedented outrage that was taking place. Their great Benefactor, their Messiah, had opened up for them the way of salvation. He had blessed their children, fed the hungry among them, and healed their sick – yet they watched while he was murdered and mocked even while dying. They treated his sacrificial death as something to gratify their curiosity. Not a hand was lifted for him, nor a voice raised! To what depth had the people sunk! To what depth must any nation sink that finds pleasure in bloody spectacles and is fed on public executions.

 

We also watch – but with a different purpose. We look into the depth of Jesus’ heart and admire his behaviour and the nobleness and love of which he gives proof in all humiliation. His pure and gentle soul felt more keenly than we can comprehend the outrage done to him by the mockery of his enemies. Moreover, he knew that as the Son of God he could immediately come down from the cross and with a single word destroy his enemies. But he also knew that the scriptures had to be fulfilled that he must become the most despised of men and suffer everything that had been foretold in the Psalms (Ps. 22:7–19). He was willing to endure what we deserve, to atone for our arrogance, and to save the lost. So he suffered complete wretchedness in silent humility and majesty and even prayed compassionately for those who were slandering him. As for us, we fall on our knees in gratitude and confess, “Jesus, I love you!”

 

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