Visiting Grandma’s Old House

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

I was back in California recently, staying at a little place in Saratoga, when the desire came upon me to visit my grandmother’s old house. So I began walking down the road passing by my aunt’s old place and gathering up some friends and family as I went.

I paid no attention to them as my thoughts were consumed with nostalgia for a house I had not seen in nearly thirty years and a curiosity to see what the new owners had done to it. My grandmother had cared well for her little plot of land, tending a walk-in birdhouse full of little tiny canaries flitting back and forth. She had a corner lot with a spacious yard. Her backyard had an apricot, a persimmon, and a plum tree that were always a little treat to my young taste buds. She maintained a blackberry bush growing up on a small portion of her back fence and a second plum tree grew in the front yard.

The memories of chasing my cousins around the outside of her house, locking fences with sticks to get more time, playing a bit of hide-and-seek fill my mind with peaceful bliss.

As I arrived, I noticed the side fence on this street was gone, the new owners preferring a more open concept. And as I continued to take things in my heart was broken. The backyard, once full of fruit trees, was barren and lifeless. The ground mostly dirt with clumps of grass here and there. The only thing left of my childhood was the five-foot-tall back fence with its redwood planks, sagging and dilapidated.

I was so in shock at the sight of it, that my feet began to carry me forward. With each step I took, the backyard began to change. The fence began to fade away into a black wall with a small stage. The ground turned to red square bricks. It appeared to be some sort of optical illusion. Turning to my right, I noticed the house on this side was not walled in as one would expect but opened up into a small book shop and coffee stand – or more accurately the foyer to a small church? Turning back to the yard it was evident this was the church sanctuary.

My friends and family slowly filtered in after me commenting on the strange optical illusion as they went. Overcome as I was, I exclaimed without meaning to; “What it looks like on the inside is not at all what I saw from the outside.” A subdued laugh erupted from the group.

Most of my friends had no previous ties to this place and were not overcome with emotions as I was. They were more easily able to discern what was happening and comment on how cool it was.

My cousins and I made little remarks about how much grandma would love that her home was turned into a church. That little backyard, when converted into a sanctuary retained the same size and feel but looked so very different. They had maintained some rustic feel to it, placing by the far wall a little fence made of old thick tree branches. It wasn’t much like the kinds of things she had in her yard, and yet it was exactly like her.

Just as I was noticing the projector on the wall that aided in this optical illusion and began to wonder exactly how it worked, I woke up. Lying in my bed, I reflected on how much like Christianity this little dream is. What we look like on the outside is nothing at all like what God sees on the inside, when we are purchased by the blood of Christ.

While we often feel run-down, dilapidated, and barren there exists within each believer’s heart a sanctuary built to house an eternal God. The walls of that sanctuary never decay or break down. They hold within them a quiet joy that brings peace in adversity. They hold within them a loud and overflowing joy that no human can contain within them, but must burst forth in waves of encouragement and comfort to those around us. Within those walls are the memories of our innocence and naivety, the simple moments of fun and love we’ve built up throughout our lives.

That sanctuary defines us and shapes us and builds us up. It is a place of refuge and a place of rest. Our sanctuaries don’t look anything like us, and yet they look exactly like us – perfected in the careful attentions of our Lord and Master.

Our newest friends find us to be very different people than our families do. They are able to see us as we are now, changed and grown and homey. But our families see a projection of who we once were and sometimes struggle to see the work God has done in and through us. I have found that can make me feel like I’m still the same kid running around my grandma’s house when in fact everything about me has changed.

We need to embrace the sanctuary. Each of us needs to realize how far Jesus has taken us and not be overcome by the illusions of our former selves. And each of us needs to look toward others with eyes that see others with grace and love, embracing our friends and family for who they have become. Let us push on together, encouraging one another, to be full of the light of Christ and forever display his handy work in us and to those around us.

Review: Prayer by Timothy Keller

Prayer by Timothy Keller

The last book I studied with my Life Group was Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. This was an interesting adventure as we started the study during Covid and were interrupted briefly by some events with my church at the time. As a result, the process of going through this study was prolonged and took several months longer than normal. This gave our bunnies ample time to snack on the book.

Keller is well-read and presented several church fathers and their main beliefs on prayer. He reviewed the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards. Keller’s foray into this topic comes across as more historical and researched than it does practiced and lived. I’m not saying Keller doesn’t pray or isn’t a fantastic prayer warrior, but his lived experience is missing from the work overall and instead, we see his presentation of how historical theologians dealt with the topic.

In many ways, this book’s approach to prayer is basic and scholarly. One reviewer said this book reads as a compiled list of quotes on prayer, and I would say that’s pretty close to accurate. As a result, it doesn’t pull you in and make you want to change. It instead shows you facts and historical traditions.

So while the content is solid, biblical, and robust this book would not be my first pick to help someone else out on prayer. I’d rather send people to Praying the Bible by Donald S Whitney for something short and powerful to inspire immediately life-changing prayer.


Overall I give this book 3 stars. This book read pretty dry for the most part.

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Day 8: The Emmaus Duo

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:13-27

Meditation

“That very day” was the day of Jesus’s resurrection. He wasted no time in greeting His disciples and helping them understand what had taken place to fulfill the prophecies about Him. Jesus met with Mary and then with Peter then moves off quickly to greet these two men. He walks with them for seven miles, a journey that would take three to three and half hours. In that time, Jesus walked through the Scriptures with them and showed them all the passages that foretold of His persecution, death, and resurrection.

Every time I think of this passage my heart longs to be there. I would love to hear Jesus walk through all of the Scriptures that prophesied about Him and see the connections made. I think many of those connections are things we miss today or take for granted. At this time in history, these thoughts would have been mind-blowing. To think that when God tells Satan “you will strike His heel” was a prophecy about Jesus dying and when He said “But he will bruise your head” that foretold us that Jesus would not lose to the deathly poison of the serpent, but would be victorious.

To hear Jesus declare that all the sacrifices in the Torah were representations of what happened at Calvary or to be the first to hear Isaiah 53 preached about the Messiah, Jesus, would be be a marvelous thing. Or to ponder that when Jesus quoted Psalm 22 from the cross, He quoted a Psalm predicted His death and many obscure things that happened that day.

Cleopas and His friend discussed these things when Jesus left them and they realized how deeply true it was. Their hearts burned to share their new knowledge, and so they changed their plans. Instead of staying at Emmaus, they arose and hiked back the seven miles to Jerusalem and greeted the rest of the disciples and swapped stories of what they had heard and seen of Jesus since He rose again.

As they are talking about these things, Jesus enters into their conversation and a deep Scriptural understanding falls upon them all.

Take a Moment

Cleopas shows a passion for sharing the Gospel that should be burning in all our hearts. This man was so overcome with his newfound knowledge that he would not let rest overtake him but immediately goes off on a hike to tell his friends the good news.

When was the last time passion for Jesus overtook you like that? When did a good word from the Lord overwhelm you so that you could not keep it to yourself? This is the attitude we should have among us, that we would be full of the Spirit and overflowing with a passion to share God with those around us.

I pray as Easter dawns this year that you would be reminded anew of the good news of Jesus’s resurrection and what that means for our eternal souls. I pray you would not shrink away from sharing this with those around you, but would eagerly go forth and share all that you have learned so that many others would find the same joy and peace you have found as you’ve been ransomed from hell to adoption in Jesus’s royal family.

Happy Easter!

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1. Victor Books, IL. 1989.

Day 7: The Overlooked Woman

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

Meditation

We often talk about Mary Magdalene’s experience at the empty tomb. She played a prominent role in Scripture and shows up multiple times (at least twelve). But look again at the passage – who is Joanna? How is it that she came to Jesus’s tomb with her spices?

To find the answer we need to roll back the pages of Scripture and see the only other mention of Joanna.

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Luke 8:1-3

Here we see that Joanna is a woman Jesus healed, and we see that she is a wealthy noble — the wife of Herod’s household manager. This position was a prominent one and would have put her in a place of much social and financial power. And what did she do with that power? She financed Jesus’s ministry, providing for His needs with her riches.

Since her husband was Herod’s manager, she likely knew before most of the sham trial of Jesus and His crucifixion. She was good friends with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, who were both there at Jesus’s death when all others had abandoned Him (John 19:25). Johanna was also there among the other women the day Jesus died (Mark 15:41 & Luke 23:55-56). These faithful followers wept that day, and they no doubt conversed about coming together again after the Sabbath to honor Christ’s body with a proper burial.

Once again, Johanna took her money and converted it to use for her Lord. She gathered what she had and met up with her friends and proceeded to the Lord’s tomb. Then the Lord honored these women for their devotion to Him in His darkest hour. For while all the other disciples fled, these women stayed until the last bitter hour. And so they became the last to see Him alive and the first to learn He had risen.

Becoming aware that Jesus had risen from the dead their minds flooded with the sudden realization and understanding of Jesus’s words. It became apparent to them that Jesus prophesied these very events, and learning it they went to tell the rest of the disciples.

Take a Moment

There is so much we can learn from Johanna. We can learn about how God blesses those who are faithful to Him (perhaps not always in this life, but certainly in eternity). We can learn about how a person can be a quiet but necessary impact for the kingdom of God. We can learn about humility and using our finances well.

But there’s one thing I want to focus on today: faithful service.

Here is a woman who came to Jesus with an infirmity and found healing power in our Master’s hands. She recognized the miracle for what it was and began not only to learn from the teaching of Jesus but to become a faithful disciple. She followed Him from town to town and used her riches to aid His ministry needs. No doubt she knew Judas well and was often giving him the finances needed for their success and provision as he was in charge of the money purse.

Her love for Jesus and service to Him was not ended when her friend, Judas, betrayed Jesus. Such a betrayal would have been felt by them all. Someone they trusted arranged for the murder of your teacher and leader — that is not a betrayal lightly felt.

Her faithful service was not over when Jesus was put on trial, indeed she followed Him to the cross. Her faithful service to Him didn’t even end when she thought He died — she went to bury His body properly when His closest friends and disciples fled and hid themselves. And when she learned that He arose from the dead, her faithful service was to take that Gospel message to the disciples that were too scared to visit His tomb. And even there, she faced ridicule as the disciples doubted her story, but she remained faithful all the same.

When you look at your own life, do you remain faithful to Jesus through every trial and turn? I think most of us can look at this woman and see a superior example of faith. This oft-overlooked saint was faithful through the most extreme events of her life but we fail to hold our Lord Jesus in high regard when we get cut off in traffic, experience slander, or feel betrayed by a friend.

Today, let us take a moment and consider how we can best be stirred on to living a faithful life like this beloved child of God, Johanna. Praise the Lord for such a godly example for us to emulate!

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Rinehart, John. The Gospel Patrons Behind Jesus’ Ministry. Available online, visited: April 2, 2021.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1. Victor Books, IL. 1989.

Day 6: The Pharisee

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

John 3:1

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:38-42

Meditation

Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees that we meet early on in John’s account. At the time Nicodemus was afraid to be seen publicly with Jesus and came under cover of darkness to inquire privately of Jesus (John 3:2, 7:13, 9:22, 12:42).

Nicodemus knew Jesus was from God because all that Jesus did confirmed it. But he became confused by Jesus when Jesus told him he must be born again. He was far too practical and thought Jesus meant being physically reborn when Jesus spoke in a metaphor. It was in Jesus’s response to Nicodemus that, perhaps, the most famous verse in Scripture is found:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Just a few chapters later we learn that Nicodemus stood up for Jesus and defended him before his fellow Pharisees (John 7:50-51).

So we see here a Pharisee, schooled in the Scriptures, instantly recognizes that Jesus is a man of God and seeks Him out to learn more. After listening to Jesus, he begins to defend Him and try to dissuade the Pharisees from going after Him. And then we don’t hear Nicodemus’s name again for twelve more chapters. It isn’t until Jesus dies on a cross, that Nicodemus steps into the light again, and honors Jesus with a proper burial.

It’s interesting to note that these two men defiled themselves according to the laws of Moses by touching Jesus’s dead body (Numbers 19:11). For the remainder of the Passover celebration, they would have to be removed from the festivities because of their ritual uncleanliness. Not only did these two men make themselves unclean, but they went to great lengths and sacrifice to honor Jesus. Joseph gave up his tomb and Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of spices to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial.

And all of this they did quickly. Jesus’s trial began in the final hours of Thursday. He was crucified on Friday. Dead by 3 pm. And buried before the day ended so that the Sabbath could be honored.

Take a Moment

In Nicodemus, we get to see a spiritual journey rarely outlined in the pages of Scripture. We don’t know exactly when He put his faith in Jesus as Lord, but we get to see him ask questions, defend the Lord from an unjust attack, and ultimately honor the Lord in His brief visit with death.

Nicodemus shows us what it looks like to be an honorable man among a dishonorable body of people. While all the Pharisees he worked with day in and day out wanted to maintain power and put an innocent man to death, Nicodemus protected Jesus behind the scenes and took care to help out where he could.

Even today, such dark things happen in our churches and workplaces. People scheme behind closed doors and aim to get rid of people that threaten their power or make them uncomfortable. In modern times getting “rid” of someone does not usually involve death, but it does often involve attacking the person’s character, gossip, slander, and other such evil things. How we respond when we see such evil is a sign of our own hearts. Do we stand up for those that cannot stand up for themselves? Do we push back against unjust attacks and political moves to push people out? This is the very call of God on our lives to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Nicodemus, raised in the laws of God, had these principles down and loved Jesus well as he performed his duty among the enemies of God with all righteous piety. Do you live the same way?

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1. Victor Books, IL. 1989.

Day 5: The Boy

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Mark 15:21

Meditation

Picture the scene: Your father has taken you on a long journey from your home in Rome 1,434 miles away to the holy city, Jerusalem. You’ve walked large portions of it, been carried by cart or donkey, to attend one of the largest religious celebrations of the year, Passover. Or perhaps you took a boat, either way, your journey likely took weeks, the excitement building all the way, what will this vacation entail?

To pass the time away on this long journey, you’ve been chatting away with your brother Alexander, and playing guess the accent for all the people you encounter. Your father has taken some key moments to remind you of the importance of Passover and how it is a reminder of the slavery of your people at the hands of the Egyptians, and the power of God to overcome and move you swiftly to safety. It’s a reminder of the speed at which Israel had to depart, and is full of special foods to commemorate the experience.

When you get to Jerusalem, you begin to take in the sights and sounds of a seemingly foreign country. The people still speak your language and much of the culture is the same, but there’s just something different and exciting here. You hear whispers from the grown-ups as they talk about a man riding into town on a donkey, a sign that the government will soon be overthrown, and the oppression your people now experience will vanish.

You hear them talk about how this same man ran the priests out of the temple with a whip and a fiery speech about how they’re stealing from God and honorable men like your father.

Last night you partook of the Seder meal. It had all the familiar elements you’re used to, but the odd events in the town have put a strange atmosphere above it all. But still, the only thing truly wrong was that Alexander found the Afikomen before you did.

Today your father pulls you and your brother aside and says there’s a crucifixion taking place and you’ll see a glimpse of the procession as you make your way through town. As you do, the soldiers are there clearing the way for these criminals. One of them falls, his heavy beam too heavy for his broken, tattered, naked body to carry. He struggles to rise. Something is different about him. The other criminal’s bodies aren’t ripped and bleeding… they weren’t flogged, why was he?

As you ponder these thoughts you feel your father shake your hand. Looking up, you realize he’s been drafted by the soldiers to carry the beam. “Follow closely my sons, and be on your best behavior.” You know that by law a Roman soldier can force your father to walk one mile carrying this man’s cross. There’s not much to do, but follow your father and blend into the procession.

You hear the sneers:

“Didn’t prophecy this, did you?”

“This is what you get for ransacking the temple.”

“Thought you could be our king, did you? We only have one king!”

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself!”

“Pilate’s wife, the dreamer, says he’s righteous, but even Pilate condemned him to death.”

While you take in these snide comments, a group of women swoops you up, beckoning you as they cry. “We’ll keep you safe until you can rejoin your father.”

You soon find out that these women are the only friends of this man that remained nearby. They weep over him. And as your father is freed from his duty of carrying the cross, he comes back changed. Shook. You can tell something is nagging at him.

As the day wears on you learn that this man did nothing wrong. That while the list of crimes nailed above his head declares him to be “Jesus, King of the Jews,” His only “crime” was upsetting the religious leaders. They couldn’t stand their power being stripped away and questioned, so they arranged to have him put to death.

Over the next days and weeks, you learn more of the godly character of this man. You hear He is no longer dead and you learn what it truly means to love God. Your family becomes bound to these women through the trauma of that day. And you accept that Jesus is God and begin to follow Him. Later, you related these truths to your mother and she too believes and follows Jesus.

Take a Moment

Is that how it all went down? We don’t know. But what we do know is that Rufus and Alexander were there that day when Simon carried the cross of Jesus the final distance to die on our behalf. We know that Rufus was someone Paul carried deeply about as he says in Romans 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” We know that this day changed Rufus forever and he became one of the first people in Rome to spread the Gospel of Christ.

As we ponder this young man, we know that Simon, Rufus, and Alexander walked away different that day. They asked questions, perhaps they even offered comfort to the grieving women. I’m sure Simon felt some amount of guilt for carrying that cross the final mile. And we know that the extent to which they were changed had rippling effects moving even his mother to accept Christ as Lord.

And as we think about who Rufus became, what little we know from Paul’s greetings in Romans, we know that Rufus did not abandon the faith. He remained steadfast in a place and time where everyone would have doubted his story. Who would believe that his father carried the cross of a condemned man who later rose from the dead? He didn’t back down while being confronted and mocked. Can you say the same?

Our Christian faith today is intimately tied to stories of men like this. Their tenacity for the truth anchors our faith and our long religious traditions.

While we know almost nothing about Rufus, but that tells us something about God too. He cares deeply about everyone, even a small child traumatized by the murderous events of Black Friday. If our Father cares so deeply about this little lost boy, we can be confident that He cares for us too. Take a moment and praise God for His big heart and compassionate spirit that sent Jesus to death that you might have eternal life.

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Passover – Pesach: History & Overview. Available online, visited: March 31, 2021.

Day 4: The Dreamer

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Matthew 27:17-19

Meditation

Pilate’s wife is an interesting character. She clearly had influence over her husband. We see in the passage her warning to Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus does prompts Pilate to try and get Jesus released by offering up a murderer instead. She had a prophetic dream and used her influence to act upon what she learned.

Pilate tried to take actions in accord with what his wife asked of him, but did so as diplomatically as he could, and lost to the will of the people. At first, he used Jesus to patch up his relationship with Herod when he learned that Jesus was a Galilean. But ultimately, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Then, he tried to appease the people by offering them the release of a prisoner, either Jesus who had done no wrong or a violent convicted murderer and thief, Barabbas.

Based on His wife’s vision and His own investigation of Jesus, Pilate tried to keep his hands clean in this matter with three distinct actions. First, he literally washed his hands in front of the people declaring that it was on them that Jesus was to die and not on him. The people responded with their acceptance the guilt. Second, he publicly declared that Jesus was just and not deserving of death. Third, he offered to punish Jesus with a grueling beating and then release him, but the people remained steadfast in their desire for death.

Take a Moment

Two things that strike at my heart as I contemplate this passage.

First, these nonbelievers knew what was happening was wrong, but the religious people would not hear it. How often are Christians guilty of this today? We see someone suffering, and because we believe them to be in sin, we do nothing to lift their burden. Instead, we say that it is right for them to be punished and they need to learn to be content in their place before God. But this is not the grace we have in Jesus. He did not look at us, see our sin, and think: “It is right that they should go to hell for their sins, and it is right for me to go to heaven. Therefore, Lord, I reject the cup you have for me and choose to live in heaven now.” What a wretched thought! Indeed, Jesus took pity on us and hefted the murderous cross that He might bring about our salvation.

Second, Pilate’s wife stepped in when she saw wrong being done and did what was in her power to do to try and stop it. How much more like Jesus we would be if we followed this example. When we see injustice being done, we should stop and offer aid and protection to the victims and make them aware of the One who did that for us all.

Take a moment and thank God for stooping down to us in our time of need and offering His own life on our behalf.

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1. Victor Books, IL. 1989.

Day 3: The Money Changers

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.

Mark 11:15-19

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 2:13-22

Meditation

Two days ago, we talked about how Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt and declared His kingship. At the end of that passage in Mark 11:11, it says that Jesus went into the temple and looked about and as it was late, He left and went to Bethany to spend the night.

Two days later, He comes to the temple again and flips tables of the money changers, empties their coins upon the ground, drives the animal sacrifices from the area, and fashions a whip to drive the money changers out of the area as well

The events took place in the temple and the evil acts of thievery were committed by priests of God against Gentiles. That is to say, these holy men were set up in the part of the temple for people that were not born into the Jewish nation. The priests weren’t just stealing from people, they were targeting a specific demographic of people, people they thought were less than them. People God had not seen fit to have been born of the blood of Abraham. These priests showed up to make a profit off of those who were not Jewish, and indeed were the very people they ought to be evangelizing.

What would it have been like to be there? What would it have been like to be the priests Jesus whipped and drove out of the temple?

Take a Moment

This is a story that tells us about righteous anger. When we get angry our anger is usually quick and red hot. Someone does something and sets off our rage. But Jesus saw what was happening in the temple the day before and did nothing. It was only when He went back the next day that His zeal for God’s house consumed Him and He went to work. His actions were thought out and meticulous. He fashioned a whip – not a quick task, overturned tables, spilled money on the ground, and yelled at the pigeons sellers to flee with their goods.

It is good for us to remember that in the days leading up to His arrest, trial, and death, Jesus was making His every action about the glory of God. He would not allow God’s temple to be defiled in front of Him. He would not allow hypocrisy and greed to separate Gentiles from the Lord. He would not allow anything to get between us and the Father.

Where are you in this story? Are you the Gentile looking in and wondering what this crazy faith is all about when you see Christians defaming God with their actions? Are you the money changer, capitalizing on legalism and the pain of others? Or are you Jesus, doing everything you can to remove barriers that separate us all from a relationship with the Almighty?

This passion week, where is your zeal? Are you letting anything get in the way of your fellowship with God?

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Ramsey, Russ. Easter Week in Real Time. Available online, originally posted: April 10, 2017

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1. Victor Books, IL. 1989.

Day 2: The Concubine

Photo by Hugo Fergusson on Unsplash

Reading

The reading for this meditation is longer and darker than most of my devotionals, so I’ll provide a link to the full story here: Judges 17-21. Some have referred to this story as the darkest in all of Scripture and others as the “texts of terror” with chapter 19 being the key focus of disgust and of this devotional.

Meditation

The book of Judges is a death spiral that begins at the height of Jewish joy ~ freedom from Egyptian oppression and slavery and forty years of wandering the desert. They’ve found their joy at last in God’s promised land. With Joshua as their leader, they took the promised land and began to make it their home. With Joshua’s death, the era of judges began. Each judge had the solemn duty of rescuing Israel from oppression yet again and reestablishing peace for God’s people.

But as soon as that judge died, they went and worshiped other gods and forgot all that God had done for them. Of twelve deliverers mentioned in Judges only two are listed without fault (Othniel and Deborah), and each deliverer had worse faults than the last. The cycle in Judges repeated continually: rebellion, punishment, cry out, God raises up a judge, Israel is delivered, the land has peace, and then back to step one.

By the end of the book, the judges and priests have joined the people in their rebellion against God. Truly all the people do what is right in their own eyes and ignore all that God has to say and all that He has done. A great weight is on us as we read this book, each chapter is darker than the last and by the end, you want to throw your Bible across the room in frustration with how dense and evil the Israelites are. They would sell their mother for two more seconds of sexual gratification with another person’s spouse. There is nothing redeemable in all of Israel.

The last image we’re left with is a nameless concubine of a Levite priest from Bethlehem being raped and dismembered and her body sent throughout Israel riding on a donkey. So what does this have to do with Passion Week? Read the words of Kat Armstrong:

Take a Moment

You may feel as low and helpless as this poor, tortured concubine in Judges, trampled and run down by life and sinful man. You may be battered, bruised, and physically scarred by the trials of your life. You may be emotionally drained, slumped on your couch as you dwell unprofitably on the hardships you’ve faced…

But so has Jesus. Jesus overcame abuse, violence, torture, and death. Jesus overcame it all so that you might find healing in His hands and grace in His kingdom. He offers you salvation and hope and eternal life. All you have to do is believe in Him, His life, death, and resurrection. He will redeem your pain and give you a new life and a new home in the heavenly realm. Turn to Jesus and rest your hopes on Him.

Check back each day this week for a new passion week devotion focused on the minor characters. A summary of all the passion week devotions can be found here.

More Resources

Armstrong, Kat. Twitter Thread. Originally posted: April 5, 2020.

Block, Daniel I. The New American Commentary: Judges, Ruth Vol 6. B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN. 1999.

Davis, Dale Ralph. Judges Such A Great Salvation. Christian Focus, Grand Rapids, MI. 2000.

Halley, Henry H. Deluxe Edition Halley’s Bible Handbook. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2007.

Larson, Gary N. The New Unger’s Bible Handbook. Moody Press, Chicago, IL. 1984.

Webb, Barry G. The Book of Judges. William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI. 2012.