And So It Begins

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story or heard the story proclaimed. I know the victory with which the story will end. But there is always a part of me when we get to this part of Jesus’s story that wants it to take a different turn. Surely, this time all the people involved will realize how things ought to be. Judas will have learned his lesson and decide not to betray Jesus. Peter will have learned his lesson and decide not to deny Jesus. The Pharisees, scribes, chief Priests, and rulers of the Jews will have learned their lesson and decide not to crucify the Son of Man. Sometimes, I even want Jesus to teach them all a lesson, show them all who’s boss, and drop the bomb on them all. Yet, here I am reading for the thousandth time, and every one of these make the same mistakes over and over again. Well, Jesus wasn’t making a mistake. And, of course, that is the key. In this whole sordid mess, Jesus was the only one who knew what He was doing. And He was doing it for me. Because, as painful as it is for me to watch for the thousandth time, I am just like Judas, Peter, the Jewish leaders. You would think I had learned my lesson. But I have made the same mistakes over and over again. As a friend of mine reminds me, let’s not soften the blow. They weren’t mistakes, they were sins. I am a sinner, and I need what Jesus is giving. As much as I find it hard to read what Jesus is going to go through, it is the only thing that can save me. I need Him to keep making that choice. And so it begins. Judas is betraying Him. Peter is denying Him. The apostles are fleeing Him. The Jews are condemning Him. And it is all because I rebelled against Him, but He loves me anyway. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 23.

Continue reading “And So It Begins”

Pray to Avoid Temptation

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

The night of His betrayal had come. Jesus knew it would happen. He knew who would betray Him. He knew how the rest of His disciples would react. His instruction to His disciples in order to prepare was simple: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” The statement has a dual meaning. First, pray. And when you pray, make sure you are asking God to help you avoid, overcome, and defeat temptation. You can’t do it without His help and strength. As Jesus had instructed in His model prayer, though it is the most confusing bit, we pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” However, there is a second direction this prayer leads us. Pray. And by praying, by praying intensely, by praying repeatedly, by praying continually, you can overcome temptation. Prayer combats temptation not merely because we ask for help in the time of temptation but because prayer itself, whether the words of the prayer address the temptation or not, is a discipline that fights against temptation. The greatest part of Jesus’s teaching here is not that He said “Pray that you may not enter into temptation,” but that He exemplified it. Jesus was facing the darkest moments of His life. Satan would be taking up his weapons to get Jesus to cave. At any moment, Jesus could abandon the plan and avoid the agony, both physical and spiritual, of the cross. How did He combat the temptation? He prayed. If Jesus prayed to avoid temptation, how much more should we? Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

Continue reading “Pray to Avoid Temptation”

Beware Judas

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

What is up with Judas? How could this happen? Why did Jesus even let him into the group? There are plenty of opinions regarding how this happened. I think the most likely is Judas made it into the group because he was just as qualified to be in the group of disciples and apostles as the other 11. Think about it. We tend to see Judas through the negative lens because we know how the story ends for him. However, it is clear none of those who worked with him saw him that way. He was set up to be their keeper of the purse, the treasurer if you will. None of the other apostles questioned his sincerity and loyalty. When Jesus says someone at the table would betray Him, each disciple was concerned it would be himself. None of them said, “I knew you shouldn’t have let Judas in.” And this leads us to the warning we need to consider. When we say that we need to beware Judas, we are not saying that we need to watch everyone around us carefully and see if we can weed out the traitors around us. No. We need to watch ourselves. We need to fearlessly and thoroughly examine our own hearts. We need to find where the chinks in our loyalty to king Jesus are because the enemy will exploit them. The enemy will lead us down a primrose path that ends with betraying our King and ultimately destroying ourselves. Beware Judas, not the Judas out there, but the Judas within. We must never think it couldn’t be me. We need to be radically honest with ourselves and with our King. That is the only way to beware Judas.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

Continue reading “Beware Judas”

Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?

Today’s reading is Matthew 26.

Recently, I had the blessing of hearing an author’s take on why Judas betrayed Jesus. I got a great deal out of the presentation. However, his take was not quite the same as mine. In addition to that, I’ve heard from other people even different perspectives than these two. And so, reading of Judas’s betrayal again today has me asking, “Why?” What really prompted this betrayal? And why doesn’t God go ahead and specify? Then it hits me. I believe there is great benefit in thinking through the possible motivations. I’ve learned a great deal about Judas and also about me from the different perspectives. However, at the end of the day, what God demonstrates is the why is not nearly as important as the fact that he did. Whether Judas was trying to force Jesus’s hand to go ahead and establish the kingdom, whether he was disillusioned with Jesus’s kind of kingdom, whether he thought Jesus would not be condemned and so this was a great opportunity to get some money and no one would get hurt (my personal leaning), or some other motivation, Judas betrayed Jesus. That is the point that matters. We have all kinds of reasons for our sins. Some reasons seem rational, but none of them really are. Some reasons make sense to me on the surface, but really none of the reasons do. The point here is no matter the motivation, sin is never the right choice. Judas sinned and whether we can make psychological sense out of his motivation or not is in many ways beside the point. The same is true for our sins. Why did you sin? Why did I? Really, it doesn’t matter. We now need a Savior to forgive us and free us from them. I don’t know why you sinned, but I do know why you need Jesus. Let’s turn to Him today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 27.

Continue reading “Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?”

Why Judas?

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked Judas as one of the twelve? He knew the future. He knew how it would end up. But He picked him anyway. Was Judas a bad guy and Jesus just needed a bad guy to make sure He got betrayed in the end? I don’t think so. Judas was apparently good enough that none of the rest had a problem with him being in charge of the money bag. He wasn’t an obviously bad, awful man filling a spot and biding time for Jesus. I suggest Judas was chosen because Judas was qualified. By God’s grace, he had everything he needed to be a great disciple of Jesus and a great apostle. However, at the same time, he also had everything he needed to be a betrayer. The fact is Judas is just like us. We have everything it takes to be a traitor, but by the grace of God we also have everything it takes to be great disciples and servants of Jesus. The question is which will we choose. Start today. Which will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 5.

Continue reading “Why Judas?”

Not My Will, But Yours

Today’s reading is Mark 14.

Jesus expresses the heart of discipleship in His prayer. Not my will be done, but Yours. And this is the hardest part of growth. Far too often we read our will into every situation, into every Scripture, into every story. We don’t even realize we are doing it. Lo and behold, when it is all said and done, we end up exactly where we wanted to. This is not to say God’s will is always completely opposed to ours. But let us be cautious, and let us always strive to be like Jesus. May we always say, “Not my will, but Yours be done in my life.” That is discipleship.

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 15.

Continue reading “Not My Will, But Yours”