Please join me as we remember — in fasting (if you are able), prayer and meditation — the final day of Jesus’ initial earthly life, as the cross loomed, and then became a very real and eternally meaningful reality. Please use this guide to pray and meditate throughout the day on Friday. – Jim Churm
Morning – Remember Jesus in the Garden: Do We Pass the Cup In Our Lives?
Read Matthew 26:36-46
Most theologians believe that in Jesus’ final day before His crucifixion He could acutely feel the Father leaving Him. The bonds of perfect cosmic love and fellowship within the pre-existing triune Godhead were shredding; the Father was turning His face away. We’ve all suffered disintegrations in relationships through quarrels, break-ups, and ultimately in the deaths of those we love. These are always painful, and sometimes seem utterly impossible to bear. Yet our pain in such circumstances is a tiny drop in an infinite ocean compared to what the fully God and fully human Jesus experienced as He went into the garden to pray after the last supper was finished.
It is understandable that Jesus said to Peter, James and John, whom He brought along, “My soul is very sorrowful.” We as humans can understand why Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me …” We would almost certainly do the same simply facing the horror of crucifixion – I know I would. We can’t even imagine the worse reality, infinitely worse than the pain of the cross itself, of Jesus’ separation from the Father.
Yet Jesus, a model in everything, here models perfect obedience to God’s will, no matter the cost. After asking if it were possible for the cup of the cross to be avoided, Jesus immediately prayed, “… nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And later, he prayed again, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And Jesus indeed obeyed the Father’s will, as “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)
Jesus invited Peter, John and James into the garden with Him – an invitation of incredible grace. What a privilege of being with the Lord of the universe, through whom all was made, at the very epicenter of all human history! And what did they do? They fell asleep, once, and after Jesus wakened them a second time. Jesus said this after waking Peter: “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”
Can we – can I – watch with Jesus for even one hour? Am I willing to say to God, “I’m full of fear and trepidation about where you are leading me in your service. My human preference is to do something else. But your will be done, Father”? Please pray that God continues to conform you into the image of Christ, to give us a willingness to follow His will, not matter how tired and sleepy we are, no matter how inconvenient to our earthbound and plans, and, ultimately, no matter the cost.
Noon – Remember Peter: Do We Deny Knowing Jesus?
Read Matthew 26:69-75
At the last supper Jesus foretold that Peter would deny Him three times, and Peter, utterly in keeping with his distinctive headstrong and passionate character, answered: “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” Then merely a few hours later, as Jesus was being tried, in the courtyard outside Peter strongly and publicly asserted that he did not know Jesus — not once or twice but indeed three times. This is the same Peter who had seen firsthand the miracles Jesus performed, who had seen Jesus walk on water and raise Lazarus from the dead – indeed, who had been present for the transfiguration, and had heard the voice of the Father Himself cascade down from heaven declaring “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Despite all of this, and a quite evident and deep love for and commitment to Jesus, the denials came.
Now, I’m sure Peter was downright terrified when he did this, fearful for his very life. How often do we, how often do I, deny Christ under monumentally less duress and highly comfortable circumstances? How often when we are with secular friends or in a secular setting do we hesitate to identify ourselves as belonging to Jesus, to tell others that He is at (or should be at) the center of our lives, that we have the ultimate hope and confidence that no matter what befalls us we will live with Christ forever, not because we deserve to but by His sheer grace and the perfect effectiveness of Christ’s death as payment for our sins? How often do we fail to tell people the Gospel, or to even look and pray for opportunities to tell it?
As importantly, how do we conduct our lives? Do people see the Gospel in the way we conduct ourselves? Or are we conformed to the image of this world? Do we ask God to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that He might in us produce the Spirit’s fruit, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control”? (Galatians 5:22-23) Do we lead lives of Biblical integrity?
Ultimately, can we say with Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”? Pray that God increases in us the desire and willingness to not deny Jesus, but to truly embrace him, in thought, word, and deed, as savior, and as Lord our lives, and of all.
Evening – Remember the Lord’s Death: Why the Cross was Necessary
Read Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:9-26; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Romans 6:23
The cross was necessary because we are sinners, each and every one of us – every human being who ever lived. Today equally as in David’s time, “there is none who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) God could have left us in our sin and therefore to our own destruction – it would have been just for Him to do so, because we have openly rebelled against our perfect maker.
Yet God is not just a God of perfect justice, but also of perfect love. How can these two fundamental and seemingly conflicting attributes of our God be reconciled? If God indeed is perfect in His righteousness, He could not just say with reference to our sin, “That’s ok, don’t worry about it, come back into my presence.” An infinite penalty had to be imposed; an infinite debt had to be paid.
So Jesus, preexisting with the Father and Spirit before the beginning of time, the three in perfect communion, took on flesh, came to earth, was born fully human (while remaining fully God) in the humblest of circumstances, and as is often said lived the perfect life that we are incapable of living and died the death we all deserve. Christ’s death on the cross paid our penalty; we have been reconciled forever with God, freed from all sin past present and future, so that even in our ongoing but decreasing (hopefully) imperfection we may serve Christ now as He calls His people and builds His kingdom, with the confidence that one day we will live with Him forever.
Meditate and pray on this, and confess your sins to God. And if you can please join the Solano Community Church community Friday evening at 6:30pm at Ocean View Elementary as we gather to corporately observe Christ’s crucifixion and bring our prayers and petitions to our amazingly good God.