Straight Lines with Crooked Sticks
SUNDAY, April 2
Jesus comes into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, riding on a donkey and colt along with his delegation of misfit disciples. Seeing this, many would recall the words of Zechariah 9:9 and celebrate the certain liberation the Messiah would bring. In response, the crowds waved palm branches, symbols of triumph. They were right in celebrating the coming King, but they were wrong in their understanding how this King would claim victory and take his rightful throne. Years ago, I heard the saying “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.” Even as the crowds celebrated Jesus’s entrance, Messiah Jesus was undoing their crooked interpretation and celebration while drawing a straight line to the cross, the fulfillment of salvation God had planned since the beginning.
Jesus, as I celebrate your triumphal entry as King, conform my eyes, heart, and mind to your ways so I may better partner with you in your redemptive work in my life and the world. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: SEEKING PEACE IN OUR WORLD
He Is More Than We Expect
MONDAY, April 3
Now that he’s arrived, we wait to see what this Messiah will do and who he will be. We raised our voices and made public declarations for him in the streets, yet he went to the hill and wept (Luke 19:41-42).
We celebrated our presumed rise to power, yet in the temple Jesus defends the bruised and weary while refusing to be extinguished or broken until justice has been established (Luke 19:45-46). We wanted a messiah whose victory and reign would be exclusively for our people and in our place, but this Jesus, who rode the donkey and colt, came to establish justice for the nations with the authority of the one who created the heavens and earth. For all who are weary and wayward, broken and blind, poor and imprisoned, we are beginning to see that
the chosen One will be and bring what we cannot: hope and salvation.
Jesus, may we trust you with our bruises and fatigue and stay hopeful as you remain sovereign over all creation. AMEN.
TUESDAY, April 4
There is a deeply intimate aspect of Jesus’s final week. His disciples walk alongside him as he enters Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds, watch him as he turns tables in the temple, listen to him confront religious leaders, eat with him as he breaks bread and pours the cup, and observe from a distance as he is arrested to be crucified. Even then, as they certainly felt like islands to themselves, they saw their Lord bound to them in intimate relationship and love. At the same time, from the view of the Father, Jesus’s journey, example, teachings, feedings, and sacrifice on the cross are “as a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (v. 6, CEB). The salvation of our Messiah is always intimately personal and universally accessible.
Jesus, you have come that I may know and be brought to fullness by your love; give me opportunities to receive and extend this love this week. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: BEING GENEROUS IN OUR TIME FOR OTHERS
Love Is Not the Victim
WEDNESDAY, April 5
I was writing a paper on the Lord’s Supper while watching the results of the presidential election in 2016. As I watched Christians celebrate and chastise each other over the victory or defeat of their political ideologies, I experienced a profound dissonance from the divine love shown by our Messiah as he served the bread of his body and the cup of his blood to his betrayer. It is good to remember that Love is never the victim. Love chooses sacrifice over power, service over domination, and divine humility over worldly victory. The way of Love is a call to see evil in all its forms with clear eyes and subvert it with the bread and cup, body and blood, and death and resurrection so we may fulfill Jesus’s command: to love as he has loved us.
Jesus, may my love for others be as tangible as the bread and the cup so that all will know, by my love, that I am your disciple. AMEN.
Doing as He Has Done
THURSDAY (Maundy), April 6
Generally speaking, I prefer to be the person who serves as opposed to the one being served. This feeling is accentuated when I am served by someone with authority over me. There is an imbalance of power and obligation that’s created, and I’ve been conditioned to avoid such imbalances and obligations. Yet here Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Jesus does not concern himself with attempts to sustain the status quo of power; rather, he gives us a new way, of joyfully receiving our Messiah’s love and humbly living a life that does for others what he has done for us. In this way of doing and being, the world will know the way of power and love in the kingdom of God.
Jesus, forgive me for the ways I resist your love and care. Soften my heart that I may be more ready to humbly serve those around me. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: FARMERS AND THE CROPS THEY ARE PLANTING
Who Is this Jesus?
FRIDAY (Good), April 7
This is the grand question: Who is this Jesus? Is he the king of the Jews? Is he a blasphemer, innocent, guilty, a mockery, Messiah, or the Son of God? Some ran away from him while others beat him. The men who were closest to him betrayed or abandoned him while the women who followed him stayed close through the end. Criminals who died alongside him hurled insults while a Roman centurion proclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Today, we have the weighty privilege to answer, yet again, the question Jesus asks: “Who do you say I am?” This time, we answer in the shadow of the cross.
Jesus, you are my Lord who sets the rule for my life and my Savior who sets my life free from the chains of sin. Today I believe this to be true—but help me in my unbelief. AMEN.
Faithfully Present or Guarded by Fear
SATURDAY (Holy), April 8
Joseph of Arimathea is faithfully present with Jesus as he looks upon the broken body of his Lord. He tenderly wraps Jesus in clean linens and places him in Joseph’s own unused tomb. Mary and Mary of Magdalene were near the tomb, faithfully present with the one whom they had loved and been loved by. Not long after, the Pharisees remain suspicious and fearful as they place guards at the tomb to ensure their power remains uncontested.
We’ve been here before, in Bethlehem, in a stable, gathered around a manger. We know the resurrection is coming, yet in the waiting, will we choose to fear what the Messiah’s victory means for our own power—or will we choose to be faithfully present with our Jesus?
Jesus, it is easy to feel as if the enemy has won and all hope has been lost, yet I trust your victory and remain faithfully present in this waiting. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: AWARENESS AND CARE OF THOSE IN NEED