Friday, March 24
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.
I am always struck by how few words Jesus uttered in his final hours of life.
If I were gasping for my final breaths and people were spewing forth all manner of nauseating things about me, I am certain I would have plenty to say.
But Jesus, he said so little, often nothing at all. Listen to him as his final days drew near, notice how his most poignant words were often no words at all.
Quiet, quiet, quiet…Listen, listen, listen…absolute silence…
Even when Jesus did not speak, his words continue to bewilder us—they do not slam his adversaries with bombast, rancor, and ridicule. Even when Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” he did not reply, “What kind of fool are you?” He simply said, “You say so.” When all manner of venom was spit at him, according to Matthew, Jesus “did not answer.”
As the old African American spiritual would have it, “Jesus never said a mumblin’ word.”
Sometimes, in our deepest hour of need, the greatest grace is not to say a mumblin’ word and to let God do the talking.
Let us pray…“For God alone my soul waits in silence. Amen.”
Pastor Wilbert Miller
Thursday, March 23
But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
What would you do with these 30 pieces of silver?
Wednesday, March 22
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
“Oh, dear Judas, why ever did you lose hope?”
Over and over again, people come to my office, close the door, and weep. Almost always they say something like, “Pastor, you are never going to believe what I am about to tell you. When you hear it, you will never respect me again.”
Oh, poor Judas…
Never are our sins so bad that we can’t be redeemed. Never!
If only Judas had remained a bit longer, stood at Calvary and stared into Jesus’ eyes. If only he could have heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Oh, poor Judas, if only he could have listened, if only he could have heard what I pray we all hear week after week…“In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins. Amen.”
Pastor Wilbert Miller
Tuesday, March 21
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
“When morning came” means the priests and the council, the elders, were up all night conferring, figuring out what to be done. Probably arguing. What were they conferring about? Would their treatment of Jesus curry favor with the Romans? What would be the consequences of letting Him go? Was Jesus a threat to their power or not? Even if they agreed He was a threat, that couldn’t be their stated reason to condemn Him, could it? Were they considering the “right” choice or the political choice? How can we not see this as a political decision, a decision about social power? Then, as now and as always, groups coalesce around a position or an ideology and form their own system of truths. Groups jostle for power, to be in the position to spread their truth. Jesus shows, by dispensing of all power, the futility of this. God’s love is the one truth, the one power.
Monday, March 20
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
As a kid playing “Church” with my brother Pete, this passage of Peter denying Jesus—three times!—provided great material: the observant servant-girls and bystanders; Peter’s escalating denials abundant with mendacity, cowardice and fear (and curses and oaths!); both Jesus’s prophecy about—and the “sound effect” of—the crowing rooster; the drama of Peter’s “wake up” crow and bitter weeping. Pete and I could sink our teeth into this.
Pete was the Pastor, I was the Organist. The “organ” was an end table (the one that held The Holy Bible, The Lutheran Hymnal engraved with our mom’s name and confirmation year, and a current “Portals of Prayer”) with the drawer pulled out. I would pretend that open drawer was a keyboard and would hum the notes of Lenten hymns.
Though generally well behaved, Pete and I could identify with Peter: “getting caught” and trying to weasel out of it. But we also imagined that we would have the fortitude, if not the first time challenged by a servant-girl then certainly the second, to say as we’d been taught Martin Luther had said in Worms in a rather different context, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” And we had verse 13 of Hymn (TLH) 143, “Oh Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken” to guide us:
Whate’er of earthly good this life may grant me,
I’ll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me.
I shall not fear what man can do to harm me
Nor death alarm me.
Peter may have been afraid—for his life, even—and mishandled the situation, but we would surely do better.
It took about three decades before I realized that I habitually activated my own denials time and time again. How many times did I fail to mention, to avoid “getting into it” or “embarrassing” myself, that I hoped for a later Sunday brunch or lunch time with friends because I was going to Mass, or that I had a meeting at my church on a given night and hoped for a rain-check? How many times did I miss the opportunity to stand up, and say, “Here I am, with Jesus!” Where’s the witness in that? Aren’t these denials, too? It was during Lent at Holy Trinity, years ago, when my ear finally tuned to hear that cock crow—for me. I hope—and pray—I am doing better.
Let us pray…Dear Lord Jesus, I’ll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me. In Your Name, I pray. Amen.
Third Sunday in Lent, March 19
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”
It seems the high priest recognized that the accusers had no case against Jesus and was not sure how to proceed, BLASPHEMY???
Jesus’ claim that “he will be seated at the right hand of God” is to the unbelieving priest and angry crowd a clear case of blasphemy. Now they can bring forth their verdict, “He deserves death,” the crowd shouts for him to respond. In maintaining his silence, Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 53: 7, “Open not his month, like a lamb is led to the slaughter.” Jesus’ willingness to die for our sins is an amazing concept. I need to ponder this: Jesus died for ours sins, died so that we may live, went into the darkness so we could see the light. BLASPHEMY??? sacrilege? He is the Son of God and God’s will is done.
My prayer for this day…Dear Lord, thank you for your gift of sacrifice and love. Help me to stay focus in this Lenten season on these wondrous gifts. Amen.