Briercrest Chapel: Approaching the Cross
Hey everyone! I hope that you are through the major assignments push as we head into the last week of classes and the beginning of exams. If not, press on! You got this! I think there is something special about that final push: it shows you that you can do things that would have felt impossible at the beginning of the semester
Once again, if you have any questions or just want to chat with me, I’m always available at email@example.com or on Facebook. I love to hear your prayer requests, testimonies, and feedback on the blog.
This week is ‘Holy Week’ in the church calendar, so we’ll take a little break from our ‘Kingdom of God’ theme to focus on preparing ourselves for Good Friday and Easter.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis and school being shut down, it might be easy to ‘skim over’ the Easter season. But I think there is a unique opportunity with life moving a little slower to stop and prepare our hearts for this important time.
If you aren’t familiar with the Church calendar, no worries! I’m no expert myself. Basically, seasons like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are all part of our regular, yearly calendar as Christians—kind of like a guide for our worship. I think most of us are pretty familiar with Advent, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
The week leading up to Easter Sunday is called Holy Week. Generally during this week Christians take time to reflect on the last days of Jesus’s ministry leading up to his death on the cross (which is the focus of Good Friday). That’s what we’ll be doing this week. I want us to reflect on a couple key passages from the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry as we approach the cross together on Friday.
Today’s Passage: Luke 19:45–46
At the end of Luke 19 we get Luke’s version of the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. You know, the one where Jesus is flipping tables, driving out sellers, and basically shutting everything down?
But wait a second… Luke’s version of the story doesn’t include all that?! In fact, it’s just two short lines:
“Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, ‘It is written, my house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.’”
If you compare this version of the story with the other Gospels (Mark 11:15-17; Matthew 21:12-17; John 2:13-22), you’ll notice that Luke doesn’t give us all the information. His story is surprisingly short.
I think a big reason for this is Luke wants us to focus on the passages that Jesus quotes from Scripture. The quotation has two parts: “My house shall be a house of prayer” (from Isaiah 56:7) and “You have made it a ‘den of robbers’” (from Jeremiah 7:11).
In Isaiah 56, God commands people (even Gentiles!) to do justice and keep his statutes. God says he will gather those who do these things to his temple, which will be called a house of prayer (56:7). On the flip side, in Jeremiah 7:11, God accuses Israel of making the temple into a den of robbers, by oppressing the weak (7:6), stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely, and going after other gods (7:9).
What's the point? God is warning the people that if they think they can go about their lives committing all these wicked deeds, giving themselves to worshipping other gods, and then come into the temple and worship as if everything is okay, they’re wrong. They are mistaken if they think they can worship God at one moment, and then go out and totally ignore everything he says. Their worship is not valid if they continue to disobey him.
By quoting these words from the prophets, I think Jesus is making the same point to the Jewish leaders of the temple in his day: they can’t go about disregarding what God has said, taking advantage of the weak and vulnerable, gathering riches for themselves, seeking to murder Jesus, and then assume that because they are in the temple they are “okay.” By acting in these ways, they make the temple no more than a den of robbers.
What’s here for us?
As we approach the cross this week, I want to invite us to hear Jesus’s warning to the Jewish leadership. We might not have a physical temple anymore, but there are still ways we can compromise our worship.
If you are like me, you were raised on songs like “Come Just as You Are” (a beautiful song, I highly recommend). The message of these songs is true: we come to God with nothing of our own, and he forgives us and makes us right. We don’t need to fix ourselves up before we come to him. We can’t! We can do nothing outside of his cleansing blood and empowering Spirit.
But I think we can take that beautiful truth and apply it incorrectly. We can slip into assuming it doesn’t matter how we act and believe that how we live doesn’t affect our worship.
Maybe we would never say we believe that, but we can act like it. It’s easy to disregard a needy person on Monday (“I can’t help with that right now; besides, I should keep myself safe!”), watch a movie we know is full of obscene sexual content on Tuesday, lie to our parents on Thursday, treat our family members harshly on Saturday, and then roll into Church (or, these days, into our living rooms) to worship on Sunday as if nothing is the matter—as if our actions don’t affect the validity of our worship.
Here in Luke 19, Jesus says to the Jewish leaders what God had already told his people many times: if you go your own way and disregard the Lord’s beautiful plans, he will not regard your worship.
Let’s not forget the season we are in. Instead, as we approach the cross this week, let’s examine ourselves in light of Jesus’s warning. Are we living consistently with the message we proclaim? Do we get caught thinking the way we act doesn’t affect our worship? Are we acting in ways that compromise our worship?
Of course, God desires a repentant heart and is quick to forgive us when we turn to him. Let us commit ourselves to his grace this week as we prepare our hearts for Easter.
Some scripture to read together this week:
- Luke 19–23 (Break it up over the week.)
- Isaiah 56
- Jeremiah 7
- Romans 6
This week's podcasts:
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"Let's Talk Theology" Vol. 3 video:
This week’s prayer requests:
- My grandpa tested positive for Coronavirus. Pray that his symptoms stay mild. — Kailyn Loewen
- Bible camp! Pray for staff to find work and kids to find Jesus. — Shaya Arendt
- Prayers for the vulnerable communities across the world. The elderly, children, sick, poor. — Bryton Codd
- My sister’s friend’s baby is very sick from COVID-19 cause of a doctor. She might lose her son Emmett. — Regan Winsley
- For all students and staff who may feel lonely during this time. Especially the ones who may be living alone and may feel even more isolated. — Travis Molzan
- That Jesus would bring renewal throughout the earth! — Caleb Brown
- For the students coming next year to be ready and willing to serve and learn. — Emily Thomas
- When the Church suffers, giving is lessened and missionaries seriously struggle. — Faith Fink
- That we would continue to actively seek to make disciples of all the nations. This is such a beautiful opportunity to spread the gospel to people confused and hurt it would be robbery to not take advantage of it all!!! — Will Dmytrow