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Mourning into Joy | Introduction: Why Observe the Holy Week | Holy Week | Devotional Series | Part 1 of 10

Observing the Holy Week has always been a polarizing ritual for me. Because, I’ve always felt it to be a virtue-signing act. Perhaps that is my own inner crookedness, that I cannot accept that anyone could even observe this ritual genuinely. Secondly, and this used to be my go-to excuse – (that) the scriptures never made it mandatory. But as I grow older, and as I learn to spend more time meditating in the scriptures – I find that it is not I but Christ that leads me into discipline and obedience towards holiness. (Matt 19:26) In other words, it is not by our strength, but by the virtue of God’s grace that we can genuinely observe the Holy Week to its full effect.

Though it is also true that the scripture does not make it an obligation to observe the Holy Week, but it sure does – undeniably builds us up towards it. The Old Testaments swells up to this point. This is the week, when the promise of salvation was about to be materialized. The Devil was to use all its might, the saints were to see the last of the trying times as sinners-unrepentant, and Christ – God, Christ was to lead us through this darkness – like YHWH led the Israelites through the parted Red Sea. The Holy Week, this ordinary week, may not mean much to the world, but for the believer it is nothing less than historic. Apparently, that’s why, all the four Apostles dedicated a major part of the Gospel to this week (alone). Because it was during the course of this week – that Christ changed our fate. He suffered everything we were meant to suffer. And showed us what obedience and perseverance meant. He took the wrath of God for us, and showed us – it is He – who was to come – and paid the full payment of our sins. And most importantly, it was during this week – He demonstrated the Father’s love for us – and bought us the prerequisite holiness to be united with God.

But beyond these reasons – that are grounded in the Biblical past, there is one that I find absolutely convincing. The reason why we should observe the Holy Week is because this is a wonderful opportunity for us to walk with Ekklesia – the body of Christ. David Mathis explains this better. He writes,

“Marking Holy Week is not an obligation, but it is an opportunity. It is a chance to walk with the church, throughout time and through the world, as she walks with her Bridegroom through the most important week in the history of the world. It is a chance to focus our minds on, and seek to intensify our affections for, the most important and timeless realities.” (Pg. 1)

How wonderful that is. I hope dear reader, that you’ll join me in relishing this wonderful opportunity – in walking with Christ and His Church, this Holy Week. Blessed Greetings.

NOTE: Daily Devotions will start from Palm Sunday i.e. 5th April ’20, 9 AM (IST). And end on Easter Sunday i.e. 12th April ’20. You can also subscribe the blog via email to receive the devotionals directly in your inbox.   

Peace, Love, & Joy | Our Treasure | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 11 of 27 | December 10, 2019

Regarding, the wise-men presenting gifts to Christ. We ought to understand two important points. One, these gifts were not presented as financial assistance. Because, God does not need anything from man. He is not served by human hands as if He needs anything. (Acts 17:25) Piper makes this clear, rather humorously, “It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.” (pg. 20) Second, these gifts were not meant to be bribes. Because, God takes no bribe. (Deu 10:17)

These gifts were (as discussed previously) – (a) meant to demonstrate their recognition of Jesus’ Kingship; and (b) meant to demonstrate their joy in finding Jesus. I’ll invest a few more words (here) on this second point.

Finding Jesus after much labour, and perhaps after much speculation, and doubt and fear on the wise-men’s part, was perhaps like finding wisdom. (Pro 2:4) The wise-men seem to demonstrate similar joy, as the one we find in the parable of hidden treasure. (Mat 13:44) The crux is this: their joy was not of earthly riches or favour – but that they could witness the birth of the Messiah, and that they could worship Him. They presented gifts as way of demonstrating, that finding Jesus was the treasure above all treasures. And so, they presented their best possession as a show of respect and reverence, and to show that they treasured that moment, and Him, more than the anything. Piper formulates it better. He writes, it was their way of telling “you are my treasure, not these things”. (pg. 21)

I find the wise-men’s endeavour awe-inspiring. But much more than that, I find, myself humbled as to how YHWH led these men against all odds – to being blessed. How amazing is our God? But by saying that, I don’t mean anyone to be mistaken. I am not talking about donating financially to the Church or other philanthropic exercises, as gifts to Christ this Christmas. If you do that, then that is good on you. Keep it up. But that’s not the point I want to make here. Because, we shouldn’t forget what the scriptures says about sacrifices and offerings. And I quote: “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.” (Hos 6:6, TLB) But how can we love someone without knowing them? Therefore, knowledge is preceded by obedience. Only when we being obeying Him by learning and keeping His Word (i.e. the Bible), we begin to love Him, and know Him. “But Samuel replied, what is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1Sa 15:22, NLT)

What is it that a man treasures the most in his life? It is his ‘self’ – his self-interest and all the vices that comes along with it. If you ought to gift anything to God. You begin by mortifying your self – your ­self-interest – your sins – your sinful habits – your sinful desires. For a person who continues to harbour his old sins cannot please God, let alone offer Him anything. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mat 16:24, ESV) If you want to offer anything to God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Seek righteousness and holiness. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (Rom 12:1, NIV) How profound it is that the scriptures note, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat 6:21, ESV)

Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy

Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased (viii) December 7: Messiah of all (ix) December 8: Christ is Central in Christmas (x) December 9: Two Kinds of Oppositions

Peace, Love, & Joy | Messiah of all | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 8 of 27 | December 7, 2019

The visitation from the east, at the manger, highlights two important points: one of Christ, and the other of men. Firstly, it highlights Christ’s universal Messiah-hood. In the account of the Apostle Matthew, it was the Wise-men from the East, who first acknowledge Him as King. (pg. 23) Clearly, pointing out the message to us – later generations that Christ is for both Jews and Gentiles alike. Secondly, and most interestingly, the visitation highlights our limitation in grasping God’s glory without divine help. I want to make two further remarks here:

  1. So, the last shall be first, and the first last. (Mat 20:16, KJV) The Wise-men were chiefs of foreign courts. They were culturally, ethically, and religiously different from the Jews. Apart from that, they were people of different geography. And interestingly, these were also the people that the Jews considered unclean. (Henry, 2) Yet, it was in the divine will of God to choose them first in the adoration of the King. Piper notes, it was in Matthew’s divinely inspired desire – to establish that Jesus was/is Messiah and King of all nation. (pg. 13) And so, the wise-men came and “presented unto him gifts” (Mat 2:11, KJV) as was customary in the East, to honour and respect a King with gifts[1]. (John Gill) Interestingly, Matthew Henry here notes: this was their way of saying that they have admitted His Kingship. And I quote: “We are come to worship him. They conclude he will, in process of time, be their king, and therefore they will be times ingratiate themselves with him and with those about him.”[2]
  2. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Mat 16:3, KJV) The Jews were a chosen lot of people. They were granted prophesies for the coming Messiah. But it is interesting how, at the time of birth the Jews had already settled comfortably with their sins. And they were no longer, (really) looking forward to any miraculous conception of a Saviour in the human form. Yet, at the same time. Their eastern counterparts, whom they considered unclean, learned and discern, not just the coming, but the birth of the Messiah. (Mat 2:1-12) How ironic it is that the Jews who pride themselves as learned, clean, and chosen could not discern the signs of the times. And yet, how easily, its unclean counterpart did. Indeed, this is grace extended to humanity that we witness through the birth of Christ – the last became first.

Yes. Christ is King. He is a Messiah to all men alike. But won’t it be a great loss, if we who are born in a Christian community would miss Christmas like the Jews? Let us pray that Christ would grant us, the same Grace that He granted the Eastern wise-men, the wisdom to understand the scriptures, and the strength to obey His lead. May we, never be the people whom the Apostle John wrote of as: He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. (Jn 1:11, NKJV)



Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy

Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope (v) December 4: A Big God for Little People (vi) December 5: What He Willed to do (vii) December 6: Peace to those with whom He is pleased