Lenten Devotion: Burial Arrangements

…This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:52).

Read Luke 23:50-56

As Jesus was dying He entrusted His spirit into His Father’s hands. But what would become of His lifeless body? The faithful believers and women stood at a distance to see what the soldiers would do. But unknown to them, God the Father was already making arrangements. He had chosen a man, Joseph, to be Jesus’ earthly father, to find a shelter and a manger at His birth. Now He provides another Joseph to arrange for Jesus’ proper burial.

Luke describes Joseph as a prominent member of the Jewish high court; he had not consented to its decision to destroy Jesus. Joseph trusted God’s promise to send His Son, and he had secretly come to believe Jesus was that Messiah. Now he boldly secures Pilate’s permission to take charge of Jesus’ lifeless body.

He takes Jesus’ body down, wraps it in linen, and lays it in a tomb as yet untouched by death’s decay and corruption. Then Joseph rolls a large stone-a flat, circular, upright slab-down in a groove in front of the entrance to the tomb.

Since the Sabbath is beginning, only the women follow Joseph to the tomb. They carefully note its location; they see how Jesus’ body was laid in it. In the few minutes left before the Sabbath, the women will buy spices and myrrh in preparation for the work they will do when the Sabbath is over. Early Sunday morning they will return to anoint His body for a proper burial.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, You raised up Joseph to care for Your Son’s dead body. Thank You that You take note of all my needs-especially my need for forgiveness through Jesus my Savior. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.

Lenten Devotion: A Miraculous Death

…Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” … (Luke 23:46a).

Read Luke 23:44-49

Many supernatural events occur at Jesus’ death. The first is a darkness that covered the whole land from midday until three in the afternoon. This darkness indicates God’s judgment, as Jesus is punished for the sins of the whole world.

At 3 p.m. a second miracle takes place in the temple. The thick curtain dividing the two rooms of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain represents our separation from God on account of our sins. Throughout the Old Testament only one person could pass through it-the high priest. But now God’s Son-our great High Priest-has torn down the dividing barrier, so all who believe in Jesus have direct access to God the Father forever.

At this same moment Jesus cries out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” Jesus wants everyone to hear His intense satisfaction and joy because peace with God has now been won for all. Now that He has finished the work for which He was born, Jesus commends His spirit into His Father’s hands.

Then the third miracle takes place. Immediately after uttering this loud cry, Jesus dies. The Roman centurion knows crucified criminals don’t die this way. Their lungs slowly fill with fluid, and their last moments are desperate gasps for air. There is no way Jesus should be able to utter a loud cry the moment before He dies. Thinking of the unnatural darkness, the unnatural way Jesus died, and all the injustices Jesus suffered, he says, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, when You completed Your earthly course You committed Your spirit into Your Father’s keeping. Give me confidence that I am safe in Your hands now and forever. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.

Lenten Devotion: Remember Me

…And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Read Luke 23:35-43

Now we turn to the two criminals crucified with Jesus. The first asks, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” He wants Jesus to be the Christ, but this is only for his own sinful purposes. He wants to cheat justice and escape his suffering and death, but not to amend his sinful life.

But the second criminal looks at Jesus and sees something no one else has been able to see. The Jewish leaders look at Jesus and see a man who can’t possibly be a Savior-He can’t even save Himself! The Roman soldiers see a powerless king. The other criminal sees a powerless Messiah, but this criminal looks through the crown of thorns, the blood, sweat and tears and sees God’s Messiah, the promised King. He asks Jesus to remember him on Judgment Day and not to bar him out of His kingdom because of his life of sin.

As wonderful a confession as we see in the criminal’s rebuke and prayer, we see something even more wonderful in Jesus’ reply. Not only on the distant Day of Judgment will Jesus remember the dying thief, but this very day his sufferings will cease, and he will be with Christ in paradise forever.

The repentant criminal asked Jesus to remember him. This night in Holy Communion Jesus asks us to remember Him, to remember the sacrifice He made-so we may live. He gives us His body, which He gave unto death for our sins. He gives us His blood poured out, so we might be forgiven and inherit the paradise He has opened to all who will believe in Him.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You forgave a despised criminal and promised him eternal life. Forgive my sins and remember me when You come in glory. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.

Lenten Devotion: Father, Forgive Them

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” … (Luke 23:34a). 

Read Luke 23:32-34

Jesus is not going to die alone. Pilate ordered two criminals to die with Him. When they finally reach the execution site we read that Jesus is crucified between the two. In that one word “crucified,” the Scriptures spare us the horrible details, and carry forward Jesus’ charge: “Do not weep for Me.”

Now, as the climax of Jesus’ suffering is reached and incredible pain wracks His body, the soldiers are casting lots to divide His clothing. Jesus turns to His Father in prayer. But once again He is not praying for Himself, not seeking divine retribution on His foes, or even justice for Himself-He is pleading with His Father to forgive those who have put Him on this cross. They do not know what they are doing.

But Jesus is not only praying for the Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the Jewish leaders, the temple guard, Peter and Judas-He is praying for all the people whose sins He is carrying, including yours and mine. So often we commit our sins without giving a second thought to the wrath we are incurring, or the sufferings Jesus endured to save us from them. We don’t know what we are doing either.

But God the Father can’t simply ignore His wrath at our sins. Nor can He pretend they never took place. His holiness demands that sinners be punished. For the Father to be able to forgive us, Jesus knows He must suffer the torment of hell in our place. He asks His Father to pour His fiery wrath on Him instead.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in our sin we don’t know what we are doing. Yet You willingly took on Yourself our guilt and Your Father’s punishment. Make us aware of our culpability that we may repent and trust You alone as our Savior. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.

Lenten Devotion: Weep for Yourselves

…And there followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him (Luke 23:27).

Read Luke 23:26-31

Jesus is carrying His cross to the place of execution. But the severe flogging and other mistreatment has sapped His strength so that He can no longer bear His cross. The Roman soldiers force a man named Simon, who was coming into Jerusalem from the country, to carry it for Him.

A great crowd of people follow Jesus, including women from Jerusalem, weeping and wailing for Him. In the midst of His agony, sorrow and pain, Jesus turns and tells them to stop sobbing for Him. Like Peter, they need to weep for their sins and for the wrath of God, which those sins have stirred.

Earlier Jesus had wept for Jerusalem, knowing that in 70 A.D. God’s wrath will fall on that city, as the legions of Rome surround it. Watching their children suffering and dying in the slow, grinding terror of that siege, Jewish women will wish something no Jew would have otherwise thought: they will wish they had been childless! At that dreadful time those living in Jerusalem will wish for a sudden, cataclysmic death, instead of the slow starvation they experienced, as the Roman legions slowly choke off Jerusalem and grind its people into the dust.

What a vivid, horrible picture of hell, where people will long to be exterminated in one rapid moment. Instead, they will suffer the slow, burning terror of hell, knowing it will never, ever end. Today is the time for each of us to weep, mourning and seeking God’s forgiveness in Jesus, the Savior of the world.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, Your Son carried my guilt and sin, as He went out to die in my place. Fill my heart with sorrow and regret over my sins, so I may flee to Him for salvation. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.

Lenten Devotion: Back to Pilate

… Then, arraying Him in splendid clothing, he sent Him back to Pilate (Luke 23:11b).

Read Luke 23:13-25

Pilate has examined Jesus and found no crime based on the charges made against Him. This was also the case with Herod or he would have condemned Him. Again, Jesus should be set free immediately. Instead, however, Pilate proposes a solution, “I will therefore punish and release Him.”

Perhaps Pilate thinks he is offering the Jewish leaders a way to save face before their people. They surely wouldn’t want him to release Jesus and publicly humiliate them, would they? But seeing Pilate back down from his verdict, the priests know they need to stand their ground, and Pilate will eventually surrender Jesus.

Pilate’s punishment for Jesus was the brutal Roman scourging. It used whips with pieces of bone or lead fastened to the tips. After this horrific violence, Pilate honors a custom, giving the crowds their choice of two criminals. He offers them a severely abused Jesus or the most dangerous criminal in prison: Barabbas. Pilate may not realize it, but he has lowered Jesus to the status of a criminal, thus making it easier for the Jewish leaders and the crowds to call for His death. The Jewish leaders convince the Jews to demand Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion.

For a third time Pilate asks what terrible thing this Man has done? The judge is now pleading with the people; he has totally lost control of this trial. The crowds increasingly demand Jesus’ crucifixion. Their voices prevail over Pilate’s sense of justice. He orders Barabbas released, and Jesus is to be handed over to their will.

Jesus’ prophecy about His passion has been accomplished: Judas handed Jesus over to His Jewish enemies; the Jews handed Jesus over to Pilate, and Pilate now hands Jesus over to the crowds that are demanding His crucifixion.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Pilate watched Your trial spiral out of control. Help me see that You were in complete control, winning my salvation by Your innocent suffering and death. Amen.

*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.