When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people.” (Matthew 26:1-5)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 42; Psalm 56; Matthew 26:1–16
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2BPwFmP
As we are reading through the Gospel of Matthew in the daily Bible reading guide, we are arriving at the Passion, death and resurrection accounts a bit early. Our passage today includes three short sections: Jesus’ instruction to his disciples about his impending arrest and crucifixion; Jesus being anointed by a woman in the house of Simon, understood as an anointing of Jesus’ body for burial; Judas agreeing to betray Jesus.
It may seem untimely to be reading this passage now, as we are still several weeks away from Holy Week, and yet, we want to keep the Passion of Jesus before us throughout Lent. It is all too easy to enter into Lent through the portal we call Ash Wednesday, all fired up for a holy and disciplined Lenten observance, but then, by the second week, life gets in the way, we become distracted, and we may not give much thought to Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross until Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Reading about the Passion in the midst of Lent can be a helpful reminder that, while Lent is not all about Jesus’ suffering and death, there would be no Lenten season if there were no Holy Week! Our entire Lenten observance, whatever shape it takes, is to prepare our hearts and minds for hearing the good news of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection once again. Our Lenten discipline of prayer, giving and fasting, our Lenten mid-week worship and daily devotions are all to provide us with opportunity for reflection, repentance and renewal as we refocus and reorient our lives on Jesus and who he is and what he has done for us. Our readings today remind us of that and call us back to our intentions for a holy and meaningful Lent.
Interestingly, between Jesus’ announcement of his coming crucifixion and death and Judas’ plan for betrayal, we have the tender image of a woman pouring an expensive alabaster jar of ointment on Jesus’ head as an act of love and devotion. The disciples thought it wasteful, claiming it should be sold and the money given to the poor.
Our Lenten devotion, whether great or small, is like that ointment used to anoint Jesus. It is time, money and effort well-spent, not for what it does for us, but because it is in response to Jesus’ self-sacrifice and love. May we be renewed today, in our Lenten observance!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for giving your life for me, for us. Keep me mindful, every day, of your saving death and resurrection. Amen.
Lenten Response: How is your Lenten observance going? Recommit yourself to your Lenten discipline. If you haven’t given up or taken on something for Lent, you are invited to do so now!
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.