Bible Studies During Lent

The forty days before Easter have been a season of prayer and fasting from the time when the early Church baptized new converts on Easter Sunday. The converts were required to complete an extended time of learning about the Christian faith and life, culminating in forty days of intense prayer and fasting just before Easter. Gradually, others adopted this as a time of seeking God through prayer and repentance. Since it was done in the spring of the year, when the days are beginning to grow longer, it was called, "Lent" meaning, to lengthen.

Our Lenten Bible readings will concentrate on the Gospels, which follow our Lord as He makes His way up to Jerusalem to give His life as the ransom for our sins. We begin with the Scripture Readings for the day as found in the Lectionary of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The Scriptures are followed by a commentary, usually on the Gospel reading for the Evening, tracing Christ's intentional journey to Jerusalem and the cross. The commentary is followed by a few devotional thoughts about various elements of daily Christian living, especially turning from sin to embrace a quiet and holy life. The elements are given in terms that speak about Lent, but they are the principles of holy living we should be practicing every day of every year. Thus, they are applicable to any day or time of year. These Lenten devotionals are offered with the prayer that they may be helpful to you in your daily life of faith.

April 13, 2014

Scripture and Comments, April 13-19

April 14, Day Thirty-five

Lectionary                                                       

Morning - Psalm 71, Isaiah 42:1-7, John 14:1-14
Evening - Psalms 42 & 43, Lamentations 1:7-12, John 14:15-31

Commentary

"Have I been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known me, Philip? (vs9).  Philip knew much about Jesus.  He knew Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead, for he had seen that with his own eyes.  He knew Jesus was the Messiah, the One of whom Moses and the prophets wrote (Jn. 1:45).  He had heard His sermons and seen His compassion.  He had walked with Jesus for three years, sharing hardship, ridicule, and danger with Him.  Yet he did not know Jesus.  He did not know Jesus was God in human form (Jn. 1:1-14).  He did not know Jesus was the revelation of the Father (Jn. 1:18).  He did not know that if he has "seen" Jesus he has seen the Father.


Devotional Thoughts

To "see" Jesus is more than to simply view Him with our eyes.  It is to see Him with understanding and faith.  If we see Jesus in this way, we have seen God.  But it is possible to see Him with neither understanding nor faith.  To see Him as a good man, a prophet, a saint, but not Immanuel, God with us is to see Him without understanding, for it is to miss the real Jesus.  To see Him as God, yet remain unaffected and unchanged by this knowledge is to see Him without faith.  Let us not be as Philip.  Let us understand and believe.

April 15, Day Thirty-six

Lectionary                                                       

Morning - Psalms 6 & 12, Hosea 14, John 15:1-16
Evening - Psalm51, Lamentations 2:10-19, John 15:17

Commentary

John 15 tells us those who abide in Jesus are like branches growing from a luxuriant vine.  Those who do not abide in Him are like dead branches, and are removed and cast into the fire.  To abide in Christ means many things, one of the obvious is to draw life from Him.  Our physical existence comes from Christ.  Remove His sustaining power from us and we cease to exist.  But our spiritual existence comes from Christ also.  Just as a branch that does not draw its life from the vine gradually withers and dies, a soul that does not draw its life from Christ dies.

Devotional Thoughts

A Christian's goal is to live a quiet and holy life every moment of every day.  During Lent we have looked at what a holy life is, so as we come to the close of Lent it is natural that we ask ourselves a question; am I really serious about holiness?  This is a difficult question to answer because we have a tendency to fool ourselves, and to convince ourselves that we are really doing better than we are.  So we need to be brutally honest with ourselves, and we need to base our answers on evidence, rather than illusions.  Are you serious about holiness?  What in your life shows that you are?


April 16, Day Thirty-seven

Lectionary

Morning - Psalm 94, Zechariah 12:9,10, 13:1-9, John 16:1-15
Evening - Psalm 74 Lamentations 3:1-33, John 16:16

Commentary

Today's readings in the Gospel of John take us through the 16th chapter.  Jesus and His disciples are still in the upper room where they have eaten the Passover meal and the Last Supper.  Judas has gone (Jn. 13:30), and Christ is using the few precious hours left to teach the disciples.  Christ speaks of many things, from the way the world will treat the disciples to the coming of the Holy Spirit, called here, the "Comforter" (17:7).  The disciples understand nothing of what He is saying. His crucifixion will almost crush them emotionally and spiritually.  Their faith in Christ will die with Him on the cross because they do not understand that He came to die for their sins and to bring them into a Kingdom of the Spirit.  But their sorrow will be turned to joy (vs. 20) when they see the resurrected Christ. And they will understand when the Holy Spirit comes.

Devotional Thoughts

The Christian's goal is to grow in Christ every day.  We have looked at Christian growth during Lent, now we need to ask ourselves how we are doing.  Am I really seeking to grow in Christ?  Do I see myself making honest attempts to seek and grow in Him? What positive steps am I taking to try to grow in Him? What am I really doing to conquer sin and reform my thoughts and attitudes and habits?  These are not easy questions, but they are necessary.  Be brave, ask them.  Be heroic, answer them.


April 17, Day Thirty-eight

Lectionary                                                       

Morning - Psalm 116, Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 13:18
Evening - Psalms 142, 143, Lamentations 3:40-58, John 17

Commentary

Thursday before Easter Sunday recalls the institution of Holy Communion.  Passover began that evening at sunset, and Christ gathered His disciples into the upper room to keep the feast.  After the meal Jesus took the bread and cup, saying, "This is My body.  This is My blood."  Afterwards they went to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, where Jesus was "captured" and led away for His "trials." The trials lasted through the night and into the next morning.  Friday took Him to the cross, and by Friday evening He was dead.  Thus, we see the awful finality in Jesus' words in 17:1, "the hour is come."  The time has come for Him to go to the cross.  The hour has come for Him to accomplish that for which He came into the world.  His journey to the cross is almost complete.

Devotional Thoughts

Many people think growing in holiness means increasing religious activities.  It is true that a genuinely holy person will participate in Bible study, prayer, public worship, and other religious things. But these things alone do not make one holy.  The people who put Christ to death were religious people.  They were leaders in the "Church," but they were far from holy.  They honoured God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him.  Holiness, then, begins with an attitude of Godliness in the heart.  This attitude expresses itself in prayer, worship, and the other outward activities of holiness.  To have the activities without the inward attitude is like having a body without a soul.  Such a body is dead.  To have the inward attitude without the outward actions is to have a phony faith.  For real faith always moves us to outward actions.

April 18, Day Thirty-nine

Lectionary

Morning - Psalms 22, 40:1-16, 54,  Genesis 22:1-18, John 18
Evening - Psalm 69:1-22, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, 1 Peter 2:11

Commentary

In addition to the daily readings from the Lectionary, the Prayer Book includes a reading from John 19:1-37, which records the crucifixion of Jesus.  The reading from 1 Peter 2 is a fitting commentary on the reading from John.  Verses 21-25 especially remind us why Christ suffered.  He "bare our sins in His own body."

Devotional

Both the inward attitude, call it "faith," and the outward actions, call them "faithfulness" are required if a person is going to be truly holy.  But we cannot let ourselves assume that the only outward actions required of us are those we would normally call "religious."  Religious activities are required, and one who will not take them up willingly needs to seriously look at his heart, for he will likely not find biblical faith there.  But holiness also requires certain actions and attitudes toward other people, call them, "neighbors." As Jesus so clearly pointed out, our duty to God means we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and loving our neighbors generally means treating others the way we would like to be treated.  No one wants to be mistreated in any way, yet, how often our actions and words offend and hurt is something we cannot know in this life.  But God knows.  Nor are we talking only about negative things, for love consist not only of "thou shalt nots," but of plenteous "thou shalts."  There are enough of these in the Bible to keep us busy reading and learning them for some time, but some of them are compassion, empathy, encouragement, and emotional support. During Lent we have intentionally devoted ourselves to growing in holiness, both inwardly, in the heart, and outwardly, in our actions.  Have our efforts included both love for God, and love for our "neighbors?"


April 19, Day Forty

Lectionary                                                       
               
Morning - Psalms 14, 16, Job 14:1-14, John 19:38
Evening - Psalm 27, Job 19:21-27, Romans 6:3-11

Commentary

"It is finished." We have come to the end of Christ's journey to the cross.  We have followed Him from the outer reaches of Galilee to the courts of the Temple, to the hill of Golgotha.  In every place and every time He resolutely followed the road to the cross.  Nothing could turn Him aside from that great and terrible transaction by which He offered Himself for the sins of His people.  When He had suffered our punishment and died our death, He cried with a loud voice, "It is finished."   Let us remember it was for us that He died.  It was for our sake that He was place in the tomb.  It was for our sin that He "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified dead and buried." His entire journey to the cross has been for you.

Devotional Thoughts


It is difficult for us to imagine how the disciples felt that first Saturday after Christ died.  They had given up everything to follow Him, and when He died all their hopes died with Him.  They were in fear for their lives, lest they too should be tortured to death. But more devastating than fear was their absolute despair.  God, they thought, had abandoned them.  Their entire faith and meaning in life died with Christ.  Today let us try to imagine their fear and despair.  Try to feel what they felt when they placed His body in the grave, never, as they thought, to live again.  But let us remember that their despair is only a hint of what we would feel if Christ were still in the grave.  Their emotional emptiness would be the natural condition of our lives, if Christ were still in the grave today.  Our existence would be as if someone had punched us in the stomach, and we were writhing on the floor, unable to breathe, unable to make ourselves do anything because of the uncontrollable pain and spasms.  Only it would not be our stomachs or diaphragms that were hit, it would be our souls.  But, more horrible than life without meaning is eternity without hope.  Eternity spent in forced exile from the Author of all goodness and happiness is eternity spent in abject sorrow and absolute misery, so deep it makes the fires of Hell seem almost insignificant by comparison.  As we imagine a world with Christ in the grave, let us see Hell yawning before us, pulling us in without mercy.  Let us imagine unfathomable physical suffering that can only be matched by the anguish of the soul.  And let us remember, that would be our fate forever, if Christ be not raised.