November 25 “Magdalena”

Magdalena

Deep in her heart, Mary still had faith in Jesus.
Standing by the empty tomb as Peter and John disappeared on the road out of the garden, her mind raced with possibilities. What did she know for sure?

  • The soldiers were gone. It looked like they had been frightened away.
  • The stone was rolled to one side. How many men and tools did it take to do that?
  • John and Peter reported that the grave clothes were there but the body wasn’t.

She could not yet entertain the idea of resurrection, even though she had witnessed Lazarus emerging from his tomb. The only fact to be sure of was that Jesus’ was not in that tomb.

Angels
Scarcely breathing, Mary stooped down and looked into the tomb. A pearly white light glowed deep inside the vaulted space. She stared at the light as it morphed into the forms of two tall men in shining white clothes, one at each end of the slab where the linens lay. Speaking at the same time but in a strange harmony, the men asked her,

“Woman, why are you weeping?”

She was fascinated by the multiple pitches in their voices and now her heart was racing faster than her mind. Perhaps they knew…

“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

Dead or alive, present or absent, Jesus was and always would be her Lord.

Jesus
The two angels looked past her toward the low opening of the tomb. Suddenly, they began to worship, whispering in a language Mary had never before heard. Their constant focus on a single point behind her prompted her sense that someone else was in that tomb. Slowly she turned around to see a man standing in the morning light as it streamed into the tomb. The light was so bright she lowered her eyes assuming He was a worker in the garden. He spoke and there was something familiar about His voice.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

She turned her face away from the shining light, caught her breath, and somehow managed to answer.

“Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him,
and I will take Him away.”

At this Jesus called her name. She turned to look at Him and called Him “Teacher!” He was smiling with the same smile that thrilled her heart and terrified the demons the day He set her free. Mary was transfixed by Him. Was this a vision? No, this was real. Tears flowed freely as soft notes of wonder issued from her lips. She rushed forward and fell at His feet embracing Him in complete submission and joy. After a moment, Jesus lifted her to her feet saying,

“Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'”

Her Jesus was back and He had called her name! All was right with the world again, her world, at least. As if waking from a dream, she remembered that Jesus had given her a mission. With one long look at Him, she turned and ran from the garden to find the men who had gone home too soon.

Scriptures:
John 20:11-18

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach me perseverance. Help me hold on to the facts of my faith until the answer comes. Help me bear up under the strain when events or people turn against me. Holy Spirit, keep me focused on Jesus and the promises made to me. Help me to never give up until victory is mine. Lord, You are alive in me and You rule this day. Give me strength to persevere to the end. For the end of this day is the dawn of a greater one. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Song:
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Words: Charles Wesley; Music: from Lyra Davidica

1. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

2. Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

3. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

4. Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

5. Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

6. King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 24 “Empty”

Empty

The world has never been as empty as it was that weekend.
The disciples congregated in small groups with nothing to say to each other. Brief attempts at conversation all ended in mumbled apologies or sudden silences. There was nothing to be said. They didn’t accuse each other—they had all failed Jesus and felt like cowards. Peter was the worst among them. He didn’t want to be there and wore his silent shame like sackcloth. As much as he hated being there, he could not be anywhere else. Each man was trying to figure out what to do next. Go back home? They had families and lives which they had suddenly left to follow Jesus. Follow Him to what? This?—Enemies of Rome and the Temple? What would they do now?

The women also met together but they did not meet in shared silence like the men. They wept together and remembered. His mother was the leader, it seemed, and she had been storing up memories in her heart since the beginning. The other women listened enraptured to her stories of angels and shepherds and foreign kings bearing gifts and those two strange elderly people in the Temple. Somehow, in their grief they found solace in these histories. Mary and Martha of Bethany told of their adventure with their brother Lazarus. Mary Magdalene was hesitant to speak of her life before Jesus removed seven demons from her ruined soul. Every time she tried to tell the story she dissolved into tears. All of the other women understood and joined her.

The Morning of the First Day
Before dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene could wait no longer. The same full moon that lit Gethsemane led her to the tomb. Those Pharisees, Nicodemus and Joseph, told them the location of the tomb in a garden used by the wealthy. It was no matter. She had to do go there. No one could stop her.

Approaching the tomb in the blue-green moonlight, she could tell that something was wrong. The ground was littered with the equipment of soldiers as if they had left in a great hurry. Shadows covered the impressive tomb. The moon emerged from behind a cloud and the sky brightened just enough for Mary to see that the huge stone had been rolled away. Instead of looking inside she ran, right into the path of Simon Peter and John. Breathless, she reported to them what she had seen,

“They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter and John exchanged glances and without a word started running toward the tomb. Mary followed behind them. John, being younger, arrived first and, swallowing hard, stooped down and peered into the darkness of the tomb. When his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, he saw the linen cloths lying on the stone slab where the body had been. Simon Peter arrived and carefully entered the tomb. He also saw the linen grave cloths and, oddly enough, the handkerchief that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head lying in a separate place, neatly folded. As Peter tried to understand what he saw, John entered the tomb. When he observed these things, faith filled his heart.

No Place to Go but Home
According to John’s narrative, they went home, leaving Mary Magdalene standing by the empty tomb. John explains the reason; they did not yet know the scriptural prophesy that Jesus would rise from the dead. The tomb was empty but their hearts were not yet full.

Do we really hear the Lord?
Jesus had told them all many times that He must die and then be raised to new life. Did they really hear Him? Do we?

Scriptures:
John 20:1-10

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I know there are things You have said to me in Your Word that have never penetrated my heart. When the situation arises and I need that Word from You, I act as if I had never heard Your voice. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to really listen and believe what You have said. When I read something in the Bible that I do not understand, help me believe it anyway, trusting to Your Spirit to bring it home to me when the time comes for it. Many things You have promised have yet to happen. Help me believe and keep on believing. Amen.

Song:
Lord, I Believe

Traditional

Lord, I believe. Lord, I believe.
All things are possible. Lord, I believe.
Lord, I believe. Lord, I believe.
All things are possible. Lord, I believe.

Jesus is here. Jesus is here.
All things are possible. Jesus is here.
Jesus is here. Jesus is here.
All things are possible. Jesus is here.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 23 “Garden”

Garden

Even the hardened Roman soldiers hated breaking the legs of crucified men.
In this case, at least in the minds of the religious leaders, this gruesome measure was necessary, since to leave men on crosses during the Passover was a violation of their rules. If you are going to kill a man—finish the job! The Pharisees sent a delegation to Pilate asking for soldiers to come and break the legs of the three men dying on Golgotha. This was necessary because strong men could keep themselves alive by pushing down on the nails in their feet so that they could continue to breathe. Broken legs prevented this desperate survival method causing the lungs to collapse. Death hastened in the wake of the soldier’s cruel work. There was no mercy in the minds of the Sanhedrin or in the wooden clubs the soldiers used.

Unbroken
The soldiers were skillful at this duty, having worked out the most efficient way to break the legs of a dying man. When they arrived at Calvary, they saw Jesus was already dead. They took their instruments of destruction and quickly fractured the legs of the other two, each them uttering a final cry of pain before they could no longer breathe.

To make sure that Jesus was really dead, one of the soldiers took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the left side near His heart. A torrent of blood and water poured from the wound and the body of Jesus never flinched; He, indeed, was dead.

Evidently, John was still there at the foot of the cross. In his gospel, he steps back from His role as narrator to comment on these two events. He reveals that they were fulfilled prophecies.

“For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

John’s purpose in writing his account of the Jesus Story was to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. These fulfilled prophecies bolstered his case.

Joseph and Nicodemus
Standing helpless with the crowd on Calvary were Joseph and Nicodemus, secret followers of Jesus. There was nothing they could have done to stop the arrest, trials, and execution of Jesus but now there was something that must be done that was within the reach of their combined means. Risking the wrath of their peers, they took charge of the lifeless body of Jesus.

Joseph appealed to Pilate, bypassing the Temple elders, for permission to remove the body and bury it. Pilate, annoyed by this unending trouble from these strange people, allowed him the honor. Nicodemus appropriated the necessary supplies of linen and spices for a quick but proper treatment of the body. Together they washed the body of Jesus, weeping all the while with a grief neither of them had ever known.

As they did this work, Nicodemus told Joseph of his after-hours interview with Jesus. Even as he shared about the new birth and the winds of the Spirit, the lifeless body in their hands did nothing to diminish the power of Jesus’ words. Dead though He was, His words seemed still alive.

The Garden Tomb
As they finished the preparations, Nicodemus wondered what they should do with the body. Weeping, and barely able to speak, Joseph told his friend of tomb he had recently purchased. He wanted Jesus to occupy the space designed for him. This became their plan as this horrible day melted into a beautiful sunset.

Scriptures:
John 19:31-37

Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there is so much we do not know or understand about the times when Your body was all that was left of You in this physical world. Just as Joseph and Nicodemus serve as examples for us, may we do what we can in Your service. You only hold us responsible for what is within our ability to do. These two men were brave enough to believe in You in spite of the disbelief of their peers. You led them to stand out against their times. You directed them to prepare somehow for events they could never have foreseen. When their moment of service came they were ready. Help me to be prepared and ready to serve You today. Amen and amen.

Song:
Were You There?

Traditional

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when He rose up on that day?
Were you there when He rose up on that day?
Oh, Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when He rose up on that day?

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 22 “Finished”

Finished

Those who followed Jesus were steadily diminishing in number.
It seemed the closer Jesus came to the moment for which He had abandoned heaven, the more abandoned He became. John takes the roll for us of those still following as Jesus, suspended between two thieves, suffered for all of us: His mother and her sister, another Mary whose son was a man named Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus had called twelve men to follow Him and lost one of them in the process; now only John remained to the end. If other followers of Christ were present, they were mixed safely into the Golgotha crowd undetectable by John or the leaders or the other disciples.

The Mother of Our Lord
Jesus had brothers and sisters at home back in Nazareth. It is likely the inclusion of such a brother as Jesus must have been too much for them. We know only that two of His half-brothers came to follow Him after the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. James and Jude became pastors and contributors to the New Testament writings. But they were absent that day, abandoning, not only their brother, but the mother they shared.

From the cross Jesus saw His mother with none of her other children to help her and He saw His friend, John, beside her. He assigned the care of His mother to His friend.

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by,
He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple,
“Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

To the end, Jesus cared for His own. From other sources we know He also prayed to the Father, for that bond of companionship was also breaking.

Christ Alone
There were no legions of angels on a mission of rescue. There was no softening of the pain by chemical means. This was raw, human agony in both the physical and spiritual realms. If heaven was weeping, Jesus heard it. If hell was celebrating, Jesus heard that, as well. It is certain He heard the triumphant crowd gathered there in collective abuse at the Place of the Skull. In a brief, final moment of incarnation, He cried out:

“I thirst!”

Soldiers were ready for this common request from the crucified. One last cruel punishment, a jar of old, ruined wine, was among their provisions. Instead of fresh water, they filled a sponge with the sour wine, stabbed it with a spear, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. When this final insult was taken, Jesus painfully raised Himself against the biting nails to cry,

“It is finished!”

And He died.

What, exactly, was finished? An Old Covenant of promise was finished, replaced by a New Covenant of Power written in the blood Jesus shed that day. “A new and living way” way was finished that day providing access for a sin-laden humanity to reach a righteous God.

He was alone as no one has ever been alone. He was abandoned as no one has ever been abandoned. He died as no one has ever died. Heaven wept. Hell rejoiced. Earth was oblivious except for a hostile mob, a few remaining followers, and a mother whose heart was finally pierced by the sword of old Simeon’s prophecy.

Scriptures:
John 19:25-30

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Hebrews 10:19-24 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You said that if You were to be lifted up, all would be drawn to You. This was said indicating the death You would die on the cross. Indeed, You were lifted up and over the centuries people from every nation and every tribe and every tongue where Your story has been told have been drawn to You. Satan’s plot to end Your influence has instead spread Your story around this world. Thank You that someone told Your story to someone who then told it to another and on and on through these 2000 years until someone told my Mother who told it to me. Now my life must be spent in lifting You up so that all people may know of You through my life. Make it so, Lord. Make it so. Amen.

Song:
O, Sacred Head Now Wounded

Words: Bernard of Clairvaux; Music: Hans Leo Hassler

1. O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

2. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

3. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.

4. Be near when I am dying, O show Thy cross to me!
And, for my succor flying, come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving, from Thee shall never move;
For he who dies believing dies safely in Thy love.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 21 “Golgotha”

Golgotha

John continues his narrative in sparse but well-chosen words:

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull,
which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him,
one on either side, and Jesus in the center.

For the soldiers it was all just another day’s duty. They were hardened to the sight of blood and unmoved by the suffering of the guilty. Guilt and innocence were not their business; their job was killing those whom others judged worthy of death. Some of the soldiers had seen Jesus in action teaching, working miracles, and healing sick people with a touch. Those soldiers decided not to trouble themselves about how such a man as He should end up here at the Place of the Skull.

Pilate
Pilate hated what he had done as much as he hated the Jews. In what can be seen as a passive aggressive protest, Pilate ordered a sign to posted on the cross above Jesus’ head:

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS

When the leaders who incited this injustice read this sign, they protested to Pilate but it was a useless protest.

“Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”

Pilate had had enough of them and would not allow the subject to be opened.

“What I have written, I have written.”

Unable to stop the shameful treatment of an innocent man, Pilate watched as the soldiers drove Jesus with whips and threatening swords, bearing His cross to the place of execution. This ominous rock formation resembling a human skull was to be the scene of the demise of three men, two guilty and one innocent. Unable to reconcile these things, we learn from other sources that Pilate washed his hands of the matter and retreated into his chamber.

Crucifixion
The skillful, practiced soldiers made quick work of the three crucifixions at that horrible place and soon three bleeding men were lifted to the sky to pay for sins; two of them paying for their own deeds and one of them paying for yours and mine.

Their duty done, these wards of Rome took the clothes of the crucified ones as prizes rightly theirs. They separated their spoils into four equal piles except for the seamless robe of Jesus. It would have been a shame to tear such a fine robe.

“They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be…”

Tossing dice to see who might take it home as a memento of this duty, they gambled for its possession. This fulfilled an ancient prophecy:

“They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”

John does not tell us if any of the elders or disciples who must have known this prophecy took note of this event. The soldier who won the game took the robe Jesus had worn and closely inspected it. This was the outer garment of the miracle worker who fell just one miracle short. It was stained with blood from the scourge but those stains would wash away. He felt richer for this prize and won the envy of his fellows.

The soldiers waited for the crucified ones to suffer enough for them to finish the job with clubs and spears. It was all so routine for them. There was no indication that these crucifixions would be memorable in any way.

Scriptures:
John 19:17-24

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”‘” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You were faithful to the end of that mockery of a trial. You will judge all someday but on that morning You submitted to the judgement of Pilate. There was so much at stake! Redemption for sinners, victory for those embattled, healing for those who are sick or injured, and eternal life for those sentenced to eternal death. I rejoice that Your story did not end on that hill. You gave Your life for me and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, You took it up again, no longer reduced to a human life, but expanded back to a divine one. Such a story! Such a truth! Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Song:
Calvary Proves His Love for Me

Words and Music: Steve and J. D. Phifer

1. There are times when I just cannot feel
God’s love way down inside.
So I run to the Book and there I read
How Jesus, my Lord, was crucified.

Refrain:
And Calvary proves His love for me.
Why should I ever doubt Him?
I will place my trust in Christ, you see,
For Calvary proves His love for me.

2. Who can say what will tomorrow bring?
Our eyes may flood with tears.
Let us look to the Christ of Calvary.
His love will cast out our every fear.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 20 “Praetorium”

Praetorium

Pilate’s judgement hall was a place for trials and for punishment.
It was politically necessary for the Roman Governor to do something to placate the bloodthirsty leaders of this strange and mystical land. They pretended to aspire to lofty ideals but on this morning they wanted blood.

The Scourge
Despite his publicly announced verdict of a faultless Jesus, Pilate sent Him into the skillful hands of the Roman soldiers, the Praetorian Guard, for special treatment. They called it scourging, systematic beating with a whip equipped with many sharpened bits of metal, bone, and stone set into multiplied leather strips. Two soldiers took turns administering this pagan justice while an officer counted the blows. The sharp ends of the lashes bit into Jesus’ back pulling back long strips of severed flesh and leaving surface wounds bleeding profusely. As if this weren’t enough, some clever warrior got a novel idea: fashion a crown for this king, one woven of thorns. No doubt the making of this outrage made the hands of the soldier bleed also. When finished, they pressed it hard and deep into His scalp and more blood coursed down the face of Jesus. Another creative killer found a purple robe and draped it over the Savior’s shoulders.

Public Derision
Thus they prepared King Jesus, beaten, bruised, bloody and his body profaned, for the rabid crowd. The soldiers pounded Jesus with their fists and derided Him with mocking “worship.”

“Hail, King of the Jews!”

Thus prepared according to Roman tastes, Pilate announced his plan to the mob.

“Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

The soldiers brought Jesus out to the balcony in full view. A roar of approval went up from the people. Pilate announced:

“Behold the Man!”

The roar of the crowd coalesced into a specific demand.

“Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

Once more Pilate tried to shift that duty to the Jews and once again they refused the honor. Pilate needed some way out of this nasty business. He asked Jesus to tell him something upon which to base a release. When Jesus did not answer, Pilate lost all patience.

“Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You,
and power to release You?”

Someone signaled for the crowd to quiet down to hear what Jesus might say. Finally, in this unnatural silence, Jesus spoke the truth. The voice that commanded storms and Satan’s legions, diseases and even death, filled the void.

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

As a moan issued from the crowd, Pilate sensed the truth in this; these strange proceedings were beyond his control. He sought some way to release Jesus. The Temple leaders appealed to political realities.

“If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.
Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”

Pilate had no answer for this appeal. He took his seat on his throne of judgment and said once more,

“Behold your King!”

The people responded as before with even more violence in their voices and blood in their eyes. When Pilate asked the question again, the leaders led the people in a lie that broke their own covenant with Jehovah.

“We have no king but Caesar!”

And the trial before Pilate was over. The soldiers manhandled Jesus away from the palace toward the place of the Skull.

Scriptures:
John 19:1-16

So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when I read and consider the story of Your Passion, I find I must be still. So much of Your story races along from the Nativity straight through to the Passion but here I must stop and consider this: “Selah!” Lord, give me a quiet, confident spirit when I face the trials of my life. Like Your peace, this is also a gift from You. Dangerous events may swirl all around me and the future may threaten with fear, but I can have a stillness in me, the way You did before Pilate. My life is in Your hands and there is no safer place to dwell. Amen.

Song:
Behold the Man

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

1. Behold the Man, Wounded and bruised
Crowned with thorns
He was despised rejected;
He was despised rejected

2. Behold the Man, Man of sorrows,
Acquainted with grief
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him.

Bridge 1
We didn’t know That it was for our sins He died
That it was for our sins He died
That for us the Son of God was crucified
That in love He bore our sorrow and pain
And in love He willingly suffered.

Verse 3
3. Behold the Man, Suffering in silence,
Bearing our shame.
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him

Bridge 2
We didn’t know that this was God the Father’s plan
Born of love to bring
Redemption down to man
That in love He gave His only Son
So that we might be forgiven

4. Behold the Man, Risen in glory coming to reign.
By the Father exalted,
Crowned with glory and honor.

5. Behold the man, King of kings and Lord of lords!
Through all creation Jesus Christ is Lord
He is Lord! He is Lord! He is Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 19 “Pilate”

Pilate

Caiaphas reviewed the report of his father-in-law, Annas, and sent Jesus to Pilate.
By this time the sun was up. The Jewish leaders did not enter the Praetorium, the Governor’s Palace containing Pilates’s Judgmental Hall. To do so would have disqualified them for participation in the Passover. Pilate came out to a balcony to meet with them.

Pontius Pilate
His usual headquarters were in Caesarea and He only came to Jerusalem when he had to. He hated the Jews, Jerusalem, and this assignment from Rome. He loved pleasure and power and found the Jews strict, joyless, unyielding, preoccupied by frivolous things and as hungry for power as any other people. In his view their vaunted piety was pretense. He was sure whatever was bothering these overdressed buffoons could be handled quickly. Looking down from his lofty balcony, Pilate saw their prisoner, Jesus, bound and bleeding from the mouth. He asked for a clarification from the Sanhedrin. Their complaints against this poor man seemed to Pilate to be religious in nature and no business of his. The indictment was His claim to be king, a thing surely deserving of death.

“It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death…”

They hated Pilate as much as he hated them, but they needed Roman authority to rid Israel of this menace. Pilate turned to Jesus,

“Are You the King of the Jews?”

Pilate almost laughed at the thought that anyone one think this pitiful man was anyone’s king. Jesus responded,

“Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

This angered Pilate and he demanded Jesus give a better answer. Jesus tried to explain that His Kingdom was of a different kind and waged a different kind of warfare. Pilate tried to understand as Jesus explained.

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Guilty as Charged
Knowing he would have to make a judgment, Pilate asked if Jesus really considered Himself a king. Jesus confessed,

“You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born,
and for this cause I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” ”

At the word, “truth,” Pilate groaned, turned, and retreated into his residence. Did anyone speak the truth? Was there any such thing as “the truth?” Didn’t each man and each dilemma demand a different truth? Almost as if distracted by these questions, Pilate looked at the bleeding man before him. Who was this criminal to speak of truth? Did he have truth? If so, what good had it done him? Returning in anger to the balcony’s edge,

“What is truth? I find no fault him at all!”

The Pharisees, in no mood for philosophy, received this with riotous claims for justice. Pilate was ready to make a deal. According to custom, he offered Barabbas, a convicted murderer and rebel instead of Jesus. The angry crowd welcomed Barabbas and demanded death for Jesus.

Scriptures:
John 18:28-40

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.” Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You could have called for an army of angels to rescue You from this agony but You did not. You faced the judgment of men for the sins of the world when You had none. Your courage inspires me to follow You no matter how “charged with punishment the scroll” of my life. My life is in Your capable and merciful hands. As the Psalmist says, “You have hemmed me in behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” Whatever this day may bring, You, who remained faithful in the courts of men, will give me strength to make it through all of my trials. Amen and Amen.

Song:
I Find No Fault in Him

Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

I find no fault in Him. I find no fault in Him.
Yet He was rejected, despised of me, but
I find no fault in Him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 18 “Annas”

Annas

At the rebuke of Jesus, Peter dropped his sword, covered with Malchus’ blood, and ran. The other men followed suit, leaving Jesus alone with the Captain, the soldiers, Judas, and the stupefied Malchus, still holding an ear that no longer hurt. The unimpressed moon lit their way. The soldiers arrested Jesus, bound in chains, hand and foot, and led Him away toward the Temple, striking Him often with open palms and laughing at His pain.

The Court of Annas
They led Jesus first to the chambers of a priest named Annas. His son-in-law was Caiaphas who was high priest that year. At a safe distance, two of the eleven followed closely enough to observe events but at sufficient distance to avoid their own arrest: Peter and John. John entered the outer court of Annas but Peter hesitated at the doorway. A servant girl’s post was this doorway, assisting those who wished an audience with Annas. John was known to her so he spoke with her to allow Peter to enter. As Peter stepped through the entrance, she was sure she recognized him.

“You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”

In a panic, Peter denied knowing Jesus. The remaining soldiers who had performed the arrest waited there in the outer court while a squad of their ranks took Jesus inside. Small fires tried to give light to this pre-dawn darkness and provide a little warmth. Counting on the cover of darkness, Peter stood by one of the fires warming his hands. As he did, he saw blood on his right hand and quickly wiped away this evidence of his futile resistance in the Garden. His mind spun in useless circles of terror and regret. The prophecy of Jesus was in the process of fulfillment.

The Trial
Through the stone walls, Peter and John could hear the interrogation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. Annas wanted to know about the disciples—this compounded the fear in their hearts—and what doctrine Jesus taught. Jesus refused to answer.

“I spoke openly to the world…Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me… “

At that answer, the Captain of the guard slapped Jesus across the mouth with an open palm.

“Do You answer the high priest like that?”

As Jesus reeled from the blow, a trickle of blood ran from his mouth. Peter and John heard the sound of the assault and it was if the Captain had struck each of them instead of Jesus. Jesus replied,

“If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

On to Caiaphas
Frustrated, Annas commanded the soldiers to take Jesus to Caiaphas. They manhandled Jesus back through the courtyard and collected the other soldiers. Together, they dragged Jesus passed the terrified Peter and John.

Peter tried to act as if none of this concerned him but one of the men sharing the fire with him accused him of being a follower of Jesus. He denied the charge. A relative of Malchus repeated the accusation with same result.

The eastern sky grew brighter as the inevitable morning approached. A nearby rooster, faithful to his God-given mission, announced in his manner the approaching day. At the crowing of the rooster the soldiers stopped for a moment, just long enough for Jesus to look in Peter’s direction. Their eyes met: pain and sorrow in the dawn of a New Covenant.

Scriptures:
John 18:12-27

Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?” Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I must not look with pride on my brother Simon Peter. I am no stronger than he was. I am sure that my denials of You are much more than three. There have been moments when You counted on me and I wasn’t there. I am so glad that failures do not eliminate us from Your care. I dare not judge Peter for I could not bear what he went through. Keep me true, Lord Jesus! Keep me true. Amen

Song:
Keep Me True

Traditional

Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
Keep me true, Lord Jesus, keep me true.
There’s a race that I must run.
There are victories to be won.
Every hour, by Thy power, keep me true.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 17 “Malchus”

Malchus

Malchus, faithful servant of the High Priest, had seen Jesus many times. Permit me to imagine a few details of this man’s life. He was a man who knew his duty and attended to it faithfully. The leaders in the Temple trusted him. He was also close friends with the Captain of the Temple guards. He knew that Jesus was a threat to his superiors but Malchus couldn’t help liking Him. He had often been assigned to watch Jesus and report back to the leaders. Who else could do the things He did? Malchus had heard the best speakers in the Temple and none of them compared with Jesus.

Betrayal
Now one of His own men had betrayed Jesus. A deal was made and Judas stood among them. He would lead them to Jesus. Immediately, Malchus hated Judas. Such betrayal was too far beyond his personal code; his whole life was built on loyalty and solemn duty. His friend, the Captain of the guard was ordered to assemble a squad of heavily armed soldiers to follow Judas and arrest Jesus. There were eleven other disciples still true to Jesus, so the detachment had to be a substantial one. Malchus would accompany them but he hated the duty as much as he hated Judas. He watched the Captain strap on his short sword, hoping it would not be needed and accompanied the soldiers out of the courtyard in the footsteps of Judas.

The Garden
Judas knew where to find Jesus and led the Temple guards to Him. It was a beautiful, peaceful grove of ancient olive trees with an olive press nearby. The full moon lit the garden almost like mid-morning. It was called “Gethsemane,” literally, “olive press.” He and His men often spent the night in prayer or slumber here. Jesus made no attempt to avoid capture. Here Jesus, like olives from the grove, would be crushed in His spirit in prelude to the torture of His body.

As was His custom, Jesus had separated Himself from the disciples and sought a solitary place to pray. His men, exhausted from the intense teaching Jesus had given them, found the Garden to be a place of rest, not prayer. Their rest would be short-lived.

The Arrest
Led by their Captain, the Temple guards entered the garden with the religious officials safely in the rear. Malchus flanked his friend, the Captain, at his left side. A signal had been prearranged by Judas to point out which man was Jesus: a kiss. Jesus asked the guards,

“Whom are you seeking?”

As Judas stood with the guards, they answered simply,

“Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus identified Himself with the most ancient name of God that could be uttered,

“I am He.”

The ground shook at this proclamation and to a man, the Temple guards fell backwards. As they trembled on the ground, He asked the question again and received the same answer. Jesus then pled for the safety of His men.

“I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way…”

Without warning Peter drew his own short sword and attempted to strike the Captain, aiming for his neck. He missed and removed the ear of the unfortunate Malchus. The stricken servant sank to the ground, the blood pouring from the right side of his head. Jesus rebuked Peter:

“Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

We learn from other witnesses that Jesus retrieved the severed ear from the ground and gently reattached it to the bleeding head of Malchus. The servant struggled to his feet. The ear was healed and the pain was gone. Only the blood remained.

Scriptures:
John 18:1-11

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth. “Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth on a solemn mission no one else could ever perform. None of the things that happened to You that night surprised You. You exercised no supernatural means to avoid the pain. Your very human heart suffered from the rejection predicted by Isaiah—You felt everything inside and out. It is easy for us, from the distance of two millennia to wonder why this was necessary. Open our eyes, Lord, to the tragedy and cruelty of sin. It is no minor annoyance; sin is the plague of this fallen world. All the pain and rejection You experienced was needed to counter sin and establish a New Creation again. Thank You, Lord.

Song:
Ten Thousand Angels

Words and Music: Ray Overholt

1. They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed;
They led Him thro’ the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Savior so pure and free from sin;
They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”

Refrain:
He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.

2. Upon His precious head they placed a crown of thorns;
They laughed and said, “Behold the King!”
They cursed Him and they struck Him and mocked His holy name
All alone He suffered everything.

Refrain

3. When they nailed Him to the cross, His mother stood nearby,
He said, “Woman, behold thy son!”
He cried, “I thirst for water,” but they gave Him none to drink.
Then the sinful work of man was done.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

November 16 “Them”

Them

Jesus concluded His remarkable, tender prayer for the Disciples by praying for us.
We have the privilege of “listening” while Jesus prayed for the Disciples and all who will believe in Him through their witness.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one…”

It seems only right that we should learn from His prayer. What concerned Him should also concern us.

His Primary Concern for the Church
Jesus came to build a community of believers, His Church. This is more than an organization; it is a spiritual organism, a living thing in the world. No organization built by people can contain it and no force from hell can destroy it. All the powers of heaven stand ready to aid and comfort those who follow Christ. He has designed this family for each of us, multiple generations of those with “like, precious faith” called out of this world as representatives of the world to come. Jesus prayed for us all.

What was His primary concern? It was and is our unity. Although the “gates of hell” are powerless to prevail against the Church, human frailty and ignorance can certainly hinder Her effectiveness. The Church is made up of believers who are in full possession of their free will. Submission to Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit are not automatic; they are choices individuals and collective groups make, with or without the backing of the Word of God.

Unity in the Local Church
We must be smart enough to recognize the enemy’s efforts to divide the local church.

  • The world is fueled by division; the Church must operate in the power of unity.
  • The marketplace depends on demographics—computerized division—for success; the ministries of the Church must call for and enjoy a unity of purpose and belief, of passion and behavior, and of principles and balance.

The Church Jesus is building should not be a pale reflection of the culture. We must be a holy counter culture proclaiming Jesus, unified from the heart out. Let the world divide. We must unite.

The Church Universal
The Body of Christ is made up of True Believers in every corner of the world. The ancient creeds of the church were formed before division became the norm. They express what is called orthodox Christian belief. Unity at this level is beyond anyone’s power to achieve. What we can do is confess our beliefs and live out our calling in our world and prepare for the coming of our King!

Like Spokes on a Wheel…
How can we be the answer to the prayer of Jesus? It begins in our closeness to the Lord. Like spokes on a wheel, the closer we get to the hub, the closer we get to each other. Our passion for the Lord, His Word, and His work will connect us with others who love Him, too, making us One.

Scriptures:
John 17:20-26

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Matthew 16:13-18 ESV
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (See 1 Cor 3;11 for Christ as the foundation of the church.)
Psalm 145:4 NKJV
One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.
1 Corinthians 1:10-11 NKJV
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Prayer:
The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Song:
They’ll Know We Are Christians

Words and Music: Peter Scholtes

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.