Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 120-123 and Matthew 26

Psalm 120 – “I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. Rescue me, O Lord, from liars and from all deceitful people” (120:1-2). David speaks of the people around him as people who hate peace. Just imagine what it would be like to be a ruler in these days with attacks coming from all sides and having to deal with them.

“I am tired of living among people who hate peace. I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war” (120:6-7).

Psalm 121 – Famous words: “I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help will come from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (121:1-2). The Lord is our protection and our refuge.

“The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life” (121:6-7).

Psalm 122 – “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem” (122:1-2). Jerusalem – a city restored and harmonious, a city where all the Jewish tribes come to give thanks and where the king sits to judge his people.

“May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces” (122:6-7)

Psalm 123 – “I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven” (123:1). We look up to the heavens to encounter the Lord. We beg for his mercy so that we may be comforted when we have been treated ill by others.

It is a little difficult to see ourselves in the roles mentioned in this psalm – “servants” with their eyes on their “master” or “slave girl[s]” watching their mistress, but we all have people we look to “to see us” and “empathize” with us.

Matthew 26 - Jesus predicts that he will be handed over in two days to be crucified. Jewish leaders consult about how to arrest and destroy him.  Meanwhile in Bethany, Jesus is staying with Simon the leper and a woman pours expensive ointment on him.  The disciples scold her for waste, but Jesus defends her. “The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me” (26:11).

Judas betrays him to the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus and his disciples prepare to celebrate the Passover.  At dinner, Jesus tells them one of them will betray him and they are all disturbed. Judas even dares to deny it is he.

The last supper (26:26-46) is thought to have been held on a Thursday.  Seders were held on Friday evening, but Jesus perhaps knew he would be taken on Friday.  Essenes followed a solar calendar and always celebrated Passover on a Tuesday night. “From now on . . .I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the Kingdom of my Father” (26:29).

Then they go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus predicts they will all “run away and leave me” (26:31). Peter assures Jesus “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!” (26:33)  Oh, Peter, you are so like me – so sure of yourself, so wanting to be the one loyal one, the one dependable one – but you (and I) are so like the rest – so unpredictable.

Jesus goes off to pray and be alone with God. “Grief and anguish came over him, and he said to them, ‘The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me” (26:37-38). I think we can all of us relate to this moment. We have all been “crushed” with sorrow in our lives. How comforting it is to know that the great God I love KNOWS my experience.  Jesus asks his friends to “keep watch” with him, but of course, for all their proclamations of love and loyalty, they go off and go to sleep while he is in the deepest pit of misery. This is his agony in the garden.  He prays three times while his disciples—Peter, James and John—sleep

Lord, that you should sorrow on my account is painful to me even now.  Forgive me for all the times I have denied you or slept when your Spirit called to me.

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