John 19:31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
This is the second time the phrase – “the day of Preparation” with that same capital “P“ appears in this chapter. I am convinced God has shown me that capital “P” to teach me something important about the celebration of Passover, and Lent. The capital “P” Preparation is Jesus; the one very real difference between the preparation for the celebration of the Jewish Passover and the celebration of Lent that leads to Easter morning. Both celebrations recognize the need for an annual, dedicated break in time with sacrifice so the heart might remember with thanksgiving and worship what the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God has done in the past to make new beginning a reality.
• Passover is the dedicated break in time for devout people whose desire is to remember the blood of the perfect lamb that saved them in the past.
• Lent is the dedicated break in time for devout people whose desire is to remember the blood of the perfect lamb that saved them in the past.
• The Passover remembrance begins with the recognition of need for removal of the decay that leads to ruin.
• The Lenten remembrance begins with the recognition of need for removal of the decay that leads to ruin.
• The hope of Passover lies in the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God’s acceptance of their sacrifice for Him…so He might be pleased with them.
• The hope of Lent lies in the Eternal, Almighty, Righteous God’s sacrifice of Jesus for them…so He might be pleased with them.
Psalm 119 [NIV]
73 Give me understanding to learn your commands and how your hands made me and formed me
74 I have put my hope in your word so those who fear you can rejoice when they see me
75 You have afflicted me in faithfulness I know Lord and your laws are righteous
76 According to your promise to your servant, may your unfailing love be my comfort.
77 Your law is my delight that I may live and your compassion come to me
78 I will meditate on your precepts, may the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause
79 May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.
The mention of hands in v73 was distracting in terms of that small Hebrew subtitle, “Bent.” Reading each individual section of Psalm 119 backwards and rewriting them without changing their intent [I hope] has made them seem more like a personal prayer to me. The last two verses today couldn’t possibly have been any more personal so I haven’t changed them. I hope they’ll be your personal prayer too.
My first thoughts about “bent” evoked the imagery of the gently bent hand of God reaching toward us. I don’t think that’s what the Psalmist had in mind, as true and welcoming as that is. “Bent” is something more than a description of the physical hand of God. Instead I believe the Psalmist has discovered “Bent” is God’s purpose for His laws, precepts, statutes, decrees and commands. God’s promise was to change His servant’s natural “bent,”* so his inclination would be the determination to do or have all that God was offering him: hope, faithfulness, unfailing love, comfort and compassion.
*Bent: determined to do or have or a natural talent or inclination
John 15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I ended my last post, Love Story, with this statement “His [Jesus] own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.” That reality of Advent explains John 15:13 too. But wait, there’s more to the story.
Culturally those connections are of great interest today. We’ve “discovered” DNA [a self-replicating material present that’s the carrier of genetic information] that confirms connections that have been lost in our lives. I know because it’s happened to me both on a real life level and spiritually. Jesus entered a world He’d been part of creating. In that long ago moment He surrendered His place of intimacy with God to choose companionship with humanity in the flesh. The cradle was where Jesus willingly laid down His own sovereign authority to become the “perfect” rebirth of God’s genetic connection with mankind for the second time. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus’s birth is our annual reminder that same redemptive DNA has been replicated in each of us. Within us lies the power of Jesus to transform and save those who will abide with Him.