We are now entering the sixth week of Lent, commonly known as Holy Week. The week began with Palm Sunday yesterday, a day where Jesus’ welcome into Jerusalem is an invitation for us to invite Him into our hearts. The crowd cried “Hosanna” as Jesus rode His donkey through the city, a word that in Hebrew indicates praise and highest adoration. It seems almost ironic that within such a short time, Jesus would be persecuted, humiliated and sentenced to death.
“Hosanna” also has another meaning beyond praise and joy. It is related closely to the Aramaic word “Oshana” meaning “save” or “rescue.” In scripture, the word is also used as a cry for divine help. It can change the way we think about the journey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; their cries were both in celebration of Jesus and in desperation to be saved. It must have been a powerful and sobering moment for Jesus, who knew the cost of salvation, and knew the time for his sacrifice was coming soon.
This week’s solemn and heartbreaking station of the cross is in stark contrast to Palm Sunday; mockery and pain in the place of awe and admiration. Yet when we consider the latter meaning of the word “Hosanna” – save or rescue – we see that Jesus has finally delivered the salvation for which we have pleaded.
The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there. A sign was fastened above Jesus’ head, announcing the charge against him. It read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
(Matthew 27:34-37 NLT)
This is the moment upon which our faith hinges. We have all been born into sin, we are deeply flawed. We are the people who would have celebrated and worshiped Jesus in Jerusalem and we are those who would have advocated for his execution. None of us can earn salvation without the sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us. Jesus came to us knowing the price it would cost–knowing that the same people who would celebrate him would also turn on him–but his love for us all allowed him to persevere until the end. Jesus even refused wine which could have dulled the pain. He was determined to sacrifice everything so we could be saved.
Over the last four weeks I have tried to gently and gradually introduce a variety of ideas and resources to integrate spiritually formative activities into your life. Below is an example of the spiritual disciplines that have been handed down through the ages. As you peruse them, I would encourage you to have these questions in your mind:
- Which disciplines do you already have experience with?
- Which disciplines are you curious about?
- Which disciplines would you like to try out?
Here are some principal disciplines of engagement which have proven helpful to Christ followers over the centuries, as offered by Dallas Willard. This Spiritual Disciplines List features some primary disciplines for life in Christ with concise definitions for each. You will notice disciplines of engagement here. (In last week’s blog I presented disciplines of abstinence).
Disciplines of Engagement (Christ in Community)
These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.
Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. (Related disciplines include Bible study, Scripture meditation, and praying God’s Word.)
Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence. (We can worship God privately or in community.)
Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests or intercessions to our Father for one another.)
Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices. (Related spiritual disciplines or practices include small groups, spiritual direction, and mentoring relationships.)
Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. (The Psalms in the Bible model this.)
Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need. (Also tithing and giving.)
The beauty of the spiritual disciplines is that they help us connect, listen and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The more diligent I have become at exercising my spiritual discernment “muscle,” the stronger I’ve become at discerning His voice. Here is a passage that depicts how Jesus partnered with the Father, which came from his time alone with God and Jesus’ ability to discern His activity in the world.
“So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished.” (John 5:19-20)
Questions for reflection:
- How has the story of Jesus’s sacrifice changed for you over the years?
- What sticks out to you this year?
- How does this station of the cross inspire you to be a better disciple?
- How do you want to approach the final week of Lent?
- What do you need to make this week spiritually meaningful?
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