“After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” —Matthew 26:73-75
Perhaps you’ve noticed it. In our times of worship over the last five weeks, a familiar word has been missing. Hallelujah is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise Yahweh.” But more than just praise, it carries the connotation of being foolishly clamorous. Throughout the ages, the church has steered away from its use during the Lenten fast.
But why? Surely God is worthy of our boisterous praise year round! God is certainly worthy! But those joyful praises can make it difficult to remember that we are not worthy, and Christ died for us anyway.
The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve to remind us of our own brokenness. Those things that we gave up, make us realize our need for God. As we hunger for those things from which we are fasting, we turn our gaze and attentions to God, and pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Like Peter, we have denied our Lord. We have looked to own benefit, and our own interests and have kept our distance from God. The season of Lent and the Lenten fast serve as an effective tool for self examination. We do not sing “Hallelujahs” because we do not want our Joy to carry us away from discerning our sin, and bringing us to repentance. During this brief time of repentance and reflection we postpone our joy so that when Easter comes we may celebrate it more completely.
Homework this week:
Pray Psalm 139, listen for what God would reveal to you.
Identify and agree with God on any hidden sins brought to your attention.
Repent of your sin, and turn to God.
Prepare for the overwhelming joy of Easter.
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2
The redemption of mankind is in the Cross of Christ. The hope of mankind is in the Resurrection of Christ. But it was the cross that set us free. We get a little queasy when we think of Christ Crucified. We like to rush to the resurrection. It’s a much happier place. We see Jesus glorified by the Father, walking, talking, and eating with the disciples no worse for the wear. But we were redeemed by his suffering and death.
“Jesus Christ died for my sin,” is a sentence very familiar to our ears. But perhaps it’s a bit too familiar. Perhaps it has become so familiar that it has lost some of its power. We often say it as a platitude or an evangelical tool without contemplating the implications. All of humanity was under a death sentence. Our unrighteousness had separated us from the source of life; and slowly hope was suffocated by sin. But God became a man. The Uncreated became like the created. The Holy God walked outside of the Temple. God dwelt among us. Then the source of life allowed life to be taken from him. The All-powerful, Unchanging God died.
Today we still struggle with sin. Our pride and selfishness often drive our decisions. We are still worthy of death. But God looks to Good Friday. God sees the punishment for our sins executed on himself, and gives us the grace to walk in holiness, he clothes us in the righteousness of Christ. God became like us, so we could become like him. “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. ” (2 Cor 5:21) Let us meditate on this amazing mystery and rejoice.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6
Allow me to paraphrase. “But he was impaled because of our sin; he was crushed because of our propensity to sin; he was punished in our place, and because of his punishment, we are given peace; and we are emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally healed by his wounds. Every one of us decided to follow our own crookedness, and God placed on him the crookedness of us all.”
Christ beckons us with his crucifixion, to receive healing and forgiveness from God. It is time to freely acknowledge our weakness before the Almighty who put on weakness for us; it is time to place our fears, worries, aches, pains, sins, emotional wounds, and diseases into the hands of the one whose hands were pierced for us. We come longing for his presence, and receiving his forgiveness.
The beating and crucifixion of Jesus accomplished much more than just our forgiveness; it also secured our healing. Where forgiveness is concerned with our past, healing is concerned with our present and our future.
My prayer for you. is that you would uncover the hidden places where the fears, pains, etc., have been hiding, and expose them to Jesus the Merciful, to the gentle healer himself.