The Tomb of the Unknown Savior—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Lucy
It pointed out that Jesus’ enemies knew him better than his disciples. I thought about how well I know/love Him.

Originally published, July 17, 2020, based on readings from Jeremiah 13 & Matthew 27.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 27.63-66

“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Reflection: The Tomb of the Unknown Savior—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Christ’s mission and calling were a secret hidden in plain sight.

Jesus spoke about everything else in parables and spoke about his death in plain language, so perhaps we can forgive the disciples for not realizing that he meant what he said about his death literally.

Mary of Bethany may have been the only disciple who realized Jesus was about to die a sacrificial death, but it seems only his enemies remembered that Christ also promised to come back to life.

No one else seems prepared for Jesus’ resurrection as extensively as the chief priests and the Pharisees. Their concern is so urgent that they risk being made unclean for the remainder of the Passover week’s celebrations by going to Pilate on the Sabbath, the day after Preparation Day.

They outline the details of what they believe will be a conspiracy to fake a resurrection. (This is a conspiracy they will bribe the soldiers to maintain later.) Pilate grants their request, giving them a selection of the highest paid, best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world to guard a tomb.

Guarding the tomb of a penniless, itinerant prophet, with the equivalent of US Navy Seals might seem like overkill when the sneak attack you are expecting is from untrained tradesmen like the disciples, but the enemies of Christ knew how explosive his message was.

Fear of the political fallout of Christ’s message was one of the main reasons the religious elite had sought his death. For them, a violent, idolatrous, pagan government that allowed them to continue in power was preferable to following Jesus and losing their wealth and influence. In our heart of hearts we can certainly identify with their concerns.

When it came to Christ’s teaching about death and resurrection these corrupt men, who were Christ’s harshest critics, knew him better than his followers.

Jesus was a man even his closest friends didn’t fully know. He lay as a guest in a tomb belonging to a secret disciple. His followers, once considered so dangerous they were an existential threat to the state, scattered, abandoned him, and hid.

Jesus in the grave is the unknown savior. What happens next will change the world forever.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

Blessed be the Lord day by day, the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens.
He is our God, the God of our salvation; God is the Lord, by whom we escape death. — Psalm 68.19-20

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 49 (Listen – 7:15)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Read more about The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along for themselves.

The Importance of Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday

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The Flavors of Betrayal

Scripture Focus: Matthew 27.3, 5
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders…Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Reflection: The Flavors of Betrayal
By John Tillman

Thursday of Holy Week includes many events. One that stands out sharply from the others is betrayal.

Judas most directly betrayed Jesus, but Peter was the one who most strenuously promised Jesus to go to death with him. It is Peter’s outsized boasts of loyalty that make his betrayal of these oaths sting so badly. The other disciples cosigned Peter’s oaths, assuring that they too would die with Jesus. But in the garden, all their promises turn to dust and tears.

Each of the disciples made the same wrong assumption as Peter and Judas. They assumed there would be a fight. Judas seems to have assumed Jesus would put up a legal fight and perhaps assumed he would perform the miracles needed to win over the religious leaders. Peter and other disciples assumed that Jesus would put up a physical fight, first with the Temple Guards and then with the oppressive Roman empire.

All the disciples came to the same conclusion. Fight and die? Acceptable. Submit to arrest and torture? Unacceptable. They were willing to kill for Jesus, gaining glory through either victory or noble defeat, but were unwilling to give their lives voluntarily in sacrificial humility. 

Most ran away. Scared. Hiding. They were not to be heard from again until the resurrection. Notably, the only disciples who don’t flee and are found at the cross are the female disciples and John. Judas commits suicide after the legal case is lost and Peter flees into the night after his humiliation in the courtyard of the high priest.

Where do we find ourselves in the garden? What form does our betrayal and abandonment of Jesus take?

Are we willing to “win” with Christ but unwilling to “lose” with him?
Are we willing to die for Christ in glorious sacrifice but unwilling to live as Christ in humiliating suffering?
Do we fantasize about “defending the faith” in extreme circumstances (like facing down an active shooter or facing martyrdom) but ignore opportunities to serve the needs of others in the humble circumstances around us? 

May we not seek glory or victory. That is the path of the betrayer.
May we instead seek humility and suffering in the service of others. That is the path of the Cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me. — John 14.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen 2:43) 
2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen -1:52)

Read more about The Path of the Betrayer
We prefer others be forced to subject themselves to our weaknesses and sins—to accept us the way we are.

Read more about Learning from Judas
The great value of viewing Jesus Christ Superstar as a Christian is not to condemn Judas, but to see how like him we are.

(The 2018 live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar will be rebroadcast on Easter Sunday evening. I highly recommend watching it, but keep this devotional in mind as you do.)

A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31) 
Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25) Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17) Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
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Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
We too often, like Jonah, feel responsible that those who have wronged us should not “get away with it.” But in God’s timing, nothing goes unpunished.