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Holy Week Devotional: Mar 30

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 71:1-14; Isaiah 49:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

Isaiah 49:1-7  (NLT)

The Last Supper or communion was begun by our Lord as part of the last Passover meal he experienced before he was crucified. The Passover meal reminds the Jews of how God spared their firstborn sons by the sprinkling of lambs’ blood upon their doorstep and lintel when God took the lives of all the firstborn sons in Egypt as a way of forcing Pharaoh to free the Jews from slavery. Jews eat unleavened bread at Passover in remembrance of when their ancestors fled Egypt and had no time for the bread they wanted to take with them to rise.

Jesus introduced a new Passover patterned by the original Passover. Jesus broke the unleavened bread of the Passover meal and served it to his disciples saying, “this is my body.” Then he did likewise with the wine saying, “this is my blood.” In this way, Jesus presented himself as what John the Baptist had predicted he would be, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Jesus, the Lamb and Firstborn Son of God, would rescue all who believe in him, not merely from physical death, but eternal spiritual death by dying sacrificially on the cross the following day.

But, what did Jesus have to endure to “take away” the sins, not only of the Jews, but of the whole world. This is where Isaiah 49:1-7 is so revealing. This is one of four passages referred to in Isaiah as the Songs of the Suffering Servant, all of which are considered Messianic prophecy about Jesus. If this is true, how do we feel about the words attributed to Jesus, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. . .” Could this actually be how Jesus felt as he faced his impending death on the cross? Could he have believed that he failed so miserably in what God had called him to accomplish?

Just as Jesus was tempted in every way that we are and yet was without sin, so I believe Jesus also suffered, died and went to hell in all the ways we justly deserve, yet without sin. He emotionally experienced all the horrific consequences of our Sin. And, since he died as the fully human Son of Man, he physically died without the satisfaction of seeing the fruit which would come from the completion of his mission on the cross. Only a few fearfully faithful stood at the foot of his cross when he died. All others had deserted him. No wonder the fully human Jesus pled with God in the Garden,” Please take this cup of suffering away from me,” and, just before he died on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus experienced separation from God for the first time in his earthly life and in all eternity.

It was the fully human Jesus–the Son of Man–who emotionally experienced the horror of total abandonment and alienation. However, it was the fully divine Jesus–the Son of God, with the Spirit of God within him–who, throughout this ordeal, countered his human frailty with divine faith and undying expectation. The Spirit of the Son of God enabled Jesus to respond to his heavenly Father with brave resolve at Gethsemane, “nevertheless not my will but yours be done,” and with confident surrender on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Also, in Isaiah 49 where he had just exclaimed that his work seemed so “useless,” had accomplished “nothing,” and was for “no purpose,” Jesus was then able to follow these words by saying, “Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand: I will trust God for my reward.”

I thank our heavenly Father for how deeply he identifies with what I have felt at times over the past forty years of ministry as I have sought to be used by God to help reach the vast majority of people of Japanese and other Asian ancestries who do not yet know Christ. When I have evaluated the fruit of my ministry, at times, I too have said words like those in Isaiah, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.” I haven’t seen the spiritual breakthrough I have yearned for, prayed for, and labored towards all these years even though I remained confident all along in my call to do this work. It is the heavenly Father who gives me permission through our Lord’s example to feel discouraged. God understands and identifies with our discouragement. Discouragement itself is not sin. It is how we respond to it that may be sin. Jesus taught me that I should not respond to discouragement by giving into it, but rather by giving it up to God, the only person who can fulfill any call he gives to anyone. Every call God gives is more than any person can fulfill themselves. It is only by the power of the Spirit of the Son of God within that any call is possible of fulfillment and fruitfulness.

When Jesus responded in Isaiah 49 to his discouragement by saying, “Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand: I will trust God for my reward,” the heavenly Father “honored” Jesus, gave him strength and then told him, even though he would not see it before he died on the cross, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  We, too, may not see the fruitfulness of our faithfulness to God’s call, even before we die, but its results are certain. Countless lives of those each of us has been called to reach and serve will, in God’s timing, be transformed by Christ because we were available to be used by the Spirit of the Son of God today.

Thanks be to God!

To view other ISAAC Lenten devotionals, visit isaacblog.wordpress.com.

Stan InouyeStan Inouye is the President and Founder of Iwa, a non-denominational, faith-supported ministry which seeks to provide whatever training and resources are necessary so that more people of Japanese and other Asian ancestries will come to Christ. Stan has held national and international responsibilities with Campus Crusade for Christ, taught as an adjunct at Fuller Theological Seminary, and was the first national director of Asian American Christ Fellowship (AACF) sponsored by the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS). He has also been a long term consultant to denominations, parachurch organizations such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and Asian American churches such as Evergreen Baptist Church and Christian Layman Church. Stan has spoken widely at conferences and retreats across the United States, and published articles in Christian books, most recently Complete Evangelism Guidebook, The: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ (Baker, 2006) and Asian American Christianity  Reader (ISAAC, 2009), periodicals, and the Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT (Meditations) (Tyndale, 2009). Iwa has piloted and begun distribution of the first of five highly interactive, multimedia, small group Bible study series included in Iwa’s God Man series. This first series comes in two forms, one for renewal (Meeting Jesus Again) and the other for evangelism (Meeting Jesus for the First Time). Stan has a wonderful wife, Janie, and two amazing daughters, Heather and Joelle (in heaven). Email Stan.

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