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330px-john_donne_by_isaac_oliverLast week, I profiled John Donne, who made an incredible personal journey from a handsome rake to devoted husband and father to the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Most of us remember his poetry from English Literature class.

Although digital collections of his sermons exist, only one — and a partial one at that — is in an easily accessed format categorised by Scripture. Thank you, BibleHub.

John’s Gospel has the most detailed account of Jesus’s final teaching at the Last Supper, which we remember on Maundy Thursday.

John Donne was inspired to write an entire sermon on John 14:20 alone. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

First, let’s look at John 14 in its entirety. Jesus spoke these words while He and the Apostles were in the upper room at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot had already left. The Judas referred to in verse 22 is Jude Thaddeus, who wrote the shortest book in the Bible, Jude:

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[g] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

John Donne’s sermon on John 14:20 is called ‘Christ’s Legacy’. Most of it follows below:

I. THE LEGACY ITSELF: Knowledge. “Ye shall know.” God delivered the Jews to some extent from ignorance by the law, which was their schoolmaster. But in the gospel we are graduates, and know as a matter of history and experience what was only previously known in prophecy and type, in the manifestation of Christ, and the presence of the Spirit

II. THE TIME WHEN THIS LEGACY ACCRUES TO US. “At that day.”

1. The word itself affords cheerfulness. When God inflicted the greatest plague on Egypt it was at midnight; and when He would intimate both deaths at once He says, “Thou fool, this night,” etc. Against all supply of knowledge He calls him fool; against all sense of comfort in the day He threatens night.

2. It was a certain day: “That” — and soon. For after Christ had made His will at this supper, and given strength to His will by His death, and proved His will by His resurrection, and left the Church possessed of His estate by His ascension, within ten days after that He poured out this legacy of knowledge.

3. On that day the Holy Ghost came as a wind to note a powerful working; filled them, to note the abundance; and gave them utterance, to infer the communication of their knowledge to others. But He was poured forth for the benefit of all. The prophets, high as their calling was, saw nothing without the Spirit; with the Spirit simple man understands the prophets.

III. OUR PORTION IN THIS LEGACY — the measure of the knowledge of those mysteries which we are to receive. When Felix the Manichaean would prove to that was the Holy Spirit who should teach all truth, because Manes [Mani] taught many things of which men were ignorant concerning the frame and nature of the heavens, Augustine answered, “The Holy Ghost makes us Christians, not mathematicians.” This knowledge is to know the end and the way — heaven and Christ. Now, in all our journeys, a moderate pace brings a man most surely to his journey’s end, and so does a sober knowledge in the mysteries of religion. Therefore, the Holy Ghost did not give the apostles all kind of knowledge, but knowledge enough for their present work, and so with us. The points of knowledge necessary for our salvation are three.

1. The mystery of the Trinity. “I am in My Father.” tells us that the principal use of knowledge is to know the Trinity. For to know that there is one God, natural reason serves our turn. But to know that the Son is in the Father I need the Scriptures, and the light of the Holy Spirit on the Scriptures, for Jews and Arians have the Bible too. But consider that Christ says, “ye shall know,” not “ye shall know how”. It is enough for a happy subject to enjoy the sweetness of a peaceable government, though he knows not the ways by which his prince governs, so it is enough for a Christian to enjoy the working of God’s grace, though he inquire not into God’s unrevealed decrees. When the Church asked how the body of Christ was in the sacrament we see what an inconvenient answer it fell upon. Make much of that knowledge with which the Spirit hath trusted you, and believe the rest. No man knows how his soul came into him, yet no man doubts that he has a soul.

2. The mystery of the Incarnation — “Ye in Me.” For since the devil has taken manhood in one lump in Adam, Christ to deliver us as entirely took all mankind upon Him. So that the same pretence that the devil hath against us, “You are mine, for you sinned in Adam,” we have also for our discharge, we are delivered, for we paid our debt in Christ.

3. The assurance of this grows from the third part of our knowledge the mystery of our redemption, in our sanctification. “I in you.” This last is the best. To know that Christ is in the Father may serve me to convince another who denies the Trinity; to know we are in Christ may show that we are more honoured than angels. But what worth is this if I know not that Christ is in me. How then is this? Here the question is lawful, for it has been revealed. It is by our obedience to His inspiration, and by our reverent use of His sacrament, when the Spirit visits us with effectual grace, and Christ marries Himself to our souls.

What stood out for me were four things:

First, Donne clearly understood Paul’s epistles about the shortcomings of the law in the Old Covenant. It could not — and cannot — save. Note that Donne calls the law the Jews’ ‘schoolmaster’. How true.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is available to all, not just a select few. Furthermore, St Augustine said that the primary purpose of the Spirit is to help us to live a Christian life. Donne makes it easy to grasp by saying that the Spirit enables simple man to understand the prophets. One does not need a university degree to understand the Bible.

Thirdly, if the devil tempts us by telling us we are doomed, we should keep in mind that Christ paid our debt in full. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Finally, Christians are not required to understand how the holy mysteries work, only to believe, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, that they exist, e.g. the Triune God, one in three Persons. Donne wisely noted the ancient controversy in the Church that took place over what happens during the consecration of bread and wine, still a contentious subject today.

————————————————

Readings, exegeses and other observations about Wednesday of Holy Week, or Spy Wednesday, as it is traditionally known, follow:

Readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas: bad hombre)

The readings for Wednesday of Holy Week — traditionally known as Spy Wednesday — can be found here.

The following posts might also be of interest:

Gospel reading for Wednesday of Holy Week — John 13:21-32 (2016)

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday

More on Spy Wednesday

More on Judas

Today’s post looks at the Epistle — Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphases mine below):

Hebrews 12:1-3

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

12:3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The author of Hebrews was writing for a predominantly Jewish audience: mostly converts to Christianity along with some who had not yet come to believe in Christ as Saviour.

Most of these people were still clinging to Mosaic law. They found it difficult to accept that the New Covenant had abolished it. They were looking for something more: their old legalism.

Therefore, the author asks them, with such a great cloud of witnesses from the Old Testament, to lay aside ‘every weight and the sin that clings so closely’ in order to ‘run with perseverance the race’ set before them (verse 1).

John MacArthur explains, drawing on his own experience of having been on his school’s track team during his youth:

Well, here they were, trying to run this race of faith with weights of legalism hanging all over them: Still being attached to the temple, still being hung up on – on the ritual of the ceremonialism of Judaism, still being attached to the priesthood and all this kind of stuff. They were trying to run a race of faith, dragging weights, like a guy trying to run down the track with a ball and chain on both feet. Dead works is dead weight, folks. And they were trying to run with dead works. Legalism.

Now, our Lord calls them to a life of faith. And all they are is a whole lot of great big, fat blobs with super sweat suits on and weights all over their feet, trying to run a race. And He says, “Get rid of all that legalism. Strip down.” And it’s amazing what had happened to them. They were so big and blobby, with so much bulk and so much weight, that they ran a step and collapsed in a pile of legalistic sweat. Panting to death, hanging on to Judaism, wouldn’t let go. You can’t run the race of faith weighted down by self-righteousness. Did you know that? You can’t run the race of faith weighted down and bogged down by your own works, trying to please God and earn His favor. That’s just like dead weight. The race is run, beloved, by faith plus nothing, just believing God, and He’ll produce the fruits of that faith within you.

“Works is a way to please God.” Don’t speed you up; they slow you down. “Well, I’m going to do some works for God, and work for God, and that’ll please Him, and that’ll please Him,” and that’ll just drag you down. Unload Judaism. Drop all of the old covenant stuff and go.

MacArthur thinks that the sin the author of Hebrews is talking about is mostly one of unbelief, although all sin would apply in general:

“The sin that doth so easily beset us.” The word “beset” is interesting. It’s very graphic. I’m not going to tell you the word, because it’s kind of a complicated word; it doesn’t really matter anyway, but it comes from a verb that means to surround periistēmi. It means to surround or stand around. And this is – this is the picture of a guy running through race in a Harris Tweed overcoat. See? Just some huge, big thing, and he’s flopping along in it. Something that just surrounds him. And it is the sin which doth so easily surround us and encumber us.

Now, that’s not too – perhaps it’s a general thought. Perhaps He’s talking about any sin. And sin is certainly a hindrance, but I think He’s talking about something specific. He says here, “The sin which doth so easily beset us.” Now, if you’re trying to run – watch this – a race of faith, what would be the biggest hindrance? Unbelief. I think that’s obviously implied right there. The thing that they were running into was doubting God. Do you see? Doubting God, combine that thing, get the fat man running in his sweat suit, and then put an overcoat on him, and you’ve got the picture of them trying to run the race, and they’re just sitting there, big blobs in the middle of the track.

And you know there’s a lot of Christians like that today. As I say, you know, the people who are moving have got to also be hurdlers, because they’ve got to keep jumping over all of the – all of the piles of people who are sitting in the track. Believe me, that’s true, friends. I mean in the body of Christ, if the body doesn’t function, we got to jump over the non-functioning members. And they’re often in the way, believe me.

A lot of us, myself included, think that being a Christian is a time to relax. Christ’s blood redeemed us. His resurrection opened the gates of eternal life to us. Yet, it is actually a struggle against temptation. Most of us would also like more faith. Therefore, we need to be spiritually fit so that we are ready for the endurance of the race.

MacArthur says of the intention of the author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

“Let us run with patience the race” – and the word “patience,” hupomonē is endurance. Some Christians are in the race, but they’re not running the race. So, I think we can safely say that the term “let us,” used in the primary sense that it’s used in the book of Hebrews is used for the intellectually convinced, but it also has direct implication to the believer in at least one other passage, and very likely we would say it does here as well.

So, what He’s saying then is two things – all that to say this: if you’re not a Christian, get in the race because there’s only one way to live and that’s by faith; and if you are a Christian, and you’re in the race, run the race with endurance. So, really, the statement is general.

Now, it’s sad to say that most Christians aren’t running. A for example are jogging, we’ll admit that. Some are trotting. A lot of them are walking. Most of them are crawling or sitting, going nowhere; and some of them are going backwards. But the Christian life is not a trot; the Christian life is not your morning constitutional. The Christian life is not a loaf; the Christian life is a race. There it is; look at it. Let us run with patience the race. The Greek word for race agōn from which we get agony. This is a race where you’ve got to put out a little bit. It’s not even a sprint, either; it’s not a dash; it’s a marathon kind of race. It is to be run with endurance. And like any good runner must train and follow rigid kind of standards if he’s going to effectively run, so must the Christian. To effectively run, there must be self-denial, discipline, tremendous exertion. The Christian life is not a thing of passive luxury.

In this race, we are to look up to Jesus at all times — ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ — who suffered so much for our sakes and endured the shame of the Cross only to reap the ‘joy’ of taking His seat at the right hand of God the Father (verse 2).

Matthew Henry explains:

2.) What trials Christ met with in his race and course. [1.] He endured the contradiction of sinners against himself (Hebrews 12:3) he bore the opposition that they made to him, both in their words and behaviour. They were continually contradicting him, and crossing in upon his great designs and though he could easily have both confuted and confounded them, and sometimes gave them a specimen of his power, yet he endured their evil manners with great patience. Their contradictions were levelled against Christ himself, against his person as God-man, against his authority, against his preaching, and yet he endured all. [2.] He endured the cross–all those sufferings that he met with in the world for he took up his cross betimes, and was at length nailed to it, and endured a painful, ignominious, and accursed death, in which he was numbered with the transgressors, the vilest malefactors yet all this he endured with invincible patience and resolution. [3.] He despised the shame. All the reproaches that were cast upon him, both in his life and at his death, he despised he was infinitely above them he knew his own innocency and excellency, and despised the ignorance and malice of his despisers.

(3.) What it was that supported the human soul of Christ under these unparalleled sufferings and that was the joy that was set before him. He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to his honour and government, that he should make peace between God and man, that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.

(4.) The reward of his suffering: he has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Christ, as Mediator, is exalted to a station of the highest honour, of the greatest power and influence he is at the right hand of the Father. Nothing passes between heaven and earth but by him he does all that is done he ever lives to make intercession for his people.

Therefore, we must look upon Him as our only Mediator and Advocate:

We must, [1.] Look unto him that is, we must set him continually before us as our example, and our great encouragement we must look to him for direction, for assistance, and for acceptance, in all our sufferings. [2.] We must consider him, meditate much upon him, and reason with ourselves from his case to our own. We must analogize, as the word is compare Christ’s sufferings and ours and we shall find that as his sufferings far exceeded ours, in the nature and measure of them, so his patience far excels ours, and is a perfect pattern for us to imitate.

Christ, the Son of God, suffered more at the hands of angry and twisted sinners than we ever will, so we must continually keep His example in mind as we endure our race in this world (verse 3):

Observe, [1.] There is a proneness in the best to grow weary and to faint under their trials and afflictions, especially when they prove heavy and of long continuance: this proceeds from the imperfections of grace and the remains of corruption. [2.] The best way to prevent this is to look unto Jesus, and to consider him. Faith and meditation will fetch in fresh supplies of strength, comfort, and courage for he has assured them, if they suffer with him, they shall also reign with him: and this hope will be their helmet.

MacArthur advises us:

I really believe we need to live by faith. And that’s the only way to take a spiritual diet and get off your sweat suit is start believing God. As soon as you start living by faith, you just start shedding the spiritual pounds. You strip down; you’re ready for action; you unload your overcoat, your sweat suit, and you’re ready to go. And it all happens by faith. Don’t be that kind of overweight, bulky thing in the middle of the track. GO on a spiritual diet and trim down. And a spiritual diet is simply understanding to live by faith. Eliminate all unbelief and self-righteousness, and then you’re stripped down, ready to run.

May we keep our eye on the prize of eternal life by focusing on Christ Jesus alone.

What follows are the readings for Wednesday of Holy Week, referred to by some traditionalists as Spy Wednesday, because spies at the temple wanted to know where Jesus went every day after He finished preaching in order to bring Him to trial.

This is where Judas steps into the picture, and the betrayal plot begins. These posts explain more about Spy Wednesday and Judas:

Judas offers his services

More on Spy Wednesday

More on Judas

Wednesday of Holy Week — Spy Wednesday (2017, Henry and MacArthur on Judas)

Now on to the readings. Emphases below mine.

First reading

In this passage, Isaiah refers to himself, but the verses apply equally to Christ’s obedience to God the Father, His source of help when enduring suffering.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

50:6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

50:7 The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm

This Psalm is nearly identical to Psalm 40, and it is thought that David used it as a remembrance prayer to cover other prayers and petitions made to the Lord. These first five verses are a request for help against one’s enemies.

Psalm 70

70:1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me!

70:2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.

70:3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame.

70:4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

70:5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!

Epistle

The author of Hebrews encourages the faithful to adopt Christ’s patient endurance of hostility and suffering. Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this chapter.

Hebrews 12:1-3

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

12:2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

12:3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Gospel

John’s account of Jesus’s betrayal by Judas includes His words about being glorified, as did yesterday’s reading from John 12. Incidentally, John refers to himself in verses 23-25.

John 13:21-32

13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

13:23 One of his disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him;

13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

13:26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.”

13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.

13:29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor.

13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.

13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

One cannot equivocate about Judas. I have read some surprising sermons from a few of today’s modern clergymen who try to rationalise Judas’s behaviour and give him a pass. It is a mystery how such men can consider themselves in the Lord’s service.

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