The most important week of the year is upon us. We welcomed it this morning with palm branches and praises, and the days ahead will hold every emotion known to mankind. I sat down with my Bible this afternoon to sketch out a family reading plan to help us focus on the main thing this week.
This week in Jerusalem, as recorded in Scripture, is packed solid with the unfolding of the greatest story ever told on planet earth. To have experienced it first-hand, like Mary Magdalene or Peter or John, would have been unfathomable. But we have this precious treasure of God's Word that has recorded the events of that week in stunning detail, through the span of four Gospel accounts. What a privilege to get to dive into that week of history through the pages of Scripture. Rather than rushing from the "Hosanna!" of today to the "He is Risen!" of next Sunday, let us pause and deeply consider the painful prayers of Thursday, the "Crucify Him!" of Friday, and the silence of Saturday.
I'd love to share this reading plan with you (although, we haven't actually tried it yet. Try it with us!). First though, I need to give some disclaimers. This plan is focused for families with young children, focusing on the major events of the week but in segments fit for short attention spans. Because the events of Thursday night (the night prior to Jesus' crucifixion) are so detailed and so rich, I started with Thursday events on Tuesday. Also, this plan takes you to all four gospels accounts. A person could pick one account (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John), and read the entire story of Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. But since each Gospel includes slightly different details, I love the richness of seeing the different perspectives. So this plan includes all of the major events of the story, pulled from various Gospel accounts.
So here's what our family is reading this week:
Sunday: Luke 19:28-40 and 45-48 (The events of Palm Sunday; Jesus cleanses the temple)
Monday: Matthew 26:1-16 (The plot to kill Jesus; Jesus gets anointed)
Tuesday: Luke 22:1-23 and 31-34 (The last supper; Jesus tells Peter about his denial. These events actually happen Thursday evening)
Wednesday: John 13:1-17, John 14:1-6 (At the last supper when Jesus washes disciples feet; Jesus teaches about preparing a place for us. These events also actually happen Thursday evening, after they share the meal at the last supper)
Thursday: Luke 22:39-62 (Praying at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane; Jesus gets arrested; Peter denies Jesus three times)
Friday: Mark 15:1-41 (The crucifixion account as told by Mark. For those families who do devos at the kitchen table, I suggest moving to the living room for this one...it's longer and deserves the time it takes).
Saturday: Matthew 27:62-66 (The chief priests concerns on Saturday) and Isaiah 53:1-12 (one of the most detailed prophecies of our Savior being crucified)
Sunday: Mathew 28:1-15, John 20:1-18 (Two of the four resurrection accounts. I'd read them in all four Gospels if my kids would sit for it all!)
Easter Monday: John 20:19-31 (A few more appearances of Christ. Don't you just love John 20:31??)
If your family hasn't developed a habit of family devos, this would be the perfect week to start. I'd encourage you to take 5-7 minutes either at breakfast, supper, or bedtime to read together and maybe just ask your kids a couple of discussion questions afterward. Keep it simple! And don't wait for a time when it could go perfectly without interruption - that will never happen. Devotions at our house are never perfect. (Oh, we try to lay the smack down, but at least one child falls out of his chair during devotions every night and someone always has to use the bathroom desperately.)
Remember that Jesus loves little children, wants us to bring our children to Him, and can handle the chaos of family life. Also, these texts are heavy...fight the temptation to water it down for your kids. This is the most important stuff in the world, and our kids need to hear it time and again. Remember that God's word is living and active, and He will speak to your kids through it.
And cling to John 20:31: "These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
He is risen indeed. Amen and Amen.
Have you been out digging for hidden treasures lately? My kids sure have. We like to collect sea shells on the lake shores in the summertime and then bury them in our sandbox. Now that all the snow has disappeared from the sandbox, my kids have been playing in it all week, finding many a hidden (and forgotten) sea shell. Each one is discovered with great excitement: “Mom! Look what I found!”
Yet oftentimes the treasure hunting at our house consists of things much less exciting: lifting up couches and crawling under tables in search of lost legos, puzzle pieces, library books, hair brushes, and shoes. For me, seeking lost treasure usually means scrambling to find my phone or my slippers.
Our days are often filled with the mindless scrambling and searching for things that are hopelessly mundane and humorously monotonous. Don’t we find ourselves searching for the exact same boring things every single day? Looking for all our crap is actually like the antithesis of treasure hunting; our near-sighted obsession with the mundane clouds our hearts from thinking that a true treasure could ever really be found. Young children are still able to hold onto the wonder of hidden treasure, but sadly most of us adults have lost our ability for wonder.
As a little girl I used to belt out with my Sunday School class, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.” To my little girl self, joy simply meant happiness. I was happy. Life was pretty much blue skies and sunshine, as it should be for a child.
In more recent years, singing at the top of my lungs about overflowing joy has been more difficult. It takes more effort, even discipline, and sometimes joy feels too elusive. Even though I really am living my dream, some days it feels like struggles abound and joy is simply too difficult to muster up. In the wake of losing my Mom I battled depression as I moved through the grief process. There’ve been times, like most families, that we haven’t known if we can make ends meet financially. I’m an extrovert that is called to fulltime motherhood, and sometimes I simply ache with an overwhelming desire to converse and dialog with adults. Some days family life, sweet as it is, just feels hard. Conflict is no stranger to us. It seems like marriages are falling apart all around us, the evening news is scary and discouraging, and Christians are being persecuted in horrific torture around the globe. In my own circle of friends, there is divorce, infertility, loneliness, illness, and death.
Here’s the truth: I failed at loving well today. I was selfish with my time and energy. All day long, in anticipation of writing about love, I tried to get my feet under me enough to actually love well, but I fumbled right up until the last bedroom light was turned off.
If you've been with me for awhile you'll know that I'm just embarking on a journey through the fruit of the Spirit...the nine characteristics that the Holy Spirit produces in the Christian heart, when we live in cooperation with the Spirit. Today is fruit #1, and we start off with love. Based on today and every day thus far in my life, I am not a love expert. (Good thing we have a real love expert. His name is Jesus.)
What even is love around here, anyway? We have watered-down love so terribly. I wonder how many things I said I loved today. I say trite silly things like, “I love chocolate ice cream” and “I LOOOVVEEE coffee.” “I love this song.” “I love these jeans.” And then I have the audacity to use the same word for my husband: “I love you more than anything!” And when my girls head into the school building each morning: “Have a great day! I love you!” and even for Jesus when I end my prayers: “I love you Jesus, Amen.” (My three-year-old just now came into the kitchen, grabbed my diet Coke, took a sip, smiled hugely, and said, “Ahh. I love this stuff.” No joke. Right now.)
How is that all the same word? And how ridiculous is it that I use the same verb for coffee and Jesus? I’m ashamed. Now, part of the problem is simply English…we only have one word for Love. In Greek, it isn’t all the same word. But most of the problem is me and my small, tiny, pathetic understanding of what love really is.
Yep, it’s true.
I actually get excited when my kids ask me questions about sex, love, and relationships. Giddy, in fact. I pray for the questions, in fact. I eagerly await and anticipate the questions, and I try to find the questions lingering underneath even before they’ve surfaced.
So…that’s pretty weird, right? I like talking about this stuff? Actually yes…I’ve been around the country and as far away as South Africa talking about God’s good design of sex for marriage. I can talk about this topic for hours. (At a seminar I was teaching a couple of years ago, one young adult chaperone started chuckling, and then explained, "I'm sorry...I've just never heard anyone say the word 'sex' so many times in one hour before.")