“I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Zechariah 9:9-10

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 14:1-15:47

At many places around the world, Holy Week is filled with parades and festivals that involve entire villages and even major cities. All have roots in the Christian faith, but some are confused and infused with pagan practices. Mysticism has no rightful place in the mysterium of God. Animism and spiritism are, at the very least, strange bedfellows with the passion of our Lord and His saving Gospel. In reality, they are a practice in nonsense bordering on blasphemy.

The first week we call holy was also filled with contrast and conflict. A king on a donkey is, in itself, a preposterous notion–practically absurd. The mixture of well-wishers and Hell-wishers on the streets added both contradiction and lurking evil to the festive scene. Eventually, the trial was nothing but a pretense. The judgment was an injustice. The hand-washing was the epitome of hypocrisy. But the most outrageous notion of all is the end result–God on a cross.

All thirteen of the honorees in the Palm Sunday parade knew that, beyond the chanting children, cloaks and branches, there was an ominous presence. Two of them knew that a bargain of betrayal was already in the making. One knew that true malevolence was present and He knew the full extent to which it would test His love for you and me.

On Good Friday, Jesus would say words that can be found in Psalm 31: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Other words from the same Psalm were probably in His mind on Sunday, as He rode down the hosanna-strewn street: “I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.”

In world mission, the phrase “open to the Gospel” is often used. The counter phrases would include “closed countries,” where mission work is forbidden, and “closed minds.” An old story illustrates the meanings: A wise and faithful follower of God was once teaching a young man who was new to the faith. The youth was filled to the brim with enthusiasm and with constant explanation, exaggeration, interpretation and elaboration of everything the elder said and taught.

The teacher proposed a break from their studies and prepared a pot of tea. When it was ready, he handed a cup to his student and began to fill it. When the tea reached the brim, he continued to pour and pour. With tea spilling over onto the floor, and his feet dancing about trying to avoid the hot splashes the youth said, “Master, you must stop pouring! The tea is overflowing–it’s not going into the cup!”

Raising the spout, the teacher replied, “Yes, and the same is true with you. If you are to receive my teaching, you must empty out whatever else is in your mental cup.”

The most difficult work in God’s mission may not be where the Gospel is opposed, but where it is diluted by cultural and ancestral religions. Yet it is not only those of different cultures who must empty their “mental cups.” Every notion of self-righteousness, every presumption to already know the mind of God stands between us and the God who becomes one of us and goes resolutely to the cross for us.

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