Day 70


Wisdom Psalm 31:19–24
New Testament Mark 15:1–32
Old Testament Leviticus 21:1–22:33


In the days of slavery in the United States, southern slaves were living under brutal conditions. They composed some deeply moving songs with haunting melodies, rich with emotion. These ‘spirituals’ were songs of hope and anticipation. They were the soul-cry of the slave longing for freedom.

They embraced Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and, in the midst of almost unbearable suffering, they experienced his grace, peace and hope for the future. From this relationship they were able to sing:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

In the New Testament passage for today, we see the background to the extraordinary claim of the New Testament that the one ‘they crucified’ is in fact my Lord. God is described in the Old Testament as ‘The Lord’.

The original Hebrew word for ‘Lord’ (YHWH) had no vowels and was not vocalised. It was considered too sacred to pronounce. For that reason, when vowels were added to the original Hebrew texts they weren’t added to ‘the name’ (YHWH). There has been much debate in modern times as to what vowels should be used – it used to be thought it should be ‘Jehovah’, but most scholars now think ‘Yahweh’ is more accurate.

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, this sacred name (YHWH) is translated Kyrios (Lord). It really is quite extraordinary, therefore, that the New Testament writers (who were Jewish monotheists) made this fundamental Christian affirmation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Kyrios) (Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Acts 2:36) and that our Lord has been crucified for us.


Psalm 31:19–24

19 How abundant are the good things
   that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
   on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
   from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
   from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the LORD,
   for he showed me the wonders of his love
   when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
   “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
   when I called to you for help.

23 Love the LORD, all his faithful people!
   The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
   but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
   all you who hope in the LORD.


Love the Lord

David urges, ‘Love the Lord, all his faithful people!’ (v.23a). To love the Lord is the first commandment. This is a two-way relationship of love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our love is a response to his love.

David writes, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21a). Meditate on how much God loves you. ‘What a stack of blessing you have piled up for those who worship you’ (v.19, MSG).

He hides you in the ‘shelter of [his] presence’ (v.20a), he keeps you safe in his dwelling (v.20b). He protects you from ‘accusing tongues’ (v.20b). He hears your ‘cry for mercy’ when you call ‘for help’ (v.22b). ‘God takes care of all who stay close to him’ (v.23, MSG). Therefore, you can ‘be strong and take heart’ (v.24a), even when things seem difficult. ‘Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up’ (v.24, MSG).


Lord, I praise you for the wonders of your love. Thank you that you hear my cry for mercy when I call to you for help. Lord, help…

New Testament

Mark 15:1–32

Jesus Before Pilate

15 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [28] 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.


Jesus is Lord

‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ I find it heart-rending to read the account of the abuse, torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They crucified my friend and my Lord. Jesus is:

  1. My King

Jesus accepts the title of ‘king of the Jews’ (Mark 15:2). The soldiers use it as a term of abuse (v.18) and it is the name written on the cross as the charge against him (v.26). However, Jesus is the fulfilment of the great longing of Israel and the many promises of a Davidic king (see Isaiah Chapters 9 and 11). He is a king with a difference.

He is handed over to Pilate out of envy (‘Sheer spite’, Mark 15:10, MSG) by the religious leaders. Be careful of envy. It is sometimes described as the ‘religious sin’.

Jesus is subject to insults and false accusation. If you are slandered or bad-mouthed be thankful that God allows you, in a tiny way, to enter into the sufferings of Jesus and pray that God will help you to respond as he did – with love and forgiveness.

  1. My Messiah

It is ironic that the religious leaders mocked him and described him as ‘this Christ’ (vv.31–32), because that is exactly what he was and is. The English term ‘Christ’ is derived from the Greek Christos, which translates the Hebrew Mashiah or Messiah. Both the Greek and the Hebrew literally mean ‘anointed’. We have seen Jesus as the anointed High Priest of God. Here we see him as the anointed King.

  1. My Saviour

Again we see the extraordinary irony of the mocking words of both the passers-by, ‘Come down from the cross and save yourself!’ (v.30), and the religious leaders, ‘He saved others… but he can’t save himself!’ (v.31). This was exactly true – in order to be the Saviour of the world he could not save himself. He had to go through the agony of the crucifixion in order to save you and me.

The incident with Barabbas provides us with a picture of what Jesus has done as Saviour of the world. Barabbas, like me, was guilty and deserved punishment. He was ‘in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising’ (v.7). Jesus, on the other hand, was totally innocent. As Pilate remarked, ‘What crime has he committed?’ (v.14). Yet Barabbas was ‘released’ and set free, whilst Jesus was ‘handed... over to be crucified’ (v.15). The innocent one faced the punishment of death so that I, the guilty one, could go free. We may not be murderers like Barabbas, but all of us need rescuing by the Saviour of the world.

  1. My Lord

In yesterday’s passage we saw how when Jesus was asked by the High Priest, ‘are you the Messiah, the Son of the blessed one?’ he answered, ‘I am’ (14:61–62). The high priest’s response was to accuse Jesus of blasphemy – that is claiming to be God. Why was this? When God revealed his name YHWH to Moses (Exodus 3:14–15), he also explained its meaning. It comes from the Hebrew phrase ‘I am who I am’ or simply ‘I am’. The high priest’s response to Jesus’ statement suggests that Jesus was declaring himself to be none other than YHWH (the Lord).

This amazing truth is the background behind St Paul’s extraordinary soul-cry in Philippians 2:5–11 (which forms the basis of the prayer below).


Lord, help me to have the same attitude as Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to death. Thank you that you exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Old Testament

Leviticus 21:1–22:33

Rules for Priests

21 The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘A priest must not make himself ceremonially unclean for any of his people who die, 2 except for a close relative, such as his mother or father, his son or daughter, his brother, 3 or an unmarried sister who is dependent on him since she has no husband—for her he may make himself unclean. 4 He must not make himself unclean for people related to him by marriage, and so defile himself.

5 “‘Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies. 6 They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the Lord, the food of their God, they are to be holy.

7 “‘They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God. 8 Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the Lord am holy—I who make you holy.

9 “‘If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.

10 “‘The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. 11 He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, 12 nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD.

13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy.’”

16 The LORD said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy. ’”

24 So Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

22 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the LORD.

3 “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.

4 “‘If a descendant of Aaron has a defiling skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, 5 or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. 6 The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. 7 When the sun goes down, he will be clean, and after that he may eat the sacred offerings, for they are his food. 8 He must not eat anything found dead or torn by wild animals, and so become unclean through it. I am the LORD.

9 “‘The priests are to perform my service in such a way that they do not become guilty and die for treating it with contempt. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.

10 “‘No one outside a priest’s family may eat the sacred offering, nor may the guest of a priest or his hired worker eat it. 11 But if a priest buys a slave with money, or if slaves are born in his household, they may eat his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions. 13 But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father’s household as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food. No unauthorized person, however, may eat it.

14 “‘Anyone who eats a sacred offering by mistake must make restitution to the priest for the offering and add a fifth of the value to it. 15 The priests must not desecrate the sacred offerings the Israelites present to the LORD 16 by allowing them to eat the sacred offerings and so bring upon them guilt requiring payment. I am the LORD, who makes them holy. ’”

Unacceptable Sacrifices

17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you—whether an Israelite or a foreigner residing in Israel —presents a gift for a burnt offering to the LORD, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. 21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 22 Do not offer to the LORD the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as a food offering presented to the LORD. 23 You may, however, present as a freewill offering an ox or a sheep that is deformed or stunted, but it will not be accepted in fulfillment of a vow. 24 You must not offer to the LORD an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut. You must not do this in your own land, 25 and you must not accept such animals from the hand of a foreigner and offer them as the food of your God. They will not be accepted on your behalf, because they are deformed and have defects. ’”

26 The LORD said to Moses, 27 “When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as a food offering presented to the Lord. 28 Do not slaughter a cow or a sheep and its young on the same day.

29 “When you sacrifice a thank offering to the LORD, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. 30 It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the LORD.

31 “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord. 32 Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who made you holy 33 and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD.”


Worship the Lord

There is a great emphasis in this passage on the ‘holy name’ (22:2) of God. In chapter 22 God says to his people ‘I am the Lord’ nine times (vv.2–3,8–9,16,30–33). Why does God emphasise his name in these verses?

Names were very significant in the ancient times. They were believed to tell you something important about the person in question. As we have seen, God’s name was no exception. The name YHWH declared the uniqueness and greatness of God.

God’s name also reminded the people of his unique relationship with them. It was a name that had been revealed to Moses as a sign of God’s promise to be with his people (Exodus 3).

Each time God declares ‘I am the Lord’ it reminds us both of his greatness and of our relationship with him. Each of the laws in the chapter is built upon these truths and is designed to point towards them.

The theme of Leviticus 21 is God’s holiness and the need for the priesthood in order for the people to be able to approach God. In the New Testament we see that Jesus is the Great High Priest and it is through him that we approach God. Jesus is:

  1. Completely holy

The high priest had to be ceremonially clean (21:11b). Jesus was morally perfect. Jesus is ‘completely holy, uncompromised by sin’ (Hebrews 7:26, MSG).

  1. Dedicated to God

The High Priest had to be dedicated to God (Leviticus 21:12), as Jesus was (Luke 2:22).

  1. The anointed one

The High Priest had to be anointed with oil (Leviticus 21:12) as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. He is the anointed one: the Christ.

If we are reminded of the need for a perfect priest in chapter 21, we are also reminded of the need for a perfect sacrifice in chapter 22. The sacrifice has to be ‘without defect’ (22:19,21). Jesus was both the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice.

Take these three passages together and meditate on the extraordinary soul-cry: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) and on his wonderful love for us demonstrated by his crucifixion on our behalf, and our appropriate response to ‘Love the Lord’ (Psalm 31:23a).


Lord, I want to worship you. It is you who makes me holy. It is you who rescues me from captivity. You are the Lord. I love you Lord.

Pippa adds

Psalm 31:24 says:

‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.’

I need lots of strength today. Actually, most days! More strength please, Lord.



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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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