By Pat Maier
People ask, “Why visual faith? What is the purpose and benefit?” When we share about the blessings behind this spiritual discipline, we point to the underlying principle of see and remember. Many of us have trouble remembering the who, what, when, and where of life – whether it’s from last year, last week, or even yesterday! (And with COVID-19 quarantine right now, I can’t even remember what day it is!)
I spent some time this Lent looking back at the biblical accounts of Jesus’ last days in my journaling Bible–to read and remember the story of Scripture for the purpose of looking ahead to Holy Week, and also to see my personal Bible journal entries from years past and remember the Word that had already been planted in my heart.
Paging through my entries, I was reminded of insights I journaled from sermon notes a Holy Week or two ago. I saw images I could still picture in my head. I read prayers that were prayed in years past… and I prayed them again. I was moved to journal another page this year.
The reason to journal is always two-fold: First, it is for my own spiritual benefit and remembering. And second, Bible journaling is also for remembering God’s Word in order to share with others, as I do with you now. Here are some of the things I saw in my journaling Bible that helped make this Lent meaningful for me.
The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
About a week before His death, Jesus received an urgent message from some close friends–the kind of friends that are like family. The brother Lazarus is dying and, in fact dies before Jesus gets there. The miracle of Jesus bringing him back to life after four days is a vibrant example of Jesus’ power over the enemy Death.
Text underlined brings back an insight: Martha is one that needs to be heard and, instead of waiting for Him to arrive at the house, she marches out to meet him –speaking her mind with surprising boldness and with amazing faith!
“Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would not have died.” She expresses her belief in the resurrection on the last day. But Jesus replies, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”
At this moment, Jesus is the future resurrection breaking into her life now and her “if only” becomes now. We have eternal life now because of what happens just a week after this event.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem (Luke 20:28-44)
This is the event in Jesus’ life that we commemorate on Palm Sunday. It’s a joyous day with a parade crowd, palm branches, and a big shout-out for Jesus of “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (which is actually a detail found in an alternative account in Matt. 21:9.)
Parallel words or phrases often jump out of the text as I read, and I underlined “as he was drawing near” in v. 37 and “when He drew near” in v. 41 – and noticed very different emotions involved in these two parts of the story. There is rejoicing… and there is weeping.
As Jesus was drawing near on His way to Jerusalem, the crowds rejoiced, but as Jesus drew near enough to see the city He wept, knowing their rejection and the suffering and loss that would result from their unfaithfulness. This broke His heart –O, Lord, help me to have Your heart for the lost!
The Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30)
Jesus celebrated the Passover in a “last supper” with His disciples. (This significant event is also recorded in Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-20; and John 13:1-30.) There are new words spoken during this last meal these friends share together: “Take eat; this is My body.” and “this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
This image by Katie Helmreich, with the crown of thorns encircling the cup, reminds me that in these gentle words spoken to His friends, Jesus – as God – does imagine and know the unimaginable pain He will endure that will make this meal, celebrated by us today, worth remembering … and so much more.
The Long Day of Jesus’ Crucifixion
How often do we complain, “I’ve had the worst day of my life!” or “I thought this day would never end!” At the time of Jesus, a day began at sunset, so as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing what lay ahead, His day was just beginning…
This was one of my first Bible journaling entries, inspired by sermon notes from a Good Friday sermon some years ago: realizing that Jesus’ day began as He prayed that evening in the garden, and reading through the text and recording all the horrific experiences He endured that day for my sake, gives a true big picture of His suffering for us on this day one long day that ended in His death.
And did you ever wonder why we call this day Good Friday? A reminder for that, too.
Jesus’ Death (John 19:28-30)
I remember that I liked the way Valerie drew these three crosses in her margin design, but as I was tracing them in, a devotion came to mind in which the question was asked: What did Jesus finish? Shortening the text of the original margin, I added Jesus’ words from John 17:4 which answer that question – “I glorified You on earth having accomplished the work You gave Me to do.”
Work that you and I could never do, work that is wrecked by our weakness, sin and disobedience, saving work that only God could accomplish. Reflecting on all this resulted in a prayer of gratitude and plea for help — a prayer I need to pray every day!
The Resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16)
As I write these words just now, I am struck by the fact that this journaling from an Easter sermon in 2015 brings me back to the Raising of Lazarus (John 11) insights from 3 years earlier, that I shared at the beginning of this blog: “Jesus is the future resurrection breaking into her life now and her ‘if only,’ becomes now. We have eternal life now because of what happens just a week after this event.”
Not just Easter, but THIS DAY – including today, tomorrow, and everyday – is a day of victory with a promise of hope and eternal life! “Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Looking back on years of Bible journaling, I see new connections–new connections between different Scripture verses, and new connections to my life right here and now. That’s why I journal–to see and to remember; to remember, and to share.
May God bless us as we live Easter every day, remembering all that Jesus did out of love for us, as we love and live for Him until He calls us Home.
A version of this blog was first published at https://www.visualfaithmin.org/visual-faith-ministry-blog/8s34njd8hlhfsa2f4zn3mgm98z73xf. Used by permission.
Our Ponder Anew group has gleaned the word REMEMBER as a prominent imperative for us.
Remember, so you can trust and remember so you can tell future generations!
Thanks be to God for His enduring Word that guides and sustains us!
I love all the connections (old and new) and more importantly, for me anyway, it being able to REVISIT them to remember God’s faithfulness through the ages and for me. Past, present, future. Thanks for always reminding us to not just remember and respond, but to also share (reach out!).