1 John 1:1-2:2
“In His Name”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
You’ve heard the saying, “Through Him all things are possible.” This is most certainly true, but not in the way many in our past throughout history have interpreted. For example, many have said that they are now capable of doing this or that, simply because they have faith, only to get disappointed when said things don’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, miracles do happen, but just because a miracle can happen does not mean a miracle will happen. That is what is meant when we say that through Him all things are possible. Miracles are indeed possible because of Him. For what is a miracle? Anything that defies the Laws of Nature, quite simply.
I can already imagine a supposed scientist controlled by the religion of secularism stating that miracles are impossible and can’t happen because they defy the Laws of Nature. Such a statement would cause me to do a face palm and groan in agony for that is what makes a miracle a miracle. Let me ask you this, who created the Laws of Nature? God? So the Laws of Nature are only possible because of God who is the source of their existence? Is God subject to His creation or are the Laws of Nature subject to their Creator? Obviously, the latter. Therefore, because the Laws are subject to God and not the other way
around could God do something in addition to the Laws? And if He was to do something in addition to the Laws then would that not imply that the addition is outside the Law? And if this thing God did was outside the Law then would that not classify God’s action as a miracle? Congratulations, miracles are possible, but only through God. And on top of that, all things that are not miracles, aka under the Laws of Nature, are de facto possible through God because He created them.
One such miracle is the Resurrection. The resurrection of our Lord and Savior is a miracle, only possible through the intercession of our Father in Heaven. It is only through Him that Jesus’ resurrection was possible, for resurrection does not fit in the natural laws. In fact, resurrection defies the natural laws. Many have said that Jesus not resurrected, nay born of a virgin birth, because the such do not follow the Laws of Nature. They are impossible. Well yah, they are impossible, which is why when our Lord and Savior was born of a virgin and raised from the dead following his sacrifice on the cross it was a pretty big deal. But it’s impossible, such clueless people may insist. Yes, yes, but through God, in His Name, it is indeed Possible, for in His Name, all things miracles and natural laws are possible. The mere fact that Jesus rose from the grave, and He indeed did rose from the grave, proves that miracles can happen, that God exists, and that God is above the natural laws which He established.
It is only through His Name that such things are possible. Only through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s most Holy Name, that the chains of the natural forces and the chains of Satan are broken and miracles and good works become possible.
We who were once subjects to both Satan and the natural laws understand this slavery to be true, for under them our capabilities were limited. Under them there is no hope, no love, no good works, no freedom, no righteousness, no healing, no faith, no moving of mountains. But under, with, and through the Name of Christ, all of us have indeed been set free from this tyranny. In His Name we do have hope, love, the ability to conduct good works, freedom, righteousness, healing that surpasses all understanding, faith, and the right to tell a mountain to move. Again, this does not mean that these things will indeed happen, but that through Christ and in His Name alone, they may happen.
By ourselves, we cannot hope to accomplish any of these things. We can’t even do one thing void of sin without the help of God, let alone believe in God. But when His Word enters into our hearts, He provides us with the faith necessary to truly believe in God and thus be set free and do all things. This is why we baptize not in our name or in the name of one of the disciples, but in the Name of the Triune God, for there is power in His Name. If we do not say, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” then we are not truly baptizing but are simply getting a poor person needlessly wet. But through both the water and the Word, when we invoke His most Glorious Name, then the Spirit enters into the baptized and provides them with the faith necessary to finally believe in the Triune God. It is in His Name that we have faith.
This is why we do not pray to Saints or angels or archangels, to Mary or the Disciples, to Seraphim or Cherubim, to princes or Lords, let alone ourselves. We do not pray to them nor in their
name for none of them, nor our self, have an ounce of power. No, instead we pray in the Name of our one true King and God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For true power comes from His Name, not in these other things. Now the Saints and angels and archangels do have power, but their power is not their own, for their power comes from God alone. And because their power comes from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we do not pray to them for their power, but to the source of their power who is also the source of our power.
This is why when we go out into the world proclaiming the Good News we do not claim that it is us who converts believers, but His Name alone which has filled each and every individual with the faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, who is also now their Lord and their Savior. It is in His Name alone that Christians are born. You’ve heard me said in my sermons before how professing Jesus is Christ is a miracle in of itself? This is because nothing on earth can open our eyes to the truth. We are born slaves to Satan and unless the Word enters into us we remain slaves to Satan. As slaves, the evil tyrant forces us to blindness which prevents us from seeing reality. By our own powers we cannot overcome the Devil, but through His name we conquer Lucifer and are set free, finally capable of expressing the plain truth, that Jesus is Christ. Again, only through His Name are miracles possible. Thus it is not us who converts, we have neither power nor ability to reason faith in anything, but God alone who speaks through us and through us enter into the hearts of those who listen to our testimonies and proclamations.
This is why when we convert we proclaim His Name to all nations, to the old and young, to the blind and deaf, to Gentile and Jew, to Americans all the way to Europe to South Africa to China to Australia. All nations and all people are in need of hearing not our voices and our wisdom and our power but in His Name which is the Word filled with wisdom and power.
This is why when miracles do happen such as unexplainable healings we do not profess that it was the saint who performed the miracle but Jesus Christ alone. It is in His Name that we heal and move mountains, and if the world obeys it does so not because of our commands or faith per se but because of God who is the source of our authority. So next time a snake charmer conducts healing and exorcisms know this, their smokes and mirrors and usage of tricks and deceit are just that, for unless they invoke the name of God, the true name of God which is and only is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then their antics are exposed as fake as the eye can see. Many supposed pastors, aka conmen, have swindled money off of genuinely worried Christians through their circus acts. Be wary of them for they have no power. Only God can perform miracles, thus when such do happen, we don’t praise the saint but God who is the source of miracles.
Nothing exists without God, and nothing is possible without God. Through His Name, all this and so much more is possible. The Church, Salvation, Heaven, Divine Fellowship, Communion, Forgiveness of Sins; all this and so much more is only possible through the Name of God. We who are but a mere creation of God, subjects to the Laws God has established, are nothing compared to the might and wisdom and knowledge and goodness
that comes from God. We pale in comparison, for who can compare to their Creator? Even if all of Humanity was to gather together and globalize against God, turning ourselves, humanity, into God, we would be an ant to God. Yet, though we are but lowly servants, God does not look down on us. He does not treat us like how one may treat the ground they walk on, walking all over it. God looks at us with compassion and grace. He looks out for us and provides for us. He gives us power and dominion over the earth. He looks at us lowly servants and even gave himself up on the cross, acting as a servant to us, all in order to save us. We are nothing, God is all powerful. We do not deserve grace; God gave it to us anyways. We do not deserve to be kings; God anointed us anyways. We have no power; in God’s Name He has provided us the power to conquer Satan himself. All things are possible through His Name.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are our ever provider and protector, the source of our existence and the source of our salvation. Through your Son and the Holy Spirit we know that we are saved and that the promise of heaven is indeed ours. Continue to guide us, providing miracles, and the power to overcome all to include the Devil. We ask you all this in your most Holy Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 John 5:1-6
“You Are Blessed”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When this day in the church calendar comes so often does many pastors and lay leaders and teachers of the faith rag on Thomas the Doubter; looking down on him as we praise the faith of the other disciples. The contrast is quite sharp. The other disciples see Jesus and proclaim praises for Jesus as they gladly receive Him. Thomas, who wasn’t present, on the other hand did not believe the accounts of his brothers and sisters and said unless He sees the marks of death that Jesus sustained on the cross he would not believe. Very different reactions… or so it appears.
When addressing this story at its surface many may look down on the reaction Thomas gave in comparison to the reaction of the other disciples. Pastors may concoct a sermon against doubt, which is all well and good, but do so while disparaging Thomas, painting him a fool of sorts, all the while saying that we should be like the other disciples who did not doubt. Some teachers of the faith may likewise only skim the surface of this story and tell those growing in their faith, whether child or adult, that we should not be like Doubting Thomas who only believes what his eyes can show him, but be like the other disciples who received Jesus with gladness. Parents may use this account as a means for teaching their children the beauty of faith, versus the issues of doubt, especially doubt that requires sight to rectify.
These lessons are all very good, in of themselves, but only in regard to the intended end result. Yet, the means to achieve such end results is lacking, for there is much more to the story than what meets the eyes. The saying is true, the ends don’t justify the means. Now I will get to the end result, which I do agree with, but before I do I believe I should first rectify the issue I have with the means, aka the lackluster deep dive into today’s Gospel.
Again, many just skim over the surface of today’s Gospel to grab the intended purpose of Jesus’ interaction with Thomas, when He ends by teaching the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.” In doing so they, the pastors and lay leaders and teachers, have wronged Thomas, and they intentionally turned him into a scapegoat, separated from the other disciples, in order to teach a good lesson. Their attack on Thomas is at worst ill-founded and at best laziness, all for the purpose of speedily getting to that final verse in today’s Gospel. It makes me think of a Cat who sees a treat at the end of a hallway that is filled with empty cups. Many of you may recognize this image as I see it quite often on Facebook. Some cats may carefully walk through the cups, knocking down, accidentally, zero to few cups, as they reach the treat. But then you get that one cat who charges through the cups, knocking every cup in his path, you see cups flying in the air, chaos ensues, as the cat races towards his goal, the treat. Another image is one of two people trying to reach a river protected by a field of thorns. The first, carefully proceeds, only getting pricked a couple times as they move around the thorns and moves branched around to form a path. The other, marches through the bramble, head held up high, forcing their way through the thorns as branches get caught in his clothes, only to reach the river in desperate need of new clothes and many band aids.
So what do I mean when I say they turn Thomas into a scapegoat, whether it was intentional or not? Did not Jesus show up in the locked room the other disciples were in, out of fear of the Jews who wished to kill them for being Christians and because the tomb which Jesus was in was now empty? The chief priests and Pharisees knew what Jesus meant when He said he was to rise in three days, which was why they had the tomb sealed and guarded. Now the body is gone. Because the tomb was opened and the body disappeared, the Jews who hated Jesus and what He might be started to persecute the Jews who did believe in Jesus. So the Disciples, out of fear of the murderous mob, locked themselves in a room, a room that Jesus shows up in. then, after showing up, did not Jesus show His hands and His side? He did, and it was not until after He did this did the terrified Disciples, again murderous mob of Jews outside, become glad. Jesus just up and showed up and immediately presented His wounds. Of course they are going to believe!
But who was not there? Thomas. Thomas got left out of this amazing revelation. He never had a chance to see Jesus, let alone see His wounds. The disciples did, but they didn’t believe until they saw Jesus’ wounds. So of course Thomas felt left out. He is no different than the other disciples. He wants to witness Jesus and see His wounds just like the disciples. Now He made have gone a little too far with his defiant proclamation when he said that unless he touched Jesus’ wounds he would never belief, yet when the day did come when Jesus presented Himself to Thomas, Thomas’ reaction was similar to the Disciples, if not better. For here is the thing, though Thomas felt left out, He wanted to believe. So when Jesus did present Himself to Thomas and dared him to touch his wounds, Thomas didn’t but instead professed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responds with this, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Notice that Jesus is stating that Thomas believed merely because he saw Jesus. Apparently Jesus didn’t need to show his side, and obviously Thomas didn’t need to touch Jesus’ wounds. Thomas believed and professed His belief just like his fellow disciples who only after seeing Jesus and his wounds believed. He is no different, maybe even better than his fellow disciples.
In the end, what I am attempting to do is reclaim Thomas’ good name. To not make a scapegoat out of him, but present him as no different than the other disciples. His situation was just unfortunate, for he was not with the other disciples. And had a different disciple been put under the same situation as Thomas, would you think they would act in a similar fashion? So let us reclaim Thomas, and now reclaimed, let us proceed to the message Jesus gave in response to the fact that none of His disciples believed until they saw Him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
This message is about you, all of you, each and every one of you. For whereas all the disciples witnessed Jesus and directly influenced by Jesus, there would come a time when there would be followers who have never met Him, who may have been born after Jesus ascended into Heaven. That day was to come, and those people, the new generation of Christians would not be as privileged as the first disciples who walked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, was taught by Jesus, and saw the Resurrected Jesus. Yet, whereas they were not blessed with this privilege, they are most definitely blessed simply because they believed even though they did not see.
If everyone initially reacted like Thomas, who was not present when Jesus presented Himself to the disciples, and maintained that mentality then Christianity would have died out before the third generation of Christians. So those who believed are truly blessed, and, de facto, so are you. Why? Because though none of you have seen the physical Jesus and walked with Him nor talked with Him nor ate with Him you still believe and have faith in Him. The mere fact that you have faith in Him though you never seen Him is proof that you are blessed. Blessed with what? Why the Holy Spirit of course.
Here is the irony of what I just said, everyone is already like Thomas. We all initially react like Thomas, for it is ingrained in our psyche, our soul, our very fallen fleshly being. It is ingrained to not believe in Jesus Christ. We cannot believe; it is impossible to believe, to have faith. We are born under original sin and it is because of Original Sin, ergo original guilt, that we are born incapable of knowing, let alone loving, God, the true Triune God, thus including Jesus Christ. And on top of that, because of Original Sin, if left to our own devices, we would maintain that very same mentality and thus never become true Christians, members of the Church, Saints through faith in Jesus Christ. Because we are fallen Humans, we will never believe that Jesus is Christ. We are not like the disciples, we never have the luxury to witnessed Jesus. So how could we believe? We can’t. That is the quick and simple, we cannot believe.
Yet, through the Holy Spirit, we do believe. When we hear the Words of God, which is Scripture itself, and when we are baptized, which is the literal Word of God alongside water and not just some kind of human-made incantation that acknowledges faith, then and only then are we filled with the Holy Spirit. And it is through and only through the Holy Spirit that we have faith, true faith, not by some human ability, but through the Holy Spirit alone. And through faith, you are blessed, for here is the simple truth, the mere fact that you believe, truly believe, is proof that you have been blessed by the Holy Spirit. Halleluiah!
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the source of the breathe of life which fills us with understanding, wisdom, and truth. Through your breathe, the Holy Spirit invigorates us and brings us to new life, revealing to us the truth that Jesus is Lord of all, our Savior, and our King. Continue to bless us with the gift of the Spirit so that we may never fall into doubt, and help us to spread this gift so that others too may be blessed. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Psalm 116:1; 10-19
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
“Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
Today marks the night in which our Lord, Jesus Christ was to be betrayed, taken away from us, leading towards what could only be called a shame trial, suffered humiliation and death on a cross, and eventually sealed within a tomb. The Passion is about to begin, but before it does, and Jesus gave his disciples fair warning just before serving the meal about this betrayal, He wanted to leave them something. This Bread is my body. This Cup of Wine is my blood. Eat and drink this for the forgiveness of sin and in remembrance of Me. Though He died, He left for all of humanity the means of allowing Him to be with us at all times, for though we are in Him through our faith, He is in us through Communion, not just spiritually but also physically.
Now previously in the Bible, John 6 to be exact, Jesus mentioned to the Jews that He was the Bread of Life and all who consume Him will live eternally. Of course many of the Jews were horrified by Jesus’ rhetoric and were accusing Him of promoting cannibalism which is against the Law. Jesus then doubles down on the Word, for it says in scripture, “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”’ (John 6:52-58). Even after this, the Jews still grumbled, taking offense at Jesus’ words, and many turned away from Him, but the twelve remained.
What is interesting is that history repeats itself, for just as many of the Jews balked at Jesus’ words, during the time of Martin Luther, among the Christian group known as Protestants, there too was balking at Jesus’ words. This can’t be His physical flesh and blood, is must mean a metaphor and we should consume the elements out of just mere remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. This was coming from the Leader of the Protestant movement, Zwingli, Luther’s arch nemesis. So in response to the Protestants, the Augustinian Catholics, led by Luther, professed this: Jesus said that this is His body and blood therefore the bread and wine is His body and blood. End of debate, no point in asking how it is so, Jesus never told us that, instead let us discuss why it is so, which Jesus did tell us.
Fast forward to today’s Gospel, Jesus is now blessing the elements of what will be His final meal with them before His death. So He leaves them the reminder that He is the Bread of Life, and gives them a command, a mandate, on this Maundy, this Mandate Thursday. Eat. Drink. And according to Mark, this meal that Jesus blessed was on the first day of Unleavened Bread, that is Passover, which means that this meal was the first Seder, which is Jewish for order. It is commanded that on this Seder, alongside the Passover lamb, the Jews are to ceremonially eat unleavened bread and drink wine. It is this bread and this wine, prepared for the first Seder that Jesus blessed and then provided for us His mandate.
And just like the Jews, today we too eat the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may abide in Him and He, the source of all life, in us, but there is so much more to this Sacrament than just mere physical consumption so that He may abide in us. For is not the Holy Spirit attached to the elements of Communion? It is, for Communion is a Sacrament, and the Word is present in the Sacraments, therefore the Holy Spirit is present. Why is that important? What do we say about the Holy Spirit in the Small Catechism? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”
Bread is sustenance necessary for life, without our daily bread, without food, we will die. Likewise, we who are already truly dead, dead in sin, needs the daily Bread of Life in order to be brought back to life from our dead sinfulness and daily retain God within us who is the source of true life. And as we live in sin, our eyes are veiled from the truth, for we are born in original sin incapable of knowing nor loving God. It is through the Word that our eyes are opened to the truth and life is breathed into our lifeless bones and the veil of sin lifted. We cannot believe in God, we cannot have faith in Him, but through the external Word that enters into us through Baptism we are finally capable of belief, yet, how do we retain this belief?
Only Christ can truly wipe away all our sins and sanctify us, and because Christ is present in the Eucharist, the remission of sins does indeed come from the bread and the wine, and it is the nourishment of Christ that not only cleanses us and daily sanctifies us but also allows us to retain the knowledge and love of God. Again by our own devices we are incapable of knowing, let alone loving, God; yet through the Holy Spirit we have faith. Over time, because of the buildup of sin and the weight of the world we may get lost in our despair, guilt, and shame; losing our love in God, giving into worldly notions that deceive us about God, and eventually altogether forgetting God. We don’t just consume the body and blood of Christ because we remember Him; we consume His body and blood so that we will continue to remember Him, to live in Him truly as He truly lives in us.
And what is it we remember? According to Paul, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Jesus is about to die, but we do not mourn His death, we proclaim it, for through His sacrifice He has provided for us unworthy servants the means of eternal forgiveness and everlasting life. When we celebrate communion, we also proclaim the Lord’s death, and should we not proclaim the Lord’s death as often as we can? Should we not consume this daily bread as often as we can in communion with one another all for the sake of receiving Christ’s forgiveness, His spiritual nourishment, and retention of our faith with remembrance and love toward the Triune God?
This is my body. This is my blood. As we consume Communion today let us remember this fact and never forget.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your son you have provided for us the means of daily forgiveness and retention of our faith toward you. Encourage us to forget not your promises and to latch on to every gift you provide for us, Word and Sacrament, all for the sake of, above all else, latching on to You. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Psalm 118:1-2, 15-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-28
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today is a most glorious and happy day, for today the doom and gloom of the last several days has been lifted. Gone is the depression of the buried King who was killed on a tree and placed within a tomb, and why? It hasn’t been very long since we last saw Him breath His last breathe. Many, if not most, of us are still mourning. Why should we be happy? What has happened to lift this dreadful weight off of our heavy hearts and slumped shoulders? Why should we be happy? Our Lord, our King, our Savior, our Messiah, is now dead, and our hands at that!
Have you not heard? Heard what? There is no need to have such heavy hearts or slumped shoulders, for I bring good news! What is this good News you bring to alleviate me of this ailment of shame and guilt? What good news is so powerful that it can wipe away the tears from cast down eyes and remove the permanent creases in my frowning face? I am tired, I am weary, I am worn. I killed my Savior, if not with my own hands then with my unwillingness to protect Him, to sacrifice myself in lieu of Him. I did nothing, and now He, the Son of Man, Son of God is dead! Why should I be happy?
He is no longer dead. He is no longer dead! That is the Good News, the grave no longer has dominion over Him, the deep holds Him no more, He has conquered Death! He is Risen! He is Risen! He is Risen!
That is the Good News, no more do you have to look down with eyes full of sorrow for the Lamb who was slaughtered is alive once more! Your King of which you thought was gone is here. Your King of which you killed is no longer dead! And he does not come with vengeance against those who persecuted Him, who wronged Him, who slandered Him, who left Him to die, but with forgiveness and open arms. Did He not say with his dying breath, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing”? So no more do you have to worry; instead rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, not just now but always, again I say rejoice!
Walk with joy in your steps, with vigor that causes you to leap. Lift up your heads, lift them high. Your Lord is not in the Ground, so stop looking down. He is here, so look up. And while you are at it cast away those worries and concerns, cast away that frown that mares your face, but know that your Lord is with you for not even death can hold Him. Smile! Leap with joy! Dance with mirth! Be Merry and have fun! Eat together in fellowship and celebration! And above all else, Worship and give Praise, for the tomb that once held our Lord is empty. He is Risen!
How is this so...? Does this have something to do with those most curious sayings of His when he said that He would raise the temple up in three days? It must be! For though I did not understand what He meant back then, now it makes sense! He is the temple! Tear this temple down and on the third day He will raise it back up. Is not today the third day? It is! He’s been foretelling this to us all along! How did I not notice? How did I not see? What else did I miss? What about His death? Why did He die?
In Scripture, does it not say many times that the Messiah must die, that this servant must give up His life? And does it not say in what manner He was to die? It says so in Psalm 22, Isaiah 52, and 53. And recently, our Teacher told us that the Son was to be lifted up. Does that not mean the cross? It does, but why did He had to die? He died so that through His death He may put to eternal rest the Old Adam, to put to death our sins, but He rises and with Him also rises within us the New Adam and newness of life! All this was foretold, and now we finally see what Scripture and our Lord has been trying to tell us. Christ died for our sake, but Christ is alive for our sake. Christ descended to Hell so we won’t have to, but then Christ ascended, is resurrected, so that we may never be alone.
In the days of old it was taught that because God is the God of the Living, upon death we go to Sheol, abandoned by God whose face is not cast on us. This was because God could not have any sin within Him. But through faith in Christ we are not abandoned but are guaranteed eternal life with Christ! How is this so? Here is the great mystery finally revealed. When God came in the form of Christ and died upon that Cross, He took on all of our sin and went to Hell for our sake. Yet Christ is not the God of the dead, but the God of the Living, therefore death has no hold over Him, so in three days, Christ rose from the dead, conquering Hell, and lives eternal. And because He already paid our ransom and went to Hell in our stead, upon our last breathe, through faith in Him, we will not certainly die but live with Christ and all the saints eternally.
Yes He died, but wipe away that frown, because He lives and wants you to know, each and every one of you, that he has already forgiven you and wants to walk with you, not as the Lord who died but as the Risen Lord.
One tradition we have in the Church that helps us with not only remembering the miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection but also to have a little fun while we remember, a very common Easter tradition, is Easter Eggs. There are multiple “hidden” messages and layers to the meaning behind this tradition. First, is the search for Jesus. He is Risen! Cool… So where is He? Have you ever try to find something and you can’t just figure out where it is, only to realize that you have been looking right at it, plain as the eye can see, the whole time? The same feeling can be used for the search of Jesus. He is here! Where? I do not see Him. Is He under that pew? Is He behind the NALC in the Narthex? Is He hiding in a bush outside? No, but I did hide some eggs there. No, Jesus is not hidden, it is plain as the eye can see that He is indeed Here. But I don’t see Him. Trust me, He is here. On top of that, notice how in all the stories of Jesus after His Resurrection that when many see Him they don’t recognize Him and how it is only when He reveals Himself that the disciples finally see Him. Jesus is not like some tamed animal who comes at your beckoning call and reveals itself when you wish to see it. He is like a free lion who does as He pleases. Who comes and goes as He chooses. He is here, that is most certainly true, but if He wishes to be seen He will reveal Himself. And yes, I just referenced Aslan from Narnia, written by C. S. Lewis, Father of modern Christian Apologetics.
Now when you finally do find the eggs what do you do? We gather them up and find the next. Yes, yes, not what I meant, what do you do to that particular egg? You open it up and take out the candy. Exactly! So the egg is now… what? Open? Yes, and? Empty. Exactly! At one point the egg had something in it and on Easter it was opened and became empty. What else was filled and on Easter was opened and empty? The Tomb! These eggs are like the tomb that Jesus was placed in for just like these eggs, on Easter day, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. And upon finding the tomb they saw that it was already opened and Jesus was not in it.
Now as a joke I almost decided to do likewise with the eggs, that is hide a lot of plastic eggs that are both cracked open and empty throughout the church. I thought better of it. I mean the message at least would not be lost, just like the three you searched and found an egg that is already opened and empty… don’t you hate it when that happens? You participate in an Easter egg hunt, you see the shiny red color of an egg in the grass, you go to it and upon lifting it up off the grass you find out it is already open and empty. I mean come on. So, out of displeasure, what do you do? You drop it on the ground… only to repeat the process with someone else. So I didn’t hide empty eggs.
Yet, here is the thing, whereas we would be disappointed at seeing an empty Easter egg, do you think the disciples were disappointed in finding out that the tomb was empty? Terrified, definitely, but not disappointed, for they were told that Jesus has Risen from the Grave. Why would the disciples be disappointed over that? Terrified? Possibly. Skeptical? Some were. Joyious? In the end, when they realized that Christ has Risen, most definitely. For this much is most certainly true: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen!
Let us Pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you and your Son cannot be conquered by death for you are the source of all Life. You are the Way, the Truth, and Life. Instead you have conquered death and have given us a sign through the glorious resurrection of your Son. That nothing can separate us from your and from your love toward us. You are with us now and forever and just like your Son who was resurrection, we know with certainty that through faith in Him we too cannot be conquered by death, but resurrected too. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Psalm 31:1-5, 9-16
“Palms to Passion”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Each year we gather one week before Easter to wave around palm branches, celebrating the coming Lord as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey. He came in a humble manner, yet the people who believed in Him wanted to give their laud and praise to this Rabbi, this Prophet, this King. They lined the street to the gate cheering and giving hoorays as they waved their palm branches around, kind of like how we might wave around foam number one hands at a game or various lights at a concert. This was no king, he was a celebrity. He has healed the sick, turned water into wine, raised the dead, and feed thousands upon thousands. His words are full of wisdom and authority, and He is approachable. This King is like no other king. So they treated him differently than Herod or Pilate or the Pharisees, they treated him the same way we today treat the celebrities we fantasize over.
Today, if we found out people such as actors, singers, sportsmen were to show up we would get all in a tizzy just to get one glimpse, let alone a handshake or signature. Oh, they’re hosting a concert at the nearby theater? Let us figure out what route they might use to get to the concert so we can get a photoshoot. Let us order the tickets as soon as we possibly can so we can throw half our wage to get that front seat. Let us wear ridiculous amounts of fan gear to catch their attention and notice just how much of a die heart we are. And if they are walking down a fenced path let us get as close to the path as early as possible so that when the time comes we could reach over the bars and just get a touch of the singer’s clothes.
Oh, a scene for an upcoming movie is being filmed at a nearby city? Isn’t, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks or Morgan Freeman, in the movie? Let us get a closer view, maybe even sign up as an extra background pedestrian in the movie so we can say to our great-grandkids, “When I was your age, I was an actor. In fact I was filmed with this once famous actor… Here let me show you… Ah! Here is the scene. Behind Tom Hanks, in that giant crowd of people, you see that hand waving in the air near the back? That’s me.”
We go to great lengths for the ones we turn into celebrities, and for Jesus, as He entered into Jerusalem, the people there went to great lengths to figure out which gate Jesus was to enter into, to have palms prepared, to get off work; even centurions came, though probably most didn’t come for Jesus particularly. There was much excitement and joy and mirth and shouts of hosannas. So much so that the Pharisees, aghast, asked Jesus to discipline these disciples who were making an unsightly spectacle of themselves.
This day seemingly marked a day of extreme happiness for the King has finally arrived at His Kingdom. But such quickly turned sour, for in a matter of days, Jesus was to be crucified. Just days… the saying is most certainly true here, “Well that escalated quickly!” For it was a Sunday that Jesus entered Jerusalem surrounded by adoring disciples and citizens. The next day, Jesus cleared the Temple and it went downhill from there. We welcomed you with open arms and you come in like a bull in a china shop, quiet literally. He upended everything: in Matthew 21 it says He drove out sellers and customers, He destroyed property of those abusing His home, He accused them of being a den of robbers, He allowed the sick to enter the sanctuary, and He even allowed obnoxiously loud children into the temples. He most certainly upended everything, and the Pharisees who ran the place and many others such as those merchants were not happy. The plot to kill this usurper, to kick Him out of their Home which they have made comfortable, regardless of their unscriptural shenanigans, was underway. And today’s Gospel, was the result of their conspiring.
Less than one week! Less than one week! It’s not like they were already conspiring to kill Him. Yet, all it took was one week for the Pharisees to whip up Jerusalem into a frenzy against this Usurper. We were hoodwinked into believing this man was the King of the Jews, He is no King! He upended our way of life and criticized our practices within the Church and without our consent included various practices that we detest, such as letting the sick and kids in the church. One week, and they killed this bull who dared destroy their precious heretical china shop.
So they in the end delivered this man to Pilate to start the process of leading Him to His death. Now this was not your usual trial, for this was a shame trial, controlled by the court of public opinion, controlled by the real puppet masters, the Pharisees, who acted as the trusted source of news for the common people. Though Jerusalem was under Roman control, with Pilate as governor, it was the frenzied mob and their intimidating chief priests and elders and scribes who were really in control. Pilate was a good Soldier boy, and he wanted Jerusalem to be at peace. Therefore He wasn’t the one truly in control, but the angry mob who threatened civility.
So when the priests handed Jesus over to Pilate, the very man who was hailed as King of the Jews just days ago, what do you think He said; “Are you the King of the Jews?” If Jesus said yes then He would have been tried a heretic; if He said no then He would have been tried for admitting He was a heretic. So, impressing Pilate, Jesus said, “You have said so,” and gave no further reply. Pilate did not want to see Jesus dead, but he was a Soldier who prized good order, and for the sake of good order, allowed the mob to control the trial rather than give Jesus a fairer one. Pilate went so far as to allow the Jews to choose between Jesus and a mass murderer who caused an insurrection, Barabbas. In their illogical and irrational rage, blinded by hatred, they said it was better to let this mass murderer go than to let The Son of Man, whom they themselves called King of the Jews, go.
“Why? What evil has he done?” said Pilate, bewildered, by the extreme revulsion oozing out of this horde. And what was their response? Crucify Him! They need no reason. Why, when blinded by hatred, by feelings, facts or evidence means squat. Who needs reason when all you need is an angry mob to get things done? And it worked; Pilate caved, and gave up on saving Jesus. Pilate was the last safeguard to prevent Jesus’ death, and he failed. He chose satisfying the mob over satisfying true good order. He chose the easy route over the right route. He was not a bad man, but he was definitely weak, for when it mattered most, when the ugly monster of irrational hatred reared its face, He croaked. Now no one could save Jesus. His fate was sealed, not like it already was.
All of this was already foretold in Scripture. Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews, but what does that mean? It means He had to die to save every one. Jesus didn’t give up, nor did He give into the mob. He had a mission to fulfill. His fate was already sealed. He did not deserve to die, yet he did nothing to prevent His death. There is a reason why he waited to go to Jerusalem. It was not His time to die. He knew the moment He entered into Jerusalem the gears would start moving, and everything foretold about His death would be set in motion.
All it took was one week. In the beginning they praised Him as King of the Jews. In the end they mocked Him as King of the Jews. And it wasn’t until He died, too late, that they realized, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, we humans are weak and give into our emotions so easily, especially when the devil whispers sweat words into our ears against you. Shield us from His influence and help us to see your amazing love for us. In your name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.