Worship Reflections for Resurrection Sunday

To a Christian, Easter Sunday means everything,
when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Bernhard Langer

The enemies of our joy are banished by our Savior’s resurrection:
The finality of death, the fatality of sin, and the seeming futility of life.
“He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
—   Adapted from Max Lucado

In the bonds of Death He lay, Who for our offense was slain;
But the Lord is risen today, Christ hath brought us life again,
Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud, with cheerful voice, Hallelujah!
Martin Luther

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.
— Henry Morris

The resurrection proclamation could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact.        — Paul Althus

Good Friday and Three Truths the Cross Enforces

When the Apostle Peter discovered that Jesus would experience humiliation and suffering, he exploded, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Then, Jesus’ offered a devastating rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block” (16:22-23). Jesus reminded him and us that the son of man came to give His life.

This notion parts company with all other religions. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Psalm 22:1 in debunking the notion of a crucified God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “This final utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for Jesus after his death by his disciples.  No real messiah could suffer such a death.  It is an impossible article of belief which detracts from God’s sovereignty and absolute otherness.”

Jesus is defeated and destroyed… destroyed by his enemies.  This was a sign of weakness and a sign of judgment from a common sense perspective, but it wasn’t God’s perspective.

Something happened to his disciples that overcame their common sense. It “changed the cross from a proof of defeat into a badge of honor, a bottomless source of joy and peace and a comfort for absolutely anything” (Timothy Keller).

As we prepare for Good Friday, it is wise to reflect upon these wise words from John Stott and his book The Cross of Christ: “The cross enforces three truths” (page 83).

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross…. If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our sin, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed….

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension…. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by a love like that….

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He `purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Absolutely nothing!”

The Power of the Cross of Jesus Christ

“The cross of Christ is

the door to heaven,

the key to paradise,

the downfall of the devil,

the uplifting of mankind,

the consolation of our imprisonment,

the prize for our freedom.
The cross of Christ is…

the safeguard of our faith,

the assurance of our hope,

and the throne of love.

It is also the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness.

By his cross Jesus has redeemed us from sin and atoned for our punishment.

The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God

and the way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Abbot Rupert of Deutz (12th century)

A Worship Guide for Good Friday

Grieving on Good Friday

REFLECTIONS

O all ye who pass by, behold and see; man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree; The tree of life to all, but only me:  Was ever grief like mine?

—  From the poem “The Sacrifice” by George Herbert

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look around and see.  Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger?”

— Lamentations 1:12

CALL TO WORSHIP  – Galatians 6:14

Leader: “The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, and the prize for our freedom. The cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness. The cross is the way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God. The way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.”

— Abbot Rupert of Deutz, ca. 1100 AD

People: Therefore, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified.”

SCRIPTURE READING #1 – John 18:1-11

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief, who am the Way and Truth,

The true relief; Most true to those, who are my greatest grief: Was ever grief like mine?

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down:

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

SCRIPTURE READING #2  – John 18:12-24

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands—Of faith, but fury: yet at their commands

I suffer binding, who have loosed their bands:  Was ever grief like mine?

There is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains . . .

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away . . .

SCRIPTURE READING #3 – John 18:28-40

Then they accuse me of great blasphemy, That I presumed to be the Deity,

Who never thought that any robbery: Was ever grief like mine?

What Wondrous Love is This?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

SCRIPTURE READING #4 – John 19:1-9

The soldiers lead me to the Common Hall; There they deride me, they abuse me all:

Yet for twelve heavenly legions I could call: Was ever grief like mine?

Man of Sorrows,” What a Name!

“Man of sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior!

SCRIPTURE READING #5 – John 19:10-16

Thus trimmed, forth they bring me to the rout, Who Crucify him, cry with one strong shout.

God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:  Was ever grief like mine?

O Sacred Head

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

SCRIPTURE READING #6  – John 19:17-27

O all you who pass by, behold and see; Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;

The tree of life to all, but only me:  Was ever grief like mine?

Tenebrae Hymn—Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

SCRIPTURE READING #7  – John 19:28-30

But now I die; now all is finished.  My woe, man’s weal: and now I bow my head.

Only let others say, when I am dead, Never was grief like mine.

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

BENEDICTION

Father, into your hands we commit our spirits.  AMEN

– Adapted from Psalm 31:5

Sad Hearts Sing – The Walk to Emmaus

Prayer:  O God, open the eyes of our hearts to see You  for who you are today – the risen Savior who conquers all of our enemies.  Renovate our unbelieving hearts so that they burn with devotion and love for our risen Savior and Lord.

I don’t know about you, but  I still get chills every time I read this narrative on Jesus’ walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.  It still amazes me that the first afternoon and early evening of Jesus’ resurrected life was spent with two obscure people.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope disappointed assaults our ability to trust the plan and promises of God.  I still remember the pain of our miscarriage in 1991.  The bright hopes of holding a new baby in your arms dashed and destroyed.   I still remember the despair and depression that gripped my heart when job opportunities closed one by one and I was without a ministry assignment for a year in 1996.

What does our Lord do when his follower’s hearts are gripped with despair and discouragement?

  • What does our risen Lord do?  Jesus draws near to his despairing, hopeless people.  Jesus joins his depressed and confused followers on their journey (vv.13-24).

The hopes of Cleopas and the other disciple were dashed and destroyed.  Their hearts were gripped by sadness and gloom. They were disillusioned. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. That which causes these disciples despair should have been the surest ground of their hope –  the dying of the Lord Jesus. They had expected that Jesus would usher in the Messianic kingdom, and nothing of the sort happened at least for those guided by the eyes of sight and not the eyes of faith!

 

What was their basic problem? They did not know and believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. They saw the Messiah as a conquering King, but they did not see Him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. Like many who would come after the, they were blind to the total message of the Bible… that the cross precedes the crown.

  • Why does he do it?  For what purpose does He draw near? Our living Lord joins us in the journey for two fundamental purposes:  To make Himself known and to renovate our hearts (vv.25-35).

The living Christ reveals Himself for who He is – the Risen Savior who has conquered sin, death, hell and the devil.  How does He make himself known to us? By opening His Word and sharing His table.

He opens the scriptures, for they testify of him.  The expounding of those scriptures which speak of Christ has a direct tendency to warm the hearts of his disciples, both to convert and comfort them.  The crucial function of interpreting the Scriptures is to reveal Christ, His sufferings and glories to follow from all of the Scriptures – Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The word of God defined and structured Jesus’ life.  How did Jesus come to understand that he was the Christ?  God whispering in his ear”  No, but by reading the Bible.  He read the O.T. and discovered his identity.  v.27.  All of its parts point to Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to men’s lives:

Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Cleopas would have thought about isaiah 53:3-4…Is that the kind of Redeemer we want?

Two things about Jesus in v.26 – It was necessary for the Messiah to SUFFER (TO DIE).  It was necessary for the Messiah to RISE.

What do you have to know to be a Christian?  You have to know that Jesus died and that Jesus rose again and that it is for you.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer?
Because of who you and I are. We are rebels.  Our envy, pride, our using our status and material wealth in improper ways…  our antagonism towards God.   We are not neutral.

Because of God’s demand for justice.  Man’s rebellion against God had to be justly punished.  God’s son could only pay such a high price (Isaiah 53:5-6)  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Iniquities – wicked actions willingly done.  Trespasses/transgressions – moving and living outside the safe boundaries of God’s law. He had to be perfect to make an adequate and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Only if he died, could he be man’s redeemer.

Because of God’s love for us. The willful rebellion of man… the righteousness judgment of God and the infinite love of God.  It is staggering that God should love sinners.

 

We buy ugly houses.  Totally renovate them and made them beautiful.  That’s you and me.  God buys ugly people with his blood at the cross and he loves us into beauty.  He renovates us at the cost of his own body and blood.  He transformed those who are overwhelmed with iniquity and conforms us into the image of His beauty. It’s the tale as old as time – beauty and the beast.  The only way for the beast to be free of his beastliness is for beauty to love Him unconditionally.

Why was it necessary for him to rise again? Jesus physically rose again to demonstrate God’s victory over death.  Some scholars say that it doesn’t really matter that Jesus rose from the death.  It is a metaphor for new life, the cycle of spring. This type of Easter Bunny Christianity will not rescue you at death’s door. Death is the result of sin in this world and we will only be delivered from its finality and curse through faith in a crucified, risen Savior.

John Updike summarizes it well in his Seven Stanzas of Easter: “Make no mistake: if He rose at all, it was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules, reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall.”

Let us not mock God with metaphor and analogy making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages. Let us walk through the door.

Jesus physically rose again so that you might experience new life now. Their hearts burned. They enjoyed real fellowship and communion with the living God. They finally experienced joy in the midst of their sorrows.

He meets them at his table and is revealed to them in the breaking of bread. Blessed art thou O God.  Maybe they saw the nail marks in his hands.  When the bread was broken.

 

  • What are the results? There are at least four results…

Obstructed eyes are opened. Jesus is alive and He is right here with us.  The reference to their eyes is reminiscent of the correlation of sight with understanding, faith, and salvation.  Luke 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 19:42; 4:18-19.

Slow hearts are turned into burning hearts.  There is a complete reversal of emotions.   Unbelieving, obtuse people are made to burn in devotion for Christ. How frequently I have been slow of heart of believe the promises of the Lord in His Word!  I have failed frequently in orienting myself fully around Jesus’ teaching.

Gospel Community – A fractured community is drawn back together. When the women’s testimony to the resurrection is dismissed by the disciples, fractures begin developing in their company.  They all begin to drift away from their high hopes and the community of discipleship. Cleopas and his friend return to the community of disciples to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

Gospel Communication – Bold witnesses – It is the duty of those to whom Christ has revealed himself to let others know what he has done for their souls. Notes what the two men do after their encounter with the risen Christ. When you are converted, instructed, comforted, you go and strengthen your brothers.

 

 

How are Christ’s followers prepared to be his witnesses of all these things?  Possibility (vv.1-12) gives way to probability (13-35)  and probability to actuality (vv.36-49) and then to resolution (vv.50-53).

A Chronology of Holy Week

Next week is the most important week of the year for a Christian. Here’s a brief synopsis of the timing of events that took place with the corresponding Scriptures.

Palm Sunday
Triumphal entry into Jerusalem Mt.21:1-11; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-44; Jn.12:12-19

Monday in Holy Week

Jesus curses the fig tree    Mt.21:18-19; Mk.11:12-14
Jesus cleanses the temple    Mt. 21:12-13; Mk.11:15-18

Tuesday in Holy Week

Jesus teaches in the temple    Mt. 21:18-23:39; Mk. 12:1-44; Lk. 20:9-21:4
Jesus anointed in Bethany    Mt. 26: 6-13; Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12: 2-11

Wednesday in Holy Week

The plot against Jesus        Mt. 26:14-16; Mk.14:10-11; Lk. 22:3-6

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper        Mt. 26:17-29; Mk.14:12-25; Lk. 22:7-20; Jn. 13 :1-38
Jesus Comforts disciples    John 14:1-16:33
Gethsemane            Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:40-46

Late Thursday/Early Friday

Jesus’ Arrest and trial    Mt. 26:47-27:26; Mk. 14:43-15:15; Lk. 22:47-23:25; Jn. 18:2-19:16

Good Friday

Jesus’ crucifixion/death    Mt. 27:27-56; Mk. 15:16-41; Lk. 23:26-49; Jn. 19:17-30
Jesus’ burial            Mt. 27:57-66; Mk. 15:42-47; Lk. 23:50-56; Jn. 19:31-42

Sunday
The empty tomb        Mt. 28:1-10; Mk.16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:11-48
Mary Magdalene sees Jesus    Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18
The Road to Emmaus        Mk. 16:12-13; Lk.24:13-35
Jesus appears to 10 disciples     Mk. 16:14; Lk.24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25

 

The Difference Between King Ozymandias and King Jesus

Percy Shelley wrote one of his famous sonnets in the early 1800s entitled: “Ozymandias.” It concludes like this:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
           

In contrast, King Jesus comes to us today and says: “My name is Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Look on my work, my children, and rejoice.

Because of my work, every enemy of your eternal joy has been overcome:

Divine wrath, since I became a curse for you;

Real guilt, since I became forgiveness for you;

Rejection since I have gained your acceptance with God;

Slavery to sin, since I have achieved your redemption;

Death, since I am the resurrection;

Hell, since I have given you eternal life through my cross.