Year A – Easter Day – John 20:1-18

John 20:1-18: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ‘ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Summary – John describes the events in the darkness of this very “first day of the week.” Mary is fearful in her report, upon finding the tomb empty: “they have taken the Lord…” At this point Mary is sentimentally attached to Jesus, but thinking He is dead. In the next few verses (vv3-10), John outran Peter after the fearful report. They also find the tomb empty.  They notice the burial clothes and John sees the shroud over the face folded/wrapped neatly and gains insight from this. In the last section (vv1-18), Mary encounters the risen Christ, but Christ does not reveal Himself to her immediately. He is taken by her to be the Gardener. Then when He speaks her name, she sees Him and holds Him. Jesus gives her a task, to announce His resurrection to the disciples.

Insight – All of history has been expecting something more impressive than the nice smelling corpse of a mild moral lecturer. So here we are. Now the tomb is empty and a “deeper magic” (CS Lewis) was at work to break the cold stone table of death and the power of Satan. Do not fear, Jesus is not dead, He is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18). This most important event of human history is described in this passage and 3 of 18 verses (vv6-7) are spent on details about the wrappings of the corpse. Why? The facial veil/shroud is both real and symbolic for John, like the “third day” (2:1), “behold the man” (19:5), and “153 fish” (21:11). The text says, “[Peter] saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.” When John “saw [this] and believed” (v8). Why is much made of this? It alludes back to Lazarus coming from the tomb and the image of the facial shroud fulfills prophecy (Is. 25:7; 1Cor. 15:54). When Lazarus came forth, he was “bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth” (John 11:44). Since others were to “unbind him” – i.e., feet and hands, this suggests that Jesus removed the facial shroud on Lazarus. It may be that the way Jesus rolled or folded it provided a clue to John that Jesus had also folded/wrapped his own facial shroud and placed it neatly by itself. Or, that when Jesus removed it from Lazarus, the wrapped linen was lifted directly from his head and retained its shape. Whatever the precise meaning, the empty tomb was not empty because grave robbers came in and hurriedly removed the body (since they would have hardly unwrapped it). John perceived that Jesus had arisen.
Then we read of the encounter of Mary with the risen Lord (v14ff). This too was quite real, but also implying something greater. Jesus eludes her recognition just long enough for her to think that He is the Gardener. This is true. Christ is the new Gardener, i.e., the New Adam who will cultivate a new creation. After Jesus reveals Himself in this way and for this purpose, Mary is sent to “announce” (angelo) His resurrection to the Apostles. On this first day of the new creation, His resurrection begins restoring the world.  He opens a way back into the presence of the Father (v17), since He will prepare a place for His followers (John 14).

Child’s Catechism -What happened on the first Easter? Jesus rose from the grave, leaving behind His grave clothes in the empty tomb, in order to make a new creation.

Discussion – Do you believe you are in a world of death or a world of new creation life?

Prayer – O God of glory,
in the Easter dawn
you raised Jesus from death to life.
As we are united with him in death,
so unite us with him in resurrection,
that we may walk in newness of life. Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Colossians 3:1-4

Colossians 3:1-4 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Summary – Paul explains that we are to a) Put on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). We have died with Christ through our union with Him (Rom. 6), so the life we live is hidden in Him (Gal. 2:20) (v3). “Christ who is our life…” (v4).  In the next verses we are to b) Put off sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to repentance and obedience. Paul uses “members of your earthly body” (sacrificial image of body parts), as a more graphic way to say “your person”  (e.g., Dt. 6: heart, soul and might). Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity, passion, evil desire (v5). These are greed-desires for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry since it values and appraises something higher than God. These internal desires are paralleled with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech which must also be put aside.

Insight – Do you have relatives that live in another city? Do have a close relationship with them? My brother and sister live in different states and only see each other every year or so. However, I am still united to them as members of my family (both children of my parents). This is one example of objective “union.” The NT teaches everywhere (especially Paul’s epistles) that we are united with Christ through our baptism into Him and we are to activate that union in faith and obedience. We are to believe that in our union with Christ, our true identity is “hidden with Christ” and we are “in Christ” at the Father’s right hand. Every first day of the week (Sunday) is an Easter, but on Easter proper, we celebrate the Resurrection annually, taking into account the events of Holy Week. Paul wants us to see in this passage that every day is Easter and every day is Ascension. In order to apply this, memorize verses to keep your mind on Christ. Recite truth (like Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:4). Galatians 2:20 (NASB) – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Meditate on Christ’s reign over the world. Establish a daily routine of prayer praising Christ’s rule and supremacy. For He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! We are Risen with Him! We are Risen with Him, Indeed!
Child’s Catechism – What is our relationship with Christ? We are united to Christ in baptism and through faith.

Discussion – Can you think of other examples of “union” in ordinary life? In what groups are you united?
Prayer – Mighty God, our heavenly father, we thank you that we have a relationship with the risen Christ spiritually and covenantally and that because of this we receive every benefit of Christ’s life and work. Grant that we may ever trust and obey in light of our union with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and ascension. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Psalm 118

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *  his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel now proclaim, *  “His mercy endures for ever. “The LORD is my strength and my song, *  and he has become my salvation. There is a sound of exultation and victory *  in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! *  the right hand of the LORD is exalted!  the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!” I shall not die, but live, *  and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has punished me sorely, *  but he did not hand me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; *  I will enter them;  I will offer thanks to the LORD. “This is the gate of the LORD; *  he who is righteous may enter.” I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *  and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected *  has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’S doing, *  and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day the LORD has acted; *  we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Summary – This Psalm was sung by travelers coming to Jerusalem to worship (after the exile). It focuses upon the goodness of the Lord for those entering into His presence in His House. It is used by worshipers on the original Palm Sunday and since then in the Church to mark this time. Psalms 118:25–26 – “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” This Psalm includes some marvelous prophetic words that Jesus cited in the temple area during Holy Week. Jesus was the chief cornerstone, but the builders rejected Him. Yet through this rejection, God has acted.

Insight – The latter verses in the Psalm make it clear that God was doing something marvelous by the rejection of Jesus. The rejection of the chief cornerstone, means the building will be rebuilt. The religious leaders of Jerusalem in the first century rejected Jesus as the cornerstone of the holy temple of God. They were trying to build a different building. Their foundation was their works done in self-righteousness, their dead rites, and their political collusion. They white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Their unrighteousness becomes clearer and clearer as they successfully plot the murder of Jesus. When Jesus went to the temple in fulfillment of Psalm 118, He announced in the words of Jeremiah 7, this temple would be no place of refuge for them. Not one stone would be left standing on the other. Jesus was intent on building another house, another temple, the Church from all nations. 1Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s holy temple, his Church.
Discussion – From your knowledge of history, why do you think God let Jerusalem’s temple be destroyed in 70 A.D.?

Prayer – Almighty God our heavenly Father, we give you praise because you sent Jesus as the chief cornerstone of your new holy temple, your Church. Grant that we may be aligned with Him purposes and His will so that we may ever please you in service in your house. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43 – Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ-he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. The larger purpose of this passage is to induct Gentiles as Gentiles into the Church, and not requiring them to undergo circumcision as proselytes to Judaism. Peter himself needs to see the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? Around Easter they tend to play on various TV channels. I have not seen them all and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has pledge His presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-13

Matthew 21:1–13 – When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Summary – This passage provides the climax of Christ’s journey toward Jerusalem. He has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, Matt. 16:21, 20:17; cf Is. 50). When He arrives in Jerusalem He goes to the temple. Jesus’s “triumphal entry” culminates in the “cleansing” the temple. To understand this, we must see how Jesus reenacts Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 7:12, 26:6; 1 Sam. 4:15-22; Ps. 78:60). Jesus replays Jeremiah’s experience with the destruction of Shiloh (tabernacle) and Solomon’s temple (586 BC) at the time of the exile. This all fulfills the pattern of cleansing a leprous/unclean House (Lev. 14:33-47; cf. John 2:13). Jesus symbolically tears down the house as a prophetic action foreshadowing the actual destruction of the temple (70 A.D. Matt. 24:1ff).

Insight – In the middle of the game how do you know who will be the winner? The one who “triumphs” may not be clear until the game is over. This is the case with Jesus entering into Jerusalem. At the climax of Matthew we find Jesus entering finally into Jerusalem to fulfill a prophecy by Zechariah. A closer look at this prophecy reveals a promise showing how God will accomplish His purposes:

Zechariah 9:8–11 – But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

So is Jesus climactic entrance really a “triumphal entry”? It is not an immediate triumph. Rather, it was a defeat of the Son of Man. He was seized, interrogated, beaten, tortured and finally, mercilessly put to death in the cruelest way. But  . . . because of this “defeat,” planned before the foundation of the world, the greatest triumph was possible. As Matthew hints, the true son of David will have dominion from sea to sea because of the blood of his new covenant. Jesus, though He appeared to all the world as a defeated crucified failure — a loser — by this death, brought in the judicial and official basis of the very victory of God. Jesus does triumph, but through the cross.

Child’s Catechism – How did Jesus triumph? Through His death on the cross.

Discussion – How do believers ultimately “win” their triumph? Is it similar or different to Christ’s triumph?

Prayer – Almighty Lord, we give your praise for the triumph of Jesus through the crown of thorns and the cross of Calvary. Grant that we may follow Him by giving of ourselves in service, obedience, and love in order that we may be found in His righteousness through faith. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5–11

Philippians 2:5–11 – Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Summary – The Church at Philippi was a healthy church, but not a perfect church. There were issues of disunity and disharmony (ch. 2-4). They needed the direct command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Paul extorted two women by name to, “live in harmony in the Lord” (4:2). In this well-know passage (ch. 2) he urges the church to make his joy complete, “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). Paul gives a deeply poetic basis for unity resulting from humility: be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus who humbled Himself even to death on a cross.

Insight – Have you ever heard a familiar tune with different lyrics? Sometimes we do this for fun, but sometimes we hear a new verse written by the songwriter, but was wasn’t recorded in the version we know. Though we’ve never heard these words before, we know the song. Paul is doing this here. He’s giving us a different verse to an old song – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (chapter 53). The Servant of the Lord (Is. 53) empties or “pours out” himself unto death. He bears griefs and sorrows, is wounded, is bruised, is chastised, is oppressed, is afflicted, is cut off, is stricken, is put to grief, is an offering for sin, and has poured out His soul unto death for all “we like sheep that have gone astray.” Paul summarizes the entire humiliation of the Servant in “emptying Himself.” All of this, as Isaiah 53 anticipates, brings about an exaltation. The stone table of death is shattered when He was “bruised for our iniquities.”

Child’s Catechism – Why should we stop grumbling and complaining? Because we should be like Jesus who humbled Himself.

Discussion – Do you have any hard relationships with others? How can the example of Christ’s humility help you deal with difficult people in your life?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Psalm 118

Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29  – O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!   2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.   20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.  28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.  29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Summary – Psalm 118 was used by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles after the exile. It calls worshipers to acknowledge the goodness of their Covenant Lord. The worshiper desires to enter into the gates of God’s house (temple). Then in the verses 22ff there is a turn toward Messianic prophecy. The builders rejected the chief cornerstone and yet it is the Lord’s doing. This must have been puzzling for worshipers anticipating Christ, but now it is crystal clear. This is the day the Lord made – the day of Christ’s rejection. The Psalm foreshadows Palm Sunday – Bind the procession with branches to the altar. Christ Himself entered into Jerusalem like a pilgrim with a festal procession with branches and then was rejected as the chief cornerstone. Through this God will save his people. O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.

Insight (from Jared McNabb) – This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. This event calls to mind that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the crowds were praising Jesus with the words from this Psalm, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt 21:9). Later on in Matthew 21, Jesus quotes from verse 22 of this Psalm and applied it to himself. Christ was the stone that was rejected by the people, and he went to the cross. But his work on the cross was not defeat, but actually the work of the very foundation of the House of God, laying the cornerstone. The cornerstone of the building was the most important stone in constructing a building; it was foundational. Christ’s work on the cross has laid the foundation for our salvation.  What looked like rejection and defeat was really the cornerstone for history and our lives.  And THIS, “it is marvelous in our eyes! Let us rejoice and be glad!”

Child’s Catechism – How is Jesus described in this Psalm? Jesus is described as the chief cornerstone.

Discussion – In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of history? In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of your life?

Prayer – O Lord, You are our Rock, our Cornerstone, and we are thanking You for building the foundation of the Church and our salvation with Your own sacrifice of rejection, torture and death. Forgive our forgetfulness of this foundation and make us ever mindful: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Isaiah 50:4-9a

Isaiah 50:4-9a: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Summary – Isaiah explains how God sustains him through the Word. Like a teacher, Isaiah is able to share this Word to help others. Each day Isaiah hears God’s voice. The next verses provide a Messianic image, fulfilled in the trial of Jesus: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” Yet this Messiah is determined and will be vindicated since the Lord is with Him. One can hear echoes of Paul in 1 Cor. 1 and Romans 8: 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Romans 8:33 – “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” This passage concludes with the picture that the enemies of Messiah will all pass away.

Insight – Have you ever looked carefully at a nice woven rug or a tapestry? There are usually recurring patterns. The Bible is full of patterns, too. This passage provides us with a pattern that is deeply woven into the experience of God’s people. Isaiah begins by receiving the Word from the Lord, then giving it to others. In so doing, Isaiah moves to reflect upon his own suffering for the sake of that Word. As he explains this, he moves into Messianic territory, prophesying the very events of Christ’s life. These events took place  in Christ’s trial and crucifixion. The pattern seems to be: 1) Receiving the Word. 2) Suffering because of the Word. And 3) Identification with Messiah. The apostles experienced a similar pattern. As they went out proclaiming the good news, they were often rejected and suffered (e.g., Acts 16 in Philippi), but as a result they knew more of Christ. One important application is that we grow in receiving God’s Word. That is, we should increase our intake of Scripture and listen for His voice as we do so. Then we will perhaps be able to harvest the fruit of that Word as we speak with  others. But remember that as you do so, you will likely experience some kind of persecution. Still, the result is a deeper experience of identifying with the One who was struck, beaten, spit upon, and finally crucified for you.

Child’s Catechism – How should we grow? By hearing more of God’s Word and sharing it with others.

Discussion – What are some ways that you could to know and grow in the Word even more?

Prayer – God of the covenant, in the glory of the cross your Son embraced the power of death and broke its hold over your people.In this time of repentance, draw all people to yourself, that we who confess Jesus as Lord may put aside the deeds of death and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 –

John 11:1-45 – Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Summary – John 11 tells the story of the raising of Lazarus. The preventable death of Lazarus, like other events in John’s Gospel, is not taking Jesus by surprise. He desires to show by this powerful sign that He is the resurrection and the life.  This parallel in John to a previous sign of “preventing death” –

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

Insight – The beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus is so powerful. It demonstrates that Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Martha knew the resurrection would come at the end of the world, but Jesus brought resurrection into the midst of history. It ripped a hole in the Matrix of a fallen world. I find it amusing that “from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death” (v53) and they also wanted to kill Lazarus, too! (To make him dead . . . again!) John 12:10: “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also.” Why? These Pharisees knew that Jesus brought a rotting dead Lazarus to life, but they still wanted to kill Jesus and kill Lazarus, to boot. This is deeply ironic. They want to kill a Man who raises dead people. This is not a brilliant business plan for Pharisees to stay in power. Pharisees love death and hate Life because they seek their own power and control over reality (godish behavior). They plot death by any and all means to those who do not worship them as righteous, pure, holy and right. What they didn’t contemplate is the absurdity of their own logic: What if Jesus raises Lazarus again? And He most definitely shall! How many times does this ‘poor Lazarus’ have to die? It’s like a Groundhog Day (the movie) situation. Even worse what if the Man they kill is raised from the dead Himself? That’s exactly what happened. It’s Friday, but “Sunday’s a coming.”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Discussion – Do you believe that Resurrection life has broken into our fallen world? Where do you see it?

Prayer – God of all consolation and compassion, your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary; your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in the One who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen.

Year A – Lent 5 – Romans 8:6-11

Romans 8:6-11 –  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law-indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Summary – The Epistle reading provides instruction on our new identity in the resurrection life of Jesus. Many get confused on the idea of being “in the flesh” or “in the Spirit.” St Paul is speaking of our Identity in Christ vs our Identity in “fleshly” Adam. He means that “your are not in the sphere of Adamic flesh but in the sphere of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (v9). Christians have a radically new identity from the fallen Adamic race of men through Christ Himself. The Spirit gives us life and shall give us resurrection bodies in the last day (v11). This new identity is to redefine everything about our life, who we are and what we do. We are the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Insight – Imagine that you had been sick for a while and had accepted that were going to die soon. You had made all your final plans and you expected that you would not be around in a month or two. All your affairs were in order. But then after living that way for some time, the good news came that it’s all gone. You are completely healthy. There is no reason why you won’t live for decades and decades. Good news! Now you have a “new lease on life.” Now you are no longer identified as a terminally ill person, but a healthy person. This is a change of mindset. You would need to stop thinking about death and dying, and begin to think about life and living. You would then think of what you now “could” do, rather than what you “couldn’t” do. Now you have life. How are you going to live it? The passage above is teaching that we have a new identity in Christ and because we are united to Christ by the Spirit’s indwelling, we have resurrection life, now. The Old Testament promise that resurrection would come to Israel (Ez. 37) is true for all those connected by faith to Jesus (True Israel). New creation has come through His resurrection. Learn this verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (NKJV)

Child’s Catechism – What does Jesus do for us? He gives life to our mortal bodies through his Spirit.

Discussion – What are some ways you identify yourself? By our work, our location, our talents, our family? What is the most important Identity that you have?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.