Thursday, March 13, 2008

Preparing for the Commemoration of Our Lord's Suffering, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension


This week is a week of celebration, grief, and personal reflection for most Christians around the Globe. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus' triumphal last entry into Jerusalem, the ironically named "city of peace." John 12:13-15 says, "They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Blessed is the King of Israel!' Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 'Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt.'" Both palm branches (signifying rain and plenty) and donkeys (cf. Jdg. 5:10; 10:3-4; 12:13-14; 2 Sam 16:2; 1 Kings 13:13-ff.; Zech. 9:9-10*) represent royalty and honor.

So this Palm Sunday, as you worship, think about who you are worshiping and why. We cry "Hosanna" ((Lord,) save us!) to the one who has done the work of salvation for us. He came gently, not to be honored but to honor God the Father. He has gone to the Father, in the place of honor, and is worthy of our highest praise!

This Thursday we will observe Maundy Thursday with evening services. Maundy Thursday services are solemn events that recall Jesus' struggle in the garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, and his beating through the night. We think of the "passion" or suffering that Jesus received on our behalf, we contemplate our own sinfulness, and we praise our Lord for taking the punishment in our stead.

"Good" Friday is another solemn day, marking the crucifixion, death, and burial of our Lord. This day is called good because it was God's most humbling and horrific sacrifice that bought our lives. This one act reconciled all sinners who would believe in Jesus to God; a just, perfect, (and loving!) judge. His body broken for you. His blood spilled to make you clean. This Friday, remember Jesus' sacrifice for you, realizing that you have done nothing to justify yourself. In Christ alone, may we glory.

Ah, and Resurrection Morning! What a dawn, what a day unlike any other! We should look on that morning with new eyes! We remember that Christ sat up and walked out of the tomb. Our Lord is alive! He has broken the chains of death and hell that bound us and has demonstrated the power of God over this world. He has ascended to Heaven where he presently is with God the Father. He has sent his Holy Spirit (John 14:11-ff.; Acts 1:8) to live within all who believe in Him (Romans 5:1-8). Our lives are made new by our daily renewed faith in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. May we remember Resurrection Sunday every day of the year!

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Note: I do not call Resurrection Sunday "Easter" as that is a pagan solstice festival which is named after the Middle Eastern fertility goddess, Ishtar/Istar/Easter/Esther/Isis. She is commemorated with white lillies, other spring flowers, and with various other symbols of fertility and procreation (rabbits, young animals, eggs, etc.) While I believe that these things are, in themselves, harmless, they symbolize a cultic practice that was disgusting to our God and to early Christians. As such, they have no place in our churches.
P.S. - The blood-spatter picture is not mine. I found it on photobucket.com. It seems somehow theologically appropriate that I found it among other very disturbing and graphic images of violence and blood-letting. We must remember that the sacrifical system (Lev. 3; Hebr. 10:1-23) was a grotesque removal of life to pay for sin. Jesus did not undergo a cleansed and mild execution, but a gory and gut-wrenching (literally) removal of his life. Our God was pleased to put him to such a horrendous death to pay for the sin that would separate us from him (Isa. 53).

2 comments:

Timothy L. Decker said...

Amen to your last phrase of remembering the resurrection everyday. I try to tell the people in my church (when they are not showing any joy) that "We are here to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Why look so sad?"

I really like your last paragraph. This year I tried to make it a habbit to not use the word "easter" in relation to the Lord's resurrection. I wanted to make sure and refer to it as Resurrection Day. But alas, I failed. I totally agree that the term "easter" should be avoided for its source being found from paganism.

I enjoyed the blog! Is there a way to know when you write a new article? I use a mailing list (though I am not sure you are one it and I would love to change that). You should do something like that.

Have a blessed day.

Timothy L. Decker

Steven Douglas said...

Welcome and thanks for the post, Timothy! I should try to look into that. I am relatively new to the blogosphere. It may be a while til I have all the bells and whistles.