Miracles in Jesus' Name

Today's Bible reading: Acts 3:1-16

As we take a look together at these early chapters in Acts [of the Holy Spirit] … a key thing for us to notice is that they often refer to the name of Jesus.  His name stands for His saving presence, as well as for His power which is at work through His authorized witnesses – the apostles.  Just as Jesus healed and cast out demons, so too His apostles.  The story of the healing of the cripple at the Temple Gate illustrates perfectly the power of Jesus name.  The lame man is told to walk “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”  And he does.  After healing the man, Peter proclaims: “And His name—by faith in His name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”  This fact rings just as true and powerfully for us today as it did 2000 years ago: since this name is power, there is no other name by which we can and must be saved.

It is natural that a miracle like this leads to preaching which explains that Jesus is Christthe fulfillment of all God’s promises … the end of His plan.  As we have seen, the risen Lord explained the Scriptures to His disciples.  Yet as we read the sermons of Peter and Paul in Acts, we cannot but be impressed by the fact that now - under the guidance of the Spirit - the Scriptures really come alive!

Prayer: Fill us, Holy Spirit, that our hearts and lips may honor Jesus' holy name.  Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

A Perfect Church?

Today's Bible reading: Acts 5:1-11

I hope none of you thinks that: that the early Church was perfect – like some king of ideal we can only hope to aspire to.  St. Luke doesn’t give us an idealized picture of the early Church – even at its beginning.  From the start it was a Church of sinners and saints.  As a matter of fact, it was just in this matter of sharing material things that trouble and conflict broke out.  We not only have controversy between the Greek speaking and Aramaic speaking sections over how the collections are to be shared out … there’s also the sad case of Ananias and Sapphira, who keep back for themselves some of the proceeds after selling property.  Their sudden death might seem to us like a pretty severe punishment for a seemingly small offense.  But Luke makes quite clear what their sin was.  They had every right to keep whatever they wanted for themselves from the sale of their own property … the problem was that they lied to the Holy Spirit.  They sinned against the Spirit and the fellowship of the Church which the Spirit gives.

Prayer: Lord, let a goodly measure of "fear and trembling" inform our trust in You.  Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

Fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Our worship together always ends with a Benediction – most often the Aaronic Benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.”  However, another beloved Benediction used in our worship is the Apostolic Benediction, which says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion (or fellowship) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Our first reading for this morning - Acts 2:42–47 - clearly illustrates what this means. The Greek word being translated here is KOINONIA: fellowship, communion, sharing or having something in common.  Paul uses this same word for participation in the Lord’s Supper … and even for the concrete sharing of money in taking up a collection.  The word “fellowship” in verse 42 could thus mean a range of things.  Quite clearly, however, Luke is picturing the early Church as a group of people sharing God’s blessing in Christ in worship, the teaching of the apostles, love feasts together with the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.  Yet together with all this sharing of spiritual gifts there was the expression of true fellowship also in the sharing of material gifts – which was no less a sign of the presence of the Spirit.

Verses 43–47 provide one of the three key summary statements of ACTS.  Since the Holy Spirit is also Christ’s Spirit, the apostles are given power to work miracles in Christ’s name.  Yet, to an outsider, the thing that really would have characterized these early believers was their sharing of material blessings.  This was the outward sign of the even greater sharing of spiritual blessing which was expressed as they praised God in the Temple.  The love feasts in their homes combined both elements: the sharing of food and of Christ.  Here was a new community, marked by joyful thanksgiving.  And this community was growing!

Prayer: Grant us, Lord, to live each hour in the knowledge that love never ends.  Amen

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY! 

The Acts of the Spirit

Today we continue our look at ACTS – and I would like to begin this morning with a challenge question for you.  “We generally know the book we are discussing by its shorthand title: ACTS.  But what is its full title?”  The correct answer is – THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.  Although - in all honesty - it’s kind of a misnomer – like in the case of the Prodigal Son, which might better be called the Loving Father or the Compassionate Father.  At best, ACTS records some acts of some apostles – concentrating on Peter in Jerusalem and Paul in the pagan world.  But perhaps a better title for this book would be: “THE ACTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT,” because it is the Holy Spirit that is really the main actor.  St. Luke wants to show that every aspect of the early Church’s life was directed by the Spirit of Christ – EVERYTHING: its worship, its communal life and - above all - its mission.

Prayer: Almighty God, grant to Your Church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and, in the confession of Your name, abide onto the end; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

Peter's Sermon

Today's Bible reading: Acts 2:14-42

 

The “name of the Lord” is now Jesus Christ, to whom God has Himself witnessed through His miracles.  Human beings did their worst by killing Him, but God raised Him up.  In Jesus we have the fulfillment of the promise that was never fully realized with David.  David was left in His grave, but Christ has been raised and exulted to God’s right hand to give us God’s own Spirit.  The Lord whose name is to be called on is none other than this Jesus Christ, once crucified, but now alive. Peter’s sermon has power – the Spirit’s power.  It evokes the correct question (v. 37).  There is only one way to be saved: to repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those are not three separate stages, but the one event of conversion.  To be baptized means to receive the Spirit.  And that is a free offer of grace open even to those "far off!”  The promise of the covenant made with Abraham is being carried out!  The 3000 converts of this great day are a promise of even greater things to come…and our being here this day is the fulfillment of the Promise of Pentecost that goes on forever. In Jesus’ Name.  amen

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

Pentecost

Today's Bible reading: Acts 2:1-13

The day of Pentecost is thus not - as is often said - the birthday of the church … but the day on which it was given power for mission.  Jesus promise came true: the promise of the Father, also predicted by John the Baptist, was poured out first on the disciples as the representatives of God’s new people.  The wind, tongues of fire, and the speaking in foreign languages by the apostles are all clear manifestations of the Spirit’s special coming.

Those who witnessed these special events are “devout men from every nation.”  They are Jews and converts to Judaism from countries around the Mediterranean who are living in Jerusalem.  As yet there are no Gentiles present, but these people are themselves a prediction of greater things to come in the pagan world.  Further what they hear is not a confused jumble of voices like the Tower of Babel - but a clear message presented in their various languages. The Risen Lord had opened the Scriptures for His disciples, but they begin to preach the clear meaning of Scripture only after the Spirit comes upon them.  Thus Peter preaches “the mighty works of God” as the fulfillment of Joel 2.  What the prophet foresaw is now taking place.  God has poured out His Spirit on all people.  “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It is the Spirit who testifies through the apostles that Christ is God’s free offer of salvation.

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Election of Matthias

Today's Bible reading: Acts 1:12-36

Coming as it does between the Ascension and the Festival of Pentecost, the next time sequence shared with us by Saint Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, the choice of a man to replace Judas seems to be something of an anti-climax, or at least a rather insignificant event.  Yet it has a vital place in the story of Acts, since it paves the way for Pentecost in a special way.  Luke begins this section of his “orderly account” (as he calls his writing of the Gospel with his name and then the Book of the Acts of the Apostles) by listing the eleven disciples and the others who are waiting in Jerusalem as Jesus has commanded.  He certainly intends to contrast small beginnings with the huge growth soon to follow!  But the listing of the 11 has its own importance. Why must another person be chosen to replace Judas?  The point is that the complete number of twelve must be restored, for it represents the complete people of God on whom He is about to pour out His Spirit.  Matthias brings the number back to TWELVE.

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Glorified King

Today's Bible reading: Ephesians 1:18-23

One of the Old Testament texts most referred to in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’.”  The early church, on the basis of this text, saw the return of Christ to the Father as His enthronement in glory, the heavenly coronation of the King after His earthly coronation on the cross!  And every time this event is referred to, there is the mention of Christ’s victory for us, and the gifts He has showered on us through His victory.  It is the risen and exalted Lord who pours out His Spirit on the church.  All the powers of evil have been placed under His feet, with the promise that the last power - death itself - will also one day be destroyed.  His ascension and heavenly enthronement are the prelude to His showering of the church with gifts for ministry and service.  Again, Christ’s ascension is not His absence, but a new presence!

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

Absent or Present?

Today's Bible reading: Acts 1:9-11

Jesus had to leave His disciples, but He did so in life, not in death.  The casual reader of the Ascension story might come to the conclusion that it simply stands for a final parting.  It certainly meant that from this time on, Jesus followers could no longer see Him physically.  Yet a more careful reading shows that every mention of Jesus going back to the Father contains a promise of His presence for us, not simply a statement of His absence from us.

Before disappearing in a cloud - a symbol of God’s glorious presence - Jesus lifts up His hands to bless the disciples.  As always in the Bible - so also here - blessing means the assurance of a gracious presence.  No wonder the disciples return to Jerusalem and go straight to the temple in order to praise God!  In short, they now know that they are themselves Christ’s presence in the world, through their witness, and they know that He will be with them to the end of time.  Further, His going is at the same time the promise of His second and final coming.

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

Mission - But Not Yet

Today's Bible reading: Luke 24:50-52

This morning our continuing study of God’s MASTER PLAN as revealed in the Holy Scriptures coincides perfectly with where we are on the CALENDAR OF THE CHURCH YEAR.  We are in the days between EASTER, the festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, and ASCENSION, the Festival that celebrates the conclusion of His physical presence on earth and His joyous return to heaven.  The Gospel writers tell us that for forty days after His resurrection, Jesus continued to show Himself to the disciples – explaining to them the meaning of the Scriptures, and teaching them about the Kingdom.  By this time they at least understand that His Kingdom is not an ordinary earthly realm, though they seem still to think in some way that it has to do with the restoration of the fortunes of old Israel.  Further, they want a time-plan for the future.  Jesus refuses to give them such a time plan.  God has work for them to do, the scope of which they as yet cannot begin to see and understand.  YET before that work begins, they must do some waiting.  They still have to receive the “promise of the Father” - the gift of the Holy Spirit - who will give them the power for their mission.  Meanwhile they are to know that they are to be His fully authorized witnesses – that is, those who testified to the truth that Christ is the risen Lord and Savior.  This is the message they are to bring to the whole world – from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth...the EASTER message we are sharing in these days.

Prayer: Oh God, on the day of Pentecost You taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the life of Your Holy Spirit.  Grant that by the same Spirit we may have right judgment in all things and always rejoice in His holy strengthening; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

A Sure Foundation

Today's Bible reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Our Easter Faith does not prove everything we hold to be true.  Yet without Easter we have nothing.  As our Epistle reading stated quite starkly: if Christ did not die and was not raised according to the Scriptures, God’s whole plan has failed – our faith is pointless … we are still hopelessly lost in sin.  In fact, we could be called the most miserable people of all: gullible fools who have pinned their faith and hope on an illusionBUT…  Paul adds that magnificent BUT.  BUTthe resurrection of Christ is not only true.  It is the promise of your own resurrection as well!

Prayers: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.  In love You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, into death for us and raised Him to life again; so raise us from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Witness in Luke

Today's Bible reading: Luke 24:13-49

Speaking of Jesus’ appearances, this brings us to one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture: our Gospel reading for this morning – the Road to Emmaus.  Without recognizing who the stranger is, two disciples on the way to Emmaus pour out their hearts to Jesus. As they continue walking along the

way together, Jesus begins to open up the Scriptures to them … and shows them that everything has taken place according to a divine plan.  Yet it is only when Jesus sits down and eats with the two men that their eyes are open to the truth: the Lord is alive and among them.  Surely - here in this final chapter of His Gospel -  the essential thing that St. Luke is trying to tell us is that we can know the truth about the Lord and know Him personally as we search the Scriptures and meet Him in the Lord Supper.  The Lord - who explained the Scriptures to the learned teachers as a young boy at the Temple - is the only one who can reveal the mystery of God’s plan – including the mystery of the resurrection.  But the real mystery is not simply that He rose.  More than this: He is also among His people with His saving presence.  He is always Immanuel – “God with us” – a reality we are experiencing right now, as we soak in His Word … and a reality we will experience even more concretely in just a few moments when we join together with Him for His Holy Supper.

The end of our Gospel reading underlines these same points: that Jesus alone can make sense out of the Scriptures … and that it is the Lord Himself who commissions His disciples to be His witnesses.  Yet Luke has another interest.  Jesus eats with His disciples and invites them to touch His hands and feet.  He isn’t some sort of ghost … or apparition.  Easter is not something dreamt up by the disciples.  Nor is the risen Lord a different person from the Jesus they once knew.

As we conclude together, I'd like to focus in on an important insight regarding MealsMeals with Jesus.  On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus shares together with His disciples what we refer to as the Last Supper … instituting the new covenant in His body and his blood.  And now - immediately following His resurrection from the grave and His conquering of death itself - Jesus shares another very special and important meal with His disciples – and I don't want you to miss this important insight: that it is only when Jesus opens up the Scriptures - and finally opens their eyes in the breaking of the bread - do these two men see before them Jesus Christ – crucified and risen.

Verse 35 of our Gospel reading can really be thought of as a blueprint for our Christian worship until our Lord finally comes at the last day: “Then they told Him what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  Buy His own unique example here, the Lord Himself affirms the pattern of our worship, namely: teaching followed by eating in His table fellowship.  Worship in the New Testament church - our worship - is a continuing table fellowship with God that reaches all the way back into the Old Testament …. while at the same time looks ahead to the glorious future of the wedding supper in heaven – giving us a foretaste of the feast to come.

The common bond between the Meals of Jesus during His ministry, the Last Supper, breaking bread at Emmaus and our sharing together of the Sacrament is that all of them are - first and foremost - acts of table fellowship where Christ is present to teach and eat with His people.  During His earthly ministry, whenever Jesus shared a meal He was present locally – that is to say He was present just as we are present with one another when we come and gather at His Supper.  At the Last Supper, Jesus is still present locally … however - in a miraculous and mysterious way - He is also present sacramentally in, with, and under bread and wine.  And after His resurrection - at Emmaus, for example - Jesus is present in His resurrected body, as well as present sacramentally in the meal.  And from Pentecost forward until right here and right now, Jesus continues to be present among us sacramentally in liturgies of Word and Sacrament.

At these meals Jesus is present – present to teach about the Kingdom of God by teaching about His death … present to break bread and reveal His intentions for our eternal salvation.  In this way we could say that Jesus’ table fellowship is revelatory – it goes to the very core of how the Kingdom of God is now present in the worship life of the Church because Jesus the King is bodily present in His Church through Word and Sacrament.

Our Christian worship is a continuation of the reconciled world’s tables fellowship with God in which He proclaims to us in His transforming Word salvation in Jesus Christ … and in His sacramental meal He offers us the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ's body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine.  In both His Word and His Meal, salvation is present because Jesus Christ is present with His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Prayer: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.  In love You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, into death for us and raised Him to life again; so raise us from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY! 

The Appearances of Jesus

Today's Bible reading: The Appearances of Jesus

Jesus’ grave was empty.  But an empty grave by itself proves little.  It is the angel’s announcement that reveals the truth: “He is risen.”  As in Mark’s Gospel, Matthew and Luke also stress the natural fear of the women.  Fear is mixed with joy at the angel’s revelation … and yet there remains this feeling of “skeptical amazement” among the disciples when the women report what they have seen and heard.

St. Matthew tells us that the risen Lord appeared to the women even before they had reported the strange events at the tomb.  Even more important is the appearance to the eleven disciples and other believers in Galilee.  There on the mountain - (and, as we know, divine appearances often take place on mountains in the Bible) – [There on the mountain] Jesus shows Himself as the living Lord … and is worshipped and glorified.  He removes the doubts from their minds by revealing what His resurrection means: He is about to return to the Father … but they are to now take up the work of proclaiming Him as King.  He gives them His authority, so that they can go out to make disciples of all nations.  Here we see a feature that is vital to the Easter accounts: the risen Lord sends His authorized agents - His instruments of grace - out into the world to proclaim the Gospel.

Prayer: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.  In love You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, into death for us and raised Him to life again; so raise us from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Empty Tomb

Today's Bible reading: John 20:1-18

Yet the stories of the empty tomb are a vital first stage in the Easter miracle.  Interestingly, it is the women who are the first witnesses of the empty sepulcher with the stone rolled back.  They don’t actually see the resurrection – (no human did!) - they see its results.  Nor would their witness have counted for much back in Jewish society at the time, since women were not able to give evidence in a court of law.

St. Matthew goes to some pains to share with us the fact that the Jewish authorities had - with Pilate’s permission - posted a guard in front of the tomb, to nip in the bud any possible claim that Jesus had come back to life.  Interestingly, it is these guards - and not Jesus closest followers - who are present when the stone is rolled away.  It is they and the Jewish leaders who are finally guilty of fraud: the soldiers are paid to spread the rumor that the body was stolen.  St. John’s Gospel adds a detail that argues against any idea that Jesus body was snatched up quickly by grave robbers: the burial cloths were neatly laid.

Prayer: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.  In love You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, into death for us and raised Him to life again; so raise us from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

A Double Event

Today's Bible reading: Matthew 28:1-15

Each Easter account begins with the discovery of the empty tomb early on Easter Sunday.  The women hear the announcement “He is risen!” … but the full truth doesn’t sink in until something more has taken place.  This isn’t like other raising’s which have occurred in the past – either in the Old Testament or in the ministry of Jesus Himself.  This isn’t just a matter of another human being coming back to life.  The full truth only comes with Jesus’ appearances to the disciples, which provide the second and vital feature of the Easter accounts.  Only when the living Lord has shown Himself to His followers does Easter joy replace Easter perplexity.

So we can understand why the early preaching about the risen Lord - whether in the sermons of Acts or the letters of Paul and Peter - does not refer to the empty tomb …but to the fact that Jesus showed Himself alive.

Prayer: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe.  In love You have given Your Son, Jesus Christ, into death for us and raised Him to life again; so raise us from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

 

The Shock of Easter

Today's Bible reading: Mark 16:1-8

From our perspective - as we look back in faith - we see the resurrection as the logical and glorious highlight of Holy Week: the restoration of paradise lost … the vindication of God’s messianic son.

So, it may come as a bit of a surprise to us to realize that Easter came as quite a “shocker” to Jesus followers – despite having told them numerous times that He would rise from the dead.  The empty tomb didn’t immediately provide answers … it posed problems.  As a matter of fact, Mark’s Gospel basically ends with the women running away from the empty tomb in fear, and not saying anything to anyone!

Prayer:  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

 

The Climax of God's Plan

Today's Bible reading: 1 Peter 1:18-20

The death of Jesus was not a tragic fate for a great prophet.  Reflecting on Jesus death, Peter makes it quite clear that it was all part of God’s plan.  It was really the climax of that plan.  God was here finally offering up the perfect sacrifice for sin.  The Passover lamb had to be perfect – without any physical defect.  Here is the sacrifice to end all the sacrifices for sin.

Jesus Christ is your perfection … and through what He did for you on the cross, God’s original purpose for all of humanity has been restored.  Martin Luther puts it this way: “All this He has done for me that I may be His own, live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

You are a living testimony to God’s eternal plan for the whole world.  All that Jesus did is your personal history.  It’s one thing to say: “Jesus died” – that’s simply stating an historical fact … even the demons say that.  It is quite another to say: “Jesus died for me … which is a gift the Holy Spirit has given to you.

You have been saved … set free from your sins!

That is the Good News for all, but more specifically … more personally: that is the Good News for you and for you to share!

Prayer: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe.  You have poured out upon us Your never-ending love by giving your Son, Jesus Christ, into death on the cross for us.  Give us grace to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Strengthen the ministry of Your Church to bring Jesus’ love to all those for whom He died.  For He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

SEE YOU IN WORSHIP TOMORROW - GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Crucifixion

Today's Bible reading: John 19:3-37

Each Gospel relates the same essentials of Jesus’ actual crucifixion, but each has its own specific emphasis that we shouldn’t miss.  Common to all accounts is the fact that Jesus here fulfills the Scripture.  Matthew and Mark stress the mockery of the crowds and the complete desolation of Jesus as He cries out in loneliness: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew also reports the tearing of the veil in the Temple … and the opening of the tombs in Jerusalem – the old worship is over … new life is being created through His death!  St. Luke dwells on the words between Jesus and the two thieves on either side of Him.  Jesus’ words to the thief who repents gives the meaning of His death in a nutshell: the death of Jesus means the opening of paradise to repentant sinners.

But it is St. John - in his account - who, arguably, gives us the greatest passion portrait.  Jesus is in lordly control of every moment on the cross.  He dies as the sinless Son of God … as the King of gloryglory as revealed precisely on the throne of the cross.  He is also the perfect Passover lamb whose bones are not broken.  As befits a king, Jesus is buried in a special tomb that has never been used before.  Even the amount of ointments points to the truth that here is no ordinary corpse.

Prayer: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe.  You have poured out upon us Your never-ending love by giving your Son, Jesus Christ, into death on the cross for us.  Give us grace to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Strengthen the ministry of Your Church to bring Jesus’ love to all those for whom He died.  For He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. 

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Jewish Trial

Today's Bible reading: Matthew 26:57-75

Immediately upon His arrest, Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin - the Jewish ruling council - and put on trial.  If you think about it, Jesus’ entire ministry has been a trial.  Thus, the outcome of this final trial before the high priest and the Sanhedrin is a foregone conclusion … even if false witnesses have to be produced to gain the desired verdict.  Yet in spite of all this, Jesus remains silent with regal dignity.  His only answer is to the question of whether He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Even then, His reply is cryptic.  What His judges see now is a man marked by weakness.  But, the day is coming when they will see what Daniel 7:13 spoke of: the Son of Man coming in power on the clouds of glory.  With no justice on their side, Jesus’ judges are reduced to venting their anger and frustration on Jesus in the form of verbal and physical abuse.

Interwoven in this account of the Jewish trial is the denial of Peter.  In his desperate protesting he provides a strong contrast to the Lord’s calm control of the situation and His perfect innocence.  At the same time Peter’s tears of repentance remind us what Jesus’ death is all about: the grace of forgiveness.  The sad end of Judas, on the other hand, reminds us of the ultimate sin: despair of God’s grace.

Prayer: Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.  Amen

SEE YOU IN WORSHIP THIS EVENING - GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!

The Roman Trial

Today's Bible reading: John 18:28 - 19:16

So the Sanhedrin finds Jesus guilty of blasphemy, of ridiculing God – an offense worthy of death.  However, they don’t have the authority to kill anyone – that authority belongs to the Romans.  Here in this Roman trial the true King of the world faces the highest human authority on earth.  But it is finally not Jesus who is judged.  Pilate’s desperate squirming and turning - his repeated movement between Jesus inside the building and the Jewish crowd outside - are a symbol of the agony and turmoil of the man’s soul, as he realizes that he is actually the one who is being judged.

Even if in mockery, Jesus is robed and crowned as King.  Though the governor doesn’t realize it, he also carries out the usual prelude to a coronation: the presentation of the king to his subjects.  First we hear: “Behold the man” … then: “Behold your King!”  Finally, it is Pilate who unwittingly underlines the truth when he insists that the sign affixed to the top of the cross must read: “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews.”

Prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!