Holy Week in Review
And the Prelude to the Musical “Footsteps of Jesus”
Friends, this is not a true names message.
Acts 10:34. And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, 35. but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36. You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37. the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38. how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40. but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; 41. not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
1 Corinthians 15:3. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4. that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5. and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ...
(Maybe also 12 – 22)
These past eight days have constituted the holiest time of the year for Christians. These days are known collectively as “Holy Week.” Holy week is the culmination of Lent, starting this year on March 5 (2003) with Ash Wednesday, when we came together to consider our mortality and pledged, over the ensuing six weeks, to re-evaluate the kind of life we live. Through that time, we studied lessons about the life of Jesus and some of the other great heroes of the Bible, and we’ve tried to emulate their behavior and imitate their authority over evil. This we attempt to do not only on Sunday when we gather, but we walk in the footsteps of Jesus every single day, insofar as we are able.
Last Sunday marked Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the humble king, riding on the foal of a donkey in fulfillment of prophecy. In our Palm Sunday service, we saw him as the king coming into our world, bringing permanent peace, equity and restoration. Afterward, for some in our fellowship, Monday through Thursday of this week brought depression, introspection, maybe even hardship, as we believers relived in our bodies and spirits the monumental decisions that Jesus was making about his own immediate future, decisions that would affect the future of all humanity.
Thursday night we gathered here at the church to celebrate the Passover, just as Jesus and his disciples did in their day, remembering how the death angel passed over the houses of the children of Israel held captive in Egypt, remembering how these captives were freed by the hand of Moses, and remembering how Jesus’ hand was in the bowl with his betrayer, and then how he instituted the sacrament of his Supper for us to remember him by. And we ate and drank in remembrance of his passion, as he commanded before he suffered.
On Friday evening, the day called “Good Friday,” we visited with Flomaton Church and completed eight “Stations of the Cross.” We walked around the town, stopping here and there to recall the events between the time of Jesus’ trial, through his Crucifixion, and to his entombment. As we moved from station to station, we relived the incredible suffering this king endured so that we might be ultimately saved from wrath and death. Many who completed the “Stations of the Cross” had already attended our Passover the night before and, through the “stations,” learned even better how Jesus was our Passover lamb, the last blood sacrifice for sin. And then it struck us sorely that this man who suffered and died for us was Yahweh’s only begotten son.
Yesterday was the Sabbath, a day to rest and a time to contemplate the great mystery of Jesus’ three-day struggle with death. That special Sabbath, long, long ago was a day of hope, as Jesus broke death’s bonds and proclaimed his victory to the spirits in prison. Later, at the end of the Sabbath, after the sunset, holy women approached the tomb and found only the linen cloths that had wrapped him – Jesus was missing. A woman named Miriam inquired of the gardener there, asking where Jesus had been taken, only to discover that the gardener himself was Jesus. Yes, he was found alive, just as he said he would be.
And over the next forty days, Jesus appeared alive to many he had known – first to the women at the tomb, then to his disciples, then to family members on the Emmaus Road. Jesus then appeared to over five hundred more people, as documented in today’s Epistle reading. Outside of that, he appeared to many in Rome, in India, in Galatia, in Egypt, and some reports even placed him on our continent in those ancient days. A few witnessed him rise into the sky, with heavenly beings proclaiming that he would some day return in the same manner that he left.
Since then, down through history, Jesus has made appearance after appearance, affirming that he has been alive all along; that he hasn’t ever left us! His love, concern and counsel are still available to comfort and guide us. Finally, many in this room have been privileged to see him and, even better, they have known him, some for many years; and they proclaim him alive again today by their very presence here. Over one billion people on this planet on this morning proclaim Jesus to be alive and with us.
Taking time to worship is so vitally important for our health. Yet many say, “I don’t have time to worship,” or, “church stuff is too boring,” or, “church programs are inadequate,” or, “there aren’t enough social events,” or, “there’s not enough fun,” or, “we’re not that religious.” Though sometimes it is, worship isn’t meant to be fun and entertaining. Worship means “work – ship.” We do work – ship to get closer to our heavenly Father and give him the glory as best we can. We worship because he loved us enough to send his Son to save us, and we have come to love him for it. We worship apart; we worship together. And though we often receive a blessing from it, receiving isn’t the point of worship: giving is. You and I, we don’t really have time not to worship, for our lives are as grass that quickly withers. But realize, my friends, that at this moment, we are worshiping, and Jesus is here with us in our service of worship, and he is convicting and convincing you that what I say about your worship time is true: that you must take time to be with your G-d and experience his resurrection power.
For, he is with us in the breaking of the bread, in our nightly prayers, in our health and sickness, in our wrestlings against the devil, in our talking and walking, sowing and mowing, working and resting. He is with us while time is flying on. If we take time to worship him now while we can, when we can walk no more, he will still be alive and strong enough to carry us forward until we are healed by our own resurrection. Now when we walk, we walk in his footsteps; for the
Footsteps of Jesus, they make the pathway glow --
We will follow the steps of Jesus where e’er they go.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Amen.