Resurrection Sunday, Celebrating Life, and Defeating Death

Thank you for walking through Holy Week with me. The final mortal week of the Son of Man started nicely, and just got worse. I’d say, I’ve never had such a rough week. But it ends well. That’s the spoiler here: it ends well for the King of Kings. And perhaps more importantly, He’s made it so it can end well for us, too!

Because of the approaching Sabbath, when the Savior’s body had been laid to rest, it was done in haste. So on the third day, which would be Sunday, Mary Magdalene and other faithful women returned to the tomb so that they could more appropriately prepare the body of Jesus for its final burial. As they walked, they pondered how they would do this thing. “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” Likely they didn’t know of the Roman guards standing watch at the tomb.

Imagine the shock when they found the tomb empty. An angel told them “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” They went and told some of the Apostles that the tomb was empty. It seems that the grieving women missed the important pronunciation that “he is risen,” for Mary was distraught.

She returned to the garden, and crying, was approached by men. They asked her “Woman, why weepest thou?” Her reply was full of despair: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” And another man asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Again, thinking this man to be responsible for the missing body of her Lord, she begged, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

In his single word reply, she must have finally recognized His voice: “Mary,” He said. Her tears of despair and sorrow changed in an instant to joy and unbelief as she declared in her happiness, “Rabboni!” Or, beloved Master.

It is perhaps instructive that He first appeared to Mary rather than His apostles. But we will leave it to this: He informed her that she must not touch Him yet, as He had not ascended to His father.

Later, however, as He showed Himself to His Apostles, He invited them to feel the wounds still in His hands, and still on His side. Doubting his own seeing eyes, it wasn’t until he had felt these wounds for himself the Apostle Thomas believed. 

Over the coming weeks the Master spent substantial time with his Apostles and disciples, teaching them and preparing His Apostles to lead His Church, and teach His gospel. But today, this Resurrection Sunday, finished the Atonement, and broke the bonds of death. Because He had never sinned, death held no power over Him. He was the first fruits of them that slept. And most importantly, because He lives, we will live again.

So today, this Easter Sunday, I raise my voice in praise for Him. I join my voice to the countless others who have sung it before me: Hallelujah! Praise to God in the highest!

Let us not forget His Atoning Sacrifice. Let us not forget His burden and trial in Gethsemane. Let us not forget His silence in the face of damning opposition. Let us always remember that the Plan of the Father recognized our sins; that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, the Savior, the Redeemer, and our Lord, to make a path for us to return to Him. Because He lives, we will live!

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The Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Condemning the Innocent One

On Thursday of the Holy Week, in preparation for the Passover feast, Emmanuel sent his apostles to obtain a room wherin they would eat the Paschal meal: they would eat a sacrificial lamb, as well as unleavened bread, and the following 8 days would be spent without leaven in their diet.

Though the beginning of the Jewish Friday, for our reckoning, it would have been Thursday night that He gathered His chosen 12 into the upper room of a prepared house to break bread with them. Here, the Apostles prepared for an annual feast, but the Lord prepared for His last mortal meal. I imigine some solemnity appropriate to the celebration, but the most astute of the 12 might have noticed an additional sorrow permeate the room.

Here they ate together, and in His true prescience, Jesus declared that he knew that one of his chosen would betray him. In an audacious attempt to further cover his evil design, Judas asked “is it I?” Christ’s reply, “thou hast said”, would undoubtedly have been as cutting to Himself as it was to the traitor. 

Here it was that He introduced the sacrament of the last supper, and the ordinance of washing of feet. Here he taught that the greatest must become the servant of all. Here Peter, misunderstanding the ordinance, and zealous as ever, argued that he would never allow his Master to debase himself by washing Peter’s feet. Christ warned him, “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Peter cried “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” The Lord’s gentle rebuke showed the nature of the ordinance “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The Master continued “and ye are clean, but not all,” showing again that, while his chosen 12 allowed him to cleanse them and make them pre, 1 remained stained in his heart, preparing even now to complete the sale of his soul and commit the final act of treacherous murder and betrayal that he kept hidden in his heart… And Jesus knew it.

Soon after, they men sat again to eat, ““I speak not of you all,” Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Understanding his meaning, Peter motioned John, who sat with Jesus, to ask who it was that was the traitor: Jesus told John, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.”

In the Jewish tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for the head of the table to offer a dipped piece of bread to a guest at the table, so when the Head offered the Sop to the traitor Iscariot, Judas took it. To him, Christ said “That thou doest, do quickly.” Surely, the bulk of the followers understood Christ as sending Judas on some pre-arranged task, or they would have tried to stop him. But imagine the dismay of the zealous Peter and the beloved John who watched as the betrayer, having been identified as such by the master, skulked into the night to fulfil his malevolent plans. John comments darkly “and it was night.”

Following the exit of the evil one, the Teacher shared his last sermon to his brothers. He prayed with them, and for them, that “they may be one,” pleading unity among the leaders that he had ordained. Then they departed, as planned, to a garden, for Jesus to pray.

In Gethsemane, Jesus set his remaining 11 to guard and watch over him as he wrestled in the Spirit. We cannot know, we cannot fathom the burden that the Lord carried. For centuries the Jews had symbolically banished a goat into the wilderness carrying the sins of the Children of Israel. Since the beginning of man, they had sacraficed pure and perfect lambs to redeem them and atone them with the Farher. Here, in the garden, the Lamb of God prepared himself to take take all of those roles upon himself, to fill the Plan of the Father, and to end the symbolic sacrifices forever.

It was here that He bore the sins, the sorrows, the pains of all mankind from the beginning to the end, on his own shoulders. Here, he who was with the Father in the beginning, struggled with the load he had been given. Here he plead with his Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” 

Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, he could have chosen to walk away, saving himself and damning us forever, but instead surrounded by trees and oil presses, he bore the weight of the infinite atonement, and as the olives are pressed for their precious oil, he was pressed until he bleed from every pore.

Again he pled “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”

We often remember the cross as the place of atonement, but it was here in the garden that the Master of Creation, the King of Kings, took upon himself the consequence of sin, and began the redeeming atonement that saved all mankind from death, and all who would follow him from damnation.

Still later, the traitor returned with the Jewish guard, and, having shown them the sign by which they would recognize the Master in the dark, condemned his Lord with a kiss. Ever zealous, Peter prepared himself to give his own life in defense of the Savior, but was stopped, and Jesus mended the soldier’s wounded ear. Did the healed guard turn away in shame? Or had his hate already filled his heart?

Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, where he was condemned for daring to speak the truth: that he was, and is, the Son of the Father. Enraged, they sought his life, but fearing the Romans, sent Him to Pilate for his sentencing, for while blasphemy was punishable by death (though he had not blasphemed, they convicted him of that crime, and in so doing, committed the very act of which they accused him), capital punishment needed to be pronounced by the Romans for violating Roman law. So they sent him to the Romans and accused him of treason, stating that the King of Peace was trying to insite rebellion against the Empire.
Through the night he was passed from one coward to another, and the Lord of All was humiliated and beaten, scorned and shamed. Having prophetically seen the atrocity, Isaiah wrote about the horrors of this Thursday night:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

As we remember the Great Reedeemer, and walk with Him on his road to the cross, let us remember that He bore our sins. It was because of His love for us, His obedience to the Father’s Plan, and His infinite mercy that he suffered the presses of Gethsemene, that He submitted to the traitor’s kiss, that He allowed the abuse of those charged with watching over Isreal and the looking for His coming. 

Let us allow Him to carry our burdens, lest we scorn His sacrafice. If you have once believed, but are lost: come home! His arms are outstretched still! If you have yet to feel his endless love, accept it! For it there for you, no matter your sins or sorrows. If you have already accepted Him, then use today as a chance of reflection and repentance. 

Jesus Christ is the Promised Messiah, the Lamb of God!

Conspiring in Darkness, and the Light of Truth

In the days leading up to the Festival of the Passover, the leaders of the Jews sought diligently ways to destroy their King. The decided to take Jesus covertly to avoid public knowledge of their treachery. It was while they plotted that the disenfranchised Judas, one of the Lord’s twelve announced Apostles, appeared to them. Asking for the price they would pay if he would deliver his Master to them, they promised 30 pieces of silver, the lawful price of a slave. He promised, in turn, to take them to him while he was away from the adoring masses. It was this betrayal that allowed the Savior to be captured at Gethsemane.

The coming days would show his betrayal to his Sovereign, and to his peers, but for now his evil, and the evil of the Sanhedrin where covered by both proverbial and literal darkness.

In order to not get ahead of myself, I won’t go into detail about the capture, yet. Instead, I want to point out that it was on this night, not later, that Judas betrayed his Lord. It was tonight that he made the decision to act; and it was tonight that he premeditated his murderous actions. From this point onward, even had he recanted his evil intent, and protected his King, he would have suffered the wrath of the leaders of the Jews for his failure. We will see, however, that he did not make that decision.

It is not without reason that this Wednesday has become known as ‘Spy Wednesday.’ And as this week leads to the darkest of days in the world’s history, surely it will come with the actions of evil men. And it is fitting that, though they sought to keep that evil hidden, even now we know them. The name Judas has become synonymous with betrayer, even nearly 2000 years later. 

“Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?””

It is the nature of man to seek to cover his sins. It is our desire to hide our evil from knowing eyes.

But the Lord knows everything, and all darkness will be exposed to the light and “everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

We must learn from the treachery of Judas that our sins cannot remain hidden. As we walk the road toward Galgotha this week, we must look inward and expose our sins to ourselves first; then we seek reparations to those whom we have sinned against. No secret will remain secret, no sin will remain hidden. As we follow the Redeemer let us heal the sorrows of those whom we’ve wronged. 

This week, let’s seek out those who hurt because of our choices, and seek forgiveness. If we’ve determined to sin, it’s not too late to choose the right. Today is symbolic of the decision to sin, but we are not bound by the choice of Judas, we must choose the King, and not the silver.

The Cursed Fig Tree, Whited Sepulchers, and Selfish Hypocrisy

Traditionally, Tuesday of the Holy Week marks several important lessons from the Master Teacher. One lesson that has struck me, is the lesson of the fig tree.

As the Master traveled with his companions, the grew hungry. There was a fig tree, brightly bearing its colors before the season, suggesting that it carried fruit ready to eat. Hungrily examining it, He found it to be barren. “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever,” he said, and Peter noticed “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away!”

Jesus used the opportunity to show is wondering apostles of the power of faith. And lest I challenge His lesson, I reiterate His teaching that “when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” If we have faith, and our prayers are acceptable to God, we will receive the answers to our prayers.

But in combination to another of the Master’s lessons, wherin He condemned the teachers of the Jews, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness!”

The fig tree in our first story, is condemned, but not because it didn’t have fruit when the Lord was hungry, as none of the other trees did either, but because it wantonly displayed itself as having such, while being no more fit for feeding the hungry travelers than its fellows. 

Like the hypocritical leaders in the second story, the Lord condemned its pretension; we then, are to be condemned of hypocrisy and unearned claims of righteousness and holiness.

This week, as we walk daily with the Lord, let us remember to be humble, never claiming ourselves to be more or better than we are, and remembering Him who purifies us.

Let us remember that as we invite others to come and eat, it is Christ who fills men that they never hunger, and we are but messengers of His feast.

Perhaps we might enjoy a fig or two to remember this lesson as we feast on Sunday. Perhaps we can learn from the ostentatious tree how not to behave, and remember, yet again, the power of the Master.

Holy Monday, Cleansing the Temple, and Cleansing Our Hearts

Traditionally, on the day following his Triumphal Entry and the praise of Hosanna, Christ found himself in the Holy Temple.  Dedicated as the House of the Lord, it was, in truth, His  house. It was here that the Jews taught the Law, sacrificing and blessing, intending to keep the Children of Israel faithful in preparation to receive the Higher Law.

Sadly, the Jews had defiled the Holy House, filling the courtyard with animal sellers and sacrificial animals, which noisily brayed and squawked as the sellers shouted their prices and bartered with the nearest worshippers. Because the temple was attended from many lands, money changers filled the courtyard, exchanging money’s of foreign lands for the coin of the Jews, all for a nominal price, of course. Surely, the courtyard had become a buzzing center of both trade and corruption. 

Here, as He prepared for the upcoming ultimate sacrifice, the Lord entered His house, no doubt seeking solace and peace, but found again the tumult of the corrupt. For the second time during His public ministry, he overthrew the tables of the money changers, drove out the animal sellers, and forbade the laborers from using the temple as a shortcut while carrying their burdens. “It is written,” he said, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The Lord taught us the importance of keeping the Temple clean and free of the cares of the world, free of sinful corruption, and free of worldly labor. But further, he taught us to keep ourselves clean.

As we prepare this week to celebrate the triumph over death, let us cleanse oyrselves of the sins and burdens that keep us from being holy vessels for the Spirit of the Lord. Let us be worthy of being called His, that He may dwell in us and find peace. Let us repent that He may be able to do His work in our hearts.

Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry

In Catholisism, Palm Sunday is an important holiday… Or maybe pre-holiday? Not sure exactly how it’s defined, as I’m not Catholic. While I have many doctrinal differences with the Catholic religion, (maybe I’ll write about that some day…) I don’t deny that there are some things I can learn from them.

Rather than re-hash my previous post and share why I don’t like the traditions surrounding Easter, let me share some of the things I like to think about going into the holiday.

WHAT IS PALM SUNDAY?

Despite the dangerous and rebellious atmosphere in Jerusalem, and against the good advise of His Apostles to stay away, Jesus risked the wrath of the Romans and returned to Jerusalem in the days leading up to the Passover. The Romans were wary of insurrectionists and were arresting anyone they thought were trying to cause rebellion. The leaders of the Jews had already deliberately sought to paint the Savior as a leader of rebellion, and so His return to the Holy City was dangerous. Combined with the influx of celebratory Jews, the city was bursting with anxiety, rejoicing, and even rebellion.

When he came, he rode on the back of an ass, the kingly mount of the ancient Jews, and his followers laid palm leaves at his feet before him, reveling and shouting in praise, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus was indeed a leader of a rebellion, but rather than political insurrection, he led a rebellion against the natural man: urging His disciples to wholly reject the sinful world, and follow him in His perfection. Here He declared Himself as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Heir of David. Here the throngs of Jews proclaimed His holy name, and blessed His coming.

So Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphant return of the Savior to the Holy City, and introduces the week leading to the most horrific day in human history, and culminated in the breaking of the bonds of death.

This week, prepare to celebrate Easter, let’s think less of the eggs and bunnies, and remember He who is worthy of our praise. With those in Jerusalem, let us cry “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Egg Laying Rabbits and Cute Chicks

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which kicks off the week that culminates in, arguably, the most important day in Christendom. Sadly, I was unwell yesterday… Very unwell. I had intended an introductory post Saturday, followed by one a day through the end of the week, but pain is an effective writers block. So I’ll try it anyway, 3 posts today, pain allowing, and one each day this week.

Easter is an important holiday for Christians, but here in the States, I fear we put our focus on the wrong things. Easter, for example, rather than focusing on the Savior, recognizes Eastre, Goddess of Spring and fertility. Most other languages use a name more associated with passover, but we retain the names of Spring.

While my passions are greater than I intend to show here, I am more of a proverbial grinch toward Easter than toward Christmas, which is saying something.

Many faithful followers of Christ try to justify  the symbolism of the eggs, rabbits, chicks and general springtime feel of the holiday by saying that the celebration of new birth and spring are representative of the resurrection, a surface explanation that, in truth, doesn’t outweigh the pagan origins of the symbols.

Understand that I believe that the most common symbols of the holiday represent and celebrate fertility and procreation far better than they could ever represent the atonement and resurrection of the Savior. The rabbit is known for its… abundant? Frequent? Prolific? Yes. …for it’s prolific procreation. The egg is an obvious symbol for birth, and for fertility. 

But most of all, the resurrection is not a re-birth, it is an overpowering of death. Unlike our Hindu brothers and sisters, we Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, but rather in resurrection. And the ancient pagan symbols of the grove don’t fit in our Holy worship of the Almighty.

For this reason, other than my routine hard boiled eggs, I have not  participated in an egg hiding ceremony for my children. Do they miss out? Maybe, but we still buy them candy and such, after all, I’m not suggesting that we needent celebrate this joyful week, just that we aught to keep our focus on that which is important, rather than follow the example of our Israelite ansestors and worship the Grove and Baal, even if only by our symbolism.

So this week, I intend to share some thoughts that help me keep my mind focused on my Savior, and to remember His last mortal week. It begins with Palm Sunday, and ends with the Passover.