Worship Helps for Easter 3

The Incredulity of St. Thomas
Benjamin West

Worship Theme: Does telling others about Christ intimidate you? Do you fear how people will react? Today we see that Jesus’ death and resurrection give believers confidence. Our sins have been washed clean in his blood. We have forgiveness for any and all sins. Such truths give us the courage to witness boldly to the lost about Christ’s love and the rescue we have in his name.

First Lesson: Acts 12:1-19
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating." 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" 15 "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." 16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place. 18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while.

1. Compare 12:5 with 12:15. What is ironic?

2. This story does not prove that a Christian will never suffer unjust imprisonment or death. What does it prove?


Second Lesson:  2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

3. How does God always lead Paul and those who spread the gospel with him?

4. What does Paul mean, practically, when he says that to some we are the aroma of life, and to others, the smell of death?

5. What does Paul mean by “the letter” and “the Spirit” in 3:6?


Gospel: Luke 24:36-49
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. 44 He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

6. What did the disciples think when Jesus appeared to them?

7. We have not seen Jesus with our own eyes. In what way are we also witnesses?


Answers:
1. In 12:5 the believers pray earnestly that Peter will be released. When he is released, though, they can’t imagine how it could be true.

2. This story shows the power of God’s Word; it changed Peter from a man scared of a slave girl, denying his Lord three times, to a man who can sleep peacefully in prison. This story also proves that God answers prayer for the good of the spread of the gospel. It proves that God gives the holy angels great power; we should thank God for his holy angels and ask him to guard our loved ones.

3. God always leads Paul and his companions in triumphal procession in Christ. The picture of “triumph” calls to mind a lavish victory parade through the streets of Rome after a Roman general and his army won a great victory.

4. In Roman triumphs, according to one historian, “garlands of flowers were prepared to decorate every shrine and image. Incense smoked on every altar.” Victorious Roman soldiers enjoyed those sweet smells, but the same sweet odors told Roman captives being dragged through the streets that they were soon to die. In the same way, Jesus’ resurrection attracts believers but repels unbelievers.

5. Paul means law and gospel. The letter of the law kills, for we are sinners. But by the gospel, the Spirit gives life.

6. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. Even after Jesus rose the disciples were slow to catch on. At first they did not grasp the meaning of what Jesus’ dying and rising meant. Only after a special outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost did they “get it,” and receive the strength to be witnesses to the gospel.

7. We too are witnesses of the resurrection, even though we have not seen Jesus physically. We have come to know him through his Word. We now have the privilege and responsibility of sharing that precious message with others.




Putting your faith into action
“Peace be with you.” Is there a greater phrase that can be uttered for our soul’s comfort? We have peace with God through the forgiveness of sins won for us by his Son. In this peace we are prepared to serve him with all our heart and soul.


A reading from the Book of Concord for the Third Sunday of Easter
We read in the Smalcald Articles (Repentance): In Christians, this repentance continues until death.  For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh.  Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins.  This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly holy.
These words say nothing at all about our will, or that even in regenerate people our will does anything by itself.  But they credit this work to the gift of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses a person and makes him daily more godly and holy. Our own powers are entirely excluded from this work.
In Dr. Luther’s Large Catechism this is written: I am also a part and member.  I am incorporated into it by the Holy Spirit through having heard and continuing to hear God’s Word.  In the past, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing about God and about Christ.  So, until the Last Day, the Holy Spirit abides with the holy congregation.  Through this congregation He brings us to Christ and He teaches and preaches to us the Word.  By the Word He works and promotes sanctification, causing this congregation to become strong in the faith and its fruit – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will (paragraphs 34-37)



Text of the Hymn of the Day: This Joyful Eastertide
This joyful Eastertide
Away with sin and sorrow!
My love, the Crucified,
Has sprung to life this morrow.

Refrain: Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
But now is Christ arisen!

Death's flood has lost its chill
Since Jesus crossed the river;
Lover of souls, from ill
My passing soul deliver.

Refrain

My flesh in hope shall rest
And for a season slumber
Till trump from east to west
Shall wake the dead in number.

Refrain


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