Worship Helps for Easter 3

I have been a pastor for over 20 years. I have been coaching soccer far longer. Over the years, my players and their parents have been able to notice a few things about my coaching style. 1) I am constantly talking to the players throughout the game; 2) the parents can hear me talking (i.e. yelling) to players from the other side of the field; 3) I am always pacing the sideline during the game. I can’t sit down.
Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve brought a chair to sit in. The players have even timed me. 42 seconds. That’s my record for sitting during a game.
Whether it’s pounding the sideline of a close soccer game or pacing in the office with a stack of unpaid bills on the desk or lying awake at night when we should be sleeping, we act this way because the outcome of the game ... or work ... or life is in jeopardy. We can’t sit back and relax. We can’t take it easy. We have no confidence that we will triumph in the end.
Examine the painting that sits behind the pulpit at Epiphany throughout the Easter season. The angel is just sitting there!
He's not pacing back and forth. He doesn't look worried. There is no anxiety at all on his face.
He is sitting calmly pointing at the open tomb. The fainted guards have left their helmet and spear behind as they have hastily retreated from the tomb. Feeling the earthquake, seeing the heavenly angel, and peering into the open tomb only to realize that Jesus' corpse was gone was too much for them! They skedaddled as quickly as their wobbly legs would carry them!
Golgotha’s hill, the place of the skull is in the background. That is the place where the serpent struck Jesus’ heel and caused the Holy One to die. But that is also the place where the Woman’s Seed crushed the serpent’s head under His heel. For several hours, the cross appeared to be Jesus’ greatest defeat. But on Easter morning, it is announced to the world that is where Jesus won His greatest victory! It was unnaturally dark on Friday afternoon at Jesus’ death. But a bright, new and glorious day is shining on this Easter dawn!
Jesus is alive! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Nothing can stop Him. The Roman seal on the tomb door could not keep Jesus in the grave, just like the locked door in the upper room could not keep the resurrected Jesus out.
Jesus’ burial clothes lie in a heap inside the grave. He won’t be needing them anymore. The second angel is sitting where Jesus’ corpse once lay. The angel fills the dark tomb with his brilliant glory.
We Christians can learn a lesson from the angel. The outcome of the battle between heaven and hell has been decided. The devil is defeated. Sin is conquered. Death is dead. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty. The angel is sitting on the stone.
Now we can sit down and relax.
At the funeral home.
In the office.
At the dinner table.
Yes, even on the sideline of the soccer field.
Listen to the words of the angel as he's just sitting there: “You are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Believe those words. Then put them into practice. Sit back and relax.

Worship Theme: Hope Restored. The certain hope of eternal life with God is founded on the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Christ. God had promised this ancient hope in the Garden at the dawn of time. God had carried this ancient hope in his Word through the ages. How did the disciples fail to anticipate the resurrection? How did the teachers and people of Israel fail to see the Messiah God had promised and delivered? They let their wants and cultural expectations color their view of Scripture, and hope was lost. But God restored this ancient hope by raising Jesus from the dead and pointing his people back to his promises.

First Lesson: Acts 24:10-21 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: "I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. 17 "After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin-- 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: 'It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'"

1. How was the resurrection of Christ central to the issue that faced Paul?

Epistle: 1 Peter 1:17-21 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

2. Why does Peter encourage us to live as "strangers" while here on this earth?

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 "What things?" he asked. "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

3. Why do you think Jesus didn't reveal his identity to the Emmaus disciples?

4. They had just told Jesus not to go on because of the approaching night.  But once Jesus revealed himself, why did they quickly go back to Jerusalem?

5. What lessons can we learn from the account of the Emmaus disciples?

1. After his arrest at the temple, Paul stood before the Sanhedrin. The session erupted into a brawl when Paul asserted his belief in the resurrection, a divisive issue for Pharisees and Sadducees, and the Roman officer had to remit Paul to the regional governor. In this lesson, Paul is on trial in Caesarea before Governor Felix. The Sanhedrin had hired the lawyer Tertullus to accuse Paul of leading the Nazarene sect. In Paul’s reply to Tertullus he asserts that Christianity is no sect, but agrees with all that is written in the Law and the Prophets. It is the Pharisees and the Sadducees that abandoned Scripture and became a sect without hope. We hold to the ancient hope of Scripture: the resurrection of the dead.

2. It will always be a temptation for Christians to set their hearts on what they can see ¾ temporary settings ¾ material things, institutions, approval from others, etc.  It is a lifelong struggle to learn that everything visible is perishable while what is not seen has lasting value.  As Christians, we need to remember that we live in tents ¾ because we are not yet home.

3. It gave the disciples the chance to openly confess their unbelieving doubts.  Jesus was providing them the opportunity to learn from him again as he reviewed what the Scriptures had to say about the Messiah.

4. Their hearts were burning within them. They couldn't keep the joy of this wonderful message to themselves, so they had to tell the others in Jerusalem.

5. For these two disciples on the road, it was a day of great puzzlement, sadness, and disillusionment. They left the Holy City having heard the report of the women and Peter and John. But their understanding of God’s plan of salvation was deficient: they weren’t expecting a resurrection! John puts his finger on the disciples’ problem. “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” (John 20:9). Their sight, logic, emotions, and expectations had led them to abandon what Scripture said. But our gracious Lord comes and identifies the problem: they are not believing all that the prophets have spoken. They chose only to believe those parts of Scripture that met their preconceived notions of what the Messiah should be. Our Lord addresses the problem by explaining all the Scriptures that showed the Christ had to die and rise. How well did they learn the lesson? They marveled at how he opened the Scriptures to them and restored that ancient hope!

Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Third Sunday of Easter
The Holy Scriptures forcefully testify: The human nature has been personally united with the divine nature in Christ.  It was glorified and exalted to the right hand of God’s majesty and power.  After the form of a servant had been laid aside, the human nature did receive—apart from, and over and above its natural, essential, permanent properties—special, high, great, heavenly privileges in majesty, glory and power.  It has them not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.  So we conclude about the work of Christ’s office: the human nature in Christ is equally used.  It has its power and efficacy.  This is true not only from, and according to, its natural attributes, but chiefly from, and according to, the majesty and power that it has received through the personal union, glorification, and exaltation…
According to His received human nature through the personal union, Christ has glorification, or exaltation.  What His received human nature is capable of beyond the natural properties, without becoming annihilated, no one can know better than the Lord Christ Himself.  He has revealed this in His Word, as much as is needful for us to know.  We must simply believe everything for which we have clear, certain testimonies in the Scriptures in this matter.  We should in no way argue against it, as though the human nature in Christ could not be capable of the same. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VIII: The Person of Christ (paragraphs 51, 53)

Hymns: 333 v1-4; 160; 741; 333 v5-6

1  This joyful Eastertide
Away with sin and sorrow!
My love, the Crucified,
Has sprung to life this morrow.
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.

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

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

Text: George R. Woodward, 1848–1934.


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