for Wednesday in 3 Easter
(Lutheran Book of Worship, page 142)
The livestream may be found here. It will be helpful, if you have a Lutheran Book of Worship, to use it for the hymns, which are 146 and 279.
for Wednesday in 2 Easter
(Lutheran Book of Worship, page 142)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
We came last week to church on Easter Sunday and heard the good news of what we did not find – Jesus’ dead body in the tomb. But what of after Easter Sunday morning? Does the absence of Jesus’ dead body end the story?
for Bright Wednesday
(Lutheran Book of Worship, page 142)
The women who went to Jesus’ tomb on that Sunday morning so long ago went to anoint Jesus’ body as a sign of their love for Jesus, who had been so cruelly taken away from them.
Had they found Jesus – had they arrived at the tomb and anointed Jesus’ dead body, that would have been the end of their following. They would have remembered Jesus with love, with reverence – but it would have been only memory. Their lives would go on. Perhaps they would visit the tomb each Passover when they were in town for the annual feast, to honor the man who had said and did so much in God’s name and had been so cruelly taken away from them.
Instead, that Sunday morning, they were given a sign – and the sign was an empty tomb. Jesus had simply left the tomb behind. It took an angel to explain what had happened, but the sign remained.
What is the sign of God’s promise that we seek? We seek the absence of the body of Jesus.
That is what we get in the Easter Gospel this morning. Instead of a presence, we have an absence. The women find the tomb, but they do not see Jesus. And that’s so important. For, at least at first, it is not so much what we see but what we do NOT see. We do not see Jesus’ dead body.
Other world religions make shrines of the places where their founder’s body lies. But Christians do not make pilgrimages to a place where Jesus’ body rests. Yes, there are a couple of places in Jerusalem which purport to be Jesus’ tomb, which might be where the women visited on the first Easter morning. But the one thing that you’ll not find there is Jesus’ body. The only thing you’ll find is an absence.
Strange, isn’t it? That what we do not find is the most important thing? But if what we do not find is Jesus’ mute, inert, lifeless body, then it may well be possible that all the promises God made through him are true after all, and because we do not have Jesus’ dead body, they can still be made to us and kept.
And what promises!
The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10).
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matthew 5:11).
If by the finger of God I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come among you (Luke 11:20).
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock (Matthew 7:24).
I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet they will live; and those who live and believe in me will never die. (John 11:25)
A dead man cannot make promises, nor can he keep them. But a man who is alive, who has left death behind, can make and keep promises to us. We take the sign of the women coming to an empty tomb, the absence of the dead body of Jesus, as a sign that Jesus can still keep his promises to us.
He is not someone we come to memorialize, to remember as if he were gone, to hear his stories as stories in a history-book, to learn a lesson from his life. Instead, we come here to encounter someone who is alive. When his words are spoken here in the presence of his community, it is a living person who speaks – because there is no dead body. When his meal is celebrated in the presence of his community, because there is no dead body, it is a living Jesus who gives himself in the bread and wine which is his body and blood for us.
Because the women went to the tomb on Easter morning and find no dead body:
we have the forgiveness of our sins;
we are blessed even in our sufferings;
the kingdom of God has come among us, defeating the evil powers;
we have rest for our souls;
we can build on the foundation of Jesus’ words and teachings,,
and we have victory over death.
For some of Jesus’ followers, the resurrection was accompanied by appearances of Jesus. These we heard about in the other readings: both Peter and Paul telling others that they encountered a living Jesus. But most Christians were not given the sign of those appearances. Instead, we like them encounter nothing but an empty tomb, and hear from the angel and the apostles what this empty tomb means: that God has kept all his promises through Jesus Christ.
And so, rejoice in the sunshine and the flowers, the fact that we have made it through this past year despite it all, that we are here together and that even those far away can share in some way in our togetherness. But most of all, rejoice this Easter, is what was not found: a dead Jesus, for this means that in him that the promises of God live: forgiveness, life, healing, salvation. Rejoice in the hope of a new world, a new world where God will be all in all and every knee shall bend at the name of Jesus and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Into his kingdom will be brought the glory and honor of the nations; every culture of every time and place bringing its best to God. Everything that is good in this world will be perfected, and everything that is evil will be either healed or uprooted. Pray in the expectation that God is making you fit for this new world, so that even in the midst of the old and weary world with all its ugliness God is still present among his people and in each of the baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because of what the women did not find that morning long ago, we can hope for these things and for far more than we can ask or imagine.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
The Paschal Triduum
(The Three Days)
April 1, 2021
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you ought to love one another.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”