If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
- If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
- If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
- If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
- Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
- Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
- Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
- Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
- Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
- He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
- It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
- “O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
- Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
- Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
- Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
- Christ is risen, and life reigns!
- Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
- For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.
There were words on the Cross: the Titulus, the Title, the Inscription that Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator caused to be affixed, written in three languages: Greek, Aramaic and Latin. Greek was one of the main languages of the Roman Empire since the days of Alexander the Great when he conquered the world in the 4th century BC. Aramaic was the language of Palestine and hence Jesus since Hebrew was no longer spoken, except in synagogues and in the Temple. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire. For some reason Pilate wanted everyone to know that this man’s identity: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. One of my college professors said that Pilate was the first evangelist to publish the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus is King of the Jews. Even more, in three languages, everyone’s King, as in thy kingdom come. The bloodied, suffering, bleeding king. The King who died for His subjects and the Physician who died for his patients, the Master who died for slaves as a slave, the Creator dies for His creatures, the only-begotten Son dies to make us His brothers and sisters. The Sanhedrin did not like the Titulus. They requested Pilate take it down. Pilate responded, what I have written, I have written. Ever more the Lord has written what He has inspired to be written: the Scriptures, His Word.
There were words from the cross, 7 verses:
The First Word: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” The Lord at the beginning of His public ministry taught the disciples, the nascent Church to pray, Our Father who art in heaven…and Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. He forgave His enemies. It’s that simple.
The Second Word: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” The repentant thief on his cross next to Jesus knew Jesus was innocent, without sin, and the thief, the malefactor, was guilty. Remember, me when you come into your kingdom the thief prayed to Jesus. Jesus answered his repentant prayer and all the prayers of the repentant. It’s that simple.
The Third Word: “Woman, behold your son; Son, behold your mother” The only-begotten Son of the Father, knew His mother would be bereft without her oldest son, both in death and in the Resurrection. He formed a new family between Mary and John. He calls, gathers, enlightens the whole Christian church on earth, the family of the Father in the waters of rebirth. His death and Resurrection is our baptism. He baptizes us. It’s that simple.
The Fourth Word: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He cries out in dereliction. He quotes the first verse of Psalm 22, later in the Psalm. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22 written centuries before the Lord’s birth. He suffered. The soldiers cast lots for his clothes. He fulfilled the prophets and all the Scripture. It’s that simple.
The Fifth Word: “I thirst.” He sat by a well in Samaria, thirsty after walking for a long time, and said to the Samaritan woman, give me something to drink. He thirsted for her salvation, yours as well. We are thirsty people. His Word quenches our thirst in His straightforward mercy. It’s that simple.
The Sixth Word: “It is finished.” Accomplished. Jesus had come to the end, the fulfillment. Our salvation is accomplished, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We can bear our own iniquity. He has, pure God and pure Man, not 50%-50%, 100%-100%, all our works can not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone. He has by His grace alone as a gift. It’s that simple.
The Seventh Word: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” His was the commendation of His blood into the holy of holies in heaven, once and for all. In Him there is no condemnation, only commendation, not of our good deeds to save, but His good deed to save us all. By His Spirit, we are commended in life and death. It’s that simple.
Jesus Christ is the “Word made flesh”upon the Cross. He is the Word of God incarnate, nailed to the timber-trunk of the Cross. Cursed be anyone who hangs from a tree, it is written in the Old Testament. The Word of God, love’s pure light, became accursed, the curse of Adam, His blood flowing with this purpose: He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far. as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found No longer cursed, but blessed in faith clinging to Him unto eternal life. Joy to the world.
Words on the cross, His Word from the Cross, as He is the Word of God incarnate, nailed to the cross and lastly His Word from the Cross. Luther:
“If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there.(There is no “old rugged cross”, you can’t take it to the cross. Jesus is present in His Word from, on and on account of His Cross) Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross”
Jesus said to the devil when tempted to turn rocks into bread, Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. His Word from the Cross, in preaching, teaching, Sacraments, praying, serving feeds us His forgiveness. He feeds us His Word within His Church. His Word from the Cross is the last Word, the Word of our salvation, once and for all, today and everyday. We rest in His every Word: the Word made flesh. WE hang on to the Lord’s every Word as He hung on the Cross so that we are his and if he is ours, we fear no powers, not of earth, nor sin, nor death, He sees and blesses in worst distresses, He can change them with a breath.
In my first parish on Long Island, NY, on my day off I was perusing the stores in East Northport. There was a sign for an art studio sale. The artist, Stanley Twardowicz, (Bio) was selling off his all his studio supplies, works of art etc. I came across a series of black and white photos of which you see two. This series of photos is entitled, “France-1952 (Christ)”. The artist came across one of many road-side shrines in the French country-side. At this particular one, the workers had taken down the corpus (the representation of the body of our Lord) from the cross and inside was a bee-hive. Those workers made a bee line away from it! Mr. Twardowicz then took a series of photos of the corpus on the ground.
Though I have never seen one, I like the idea of road-side shrines of our Lord’s Crucifixion. Life in Christ is a journey. G. K. Chesterton said of the Cross that it is the sign-post for free travelers. I would tweak his statement and say, freed travelers. Following Him we are freed. These photos striking and stark as stark as sin and the One Who bore our sin in His Body so that we are freed in faith to love and serve. Our will always leads to death and damnation. His will leads to life and salvation: always, as He is risen! On Holy Saturday, the Great Sabbath, He took all our death and sin into Himself to the grave. He rested and now we can both rest in Him so He works in us. Yet, even in death, as the photo below portrays, He is the Victor. His arm raised in victory for us.
“It was a strange and dreadful strife
When Life and Death contended;
The victory remained with Life,
The reign of Death was ended;
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That Death is swallowed up by Death,
His sting is lost forever.
(“Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546)
Mr. William Falk, of The Week magazine, has this telling editorial right in time for Maundy Thursday:
“Food is the new religion. I am hardly the first to make this observation, but I heartily endorse it: Secular sophisticates have jettisoned traditional beliefs about sin and sanctity, so they fulfill their instinctual need for purity and redemption through what they eat. I see the proof whenever I visit the local Whole Foods to hunt and gather weekend victuals. There, you cannot help but smirk at the organic, locavorish righteousness of it all—even as you succumb to the spell. “
Mr. Falk then goes on to show how Whole Food is filling this need, among many competitors for this “new religion” and it’s various charmed eats. He then concludes,
” … affluent shoppers who push their heaping carts around the store—many in workout tights that display their buns of steel—have such a confident, self-congratulatory air.Yes, they are paying double what groceries cost at Stop N’ Shop. But how much purer we all are, how oxidant-free! How much longer we’ll live than the wicked masses! We are The Chosen. Give us this day our artisanal, gluten-free bread and our goji berry juice, and may our carbon footprint be small. Amen.”
Is this righteous eating and drinking? No, sadly I think it is self-righteous eating and drinking. This is Pharisaic thinking without the excuse of religion…supposedly. Our Lord said, take and eat, take and drink. Now this night. This is the pure righteousness of Jesus Christ poured out for us and for our salvation. We come to His table as needy people, dying people, impure to purely live on His Word, every Word proceeding from His mouth, made present in bread and wine as He promised: His Body and Blood. This is pure eats. We are not the self-chosen. We need to be chosen and directed away from the world’s sin and death, and the old flesh clinging to sin. The wages of sin is death and we work for such lousy wages and He worked this night, and still does through His Word. God’s Law, which we can not keep, shows us this, that love of God and neighbor directs us away from the way of sin and death. Jesus worked Himself to death, as true man and as true God, the blood, sweat and tears of God.
Mr. Falk perceptively points out that folks want to “…fulfill their instinctual need for purity and redemption…”. Though the need for purity and redemption is more than instinct, it is inscribed, the Law of God into our hearts to know Him and His will which is poured out these 3 days of the final redemption in Jesus Christ, the new and everlasting covenant. With every fiber of His being and the whole food of God dwelling in Him perfectly, for 33 years He came to this point so that your life and mine has a point: His dying and rising. He is the Bread of Life as He promised.
We open our mouths, open our hearts to Him. But it is not opening our mouths and by eating and drinking alone will make us pure and redeemed. It is faith which holds and clings to Jesus Christ. This is for body and soul. The Lord made us a unity of body and soul. The Lord for our salvation demonstrates this till He comes again in power by His Presence in His Supper because bodies don’t believe and souls don’t eat (Pr. and Prof. Hermann Sasse).
The bread of this world is bought and sold. We can not buy the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, He has bought us with His blood. We can not buy eternal life in Christ, He gives it. We can not buy this blessed Communion, we are baptized for it, for Him, in Him and through Him, the Passover Lamb. The eastern Orthodox will refer to the priest as “serving the Liturgy”. This is meet, right and salutary so to speak. Jesus Christ is One Who serves and we are called by Him to do the same. Serving His body and blood and serving our neighbors in His love, following His example. When the Lord says, “This cup that poured out for you…”, the verb in Greek, translated as “poured” is actually present tense. It is hard to translate it into every day English: This cup pours out for you…It does, beloved! Or this cup pouring out for you. For you! As it poured out His veins upon the Cross, as His life, His circumcision on the 8th day, His ministry, Supper, Baptism, creation, re-creation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension is preached and taught and pouring out for us all. The so-called pure eats of the new religion of food is only for them who can afford it. Not here.
As great as the distinction between communicants in civic life may be, in the Holy Supper all distinctions evaporate. We are all the same, in that we each eat the same earthly and heavenly bread and drink the same earthly and heavenly drink. In this Meal, the subject and his king, the slave and his master, the beggar and the rich, the child and the old man, the wife and the husband, the simple and the learned, truly all communicants stand as the same poor sinners and beggars, hungry and thirsty for grace. Although one may appear in a rough apron while another in velvet and satin, adorned with gold and pearls, when they depart, all take with them that for which they hunger and thirst: Christ’s blood and righteousness as their beauty and glorious dress. No one receives a better food and better drink than the other. All receive the same Jesus, and with Him, the same righteousness (Dr. C. F. W. Walther).
This is the eve of the Triduum, the Three Days: Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. It was on this day that Judas made his arrangements with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and at the last Passover meal on Thursday Judas left the Passover meal in order to complete the betrayal (John 13:25-27). Leonardo Davinci’s famed painting, The Last Supper is the portrayal of the moment at the last Passover meal in which Jesus announces that one of the disciples will be a traitor and they ask, Is it I? Dr. Paul Kretzmann in his Popular Commentary on the Bible has to this to say about the events of Spy Wednesday:
He would give a morsel (of bread) which He was’ just then dipping into the sauce (charoseth) , which was one of the dishes of the Passover meal. And suiting His action to His word, Jesus took the sop which He was just then dipping and gave it to Judas Iscariot. This incident revealed the traitor to John, and probably also to Peter. But as for the rest, it is probable that most of them did not notice the incident at the time, or did not attach any importance to it. For the entire matter was taken care of so quietly, almost secretly, that it attracted no attention from the rest of the table-round. Then, also, Judas dipped into the sauce at the same time that Jesus did, Mark 14, 20. He, of course, knew to whom Jesus had reference, but he was brazenfaced enough even to ask Jesus whether it was he that would perform the dastardly deed of betraying the Master, Matt. 26, 25.
…In all His dealings with Judas, in all the warnings which the Lord sounded, He still had the object of winning him from his way of sin and damnation, if possible. But in this crisis Judas decided the wrong way, he rejected the admonition of the Lord. After he had received the sop, the devil entered into him, took complete possession of his heart and mind, hardened both against the influence of Jesus, and forced Judas to do his will. That is the final result of yielding to evil influence in the first place; the ability to turn to good is lost. and in the crisis the devil steps in and takes hold of such a person as his own property. Now Jesus distinctly, so that all the disciples could hear it, told Judas to do as quickly as possible what he had in mind, what he intended to do. The traitor was not directing the turn of events, for this was altogether in the hands of Jesus; he was the devil’s tool, but his devilish work resulted in the serving of God’s plans. The fate of Judas was hereby decided; his heart was hardened; he was deserted by God forever: forever given into the will and submission of the devil. That is the terrible judgment which finally strikes the backslider, the apostate that denies the accepted truth: he is the tool and instrument of the devil to work his will, to commit one sin after the other, and finally to end in everlasting damnation
…Immediately after Judas had received the sop at the hand of Jesus and had heard the remark which accompanied the action, he left the room. It was now about the time of the evening when twilight gave way to complete darkness, when night fell, about seven o’clock or somewhat later at that time of the year. Judas belonged to those that hate the light, that prefer the cover of darkness for their deeds. For that purpose he had left the upper room. There was night in him, and there was night about him; he was a child of darkness and damnation.
Lord, by Your mercy, dispel the night and darkness in my soul in true repentance for all the wrong I have done. Keep my feet steady in Your Word of grace and mercy through Your blood shed for me. In Jesus Name. Amen.
[Christ] entered once for all into the holy places, by means of I his own blood,* thus securing an eternal redemption. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,* so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. He sent redemption to his people;* he has commanded his covenant forever. Heb. 9:12
Historical Note: It must be remembered that during Great Week, or Holy Week, Jesus was teaching in the Temple:
- The Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21: 28-32
- The Parable of the Tenants, Matthew 21: 33-46
- The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22: 1-14
- Paying Taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22: 15-22
- Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection, Matthew 22: 23-33
- The Great Commandment, Matthew 22: 34-40
- Whose Son Is the Christ?, Matthew 23: 41-46
Indeed, the Lord was busy! It was not His good works by which He was condemned but His teaching. This goes for the Church as well, if she is faithful to the Lord. Indeed, this connection between teaching and civil punishment is foretold in Isaiah. Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled:
Isaiah 50: The Lord God has given me
the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear
to hear as those who are taught.
5 The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
6 I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
7 But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me.
9 Behold, the Lord God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32
Reflection: Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question: how do we attract new members? What is our “draw”? I ask that question and that is more than a simple admission and more like a confession. Is it our choir? Our youth program? Our peppy service? Our warm and welcoming people? Our meals on wheels? etc. etc. etc. All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit. There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation: Jesus Christ. It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ). Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life: ALONE. The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness. And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies. And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped. Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls. He is the Draw.
“…ponder what sin is, and what kind of anguish will result for those who do not seek forgiveness for sin in Christ and protection from the wrath of God. Here stands God’s Son, who carries (upholds) everything by the power of His Word, Heb. 1, who is of the same essence with His heavenly Father. One might think that He will readily overcome and easily bear the burden of sins and divine wrath, and it will be for Him a light, little blade of straw. But look here, how this holy Soul agonizes; indeed, the more you reflect on Him, the better you will comprehend what a huge burden sin is. With the unrepentant, sin is regarded as an insignificant thing. Some intend to atone for it with their own deeds. However, this sad spectacle (of the Cross) knocks down all these thoughts. For, if (sins) were such insignificant matter, why was Christ Himself thus permitted to grieve (over them)?” (from Lutheran Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ (published 1663)
“By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.”
(from the Litany, as cited by Pr. Gerhard, ibid)