Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:38-40
Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this warped generation.”

            Repent, be baptised, be saved. The divorce from sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise to you, your descendants and all who are distant. This is a summary of the apostles’ speech on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Pascha, after the death and resurrection of our Lord. The Holy Spirit came down as fire on the apostles, brought them out of their fear, out of the room, and outside by His strength and courage. The Spirit gave them the words, and through their speech pierced the hearts of those listening, just as the Roman pierced the heart of Christ crucified. He revealed their state of death in sin, just as the spear proved Jesus had died, yet these still looked alive according to this warped world. They knew what had been done, how they had declared Jesus as king on the donkey, then called for His crucifixion. Now the Spirit revealed that the one they killed was none other than God himself, incarnate, the Messiah, the Lord over all things. How did they respond to this revelation? ‘What shall we do?’

            Their lives were shaken, turned upside-down, as have our lives been. Some of you might be asking still, what shall I do? Fortunately most all of us are still secure financially, if not please let us know, that we receive an opportunity to show the Love God has given. And yet our lives have changed because of this pandemic and global curfew; the way we live has changed because of something outside of us. You could say that the pandemic has made us repent, or in the Greek, change our minds. So now we ask that question, what will we do?

100 years ago the western world also was made to change its mind, to repent. Progressing to greater and greater feats, this war was supposedly to end all wars, and yet those dreams were shattered just like those men who fought. And further back to the ancient near east these Jews, who became this day our brothers, forefathers in the faith, were struck more centrally, shaken to the very ground, their heart, their core pierced, broken by the truth, God’s Word of Law, their minds were changed, they repented, as the Holy Spirit revealed this truth to them. A far greater change than what COVID19 has done, even than what WW1 did. So they ask, ‘What shall we do?’

Peter tells them, repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus into separation from your sin and failure, and you will receive the Holy Spirit. This day the Holy Spirit worked powerfully, joining with what Jesus had begun to do, bringing God’s Word to all these various peoples, piercing their hearts by revealing the truth, and now does He stop and tell us to save ourselves? No! He is the one who baptises 3000 who received Him and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. He is the one who affected the change, revealing the truth of our sin, we are crushed and broken. What can we do?

Of course many reject the truth, holding fast to their sin and this warped world, trying to force their mind to change back, turning not to God but back to their own sin and death. But for these Jews, the Holy Spirit was still working powerfully, they repented, changed their world view by the power of the Spirit and were baptised by Him into separation from their sin, receiving well the gift of the Holy Spirit, holding not to this world but to Jesus, the new creation, by the faith/trust given by the Holy Spirit. What shall we do? We shall live as who we are, in Jesus Christ, separated from sin, and healed no longer part of this sick and damaged world. As Peter wrote, your souls having been purified by obedience the truth into sincere brotherly love; born again of imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23). The Word of God reveals the truth of this world to you, just as Christ revealed Himself through the Old Testament on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27, 32). You have been baptised by God, saved by Him, you can not save yourself, you do not baptise yourself, especially any here baptised as children. You are who God has made you to be, cling not to sin that has been taken from you, but rather cling to Jesus who is Lord and Christ.

            And as Christ Jesus Himself gave, the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

Joseph Graham.

Second Sunday of Easter

The text: John 20:24-29 (ESV) 

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 Many people say: ‘seeing is believing’. In fact, they don’t just say it, they live it. Perhaps you do too. This means if someone told you something remarkable, you’d want to see it for yourself. Perhaps this means we reckon the sense of sight (and perhaps also the sense of touch) is the sense by which we judge truth. If we see it, or can touch it, we’ll believe it.
But this may also mean we won’t always believe what we hear (unless we can confirm by the senses of sight and touch that what we’ve heard is actually true).

 But what if seeing is not believing? Or to put it another way: we often want to see things because we don’t believe them.
For example, imagine you’re Thomas. For some reason you weren’t with the apostles on that night when Jesus came. You meet up with them later and they joyfully tell you of their experience of seeing the risen Lord Jesus among them. But you weren’t there! You didn’t see what they saw. So instead of believing the words of the apostles through your ears, you say you’re not going to believe unless you see him for yourself. You don’t believe your ears and want your eyes to confirm this truth.

 In fact, you’re not going to believe your ears and eyes unless you put your fingers on the nail marks on Jesus’ hands and thrust your hand into his speared side. Until you see and touch this news you’ve heard, you’re not going to believe. After all, don’t people say: ‘seeing is believing’!  But that’s the twist. You want to see because you don’t believe.

 I wonder if you can relate to Thomas. Of the remaining apostles, he was the only one not there. But you weren’t there either. You and I haven’t had the chance to witness our risen Lord for ourselves and use our senses of sight and touch to confirm the good news of his resurrection. None of us were in that locked room and saw the risen Jesus standing among us.

This is why we have this story in St John’s gospel account, because we weren’t there. This true story was written down for all who, like Thomas, weren’t in that room. In some ways, Thomas was fortunate in so far as Jesus came to him so he could confirm this truth of the resurrection eight days later, but what about us?

 We still haven’t been given the opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh and place our fingers into his wounds, and so we continue to struggle with our doubts and fears. No matter what we hear in God’s Word, we still demand to see or experience certain things before we believe. In this way, you and I are Thomas in this story. We’re Thomas whenever say or think such things like:

“Unless God answers my prayers the way I want him to, then I won’t believe.”

 “Unless I get something special out of worship today, then I don’t think this church is any good for me.”

 “Unless I feel something when I’m baptised, confirmed, or when I receive the Lord’s Supper, then I’ll question its validity.”

 “Unless I get what I want or expect, and can confirm it with my own senses of sight and sound and touch and taste and even with my emotions, then I won’t believe.”

 But these types of questions or statements means we only want to meet God on our own terms. It shows we’re struggling to believe. It shows we’re like Thomas. So, while we may believe, we ask God to help our unbelief!

 The strange thing about faith is it never stops in one place. While we’d like to think our faith will always increase and get better during our life; it doesn’t. It often wavers between faith and doubt; trust and suspicion. Some people expect that once you’re baptised, once you’re confirmed, once you’ve made a decision for Christ, or once you’ve received faith, then everything’s ok from that time on. But this isn’t true. At times we’ll be strong in our faith, but there will be times of doubt.

 For this reason we can also learn a lot from Thomas.

 When he doubted or struggled to believe, he didn’t dismiss or ignore the fellowship with his fellow disciples. He didn’t stay away, but came back into their little congregation to hear, see, and touch.

 We’re encouraged to do the same.

 We’re encouraged to hear the Word of God read and explained. We use our sense of hearing so we may listen for God speaking to us through the bible readings and the sermon.

We’re also encouraged to attend the Lord’s Supper where we use our senses of touch and taste as we receive our risen Lord’s body and blood on our fingers, on our lips, and on our tongue. But, while our senses of sight and touch and taste will tell us ‘this is simply bread and wine’, the Holy Spirit will ask our sense of hearing to be the more powerful sense so we may believe what we hear: That this is Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for you and me.

 The fact is, a faith which doesn’t constantly look to our Lord Jesus Christ, and listen to him, will slowly die. A faith which refuses to come into his presence and receive his spiritual benefits will shrivel up. A faith which makes demands for proof of God’s love outside of the written Word, the cross of Christ, and his holy Sacraments, is in danger of leading to despair.

 This means if we want to see and experience Jesus on our own terms, or if we want to keep away from the place where his people meet, then we’re becoming an unbeliever. Then, just like Jesus said to Thomas, he says to you and me, ‘Stop doubting and believe’, or literally, ‘Stop becoming an unbeliever and become a believer’.

 This is why Thomas, in his time of doubt, went to the place where Jesus promised to be – with his people.

 In our own times of doubt we need to do the same, after all, we know Jesus promises to be wherever his people gather in his name. We know his Holy Spirit is present as we hear the Word of God read and proclaimed. We know Jesus promises to wash, adopt, forgive, and give new life to those who are baptised. We know Jesus promises his true body and blood is present on his holy Supper.

 Seeing isn’t always believing, because the demand to see is a sign of unbelief. On the other hand, believing is seeing. Faith instead gives us a greater sight so we may believe what we hear, despite what we see and don’t see.

 By believing what we hear, we see Jesus is our Lord and our God. We stand beside Thomas and see Jesus is more than just a man. By faith, we see Jesus is also the Son of God who came to suffer, die, and rise again for us so that, by believing, we may have life in his name.

 By believing what we hear, we can see God truly comes to us, hidden in times of simple worship to grant forgiveness, peace, and hope. He comes to challenge our unbelief and comfort us through his Spirit-filled words. He comes to wash us and claim us as his own people who will live with him forever. He comes and wraps his body and blood in humble bread and wine and offers them for us to eat and drink. He comes, hidden in the people joined to him through faith to love and care for us. He comes, sometimes despite our best efforts to lock him out.

 Yes, Thomas was blessed to see his Lord and Saviour in the flesh and use his senses of sight and touch. On the other hand, blessed are those who haven’t seen, yet still believe because they trust their sense of hearing.

 You and I are blessed because we believe what we’ve heard. Jesus is our Lord and God even though we haven’t seen him with our own eyes or touched him with our own fingers. And through faith in Jesus’ word our bodies will also be resurrected and we will see Jesus in heavenly glory forever. Amen.

Easter Sunday

The Text: Matthew 28:1-10


That first Good Friday must have seemed anything but good. Along with some other faithful followers, the two Marys had seen their Lord tortured and suffering in unthinkable agony. Mocked,humiliated and left to die. They sat on the sidelines and watched the life drain from His once strong body. The One who had spoken with such authority and hope, now lifeless and hanging on a cross. All their hopes were snuffed out just as surely as His life was. After taking His body down from the cross, they had done all they could. Hurriedly preparing Him for burial so they could observe the Sabbath, they left that garden tomb with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

And so when dawn breaks on the first day of the week, they tentatively make their way back to the tomb. Every step bringing them closer to the hopelessness they left behind on Friday. Every step bringing them closer to the tears and grief and despair they know is coming as they prepare themselves for the sadistic mocking that seems to come from every tomb and grave.

Jesus final words from the cross were ‘it is finished’. But to the ladies and to all who looked on, it seemed as though death had had the final word.

Isn’t that the way we experience life and death as well? Even as Christians we live out our days, knowing the hope that is ours in Christ, and yet every grave we visit seems to mock us. Every funeral we attend seems to taunt us to doubt the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ. Tempting us to despair, to heart break, to hopelessness. As long as we remain this side of eternity, the grave will always seem deceptively powerful. And now that he is defeated, the Devil will always try to convince you that it is the end. But today the Holy Spirit reveals the hidden truth for all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness. He reveals the divine reality that death is not strong enough to hold our Lord and so is no longer strong enough to hold any of us who have our lives in Him. Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!] And because He is risen, death and the grave look completely different to us.

It’s not that we’re supposed to suddenly see death as a good thing. But in light of the Easter resurrection death is no longer the fiercesome enemy it once was. Jesus has made His way through death to life. In paying the penalty for our sins, He has broken death’s hold on us and transformed it into a doorway to eternity. As we live and even as we die, we can do so knowing that our Lord and Saviour has been through the valley of the shadow death and has come out the other side. He knows the way and has promised to be us to the very end of the age – and so He will even lead us through death to life. Because Jesus lives, because His tomb is empty, our graves are no longer the pits of hopelessness they once were.

Is there any better news than that? Why is it then, that most of the time our lives don’t seem any less filled with anxieties than the disciples’ were? If we know that Jesus is risen from the dead, if we know He has conquered our greatest enemies, why are we so often just as afraid, just as worked up, just as worried as the ladies were on that first Easter morning?

From our text it is clear that the reason the two Marys were despairing is the same reason our lives lose that resurrection joy and confidence shortly after the chocolate buzz wears off each Easter. And that reason is that we forget what Jesus has told us. You see when the ladies showed up at the tomb, we get all distracted by the fact that an angel spoke to them. But all that angel did was remind them of what Jesus had already said.

“Do not be alarmed”, the angel said, “I know who you’re looking for. Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; nailed to the tree; taken down dead and carried right here! Well, ladies, you are lookin in the wrong place. He has risen. He is not here. He’s alive! You didn’t really think that death could hold Him down, did you? I mean, you knew Him! You saw what His Word could do. Off you go. Go tell His disciples that He is going ahead of you all to Galilee. You’ll see Him there, just as He told you.”

Just as He told you! If the ladies had simply remembered Jesus’ Word, they would have spared themselves a whole lot of heartache! But so often we forget what He has said, and even when we remember the words, we forget how reliable they are. Jesus’ promises come true no matter what. The problem lies with us forgetting or doubting what He has told us. Today we are encouraged to give up arguing with Jesus and believe and rejoice in what He tells us. You’ll find that every word of the Lord proves true. The ladies did, and when they remembered the words Jesus had told them, their fear of the unknown was now mixed with an overwhelming sense of joy. “Just as He told you.” How many of the anxieties and worries of our lives would evaporate if we always remembered what our Lord told us and what He has accomplished?

But, of course, wrapping your mind around the resurrection is no easy task when the reality of life starts to bite. Death and all sorts of other hassles seem to be the only things that are guaranteed in this world. We’re used to carrying each other to the grave. We’re used to saying “goodbyes” that are forever in this age. We’re used to trying to sort things out ourselves. Feeling responsible for our failures. Overwhelmed by the sin and shame that still weighs us down. Feeling condemned that even after celebrating a life time of Easters, you still don’t have your act together.

But remember what Jesus has told you. Remember what His word declares has taken place over these three holy days. He is the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in Him, even though they die, will live forever. He came not for the healthy, not for those who had their act together, but for the sick and stumbling like you and me. He has swallowed up your sin and shame and left it lifeless in the tomb. His blood has washed you clean as snow and He has promised to keep you in true faith as you simply listen to Him. Jesus has conquered death and the grave and is risen to reign eternally for you

Listen to these words of the risen One. He told us that death couldn’t hold Him – and He was right! And He tells us that He will meet us today to fills us with His resurrection blessings as He comes to us in bread and wine. At the altar this morning, He will pour more life into you than you’ll ever need; more forgiveness than all the world’s sin; more joy than all the sorrows of this age; more peace than all the fretting of your life. Just as He told you! Amen.

Good Friday

The Text: Matthew 27:15-26


It had been a long night as Jesus was accused and taunted before the Jewish Council and the high priest Caiaphas. Even under the cover of darkness when evil seems to get the upper hand, they had not been able to make their feeble accusations stick. And yet Jesus was still alone. Peter had denied Him as He had predicted. The other disciples were off in hiding, and Judas was filled with despair over the betrayal he had committed for a few coins. It’s at this point that they drag Jesus before yet another judge. As the highest official in Roman occupied Israel, Pilate is the only one who is authorised to sentence someone to death. And so the cowards come, seeking someone else to do their dirty work.

As much as Pilate has received a bad rap over the years, he is no fool. He quickly works out that Jesus is innocent of any crime and so he does his best to have the crowd release Jesus. He chooses the worst of the worst in prison at that time. Barabbas the terrorist. A murderous, thieving, hate-filled criminal who was waiting to be crucified. Pilate is convinced that regardless of the Jewish leaders’ request, the crowd would rather have Jesus roaming the streets than this notorious prisoner from death row.

And so Pilate asks the crowd which of the two they want him to release. Barabbas they scream. Angry that an innocent man is about to be killed, Pilate washes his hands and declares that he is innocent of Jesus’ blood. And at this point the crowd makes what is perhaps the most shocking statement in the whole passion narrative. “His blood be on us and our children,” they declare. As if it wasn’t enough that they willingly take the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion, they are happy for His blood to be on their children as well!

And so with that Barabbas walks free and Jesus is handed over to be crucified. Barabbas – a name which ironically means ‘son of a father’ – is released and the true Son of the Father takes His place to be put to death. The son deserving to die is let off, and the innocent Son of the Heavenly Father is sacrificed in his place.

Dear friends we are all Barabbas in one way or another – sons and daughters of earthly fathers. Children born of natural descent and living out our lives on death row due to our inherited sin – not to mention the sin we commit daily. But the Son of the Father – none other than the Lord Jesus – put up no fight when He was pitted against you and me in the person of Barabbas. Instead He willingly accepted the verdict and submitted to the Romans that He might be put to death for the sins of the world, for all those who have been born of an earthly father and found to have fallen short of the glory of God. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, Jesus did not open His mouth, but took Barabbas’ place, my place and your place, and suffered what we deserved.

Barabbas is no two-bit criminal. He’s not waiting execution by accident. He was due to get what he deserved. But Jesus is chosen and He takes on the guilt of this terrorist, and Barabbas in declared innocent. The sweet swap some have called it. Jesus gets our sin and we get His righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Jesus endures the fullness of God’s judgment on sin, and we are declared innocent – not because we deserve it any more than Barabbas did – but because Jesus came to do just this so that we would not be lost for eternity.

And so as the name Barabbas points to the innocent Jesus taking the place of sinners like you and me, so also that shocking statement from the crowd points to His work in an even greater way. “His blood be on us and our children,” they shouted as they sought to have Jesus executed.

When we come to Good Friday each year it is sobering for us to recognise our part in the crucifixion of Jesus. To recognise that the denials and cowardice of Peter are never far below the surface in our own lives. To accept that in the crowd calling for His crucifixion we can hear the voice of our sin. And in gazing upon the cross we realise that it is indeed our sin which held Him there. But for all of that, I don’t think too many would want to identify themselves with these bloodthirsty people in crowd who said, “His blood be on us and our children.”

But again, with no small amount of irony, the crazed words of this murderous crowd point to exactly what Jesus will accomplish over the next three hours. As He hangs crucified, the innocent suffering servant, Jesus endures the wrath of God for all who have sinned and fallen short of His glory. He is abandoned by God the Father. He is crushed in punishment for every sin of every person. Purchasing forgiveness with His own blood – the same blood the crowds called down upon themselves and their children. This blood flows and freely offers new life even to those who would be guilty of spilling it.

While they were prepared to have the guilt of Jesus blood on their hands and the hands of their children, Jesus offers up His blood for a better purpose, even for those who called for His death. As the letter to the Colossians says, Jesus has made peace between sinners like us and our Heavenly Father, through the blood of the cross. This blood, this death, offers forgiveness and freedom to all who believe.

It had been a long night and an even longer day as Jesus hung on the cross while the sun did not shine. As He gave up His spirit and died at the ninth hour, all the dark schemes of men and demons, all the hate-filled words and injustices meted out upon Him, all our sin and the death we deserve, all of this was consumed in His body as He wrestled it into the tomb on our behalf.

Dear children of God, the silence of the tomb over the next days is not the sound of defeat. It is the beginning of the sound of victory for our God, as sin and death and the devil are finally defeated in Jesus’ body and lie speechless as He conquers them in our place.

When Barabbas should have died, when the crowds should have been punished, when you and I should stand condemned – Jesus dies and we are set free. In the midst of death, the Lord lives and so will we! Amen.

Maundy Thursday

The Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35    


If you were asked to take off your shoes and socks I imagine you might be a little reluctant to do so. Feet have a reputation, don’t they? We don’t just cover them to make it easier to walk around.We tuck them away out of sight and out of smell. We can probably handle the smell of our own feet but the thought of a roomful of exposed feet is probably not what we want at the end of the day.

And it is the end of the day. Chances are some of us have been on our feet for much of it and that tends to take its toll. Look at the burden our feet have to bear. They carry our weight around from A to B and everywhere else we need to go.

In Biblical times they used their feet much more than what we do these days. Feet were the primary mode of transportation. They didn’t have cars or buses or trains and even horses and donkeys were available only to the privileged few. So if you wanted to get anywhere, from a kilometre to 100 kilometres, you had to walk.

The Romans were known for their road construction, enabling the efficient movement of their legions. But in Palestine this was the exception rather than the rule. There was the Via Maris, the coastal road, and the King’s Highway, a trade route, but that was about it for major roads in that area. The Jews were not into road construction as the Romans were. A beaten, worn out dirt path was basically considered a road to them. A goat track was sufficient to get around.

So we can understand why the washing of feet was as much a part of their culture as the washing of hands is in ours. It must have been a huge relief to wash away the grime of a day spent on your feet. Think of the relief you feel when you can kick off your shoes and socks at the end of the day and put your feet up.

With this cultural background, it shouldn’t be that surprising to find Jesus at the feet of his disciples, offering to wash them. Yes, it was a task normally reserved for a servant of the household or the wife of the host. Failing that, the host would at least provide a bowl of water and some towels for his guests to wash their own. 

But Jesus had told his disciples: ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28).

Jesus had got dirty in the past as he touched lepers, healed the demon-possessed and mixed with non-Jews. He had eaten with tax-collectors and sinners. So why should the washing of feet be so repulsive? ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!   

Well, the symbolism happening here is more significant and deep-seated than we realise. As the lowest part of the body feet were considered inferior. This wasn’t so much in terms of the function of the feet but their position. Feet acted as the interface between the individual and the ground, the dirt, they walked upon.

That is why the ultimate rejection is to wipe the dust from your feet, indicating that the other person’s dirt doesn’t even deserve to be on your feet.

It is also why it was considered to be an act of submission, reverence and humility to be found before the feet of another person. You can’t get any lower. It was expected for some people to be at the feet of others but not the other way round.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had people at his feet and for a variety of reasons.

Some of them were there because they needed his mercy. A beggar came before the feet of a lord or master in the hope of some morsel. So it is that the woman who was suffering from severe bleeding fell at Jesus’ feet (Mark 5:33). A woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit fell at his feet (Mark 7:25). Even a synagogue ruler, Jairus, whose daughter was dying fell at his feet (Mark 5:22).

Others were at his feet out of sheer gratitude for the mercy that had been shown to them. The Samaritan leper fell at Jesus’ feet when he had been cleansed (Luke 17:16). Mary was at his feet, pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair after Jesus had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 12:1-3). 

Still others were at Jesus’ feet in submission to listen to his teaching and wisdom, as was Mary that day when Martha was busy doing all the work (Luke 10:39).

It was entirely appropriate for people to be at the feet of Jesus. After all, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. You come before a king in all humility to seek his mercy and wisdom and to give him the praise and honour he deserves.

And let’s not forget that a conquering king would literally put his feet on the neck of his enemies (Joshua 10:24). This demonstrated the ultimate humiliation and defeat of that enemy. As Jesus taught in the Temple during holy week, he himself quoted Psalm 110 to refer to this kind of thing: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’” (Mark 12:36).

Think also of the first prophesy connected to the Messiah. In Genesis God said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (3:15).

With all of this in mind, it is truly fitting and right that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord’ (Philippians 2:10).

And yet, here was Jesus, bowed before his disciples and at their feet!

It didn’t seem right. This wasn’t just a gracious act of service. This was a position of submission, reverence and humility. That is not where Jesus should be. This was a position of vulnerability, a place where those who are defeated get trampled on in disgrace. Surely not! ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!

But Jesus answered: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’. Unless Jesus can serve us in such a way where he is trodden underfoot and humiliated and rejected and despised; unless he can be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities – we can have no part with him. The full extent of his love was not shown in the washing of their feet but in the piercing of his.

‘He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:6-8).

This Easter as we come before the cross once again we will find ourselves at the feet of our Lord. But truly it is on the cross where he is at our feet. He is there in all humility to submit and to serve. He is there to show us the full extent of his love. Amen.  

Palm Sunday

We are united in Christ, now in His suffering and humiliation, then finally in His resurrection and exaltation; let His life be yours.

Let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.

Palm Sunday, that beautiful remembrance of Christ’s procession as the coming king into the city of God and to the altar of His temple. The beginning of the last week of His life, as He fulfilled the promises to the people of old; the king come to be crowned, yet with thorns on the throne of the cross (Isaiah 23:5); the priest to offer the final sacrifice on the altar, the sacrifice of the true Pascal lamb by which those trusting would be saved (Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 53:7); the servant who would bring salvation to all the nations, by His suffering, death and His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand, to His almighty power (Isaiah 49:7). And you are with Him in this. You know you are joined with Christ through baptism by the Holy Spirit, that we together are members of His body, that we share in His life, and so as the apostle says ‘let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus’ let His life be yours.

And what is this insight? The Spirit teaches us with this ‘Christ hymn’ that the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Son, didn’t consider the almighty power and authority He possessed as God as something to be clung to, as we might clutch at good health, wealth or safety. His status as equal with the Father was not something He prioritised, like we might prioritise our position at work, or our status as citizens. Rather He gave of Himself taking the form of a servant to serve others though He is truly Lord of all and rightfully all should be serving Him, yet He came as a servant. He was incarnate, He took on our humanity in its fullness. He humbled Himself, from Lord of all to be a servant for all, from creator of all to be not just a human, but a human embryo, taking on our humanity from its beginning. And having become obedient, or in the Greek more ‘truly listening’ or ‘under to what is heard’, listening to His Father even to death, His excruciating passion flogged, shamed, and crucified.

Now we’ll take a break before going on. That insight of Christ is to not cling to the things this fallen world values, to power or authority, rather to fully listen to our Heavenly Father and live that out. Today I’m not going to highlight the truth of our sinfulness, and our helplessness. Instead I pray that the Holy Spirit has already done His Work, through the liturgy and the Word, that you who have been arrogant in your sin have been crushed, that God’s law has shown you that you fail to live with Christ’s humility and obedience. But now broken sinners do not despair, hear again God’s promise to you that, ‘you were united with Christ Jesus by baptism into a death like His, and shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.’ (Romans 6:4-5). But what was His resurrection like? We’ll go back to the text.

Jesus humbled Himself, incarnated and died in obedience with God’s Word, fulfilling His promises. Therefore God highly exalted Him, He put everything under Christ’s feet, His power. He graced Jesus with the name or reputation above all others, that when all things, from the highest archangel to the lowest worm, when all hear Him we will glorify and praise Him, truly and rightly honouring Him and confessing together that Jesus Christ is Lord, master and king of all; to the glory of God the Father. This is an incredibly dense text, and where is the good news for us here?

The first half tells us what Jesus did, humbled, took on our humanity, died in accord with the promises. Then the second half tells what our Father in Heaven did in response, exalted Him above all things that all recognise Jesus as Lord. But why is this Good News for us? We’re told to let this way of life to be our way of life, to always live as Christ lives; how can we hope to measure up to what Jesus did, how much He loved all people, even those hating Him? Well it’s like St Paul, who was a murderer of Christians, writes elsewhere and honestly throughout his letter here, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). We have been joined with Christ, He came to God’s city as King, came to the temple the earthly altar and sacrificed Himself destroying our sin and reconciling us to our Father. And we participate in this, are joined with Him, as we eat and drink His body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). Holy Communion is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the slain Lamb at the end of time (Revelation 19:6-9); when Christ marries us His church, a full and completely, perfect union of us lowly humans with God Almighty, our evil already dealt with, and then only the pure and beautiful love of God between us all.

Our common union together with Christ is what Holy Communion is, that’s where we’ve got the words. That we will be exalted and unified with Christ, reigning together with the power of God, Paul tells us later in this letter, ‘God will transform our bodies to be like Christ’s most glorious body’ (3:21). That humanity can attain such heights is proclaimed again in this hymn. The pre-incarnate Son emptied Himself, or came down to become a lowly human, to take on our humanity, eat, sleep, poop, and to die for us. Our Father exalted Him according to His humanity, giving Lordship over all creation to Jesus according to His humanity, because according to His divinity He already had it. Now you and I, joined into the God-man Jesus Christ can be assured that we too will rise with Him, exalted by our Father in our bodies to His glory. This is who you are in Jesus Christ. God has spoken, His word is sure. So now hear again, and truly listen to the Word of God, ‘let the life of Christ be your life.’

And until our full communion comes, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.