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Monday, April 17, 2006 

Celebrating Resurrection Day
Topic: Theology &

Reading: Herman Ridderbos The Coming of the Kingdom
Enjoying: Cookies & Cream Ice Cream
Listening: Fielding

The prayer at What the Thunder Said... is that you and yours had a blessed Easter, and that worshipping our Triune God - who elected the Son to life, raised Himself by the power of the Spirit, and humbly learned obedience through suffering - on Resurrection Day was full of rich mercy in your affections. Ours was a most blessed time that included celebrating with family and friends in Fairmont.

The following is a few comments on our Maundy Thursday service, and the events of Resurrection Day.

Before I get started on our Maundy Thursday service, I must put something to rest. Every year my dad and I wonder (again) what Maundy means. Now that its on the blog, its official. Maundy comes from the Latin, mandatum novum do vobis, referring to the "new commandment" Jesus instituted in John 13 to love one another.[1] Maundy Thursday, or sometimes Holy Thursday, does not refer to morose, mourning, or anything else sorrowful, as I had originally thought. So now we have no excuse next year. Or at least we will have a better chance of finding the correct meaning (go blogger).

Regardless, the Maundy Thursday service was, as last year, very nice. All lighting was subdued save for two three instances: the necessary sheet light for the instrumentalists, highlights on a large, wooden cross in the center|front of the sanctuary, and (converted from Advent use) six large candles. The service centered around reading our Lord's Passion from Matthew's Gospel. Interspersed amongst the text readings were several hymns and songs, followed by the extinguishing of one of the large non-Advent candles.

Attempting to hear the words as if for the very first time, I tried to deprive myself of the knowledge of the outcome of the story, to in a sense hear it anew. I was suprised at how often I found myself wanting to hope that somehow, someway Jesus would break free of His circumstances. Curiously, Matthew's writing style consistently dashed my hopes.

When the guards come, perhaps the disciples will create a diversion, even offering their lives so their Rabbi can escape into the dark shadows of Gethsemane. But no, Matthew is quick to recount his and the other disciples' abandonment. In the rigged monkey trial, the false witnesses lie so badly, their testimonies cannot convict, and only contradict. Jesus' strange silence seems to be working perfectly. A ray of hope creeps in - perhaps there will be a mistrial? Not enough evidence to convict? But then the high priest questions His Sonship, and Jesus - who has previously categorically refused to offer any sort of response, takes the Divine Name on His lips and informs His would-be captors that He is the Danielic Son of Man, whose Divine Army awaits His signal in the clouds. Our hopes are dashed, and the Messiah is sentenced.

Here our hopes return to the disciples - perhaps a jail break is being planned? - only to find that Peter is vigorously trying to fulfill prophecy in the courtyard, outdoing even the Romans in denying his Master. But surely Pilate will listen to reason?! And, surely this is good news: the customary Passover release will take place, and no doubt the Jews will choose Jesus. After all, they were singing His praises only days before, and the only other option is convicted terrorist Barabbas. Surely this is a simple decision, and Jesus will go free! Not even the Sanhedrin would try to overturn Pilate's generosity!

But all the hearer's hopes are dashed to the ground one by one, as the people turn against their Savior, the disciples are nowhere to be seen, and an apathetic, selfish Roman prelate bows to the will of the people and releases a mass-murderer in exchange for the Prince of Peace. And after each section of text, another candle is extinguished in the sanctuary, and the darkness grows as we near Golgotha.

Surely the unthinkable will not happen. Not even God allowed Abraham to strike his son, and provided a ram in the thicket. There will be some eleventh hour miracle, some change of fate. This is His Son, with whom He is well pleased! Surely, the Glory of Israel does not slumber nor sleep. He must have a plan!

But wonder of wonders, this is the plan. I, the hearer, listening to the horror as injustice piles upon injustice, recognize that this is my story, and I should be the one stumbling under wooden beams and being thankful for Simon of Cyrene. Jesus breathes His last, He cries out, and the final candle is extinguished, plunging the room into darkness, with the only light on the execution device - the cross - in front and center.

As a disciple, one could easily understand that all the doubts that ever intersected your consciousness would come rushing back in full strength now. You left your home, your livelihood, and Jesus had such a strange style, and bizarre teaching compared to the rest of the Rabbis. No doubt it was foolish to believe Him...
* * *

It was excruciating being subjected to the doubt, the heartache, and despair that was contained on that Maundy Thursday, and I was just sitting in the pew, listening. My back wasn't being broken open. My lungs weren't being punctured. I wasn't weeping with agony. No doubt I would have passed out after the first lashing. And we haven't even begun to speak of the spiritual punishment. As I sat in the darkened sanctuary, I remembered when Jesus addressed the arresting priests, remarking that "This is your hour, when darkness reigns."

The Resurrection
After the Crucifixion was read, we prepared to partake of the Eucharist. It was a reminder that, though we would not dwell on it until Easter morning, we had not heard the end of the story. When Paul begins his epistle to the Romans, he notes,
God promised this Gospel beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 1:2 - 4
Why is the Gospel about God's Son, if He is descended through David? The emotions mentioned above while hearing the crucifixion story are not unfounded. In fact, the disciples are paramount examples of doubt throughout the Gospels, rarely trusting Jesus as they should. It is not until the Resurrection that Jesus is "actualized" as the Messiah - the Christ - and that He is vindicated as the Son of God. In His resurrection, God declared that His lifelong Work of Obedience was indeed counted worthy. Christ has won the prize, He has not lost a single soul the Father has given Him, and He has completed the Covenant of Redemption made in eternity past. In His resurrection, Jesus' claim that "All the Father has commanded, I have done" is proved to be true, and the Father announces His agreement with His Son.
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

I Timothy 3:16
The Resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. The moment it is disproved, let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If there is no resurrection, then all is lost, we are too be pitied above all men. However, if Jesus Christ is vindicated by being raised and proclaimed and believed and ascending, then all the world-and-life-views of all nations, the zeitgeist, and all of Creation bow the feet at Jesus of Nazareth, Anointed Prince of God.

[1] This is taken from here: From the Latin mandatum novum do vobis, the name Maundy Thursday arose. During the liturgy, the sentence from John 13.34 is often read - "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you." We gather to hear scripture read, for washing of feet, for the Eucharist and in the growing darkness as we move toward Good Friday we strip the church of its finery and prepare to wait in the garden during the Garden Watch. Back

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That was a VERY interesting one! Seriously interesting.

Thanks for sharing that. It was fun reading it. :-)

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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