Readings for Easter Sunday on Monday of Holy Week. Doesn’t that seem a little premature – a little like breaking our fast early? Perhaps like the rejoicing of the disciples on Palm Sunday, when they thought finally Jesus would be crowned king as they had hoped, despite all His confusing talk about suffering and rising on the third day.
Yet we have to cut them a little slack – sometimes it’s easier to see things from far away. We have never experienced Holy Week like they did – with the stench and bustle of people crowded too close together for the Passover, the fear of the Roman soldiers patrolling, the darkness and chaos of the arrest in the night, the heart rending sight, smell, sound of the person you’ve put all your hopes on suffering and dying, the bleak emptiness of Saturday’s grief mixed with fear for their own safety.
After all, we know where this is going. Even while we meditate on Jesus’ sufferings, we know that our Redeemer lives. Only by God’s grace could Job have known and trusted in Him thousands of years before He walked the earth. Job saw from very far, just a shadow of the promises to come, and he believed in God’s salvation. We see so much more easily with hindsight, and yet for thousands of years before Jesus came, there were those who, like Abraham, believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. The disciples had all the writings of the prophets, and the repeated promises of Jesus that He would die and rise, and yet they just couldn’t believe that God’s plan could be so much greater than their plans.
If the disciples could have believed God when He told them His plan, however outlandish it might seem, they would have had the same comfort in their fears and sorrows that we have this week. He wasn’t going to bother with their small plans. To them it seemed pretty big and important to free Jerusalem from Roman rule! Rome was the biggest despot they could imagine, but Jesus had a bigger tyrant in His sights.
They couldn’t imagine His plan. To defeat Satan, to destroy sin and death, was so big they couldn’t even see it. Jesus was fighting in the heavenly realms and the disciples were stuck in the dirt and dust of the earth. And His strategy, to destroy death by dying, was so crazy that even wily Satan fell for it. He didn’t need to be crowned the king of the Jews, He already was the KING above all Kings.
So here we are, stuck in the dirt and dust and germs of the earth. Even as we grieve for our sins that made His Sacrifice necessary for our salvation, and we grieve for the human suffering all around us, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil. We must wait for Easter day, as we wait also for the end Day when He will again stand upon the earth in His power and glory. In the meantime, we trust His promises and His plans, for He knows His plans for us, to prosper us and not to harm, to give us hope and a future. And when our time of mourning is over, we will once again see with our own eyes the words above the door: I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Job, chapter 19, verses 23-27:
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
The Epistle lesson is from 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 6-8:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The Gospel for the Resurrection of Our Lord is from Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-8:
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.