Resurrection (3)

Easter preceded by Lent is the primary annual cycle of the calendar; secondary to it is Christmas preceded by Advent. This is true both theologically and historically. It is the resurrection that interprets the birth of Jesus. Apart from the resurrection, Jesus has no more claim upon us than Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Anwar Sadat: He was simply one among many good leaders who managed to meet an unjust death. This theological assertion is buttressed by historical facts: (1) What is presumably the oldest of the four Gospels pays no attention whatever to the birth of Jesus, beginning instead with the account of His baptism; and Paul makes only passing references to Jesus’ birth (as in Galatians 4:4 and Philippians 2:7). Only later did Matthew and Luke attach enough importance to the nativity to comment upon it extensively. (2) Even more significant: Although the resurrection was observed liturgically in the church from its very inception, the earliest recorded liturgical observance of Christmas Day falls well into the fourth century.

—Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 49-50

Resurrection (2)

Easter puts Jesus’ life in a whole new light. Apart from Easter I would think it a tragedy that Jesus died young after a few short years of ministry. What a waste for him to leave so soon, having affected so few people in such a small part of the world! Yet, viewing that same life through the lens of Easter, I see that was Jesus’ plan all along. He stayed just long enough to gather around him followers who could carry the message to others. Killing Jesus, says Walter Wink, was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it.

—Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 226

Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday

Holy Week

Mounting opposition:

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill him. (Mark 14:1)

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. (Mark 14:10)

In that context:

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. (Mark 14:3)

“There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

—G. Campbell Morgan

The Perfect Worshiper (2)

In union with its heavenly Lord the Church on earth worships, looking back to what He did once on Calvary and looking up to what He now is with the Father. It is a worship in Christ and through Christ. If it be called a worship of sacrificial offering, it is so because it is through Christ who is high-priest: ‘through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name’ (Heb. 13:15). If it be called a worship of glorifying, it is so because it is through Christ who glorifies the Father: ‘wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us’ (2 Cor. 1:20).

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 94-95

The Perfect Worshiper

The perfect act of worship is seen only in the Son of Man. By Him alone there is made the perfect acknowledgment upon earth of the glory of God and the perfect response to it. On the one hand the prophetic revelation of the glory of God is summed up in Him as He is Himself the glory of which the prophets, all unknowing, spake (cf. John xii, 41). On the other hand the ancient sacrifices are fulfilled in Him as He, priest and victim, makes the rational offering of His will in Gethsemane and on the Cross. In Christ the praise of God, the wonder before God, the thirst for God, the zeal for God’s righteousness, which fill the pages of the Psalter, find pure and flawless utterance. And in Him too man’s contrition for his own sin and the sin of the race finds its perfect expression; for the sinless Christ made before God that perfect acknowledgment of man’s sin which man cannot make for himself.

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 93