Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remembering Good Friday and Easter






Holy Week is not the beginning of the celebration of God's gift of his son, the resurrection from death and the forgiveness of sins. It is the culmination of several weeks of fasting and preparation. And I have found many people, and amazingly many Christians, do not understand many of the observances involved in the Easter event.
  
The observance is based around the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, denying Satan and fasting in preparation for his ministry and, ultimately, his own sacrifice on the cross.

After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went out to the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus asked his disciples to wait, watch and pray with him. To commemorate that, and to observe the act of waiting and praying with Christ, churches had their members sign up for prayer times around the clock, beginning with the end of the Monday-Thursday service, and ending with the Easter Sunday Sunrise Service. The prayer chain was not in effect during the Good Friday services, but at all other times, and at least one person had to be in the church praying and meditating all during that time. I am sure this is still observed somewhere, but I feel it is a shame it is no longer observed everywhere, because it gave us, especially as teenagers, a better understanding of what those disciples felt praying there alone, in the dark, with Jesus.

Good Friday services are celebrated pretty much by every Christian denomination, and are held in observance of the crucifixion of Christ on the cross. As I hope everyone knows, Christ died to complete God's plan to forgive all humans of all of their sins, past, present, and future, and to open up the worship of God to the whole world, not just the Hebrew community.

And of course, that leads us up to Christ's resurrection from the dead. All Christian churches have these services, but they differ according to denomination.

Then, of course, all Christian denominations have at least one service on Easter Sunday recognizing the resurrection and Jesus appearing to his disciples. Many have a sunrise service, always one of my favorites. I can still feel the joy in my heart as the sun was coming up through the plate glass windows and the organ was playing "Christ Arose."

“The Bible tells us to celebrate Jesus’ death rather than his resurrection — remember when he passed the bread being his body and the wine representing his blood? That’s the only occasion in the Bible that true Christians are told to commemorate. Because of his death and resurrection we now have a hope of everlasting life. Easter was a Roman and Greek holiday long before Jesus’ time. 

“It is finished.” Those were the last words of Jesus Christ before he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. All of the prophecies that were made regarding our savior were accomplished. The blood of the son of God was shed. The sacrifices that were necessary for the salvation of His children were finished. Death was about to occur, and the victory was won.

The last words of our savior Jesus Christ, however, are significant and representative of his life. While on the cross, Jesus made seven statements. Three of the statements are found in the nineteenth chapter of the gospel of John. In these statements, Jesus shows concern for his mother, shows his humanity, and states that he has accomplished the ultimate purpose of his life.

It is not uncommon for concerned people to attempt to put their earthly affairs in order when they believe death is imminent. Most people, however, are not nailed to a cross to suffer the cruelest of deaths — a crucifixion. If forced to suffer crucifixion, my troubled mind would likely be occupied with my own suffering. Jesus thought of his mother’s well being as he hung on the cross.

Jesus looked at John and said, “Behold thy mother!” From that moment, John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his home.

By his action, Jesus also fulfilled the commandment to honor thy mother (Matthew 19:19). He made sure that she would be cared for by one that he knew would be best suited for the job.

The next statement of Jesus is found in John 19:28. Jesus said, “I thirst.” Thirst is a common human occurrence that we have all experienced. By his statement, Jesus shows his humanity.

God, the creator of heaven and earth, took upon himself a body of flesh and was subject to the feelings of thirst and pain. The beatings that Jesus suffered were as painful to him as they would be to any man or woman. As God, he did not have to experience the human condition, but as our savior and redeemer, he willingly was born of a woman and lived a life of pain and sacrifice to benefit those for whom he would ultimately die.

The dying words of Jesus Christ are meaningful. On our darkest days, we can be comforted with the surety that our God, who finished the job, will return. My longtime pastor would often say at graveside services, “Don’t look at the hole in the ground, but rather look at the clouds in the sky.” Jesus will one day return in the clouds to claim his purchased possession because Jesus finished the job — the salvation of His people.

Finally.......

Easter is the most important day on the church calendar. Not only is it the day Jesus won the victory over death, it’s the day more people become Christians than any other. Easter is one of the most important religious holidays of the year for many Christians—a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pastor Greg Laurie has summed it up beautifully.

The Power of Christ’s Words

Christ’ passionate love for the world is evident in His statements from the Cross:

Statement One

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Do you realize that you are in need of the Father’s forgiveness?

Statement Two

“Today you will with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Have you realized and confessed Jesus as your personal Savior?

Statement Three

“Woman, behold your son.” John 19:26

Jesus is concerned for us and provides for all of us.

Statement Four

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46

Jesus was forsaken so we don’t have to be.

Statement Five

“I thirst!” John 19:28

This personal statement reminds us that Jesus is not only God, but He also was man. Jesus identifies with our needs.

Statement Six

“It is finished!” John 19:30

Jesus paid for our sins, and sin’s control over our lives is broken!

Statement Seven

“Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Luke 23:46

You can entrust your life into God’s hands.


If you are reading this today and you’ve never committed your life to Jesus Christ, would you accept and confess Him as Your Savior and Lord?


Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju



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