The Risen Christ

Readings for this week April 13 – 17
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Broken for You

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

“This is my body, broken for you.” When spoken by Jesus just a matter of hours before the process of breaking his body would begin, the pain and torment that such physical assault would entail was still in the future, but the nature of crucifixion was not unknown to him or his followers. It was the Roman way of execution, known, feared and despised across the Roman world. It was how the imperial authorities dealt with rebellion, local political opposition, and common criminals. Everyone knew what crucifixion was and what it looked like; after all, it was designed to be a very public punishment, both as a deterrent to the general population and as the prolonged, utterly humiliating degradation of the prisoner.

Designed to signal to the local population, “This is what we do to those who challenge the authority of Rome,” there was nothing special about the crucifixion as a punishment. It was standard fare for those condemned by Rome. Nothing special for the supposed King of the Jews. He would be whipped and beaten and tortured like many condemned prisoners were; he would be crucified in the same manner as other prisoners sentenced to die; and then he would die. Perhaps the only slightly different treatment he received was post-mortem, when the authorities gave some of his followers his body to bury (as sometimes happened), rather than leaving the corpse to be devoured by wild animals as was customary. But Jesus suffered the way so many thousands of others had suffered; he shared in the pain and humiliation of the people he came to save.

Questions to Consider
What does the Lord’s Supper mean to you? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, as we journey through Easter, help me focus upon you and the sacrifice of your son. Give me a deeper understanding of the extent and power of your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – No Special Treatment

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:24-25

As horrifically barbaric as the crucifixion was, and as unjustly convicted and punished as Jesus was, he was not a victim of circumstance. This is not a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. He chose to walk the path that ended in this way. John 10:18 tells us that Jesus said of his life, “no one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord”. The torture and suffering that Jesus underwent were terrible to endure, but that he freely choose to walk that path and face whatever consequences arose is remarkable. He knew what he was doing and he knew how things would turn out. But he didn’t back away from it, he didn’t turn and run from the path he saw before him.

Yet even more remarkable is the love voiced by Jesus while undergoing such pain and anguish. “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” Such grace and forgiveness is truly remarkable. Jesus chose to tread the path that put him on the cross, and once there, he chose, under enormous duress and with every reason not to so choose, to act with love and forgiveness. Not spitefulness, not vengeance, not resignation, apathy or defeat, but with the same outward focused love he had shown throughout his life. It is said that under duress our true selves are revealed. That is certainly true in this instance. In the midst of his ordeal, he prays for his enemies, his torturers, his unfaithful friends…and us.

Questions to Consider
How have you experienced the healing power of the sacrifice of Jesus in your life? How has it made a difference for you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I am humbled before such love, it is almost incomprehensible that you would do this. All I can do is kneel before you and praise your name, and your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Saturday Silence

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 23:50-56

It was customary for the bodies of condemned criminals to be left on the cross to be devoured by wild animals. But it was Passover, and the Romans were known to sometimes grant the release of bodies to the family for proper burial during festivals. With the Sabbath approaching, Jesus’ body could not be properly prepared for burial so his corpse was laid in a borrowed tomb. Proper treatment of the body would have to wait until the Sabbath had passed. In between the horror of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and the miracle of his resurrection and the empty tomb, is a silent tomb. Jesus is dead. Hopes are dashed. Some people mourn the death of their friend and their dreams, and the death of the loyal, loving people they thought they were. Others (most people) neither know nor care.  A body lies in a tomb. God, it seems, is absent. Life is gone, with nothing new in its place.

What are we to make of the silent tomb? What are we to make of Easter Saturday, when God is silent and it seems like the hope that was so tangible and inspiring and apparent only the day before is now snuffed out?  Easter Saturday is a reminder that there are times when it seems that God is absent; when it seems like nothing has changed, or can ever change; when things are most hopeless. Sometimes we do find ourselves in the midst of Easter Saturday, and though we may not wish to, it is a day that must be walked on the way to Resurrection Sunday.

Question to Consider
Why is this day still an important part of the Easter story?

Prayer
Loving Father, even in the darkness I know you are there, even if I cannot see or feel you. Give me strength to make it through my Easter Saturdays. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Ridiculous Resurrection

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Anyone today, when told of the resurrection, might very well reply, “Don’t be silly, that’s impossible, the dead can’t return to life – and don’t.” Anyone saying this would be one hundred percent correct. The dead do not come back to life. The dead stay dead; there is no returning from the other side, however you may define that line separating the living from the dead. We know the dead don’t rise and any claim to the contrary is nonsense. However, it is often said that we can’t really expect any better from people who lived two thousand years ago, before modern science and the greater understanding of life and death we have since developed. Resurrection is for simple, ancient, deluded folk who just didn’t know any better.

This argument is ridiculous. Of course people two thousand years ago knew the dead don’t come back to life. Everybody knows that. Experience and observation tell us that. And while there was, uniquely amongst ancient near eastern societies, the idea of resurrection in Jewish society, even groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees and high priests couldn’t all agree on whether it was true, what it meant, what it might look like, who would be involved, and when it would happen. Resurrection was not a given, even for the Jews, even for the Messiah. After all, who, of all the people awaiting the Messiah, believed he would need to die, never mind be resurrected afterwards? Resurrection is the great unknown, the great unexpected act, the astonishing surprise, the incredible gift of God that turns the world on its head, redefines the possible, and opens up entirely new vistas of life and faith and love.

Questions to Consider
How would your life be different without the reality of the resurrection? How does the resurrection play out in your daily life?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, thank you for the promise of the resurrection. Thank you that you are a God of promise, who offers hope and life for all. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Resurrection to Come

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a refutation and defeat of the power of death – though it is that. Death is the final enemy and has been defeated, though the ultimate outworking of that victory is yet to come. And it will come. But the resurrection of Jesus is also proof of his vindication by God the Father, confirmation of his message, and, as we have seen, also vindication of the means and methods Jesus used to bring reconciliation between the world and God. So much was accomplished on the cross, so much was restored, made right, renewed, opened up, made possible.

His raising to life by God the Father is a sign of the general resurrection that awaits in the future. It is the first fruit of a general harvest yet to come, but signalled through and pointed to by the resurrection of Jesus. A little foretaste of that final, general resurrection and final defeat of death that awaits us at the consummation of the kingdom has been brought forward and revealed in the raising of Jesus. His resurrection shows us what the kingdom looks like and what awaits us. And each glimpse of the kingdom among us – restored relationships, renewed creation, healed lives and more – is a glimpse of that final, fully restored and consummated reality that will be revealed in all its fullness at the close of this age, as the age to come restores what has been lost and wipes out all the tears and pain and suffering of this present age.

Questions to Consider
What does the resurrection of the body mean to you? Why?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of eternal life and for the resurrection of the body still to come. You are the God of promise and hope and I thank you for your faithfulness to us and the inheritance of the age to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)