Light shines brightest at night

The period of Lent is approaching its climax: Passion Week will culminate in the triumphant Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus. But before that there is still the cross.

In the church calendar, the coming weeks are the most exciting, emotional, and varied: Christians hold their breath. Before they can sing a song of praise to God on Easter morning, they must first of all weep with the Lord and await the hour of Jesus’ death. The Passion of Christ and the resurrection of the Lord are the underlying themes for the divine services in the month of April. Passion means suffering and dying. Resurrection means hope and joy.

Fellowship in Holy Communion

Before Palm Sunday dawns, we will remember the Lord’s Supper. On the first Sunday in April, we will contemplate what fellowship with the Lord signifies Together with His Apostles, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal, which commemorated the liberation of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Following this, He instituted the Lord’s Supper in the circle of the Apostles. It was a strange and frightening situation in which these events occurred: it was the night in which Jesus was betrayed. In that night, human malice seemed to have gained the victory. The Lord’s Supper, however, demonstrates that it was not evil and spitefulness, but rather love and salvation that ultimately won the day.

Holy Week

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, a time of silence and reflection. The week leading up to Good Friday was tough. Already on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, it was clear what would happen to Jesus: false expectations, insincere hosannas, rejection, and hypocrisy. There were two opposing groups. For some Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem signified contradiction and indignation: this could not possibly be the way the Messiah should appear? For others, whose who had grasped Jesus in His whole significance and His teaching, the cross was approaching.

Death on the cross

Following this Christ into death is the destiny of all Christians. Just as He died for their sins, they are to die to sin. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is to motivate us to renounce sin and to follow the Lord resolutely. “We thank Jesus Christ for giving us His life and return His love by renouncing sin and following Him faithfully,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider says in the Divine Service Guide article for the Good Friday service.

The bright light of Easter

Finally, Easter morning shines brightly into the dark night. Hallelujah, the Lord is risen. In the Bible it says: “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24: 46–48). The believer is obligated to be a witness for this saving event. Christians are to announce that Jesus Christ lives!

Being convinced about the Lord

This joy that Christ lives must not subside and fall silent in the time after Easter. Easter is the central message of the first Christian church—and must also be proclaimed and spread by today’s Christians with conviction. Paul put it this way: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15: 14).

But now Christ is risen from the dead …

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Peter Johanning
Divine service