“You are my friends!”

The month of April is characterised by three major celebrations, namely Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter. The New Apostolic congregations will hear Bible readings, special music, and sermons that are based on this special context.

The three religious holidays mentioned commemorate significant events in the life of Jesus and important phases of salvation history. Believing Christians cannot ignore them, they are central truths of the Christian faith.

Before the Passion of Christ takes its course, the congregation must be prepared for it. This is why the preaching on the first Sunday recalls the institution of Holy Communion. This occurred in the circle of Christ’s disciples and is a first impulse for the infinite love of God. In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper Jesus Christ visits His congregation to this day. Those who participate in Holy Communion, profess their belief in Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, His return, and ultimately also the sending of the Apostles of today.

Palm Sunday: Jesus enters Jerusalem

Palm Sunday is the second Sunday in April as well as the beginning of Holy Week. On this occasion we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the Messiah expected by the Jews—not in a golden carriage drawn by horses, but riding a donkey. The enthusiasm was huge, the people cheered Him on, yet only a few days later, public opinion turned against Him: this Jesus did not meet their expectations. Instead, they had expected a leader who would put an end to the Roman occupation and re-establish the kingdom of Israel. And the devout teachers of the law were appalled at His interpretation of the Torah, His kindness towards sinners, and His intervention in the temple.

From today’s point of view, this must be different: the Christian church should not only receive Jesus, but remain with Him and proclaim to the whole world the salvation that He wrought.

Good Friday: His death

Good Friday brings deathly silence into the house. Jesus Christ is crucified; He dies a sacrificial death. However, His death does not mean doom or the end, but marks a new beginning and the start of something very great. It is an expression of God’s love for mankind, strange as that may sound to our ears. The belief in this sacrificial death is necessary in order to enter into perfect fellowship with God. Jesus gave His life for all human beings: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15: 13–14).

Easter: new life

On the third day the bright light shines: Easter Sunday is the feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on which our own personal resurrection is founded. The tomb is empty. Christ lives! “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” the women were told when they wanted to anoint Him. When they reported these things to the Apostles and the others, they did not believe them. “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24).

Do we believe Him today? Faith in the resurrection of Jesus is an incredible source of strength. The one holy, universal, and apostolic church of Christ exists, even if it is hidden from our eyes. Those who believe and are actively involved in the Christian community can already today experience the church of Christ in their day-to-day lives: in acts of love and in the sacraments.

And just as He instructed His Apostles to go and proclaim the message of the salvation in Christ to the whole world, He also sends out those who belong to Him so that they can tell others about His death, resurrection, and return.

After Easter is before Easter

The sermon on the first Sunday after Easter puts the focus on God’s word and the sacraments. They are the food by which new life is nourished. The first epistle of Peter is the basis for this service. Its central aim is to strengthen trust in Christ, especially in times of hostilities and repression. To this day, it is not easy for Christians to live their faith. And yet, by their way of life, they are to bear witness of the hope in Jesus Christ that lies in them. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3: 15).

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Peter Johanning