From earthly death to eternal life

The King of kings humbles Himself and dies the death of the worst of criminals so that sinners do not have to suffer eternal death and can hope for eternal fellowship with God through His resurrection. Here are the subjects of our divine services in April.

The month of April is marked by the events surrounding Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter. The theme series of the subsequent Sunday services is “Eastertide”. It shows how Christ accompanies and strengthens those who follow Him even beyond His resurrection.

How Christ really reigns

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the expectations the people had of Him. Towards the end of the Bible reading it becomes clear just how euphorically Jesus was received in Jerusalem: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus drew attention to the fact that He is king, but made it very clear that His kingship is not related to an earthly reign. Even His friends and closest companions understood this only in retrospect. The Palm Sunday service will explore this spiritual dimension of the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is King and rules over His Church even today. His reign is characterised by love and grace for all.

Death of a human being

On Good Friday, the Bible reading from the gospel of Luke deals with Jesus’ being sentenced to death. Pilate would have preferred to release Jesus, but the people insisted that He be put to death. And so Christ died a particularly humiliating death which was reserved for only the worst offenders. He, who was without sin, was prepared to die like the worst of sinners. Jesus lived through the moments of His passion and death as a true human being.

This perfect sacrifice means that all sinners have the opportunity to be saved and have eternal fellowship with God. We do not have to die like Jesus did to benefit from this. The only requirement is that we follow Jesus Christ: we live in Him who died for us.

Life in God

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” This question from the Easter Bible reading taken from Luke’s gospel aptly summarises the Easter event. Christ made it clear to His disciples during His mission on earth that He would accompany them even after His death.

And so the Lord appeared to many people after His resurrection. Besides the women at the tomb, he joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and He appeared to Peter, to the Apostles, and even to a group of more than five hundred brethren.

As he did then, today he meets those who believe in him to assure them: “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14: 19).

Trust defies doubts

The sermon on the third Sunday in April, which falls within the period of Eastertide, will focus on the doubt of the first Apostles. Jesus’ closest associates found it difficult to believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on the various testimonies. Overcome by grief and despair they were unable to change their perspective. Thus, the risen Lord appeared to them and rebuked them for their “unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mark 16: 14). Despite their doubt, Jesus entrusted His disciples with the important mission to go into the world and preach the gospel. Christ did not give up on the doubters then, nor does He do so now.

God’s action eludes purely rational thinking. Only faith with great trust in God can overcome understandable doubts. But no human doubts about God’s plan can shake his love for humankind.

The question as to our future self

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1: 15). The Bible text on the fourth Sunday underlines God’s will to give grace to all people and that we need to profess Jesus as our Lord.

After the encounter with Jesus, the persecutor of Christians turned into a fighter for the Lord. Paul saw himself as the sinner he was and professed Christ as His Saviour.

Like Paul, God calls sinners to serve Him, and like Paul, those who have been called must repent. This involves honest introspection and requires that we ask ourselves the question, “Who do I want to be?”

Crossing boundaries in Jesus’ name

The last Sunday of the month will explore the Great Commission. When Christ issued this mission to His disciples, it meant that they had to transcend all the boundaries and limits known to them and baptise and teach throughout the world.

The content that the Apostles teach today must always be in the context of what Jesus taught in His gospel. Jesus makes this clear in the image of the vine: “Without Me you can do nothing.” This also includes all ministers sent out by the apostolate.

But those who actively support this mission often come up against their own limitations. This is where the promise of Jesus from our Bible text applies: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20).

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Simon Heiniger
Divine service