I have spent the last four years in a presbyterian church that follows the liturgical calendar. After years in an independent Baptist background that deemphasized church history and liturgy, I am slowly coming to value the liturgical calendar. Easter doesn’t spring up out of nowhere. We march toward it from Ash Wednesday through Lent until we hit Easter week. Then we focus intently through Passover, Good Friday, and Easter services. God Himself first instituted the yearly Passover reflection and celebration. There is something of value, apparently, in stopping and reflecting anew over things we’ve studied and celebrated for many years in the past.
So this morning, I’m reflecting on all I already know, yet what apparently both God and Church history teach me I need to review in depth again anyway. It doesn’t take much to convince me why I need to review it, for I am well aware of the ways both I and the larger Body of Christ warp away from these truths when left to set the spiritual agenda for ourselves.
Instead of deciding what I want to pursue spiritually for myself, I review Jesus’ last week. His intense instructions to His disciples in His last days. Their immature reactions to His teaching and naïve assurances of their devotion. The accolades of the crowds who want a Messiah that suits their temporal purposes and then turn against Him with amazing speed when He doesn’t. His agonizing hours of prayer in the Garden. The outright betrayal of Judas and even more devastating denial by Peter. Jesus’ quiet but stoic endurance of unjust accusations. His grace in the midst of unspeakable torture.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I MUST think on these. Not in simple preparation of a Sunday school lesson or blog post but for MY DAILY HEALTH. I need to walk for weeks on end through His last moments on earth and the reality of His sacrifice. And I need to do it over and over again.
I need it so that I can understand forgiveness.
Matthew 18 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Real forgiveness of the sins against me demands a context. Jesus didn’t just tell His disciples to forgive. He gave them a context for this forgiveness that changes everything. This Easter season, I meditate again on this context, because it’s clear from Scripture I’ll never understand forgiveness without it.
Once I understand forgiveness, I can begin to process reconciliation.
Matthew 5 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Reconciliation requires naming truthfully the sin I committed against others or the ones they committed against me. Yet, once named, it requires forgiveness, and it is only the meditations of Easter week that empower that. My pastor preached a beautiful sermon last week on this from Jesus’ last words to His disciples in John before His crucifixion.
This week of Church liturgy concludes next Sunday with great celebration. For after we walk through the dark days of Jesus’ gracious sacrifice, we celebrate that death didn’t have the last word over Him. And so it does not have the last word over us.
Ephesians 1 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power at work in us. It is this power that enables us to tackle the next 40 weeks or so, overcoming the impossible—the sin within us, the sin without us, and all the ways our world is broken—with a power that defies understanding. The Spirit is real, living within us, empowering us, and bringing to remembrance all Christ did on the cross to make this possible. This meditation is the rhythm of the Christian life. Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, for Easter again.