Remember your baptism!
This might be an apt summary of what we do tonight at the Maundy Thursday service, tomorrow at the Good Friday service, Saturday at the Great Vigil, and Sunday at the Easter Celebration. We gather to recall and to celebrate the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus—by which and in which any who trust him are immersed and transformed. We gather to remember our baptism.
In a passage we’ll hear on Saturday night, St. Paul asks, “don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
What might that New Life look like? How do we see it in the services of the next four days? What might it all mean for us, the believers of All Saints Anglican Cathedral?
The Isaiah 61 Life of Jesus
Shortly after his baptism and wilderness testing, Jesus stood in his hometown synagogue and read from Isaiah 61. It gave a partial glimpse of the fuller mission Jesus was pursuing on his way to the cross.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….” (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
At that time, Jesus stopped reading. Those in his hometown couldn’t deal with Jesus’ heavenly family-identity and Kingdom mission (Luke 4:16-30). Nonetheless, over the course of about three years, Jesus preached and healed and delivered as he followed his Father’s purposes on his way to the Cross.
As night fell on the Thursday of Holy Week, the Isaiah 61 mission of Jesus resumed: “the day of vengeance of our God” had come (Isaiah 61:2b). Mercy began its greatest triumph over judgment as Jesus, for the sake of love, bore all the sin and all the shame and all the sorrows of all humankind from every time and place. Jesus offered himself willingly and fully to pay all penalties and to satisfy all righteousness and to reconcile all enemies. All this, Jesus did so that he could
“comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:2c-3c)
Oaks of Righteousness
Through Jesus’ Good Friday death on the Tree of Calvary, God “made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus willingly faced the dishonor and misunderstanding of crucifixion in hope and zeal for his Father’s household. Those redeemed in Jesus and made fellow-heirs with him of the Father’s Kingdom would, in the prophetic words of Isaiah,
“be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.” (Isaiah 61:3d-9)
Robes of Righteousness
This indeed is the promise that awaits those who wait in the hope of patriarchs and prophets, the hope celebrated in the Great Vigil of Saturdaynight. In the victory of Jesus, those having nothing to offer and no power of their own take up gifts to give and blessings to share. They rejoice, in the words of Isaiah 61:10, saying:
“I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
And Easter Morning comes. Those who mourn over missed opportunities and failed outcomes meet the Risen Lord. The Father’s glory and the world’s hope, Jesus Christ, the “firstborn from the dead” and the “first fruits of those who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) ensures that the final verse of Isaiah 61:11 will come to pass:
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.”
This is what the New Life of Jesus in the mission of All Saints Anglican Cathedral might look like.
Fear Not. Come See. Go Tell.
Weekly Email for Easter, April 1, 2018