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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

24 April 2011

Come, Join the Easter Parade

(Bonnet Not Needed)

Sitting high on Dad’s shoulders ... watching a parade ... wishing to be part of it.... Grand and glorious ... beautiful floats ... bright costumes ... flags and horses ... thundering bands. Only years later would I realize that I was already in the grandest, most glorious parade this world has ever known.

Palm SundayThese past eight days, from Palm Sunday through the Feast of the Resurrection open the heart and soul of Christianity for all to see. Christ’s parade through this world is here to watch and to join. The angels’ Christmas message of “peace” was not because a Baby lay quiet in a manger; it was because that Baby would remove our sins and make peace with God. Pentecost’s wonder wasn’t because Galilean fishermen spoke in different languages. Rather, in those languages they proclaimed Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior of the world.

Jesus’ assigned path was laid out from all eternity. He came to earth not to entertain watchers, but to save sinners. He refused to be tempted from this path, either by Satan or by His own desires. He couldn’t be threatened or bullied from the route by religious or secular authorities.

A parade for God Incarnate should be glorious, yet much of it was hideously ugly, grotesquely violent. This week — “Holy Week” — parades past us the lowest and the highest points of Christ’s entire life on earth.

To human eyes, Palm Sunday topped Jesus’ life. The crowd sang his praises, “Hosanna! Save us, we pray!” He was cheered as conquering king and hero of the day. So He would be, but not in the way expected.

Holy ThursdayThe crowds thinned; Jesus kept on the route. He established His New Testament and called to Himself a new covenant people.

Then He was betrayed, tortured, and killed. His parade left the city. Instead of being carried (on donkey-back) and cheered, He carried (His cross and our sins) and was jeered. The route appeared to end at a place called Skull. He was lifted up and nailed to the cross. The voices weren’t saying “save us.” Instead they taunted, “He saved others, Himself he cannot save.”

Good FridayIn His pain, how much could Jesus have desired that the elements would wipe out his parade, so He didn’t have to endure its conclusion? The skies darkened. The earth even shook, but He stayed on the cross until His last breath left Him. In so doing, He rained on Satan’s parade. He interrupted the devil’s schemes to lead all humanity to hell, and fulfilled God’s plans to lead His people to heaven.

He was taken down and buried. The procession seemed ended.

But on the third day — miracle of miracles! — the parade resumed. Jesus was raised from the dead. Those who watched Him pass by to His death, who directly participated in it, or who were responsible for it because of their own sinfulness are all invited to join in the procession. Satan’s prisoners are forgiven and are free to follow joyfully where Christ Jesus leads. “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:8)”

Easter CrossThe march is big and beautiful. Those with Him make music with their songs of praise. They are beautifully clothed, not in earthly attire, but with the righteousness of Christ which has been given them in Baptism and His Word.

Everyone who believes in Him as Savior and who has been baptized in His Name has traveled this route with Him. We are “buried ... with him by baptism into [His] death. (Romans 6:4)” We are raised through that same baptism into life eternal. His death puts our sinful natures to death. His resurrection raises us to new life.

Look to see who He brought into his ranks. Ahead of you marched Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John left all they had and followed Him. Look closer, now. There are faces less familiar. People throughout history and from around the world take up their cross and follow Him.

The Saints of GodSee, there you are ... and there am I. Heaven stands open before us, the true end of this parade route. Our Palm Sunday “hosanna” is answered. We have been saved. Now the alleluias of Easter ring out again. “Praise the Lord!” The host of captives is free and is marching home, bearing Christ’s gifts.

Christ continually gives his gifts in His Word and sacraments. You are invited to join the celebration throughout His Church. Lutherans (and other Christians) around the world will join in worship today, receiving the forgiveness and new life won on the cross and guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection. His body and blood, given and shed for us, are our Easter feast and our sustaining food as we continue in the parade toward our eternal home with Him who saved us and our Father who sent our Savior to take our flesh upon Himself.

This celebration will never end throughout time and will attain eternal perfection in the day of our own resurrection to life everlasting.

Ecclesiastical art by Ed Riojas. Graphics for the Church Year (1-Year and 3-Year Lectionaries) are available for for purchase on CD or by ZIP download from the Higher Things Store.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Revised from newspaper column #78


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