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LENT SERIES: “7 Places, 1 Story” / February and March, 2024 / Hope Lutheran Church


Text: Matthew 26:47-56

Theme: The Garden (Series: “7 places, 1 story”)


Intr – Today we start our Lenten walk through seven places of the Passion Narrative. Seven places in which the One Story – the Story of our Redemption – had important happenings.

In today’ place we will be with Jesus and his disciples in the Garden, when the Betrayal by Judas and Jesus’ arrest takes place. You are welcome to have your Bible open in Matthew 26:47-56, as we reflect on the text of the Gospel for today.

47“While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.”

-While Jesus was still urging His disciples to shake off the drowsiness to which they had given way, Judas came. He is called one the Twelve, but still he is the traitor, the one who will deliver Jesus to death. What a sad, awful contrast we see here.

-Judas comes up with the plan of how to have the mob recognize who Jesus was. Upon Him whom he would kiss they should lay their hands to hold Him with strength, if need be. With a respectful salute: “Rabbi”, Judas stepped up to Jesus, and kissed Him. One of the most intimate gestures of affections and love is used to betray the Lord. And the Greek original biblical text suggests here that Judas “showered him with kisses”, that is, he took his time greeting Jesus so nobody would have any doubt about it. Another reason for that prolonged greeting would be to prevent Jesus from speaking, so that we wouldn’t have a chance come up with any “trick”  with His words to escape His arrest.

-Jesus kindly addresses him with the salutation of “disciple” or “companion”, instead of spurning his traitorous kisses, the very essence of hypocrisy. At the same time Christ shows that He knows the purpose of his coming. For the last time He warns him: Remember what this treason means.

-Jesus doesn’t resist the arrest, but turns himself in. One of the reasons is that He was protecting the other 11, for sure. But was He was ultimately demonstrating is His will to accomplish the Father’s will. He does not use His power to evade the scene, but voluntarily surrenders to the mob. His arrest, suffering and death are totally voluntary. Because He loved you and me.

Peter offers resistance

“51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

-The disciples did not understand well Christ’s words concerning the necessity of being effectively prepared against all enemies, Luke 22, 36-38. So they had provided two swords. In the excitement of the moment, Peter expresses his carnal anger by drawing the sword which he had taken with him and tries to attack one of them. He tries to blow his head open, but the high priest’s servant certainly dodged it, and Peter he ends up cutting is ear off. Now, what was he thinking? Look at the scene: It’s 12 men against 400+ people in around them. Did he think they could resist them by the use of the sword? Or perhaps he thought that if he made the first move, Jesus would feel encouraged to use his power to get them out of the situation. At any rate, Peter was afraid, and fear sometims drives us to think and do things we might not do in normal circumstances. Fear prevented him of seeing God’s will in all that was happening  – for Jesus had already told them that this would happen, sooner of later. (Matthew 16:21–28)

-Jesus then reprehends Peter. He is told to put away the sword into its proper place. The reason for the order: Draw the sword, perish with the sword. The followers of Christ shall not carry on their work with force of arms, but by the Word, in the power of the Holy Ghost. This does not include those who carry the sword by duty (that is, the government) but those who want to use the sword themselves. Jesus adds another reason for objecting to the use of the sword at this time. If He had chosen not to take the way of suffering which was now opening before Him, He might have adopted a far easier and more effective way of disposing of His enemies. He might have asked His heavenly Father for the assistance of more than twelve legions of angels, for whom it would have been an easy matter to vanquish the band there assembled. But what Christ is principally concerned about is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Reproving the enemies

5At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.”

-Judas brought a big crowd, with a nucleus of the Temple police, who were at the command of the Sanhedrin, servants of the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews. We can think here of about 200 Roman soldiers and certainly as least as many Temple police, not counting all the curious people; even some of the elders themselves may have been there, though in the background. They bring arms, swords and staves, as if they would be arresting a bandit, a criminal.

That is a lot of people and a lot of weapons to arrest one person; and not a violent one, but a simple, meek nazarene Teacher with his disciples. Why would they arrest a Master who preached forgiveness and live? But that is the whole point. How would you justify the arrest of such a person? Therefore, you want to make it look like it is a very dangerous criminal who needs to be tightly escorted to prsion. That’s why they also come to Him by night, not in broad day light. The works of the evil cannot stand the light, they have to be done as one tries to hide under the dark blanket of the late hours.

-Their mode of procedure reveals their bad conscience. Day after day Jesus had openly, fearlessly sat in the Temple, since He had nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. He could explain and defend every word of His teaching, and would cheerfully have done so, had they approached Him at any time. But there they had made no show of strength against Him.

But all this had to be done in just this manner that the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which spoke of His Passion and death in detail, might be fulfilled in the same detail.

Jesus, again, shows who is really “running the Show”. By voluntarily surrendering and being subject to His trial, He is underlining the Father’s will being fulfilled in time, in places, in the hearts.

The Garden

The Garden is the place where Jesus passion finally begins. He is arrested and taken to a shady tribunal and trial. Here we see that the Lord voluntarily came for us. Voluntarily dwelt among us. Voluntarily suffered and die.

The Garden is also a place for reminders for our daily life:

Life is hard, and sometimes we will also be afraid. When darkness comes to our days, we may feel tempted to react impulsively and “cut ears” of people and situations. Jesus calls us to abide by His Word and promises, knowing that He always has everything in His hands.

-Judas was an educated man, one of Jesus’ disciples, somebody that in Jesus’ name preached the Gospel, baptized and made signs and wonders. Still, he betrays the Saviour. If that could happen to someone with those credentials, it can happen to any of us. That is the importance of prayer, of being connected with Jesus and receiving from Him constant food for our heart and for our soul, so that we are kept in Him and with Him.[2]

-When we do fail; when we betray and do not confess Jesus, but run away or avoid it in daily life, there is always time to turn around. Judas didn’t take that opportunity. Peter did. Later, after Jesus’ resurrection, John lets us know that the Lord has forgiven him and commissioned him to take care of the Lord’s flock.

– In our darkest our, in the garden of afflictions, of suffering and of a gloomy perspective of future, we can rely on Jesus. He fulfilled the Father’s word so that we are assured that God’s promises to our life will never fail.

Cc –  Seven places, one story. In the Garden we learn about human fragilities, darkness, pain. But we also learn and are remined of Christ’ willingness to fulfill God’s Will showing us that the One and Only Story of redemption is a promise that was fulfilled. A reminder that there is no betrayal, darkness, mob, suffering or threat that will make God’s promises fail. They are for us. They are for today. They are for our whole life.


[1] Source consulted: LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Mark”, pages 671-78.

[2] Judas was not a lowly man, but an apostle, and without doubt had many fine, excellent gifts; just as he, above other disciples, had a special office, and the Lord had ordained him to be steward, or treasurer. Now Judas is an apostle, who in the name of Jesus preaches repentance and forgiveness of sins, baptizes, and makes sings. Since he falls so grievously, becomes an enemy of Christ, sells Him for a little bit of money, betrays Him, and sacrifices Him as a lamb brought to the slaughter; since such a terrible thing comes upon such a great man; we surely have reason not to be secure, but to fear God, guard against sins, and pray diligently that God would not lead us into temptation; but if we do fall into temptation, that He would graciously lead us out that we may not remain therein. For it happens very easily that one gets into trouble and commits sins, when one does not watch carefully and diligently make use of the protection of prayer. (Luther, quoted by Lenski).



Text: Mark 14:66-74

Theme: The Yard (Series: 7 places, 1 Story)


Intr – Today’s place of our Lenten Series is a hard one to watch: the Yard. In that Yard one of the saddest scenes of the Bible takes place. This is the place where Peter denies Jesus.


v.66-67: “And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

It was cold. People need to keep warm. Led by John inside, Peter was there, warming up around the fire. He was afraid. All the convictions he had about Jesus were shattered before the threat against his life that would arise if he was recognized. He stays there “imagining that no one would pay an attention to him”.[1]       He was wrong.

The maid sees him and exposes him. It is interesting to note that this maid has let John go in, and John had interceded to have Peter coming in too. Why would she say something about Peter, but not about John? We could conclude that “she most likely wanted to make herself important”; she knew something others didn’t.[2] Everybody was talking about Jesus, but she would be the one to notice that one of his very disciples was there amongst them. At any rate, Peter was being exposed and now people started to pay attention to him


Verse 68:  “But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.”

It took a simple house maid to make the leader of the Twelve Disciples go into panic mode. The fear, the threat, the environment led Peter to fall for Satan’s scheme and to deny Christ. His fear was bigger than his strength. It is a reminder to us, as Paul says, that if you think you are standing, take heed lest you would fall. We should never be so sure of being invincible in faith as to neglect our need for constant repentance, forgiveness and closeness to Christ. This is our only assurance and hope to remain standing in Him.

When he felt safe, Peter withdrew to a distance, and at that moment the rooster crowed. Jesus’ word were again being fulfilled, and Peter was divided between the fear for his life and the desire to be inside, close to the Master.


Verses 69-71: “And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

Two more denials. Peter denies Jesus no only one, but thrice. “We can imagine the uneasiness and fear with which he returned to the courtyard and tried to efface himself in the crowd.”[3] However, Peter had not succeeded in moving suspicion away from him, rather, people  now became increasingly sure that he was one of the Twelve. His Galilean accent gave him away. John adds the detail that Malchus was positive he saw Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Straddling between confession and confusion, Peter is not as strong as he though he would be; he denies Christ repeatedly, even swearing in loud voice, and he is willing to do anything to save himself from discovery. Peter is trying to convince others, and trying to convince himself that he was doing the right thing.


Verse 72-74: “And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

But immediately after Peter’s curses and oaths, for the second time a rooster crew before the dense morning began to lighten. Nobody paid attention to that regular rooster crowing – nobody except one person. Peter. As the rooster crowed, he remembered Christ’s Words. He was confronted once again with the reality that God is truthful, as no human being can be. Jesus; words comes true, and Peter has to realize the smashing hammer of the law in his heart. That prompts him to break down and cry. Bitter tears of a man who thought he was at the top of his faith, but found himself in the depths of fear and desolation.

There are many times in our life when we think that we are at the top of our faith game. We feel strong, coherent, solid. But life pressures come crashing down on us, we waver and bend. We all can be Peter in many situations, denying Jesus either in front of many people to avoid the persecution of our culture wars. Or by hiding in the shadows to do what we know is wrong – for every time we break God’s will and follow our own impulses and desires, we are denying Christ and affirming our human flesh.

The good news is that there is forgiveness for denial. Peter was forgiven by Christ, especially in the episode reported by John (John 21). Peter denied, Jesus forgave. Peter was weak, Jesus is strong. Peter cried, Jesus wept his tears away. Jesus did not deny forgiveness to him. When Peter acknowledged his sin, Jesus was ready to forgive.

The same forgiveness is available for you too. For every time you deny Christ in you heart, in your life, forgiveness is there for you. Forgiveness is there for all of us. As we confess our sins in repentance and faith, God is faithful and just. He will forgive and He will forget.

There are many “Yards” in our life in which we stand before people who are eager to “expose” us in our Christian faith.

“Loos, he goes to a Church, how can somebody be so narrow-minded in the century and age in which we live!”

“Oh, you still think the Bible has all the answers for life?”

“The Bible is a book of parables, reality in life is different”

“Aren’t you one of those Christians who defends (and then people insert a hot topic of the moment that makes us clash against the current trends of the world)

No matter what the setting is, it will always be challenging. This is why we want to be close to Him. This is why we want to be constantly fed in His Word and Sacraments. It is only in Christ that we find what we need to strengthen our faith, and to be forgiven when we stumble and fall.

Conclusion – Seven places, one story. The Yard talks about denial. But Jesus died on his Cross and came back alive on the third day for what happened in that Yard too. For what happens in your yard, your house, your neck of the woods. His redemption applies to you and all who are in faith in the Son of Man, whose story redeems us from denial and weakness, and places us in the Hands of the Father, who affirms His forgiveness, love and the whole nine yards.


Exegetical notes based on: LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Mark”, pages 671-78

[1] LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Mark”.

[2] LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Mark”

[3] LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Mark”.




[“The tribunal” – Series: 7 places, 1 story]

Who are these people?

Luke 23:1-25

by Bruce Forrieter


To give a new twist on an old saying, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. If you can’t, get someone else to do it.”

In verse one of Luke 23, it says “the whole assembly rose”. Who is in this whole assembly? There are quite a variety of people from the variety of occupations. They were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, elders of the people, both High Priests – Annas and Caiaphas, teachers of the law, and the President of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder. Did you noticed from that list that there are no carpenters or shepherds? No tax collectors or wine makers? The men that came together to meet were the elite of Judean society. But, this particular Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was called the Great Sanhedrin and was made up of 71 people and had been formed many years before Jesus was born. It was the main court to bring judgment on those who violated the Law of Moses. There were lesser Sanhedrins around that could be called in other towns or cities.

That’s the physical make-up of the Sanhedrin and this is not the first time Jesus has encountered these who can be part of the Sanhedrin. Some of the Pharisees would follow Jesus around looking for a way to correct his behaviour or his teaching according to their take on things. As we read through the Gospels, it seems as if the Pharisees are around every corner. They act as if they are spies and need to report Jesus to their higher ups. And that’s exactly what they are doing. There is this new man in town who is doing many miracles of healing and raising people from the dead. Preaching and telling about the Father and the love He has for His people, the Jews. Jesus came to the house of Israel first so that they can say that the Messiah has come that had been foretold by Moses and the Prophets. But the Pharisees could not wrap their minds around what Jesus was saying because it did not correspond to their interpretation of what God intended for the people of Israel. It was to them, follow the rules we have given you and everything will be good between you and God.

The Sadducees were another group that wanted to know what this new guy was talking about and sent out people to question Jesus about what this new to them sayings and words were. They weren’t as persistent as the Pharisees were, but they nonetheless worried about Jesus disrupting the hold they had on the everyday people, doing their everyday work. The teachers of the law also had their questions and approached Jesus on a few occasions to learn from Jesus how He saw the law and its interpretation. Jesus did not meet the High Priests until his trial at the Sanhedrin.

That is the background leading up to Jesus’ first trial by the Sanhedrin. In the previous chapter, the folks at the Sanhedrin questioned Jesus as to whether He is the Messiah or not, and Jesus gives them answers that they interpret to mean that He is the Messiah and the Son of God. They have achieved their mission. They have exposed Jesus as a blasphemer and are now ready to punish Him for that confession. After three years of questioning and following, they have their man and now look for a way to put Jesus to death. But how? Would a simple stoning be enough to satisfy their longing to see Jesus gone? Perhaps not. But what? And this is where my new twist on an old saying comes in with the Gospel reading for tonight. The Sanhedrin wanted to do it right, they now feel that a more public death would be more satisfying. So, they couldn’t do it right themselves and now they let someone else do it for them. The whole assembly then rose and led Jesus off to Pilate, Pontius Pilate.

But who is Pontius Pilate? There are not many writings that still exist about his life. He was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judea and did not hold a lot of prestige in that position. Josephus writes that he was governor for ten years and one of the Gospels mentions his wife. But he was Roman and they had this thing call “crucifixion”. So off they went to take Jesus to this Roman governor who could put Jesus to a more public death. But what happens when they hand Jesus over to Pilate. Not much. Pilate also questions Jesus to find out what Roman law Jesus has violated. In the Gospel of John we find a more in-depth questioning than we have here in Luke. Pilate asked him if he is a king, but Pilate doesn’t seemed concerned about Jesus’ answer. But in the end, Pilate cannot find any crime that Jesus has done against the Roman Empire that would warrant the death penalty or any penalty. Pilate says in verse 4, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” But these members of the Sanhedrin aren’t going to let a little thing like that stop them from getting Jesus killed. In verse 5, they insisted! They insisted that Jesus stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here to Jerusalem. I don’t know who these people are that got stirred up. In my reading of the Gospels, it is the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law were stirred up, not the people. The people followed Jesus all over the place, they listened to his every word with interest. The people were coming to him for healing and having demons and evil spirits removed from their family members. As a consequence, many of them believed. They gathered to hear his teachings, to be fed spiritually, and unexpectantly, fed physically. Fish and bread being multiplied to feed thousands. Who again are these people being stirred up? What a strange accusation against Jesus. But they are trying any means to get Jesus out of their hair. Even lying? What a strange lie coming from the learned leaders who are the ones to teach the people about God and his mighty deeds He did for the children of Abraham and Israel and for them. Did it work? Did that lie convince Pilate that Jesus is worthy to be sentenced for a crime that Pilate could not find? Not exactly. Pilate hears the word “Galilee” and thinks, Herod. Herod has jurisdiction over Galilee, I will send him to Herod.

And who is this Herod? This is Herod Antipas who is the son of Herod the Great. This Herod Antipas reigned from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D. He had John the Baptist executed and Jesus was given a warning that Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus was not deterred by that and said back to them, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Of course the third day is when he rises from the dead. Whether or not Herod wanted to kill Jesus, or it was just a way to stop Jesus from doing his teaching, he wanted to see Him. When Herod gets to meet Jesus face to face, Herod is greatly pleased because he wanted for a long time to see him. That does not sound like someone who wanted to have Jesus killed. Quite the opposite, Herod was most interested in having Jesus perform a sign of some sort. Nothing from Jesus. It says in our text that Herod plies Jesus with many questions. Nothing from Jesus. The chief priest and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing Jesus. Nothing from Jesus. So what do you do when you don’t answer Herod? You get ridiculed and mocked by him and his soldiers. You get an elegant robe and sent back to Pilate.

What is this place that this tribunal is happening? There is a palace that was built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem that is now shared by Pilate and Herod. And of course it is an opulent place. This is how Josephus described it: Raising the rooms to a very great height, and adorning them with the most costly furniture of gold, and marble seats, and beds, these rooms were very large, that they could contain very many companies of men. Jesus was brought into this palace, this place of honour, and not treated with honour as the King of the Jews, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. First the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, then to Herod and now back to Pilate. And nobody even fed Jesus breakfast.

So let’s go back to the text. Verse 13-25: “Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers of the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and release him. But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ For the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished him and then release him.’ But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.” Three times Pilate makes the attempt to let Jesus go free, and three times the crowd shouts him down. Pilate does not want a riot to happen and lose his job. Although Jesus is the one he wants to set free, crowds do not looked upon favourably by Rome.

And what of Jesus through all this. What is going on in his mind? We can’t actually read Jesus’s mind, but we do have the Bible. And so we go back to the beginning to where God says to the serpent, “he will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.” God has already come up with a plan to save his people from Satan, and it is Jesus who will do the crushing. When Moses was given the law on Mt. Sinai, the sacrificial laws pointed to the eventual sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The psalms and the prophets all wrote of the coming Messiah. Mary is visited by the Archangel Gabriel and told that the child to be born will save the people from their sins. Jesus himself says three times to his disciples that he must suffer. He says at one time that he must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and must be killed and on the third day rise from the dead. On the third time Jesus said, “We are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. And on the third day he will rise from the dead.” In that space of time Jesus was at the Tribunal, in that palace of honour, this all happened. He was sent to Pilate, a Gentile. Herod and his soldiers mocked him. And the crowd called out for him to be crucified, to be killed.

Do we look on these people, the Sanhedrin members, Pilate, Herod, as bad people because they put Jesus on trial? And the crowd, were they bad people because they wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus? Well, what they did was not right; but still there is good in what happened. For they were sinners used by God to accomplish his long-time plan to bring the Messiah to these very people. As to being crucified, Jesus says this in the Gospel of John, “Just as Moses lifted the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” And: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show what kind of death he was going to die. Jesus knew all this and he still did not fight back because he knew what the end was going to be. Throughout his three years of ministry, he knew that all this was waiting for him. And he stuck it out for them and for us. Jesus is our Saviour by dying on the cross, by shedding his blood to fulfill the requirements of the sacrificial laws. We have forgiveness of our sins. We celebrate it by partaking in the body and blood at communion. By enduring all this, we can say confidently that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of the world.


(Reviewed by Pastor Lucas Albrecht)




Text: Luke 23:26-43

Theme: The Streets to Calvary (Series: “7 places, 1 story”)


Intr – Think about Jerusalem’s streets on that Holy Friday. Narrow, packed, boiling, curious streets. This man was condemned to death and now he has to walk to his execution place carrying His Cross. Lots of whispers, comments, and cries.

“Is he innocent, is he guilty?”
“What did he do to deserve this?”
“Well, he certainly did something really bad, otherwise, why would they do this to him?”

There is Jesus. Carrying his Cross through the streets of the city that is called the Holy City – and is so called because of Him! Now, a city that watches in astonishment as the beaten, smitten and afflicted man from Nazareth slowly makes his way out of the city and into his death penalty.

On the streets of Jerusalem leading up to the final stop at the Golgotha, the place of the skull, important pieces of the whole story of Christ’s passion happen, and we want to reflect on them today.

“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.”

Immediately after being sentenced, Jesus is taken to his place of execution. There was no law demanding any delay. The sentence is passed by Pilate, and Jesus is carried away. The prisoner in that situation would usually be led through the most populous streets of the city. And the place of execution would be a busy highway where people would gather to see what was going on.

If you go to Jerusalem today, you will see the Via dolorosa, the path of suffering, marked on several streets. But that is a late construction. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt many times; some streets today are even 60 to 80 feet above the original pathways due to accumulation of debris. Therefore, it is impossible to say those were the precise paths Jesus trailed.

A man from Cyrene, Simeon, was tasked to carry Jesus’ cross. A fairly precise conclusion here is that Jesus was so broken down under the torture he suffered – on top of that, as we remember, he didn’t sleep the previous night – that even the soldiers had to conclude he wouldn’t make it. However, no Roman soldier would lower himself to carry a criminal’s cross, so they take an unaware Jew to take the cross of another Jew, a criminal – perhaps even to sound as a sarcastic humiliating joke.

There is lots of historical speculation about the shape of the Cross. Was it an X, or a cross has we have today or a T shaped Cross? All evidence we have so far point to the fact that the shape we use today is the most likely. However, sometimes it is pictures as too high, too big. People were closer to Jesus’ face than what we usually see in movies and pictures. Still, Jesus carried his entire cross, not only parts of it. It is a real life, graphic description of his figurative message delivered to his disciples about taking our cross and following Him.


27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.

A great crowd gathers on the streets to see the tragedy. I don’t think things have changed much. Whenever there’s something bad happening in public, there are always people who gather around it. Many of those were there, crying “crucify him”; now they rub shoulders along the narrow streets of the Holy City to see the King of Kings to be humiliated as one of the worst criminals of the time

The ladies were mourning and lamenting. The original term is “beating their breasts”, which was a traditional Jewish death wail for him as “being one who was as good as dead.”


But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Those women were sad, deeply sad. But they don’t seem to be worried about Jesus’ Gospel of forgiveness of sins, and new life. They don’t even seem to realize fully who Jesus was. They were just hopelessly lamenting his fate, they excess pity His situation. It is a human, normal thing to feel, but Jesus is not so much interested in tears of pity, but in laments of repentance. This is why he says to them: “Stop crying. Do not lament over me, but over yourselves and your children”. Those women were not weeping for the sins of the people, especially of those in Jerusalem doing that. They may have helped to acclaim Jesus, but it seems that they were not his disciples. They knew nothing about Jesus was doing that day: dying for their sins and for those of all sinners.

This is a reminder to us that mere sentimentalism in faith, even if it brings tears to our eyes, is not what the Word directs us to. When our tears flow from the fact that we acknowledge our sins and repent of it, like Peter’s tears after denying Jesus; and then from the joy of His presence, character and lead in our life – that’s when it will lead us to the positive outcome of the forgiveness of sins granted to faith in Jesus’ work under that cross in the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus’ words about the barren women are striking and very strong. Among the Jews, calling a barren woman “blessed” was something unheard of. Children were considered one of the greatest blessings from the Lord, and childlessness, especially barrenness, a sign of God’s displeasure and even a curse. There are difficult times lying ahead for the Jewish people, and blessed is the woman that has no children to multiply her agonies. Just as an example, if one reads Flavio Josephus’ work “War”, book 6, you have a peek into one of the most horrible things ever set down in writing. He describes the siege of Jerusalem by Titus and the Roman Army around the year 70AD, just about 40 years later, and the atrocities committed against the Jews at that time.

Jesus then asks a question that has its answer embedded: “If they do so to green wood, what will occur in the dry?” Jesus, sinless, the green wood, is suffering that much in front of their eyes. What would be of the faithless, sinful Jews of Jerusalem when their time of suffering will come? Again, Josephus has graphic, vivid descriptions of what Jesus’ prophecy looked like to the people of God fallen into disbelief in the promised Messiah. This figure of speech is taken from the prophet Hosea and is used again in Revelation 6:16 in connection to the final judgement.


Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, pone on his right and one on his left.

Two others were taken through the streets of Jerusalem to be crucified with Jesus. This is a strong visual message that is being sent to the people, in case anyone still had any doubt about the sentence Jesus received: just look around and see in whose company He is. Think about situations of daily life in which you can be taken for being a dishonest person, a cheater, a liar or any other sin because someone you are close with is identified as such. It would be very hard for you to prove the contrary, wouldn’t it? Here the same message is conveyed: “Those criminals we know are criminals. So if Jesus is among them, He must have had done something terrible that I don’t know. They wouldn’t be doing this right in front of our eyes if it wasn’t true and legit, right?”

This reminds me of the news cycle we see daily on every major TV networks. They make a fine tuned selection of news that need to air every evening, and they put them together and work on them to serve a certain editorial line. Then as we watch it, even when we are suspicious that they might not be just so as aired, we may be tempted to think “well, I have my doubts, but…that must be true, I guess. They wouldn’t unashamedly air something false as it if it was true news, would they?…” Jesus is counted among criminals, so he must be one of them. “If you lie down with the dogs, you get up with fleas.” “Tell me what company you keep, and I’ll tell thee what you are”.

Now, in a sense, that actually holds true, when we think of what St Paul says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(2Cor 5:21) Jesus at that moment, in a sense, was the sin in person. He had no sin, but became sin so that we could be saved forever. What an act of Grace, what an act of love! Isaiah 53 is also being fulfilled here, “Jesus was reckoned among transgressors.”

Another ingredient to the unfolding drama; a political one: The reason Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified is that he wanted everyone to see what kind of King the Jews brought to him, one that is among the worst people of the land. His inscription above Jesus’ head had that same intent. He was concerned in mocking Jesus so much, but the Jewish leaders and their “king”. With all the torture, he was showing everyone what kind of helpless, pitiful figure those leaders were depicting as a dangerous king. Pilate’s INRI sarcastic joke is not for the King of kings, but for his Jewish opponents.

Jesus is brought to Calvary. The Bible doesn’t say it is a Mount or hill, only local topography suggests it. Jesus is nailed to His cross with huge nails driven through his hands and feet. The Son of God is crucified as a son of sin. He becomes sin so that we bear sin no more.


My friends in Christ, the streets of Jerusalem leading up to Calvary witness a tragedy. They witness the Son of God being led out of the Holy City of God as a criminal, to be executed before the eyes of the world. A political game is unfolding between Rome and Jerusalem, and the result is the death of an innocent. But we know that as much as men try to act behind the scenes to pursue their goals there is Someone Who is above the scene. He is the One who really has everything in His hands. All those human, political games, were confirming the promise God made to His people: His Only Son dying as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. On that day, the streets of Jerusalem led Jesus to only one place he could be and wanted to be: Calvary.

The streets of our daily life sometimes tempt us to go in different directions, with promises of relief, strength and fulfilled dreams. However, we know there is only one street, one path, one way that leads us to the Father, Jesus. Sometimes it is a path of suffering, for we must bear our cross. But it is the only path that leads us to forgiveness, peace, and eternal life.

Conclusion – Seven places, one story. The streets of Jerusalem witness the son of God dragging Himself along the way to His death so that we can have life. He was bearing sin so that we might become God’s righteousness. He stumbles His way through streets of the Holy City of Jerusalem, so that on the last day we will be invited to walk streets of Gold of the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem. Because He bore His Cross, we will bear our no more.


Exegetical notes based on: LENSKI, R: “Commentary of St Luke




Text: John 19:17-30

Theme: 5 – The Cross                  (Series: 7 places, 1 story)


Intr – Today our Lenten Series we have our 5th Place: The Cross. The place where Jesus finished His work of love for all humankind.[1]

I begin by asking you: How would you define “Success”?  Making millions of dollars? Making a name for yourself? Being a world-renowned artist like Leonardo da Vinci, or a well-known singer like Shania Twain? Reaching the top of your profession? Being praised by millions? Become a household name? Would that be success?

Now, look at this definition: Someone who works for 3 years, gaining many followers and becoming popular in many places. But then, he is arrested, tortured, and humiliated; he is condemned, sentenced to death penalty with almost no one to give him support, even his friends. In summary: having the work of a lifetime come to an end in one week. This is definitely not what we consider success, or to be successful by human standards. An end like this would be considered as miserable, monumental failure.

“Nothing fails like success” an author wrote once. When it comes to human success it couldn’t be more right. Success doesn’t last like failure. People tend to remember failure better than many achievements.

Now that can be a short description of the life, work, and death of Jesus Christ. He started small, built an audience, and garnered attention from thousands. But somewhere, somehow something went wrong. Suddenly, the Man was not pleasing his audience anymore. The popular guy loses fame. In the backstage, there is already an ongoing plane to remove him from sight altogether. And, as we heard in the Gospel today, they managed to accomplish that. They were successful! Jesus is nailed to a cross. Miserable failure. The end of everything. The end?

The Gospel today presents us with details of the climactic moment of this apparent colossal “failure.”

“Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.  It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Roman law usually protected Roman citizens from crucifixion, except perhaps in the case of desertion by soldiers.”[2]

On verses 17 and 18, John tells us that they arrived to the place called Golgotha. Two bandits are crucified with him. One of the apocryphal Gospels brings the story that those would be robbers who almost attacked Jesus and Mary as they returned from Egypt with baby Jesus, but didn’t accomplish their purpose. At any rate, Jesus is crucified among thieves. The message that is implied is clear, He is one of them. And the more important of the three, since He is the one at the center.

Then in verse 19, as a last resort to try to gather his pride together, Pilate puts a plaque with the “king of Jews” mockery above Jesus’ head. One important detail to be observed here: by giving this title, but not mentioning the reason for Jesus’ execution, Pilate is, in a way, proclaiming Jesus’ innocence to whoever would be passing by. Pilate seems to remain unconvinced of Jesus’ guilt. He caves to the mob and gives Jesus to be crucified, but He still sends messages to mock the Jewish leaders and to point to the innocence of that Nazarene. And he does that in 3 different languages, to make sure everyone would be able to read it.

The Jewish leaders still try to disconnect them from that man, tell us verses 21 and 22. But Pilate won’t change that. He will let that mockery stand there to witnesses to the thousands of pilgrims filling Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

On 23 and 24, we see the soldiers casting lots over Jesus’ clothes, fulfilling the word of the Psalm, 22:18. Again, Scripture fulfills itself, giving witness to the truth of the Word of God.

Jesus still has time to care about his mother, as verses 25 to 27 present. He asks John to take care of her, and vice-versa, so she wouldn’t be disowned. Looks like even with his brothers and sisters Jesus couldn’t count on.

And the on 28 to 30 we have Jesus’ final moments. He asks for something to drink, perhaps to moisture his lips before pronouncing his final words.

Here we see and important Greek word in the text / It is finished is the translation of “Tetelestai” – This is a Greek verbal form (reduplicated perfect) that means something done in the past whose effects continue into the present and indefinitely, permanently. This is Jesus’ “It is finished” on that Cross. One of a kind event in the past which bring forgiveness, salvation and eternal life today. The Son goes home after fulfilling the entirety of the Father’s will. And:  “The death of Jesus too place entirely in his human nature and in no way affected the union of the Logos with his human nature.”[3]

Failure. Success. How should we qualify the event that took place on that Cross? What is the standard that would be used to do so?

By human standards, perhaps a failure. A disaster. However, everything that happened was exactly confirming how successful the original plane truly was. God planned to send his Son, Jesus Christ to do exactly this: to give his own life, suffer and die for all humanity, immersed in the miserable failure of sin. That’s exactly what happened: total success. When we look to the supposed “failure” found in the account of Jesus’ passion we somehow understand why the message of the cross isn’t often as welcome as you would think in our world. It sounds like a message of failure. Here we see a big leader who dies, being abandoned even by close friends. Where were his HR skills, his leadership ability, His vision of the future? What about His crisis management skills? Then, you refer to His resurrection as victory over death the answer may come as, “well, that’s a tale invented by his disciples to cope with failure, loss and sorrow. That could never have taken place.”

If that was a scene from a play or a movie, you would see some of the people acting on stage or in front of the camera. And yet also many others are backstage, behind the scenes. But they all forget that above the stage, above it all is the One whose sight misses nothing. He sees everything, so that in what was deemed to be one of the biggest failures ever, He was really working the greatest work of love of all time.

Jesus’ Cross shows us and inversion of “Nothing fails like success” to “Nothing was more successful than failure”. This was the only successful rescue plan in History: God rescuing us from sin and hell. Complete success. Something seemingly going wrong, but which was happening perfectly right. The victory over death on Good Friday that has its outcome on Easter Morning.

Sometimes we feel we are a miserable failure in our lives. Everything just went or is going wrong. We feel like losers. We feel ashamed on stage, we think that something might be going on backstage. That our “good” name is not good at all. Christ reminds us that above the scene is the One who knows the whole screenplay. He is the one who even writes it. And He works for our good. Even when all we see is apparent failure, His Holy Spirit Works in our hearts to give us the highest success we can receive faithfulness to the Man hanging on a Cross.

Cc – The Cross. It is the definitive sign of Christ’s success. He obeyed God’s law perfectly, went to the cross and obtained forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life for every single human being. Once and for all, nothing else can or must be done for the eternal salvation of billions of people who have the name of Jesus put on them by his shed Blood. Therefore, we remain assured: there’s nothing in the whole Human History as successful as the “failure” on that Cross. Amen.


[1] Sources consulted:
LENSKI, Commentary on John
The Lutheran Study Bible


[3] Lenski, p. 1310




Text: Mark 14:12-26
Theme: The Upper Room (Series: 7 places, 1 Story)


Intr – Your life, my life, they happen in places. So many places. Private and public places. The places you’ve been, the place you are right now. The places you don’t want to remember, the places you just can’t forget.

The Holy Week is made of places too. In our Sermon Series this year we made stops along the way in some specific, different places of this beautiful, Grand and Unique Story of Salvation. Places which are important and defining. Sites and occasions where our place in God’s hands, our place in the family of Christ, our place in heaven were prepared and defined. Above all, we reflect on how each of those places is all about Christ – and, therefore, about us.

Our stop today is in the Upper Room. A meal is taking place there. But another, superior and life-giving Meal will also take place in that place.


1 – Teaching

Jesus and His disciples recline to have a meal together. Around that table, Jesus also teaches, as we learn from St. John. His teaching includes love, unity, endurance. The most striking of them is done not only by words, but also by action – Serving, through the washing of their feet. Precious lessons that have a place in our heart and our actions, by the sending of the Comforter – another promise made at that very place.


2 – Tension and Betrayal

However, not everything was good and nice on that evening. The upper room was also a place of betrayal. That was the inner circle of Jesus’ friends, and still there was one who decided in his heart to do the unthinkable. Judas. Jesus deals with the situation with firmness and love.

There are times in which we may experience betrayal in our inner or outer circle. There are times we are the ones betraying the confidence of family and friends. Remember, the same place of betrayal was the place of forgiveness. That would have been extended even to a repentant Judas – one thing that unfortunately did not take place in his heart. Forgiveness is always there for you. And for all.


3 – Hymn Singing

Fellowship, love, tension, betrayal; and also hymn singing. Was that singing a celebration like on Easter Day, or a tense repetition of notes like in a funeral? Probably the latter, or a mix of both. What we know for sure is that from the many arts available Jesus chooses singing (not to the demerit of any other of them). Singing has been drilled down so deep in our Christian minds in our life of believing, teaching, and confessing that led our Teacher Dr. Martin Luther to affirm Music to be the next most important thing after the Word itself.

When you are happy, sing. When you are sad, sing. When you are in a situation where both love and tension are in the air, sing. If not with your mouth, sing with your heart. Listen. Good hymns and songs point you to the best place to be at that moment – locked down inside God’s secure hands.


4 – A Meal

In that Upper Room, a Meal takes place. Have you ever realized that the place for many important happenings in life is around a table, or around food? Preparing food, and receiving it, is a sign of love, care, proximity, friendship. Isn’t the kitchen the most attended place of a house? Jesus gives one of the Two Sacraments to His disciples around a table: in intimacy, confidence, love, and care.


5 – The Holy Meal

The highest point of that evening was a Meal. Not the regular meal they were having, but a special one, instituted by Jesus. A new covenant in His blood. It is highly significant that one of the three means of Grace is a meal. That means that the altar, the table of the Lord, is a Place to be, and a place to return frequently to as family of God. The altar is the place where Jesus meets us and we meet him truly, faithfully, and physically.

“Holy Communion is more than just a faint recollection of the Lord – a recollection in which we might way: “Oh, yes, I do remember Jesus.” The word used for remembering in the original language refers to a profound kind of remembering – a vivid memory of something very important to us. As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we vividly remember Jesus and what he has done for us. The first occasion of the Holy Sacrament was our Lord’s final Passover meal with his disciples. This event happened, we are told,“… on the night in which he was betrayed.” [1]

The Passover Meal is connected to Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 20 to 23. There we see the description of the Jewish Passover, which is the direct precursor of the Lord’s Supper. The Hebrews were told to remember all the great deeds of the Lord. Now Jesus brings the Meal that is the permanent memory of God’s greatest act of all: deliverance from sin and the promise of the New Land in Heaven.

But not only that. Holy Supper is not just for the memory, for the head, but especially for the heart. It is one of the means of Grace in which God delivers his wonderful promises to us. It is a moment in which we meet Jesus in the most intimate manner there is – we receive His blood and body in us. When we talk about growing a relationship of intimacy with God, Holy Communion can never be left to the side as a nice ceremony. This is a feast of Love, grace, forgiveness, and fellowship. An unforgettable meal.

Holy Supper is the very blood and body of Christ delivered to us under and with the bread and the wine. It is not a symbol. It is not a transformation. It is a real presence – in two natural means, bread, and wine, two supernatural gifts are given, body and blood. By the words spoken over the bread and the wine, we have Christ’s body and blood in His Holy Table. How do we know that? Because of His words and promise. It is not because the Church told you so, because the pastor has any superpower or because it is a tradition to do things this way. It is because of Christ’s Words, and His Words alone: This is my body, this cup is the New Testament in my blood.

The Holy Supper is a place for joy and anticipation. I notice that sometimes we come to it sometimes too seriously, myself included. I get it, we want to show respect for what is going on and that is good. But would it be wrong if you saw somebody coming to the altar or going forth from here singing the communion songs with the congregation, or smiling, or with an expression of joy and gratitude? Of course not. What we experience here every single time is nothing short of a miracle. The Son of God gives Himself for us over and over again. Added to that, it is a feast of anticipation of the joy in Life eternal, when we will all be together around His table to share meals into eternity.[2]

Holy Communion is for you. Not only for your little moment before the altar here, but for you to carry into your daily life, in the senses that the Jesus you meet at the altar will go with you. It is with you in your car, and house and life. He will continue to strengthen you and save you. He is the strength you need to power through another day or to leap for joy after another win. The fact that you know this is true, real, and salutary strengthens your faith and makes you confident that there’s no place you may find yourself at in which His presence cannot be there, even before you. Christ’s Supper is for you. For today. All the way.


Cc – Life happens in places. In that place, the Upper Room, on that dreadful but blessed night, life happened to the disciples for Holy Supper brings us life. As we approach the table of the Lord, we receive forgiveness and life. We are strengthened. We are renewed in our faith and in our daily life. The Table of the Lord. In every place we find ourselves at, the promises from that Upper Room echo in your ears and hearts, placing us in His hands of care, comfort and hope.


[1] Terry Defoe.  “Joyful Remembering “ Available at:

[2] In the Lord’s Supper – in this “Lutheran altar call” as some have called it – we re-affirm our faith in Christ and we again remember his promises. God remembered his promises to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob. He remembers his promises to you and to me. In Romans chapter 8, verses 32 and following, the Apostle Paul says: 32 qHe who did not spare his own Son but rgave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than yconquerors through zhim who loved us.(ESV)” Pastor Terry Defoe.  “Joyful Remembering “ Available at:




Text: Mark 16:1-8
Theme: The Empty Tomb (Series: 7 places, One story)



Intr – My friends in Christ, there’s a story about Good Friday, late afternoon.(It’s extra biblical, please don’t accuse me of heresy.) It’s a tale about Joseph of Arimathea coming to Pilate and asking for Jesus’ body to be removed from the cross, to be placed in an empty tomb.

Then Pilate would have said to Joseph: – Joseph, I don’t understand you. You are one of the most rich people around here, you are well off, you have carved this most pretty tomb for your entire family there. Why are you giving this to this Jesus?
Joseph would have said: -That’s okay, it’s just for the weekend.[1]

It’s just for the weekend! Christ is risen! He did not stay there. He did not stay there. The empty tomb is the reason we are here today, because if Christ had not risen from the dead, the Word would not have been going out, and Christianity would have failed just like any other small sect in that context. But the power of the news of that early morning, on that Sunday morning, is that the Master who was nailed to a cross is now living. He just stayed for the weekend. He’s out, he has killed death, and now that empty tomb brings hope to you.

We have been following during the Lent “Seven places, one story.” It’s a series of sermons we had on Mid-Lenten services. We started with Jesus in the garden, then the yard where Peter denied him, the tribunal, the unfair trial. Then we went to the streets of Jerusalem, then to the cross, last Maundy Thursday, in the upper room, where Jesus gives us Holy Communion. And today, the final of them. Final spot, the final stop for our series, by the empty tomb.

In all the other places, you see things happening in front of you, and you believe it. You believe that Judas betrayed Jesus, that Peter denied him, that he was on the streets bearing his cross, that he was nailed to a cross. Now here, you come to a place where you believe in what you don’t see, right?

The disciples and those ladies, they come early morning. The stone is removed. They look and see, and the Bible says, and they believe, and they believe in what? What they don’t see. The tomb is empty. Jesus is back to life.

The empty tomb has at least three things we want to think about today that are important for us.


1 – A Historical Place

The first one is that it is a historical place. It actually happened in Palestine, in Jerusalem, around Jerusalem, that this man, Joseph of Arimathea, had a tomb that he carved on the stone, and then he offered it for Jesus to be placed in there. Of course, it’s a tale he didn’t know yet, or perhaps he didn’t realize that Jesus was going to stay just for the weekend, but that’s what happened. But it’s an actual place, historical site.

And think about this detail: the Gospels mention that it’s a new tomb. Nobody was laid there before. So that’s crucial to reinforce the truth that Jesus was laid there and was out of it, because if it was an old tomb that other people were laid there, people might get confused. “Are you sure it’s this one? Maybe it’s that one. Maybe it’s that one.” No, there’s just one tomb around there that was empty, and nobody has ever occupied it. Somebody occupied it, and now he’s out of that tomb.

So Jesus, historically, is as important as his Bible, as his word. Sometimes we may get caught into the argument or the attempt of saying, you know, “It doesn’t matter, let’s not discuss history. The most important thing is Jesus’ message of love and care.” Both are equally important because what Jesus came to do as a human God, it’s part of his message. It’s interwoven with what he preached and taught. That is what he did.

He went to a cross. He came out of a tomb. He healed people, everything. So everything that he does in place and in time and in Palestine 2,000 years plus ago, this is as important as what he taught you and what we learn from him, from his sacred book.

The first thing of all to be grounded on then is that this is a historical fact, a historical place, a historical Jesus. He was there, and he was not anymore.


2 – A Foundational Place

The second thing is that this is a foundational place. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, we didn’t read the whole chapter, but later on in 1 Corinthians 15, our reading for today, he says, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain.” That’s why I opened (our Service today) by saying that this is a powerful witness of your faith because you are here today to acclaim the Christ risen. Because if Christ remained dead on a cross, or if his body was stolen as some stories were circulated, or his disciples did something, and everything we are doing here, let’s pack up and go home and do something else, it all loses sense. In a sense, you cannot be a Christian if you don’t stand by the resurrection, because then your Christ is dead. He didn’t kill death. But what we know is that Christ, as Paul would say in some other text, swallowed up death.

Isn’t that ironic and contrasting? Remember the reading from Isaiah about this big banquet that the Lord will give to all the nations with all this rich food? Meanwhile, we are thinking about the fact that Jesus swallowed death. How bitter that was. But that was in our place. So this is very foundational to our faith, that we believe in what we don’t see. And because we don’t see, we believe.

I want to illustrate that for you. And I have here, I brought with me some headphones. This is a Wi-Fi headphone that I wanted to use with somebody…. what? is this not wireless? Isn’t this Wi-Fi? No, because you can see the cable, right? You would only believe in me that this is Wi-Fi if you didn’t see the cable. If it was just the phones, without this part, then you would believe in me.

In daily life, sometimes we believe when we don’t see stuff. Much more here. When we don’t see Jesus in the tomb, that He’s out of it, that He’s alive, that’s where our faith is grounded. Because faith, Hebrews 11 will say, is the certainty of the things that we don’t see, but that we believe and have in our hearts. B not seeing Jesus in the tomb, the disciples started to connect the dots. And the empty tomb is also a place to connect the dots.

Remember when Jesus sometimes said some things and the disciples didn’t understand Him well? Later on, then the evangelists say this, they didn’t understand this until Jesus came back from the dead. Sometimes we learn things just in retrospect, right? It’s only when you look back and you start to connect the dots and you see, oh, this is why God did this, and this is why God allowed that, and this is why I did this, or God did not allow me to do certain things. And then you start to connect the dots and make sense of the things that God has placed in your life.

This is what happened on Easter morning. The disciples, the ladies, and everybody else started to connect the dots and see Christ’s actions one by one, culminating on that day. So they were sure when they saw the empty tomb, “aha, this is what He said. He’s not dead. He’s alive!”


3 – A place of Life and Hope

And this is a place of life and hope.

I just said that Jesus “swallowed death.” Death is our worst enemy. We don’t like to think about it. But when we stand by the empty tomb, we are reminded of the life that Christ gave to us. This is especially significant. Jesus standing by the empty tomb is the fact that we see life right there. So when we stand before the grave of our loved ones, we can say the same thing as the tale tells. Not that it’s just for the weekend. When we are grieving somebody we lost, we can say, “this is just for some time. This is temporary.” One day we all will be raised and we will live forever. We will be with the Lord.

The empty tomb is a place of life and is a place of hope, a hope that carries us through in this world, a world filled of difficult circumstances, things that we don’t like, but we have to power through.

That’s when we look to Jesus, to the empty tomb and remember, my Lord is not a dead Lord. My Lord is a living Lord. So much so the tombs of many important leaders of the past, you can go and visit them. There’s no way you can know exactly where the place that Jesus was buried is. There are some places that in Palestine that they repute to be the place, but a hundred percent sure nobody is because he didn’t stay there. It’s not important to be in the place there. It’s important to know that he is with us right here where we are, bringing the same life and the same hope that he brought to those disciples, that the life that he brought to us is a life that doesn’t end on the grave. It goes beyond. We will have that banquet from Isaiah in heaven with all of our loved ones, way ahead of us, and then we will all be together to celebrate it.

So this is how we live our life as Christians. We live believing in what we don’t see because we have this hope. We have this life. We have the assuredness in Christ. All those places in Palestine, the seven places and many more, they all shaped Christ’s story and they shape our story. All those places are important because from there we receive Christ’s message of redemption and salvation and life and hope.


Conclusion – As a closing, I came across these lines from the murder scene on Julius Caesar. The assassins are washing their hands in Caesar’s blood. Then Cassius says,

“scoop then and wash how many ages hence
shall this our lofty scene be acted over
in states unborn and accents yet unknown.”

And then Psalm 22:30,

“posterity shall serve him.
It shall be told of the Lord
to the coming generation.”

From those places in Palestine so many years ago, the story kept going to states unborn, to accents yet unknown then, but known now because it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation. Those same places are being told today and will be continued to be told so because those places, they tell the story that is foundational to us.

Places that shape our life there and shape our places in life here, our highs and our lows and everything in between, especially when we encounter the unexpected in those places, just like it was unexpected to find hope and life in front of a grave, in front of a tomb. Easter talks to us about an empty place, an empty place filled with hope and glory in life.

Not just for this weekend, for every day of our lives. Amen.




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