Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
This week is referred to as the Passion Week or Holy Week of Christ.
It begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, what has traditionally been referred to as Palm Sunday, his final entry into Jerusalem on his way to the cross.
It consists of Jesus’ celebration of the last Passover meal with his disciples, a meal which will transition and be transformed into the Lord’s Supper after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It consists of the crucifixion of Jesus, what is referred to as Good Friday. It is not good in the sense of what we would normally consider good. But it is good in that it is through the death (and resurrection) of Jesus that our sins can be forgiven and we can experience peace with God. This is reflected in Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
It culminates in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, which transformed this day to be known as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). After his resurrection and upon meeting the disciples, Jesus greets them with the words, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19, 21, 26).
The bookends of Jesus’ last words on the cross and these first words spoken to the disciples go together. The peace promised in his birth (Lk. 2:14) is accomplished through his death on the cross, which is the foundation upon which we, through faith, have peace with God (Rom 5:1).
Here is a series of readings from the Gospel of John for your mediation, reflection and worship this week.
James Gronvall: Having the peace that you describe is a reassuring hope, because I find that in the body with its sin nature that the peace that Christ announces, is in tension with our own failings and struggles. Not a reflection on the adequacy of Christ’s sacrifice but a reality of being yet in this body of sin. Redeemed yes, but struggling daily with the old man. Paul says it well, Rom. 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? We have this split nature to deal with, and wears me out. We believe yet as Paul says in the next verse. 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Never disappointed by Jesus my Lord, often disappointed by the weakness of the flesh.
Greg: Thank you for your comment, James, and your honesty regarding the ongoing struggle of progressive sanctification. In light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our lives by faith in light of resurrection, I think of three texts of Scripture. Jesus’ death-burial-resurrection are the basis of our justification. Romans 4:24-25: It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, gives life to our bodies and he dwells in us (union with Christ). Romans 8:11: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, by faith we are born again to a living hope, and with that same resurrection power and certainty, we are “being guarded through faith.” 1 Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The tension/struggle between the now and the not-yet leads us to give thanks and praise to the Lord for his sure and certain work in our lives. It also causes us to not grow weary and lose heart and to long for the day when faith will be made sight, when there will be no more sin, sickness, mourning, crying or dying. With this in mind, we cry and pray, Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus!