Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Celebrating Easter by Serving a Risen Savior’
© March 27, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #662 (Freedom from Sin – Romans 5 & 6); Prayer
Opening Hymn #165: Low in the Grave He Lay; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise Gods; Prayers
Scripture Verses: Luke 24:1-12; Luke 24:36-48; John 20:24-29
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church, as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, Christ Jesus this Easter Sunday morning. And what do we mean about Easter. Let us check our Wikibits for definition.
Easter – noun
- An annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, as calculated according to tables based in Western churches on the Gregorian calendar and in Orthodox churches on the Julian calendar.
- Also called Easter Sunday, the day on which this festival is celebrated.
- The Easter season; the week following Easter.
For our lesson today, instead of looking at common observance, such as feasts and parties, we will look at the importance to Christian believers of: ‘Celebrating Easter by Serving a Risen Savior’.
But why did it take three days before Jesus was resurrected? Some scholars indicate that the resurrection was at the least a tradition, or the most, a commandment:
Shemira (Hebrew: שמירה, lit. “watching” or “guarding”) refers to the Jewish religious ritual of watching over the body of a deceased person from the time of death until burial. A male guardian is called a shomer (שומר) and a female guardian is a shomeret (שומרת). Shomrim (שומרים) are people who perform shemira. In Israel shemira refers to all forms of guard duty, including military guard duty. An armed man or woman appointed to patrol a grounds or campus for security purposes would be called a shomer or shomeret. Outside of Israel the word is used almost exclusively in regards to the religious ritual of guarding the body of the deceased.
Historically, shemira was a form of guard duty, to prevent the desecration of the body prior to burial. The body guards: Guardians of the dead perform thankless task—literally. In the Talmud, in b. Berachot 18a and Shabbat 151b, the purpose of shemira was to guard against rodents, as rodents fear the living and not the dead, an idea derived from Genesis 9:2 which puts the fear of man into other living creatures. Shemira is practiced out of respect for the dead, in that they should not be abandoned prior to their arrival in their new “home” in the ground. This serves as a comfort for the surviving loved ones as well.
According to midrashic tradition, the soul hovers over the body for three (Genesis Rabbah 100:7 and Leviticus Rabbah 18:1) or seven (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 34) days after death. The human soul is somewhat lost and confused between death and before burial, and it stays in the general vicinity of the body, until the body is interred. The shomrim sit and read aloud comforting psalms during the time that they are watching the body. This serves as a comfort for both the spirit of the departed who is in transition and the shomer or shomeret. Traditionally, shomrim read Psalms or the book of Job. Shomrim are also encouraged to meditate, pray, and read spiritual texts, or texts about death. Shomrim are prohibited from eating, drinking, or smoking in the shemira room out of respect for the dead, who can no longer do these things.
Performing shemira is considered a mitzvah. The Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 373:5 and 343) explains that while shemira is not a mitzvah in terms of a commandment, it was a minhag or custom, and customs of ancient Israel are considered Torah.
The three days for the Lord’s resurrection could be a parallel to the time frame that God created life. If you look inside today’s bulletin, you will see that He brought life to the world on day three of creation, see Genesis 1:11-13 (ESV):
11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants[a] yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Footnotes: a. Genesis 1:11 Or small plants; also verses 12, 29
A more likely explanation for the three day period for the Lord’s resurrection is a fulfillment of the Scriptures, where his prophecy is found in John 2:18-22 (ESV):
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
It was three days after Jesus was placed in the sealed tomb when Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James arrived to prepare the body for burial. One reason for the delay was because the prohibition of having a funeral service during Passover. Let us look at Luke’s account of the resurrection from Luke 24:1-12 (ESV):
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Luke’s account of the resurrection in Luke 24, verse 8 indicates that Joanna and the two Marys report of Christ fulfilling the prophecy of the scriptures was met with skepticism from the apostles in the Upper Room.
It was not until the Lord appeared to those in the Upper Room, did the disciples believe. Though the disciples initially believed Jesus was a spirit or ghost, as we see in Luke 24:36-48 (ESV):
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[a] 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and[b] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Footnotes: a. Luke 24:42 Some manuscripts add and some honeycomb b. Luke 24:47 Some manuscripts for
We should note in Luke 24:45-48. that Jesus opened the disciple’ minds to understand the scriptures, including the prophecy of his resurrection on the third day, Jesus indicated that the disciples, as witnesses, should act as apostles or messengers of the Lord’s resurrection throughout Jerusalem and to all nations.
It was not just the three women returning from Christ’s tomb who met with skepticism from the disciples cloistered in the Upper Room, until the Lord’s visitation. Thomas was absent at the time, viewed his fellow disciples account with the same doubt, as we read in John 20:24-29 (ESV):
Jesus and Thomas
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Footnotes: a. John 20:24 Greek Didymus
So in conclusion, as Christ’s apostles, we are expected to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord not by marveling about the miracle cloistered in the confines of BLCF Church, but to go forth and share the Good News and the love revealed in the Gospel of Christ, to all we encounter both inside and outside this place, which is the service that he commissioned all his apostles by God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Let us preach what we know in our hearts of faith to be true:
He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior
Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21): Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.