Monday, December 31, 2012

A Plea for a Return to the Liturgy of Word and the Liturgy of Table

I continue to believe that the Evangelical world has lost its way with regard to worship.  We are not following the pattern our Lord gave us of teaching and meal (this pattern is especially found in Luke's Gospel), which the church used to pattern its liturgy into two parts: the service of the Word and the service of the table.  This table fellowship of Jesus found in Luke's Gospel involved three things: the presence of Jesus (God incarnate!), the teaching of Jesus, and a meal with Jesus.  This pattern is found time and time again in Luke and finds its climax in the Last Supper and Emmaus meal after his resurrection, which become the pattern for Christ's people in the present age.(1)  While no one would say that this pattern of table fellowship (presence, teaching and meal) in the early chapters of Luke is the Lord's Supper, this table fellowship does find its culmination in the Last Supper and Emmaus meal, which then become the pattern of the Christian liturgy and its two part pattern of the service of the Word and the service of the table. Not following the liturgical pattern Jesus gave us, has resulted in a number of problems.  Here are two:

First, by not following the pattern of teaching then meal, we have weakened Christ's flock by withholding spiritual nourishment.  When we withhold the Supper from Christ's people, we keep them from the supernatural bread of Christ's life giving flesh and blood.  In light of the coming eschaton, Jesus teaches us the responsibility pastors and elders have in his church:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. (Matthew 24:45-46 ESV)
But are our leaders giving us our food at the proper time when we ignore the teaching and meal pattern Jesus invariably followed with his disciples?

Second, by not following the liturgical pattern of Word and meal, we have invented a new pattern that does not have Christ's warrant.  The new pattern has elevated the role of music above the role of God's Word.

When we thought in terms of a liturgy of the Word and a liturgy of the table, we gave the Scriptures their proper role in the liturgy of the Word.  At the very minimum, we had an Old Testament and New Testament reading as separate elements of the service.  Most churches had an Old Testament reading, Psalm reading, Epistle reading, and a Gospel reading, which was the climax of the public reading of God's Word, for in them we hear the words of Christ.  We understood that the first part of the liturgy was devoted to instruction, and therefore, it was appropriate to read God's Word.

But when we forgot the pattern of teaching and meal Jesus gave us, we strayed further and further, doing what we thought best.  Gradually music became more important than the public reading of Scripture, until the reading of Scripture was reduced to the reading of a single passage before the sermon and a few verses retained in the call to worship or confession of sins or some other place in the service.  While we sang more and more, we read God's Word less and less.  Our voice of praise supplanted Christ's voice in Scripture.

But, one might ask, how can praise in music ever be considered to be problematic?  Isn't God always pleased with our praise?

The problem is that when we forgot that the main point of the first part of the liturgy is instruction, our praise in response to Christ's life-giving and Spirit-giving instruction became confused.  We forgot the gospel logic of our worship.  The gospel logic of worship is that Christ must first give his forgiveness, life, and blessings before we respond (or can respond!) in praise and prayer.  By elevating, in the liturgy, our voice above Christ's voice in Scripture we lose the gospel logic of grace then gratitude, of the gospel indicative before the law imperative of our response.  Soon the dialogue of worship is lost and the gospel becomes cloudy and confused.  

We ought to come to worship, first and foremost, to hear Christ, to see His glory,  and to partake of his life.  But our voice, I am afraid, is drowning out our Lord's voice in the service more and more.  No longer can our worship be fairly considered a dialogue, for we are like those people who so dominate a conversation to make it impossible to get a word in edgewise!

One way to see our confusion is to see how much we sing, and how little Christ speaks in our services. Another way to see our confusion is to look at our songs, which so often seem random and out of context, like a hymn sing every Sunday, rather than a divine service, where Christ comes to bless us through His powerful means of grace: Word and sacrament!

By divorcing our songs from God's Word, confusion reigns.  The liturgical function of our songs are confused when they are not a response to God's Word.  The opening hymn is no longer a response to God's opening call to worship.  The song after the confession and assurance is no longer a response to His word of grace.  The pastoral prayer no longer builds on the reading of the Old and New Testament Scriptures.  The song after the Scripture readings (which we no longer have) have no connection to Christ's voice in His Word.  The song before the sermon is no longer a prayer of illumination.  Our songs are simply haphazard choices in long sequences with no connection to God's Word heard in the service.  And so, sadly, our instruction (and theology) comes more from the theology of our choruses and hymns than it does from God's Word, and once again, Christ's people are not given their food at the proper time so necessary in this time before the eschaton (Matthew 25:45-46).

In short, I am arguing for a return to the pattern Jesus gave us of teaching then meal, i.e., the liturgy of the Word followed by the liturgy of the table.  While I am not arguing against music in the worship service, I am arguing that our songs should serve a liturgical purpose in the dialogue of worship, and should be chosen with care as a response to Christ's Word to us.  This response can be praise, thanks, prayer, proclamation, exhortation etc., but it needs to be a response, so that we do not lose the gospel logic that Christ serves us with His grace and mercy before we serve Him with our "spiritual worship" (see Romans 12:1).

To enact what I am proposing will entail much study of the topic of worship in Scripture, and, to a lesser degree, church history.  It will require pastors and elders to get involved once again in worship planning.  It will require careful reflection and work each week as we work out the dialogue of the liturgy.  But it will be worth it if Christ's people once again receive their food at the proper time and our pastors and elders obey the voice and receive the blessing of the Good Shepherd.  May our Lord in His grace grant it.

(1) A great summary of this table fellowship theme can be found in Arthur Just's Commentary on Luke.  His excursus on this theme is found in volume 1 on pp. 231-241.  It is remarkable how often the theme of food is found in Luke's Gospel.  Robert Karris lists these references to food in Luke covering every chapter of the book: 1:15, 53; 2:7, 12, 16, 37; 3:11, 17; 4:1-4, 25, 39; 5:1-11, 29-38; 6:1-5, 21, 25, 43-46; 7:31-35, 36-50; 8:3, 11, 55; 9:3, 10-17; 10:2, 7-8, 38-42; 11:3, 5-12, 27-29, 37-54; 12:1, 13-34, 35-38, 41-48; 13:6-9, 18-21, 29-30; 14:1-24, 34-35; 15:1-2, 11-32; 16:19-31; 17:7-10; 18:12; 19:7; 20:9-18, 46; 21:34; 22:1-38; 23:43; 24:28-35, 41-42.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Simple Gifts Judy Collins and New Hymn Lyrics Based on Luke 15 and Colossians 3:1-4

The Lord Our God Is Gracious

To the tune: SIMPLE GIFTS.  Based on Luke 15 and Colossians 3:1-4.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
The Lord our God is gracious and our Savior is good,
in His grace He came and in our place He stood.
He saw that we were lost, and far from our home,
so He came to redeem and make us His own.

How blessed are we in Jesus Christ,
we died with our Lord, we're raised to new life.
Good things we seek in heav'n above,
in our Lord the fountain of life and love.

v. 2
To leave our God and Father was our folly and shame,
wanting His gifts, not His presence or His name.
But Jesus came to seek, to find what was lost,
to die for our race, to go to the cross.
v. 3
God's grace and peace are offered to those far, to those near,
for God's Son has risen, salvation now is here.
The Father says, "O come, and live near to Me,
find joy and peace, and live happily."

Our True National Debt

The thought occurred to me today that our real national debt (here it is in real time: is a spiritual one. Notice how the Heidelberg Catechism sees our debt as growing and unpayable, except by Jesus who suffered and died in our place. If many in our nation would return to Him, especially those who are baptized and on whom Christ has a special claim, one result might not only be individual reconciliation, but God's mercy on our nation's problems.

Q&A 12
Q. According to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve punishment
both in this world and forever after:
how then can we escape this punishment
and return to God’s favor?
A. God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore the claims of his justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or another.

Q&A 13
Q. Can we pay this debt ourselves?
A. Certainly not.
Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

Q&A 14
Q. Can another creature—any at all—
pay this debt for us?
A. No.
To begin with,
God will not punish another creature
for what a human is guilty of.
no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal anger against sin
and release others from it.

Q&A 15
Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?
A. One who is truly human and truly righteous,
yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.

Q&A 18
Q. And who is this mediator—
true God and at the same time
truly human and truly righteous?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ,
who was given us
to set us completely free
and to make us right with God.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Death as the Separation of Form and Content

 I am in the middle of two books: "Chance or the Dance? A Critique of Modern Secularism" and "Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel's Story." The two books deal with man's fundamental problem, namely, we were created to be in relationship to God as our Father through his Son, but we want nothing to do with the God revealed in the Jesus of the Gospels. And so, in our departure from the Father we sever all meaning. We do not want the triune God in the living room, the family room, the dining room, the bedroom, the workplace, or even, the church. In our departure from the God we were made for, we lose our ability to see the marriage of form and content, and so the two are divorced and everything in each room loses its meaning. Death, that separation of form and content, enters each room until finally physical death catches up with spiritual death, and thus, the separation is complete. The picture is bleak, and it is why, like the prodigal, we need to return to the Father through the Son he sent. Only this return will bring a reunion---a resurrection of form and content---a heaven that will deliver us from hell.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mystery in Front of Us Three Times Daily

"...the common, daily necessary business of eating is just that---common, daily, and necessary---but . . . it is also a picture of the thing that lies at the root of all life; namely, the principle of exchange.  My Life For Yours.  We enact that principle whenever we assemble and sit down at the table.  We may be sitting down to cornflakes, pizza, or Beluga caviar, but whatever it is, life has been laid down for us.  We are receiving life by chewing and swallowing the life of something else.  We have to do it to stay alive.  We have to do it daily.  As long as we live, we will be doing it.  Nothing could be more ordinary and functional.  But there it is---the biggest mystery of all, right there before us, three times a day. . . . For Christians, of course, the whole thing is caught up in the biggest transaction of all, of which all these smaller transactions are but examples, namely, the life of the Lamb of God laid down so that we might live. --Thomas Howard from "Hallowed Be This House"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

History's Need of Redemption

I read this tonight from a book I am reading by Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart.  The quote is particularly apt in the light of this week's events.  It points to the lack of answers that the world gives us, or at least modernity gave us, with its faith in progress (a secular version of the Christian story), and it points to the need of redemption, a redemption accomplished in history through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that alone can give us hope:

"Walter Benjamin, the German Jewish philosopher, died a year before Hitler decreed the Final Solution.  But Benjamin already saw the reality of his time as one of mass murder when he wrote, only months before his own death in 1940, the following meditation on a painting by Paul Klee which he owned and which had long fascinated him:
A Klee painting named 'Angelus Novus' [the new angel] shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating.  His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread.  This is how one pictures the angel of history.  His face is turned toward the past.  Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.  The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.  But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them.  This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.  This storm is what we call progress.

"The typically modern view of history as inevitable progress looks resolutely forward, but Benjamin through the staring eyes of his angel of history faces backwards, his eyes fixed on the victims and the wreckage of history that pile up before him.  Progress leaves the victims behind.  The future cannot repair the past.  What Benjamin sees so clearly is that history cries out for redemption and progress cannot provide it.  Even were the angel to be finally blown to a standstill in utopia, the debris of history would remain before his eyes.  Utopia can be no compensation for those who have suffered history.  It leaves the dead dead."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing in a New Way --- Quote from Thomas Howard

"But any Christian . . . knows that what lies about him in his ordinary routines does, in fact, speak of more than its immediate function. It opens out onto vistas that stretch beyond our seeing, into the realm of mystery. Human bodies, for instance, are somehow images of God; work has something to do with our role as lords of creation; eating is a physical case in point of the nourishment that our inner man needs; sleep is a small metaphor of death; and so forth. Ordinariness, in a word, opens out onto mystery, and the thing that men are supposed to do with mystery is to hallow it, for it all belongs to the Holy One." --Thomas Howard in his book, "Hallowed Be This House"

Friday, December 7, 2012

Identity in Christ in the World

St. Vincent de Paul Church in Omaha, Ne.
Every morning I drive by St. Vincent de Paul Church in Omaha. The church's shape, especially from a northwest angle, looks like a huge ship or ark. The architects designed it with this in mind. I love driving by it, because it reminds me of my inclusion in Christ, who is the ark who saves me from the waters of judgment. It is good to be reminded daily of my baptism and identity in Christ.

But there is a problem. As I drive on Maple Street a large mall sign obstructs the view of the church, so that it completely disappears. What an apt metaphor! How often the cares and pleasures of this life, and the love of money, cause us to forget our identity in Christ.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wise and Foolish Hearers

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
(Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

"The Gospel of Matthew has always stood at the head of the New Testament canon, and its famous Sermon on the Mount has always been considered paradigmatic for understanding both Jesus's teachings and earliest Christianity. It is fitting for us then to listen closely to the climactic conclusion to the sermon in the words above. In this final, parabolic image, Jesus describes his teaching as a fork in the road that divides his hearers into two distinct groups: the wise and the foolish. There is no middle ground.

"The wise are distinguished from the foolish in that they not only hear Jesus's teachings but also then act upon them; that is, they order their lives according to his ways and wisdom. The content of Jesus's teaching matters, but here at the end of his sermon the emphasis is on responsive hearing. Wise people must hear correctly what Jesus teaches, but they must also respond to this grace with faith and faithful living." --Jonathan Pennington from his book, "Reading the Gospels Wisely"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

John Calvin and Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism

John Calvin
I don't know this for sure, but it looks to me as though Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism drew upon the passage below from John Calvin's Institutes.  First, the Q&A and, second, the passage from Calvin:

Q&A 1

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

"We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds.  We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh.  We are now our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.

"Conversely, we are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him.  We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions.  We are God's: let all parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal. . . . But the Christian philosophy bids reason give way to, submit and subject itself to, the Holy Spirit so that the man himself may no longer live but hear Christ living and reigning within him."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Our Ascent with Christ: Calvin's View

From Julie Canlis' book "Calvin's Ladder" (the quotes are from Calvin):

"'As God he [Christ] is the destination to which we move; as man, the path by which we go. Both are found in Christ alone.' The descending and ascending structure that 
Jesus' life took is to be the shape of the Christian life as well. . . . 'For we must remember that our Lord descends to us, not to indulge our body, or keep our senses fixed on the world, but rather to draw us to himself, and hence the preamble of the ancient Church, Hearts upward, as Chrysostom interprets.'"

Canlis' book is tremendous. She shows us how we have failed to understand that we not only die with Christ, but also ascend with Him by the Spirit. Even our response to Christ must be empowered by Him, and this response brings us upward to Himself.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew" --- An Important Book for Understanding the Gospel of Matthew

Jonathan Pennington
I have been reading Jonathan Pennington's book, "Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew." Pennington shows that Matthew's use of the word "heaven" is used to contrast the ways of God with the ways of this world. Because Christians belong to the kingdom of heaven and have a heavenly Father, they are a heavenly people and should align themselves with heaven rather than earth. Pennington's book is too technical to slog through for most people, but pastors should look at his findings, which demolish the long held notion notion that Matthew uses the phrase, "kingdom of heaven," as a reverent circumlocution to avoid saying the name of God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Essay and Hymn on the Pattern of the Divine Service

Ask the average Evangelical or Reformed Christian to give the purpose of Christian worship services, and they will give you an answer like this:  Worship is giving praise to God; or, in the worship service we ascribe worth or glory to God. 

I want to suggest that this answer is misleading because it gets the direction of service wrong and ignores the answer that the Word and the incarnate Word give us.  Worship, as defined by our Lord Jesus Christ, is, first and foremost, His service to us in Word and meal.  As our Lord himself said, “For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”  There is a reason that we call the liturgy of the church the Divine Service.  Worship in the church is, first of all, about what Jesus Christ does, not about what we do.  We come to Christ in worship, first, to be served by Him, rather than to serve Him through our thanks and praise.

The first objection to this divine service view of worship might be that it is too self-centered.  Doesn’t this view of worship mean that we are coming to Christ in order to get something?  Is Christ’s kingdom a nanny state?  And the answer is in many ways, yes, because of the nature of who He is and who we are.  Jesus is the Lord, the self-existent I AM, who assumed our nature, died and rose in our nature, and is now exalted in our nature to David’s throne where He reigns over all and blesses His church.  We are His dependent creatures, who through faith in Him, have become the Father’s little children, dependent on His Son for every spiritual blessing.

We come to worship each Lord’s Day in order to receive Christ and his benefits.  But this is not selfish or self-centered, but rather a simple recognition of a spiritual reality that Jesus himself taught us, that apart from him we can do nothing; that the poor in spirit are blessed who have nothing to give to God, except their sin; that we are like little infants who depend on God the way little babies depend on their mothers and fathers for every need and blessing.  To come to receive from the Lord in worship recognizes the reality that God is glorified in saving, teaching, feeding, and defending his people through His Son.  As the Lord says in the context of worship, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).  Only as we recognize our need and dependence, do we honor God as our Savior and Sustainer.  He must give and teach and feed and save, and then, we give him thanks and praise.

I wrote the hymn below as a hymn for the opening of worship.  I wrote it with the hope that it might reorient our thinking about worship, so that we might come to the worship service to meet with Christ in order to receive from him.  For, primarily, worship is about his blessing of us, not our blessing of him.

Another way we see the primacy of Christ’s service, not ours, in the liturgy of worship, is through the pattern Jesus gave us for the worship of his church.  Especially in Luke’s Gospel, the pattern we see again and again is teaching and meal.  How amazing that God would come and eat and drink with sinners!  But when we see Jesus eating with sinners in Luke’s Gospel, the pattern is always teaching and then a meal (see Arthur Just’s commentary on Luke for an explication of this pattern).  This pattern never varies, and it forms the basis for the Christian liturgy, which has always, until recent times, followed this two part structure: the Service of the Word followed by the Service of the Table.

I would contend that in recent times we have made a mistake by abandoning the pattern Jesus gave us for a new pattern: a Service of Music followed by a Service of the Word.  We see this change, first, in the changes we have made to the reading of Scripture in our services.

In Bryan Chappell’s book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, he charts the liturgies of the church through the centuries.  In the Service of the Word, part one of the liturgy, there has always been set readings of Scripture:

ROME pre-1570
OT reading
Epistle reading
Psalm sung
Gospel reading
Epistle reading
Gospel reading

Psalm sung
Ten Commandments
Scripture reading
OT reading
Psalm sung
NT reading
Psalm sung
Scripture reading
OT reading
NT reading
Sermon Scripture reading

While I would fault Luther for his removal of the Old Testament reading, the Lutheran church wisely did not follow him at this point.  Lutherans today have an Old Testament reading.  Similarly, Calvin eliminated the Old Testament reading, probably because the Old Testament was covered on weekdays in Geneva. Still, however, one can see that the Service of the Word included the reading of God’s Word.  But, today, in our innovative liturgical pattern of music and Word, set readings of Scripture seem to be out of vogue.  Set readings are now down to one, namely, the text for the sermon, and even that is sometimes not read in its literary context for the sake of time!

A second way we see a structural change in the liturgy from Word and meal to music and Word is in our use of songs/hymns.  In the pattern that Jesus gave us of Word and meal, songs fit into their ritual context.  An opening hymn, for example, usually focuses on God’s nature, his tri-unity, and his works as a response to God’s call to worship.  A song after the confession of sins and assurance of pardon gives praise or thanks after hearing Christ’s law and gospel.  A song before the sermon prays for illumination as we prepare to hear Christ through the preached word.  Every song or hymn has a liturgical function.  This is also how songs functioned in the temple worship according to Chronicles.  John Kleinig’s book, The Lord’s Song: The Basis, Function and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles details the liturgical function of music in the liturgy of the temple.  But in the service of music we have invented to precede the service of the Word, our songs are often divorced from the Word, so that they are no longer a proclamation of the Word or a response to it.  This does not bother us because we wrongly conceive of worship as our service of praise/music to God, rather than Christ’s service of the Word to us.

In the hymn below, I try to re-orient our thinking about what worship really is.  Worship is not just singing, but includes hearing Christ and His Word.  Worship is not just singing praise, but also a meal that we eat in the presence of the risen Lord.  Both of these truths are counterintuitive to us, but we need to recover them if we are going to recover the pattern of teaching and meal Jesus gave his church.  In Jesus’ table fellowship, three things were included: Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ teaching, and a meal.  These are the three things that are still needed for the divine service of worship when Christians gather together.

While it is true that we can miss the glory and beauty of Christ even if we follow our Lord’s pattern for worship, failing to offer our lives to him in faith and repentance, nevertheless, part of repentance and faith for this generation of Christians may be to recover the pattern of worship our Lord gave us, both for His glory and our good.  Amen.

We Come to You Today

To the tune: LAUDES DOMINI When Morning Guilds the Skies (  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
We come to You today,
the day when You were raised,
O bless Your people, Lord.
We lift our hearts to You,
and ask You to renew,
O bless Your people, Lord.

v. 2
Your glory help us see,
Your grace and majesty:
the Lamb is now the King.
Though You are King You serve,
in grace that’s undeserved,
have mercy on us, Lord.

v. 3
Enlighten darkened minds,
by nature we are blind,
Lord, teach us by Your Word.
Instruct and catechize,
the hearers and baptized,
Lord, bless us through Your Word.

v. 4
The humble, Lord, You bless,
and therefore we confess,
we need Your risen life.
You are our life and breath,
apart from You is death,
Lord, breathe in us Your life.

v. 5
We come to You to dine,
at table to recline,
Lord, give us heaven’s food.
Though poor and weak we come,
Your work for us is done,
Your presence is our good.

One note about verse 3 above.  The early church divided worshipers into two groups: the hearers and the baptized.  The hearers were those who were catechumens, not yet baptized, who were learning the faith and moving toward baptism.  The hearers would be dismissed after the service of the Word.  Only the baptized (who also were still learners!) were allowed to stay for the Service of the Table.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Raised With Christ---hymn based on Luke 24:50-53

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, [53] and were continually in the temple blessing God.
(Luke 24:50-53 ESV)

Raised with Christ to Courts of Heaven

To the tune: PRAISE MY SOUL (  Based on Luke 24:50-53.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1 
Raised with Christ to courts of heaven,
in the Lord we now abide.
Raised through faith and by the Spirit,
raised to live near Jesus’ side.
With our Lord we’ve died and risen,
in our Lord we’re justified.

v. 2
Risen Lord, Yours is the power,
You have all authority.
Risen Priest, You’re ever blessing,
You have won the victory.
Reign from heaven, spread Your kingdom,
act with might in history.

v. 3
Father, send Your Holy Spirit,
clothe with power from on high.
Spirit, lift our hearts to heaven,
’round the throne of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, act through us with power,
that Your name be glorified.

v. 4
O the peace, the joy, the blessing,
we enjoy in Jesus Christ.
Raised with Him to blessed communion,
hidden from all human eyes.
Ever blessing, ever praising
Christ our Lord who gives us life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Changing the Way We Look at "Nature"

I read this passage from Julie Canlis' excellent book today. If we made this point our own, it would transform the way we look at "nature" and the world around us!

"If we take communion to be the fundamental objective for the world that God has built (and not just a general 'union,' but specifically in the Mediator), Calvin's doctrine of creation opens before us with breathtaking possibility. 'Now the faithful, to whom he has given eyes, see sparks of his glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of the divine glory.' . . . Against the mechanistic view of the Stoics, Calvin shows the first member of the Trinity to be the 'foreseeing and diligent father of the family' who 'sustains, nourishes, and cares for everything he has made.' Those who 'observe secondary causes in nature' need also to 'ascend by them to God,' for this is not so much a matter of conservation but relationship. T. F. Torrance reminds us: 

'Calvin was so firm upon this point that he would have nothing to do with secondary causation in theology, and inveighed against the tendency, becoming rampant in his own day, of speaking of 'nature' instead of God . . . . Calvin's view of creation, and of the fallen world, was deeply biblical and Hebraic in his insistence that everything created and worldly had to be related to the direct action of the gracious will of God."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Repentance in Luke --- Quote from Darrell Bock

‎"For Luke, repentance is the summary term for the response to the apostolic message. Change in thinking, or better, direction (i.e., a reorientation) is basic to the human response called for from God's message. People must change their minds about God and the way to him, especially in their thinking about sin, their (in)ability to overcome sin on their own, Christ's essential role in forgiveness, and the importance of depending on him for spiritual direction. Those responding to the apostolic message of the gospel must come to God on his terms in order to experience the forgiveness that comes in the name of Jesus.

"But repentance means more than changing one's mind about God. People must also change their minds about who they are and how they can approach God. Repentance involves turning to and embracing God in faith. Forgiveness of sin comes to those who stretch out a needy hand to Jesus, clinging to him alone and recognizing that without him there is no hope, just like one who comes to a doctor for help with their physical health (Luke 5:32). . . . In short, those who repent cast themselves on God's mercy, grace, direction, and plan. In this way, spiritual healing comes through the glorified Mediator, the Great Physician Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10)."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Resurrection Hymn Based on Luke 24:44-49

Nearing the end of Luke. Just four more verses. The hymn below is based on Luke 24:44-49 and it is set to a familiar hymn tune that many people know, "For the Beauty of the Earth." Click on the link if you want to hear the tune.

[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 forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things. [49] And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

(Luke 24:44-49 ESV)

Praise the Lord the Risen King

To the tune: DIX For the Beauty of the Earth ( Based on Luke 24:44-49. Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
Praise the Lord the risen King,
let all of the nations sing.
Praise the One who for us died,
for our sins was crucified.
Then was raised on the third day,
“He is Lord,” let all men say.

v. 2
Let the nations hear His Word,
and acknowledge Him as Lord.
He is living who was dead,
died and rose just as He said.
Praise Him peoples of the earth,
infinite is Jesus’ worth.

v. 3
Hear the Word that prophesies
of the suff’ring, risen Christ.
Seen in pattern, seen in type,
given when the time was ripe.
Hear the prophets and believe,
Jesus Christ as Lord receive.

v. 4
Spread the Word through all the earth,
seed that gives the second birth.
Pray for boldness to proclaim,
wondrous news in Jesus’ name.
For by grace our God forgives,
in His Son the dying live.

v. 5
Risen Lord, we need Your pow’r,
every moment, every hour.
Boldness to evangelize,
teach the nations and baptize.
Send Your Spirit from on high,
Father, Son to glorify.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Music as Proclamation, Thanks and Praise

I just finished John Kleinig's book entitled, "The Lord's Song:  The Basis, Function and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles."  One of the points of his book is that the content of choral music at the temple was for proclamation, praise, and thanksgiving, with thanksgiving and praise as nearly synonymous.  What was sung was determined by its place in the ritual.  Interestingly, there was no music during the sin offerings, but song only began when the burnt offerings were burnt on the altar, which signified the Lord's acceptance of His people and His presence among them.

It seems to me that we can apply this to our context.  First, there needs to be more proclamation in our songs.  We need songs that have more content---songs that actually proclaim who the Lord is and what He has done for His people.  Too often today our songs tell us little about the Lord and His works and ways.

Second, we need to recover the public confession of sins and assurance of pardon followed by songs of thanksgiving and praise.  Jesus is our sin offering and burnt offering.  We are forgiven and accepted because of Him, and this must be our chief reason for praise and thanks.  Our songs should reflect this.  To ignore the sacrificial work Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection is unthinkable, just as it was unthinkable to separate song from sacrificial offering in the temple.  And yet, it happens too often in contemporary churches.

Third, songs are not to be chosen for entertainment.  Rather, they must be chosen because they are appropriate to the dialogue of worship.  Jesus gave us the basic pattern of Word and meal for His liturgy.  Within this liturgy we hear the Lord's Word and respond with thanks and praise.  Therefore, the words we sing must either be God's Word to us (proclamation) or our words to Him (praise/thanks/petition).  Too often it seems that churches today just string together songs for no particular reason.  Instead of Jesus' Word and meal pattern, we have replaced His pattern with our own pattern of music and Word, leaving off the meal completely.

Interestingly, meals were eaten at the temple, for after the sin offering and burnt offering came the peace and thank offerings that included a meal.  The people ate with the Lord just as we eat with the Lord in an even greater way during the Lord's Supper.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Psalm 95 Sons of Korah

Sons of Korah - Psalm 96

Something to Keep in Mind as Election Results Near

The Christian life is a pilgrimage from earth to heaven. This pilgrimage was pictured for us in the Old Testament as the children of Israel left Egyptian slavery and headed toward the promised land. It was also pictured three times a year as the Jewish pilgrims traveled up to Jerusalem for Passover, Firstfruits, and the Feast of Booths. Finally, this pilgrimage was pictured for us as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem and the cross and His return to His Father. Luke calls this return to His Father an exodus.

The pattern, therefore, for Christians in this world is a journey through a place that is not our home to our home above where Christ is. In such a journey, we cannot expect to fit in with the manners, customs, and values that prevail. After all, we are pilgrims, strangers, and exiles. We may even have to suffer with Christ in such a world that is not our home.

As Christians, then, we should keep this in mind with the upcoming election. While we can and should participate in the political process hoping for an outcome that is best for America and in accord with Christian values, we may not get that outcome. Win or lose, we need to remember that we are passing through, and that our true home is above where Christ is seated as Lord. Only at His return will His exiled people be at home and receive the glory and honor that they now lack in a world that is not their true home.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Risen Lord! --- hymn based on Luke 24:36-43

A hymn I just finished based on this passage from Luke:

[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, [43] and he took it and ate before them.
(Luke 24:36-43 ESV)


He’s Risen from the Dead, He is the Great I AM

To the tune: DARWALL’S 148TH (  Based on Luke 24:36-43.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
He’s risen from the dead,
He is the great I AM.
He took our human flesh,
became for us the Lamb.
He takes away our guilt and sin,
believe in Him, O don’t delay!

v. 2
Eyewitnesses believe,
who saw that He was raised.
They touched and they beheld,
their hearts with joy amazed.
Put doubts away, the witness true,
receive the news, believe today.

v. 3
His teaching we receive,
and so with Him we eat,
the priv’lege of belief
with Christ to eat and drink.
So lift your hearts, our flesh and bone
is on the throne and life imparts.

v. 4
He gives us grace and peace,
He makes us right with God,
He gives to us release,
forgiveness through His blood.
Our Lord is raised, He gives us joy,
our tongues employ, let Him be praised.

v. 5
The risen Lord is here,
though He is now unseen.
He takes away our fear,
and gives to us His peace.
Be not afraid, with Christ we died,
with Christ we rise, with Christ remain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hating the God of the Old Testament Tantamount to Hating Jesus

From Inside the Actor's Studio:

Himself - Host: You've said on occasion that you love God because he's so deliciously evil. 
Seth MacFarlane: [as Stewie; gleefully] Mmm, oh, he's a bastard! 
Host: Really? 
Seth MacFarlane: [as Stewie] He's

 a wicked bastard! The things he does; let me tell you. Have you read the Old Testament?
Host: Yes.
Seth MacFarlane: [as Stewie] Good Lord, there's some fucked-up shit in there!

I was flipping through the stations and ran across this exchange. It seems that people have contempt for the God of the Old Testament. But if they hate the God of the Old Testament, they also hate Jesus Christ, for Jesus claimed to be the God of the Old Testament in flesh and bones.

Jesus makes this claim in many places but in Luke 24 He makes this claim by calling Himself, I AM, which is the personal name of the God of the Old Testament. In the context of His resurrection, Jesus challenges His disciples to see and touch Him and makes His claim to be the God of the Old Testament in flesh and bones by calling Himself, I AM. As Arthur Just says, "The same I AM who became flesh, was condemned, beaten, and nailed to a cross now is physically raised from the dead and remains the eternal I AM."

The problem for most people with the Old Testament God is that He is holy and punishes human rebellion and sin. In other words, He keeps His words to Adam and Eve, "In the day you eat of it, you will surely die." His word is proven true every time another human being dies.

But, thankfully, this God is also gracious and loving, so much so that He Himself took our human flesh and came to die the death we deserved because of our rebellion and sin. At the cross the holiness and love of God embraced. The holy God of the Old Testament, the I AM, becomes the Savior. If we accept the resurrected I AM, Jesus, as Lord and Savior, then we can be forgiven of even the hatred and blasphemy that comes out of the hearts of people like Seth MacFarlane and us. Instead of hating God, we can love and adore Him for both His holiness and His love, which were both demonstrated supremely at the cross.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Illusion of Death?

I saw the above words on a sign at the local Christian Science church today. Isn't it amazing how people continue to buy the lie of the serpent in the garden: "You will not certainly die!" (
Genesis 3:4). If death is an illusion, then why do we have an obituary page in the newspaper, cemeteries scattered throughout our communities, and grief at funerals?

No, death is real, tragically real. Death separates us from people we love. Death is the specter always present even when times are good, for we know that nothing can last because of death.

While we can easily dismiss the false teaching of Christian Scientists as out of touch with reality, our society tends to act as though the words of the enemy of souls is true. While we may not call death an illusion, we deny death, preferring not to talk about it or see it. We tend to act as if we will live here forever, when the truth is our life is very short and could end at any time. We act as though dead relatives are with us in spirit, when the truth is they are gone. And, if we tend to deny physical death, even more, we deny spiritual death, which is God's displeasure for eternity.

Most of our worries in life are related to the fear of death in some way. Our fear of a poor economy is ultimately a fear of death. Why do we fear the loss of a job? We can trace our fear back to death, for without a job we won't be able to eat and care for ourselves and others we love, and the end result of this lack is death. Even our inordinate longing for the approval of man is ultimately a fear of spiritual death, for approval from others can help us suppress our need for the approval of God. When we hear people say, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die," again we see the fear of death, for this motivation is based on death and leads to all sorts of dissipation and the chase after sinful pleasures.

How, then, do we overcome the fear of death that lies behind all the actions of human beings? The answer is that we cannot overcome the fear of death unless we are joined by faith to the One who overcame death through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. He alone can give us eternal life. He alone can make our physical deaths a transfer into true life in the joyful presence of the Lord and Source of Life.

The world is a sad place because of death. Sure, there are good gifts and good times in this life. And yet, death will destroy all good gifts and good times. We need eternal life---life that will never end. This life is found in forsaking the lie of the devil, and believing the truth of the Son of God, who said, "The thief [the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Until we forsake the deadly voice of the serpent and listen with faith to the voice of the Son, we will continue to live in the fear of death, and will not know true life--life to the full---the life Jesus described when He said, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Simplicity of Word and Meal

Sunday evening I went to Grace Baptist Church in Papillion, Nebraska. While I am not a Baptist and hold to a paedo-baptism view, the Sunday evening service at Grace is so refreshing in its simplicity. Basically the service follows the Word and meal pattern that Jesus gives us in Luke's Gospel. The teaching prepares us to meet with Christ in the meal. And, the music is not utilized as if it also was a sacrament. I am always taught and fed by Christ when I go to the evening service at Grace Baptist. It is too bad that so few Christian churches follow the Word and meal pattern Jesus gave us for use on the Lord's Day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Attitude and Prayer for Lord's Day Worship

One more hymn on this important passage in Luke.  Christ's teaching on the road to Emmaus and His revelation of Himself in the breaking of bread is the climax of Luke's Gospel.  It points us to the pattern of worship for His church, which is Word and meal.  

The hymn below has to do with our attitude and prayer as we come to the Divine Service of worship.  We come to be taught by Christ Himself and to commune with Him.  We need humility and submissiveness to receive His words and learn from Him, for we are by nature proud and stubborn, trusting in our own wisdom.  But if we will receive with meekness the Word which He implants, then we are invited to commune with Him in the meal, which is symbolic of the communion we can have with the risen Christ at all times, not just in the Divine Service on the Lord's Day.

How Blessed We Are to Listen

To the tune: AURELIA The Church’s One Foundation (  Based on Luke 24:13-35.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
How blessed are we to listen
to Christ our risen Lord.
We hear His voice through Scripture,
and faithful teachers’ words.
To see His grace and glory,
in every single page, 
it is the wondrous priv’lege
of those who walk by faith.

v. 2
O Christ, the Key to Scripture,
Your Word to us unlock,
for through Your Word You lead us,
O Shepherd of the flock.
We need illumination
to see You in Your Word,
O may our meditation 
be pleasing to You, Lord.

v. 3
O Christ, before Your presence,
we come to You to learn,
and like the first disciples,
O cause our hearts to burn.
Enflame with love that sees You, 
and burn up unbelief,
and when Your Word is planted,
grant hearts that will receive.

v. 4
O Christ, Your Word prepares us
to take Your kingdom meal.
O make Yourself known to us,
in sign and seal reveal.
Come meet with us, Lord Jesus,
You died and then You rose.
O may Your risen presence,
to humble hearts disclose.

v. 5
The Word without communion
has not achieved its aim.
It’s meant to lead to Jesus,
communion in His name:
to know our gracious Father,
to know His glor-ious Son,
to know the Holy Spirit,
the bless-ed Three in One.

v. 6
So come and meet here with us,
O Christ, our risen Lord.
You suffered as was written,
for us Your blood was poured.
And by Your Spirit lift us
around Your heav’nly throne,
that we might truly worship,
and know You as Your own.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Liturgy's Pattern of Word and Meal --- a hymn based on Luke 24:13-35

Luke 24:13-35 is the climax of Jesus' table fellowship which is supposed to set the pattern for the Divine Service or liturgy as Christians gather together on the Lord's Day. Jesus' table fellowship consisted of three things: His teaching, a meal, and His presence. This pattern is supposed to continue in His church. Sadly, the meal is not given weekly as it ought to be in the majority of churches. Sadly, the teaching is often unfaithful to our Lord. And, when the meal is not given and the teaching is unfaithful, how can our Lord bless us with His risen, life-giving presence, for we grieve His Spirit. We need to recover Luke's table fellowship which sets the pattern for Christianity's traditional two part liturgy of the Service of the Word and the Service of the Table.

Walk With the Lord Though He Is Now Unseen

To the tune: NATIONAL HYMN ( Based on Luke 24:13-35. Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
Walk with the Lord though He is now unseen,
for He is risen and He reigns supreme.
The Lord will teach and He will catechize,
and in His name His people are baptized.

v. 2
Jesus a prophet mighty in His deeds,
much more He is the Lord who has redeemed.
He had to suffer as the prophets said,
He bought us with the precious blood He shed.

v. 3
He comes a Stranger in a world of shame,
rejected by the rulers of this age.
But with the Father, who exalted high,
receive as Lord and long to glorify.

v. 4
Come suffer with your Savior and your Lord,
for in this world He’s hated and ignored.
But He received the name above all names,
how blessed are they who by His grace He claims!

v. 5
He gives us food along the pilgrim way,
heavenly bread He gives us day by day.
He knows about our trials in this life,
He will sustain us in the midst of strife.

v. 6
How blessed are we by Jesus’ Word and meal.
By these our Lord sustains us and He heals.
Our parents ate of the forbidden tree,
but now we eat the sacred mystery.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Lord's Supper as a Meal of the New Creation

Arthur Just
"The meal of broken bread at Emmaus reverses the first meal, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Through the meal distributed by the risen Christ, eyes are now opened to see in Jesus the Seed of the woman promised in Gen. 3:15. The disciples will be sent to proclaim this message throughout the creation. The table at which they now sit is the messianic table because, as they recognize, the Messiah is present with them at this table. Just as Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit was the first recorded meal of the old era of creation which fell into sin, so this meal at Emmaus takes place on the first day of the week, the start of God's new creation in Christ." 

--Arthur Just from his commentary on the Gospel of Luke

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Resurrection Hymn and Devotion from Luke 24:1-12

[24:1] 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 24:1-12 ESV)


There are a number of important themes in this passage.  One theme is that the words of Jesus and Scripture must interpret the death and resurrection of Christ.  The bare facts of Christ’s death and resurrection do not interpret themselves.  The Word of God (Jesus’ words and Scripture’s words) is needed to interpret these events.  The disciples were puzzled and confused by the event of the cross.  In order to understand its significance they needed to be enlightened by the Word of God and illuminated by the Spirit.  This is true of all of God’s acts, but is especially true of the cross with its degradation and shame.

A second theme is the new creation.  All of the Gospels emphasize the transition from the darkness to light on the day of Christ’s resurrection.  Combined with the dual mention of the Sabbath in verse 56 and verse 1 in the Greek, the impression is given that we have moved from the darkness of the old covenant to the brightness of the new, that a new day is dawning that will never end.

A third theme is the vanity of seeking life in someone or something other than our resurrected Lord.  This is hinted at in the angels’ words in verse 5: “Why do you see the living [One] among the dead?”  How foolish we are to seek our life, our identity, our security, our happiness in this passing world.  The night is ended!  The old era is over!  The new age is here, so seek the resurrected Lord and live!

A fourth theme is the exodus theme.  The exodus theme occurs in Luke 9 at the transfiguration.  In the passage above, this exodus theme is alluded to in the appearance of the angels and their dazzling apparel.  Notice the similarities between Luke 9 and Luke 24:

Lk. 9:30: And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah…
Lk. 24:4: (and) behold, two men stood by them… 
Lk. 9:29: And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white
Lk. 24:4: two men stood by them in dazzling apparel

The first allusion is identical in the Greek language of the New Testament.  The second allusion uses the same word in Greek to describe the clothing: astraptw but adds the prefix ex  in Luke 9:29 to indicate that Jesus’ apparel was even brighter than the angels.  In the exodus theme, the Lord redeems us from sin and slavery and brings us to himself so that we might live near him.  This is exactly what Jesus has done in his death and resurrection.

The final theme is the importance of Jesus’ words in our walk with him.  Although the night is ended and the new creation is here, we still live in a world of darkness, for the world has not accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.  Our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, are still active.  In order to walk with Christ we must discern the false voices of the world and our own sinful nature through which the enemy speaks, and heed only the voice of Christ.  Walking with Jesus requires us to believe and meditate on his Word.  It is through Scripture that we are able to stay close to Christ in a dark world, still full of ignorance, confusion, rebellion and death.  Although this world is dark and full of sorrow, we can know resurrection life and joy as we live near to Christ through his words.
Christ Is Risen, Christ Is Risen

To the tune: STEPHANOS (  Based on Luke 24:1-12.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
Christ is risen, Christ is risen,
risen from the dead.
First He suffered, then came glory,
as He said.

v. 2
In the deepest dawn of morning,
see the place He lay.
He is gone for He has risen,
brand new day.

v. 3
Jesus, living Lord is risen,
seek Him and His life.
He’s the King who is immortal,
God and Christ.

v. 4
You will find the Lord who’s risen,
not among the dead.
Faith will rise and feed upon Him,
living Bread.

v. 5
Jesus’ exodus is over,
He was dead, now raised.
He has brought us to His Father,
give Him praise.

v. 6
Night is gone, this age is ended,
turn redemption’s page.
By these things our Lord now brings the
coming age.

v. 7
Live in Christ, don’t heed the darkness,
live in light of day.
Hear His Word, believe, receive it,
walk by faith.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Jesus' Sabbath Fulfillment --- devotion and hymn based on Luke 23:50-24:13

[50] Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, [51] who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. [52] This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. [53] Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. [54] It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. [55] The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. [56] Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
            On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
            [24:1] 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.
(Luke 23:50-24:3 ESV)


Luke marks time carefully during his account of the death and resurrection of Jesus, because a great transition is taking place as we move from the old covenant to the new covenant and the arrival of the kingdom of God.  On the day of Preparation (v. 54), which was the day before the Sabbath, our Lord accomplished our salvation.  This day of Preparation began with the Passover meal (Jewish days began at sundown) and ended with Jesus laid in the tomb to rest on the Sabbath.  What an incredible day it had been with the last Supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion, miracles, and burial of Jesus!

The hymn below begins with praise for this wonderful work our Lord accomplished on the day of Preparation, and then focuses on the Sabbath and its significance.

The Sabbath has been fulfilled by Christ (verse two of the hymn).  The Sabbath was a sign of the old covenant according to Exodus 31:12-17.  By his obedience to the Father and his willingness to suffer the penalty of the covenant on our behalf, Jesus has fulfilled the old covenant.  This is the basis of our justification, for all of Christ’s obedience and his work on the cross is credited or imputed to those who believe in Him.  How blessed we are to be justified, forgiven and declared righteous on account of Christ!

Jesus also fulfills the Sabbath in a different way.  Just as in the creation God rested from his work on the Sabbath, so Jesus rests from his work of new creation in the tomb.  By linking the burial of Jesus and Sabbath rest, Luke is showing us the significance of Jesus’ work.  Jesus has brought forth a new creation which will soon dawn with his resurrection.  This new dawn will grow ever stronger, for Christ has ushered in the eternal Sabbath day! (verses 3-5).

Verse seven makes one more point about Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath commandment in the old covenant had two components: rest and worship.  On this day the Jewish people were to rest from their work, but they were also to worship together.  Jesus fulfills both aspects of the Sabbath.  First, by fulfilling the old covenant  through his obedience, his burial fulfills the rest aspect of the covenant.  Second, Jesus also fulfills the worship component, for he alone was and is the true worshiper of God.  He always did the things that are pleasing in the Father’s sight.  His perfect worship as one who shared our humanity is imputed to his people.

Finally, verse six applies all of this to us.  Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath teaches us to rest from our evil ways and to trust in Him.  Our old nature has been buried with Christ in the tomb, and we are raised with him to new life.  Each day, therefore, we should live a life of repentance and trust.

O Praise the Lord the Work Is Done

To the tune: DOWNS (  Based on Luke 23:50-24:3.  Words: William Weber, 2012.

v. 1
O praise the Lord the work is done,
all preparations made. 
The cross by Jesus has been borne,
and in the tomb He’s laid.

v. 2
The Sabbath is by Christ fulfilled,
the covenant He kept.
He paid its awful penalty,
His death the death of death.

v. 3
His Sabbath rest our Lord now takes,
redemption’s work is done,
and from His rest He soon awakes,
the resurrected Son.

v. 4
The new creation now is here,
for Jesus has been raised.
The old has passed the new appears,
rejoice and give Him praise.

v. 5
O see the light of early dawn,
eternal Sabbath day.
For from the tomb His body gone,
He’s risen from the grave.

v. 6
Come rest from all your evil ways,
and trust in Jesus Christ.
He is your Sabbath all your days,
your King who’s good and wise.

v. 7
True worshiper are You, O Christ,
and our true Sabbath rest.
You kept the law to justify,
and joined to You we’re blessed.

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