3 April 2013 by James Hoh CM –
Celebrating Easter is very significant for the Lutherans and they celebrate this day on the scale which some other Christians celebrate Christmas. This Easter or Resurrection Sunday, I was especially delighted to have visited a pastor friend of mine and was blessed at the same time listening to Rt Rev Philip Lok, the Bishop of Lutheran Malaysia, preach.
Taman Midah Lutheran Church (TMLC), in Taman Midah, Kuala Lumpur held a combined service for the Chinese speaking and the English speaking members last Sunday morning.
Characterized by vibrant praise and worship, I thought I’d come to a charismatic church instead.
After the Scripture reading, Rev Lok began his message. He started with a reminder about the crucifixion on Good Friday about 2000 years ago.
Rev Lok said,” Jesus Christ died to overcome sin, death and the devil. Jesus Christ demonstrated the immeasurable love of God on the Cross. Every Easter Sunday we worship a God who has died but was raised again, Jesus is alive!”
The passage was taken from John 20:1-18:
20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. (John20:1-4,NKJV)
Christ our bedrock
He said, “Mary Magdelene saw something strange that happened between Friday and Sunday. She was not ready to encounter this strange happening. In the darkness of the night, Mary saw that the stone was moved away. How could this be as it was a big stone some scholar says weighing about four tonnes. Who came to remove this stone?
“Peter and John were also shocked and stunned. They also didn’t know what to do.
“As Jews, Peter and John only believed in resurrection at the end of time but not that particular Sunday.
“Could the body be stolen away? Not so, the cloths and linen were still there, it was nicely folded up. So if it were burglars, it would be a mess.
“There was so much running on this Sunday. They saw a strange event that could not be understood.
“When they came to the tomb, the tomb was empty. They did not expect this to happen. This is not supposed to happen. No one expected when a man crucified would resurrected. This was beyond human’s imagination.
“People who studied the history of language found that there are no words that can describe what had happened because it has never happened in the course of history.
“However, Easter is the foundation of our Christian belief. Paul says if Christ was not resurrected, we are wasting our time here. But today we came to acknowledge and celebrate this special day.
Christ started a new community
“Easter is also the beginning of a new community of people that belongs) to Christ. St. Augustine about 400AD said this, ‘Christians are Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.’ Christ has established new community, new rules of the kingdom and we are the new creations,” Rev Lok said.
Therefore, he added, Easter was a better time to be baptized compared to Christmas. In terms of theological significance, Easter was a more appropriate time to be baptized in because the very act of immersion in water was symbolic of death and resurrection with Jesus Christ. It was a sign of repentance, Rev Lok pointed out. It was a time when we laid down our old ‘self’. This ‘self’ that was self-centered has to be put to death, letting go of power and materialistic inclinations.
Christ is there in our brokenness
Peter and John went away but Mary stayed. She curiously looked into the tomb again as she began to cry. While crying she saw two angels there.
“Just like Mary, in the midst of all these brokenness today, do you see Christ?” Rev Lok asked.
10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
(John 20:10-13, NKJV)
Christ gave new identity
“In the original text, Jesus used Mary’s Arabian name which is Miriam. Why did Jesus call her Miriam?” Rev Lok asked.
“Before this event, everyone called her Mariah which is a Greek name. But Jesus called her Miriam which is her original name,” he said.
Mariam was the name her parents and classmates called her when she was young. But later she took on Mariah, the Greek version. She was demonised but was delivered by Jesus. She was also a prostitute. In her life she suffered lots of hardship.
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him,[a] “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).
(John 20:16, NKJV)
“On this Easter morning, Jesus gave her back her original identity which is also now her new identity. The shame and the sins have been washed away. Jesus gave her a new life.” Rev Lok said.
Christ gave a new commission
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17,NKJV)
“Jesus also gave Mary a new commission that is to tell the other disciples about the resurrection. This is the same commission Jesus Christ gave us all,” he said.
Rev Lok went on and shared two astounding actions by Jesus:
1) Jesus chose Mary as the first evangelist as she was asked to tell the rest of the disciples about the resurrection; she was commissioned before the disciples were. She had no theological training but had a bad reputation.
2) Jesus Christ chose her in spite of her gender. During those days, women didn’t have the level of respect women have today. Women were considered emotionally unstable. In fact women were considered unreliable witnesses in courts. This was the culture then. Jesus abolished the gender discrimination by choosing her.
“God has given us the Great Commission; the world thought that Easter is about eggs and rabbits. But we must tell them it is about Jesus Christ who did so much for us.” Rev Lok said in conclusion of his message.
It was a wonderful yet simple message shared by Rev Lok. After his message, the church proceeded with baptism and with the serving of the Holy Communion.
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