CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RSEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! Sinners should fear God. Sinners ought to die for their wickedness. The grave should be the place of ultimate defeat for mankind. Yet on this day, the Second Adam did all that the first had left undone. Bearing our guilt and suffering our verdict, the Son of Man died, but three days later he rose in glory. As a result, fear is gone, mankind is redeemed, and Christ calls us his own brothers. Jesus came from death to life, and through baptism he brings us with him.
The enormous significance on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection has always been the central focus of Christian worship. Prior to the fourth century, Easter Day itself included all three emphases, but thereafter they were distributed over three days of special observance, which St. Augustine of Hippo called “the most holy triduum (“three days”) of the crucified, buried, and risen Lord.” These days have long been understood as the climax of the church’s year. We hope you notice the close connection between the three services of Maundy Thursday (Institution of the Lord’s Supper), Good Friday (Christ’s death), and Holy Saturday, known as the Vigil of Easter (Christ buried in the tomb). Each of these services connects, one into another. For this reason, all three services are included in this folder. This is also the reason that the service this evening, as well as tomorrow evening, does not include a blessing. That blessing will come at the end of the third service—Easter Vigil—which we will celebrate at sunrise on Easter morning.
\Our King willingly comes to set us free by His Passion! With joy we meet him. With palms we praise him. We join the procession to honor and welcome the Conqueror over death and hell as he proceeds to the battlefield. Zechariah foresaw this (Traditional First Lesson — Zechariah 9:9,10). The joy is great for we know the cross leads to Easter. This is more than reenactment. We presently accompany this Victor as he enters his house today to give us this victory. After the procession, we are confronted with his cries from the cross (Introit) and we hear of his Passion (Gospel). This does not surprise us, but rather is the very reason we carry palms: Our victory, of which palms are symbolic, is won by his cross!
Today also sets the stage for Holy Week. It’s not a week of mourning, but there are notes of joy and victory throughout, a realization that Christ’s sacred Passion was the path to Easter glory (Second Lesson). We will not understand this week unless we keep this in mind. That is true even today as we hear of His death, but receive him alive in the Supper.
How beautiful is our journey to the cross and tomb. We have seen our Savior’s battle waged against temptation. We have found confidence in his resolution to carry out the Father’s plan of salvation. We have turned to the Lord at his invitation to draw near with repentant hearts. And we have rejoiced in his loving and forgiving embrace. In these final hours before Holy Week, even as we rejoice in the great things God has done for his people throughout history, let us put the ways of the past behind us and continue to strive for that for which Christ has laid hold of us.
The repentant sinner rejoices at being found in the loving embrace of the Father’s full, free, and “foolish” forgiveness. Even though our sin should separate us from the family of God, he welcomes us back into the family with the full rights sons. To the self-righteous, this seems foolish, even offensive. But for the loving Father this is cause for celebration.
Historically, the Fourth Sunday in Lent has been called Laetare Sunday. “Laetare” is Latin for, “rejoice,” and is the first word in the Introit, This Sunday has been viewed as a sort of respite from the sorrowful season of Lent. This Sunday also marks the halfway point to Good Friday, and is the first time Jerusalem is mentioned in the Divine Service during Lent. We can see the end of Jesus’ time on earth approaching as we near Jerusalem.