Worshipping Together at Home for Easter 2020
Dear sisters and brothers
Although we are very sad not to be able to gather to celebrate Easter this year, we can still reflect and worship in our own homes. I pray that the resources below will help you to rejoice and praise God for the sacrifice and glorious resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
We are thankful and happy to report that as far as we have been able to discover, everybody in the church remains fit and well.
May God richly bless you at this Easter time.
Love and prayers
For those who can use the internet on a laptop, tablet device or smartphone, we will gather for worship using the video-conference application Zoom.
Contact me for the link and the password.
Please check that your device allows Zoom to use your camera and your microphone and that your volume control is set at the right level and not muted.
We will gather together online at these times:
MAUNDY THURSDAY 8.15 pm (following applause for our NHS) – a time of Reflection and Prayer
GOOD FRIDAY 10.30 am – a time of Reflection and Prayer
EASTER DAY 10.30 am – Easter Morning Communion
During our Easter Morning Communion we will break bread together. If you want to share in this you will want to have a piece of bread and a cup of juice ready.
The Easter Morning service will also be put in the “videos” section of the North Springfield Baptist Church Group on Facebook so that you can join in at a later time if you choose.
We will continue online after the Easter Morning Service with “virtual coffee” chatting on Zoom together at 11.30 am.
SPOILER ALERT – the short messages on Zoom on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday will be THE SAME as the messages printed below. The message on Easter day will be DIFFERENT to the one printed below. So if you do join in the virtual services you may also want to read the Easter message below at a different time. But you won’t want to read the messages below beforehand.
Acts of Worship for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day with these notes
Since NSBC will not be able to meet in person, I suggest we do the following either alone or in our families wherever we are, whenever is most convenient to you, in any order you like.
- Set aside some time for prayer and reflection. Start that time by praying the Lord’s Prayer.
- You might like to sing a song or hymn or two. The words for some suitable hymns are printed after the messages below
- Read the message for the occasion printed below.
- Pray the Day By Day Prayer and the Prayer of Saint Francis.
- Pray for each other in the church, for your family and neighbours and for the world at this time.
- Pray a blessing in the words of The Grace
- Phone a friend in the church and pray with them.
MESSAGE FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY
GETHSEMANE Reading Mark 14:27-42
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for fallen human beings. And if we want to know just how much God’s love cost Him, we can look to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’s most intimate time of prayer and deepest communion with His Father.
Mark 14 32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Luke’s Gospel helps us to appreciate even more just how much of a struggle that time of prayer in Gethsemane was for Jesus.
Luke 22 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
So in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the depths of God’s love for us, and also Jesus’s example for us of prayer and obedience, however much it costs, however much it hurts.
Mark 14 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Abba, Father, take this cup from me
In the whole history of Israel nobody before had dared to address Almighty God in such an intimate fashion. Not “Our Father God Creator of Heaven and Earth” nor even “Our Father who art in heaven”. But “Abba”, “my Father.”
“Everything is possible for you.” Jesus recognised that God is Almighty. God is omnipotent. God is able to do ANYTHING He chooses. ANYTHING that fits in with His Divine will and eternal purposes. ANYTHING consistent with His Divine Character of love and holiness.
“Take this cup from me.” Jesus had talked to his disciples about this cup of suffering before.
Mark 10 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.”
Those events which Jesus had foretold were now less than twenty-four hours away. That cup of suffering would include:
Physical pain; few people in history have endured such as much agony as Jesus was going to do in the final hours of His life.
Physical death; Ezekiel 18:20 tells us, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” But Jesus was without sin. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. Jesus did not deserve to die. Yet He did die. He died for us, in our place. More than that. Jesus was preparing to take upon Himself on the cross,
The guilt of sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Message In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
So on the cross Jesus was going to take upon Himself the death penalty we deserve to pay for our sin.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This was the cup of suffering Jesus would have to drink. In the Old Testament “the cup” was often a symbol for God’s wrath. On the cross Jesus was going to experience the full force of God’s anger against sin and the full weight of God’s judgment. There on the cross Jesus would discover what it meant to be cut off from God, which is the consequence of sin. Spiritual death, separation from God who is the source of all life and light and beauty and goodness. On the cross Jesus would be cut off from Abba, My Father, and cry out
Mark 15:33 “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me?
This is the cup Jesus was going to drink. The cup of physical pain and of death. The cup of guilt for sin and the wrath of God. This was the cup Jesus longed to be released from. That is how much it would cost for Jesus to set us free and bring us life. Jesus really did not want to die!! But nevertheless Jesus prays: “Abba Father, take this cup from me,
Yet not what I will but what you will.
Jesus’s desperate plea to escape the cup of suffering was not granted! His deep heartfelt prayer was not answered. God’s answer was NO! Which reminds us that
Serving God will not always be easy.
Some Christians make the mistake of thinking that God never asks us to do anything which is too difficult or too costly for us. But if God did not spare His own Son Jesus Christ, but gave Him up for us, how dare we imagine that we will be spared from all suffering?
Others make the mistake of thinking that Jesus has suffered in my place so I won’t have to suffer at all.” But Jesus calls us to deny self, to take up the cross daily and to follow Him. God didn’t take that cup of suffering away from His beloved Son, and God won’t always take the cup of suffering away from us. But the Father did give the Son strength to obey. And
God WILL give us the grace to do His will.
The answer to Jesus’s prayer was that He was given the strength to do the Father’s will. Yet not what I will but what you will. Jesus came to the point of saying that He WOULD be obedient, He WOULD carry out God’s will whatever it was going to cost, however much it would hurt. We need to come to that same point of unconditional obedience that Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done.” Whatever it costs. However much it hurts. And when we are obedient, God will give us the strength to do His will. Even though, as Jesus said,
The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
In the Garden of Gethsemane what a dramatic contrast there is between the perfect obedience Jesus showed and the weakness and disobedience of every other human being who has ever lived. Even when we want to obey God we disobey him time and time again. We take the easy way out and give in to temptation. Jesus knew all about this struggle we face. That was the battle He fought in Gethsemane. He was tempted in every way as we are, but the difference was He never sinned. He prayed, “not my will but your will be done” And He DID drink that cup of suffering to the bitter end! That is how much God loves you and me!
SPEND SOME TIME IN PRAYER REFLECTING on Jesus’s prayers in Gethsemane
MESSAGE FOR GOOD FRIDAY MORNING
“My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Reading Mark 15:21-39
The sufferings of Jesus Christ have always brought comfort to those going through difficult and challenging and painful times. Jesus himself has shared our experiences of suffering. In these days especially, it is good to spend time reflecting on the Cross.
How much does God love us? The Apostle Paul tells us that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for fallen human beings.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
On this special day of Good Friday we make time to remember Jesus Christ dying on the cross. We give thanks to God that “Christ loved us and gave up His life for us.” (Ephesians 5:2).
We sometimes try to imagine what it was like for Jesus to die for our sins. The shame of the death of a common criminal. The physical pain. The experiences of rejection. The guilt of sin. And then death, separation from God who is the source of all life. God loves us so much!
But what was the role of God the Father at Calvary? Jesus gave Himself up – but we must not forget that the Father also had to give Him up and hand Him over. “God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” “Because of our sins Christ was handed over to die.” (Romans 8:32, 4:25)
We find this word which means “hand over” and “give over” and “give up” more than a hundred times in the New Testament. We read that the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. But this same word can also sometimes mean “betrayed.” In Gethsemane Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinful men. Here is the man who is betraying me.” (Matthew 26:21-22, 45-46). Judas hands over Jesus – and the Father hands over the Son to die in just the same way.
Jesus was rejected by His own people as a blasphemer. He was condemned by the Romans as a dangerous rebel. He was deserted by His closest friends. But more important than all these rejections, on the cross God the Son felt the full reality of being abandoned by God the Father. Mark’s Gospel chapter 15 verse 34 records Jesus’s cry of dereliction from the cross. “My God, my God, why did You abandon me?” (Mark 15:34) Why have you forsaken me?
Here is an experience of complete rejection. These were not just feelings of apparent desertion, but the reality of total abandonment. The Son had come to reveal God as the heavenly Father. Jesus had shocked traditional Judaism by daring to teach His disciples to address God as Abba, Daddy. But on the cross for the first time in His life Jesus cannot pray “My Father” but only “My God”. Why have you deserted me? Why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me? Why have you handed me over? Given me up? Betrayed me? WHY have you forsaken me? How those words would have pierced the Father heart of God!
These words as Jesus was on the point of death give us a glimpse into eternal realities. As Jesus was suffering on the cross something very profound was happening deep within God Himself. Martin Luther put it this way. “Christ saw Himself as lost, as forsaken by God, felt in His conscience that He was cursed by God, suffered the torments of the damned who feel God’s eternal wrath, shrink from it and flee.”
In his book “The Crucified God” the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann explains the cross this way. “It was a deep division in God Himself, insofar as God abandoned God and contradicted Himself. The Son suffers in His love being forsaken by the Father as He dies. The Father suffers in His love the grief of the death of the Son.”
So the cross of Christ was just as hard, just as painful, just as heart-breaking for the loving Father as it was for the obedient Son. Any father would suffer handing his son over to such agony and desolation. God the Father was not an aloof spectator at Calvary. The Father was looking on with grief and tears that the world could only be reconciled and redeemed at the inestimable cost of alienation from His only beloved Son.
Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me!
My debt he pays and my death He dies, that I might live!
The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God eternally three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and experiences our separation from God the Father!
“Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We rejected God! God never rejected us. Proud, selfish and self-centred human beings have abandoned God! Ignored his laws. Refused him the worship of which He is worthy. All we deserve is to be rejected by God. But in place of rejecting us – God the Father rejects his one and only Son. The Son who was one with the Father from eternity, before space and time were created. The Son who from the very moment of his human birth lived in unbroken fellowship with God. The Son who was always the delight of God’s heart. There was absolutely nothing in the Son to cause the Father to turn His back on Him. Yet there on the cross that is what happens. The Son of God is hung up to die, forsaken, abandoned, rejected.
Again Moltmann helps us to understand. “The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God His Father. Jesus humbles Himself and takes upon Himself the eternal death of the Godless and the Godforsaken, so that the Godless and the Godforsaken can experience communion with Him.”
“My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why have you abandoned me?” THAT is how much it cost God to bring us back from hell! THAT is how much God loves you and me! Give thanks as we remember just how much it cost Jesus to die for us. Bow down and worship – for this is your God.
SPEND SOME TIME IN PRAYER REFLECTING on the Cross. It may help you to have a picture of a cross, or a wooden cross to look at as you pray.
Meeting Jesus on the Road to Emmaus Reading Luke 24:13-35
How are you doing three weeks into the most challenging time in most of our lifetimes? Many people are confused by many things in this strange new world. Some people may be worn out. Some people may be feeling discouraged. Trapped indoors, in cramped conditions scared to go out, we may have a glimpse of how the disciples were feeling on the first Easter Day. Their teacher and friend had been executed, dead and buried and they were terrified they would be next to die.
Come with me this morning as we tread that road from Jerusalem to Emmaus with Cleopas and his companion – the unidentified disciple. We don’t know for certain who the second person was but we can guess. Cleopas shared a house with this person so they were probably related. John 19:25 gives us a clue when it lists the women who stood near the cross of Jesus and includes Mary, who was a relative of someone called Clopas, quite probably Clopas’s wife. IF Clopas is Cleopas, then the second unnamed disciple could well be his wife, Mary. But perhaps the second disciple is not specified so that we may put ourselves into his or her shoes on that road to Emmaus.
It is probably late in the day as the couple leave Jerusalem for the three-hour walk back home to their village. They are deep in thought and conversation as they walk towards the setting sun along the dusty track. They are preoccupied with all the event that have been taking place. Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion. The empty tomb. And the crazy reports of the women and the apostles. As they walk they are suddenly aware of a stranger, a lone traveller drawing near them for company and conversation and fort safety on the hazardous journey. Luke tells us immediately that this was no ordinary traveller.
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
This is surely one of the most remarkable events in the New Testament. Two people who knew Jesus well, who had heard him and met him and followed him, then spent some hours with Jesus walking along that road but did not recognise that it was indeed Jesus with them. How can this have been?
Luke records: but they were kept from recognizing him. Literally, “their eyes were restrained from recognizing him.” They did not recognize the person as Jesus. They didn’t recognize the Risen Lord in His resurrection body as anything other than a fellow traveller on the road.
This wasn’t just the poor light of dusk. They had heard Jesus speak many times – but they didn’t recognize the voice of this stranger either. Some would say this was a supernatural restraint. That God was holding back the identity of the risen Christ until He had first taught Cleopas and his companion from the Old Testament. Maybe God was waiting for the couple to show true Christian love and hospitality by inviting a complete stranger into their home at night. But maybe there were other reasons why these two disciples did not recognize Jesus there on the Emmaus road.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
Cleopas and his companion were deep in grief. They were confused and distressed. They may not have even looked up into the face of the stranger on the road. They were too overcome with emotion. But I am not convinced that is the explanation. There were other factors at work here too. Some people today have never met the risen Jesus Christ, have never recognised Jesus at work in their lives. Perhaps for reasons which we see here in this couple on the road. As they explained their grief to Jesus, this is what he said to them.
25… “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Perhaps here was a first reason why Cleopas and his companion did not recognise it was Jesus on the road. How foolish you are. How lacking in understanding. The translation “foolish” is too strong. It really means obtuse, or dull-witted, or thick. How thick you are!
Cleopas and his companion had some understanding of Jesus and his mission.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
They recognized Jesus as a prophet sent by God. But the couple were still trapped in a basic misunderstanding.
. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
“We had hoped …” But those were false hopes, nationalistic expectations of a Messiah who would come to rescue Israel from the occupying Roman oppression. “We had hoped …” But they had not understood that Christ was to be the redeemer of all humanity, the suffering servant paying the penalty for sin on the cross so that human beings could be set free from sin.
Many people today are still trapped in that basic misunderstanding. They think of Jesus just as “a prophet, powerful in word and deed.” A great teacher, maybe even a miracle worker. But many today still fail to recognise Jesus as the Son of God, God the Son, the Saviour of the world, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
How foolish you are, said Jesus, but then he points to a second reason why this couple failed to recognise the Risen Christ walking with them. How foolish you are, and how slow to believe. How lacking in understanding, and how lacking in faith.
Cleopas and his companion had been given plenty of reasons to believe that Jesus was alive again and no longer dead!
22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
There was all this evidence that Jesus was alive again. The reports of the empty tomb. The testimony of the women about the visions of angels. The testimony of the angels. “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?” By then both Mary Magdalene and Peter had met with the Risen Christ. Yet still Cleopas and his companion did not believe. “How slow you are to believe,” Jesus said.
So there on the Emmaus Road, Jesus helps them to believe.
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Wouldn’t you have loved to be there? What an amazing Bible study that must have been! The greatest ever exposition of the Old Testament. The Word of God, explained by God the Word Himself. Beginning with Moses and then all the prophets, ending I am sure with Isaiah 53 the suffering servant. Some people have suggested that Jesus never thought of himself as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, that that idea came from the early church much later. But those people are mistaken. Hear what Jesus had said at the Last Supper.
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.
“He was numbered with the transgressors”. This was a quote from Isaiah 53:12, and Jesus says that was written about himself. Jesus had clearly understood all along that the path to glory for the Messiah would be through the suffering which Isaiah had foretold earlier in chapter 53.
4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
And Isaiah 53 had foretold not only the suffering of the cross but also the glory of the resurrection!
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Yet even after Jesus had explained the Scriptures to them, even after He had helped them through their lack of understanding and their lack of believe, still Cleopas and his companion did not recognise that this stranger was Jesus with them!
With all the understanding in the world, and with all the belief in the truths of Scripture we can have, it is still possible to fail to recognise Jesus Christ when he is right there, right at hand, even in the same room! There can be times when we fail to recognise Christ when He comes up and walks with us! We know the old hymn,
I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer. And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way!
Is that just theory, just a nice song to sing? Or is that our genuine Christian experience? We say we believe Christ is with us. But are we aware of his presence? Do we really expect Him to act and to speak in our lives? Christ is indeed with us, working in healing power, with us in our daily work and recreation and family life and Christian service. But do we always recognise Jesus when he walks with us along the road? As much in the good times when we feel close to Him as in the bad times when everything is going wrong and we feel that God has deserted us?
Some people today may be finding it hard to enter into the joy of Easter. It is hard to sing joyful hymns if we have sad hearts, grieving hearts, worried hearts, scared hearts. Many people may be struggling to celebrate Easter in these very difficult circumstances, not least when we are alone. But the resurrection is not only good news when things are going well in life, when we are feeling strong and successful. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is even more good news when we are feeling weak and powerless. Those are the times when it is good to discover that Jesus is alive and risen for us!
We claim to understand the Bible. We claim to believe what it says. Yet so often people fail to recognise that Jesus is alive and with them. So maybe there was a third reason why Cleopas and his companion did not recognise Jesus. Perhaps they were simply lacking in expectation.
They may have understood and believed. But they still had this basic blind spot. Dead people stay dead! Dead people just don’t come back to life, do they? They just didn’t expect to see Jesus alive again.
If the second disciple was indeed the Mary who had stood at the foot of the cross, she certainly knew that Jesus was dead. She had seen him die with her own eyes only a few yards away. And dead men don’t come back to life. At least, they never did until Jesus came along. So the resurrection went against all their experiences and their expectations. Perhaps it was lack of expectation which blinded the eyes of those two disciples to recognising Jesus. And the same is true of so many people today. We live in a materialistic world where people think there are no realities beyond what they can see and touch. We live in a mechanistic world where everything is determined by cause and effect and nothing can surprise us. Many people fail to recognise that Jesus is alive simply because it goes against all their expectations. But lack of expectation will not stop Jesus from revealing Himself!
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
How like Jesus. He didn’t force himself upon them but waited for their hospitality. If they had not invited a stranger into their home, these two disciples would have missed out on the wonderful blessing of recognising the Risen Christ with them. So many people DO miss out on an encounter with Jesus because they never invite Him in.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
We mustn’t read too much into this event. This was not a “communion service.” It is unlikely that Cleopas and his companion had been present at the Last Supper, although they could well have been there when Jesus broke five loaves and two fishes and fed five thousand people. Perhaps it was in the light of the room, as they were looking at the bread, maybe it was then they saw the scars of the holes in Jesus’s hands and so they recognised Jesus.
And in that one instant, all their lack of understanding and lack of belief and lack of expectation were swept aside. They didn’t just understand that the Christ had to rise from the dead. They didn’t just believe reports that Jesus was alive. Those two disciples knew for certain that Jesus was alive!
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
We may be lacking in understanding. We may be lacking in faith. We may be lacking in expectation. But meeting the Risen Jesus Christ changes everything! The testimony of Cleopas and his unknown companion are added to the other witnesses from that first Easter Day. And in these troubled times we too can meet with Jesus. He used to be dead. But now Jesus is alive again, walking with us and talking with us even in these troubled days. We have seen the Lord! Jesus is alive! Praise the Lord!
SPEND SOME TIME IN PRAYER praising God for the glorious resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.