The Kingdom of Sacrifice
This is Holy Week. We began with celebrating the Messiah’s entry into Jerusalem. The crowds go wild; their long-awaited king has come! But, things do not go as the crowds expected. Jesus did not drive out the Roman oppressors. Jesus did not re-establish the kingdom of Israel. Instead, Jesus takes the humiliating role of a slave and washes his disciples’ feet. He is arrested in the garden after a time of prayer, betrayed by one of his own. He is tried by the religious leaders and the Roman governor, but never stood a chance. From all appearances, he is powerless to stop this chain of events that is leading to a humiliating, painful death.
But, the Gospel writer makes it very clear that Jesus, the Son of God, is far from powerless. He is instead in complete control of the situation. He is right where he wants to be, dying between two others. Why would the King choose a humiliating path, a path leading to his death? Jesus has chosen this path because the kingdom where he reigns is not a kingdom of power over others, but a kingdom of sacrifice. Jesus willingly gives his precious life as a sacrifice because sacrificial love is a defining characteristic of his kingdom. And, this path of love, this sacrifice, is what will transform the world.
Bible Readings: John 19:31-42
Free Resources: Closing Prayer & Blessing (Cross+Gen Worship) [Note: All resource links download the same ZIP file.]
Lenten Theme (March 11 – March 30): God’s Kingdom Revealed
The Kingdom of Death
We do not usually think of the kingdom of God as a kingdom of death. God’s kingdom is eternal life, right? But, this eternal life is defined by the Son of God’s sacrificial love, a sacrifice for all that leads to death. What makes God’s kingdom different is that death does not have the final say. But, it is not a transition to a diminished life, but a transformation to an abundant life. As Paul teaches, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness [or abundance] of life” (Romans 6:4).
On Good Friday, we solemnly observe Jesus’ death, crucified for us and sealed in a tomb. We contemplate our brokenness and sin that made his sacrifice of love necessary. We come face to face with the part we play in the crucifixion of our Lord. We see the death of God that defines the kingdom.
The Kingdom of Life
But, our mourning quickly turns into dancing. Death is trampled in this joyous dance, as Life is victorious. Violence and control, so powerful in our world, are shadows wiped out by the light of God’s love. Jesus is raised from the dead! Sacrificial love and death lead inexorably to the kingdom of God’s ultimate identity. It is the kingdom of life; life compared to which our lives in this world are but a faint image. Our language fails, but our joy continues. The good news spreads, transforming lives with the seeds of that kingdom. For we know, as Handel wrote:
The kingdom of this world;
The kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ
And of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever
And he shall reign forever and ever
And he shall reign forever and ever.
This week we provide three free resources, one each for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are both liturgical elements from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship product, “Litany for Holy Week” and “Closing Prayer & Blessing.” For Easter, we move to a responsive retelling of John’s resurrection story from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum. While you can use it for a children’s storytelling time, I challenge you to get the whole congregation involved! [Note: All resource links download the same ZIP file.]
Christ is risen! Hallelujah!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase! Fall lessons can be downloaded right away!
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
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