Easter Meditations

Pastor Martin Hoegger, leads us thru Easter on this six-day meditation starting on Thursday 1st April.  Produced in conjunction with Scripture Union.

 

Thursday 1st April

THE KEY TO PARADISE: Luke 23,32-43

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 

Short commentary

In the previous passage Jesus asked: " if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 31) With this image, he identifies himself with the tree of life that was in the earthly paradise. Through Jesus, access to paradise is opened again and the first to enter is the "good thief" to whom Jesus says "today you will be with me in paradise" (v. 43). 

How then does one enter "paradise"? The three-step attitude of the good thief shows this. First, become aware that God exists and that he is to be respected: " Don’t you fear God?" (v. 40). 

Then to acknowledge one's own faults: " We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve " (v. 41).

Finally, invoke the name of Jesus: "Jesus, remember me." (v. 42)

"Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Acts 2:21). 

Recognising that Jesus is the innocent, the righteous, the Messiah, and the King leads to salvation.

But there is another attitude personified by the leaders of the people, the soldiers, and the second robber: derision, mockery, and insults. 

Between these two attitudes, "the people stood watching." (v. 35). With them, with all those who have gone before us, we have to choose which attitude to adopt. 

What will become of the dry wood? The answer to this question depends on our choice. 

With the good thief, do we want to let ourselves be grafted onto the green wood and taste the delicious fruit of the tree of life: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22)?

 

Prayer 

With the good thief, I invoke your name, I acknowledge my injustice and your innocence, I confess your kingship and your divinity, I receive your promises and want to live by them. Blessed are you, Jesus, for your forgiveness and salvation, save me from unbelief and mockery!

 

Friday 2nd April

GIVING ONESELF TO THE FATHER: Luke 23:44-49 

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely, this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 

Short commentary

“Darkness and the disappearance of the sun are the signs of the divine judgment at the end of time,” as stated in the prophetic books. With the death of Jesus, the final judgement is anticipated and concentrated on him who is undergoing it in our place! (v. 44)

Through the torn veil of the temple, Jesus becomes for us the "high priest" who gives us direct access to the Father!

" Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (v. 46). In the mouth of Jesus, the shortest expression of the Trinity! The cross of Jesus reveals the mystery of God: the Son gives himself entirely to the Father, without any withdrawal. He is always and forever turned to him so that in him we may also turn to the Father. 

" Surely, this was a righteous man” (v. 47). Paradoxically, the centurion, a pagan, becomes a confessor of faith. In front of the crucified, he recognises the justice of Jesus (v. 47). At that moment, he is greater than the apostles!

By this very fact, his example is a call to recognise our injustice and to give ourselves to the Father as Jesus surrendered himself to the Father, also to come out of the passivity and wait-and-see attitude of the crowd and the disciples. (v. 48-49)

Prayer 

Father, through the cross of your Son, you judge the world, you open up paradise and you reveal your mystery. May I unceasingly glorify you by contemplating the only Righteous One and give myself to you, as he gave himself to you! 

 

Saturday 3rd April

ACTIVE FAITH: Luke 23.50-56 

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

 

 Short commentary

Where are the valiant apostles who accompanied Jesus for three years? Why is Joseph of Arimathea, who does not belong to their group, which received immense promises from Jesus, the only one knocking at Pilate's door? 

After the centurion confessor of the faith, here is another man, good, righteous, and greater than the apostles! He demonstrates what active faith is through works (James 2:17). He is courageous, enterprising, generous, does not put off the task, and does not hesitate to compromise himself. 

The trial reveals what dwells in the heart of man. Certainly, a great faith animates Joseph! He was "waiting for the Kingdom of God" and had understood that Jesus incarnated him. 

The women, too, compromise themselves by accompanying Jesus and Joseph to the tomb. They, too, are greater than the apostles at that time. By preparing the spices before the beginning of the Sabbath that has just begun (at sunset on Friday), they show both their love for Jesus and their respect for the divine law of the Sabbath. Love and truth are embraced in them!

 

Prayer 

On this day of Holy Saturday, allow me to stand before you with sincerity and ask myself "where would I have been?”....with the apostles who fled or with Joseph and the women who compromised themselves? Give me their courage and their faith!

 

Easter Sunday 4 April

APOSTLES OF THE APOSTLES: Luke 24.1-12 

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly, two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again. ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

 

Short commentary

Evangelist Luke emphasises the role of women. His gospel begins with Mary visited by an angel who announces the great news of the incarnation of the Son of God. At the resurrection, several women become witnesses of the second great news announced by two angels. Three are named, and the others remain anonymous. How many are there in all? No one knows! 

They become "apostles of the apostles". Like them, they accompanied Jesus to Galilee, but before them they received the announcement of the resurrection. 

" In the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor is man independent of woman”, says Paul (1 Cor 11:11). This story illustrates this wonderfully and indicates that both must be actors in the ministry of the Church. 

But denigration, even contempt, followed by unbelief are the first reactions of the Eleven apostles!...attitudes that we find today in so many of our contemporaries to the proclamation of Christ's resurrection when they are not shrugs of shoulders.

The first words of the two angels are a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead”? Jesus also uses this pedagogy of questioning when he appears to the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24.17) or to Mary of Magdala (John 20.13,15). This opens a path for witnessing before announcing, creating a relationship with the person. Asking a question is the way to do this. 

Then, by the grace of God, will we see people today getting up and running and like Peter move from unbelief to astonishment and from astonishment to faith! v. (12).

 

Prayer

On this great day of Easter, we trust that, risen from the dead, you are now forever in our midst. Each morning becomes a new Easter, where you call us to move from fear to astonishment and from unbelief to faith. Together, with the women, may we be witnesses to this! 

 

Monday 5th April 

THE ANONYMOUS DISCIPLE: Luke 24.13-34 

13 Now, that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 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.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” 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. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 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 they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” 26 Did not the Messiah 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.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on 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.

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. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

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.”

 

Short commentary

It would take thousands of books to dig into the depths of this account of the Emmaus pilgrims. A few lines are, therefore, not enough! But allow me to share an experience. 

Last year, I walked with an ecumenical group of about thirty people on this route. It was as part of the JC2033 initiative, which invites churches everywhere to prepare for the two thousand years of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in 2033. https://jc2033.world/en/news/blog/415-chronicles-of-the-emmaus-way.html 

Certainly, since the Risen Christ joined these two disciples, all our paths may become paths to Emmaus. But walking this road between Jerusalem and Emmaus (or rather "the four Emmaus", as at least four places have been identified as the Emmaus in Luke's account) has been a unique experience for me that is worth all the commentary.

In Nicopolis, one of the possible places, a life-size painting depicts Jesus in the midst of the two disciples. In the story, Cleopas is named, but the other disciple is not. This silence allows everyone to identify with him. On this painting, a hole has been cut out in place of the head: each person can put his or her own. This disciple is you and me! 

According to one interpretation, this disciple could be a woman, the wife of Cleopas. At the moment when Jesus broke the bread, it is written that "their eyes were opened and they recognised him." (v. 31). 

But where do we find this expression "their eyes were opened"?...in the account of the origins, when Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:7). They saw that they were naked and hid themselves from each other and from God. Here, on the contrary, before the risen Jesus, a man and a woman are united, and their hearts burn with joy. 

    

Prayer 

We pray to you with Cleopas and the other disciple in whom everyone can recognise himself:

Stay with us, Lord! Keep us on our paths!

Keep us in the unity of the Spirit! Keep our hearts above all else!

May springs of life spring forth from them and may the fire of your love spread!


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This prayer is taken from Martin Hoegger's booklet "33 Prayers to the Risen One" which can be ordered at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (price 9€, plus postage). 

Every year, a walk on the road to Emmaus is organized by JC2033? See

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Tuesday 6th April 

FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FAITH: Luke 24.36-53

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

Short commentary

The Christian faith is rooted first of all in the testimony of the apostles: they saw the Risen One, touched him, ate and drank in his presence. This text, like others, insists on the physical aspect of the resurrection of Jesus. It is the same Jesus whom they accompanied for three years who appears before them three days after his death (v. 36-43).

Then our faith is based on the testimony of the Scriptures that foretold the death and resurrection of the Messiah. It is, therefore, necessary to study them intelligently, making the link between Easter and the Old Testament. "Intelligence" comes from the Latin "inter-legere" which means "to read between". It is a question of linking each text with the Easter event (v. 44-46).

Finally, all of this would remain external to us if the Holy Spirit did not come to testify to our hearts that the resurrection of Jesus and the Scripture that testifies to it are more solid than a diamond, more luminous than the sun, tastier than the best of feasts (v. 45,49).

At the end of the Gospel, Jesus gives the blessing that the priest Zechariah could not give at the beginning because he had become mute because of his unbelief (cf. Luke 1.22). It is through Jesus now that we are blessed. He is not only the man who has risen fo ever, but also the God who blesses and whom we bless (v. 53). Through him, we pass from fear to joy to become witnesses in Jerusalem and in all the nations (v. 47-48).

 

Prayer

Lord, grant that we may take seriously the testimony of your apostles and scrutinize the Scriptures which proclaim your death and resurrection, to which we have to bear witness. Give us to welcome your Holy Spirit with ardour! May He burn within us all doubt and set us on fire with peace and joy!

 

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