You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Awake, My Heart, with Gladness by Paul Gerhardt is one of my favorite Easter Hymns. It perfectly captures the joy and the meaning of Easter. I am going to read the whole hymn but then I want to focus in on a couple stanzas that really grabbed my attention as I sung this (10x) on Easter – especially since they so beautifully capture the end of what I just read from Colossians 2.
1 Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done;
Now, after gloom and sadness,
Comes forth the glorious sun.
My Savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings its flight.
2 The foe in triumph shouted
When Christ lay in the tomb;
But lo, he now is routed,
His boast is turned to gloom.
For Christ again is free;
In glorious victory
He who is strong to save
Has triumphed o'er the grave.
3 This is a sight that gladdens--
What peace it doth impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart.
No gloom shall ever shake,
No foe shall ever take
The hope which God's own Son
In love for me hath won.
4 Now hell, its prince, the devil,
Of all their pow'r are shorn;
Now I am safe from evil,
And sin I laugh to scorn.
Grim death with all his might
Cannot my soul affright;
It is a pow'rless form,
Howe'er it rave and storm.
5 The world against me rages,
Its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wages,
Its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free,
No trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play,
And night is bright as day.
6 Now I will cling forever
To Christ, my Savior true;
My Lord will leave me never,
Whate'er He passes through.
He rends death's iron chain;
He breaks through sin and pain;
He shatters hell's dark thrall;
I follow Him through all.
7 He brings me to the portal
That leads to bliss untold,
Whereon this rhyme immortal
Is found in script of gold:
"Who there My cross has shared
Finds here a crown prepared;
Who there with Me has died
Shall here be glorified."
I want to focus in on stanzas 4 and 5. One of the things Good Friday and Easter mean for us as Christians is that hell and the devil have been stripped of their power over us. Hell, death, and the devil are powerless because Christ has conquered them. So, we joyously sing, “Now I am safe from evil, And sin I laugh to scorn!” We can laugh at sin and death because even with all its might, no matter how much it raves and storms, grim death cannot scare us because Christ is risen from the dead. Where is our hope as the world cowers in fear in the face of pandemics and economic uncertainty? Our hope is in the crucified and risen Christ who is strong to save and in glorious victory has triumphed over the grave.
I love how Athanasius talks about this in On the Incarnation: But if a man is gone down even to Hades and stands in awe of the heroes who have descended there, regarding them as gods, yet he may see the fact of Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. He may infer that among them also Christ alone is true God and Lord. For the Lord touched all parts of creation and freed and undeceived all of them from every illusion. As Paul says, “Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he triumphed on the cross”; that no one might by any possibility be any longer deceived but everywhere might find the true Word of God.
The stanza that caught my attention even more than stanza 4 was stanza 5. It is not only the devil that is out to get Christians, it is also the sinful world that is against Christians. It too, like grim death, rages against us but its fury we disdain and hold in contempt – as our Lord does in Psalm 2. All its efforts against the Christian are in vain! So, our hearts can be free from all care and anxiety. No trouble needs to weigh us down and trouble us. Because of this we sing, “Misfortune now is play, And night is bright as day.” That is a confession that we can make in faith because of Christ’s victory over death and the grave.
Gracious Father, I thank you that because You have made me Your child in baptism that I have been united to Christ’s victory over sin, death, hell, the devil, and the sinful world. Grant me the grace and faith I need to always cling to Him for my salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
One of the most beautiful hymns that teaches what it means for Christ to suffer and die in our place is Paul Gerhardt’s “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” (LSB 438). (This is also the Hymn of the Day for Palm Sunday but we, sadly, weren't able to sing it this year.) You can listen to it here.
It opens with these words: A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,/The guilt of sinners bearing/And, laden with the sins of earth,/None else burden sharing;/Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,/To slaughter led without complaint,/That spotless life to offer…
Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the spotless Lamb who bears all your guilt, all of your sin, and all of your shame. There is no one else to share the burden because there is no one else that CAN share that burden.
He alone, fully God and fully Man, is able to bear the sins of every single person that will live or has lived. If you try to bear that burden, in full or in part, you are crushed by it. Yet, because he is the spotless, sinless, pure, and holy Lamb of God He can bear all your sins and offer up Himself on your behalf. And this involves great suffering.
And so stanza 1 continues: He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies,/The mockery, and yet replies,/"All this I gladly suffer.”
The physical suffering – the crown of thorns, the beatings, being spit upon, the mockery, the lashes, the nails – of Christ was terrible. From these cruel wounds oozed the sacrificial and holy blood of the lamb. The physical suffering though was not the worst part of His suffering. The worst part of His suffering would be that He must drink the cup of God’s wrath. Wrath is God’s anger incited by sin, which offends God’s righteousness and holiness.
This brings about God’s judgment and condemnation of sinners. Christ had prayed that if it was possible that the Father would take the cup from Him. But as we know it was the Father’s will, and so He drank the cup of God’s wrath that we deserved – down to the very last drop. He does this so that you would not suffer the wrath of God for all eternity.
He does all of this willingly. He does this gladly! This Holy Week meditate upon those words, “All this I gladly suffer!” Christ your Lord willingly and gladly suffered for you out of His wondrous love for you (see Hebrews 12:1-2 and Isaiah 53).
Here are the lyrics.
1. A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
The guilt of sinners bearing
And, laden with the sins of earth,
None else the burden sharing;
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
That spotless life to offer,
He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies,
The mockery, and yet replies,
“All this I gladly suffer.”
2. This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great friend,
The Lamb of God, our Savior,
Whom God the Father chose to send
To gain for us His favor.
“Go forth, My Son,” the Father said,
“And free My children from their dread
Of guilt and condemnation.
The wrath and stripes are hard to bear,
But by Your passion they will share
The fruit of Your salvation.”
3. “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I’ll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I’ll do what You have asked Me.”
O wondrous Love, what have You done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth’s foundation.
4. Lord, when Your glory I shall see
And taste Your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be,
My joy beyond all measure!
When I appear before Your throne,
Your righteousness shall be my crown;
With these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought,
As Your own bride shall we be brought
To stand in joy beside You.
Let us pray:
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Amen.
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