Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus

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Happy Eastertide!

Yesterday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on what we call Easter. One of my favorite things we do at Easter at our church is baptize new believers. This tradition of Easter Sunday baptisms goes way back. In the early church, Lent was a season for new believers to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. All Christians also prepared for Easter by fasting. At first, the fasting lasted one day; later it was extended to 40 hours, to symbolize the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness.

By the early 200s, baptism often included renouncing Satan and all his works, making a statement of faith, being baptized (naked) in water, being clothed in a white robe, receiving anointing with oil, and immediately celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

Here is something I learned just this week: According to the liturgical church calendar Easter is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day Christians traditionally celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

So let’s celebrate Easter for the next 50 days! To me, Easter is a season of joy because we celebrate our new life in Christ. He is alive, not just “up there” but in each one of us who believes! This extended season gives us more time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how we’re “in Christ.” As “Easter people,” we also look forward to the birth of the Church and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful followers of Christ.

Happy Eastertide!

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Holy Week Bible Readings: The Gospel of Matthew

I’ve prepared a devotional guide of Holy Week Bible readings. If you read the passages according to the days of the week, you will gain a richer sense of the atmosphere in Jerusalem starting with Jesus’ triumphal entry and leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. All of these readings come from Matthew’s gospel.

Sunday (Palm Sunday)
Jesus enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21.1-11

Jesus teaches in the Temple: Matthew 21.12-16
Jesus returns to Bethany: Matthew 21.17
Jesus curses the fig tree: Matthew 21.18-19

Jesus teaches about the cursed fig tree: Matthew 21.20-22
Teaching in the Temple: Matthew 21.23-23.39
Jesus teaches outside of the Temple: Matthew 24.1-2
On way to Bethany (Olivet Discourse): Matthew 24.3-26.2

The religious leaders plot: Matthew 26.3-5
Jesus anointed at Bethany: Matthew 26.6-13
Judas joins in the plot: Matthew 26.14-15

Preparations for Passover meal: Matthew 26.17-19
Passover meal: Matthew 26.20-30a
On way out of the city: Matthew 26.30b-35
In Gethsemane: Matthew 26.36-45
The arrest of Jesus: Matthew 26.46-56
Trial before Caiphas and Sanhedrin: Matthew 26.57-68
Peter’s denial: Matthew 26.69-75

Friday (Good, or Holy, Friday)
Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin: Matthew 27.1-2
The demise of Judas: Matthew 27.3-10
Jesus before Pilate privately: Matthew 27.11-14
Jesus before Pilate: Matthew 27.15-26
The crucifixion of Jesus: Matthew 27.27-56
The burial of Jesus: Matthew 27.57-61

Sunday to the Ascension
The empty tomb: Matthew 28.1-8
The plot of the religious leaders: Matthew 28.11-15
Resurrection appearances of Jesus: Matthew 28.9-10; 16-20