This is the second blog on worship that I’ve written recently. The practical reason for this is because I’m currently taking a class on worship. The providential reason for this is because I need to learn more about worship from Scripture.
Therefore, when I realized that Easter was approaching (as evidenced, to my delight, by the appearance of Cadbury mini-eggs on the grocery store shelf), I decided to see what the Bible has to say about worship and the resurrection. What I learned was that, although every moment of every day should be worship, there is no greater impetus for worship than what we celebrate at Easter. Let me explain what I mean.
God Initiates Worship
I defined worship in the previous blog, but it bears repeating. True worship is the appropriate response by people (and angelic beings) to God’s revelation. It is God who initiates worship by drawing near to people and revealing something about his nature or his mighty acts.
If you’ve been around Verity Fellowship for more than five minutes, you know that we believe that the Bible is all about Jesus. Every passage in the Old Testament points to him in some way. Though God revealed much about his nature in the Old Testament, Jesus is the full and final revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-4). Moreover, the Bible is the story of God’s redemption of humanity from sin, and Jesus is the one who accomplishes this. Therefore, God’s mightiest act is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This means that, since God initiates worship through revealing himself and his mighty acts, and Jesus is the sum of this revelation, Easter should elicit worship like nothing else does! At no other point during the year do we focus more intentionally on the death and resurrection of Jesus than right now. Everything you need to prompt worship is being put before you in your devotionals, in your churches, and in blogs like this one right now.
But how are you and I to respond?
Bowing Down in Worship
In English, we only have one word for worship, but the Bible uses more than one to describe it. One of the primary terms means to “bow down” or to “kneel before.” It’s helpful to think of it in the way subjects respond to kings, in the sense of paying homage or expressing allegiance. Of course, this response is heightened infinitely in the way image bearers respond to their Creator. The kind of “bowing down” that people do before God is an allegiance not given to anyone or anything else. That’s what makes it worship.
Although not mandated, bowing down to God sometimes means a literal action; think of Ezekiel and John falling on their faces when they see the glory of God. Yet it always denotes an attitude of awe and submission that leads to obedience. “Bowing down” is one aspect of worship and a way we are called to orient our entire lives around God.
Worship, Faith and the Resurrection
I don’t think that the two Marys knew that they would be bowing down to their King when they went to visit his grave on Easter morning.
When they got there, they met an angel, sitting on the stone that he’d rolled away. Matthew says that his “appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (Mt. 28:3). The guards were so afraid that they were paralyzed.
You would think that the two women would be tempted to bow before such an awesome being. Instead, they listened to his words: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said.” He then sent them away to tell the disciples.
The two Marys, filled with fear and joy, ran quickly to tell the disciples what had happened. On the way Jesus met them. Their response to the resurrected Lord was to come up to him, take hold of his feet, and worship (bow down to) him (Mt. 28:9).
Think about it. Although these two women did not bow down to the angel, they immediately fell prostrate at the feet of their resurrected Lord. This means that they knew that he was worthy of the allegiance only God should receive.
In order to worship, they had to believe the message Jesus preached when he was alive. They trusted his word that he would die for sin and then be raised from the dead. They were certain that he was God incarnate. It was faith that prompted them to truly worship. And they responded to him with awe, submission and obedience.
Worship, Doubt and the Resurrection
Just a few verses later, this response is contrasted with doubt. After receiving the news from the women, the eleven disciples met Jesus. Matthew says, “They worshiped him, but some were doubtful” (Mt. 28:17). At least some of the disciples struggled with faith. And it affected their worship.
Jesus, as always full of grace and truth, ministered to them in their unbelief. Asserting his divine kingship, he said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). Jesus taught them that his resurrection from the dead meant that he ruled and reigned over all. Knowing this, they could truly worship, giving allegiance with awe and submission. This worship led them to obey by bringing the gospel to all the nations.
Your Worship Because of the Resurrection
It’s been more than 2,000 years since that day. You and I are celebrating another Easter. This same Jesus, who met the two Marys so long ago, is still alive. He still rules and reigns. He met you when you heard the gospel and believed. By his Spirit, he is with you always, just as he promised (Mt. 28:20).
Unless he returns on April 16th, you will not get to literally take hold of his feet and worship. But the resurrection of Christ still necessitates the same response from you today. Do you believe that he is alive? Do you believe that he is the King of Kings, reigning with loving authority over everything, including your life? Then, this Easter, let us once again give our entire allegiance to Jesus. Let us bow in awe and submission to him, especially in the areas of suffering that we do not understand. By faith, let us obey him by telling others the good news of the resurrected Lord. Let us do so until we get to bow down at his feet.