One of the few Aramaic words in the New Testament, maranatha means both “Our Lord, has come” and “Come, Lord.” We say maranatha to proclaim that God has come to earth. We say maranatha to affirm our belief in the incarnation. We say maranatha in witness to the on-going ministry of Christ in the world through the church. It is a word befitting a church that has seen Christ and still sees Christ incarnating the world through the church in places where disease and darkness remain. Into our present darkness, against our present darkness, we cry “maranatha.” It is our proclamation of hope. It is our one word gospel in a nutshell. In the Easter season, our Epistle lessons come from the Book of Acts. Reading Acts, one sees that much of the preaching of the very early church focused on maranatha. See, for example, the preaching and ministry of Peter (1:22-35; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 10:34-43), Stephen (7:2-53), Philip (8:29-35), and Paul (13:16-41; 17:2-3; 17:22-31; 22:3-16). The proclamation of the early church was that the man Jesus, who was killed in Jerusalem, was the messiah, but that after three days, he rose from the dead and by his life and death made atonement for all who would believe. Maranatha!
It is also a word befitting a church in waiting, a church that has seen our Lord come, who knows something of the power of his love, and looks forward to that time when Christ will come again - a time when God will create a new heaven and earth, when wars will cease, when there will be no more crying, and when death will be no more. “Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus and save your people. Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.” This maranatha is a cry, a petition, and a pleading that our Lord return quickly. It is a maranatha that points toward the end of our liturgical year and the Feast of Christ the King. This year, we will hear from the gospel of Matthew. The Lord has returned with his holy angels and sits in judgement of the world, separating the sheep and the goats. How we live as the church in waiting does matter. It has never been the case that all that is required is belief. As James (2:17) writes, “... faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Charitable acts, works of mercy, doing good for another and praying for the well-being of others are all indications of a living faith. The ancient Christian theologian Tertullian (b.160 AD) quoted this pagan view of the early church, "Look," they say, "how they love one another and how they are ready to die for each other." Can you imagine nonbelievers saying the same of the church today? Perhaps? We might pause before we next cry “maranatha” and ask ourselves how we are doing.
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus,