easter_15743Easter 2017
April 16, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 16, Col. 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10

Sermons online:
Text:                pastorjud.org
Audio:             pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:             bit.ly/pastorjud

The devil won.  It was a close one, but the devil pulled out a victory.  After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so many people believed in Jesus, but Satan had a lot of people on his side too. Satan had the Jewish leaders who were more worried about their positions and influence rather than a man raising people from the dead.  Satan had the Roman governor who was just scared enough of the local people he would not stand up to them.  He even had one of Jesus’ own followers who loved money a little bit more than he loved Jesus.  A midnight trial followed by an early morning appearance before the governor combined with enough people willing to lie and threaten to report Pontius Pilate to Caesar and the plan came together.  Before most people could figure out what was happening that morning Jesus had been whipped, crowned with thorns and led off to be crucified.  He died Friday afternoon and was put into a tomb which was sealed with a stone and guarded round the clock to prevent anyone from stealing the body.  Jesus is dead.  Satan has won.

In C.F.W. Walther’s Easter Hymn “He’s Risen, He’s risen” we hear about Satan’s triumph:

2      The foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.

How often in your life does it feel like Satan wins the victory?  How many times do you find yourself struggling with the same stupid sin?  How many times have you promised yourself that you’ll never do it again and the devil, that great deceiver, pulls you right back in leaving you in a puddle of guilt and shame and failure?  You lose, Satan wins.

The darkness and deep sorrow of Good Friday are pretty overwhelming.  Satan celebrating his victory over Jesus and his victory over you, and his victory would be complete, except…Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Jesus’ story doesn’t end at the tomb and Walther’s hymn doesn’t end with verse 2. Verse 3 brings word of the victory:

3              But short was their triumph; the Savior arose,
And death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes.
The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high;
He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  So, asking that good catechism question, what does this mean?  It means everything.

1 Corinthians 15:14 (ESV) 14 … if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:17 (ESV) 17 … if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.[1]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  All of your hope hinges on Jesus rising from the dead.

A few years ago, a well-known church historian, Jaroslav Pelikan died. It was reported that he spoke these as his last words: “If Jesus has not risen from the dead, nothing else matters; if Jesus has risen from the dead, nothing else matters!” “If Jesus has not risen from the dead, nothing else matters; if Jesus has risen from the dead, nothing else matters!”

It is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we call ourselves Christians today. It is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we call out to God in confidence. It is because of the resurrection of Jesus that we look forward to eternal life in the age to come!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

“If Jesus has not risen from the dead, nothing else matters; if Jesus has risen from the dead, nothing else matters!” Jaroslav Pelikan

When God created the world he created for six days and rested on the seventh.  The eighth day is the first day of the new creation.  Jesus rose on Sunday.  The first day of the week.  The eighth day.  The first day of the next new creation.  Eight is a Biblical number of new beginnings.  On Noah’s ark there were eight people.  Jewish boys were marked with the sign of the covenant on their eighth day.  This is why baptismal fonts often have eight sides to mark the number of new beginning.  It is at the font that you died with Christ and were raised with Christ and were born again in Christ and given life in the new creation.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

At a baptism the one being baptized is often clothed in white; at confirmation the youth are dressed in white robes, at your funeral the casket will be covered with the white pall showing that you have been clothed with the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  You are a new creation in Christ. You have been baptized into Christ and because Jesus rose from the dead you too will rise from the dead.

As the winter weather warms and the first crocuses start to bloom it is a sign that soon will come the daffodils and the tulips and all the other flowers to follow.

As you see Jesus rise from the dead you know that you too will be raised from the dead because Jesus is the first fruit of the dead. The cemetery is not the end for you but just a quiet resting place for a while.  Because Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Just as God raised up Adam from the dust of the ground, so you too will be raised from the dust of the ground.  Adam and Eve were barred from the tree of life but, in Christ, you again have access to the fruit of the tree of life; the body and blood of Jesus shed on the cross for your sins.  The serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden is likewise by the tree of the cross overcome.  We still live in the valley of the shadow of death, but we need not fear death because we know, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

4      O, where is your sting, death? We fear you no more;
Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door.
For all our transgressions His blood does atone;
Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own.

You are baptized into Christ.  You belong to Christ.  In Christ you have been forgiven and in Christ you have eternal life.  Even though you die, yet shall you live.  And after you have been raised from the dead all creation will be renewed and restored.  You will be the first fruits of the new creation on the last day.

Now this doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy just because you have been baptized.  Living is still hard.  Dying is still hard.  Knowing that you will rise again on the last day is a stern dose of reality about death because it takes away all your attempts to redefine the nature of death.   Oftentimes funerals are said to be a celebration of life, but it is still so hard, still so sad.  Your loved one has died. Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse once said, the message of Easter is not, “Jesus lives”, but rather, “Jesus has risen!”

The resurrection makes dying hard. The resurrection makes it clear that death is not a friend and that death is not natural. Death is an enemy to be conquered.  We know this instinctively as we fight against death our whole lives.  Death is the enemy.

That is why Jesus’ resurrection is such incredible, amazing good news.  The enemy death is conquered in Jesus.  As Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister Martha , “John 11:25-26 (ESV) 25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”[2]

Unless Jesus returns soon, your body will die, but it will not stay dead.  Your body will rise again on the last day because.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  And because Christ rose from the dead, you, who are baptized into Christ, will also be raised.

You have been redeemed, body and soul, by the blood of Jesus.  As a baptized child of God you live out your life in the new creation.  Life is hard and each day will be a struggle and there will be many times when it seems that the devil has won.  But you know the truth.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  And each Lord’s Day, each eighth day of the week, as a child of the new creation, you gather to receive the word of forgiveness and the fruit of the cross; the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Satan has been defeated.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  Amen.

 

 

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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