April 4, 2010
Text: John 20:1-18
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
Mary Magdalene has the glorious privilege of proclaiming to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20: 18; ESV), which is as much as to say, “He is risen. All that He said is true. He is who He claimed to be. All that we hoped of Him is true. Death could not hold Him. He is truly the Messiah, the Savior of the world, who has conquered sin, death, and the devil. We are saved. We have eternal life, because Jesus, who was dead, lives!” Mary is an eyewitness, and she brings the comforting, albeit astounding, good news to the disciples: The tomb is empty. Death is swallowed up in victory. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Indeed, this Easter Day is the Day that the LORD has made. He raised Jesus from the dead on this Day. He sealed our salvation on this Day. We’ve done nothing to deserve or merit this Day. We cannot earn this Day. This Day is made for us by grace. There is nothing left for us to do on this Day but rejoice and be glad in it (Cf. Psalm 118).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is keystone of our faith. If Christ is not risen, our faith is futile. We are still in our sins. If Christ is not risen from the dead, the holy Christian faith is a lie, and we live our lives by a lie. If Christ is not risen from the dead, all hope is lost, death is our end, and there is no meaning to this earthly life. But as Paul declares so confidently to the Corinthians: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). This makes all the difference for us. Since Christ is
risen from the dead, our faith is NOT in vain. Our sins are forgiven. The holy Christian faith that we believe and confess, the faith by which we live each day and take each breathe, is true! Death is not the end! Rather, Christ is the end of death! And we look forward to heaven, where we will be with Jesus and all the saints when we die. And when Jesus returns, we look forward to the resurrection of all flesh, when our bodies will be raised and reunited with our souls, and we will live eternally in bliss in a new heaven and a new earth, forever in the presence of our gracious God.
The resurrection of Christ, testified by over 500 eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:5-8), is supremely important for us, and of tremendous comfort. Our hope in Christ is vindicated. For the resurrection proves that our Lord Jesus Christ is who He says He is: the eternal Son of God, very God of very God, who took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. That He died proves that He is truly human, for God cannot die unless He is at the same time man. And that He is risen proves He is God, for man cannot rise from the dead by his own power. It has never happened in all of human history, except in the case of Jesus, as Paul says, He was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
So also the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves that His teaching is the truth. We can believe His doctrine, and stake our very lives, our eternal lives on it. For Jesus had promised many times, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’… he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21). Remember the criteria for judging whether a prophet is legitimate, sent from God: “when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet” (Jer. 28:9). A prophet’s teaching is true if what he predicts comes to pass. The greatest of the prophets, our Savior Jesus Christ, predicted that He would suffer and die and rise again on the third day, and in fact Christ has been raised from the dead! It is as Jesus said to the Pharisees, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man,” namely, on the cross, “then you will know that I am he,” that I AM the LORD, I AM who I say I AM, and that I have taught the truth, for I will rise from the dead.
Because Jesus is who He says He is and because His Word is truth, we have the forgiveness of all our sins, eternal life, and salvation in Him. For Jesus’ resurrection proves that the Father has accepted Christ’s sacrifice for the reconciliation of the world. The resurrection is the Father’s divine stamp of approval over His sin-atoning work on our behalf. For our Lord Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (5:10). The resurrection of Christ is the justification of the world before God. God declares us righteous with the righteousness of Christ by accepting His substitutionary death on the cross in payment for our sins and raising His Son out of death.
And so we know that baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection, united to Him by faith, we have eternal life. Because Christ is risen, all who believe in Christ will rise to eternal life with Him. It is as Job confessed this morning in our Old Testament lesson: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). Our Lord Jesus promises, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (11:25-26).
All of this is comprehended in Mary’s proclamation, “I have seen the Lord.” As it made all the difference to the disciples who had suffered the anxiety and doubt of their Lord and Master’s suffering and death, who were locked away for fear of rejection and persecution of their countrymen, who had given up all hope of salvation in Jesus Christ and despaired over their denial and desertion of their Savior; so it makes all the difference for us who suffer our own anxiety and doubt in this fallen world and in this body of sin and death, who lock ourselves away from our neighbor for fear that our love will be rejected, who are weighed down by the guilt of sin, which is always a denial and desertion of our Savior. Beloved in the Lord, we have here the eyewitness testimony of Mary. Jesus is alive! He is who He says He is. His Word is truth. Our sins are forgiven. We are reconciled to God. We have eternal life and the sure and certain hope of our own resurrection from the dead in Christ Jesus. And so we declare this good news to one another as we say it again: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
This sermon is based on the Synodical explanation of the Second Article of the Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation
(St. Louis: Concordia, 1991) pp. 139-40.
The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Day (C)
April 4, 2010
Text: Luke 24:1-12
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:5-7; ESV). We live our lives in this fallen world and in this sinful flesh having forgotten and continually forgetting this life-bestowing and life-sustaining truth: Christ is risen! Remember
what He said, how He must suffer, must be crucified, must die for sinners, and on the third day rise. But we don’t remember. We live as if death has won. We live our lives as if in bondage to the sin and death our Lord defeated in His death and resurrection. Like the children of Israel who were led out of slavery in Egypt, we grumble. We grumble that we do not have what we want and think we need. When the Lord gives bread, we grumble that there is no water. When the Lord gives water, we grumble that there is no meat. When the Lord gives meat, we grumble against the Lord’s prophet and against the Lord’s doctrine. We are never satisfied. We long for the fleshpots of Egypt. The slavery of sin and death calls to us with an alluring nostalgia, and we beg to go back. And so we live in sadness and grief, in strife with our neighbors, with our family members, with our spouses. We are depressed. We look for hope and happiness in the empty promises of false gods, would-be messiahs, politicians, work, sex, money, things. We have forgotten. We have not remembered. We live as if Christ has not been raised from the dead.
But away with all of that! It is Easter! And in fact
Christ has been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20)! Beloved, you have been freed from your bondage to sin and death. Your sin, your grumbling, your longing to be enslaved again, your strife, your idolatry, your despair, has been taken by our Lord Jesus Christ into Himself and nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb. And when our Lord rose from the dead, He left our sin and sorrow sealed in that tomb. He is victorious over those things. He is victorious over death. Remember
what He said. Behold, He is alive. And He gives you new life now.
The women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, did not remember
Jesus’ Word. When they came to the tomb at early dawn that first Easter, they brought spices to anoint a corpse. They were living as if death had won. But when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, and no body of Jesus! They were perplexed. The only reasonable explanation is that His body has been moved or stolen. It took the appearance of two angels to convince them otherwise. “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you” (Luke 24:6). Believe His Word! This is what He said would happen. He said that it was divinely necessary that He be handed over and be crucified and on the third day rise!
Thus the women “remembered his words” and they hurried to tell others the good news. As is always the case among Christians, when we encounter the earth shattering good news of the empty tomb and the risen Lord Jesus, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must proclaim it to others, that they also may have real hope and lasting joy and salvation in the Lord who brings life, that they may no longer live as if death has won.
But the apostles and all the rest did not remember
Jesus’ Word either. The women ran to tell them the good news, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v. 11). The apostles, who did not live in a culture obsessed with the politically correct, dismissed this assertion as silly woman-talk, when in fact our Lord here honors women as the first witnesses of the most important event in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! The apostles dismissed the report. They remained in unbelief. They did not remember
. They lived as if death had won. It would take an appearance of the risen Lord behind locked doors to convince them otherwise (vv. 36-49; John 20:19-23).
Peter was no better than the rest. He did not remember
Jesus’ Word. He had been living as if death had won since his three-fold denial in the court of the high priest. Now having heard this strange testimony, he ran to the tomb and stooped to look in. He marveled, he was astounded, that the linen cloths in which our Lord’s dead body had been wrapped now lay there alone (Luke 24:12). He marveled because he did not remember
. The empty tomb should not have surprised him. Remember
how He told you, dear Peter, that this very thing must happen, that He be handed over and killed and on the third day rise!
Peter did not remember
, but he was reminded
when the risen Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him (v. 34).
The women forgot. The apostles forgot. Peter forgot. And we forget. It is the common affliction of this sinful, fallen flesh, that the things of the Spirit do not make sense to us, and are easily forgotten, and so we live as if death has won. “But in fact
Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20; emphasis added)! And this changes everything. Remember
how He told you. Remember
how He tells you always in His Word. Good Friday had to happen. The Son of Man had to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, for sinners’ sake. The Son of Man had to be crucified, suffer and die, as the punishment for our sins. And if the story had ended there, death would, in fact, have won. But the story did not end that way. In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. Death has not won. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (v. 26), but in the meantime, death is powerless. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’… thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 54-55, 57).
God gives you this victory daily in your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. This morning, God gives you this victory in His holy Word, and in the blessed Sacrament of our Lord’s crucified and risen body and blood. This morning, the risen Lord Jesus Himself meets you and speaks to you and feeds you. He leads you once again out of your bondage to sin and death. He reminds
you of what He told you. He tells you again. He presents Himself here to you alive. He is risen, just as He said. The tomb is empty. Death is in its death throes. Away with sin and sorrow. Away with grumbling and slavish longing. Away with the devil and his lies. It is Easter! Christ has won! He is the Victor! And you are free! No longer live in the bondage of sin and death. Live in the life He has given you, His life, eternal life, resurrection life. Marvel if you will. It is
marvelous. But remember
what He tells you. It is really true. In fact
, Christ has been raised from the dead. The news is too good to keep to ourselves. So let us proclaim it to one another again: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.