He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
The empty tomb changes everything. That’s the point St. Paul is making in our Epistle lesson. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Nothing like it has ever happened before. The consequences of this event are staggering. This means that death has been defeated. This means that hell has been vanquished and the devil no longer has any power over us. This means that God has accepted our Lord’s sacrifice for sin on the cross. Our sins are forgiven. We are no longer in bondage to sin and unbelief. This means that we have been reconciled to God, that we have eternal life, that Jesus Christ, who has been raised from the dead, will likewise raise us from the dead on the Last Day, never to die again.
Well, that changes everything. St. Paul contends that this fact, that Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed, and that He has been raised from the dead, should make an actual difference in our life now. Paul is addressing sexual immorality in 1st Corinthians Chapter 5. We can apply what he says regarding this specific case to all manifest sin. His point is this: Don’t you know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, to atone for you, to pay your debt, to reconcile you to God? Don’t you know that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, victorious over sin and death, that the resurrection is the Father’s divine seal of approval over the sin-atoning work of the Son? Since that is the case, sweep out the old sins that hold you captive. You don’t just say, “Well, I’m sorry that it is the case that I’m a sinner, but thankfully Jesus loves to forgive sins, He died for me, and I can go on sinning as I please.” No! It’s true that Jesus loves to forgive you. It’s true that Jesus died for you. The response to that is not to go on sinning. It’s to knock it off! It’s to fight against the sin that still plagues you in your old sinful flesh. It’s to repent when you fall, and to get back up with God’s help and fight again. It’s to strive to do, to make a beginning of doing, what God commands for your good. That’s the thankful Christian life. And this is a Word of God that is sorely needed in our contemporary culture and in the contemporary Church. To return to the original context of St. Paul’s words, understand this: It is unacceptable for a Christian to live in sexual immorality, in spite of what the media and the entertainment industry would have you believe. For some reason we’ve forgotten that. Time to repent.
St. Paul calls the works of the flesh “the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5:7; ESV). In the Scriptures, leaven is a symbol of false doctrine, or, as is the case in our text, manifest sin. Just a little bit of leaven in a lump of dough works its way all through the lump, causing the whole loaf of bread to rise. This is good for those of us who love bread. But it is not good when a little bit of false doctrine or a little bit of manifest sin works its way through the Christian Church, or through your Christian life. Just a little bit of this disastrous leaven infects the whole thing. At Passover, the Israelites were to get rid of all the leaven in their cupboards and then sweep the house clean in case any of the leaven got on the floor. Only unleavened bread was consumed during Passover. In one sense this was a practical concern… no time to wait around for the bread to rise when we’re gearing up for the Exodus from Egypt. But the spiritual meaning was this: No false doctrine, no idolatry, no manifest sin is to infect God’s people. Sweep it out! Get rid of it. Not because God is some kind of almighty kill-joy, but because it’s harmful. Because God loves you and wants what is best for you and knows what will hurt you. He’s your Father. Just as earthly parents know what is best for their kids, and what will hurt them, so your heavenly Father knows what is best for you. His commandments are given for your good.
We have not kept those commandments. So Jesus had to die. He had to die on the cross for us. And in Him there is full and free forgiveness of all our sins: Forgiveness for our sexual immorality, forgiveness for our idolatry, forgiveness for our failure to call upon His Name and our despising of His Word, forgiveness for our failure to love our neighbor as ourselves and to serve our neighbor in every need. Thanks be to God for the forgiveness of sins that we have in Christ Jesus, who died for us, and who has been raised from the dead. Since that is the case, let us not go on in sin as if nothing happened. As St. Paul writes, “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8). Because the empty tomb changes everything. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. He has triumphed gloriously over His enemies. He has delivered us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. In Christ, we are free. And we have eternal life.
Beloved in the Lord, what sins still afflict you? Confess them to Christ and believe that His death and resurrection are for you. He says to you this morning, “I forgive you all your sins.” He is not lying. Cling to His Word of forgiveness. And come to His Supper, His victory feast, to be strengthened for your life in this fallen flesh. The Day is coming when Jesus will return visibly, and then there will be no more struggle. Just as He is risen from the dead, you will live before Him in your body, in perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. No more leaven. Only the perfect bliss and righteousness of your blessed Lord Jesus. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.