Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord (April 5, 2015)

The Resurrection of Our Lord (April 5, 2015)

We hear the voice of Jesus in the Gospels.  In fact, in some Bibles, the very words that came from his mouth are printed in red ink.  This practice has been around since 1899 when the first New Testament was printed with the words of Christ in red.  It was the idea of Louis Klopsch, editor of the Christian Herald magazine.  Klopsch wanted to print the words of Jesus in the color of blood, since Jesus shed his blood for the sins of the world at the cross, establishing the New Covenant, the free gift of the forgiveness of sins by faith in Jesus’ finished work at the cross.[1]
            In our Lenten midweek services this year, we heard the words of Jesus from the cross.  The “Seven Last Words of Jesus” has been a familiar Lenten theme over the years, in particular on Good Friday when we remember his death and all that it means for us.
            Now, we are at the tomb.  Here, there are no words from Jesus.  No red letters.  Only silence.  He is silent because he is not here.  And Jesus does often seem silent to us.  We tell him our hurts in prayer, and there is only silence.  We cry out to him in the midst of our pain, and our voice echoes back to us from the walls of our bedroom, the walls of our study, the walls of our hospital room.  Especially in the face of death, Jesus seems silent.  And we are afraid … like the women who came to the tomb on Sunday morning after the Lord’s death … like the disciples who fled and hid in fear … like Peter who was afraid of what God must think of him after denying that he even knew Jesus.  Jesus is silent.  We know how we have acted towards God.  And we are afraid of what he must think of us.
            But in fact, there is no silence at the tomb.  The empty tomb itself cries out, “He has risen!”  Jesus is who he said he was.  He is God in the flesh.  He is the Messiah.  He is the Savior of the world.  The cross and the empty tomb tell us exactly what God thinks of us.  He loves us.
            In fact, there is no silence at the tomb.  Here, we do not hear the voice of Jesus, but rather the voice of an angel.  He says, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.”  The sinless Son of God was crucified as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins.  The punishment for the sins of the world – for your sins and my sins – were laid upon Jesus, credited to his account.  Now, your account is marked “paid in full.”  The forgiveness of the world – your forgiveness – has been earned by Jesus.  There is nothing left for you to do other than to receive his gift of life and salvation by faith … by trusting in what Christ has done for you.
            “He has risen; he is not here,” the angel’s voice continues.  Jesus is risen from the dead as the victor over sin.  He is risen from the dead as the conqueror over all the consequences of sin … death, which is the wages of sin; and hell, which is eternal separation from God for all who refuse to receive the forgiveness of sins that Jesus has earned for them, for those who think they don’t need a Savior.
            But you who are baptized are united to Jesus in his death and resurrection.  In Romans 6, Paul says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).  Holy Baptism means the death of your sinful nature.  In baptism, your sinful nature has been put to death so it is no longer the ruling force in your life.  Paul says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin … For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:6, 14).  Baptism means the creation and resurrection of a new nature within you.  In baptism, you are made to be a new creation with a heart of faith and a new will that wants to please God and obey him.  In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17), and again in Romans 6, “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.”  Baptism means the death of the Law’s condemnation against you.  In baptism, you are marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  All that he accomplished for you is applied to you personally.  You are declared “not guilty.”  In Romans 8, Paul boldly announces, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  And Baptism also is the promise of your own resurrection on the Last Day when Jesus returns again in glory.  Back in Romans 6, the apostle promises, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5). 
            The late Christian theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled “The God Who is There” with its sequel “He is There and He Is Not Silent.”  The angel said to the women, “He has risen; he is not here.”  Not “here” in the tomb, that is.  But in fact, Jesus has risen … and he is here!  To paraphrase Francis Schaeffer: “He is here and he is not silent.”
            The voice of nature cries out to us of God’s existence.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Creation tells us that there is a Creator.  In Romans 2, Paul speaks of those who do not have God’s written Law, yet “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Rom. 2:15).  Our conscience tells us that there are standards of right and wrong that come from somewhere … we say it’s God.
            But nature does not tell us all that we need to know.  We need a further revelation, and he’s given that to us in his Word, the Bible.  Jesus speaks to us today through his Word … and not just the red letters.  In the Bible, we hear God’s Word of Law which tells us what we are to do and not to do … and we come to realize that we have failed to do God’s will.  But God has given us another Word, his Word of Gospel.  The Gospel is the Good News that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
            The empty tomb cries out along with the voice of the apostles who testified to having seen the risen Jesus.  Paul also mentions that the Risen Jesus had appeared to over five hundred people at one time.  His opponents could have very easily produced a dead body and put and end to any hysteria over the crazy expectations of his followers.  But his followers were not expecting him to rise.  They were hiding in fear.  Even though Jesus had told them he would rise after three days, they still doubted.  They were as surprised as anyone else when the tomb was empty.  But after they saw the Risen Lord, they were changed like no one else in history and went out and boldly added their voice to the angel that “He has risen!”  We hear their testimony that Jesus is alive, and he still speaks to us today through Christian parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and so on, as they faithfully teach the Scriptures to us, which is the very Word of God.
            He is here and he is not silent.  He is with us today, our omnipresent, omnipotent Lord.  “I am with you always,” he said to his disciples.  He is with us also sacramentally in the bread and the wine: “This is my body; this is my blood” he said to them on the night he was betrayed and gave us the Lord’s Supper.  This altar is our Galilee.  This altar is our Jerusalem.  This is the place where he is personally present for us … for life, forgiveness, and salvation … just as he has told us in his Word.
            Come and meet him here.
                        Come partake of his life here.
                Come with trembling and astonishment … not in fear, but in peace and joy, for…
                        Christ is risen!
            He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


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