He is risen!

Christ is Risen3 (610x352)“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).  A reasonable question to ask.  What did the women seek, early on that Sunday morning?  They woke up early to finish Jesus’ burial.  He died the Friday before, and the Sabbath arrived too early to prepare His body for the tomb.  So, the women came with burial spices and oils.

They expected to find a massive stone still sealing the tomb.  After they arrived, however, they find an open, empty tomb and two men inside it.  Heavenly brightness blazes forth from them.  So, we learn they are not ordinary men, but angels.

“He is not here.  He is risen,” they proclaim.  Those words from the angels should not surprise the women.  Earlier, Jesus told His followers—three times—in clear, plain-spoken language, that He would rise from death.  “The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day” (Luke 24:7).

Put yourself in the place of the disciples.  They left their lives and livelihood to follow Jesus.  Andrew, Peter, James, and John left the family fishing business to go off with a rabbi from Nazareth, who said little more to them than “Follow Me.”  Matthew left a profitable tax-collection business to follow Jesus.

Life, at first, went well for them.  Their eyes took in many of Jesus’ miracles.  They crackled with excitement as the many crowds followed Jesus.  Popularity was a close friend with Jesus until He started His “crazy talk.”  “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).  “The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day” (Luke 24:7).

After the women had returned, the others didn’t believe them.  Such news sounded ridiculous.  When the empty tomb later confronted Peter, he wondered what happened (Luke 24:12).  Jesus’ earlier words faded in his memory, so he didn’t believe Jesus was alive.

Peter’s response gives Luke’s account the ring of authenticity.  How embarrassing to show such unbelief, more so even later, when Luke wrote his Gospel.  Now, if you want to look good, you would sanitize such an uncomfortable truth from the account.

The disciples didn’t expect a resurrection, despite what Jesus told them.  The women didn’t expect a risen Jesus, even though He told them earlier.  So, the message from the tomb brings our Lord’s words back to mind.  “He is not here.  He is risen.  Remember how He told you.”  Jesus fulfills His earlier prophecies.  He proves Himself to be a true prophet.  He shows you can trust His word.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and raised for the sake of our justification” (Romans 4:25).  The Corinthians in our Epistle reading looked forward to a never-ending soul floating around in heaven for all eternity.  For them, that was the end game: the eternal soul.  A resurrected body, however, was too much for them to stomach.

Consider the possibility of Jesus not rising from death in His physical body?  Paul goes on to flesh out the implications of such a scenario.  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  So, if Jesus didn’t rise from death, you’re wasting your time coming to church.  Your belief in Christ is for nothing.  Why bother?  If Christ didn’t rise from death, then all those who died in ages past are lost, and we will never see them again.

What if Christ’s body still lay in the tomb?  What if some box of bones is out there with His remains?  You need to find another religion—or give up.  Jesus’ resurrection is that significant!  What if Christ is still dead?  You then can’t trust a single word He said.  His claim of fulfilling God’s Law is nothing but meaningless talk and an empty dream.

Not true, for Christ is alive!  The angel’s word rings out from the tomb, across the centuries to enter your ears, today.  “He is risen!”  The women’s eyes, ears, and tongues testified to that truth.  Peter and John’s eyes experienced the empty tomb, and they testified to it, as well.  So did many others.

The word of a resurrected Jesus may seem like nonsense to the skeptic inside us.  To the logical person, dead people don’t come back from death.  Suspend your skepticism and hang it on the cross.

The first witnesses of a resurrected Jesus testified with their lives.  Every Apostle died a martyr’s death, except the Apostle John.  To save themselves, they only needed to deny Jesus’ resurrection from the grave.  The Romans and the religious authorities of Israel could’ve suppressed this Jesus movement at the start.  They only needed to parade His rotting corpse through the streets; but they didn’t, for no dead body existed for them to find.  For Jesus is risen, as He prophesied.

We live in an exciting time.  We live in the “last days” of the old creation, the time of the fulfillment.  Jesus completed His work of saving this fallen cosmos on the cross.  The new creation dawns, culminating on the Day of His return.  “For just as, in Adam, all die; so also, in Christ, will all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Christ is risen.  His Word is vindicated.  The words of the Apostle prove true.  The preached Word and the Sacraments are for real, as Jesus said.  Your faith in Christ is justified.  You can be as confident of your resurrection as Jesus rising from death, who now lives and reigns to all eternity.

The preached Word of Christ is not in vain.  Your faith is not in vain.  For, in Christ, God forgives you your sins.  A risen Jesus gives You hope in this life—and in your death!  He gives you hope for eternal life—and hope for a new creation.  It all hangs, however, on this one, little sentence: Christ is risen.

In our Lenten journey to Easter, we pondered our Lord’s words from the cross.  “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”  Those were among our Lord’s last words, and fittingly so.  Being “in the Father’s hands” is a good place to be, but that word is not the end, but only the beginning.

“It is finished.”  Maybe, that word from our Lord is the place to end.  Not so, for that word on the cross is not the end of the end, but the beginning of another.  The past is over and done, forgiven, crucified, buried, dead—but only to open the way for God’s new plan, a future beginning.

“I thirst.”  The dryness afflicting Jesus on the cross shows that He, the Son of God, is a real human.  “I thirst” shows us a God, who is not unconcerned, distant, or foreign to our problems and needs.  He is present, even to something as common as thirst.  In the future awaiting us, we “will hunger and thirst no more” (Revelation 7:16).  A new existence awaits, which our Lord will call into being on another Day.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Such a fitting and honest sentence from Jesus on the cross.  Our Lord said that death is final and irrevocable.  So, after you speak all your words and do all your deeds, who can intercede or change that fact?  In death, if nowhere else in life, you are alone.

No so!  Easter shouts this truth: We are not alone!  Jesus is alive and with us.  The Father, who gave Him to the world as Emmanuel, God with us, gives Him once again, now risen from death.  Easter proves the presence of the Lord—we are not alone!

“Look, your son… look, your mother.”  Such kind words from Jesus, speaking of care and concern, of a continuing legacy.  What motivates someone to care for another after a loved one is gone?  Is it the memory?  Is it trying to hang on to someone we’ve lost by hanging on to the others who remain?  “Look, your son… look, your mother.”

The Lord, who entrusted His mother to His disciple’s care, is with us still, alive.  So, our life with those who have died in the Faith is not hopeless, a severed reality, never to be re-connected.  Jesus gives us a family tie, which even death cannot sever.

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise”; Jesus spoke a good word, a final gesture of good will.  He makes a promise, which reaches beyond what we can grasp ourselves.  In Christ, the gates of Paradise are open once more, for even the gates of death cannot prevail.  He is risen!

If you came to our midweek services, you might be thinking, “Pastor, you forgot one of the words from the cross.”  Not so; I’m saving the first for last: “Father, forgive them.”  A word the dying world needs, a word we need, and a fitting one on which to end.

But what makes such forgiveness possible?  Our Lord does.  For the One, who prayed those words and died for them, is now alive.  Because He now lives, He can deliver the Father’s forgiveness to us in Word and Sacrament, just as He said.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  Our Lord’s word of forgiveness is not the end, but the beginning.  Easter is God’s magnificent proof that our Lord’s death on the cross was not in vain!  So, all those last words from our Lord on the cross were not His last words at all.

The ending and beginning Word is Jesus calling forth your body from the grave when He returns.  He’s the alpha, the first, the beginning; He’s also the omega, the last, and the end (Revelation 1:8, 22:13).  Jesus rose from death—in His body—so also will you.  Our Lord’s eternity of a risen body and soul also await you.  That changes everything.  For Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!