In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Resurrection of Our Lord
April 16, 2006
The joy of Easter does not depend on the weather – if it is snowing and cold or if it is stormy or if it is bright and sunny – such things do not change the meaning of Easter. The joy of Easter does not depend on us, on whether or not we have an “Easter feeling.” The joy of Easter does not depend on its recognition in the world – what do headlines on magazines or newspapers, or lead stories on daily news shows, which today are here and tomorrow are gone – what can these do to Easter? Nothing.
The joy of Easter is about a fact, and about what that fact means for people, for you. Easter is the fact that Jesus, the Jesus who was dead on Friday, is alive on Sunday morning. Easter is the fact that the Son of God was not defeated by worldly enemies, nor by Satan, nor by death itself. Easter is a time of joy because it proclaims to the world what God has done in Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Therefore we rejoice this Easter morning, not depending on anything other than the truth of God’s Word which brings to us the news, the message and power of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Away then with all worries and cares and concerns and troubles. For Jesus is alive, and that means you have life, too. Let us then all rise and join in singing to each other and praising God with the hymn:
Hymn 348 – “He Is Arisen! Glorious Word!”
Text: Mark 16:1-8
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 “But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Dear people gathered on this day of resurrection,
We know that every year for the past several decades, at least, various efforts are made through printed materials and through special broadcasts to raise doubts about the facts of Christianity: especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary’s Son. So this year we have the fantasy of the Gospel of Judas examined by so-called “scholars” and declared to be another hurdle for the Christian Church. “What will this do to those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” the scholars wonder.
After you’ve been around a few decades, most Christians get used to these contrived events. But, for those of you who see this as something that does make you wonder, think of it this way: instead of it being looked on as a challenge to the faithful, I suggest that we look at these efforts, in whatever media they appear, as just more evidence of the fact of the resurrection. One can hardly imagine there needing to be such efforts year in and year out to discredit something, if that something were not considered too dangerous, and, true. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was not a bone stuck in the craw of many people, do you think they would expend the money and time to try to disgrace this great event in the history of humanity? By the very scale of the protests we get a good picture of just how much the resurrection truly discomforts people. It reminds me of the Passion history of Jesus when Pilate hears from the Jews that Jesus is called “the Son of God.” That’s when Pilate determines he wants nothing to do with judging Jesus. He washes his hands and says to the crowd: “you do it.” He was nervous about Jesus, and rightly so. There are many people nervous about the resurrection of Jesus, and they calm their nerves, or try to, by finding reasons not to believe it.
Why? Why not just believe it? Well, belief in the resurrection of Jesus entails believing in Jesus Himself, His birth, His life – the miracles and teachings – His suffering, death, and then resurrection. It also means believing in the reasons for Jesus coming here: our sin, our need for a Savior, and the love of God which sends the Savior. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, for you, means believing that you need it, and that, more than anything else, is what makes people not want to accept it.
Do you see what it comes down to? It comes down to confessing: “I am a sinner in thought, word, and deed, a sinner against God and against people.” And that is hard to admit; it is hard for us, it is hard for the unbeliever. Pride and stubbornness get in the way. And so Jesus is rejected. But that is just where we need Jesus the most.
Think of the efforts so many religions require of their followers. Think of the life of denial that Buddhists try to live, or Hinduism’s ways of works, knowledge, or devotion; or Islam’s requirements of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimages. Other religions all have their own sets of rules and regulations that are to be followed so that you can become more at peace with the world, with yourself, and with your ultimate destiny.
Now, sadly, some even make of Christianity a religion of rules, legal requirements, godly principles, and so on. And every time that happens, Christianity sinks away from its unique message, and becomes one more works-oriented religion of the world.
Christianity, biblical, Christ-centered Christianity, has no equal. It points away from our efforts. And it points to Christ. Sure, there are many things of good that we can do and even should do as the people of God: works of charity of all kinds, support and encouragement for the many people who need help. But these works are never part of the main fabric of the Church, for that place of honor is given only to the work of Christ and never to us or what we do. It is that unique understanding and teaching of God’s Word that puts Christ at center stage that the world hates. For as Christ is put there, we see how little our works can do. The world cannot stand when our efforts are minimized and Christ’s are maximized. Never forget that. It is never Christian charity that is despised here in this world, but it is the teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone that will be attacked. That is why the resurrection is attacked, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, the fact that Jesus is both truly God and truly man, and that He suffered and died, and rose again the third day. These are attacked, undermined, mocked, declared a hoax, because they are at odds with the religion of the sinful flesh and devil and world which wants us and what we do at center stage.
The resurrection of Jesus puts all that in the proper perspective. Our celebration of Easter says to the world: Jesus is at the heart of it all. He has won the victory and declares to all people on this day of His resurrection from the dead. He died for us all, for our sins, for our pride at thinking we could ever, in any way, measure up to what is needed for eternal life. He sweeps that all away like the remains of last year’s leaves from our yards and patios. He replaces our failed efforts with His own victory, His own death for us, His own resurrection so that we, too, may one day rise from the dead to life eternal, through faith in Jesus Christ.
On this Easter morning let us rejoice in the fact of the resurrection, and even more, rejoice in what it means for us, for all who have died in faith in this Jesus Christ, and for all who cling in faith to the One whom even death cannot destroy. This is Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer. God keep us in such faith, from now until we see Him face to face in life eternal. In the name of Jesus who was dead and is now alive. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed