is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. Amen. The sermon text for this 3rd Sunday of Easter is
from the Gospel according to St. Luke, Chapter 24.
Christ is not raised, then I am a liar!” That’s pretty much what the apostle Paul writes in 1st
Corinthians, chapter 15. There Paul states clearly: “If Christ has not
been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we
are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God
that he raised Christ from the dead.”
if Christ has not been raised, worse than being liars, Paul and I and Pastor
Nuckols and every Christian pastor who has proclaimed Jesus Christ crucified,
died, buried, and resurrected from the dead—all preachers of the Gospel, in
fact—are guilty of the greater sin of misrepresenting God! And to misrepresent
God is to put ourselves in the place of deciding what God wants to reveal to
the world. It would be blasphemy; damnable blasphemy.
ask the familiar Lutheran theological question, then: What does this mean?
It means that absolutely everything about Christianity hinges on the truth of
its claim that Jesus Christ rose from the grave after being killed on the cross.
Our faith pivots around the reality that on the first day of the week some
2,000 years ago, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” as Pilate’s sign
proclaimed, walked out of the borrowed grave where Nicodemus and Joseph of
Arimathea had laid his body as the sun set on the Sabbath two days earlier.
the validation of Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sins, which the
resurrection in large part demonstrates, we would still be dead in our
trespasses—as dead as His body would have remained—and our faith would be
totally futile. We would have no hope unless His true flesh had returned to
life: His heart beating, His new blood of the New Covenant moving through His
veins and arteries. His blood had been shed on the cross for you, but God did
not abandon Him to the grave, nor did He let His holy one see decay.
of the great scandals among some so-called Christians today is that many think
that Christ’s people can have faith and receive salvation without Christ’s resurrection
or even without His death for our sins. It is taught all around us that the
ethical and wisdom teachings of Jesus—apart from His sinless life, undeserved
suffering and death, and His glorious resurrection, still makes Christianity something
worthy of being a part.
not believe this lie, dear friends. Do not let it go unchallenged. Without Jesus’
resurrection, our religion truly is as worthless as Paul says it is, and we
have been lied to and continue to lie and blaspheme God.
various points in history, and yet today, many Christians have tried to make
the resurrection more acceptable to a skeptical world, just as many have often
striven to avoid the scandal of the bloody cross. They water the resurrection
down and minimize the power of God by saying that Jesus’ return to life and His
appearances to His followers on so many occasions was just a “spiritual
resurrection.” They will say that it doesn’t really matter whether His body physically
came back to life, so long as His spirit moved people to believe in God’s
forgiveness because of Christ’s faithful suffering and death.
rationalize and say that “He lives,” but all they really mean that “He lives within
their hearts,” giving them comfort and guidance, a conscience devoid of
divinity. They don’t believe that He actually still lives and reigns to all
eternity at the right hand of the Father, as we confess in the creeds which
Christians have confessed for centuries
lies are dangerous. God has been misrepresented; the person and work of Jesus
has been falsely taught. Thanks be to God that none of these errors about the
resurrection are true.
not a weakness that Christianity’s foundation rests on the historical claims
and factual reality of the resurrection. It’s not a flaw, something that
unbelievers can point to and pick at. Rather, it’s the resurrection that makes
Christianity so unique and so compelling. It’s what is so startling about Easter.
appearance to multiple witnesses, on multiple occasions, and their testimony to
its reality in spite of the often horrible consequences and suffering of making
such claims, is perhaps the strongest defense of the fact that it is
the very first Easter, as you can read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, unbelievers
have tried to concoct reasoned arguments and alternative explanations for the
fact that people saw and heard and touched Jesus after He arose from the
grave. They continue to scramble to find ways to disprove Christianity.
sorts of attacks are not to be unexpected. They simply show how focused the
world is to shift the claims of Christianity from the realm of
divinely-revealed objective truth to just one more type of religious expression
in a world that has millions of them.
more, skeptics would love to take your faith and move it into the realm of
personal feelings or sweet sentimentality. Then you wouldn’t have a faith that
is rooted in something real and tangible, but just in wishful thinking or
symbolic semantics. But the Holy Spirit will not allow you to surrender under
such attacks, nor retreat into the relativism and subjectivism that hides the
real Jesus, including the resurrected Jesus.
and every day, you and I have the distinct honor and blessing of knowing the
truth about Jesus’ resurrection, and the duty to take that truth to a world that
remains skeptical about that resurrection. Even many Christians, perhaps some
among us today, still wrestle with doubt. Tell them the joyous news that we
know with certainty that which we proclaim: Christ is Risen! He
is risen indeed; Alleluia!
before our Gospel lesson for today begins, the two disciples who were met by
Jesus on the road to Emmaus had returned to the city and told those hiding in
fear and uncertainty that the startling news they had heard was true: Christ had
risen. And Christ Himself stood among them again just then, proving His
you think about it for a moment, though the resurrection itself is a miraculous
and divine action. The way Jesus proves His resurrection is actually rather
unremarkable. After all, how do you prove someone is alive, and not dead? It’s
quite simple, really: If He is walking and talking in your midst, eating food,
offering you His hands and His side to touch and feel, it’s pretty
unmistakable! It doesn’t take anything extraordinary to prove someone is alive
again. Common proofs for an uncommon Savior. It’s not a difficult as proving
you’re the Son of God; that takes some miracles, like feeding the 5,000;
healing the sick and the lame; and walking on water.
our sakes, and for all who would believe, Jesus proved both things: that He is the
Son of God, and that He is alive.
was no group hysteria, no delusion, no phantom or hallucination. And it
certainly wasn’t some wild story cooked up to start a new religion. Fake
stories like that tend to get quashed and recanted the first time someone
threatens you with death for telling them.
there were many, many witnesses of the resurrected Jesus—literally hundreds them,
as Paul describes it in 1st Corinthians. Most of the disciples who
were there in the locked room that night and many other early Christians died
martyr’s deaths standing by what they saw with their own two eyes. That’s not
something you would do to defend a lie.
it doesn’t really do us much good just to know and proclaim that the
resurrection is true, if we fail to recognize its significance. What did Jesus
reveal to His disciples that night, after the others had returned from Emmaus?
He gave them the gift of understanding, opening their eyes to see that He was
the focus of all the Scriptures, and the complete fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.
He had to remind them again of what He had told them before, that it was
necessary that all the things written of Him must come to pass.
was written, He said, that He would suffer and to die and be raised again on
the third day. But why? For what reason? So that repentance and forgiveness of
sins in His name might be proclaimed to all nations. And what did He say of the
disciples? That they were witnesses of these things. Eyewitnesses who knew the
truth, would proclaim the truth, and would defend the truth!
death and resurrection were made clear to them, and they were given a full
understanding of how God had planned for our salvation, from the very beginning
of the world, and even before—for we are told in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians
that we were chosen by the Father to be saved in Christ even before the foundations
of the world.
a joyful and wondrous revelation this is! We were chosen to receive the
incomprehensible gift of salvation, according to the will of God, long before our
parents ever conceived us; long before they even existed themselves. Apart
from any plans or abilities on our part, the holy Son of God came to us in
human flesh, subjected Himself to the same Law we would need to follow
perfectly in order to be worthy of salvation, and obeyed that Law.
you, He allowed Himself to be humiliated, shamed, and rejected by His own
chosen people. He was condemned to die as a criminal, taking on your
punishment and giving you His righteousness.
can this be? It makes no rational, intellectual sense at all. We are the ones
who deserve death for treating Him this way, and for all our rejections of His
Law. But Jesus showed us the true meaning of love, sacrificing Himself up both
for His friends and His enemies. He determined to redeem us, to purchase us
back as His own. He would make us holy and clean so that we can stand in the
presence of our Holy God and Creator, and not to face death, but to know and
trust we have been granted life eternal!
is why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to our faith, and must be
defended and confessed by all believers, even when facing our own death! There
was no fear in death for the disciples who died for their confession of Jesus
Christ. There was no fear because Christ had removed the curse and sting of eternal
death by taking away all our sin. This, then, is the hope that can’t be removed
from the Christian faith: the hope of the Resurrection from the dead.
also, when we believe in the Risen Christ, our minds are opened to understand the
Scriptures rightly. We begin to read the Scriptures in a new light, the Light
of Christ. We see how all the Old Testament points forward to Him, as the
fulfillment of God’s promises. And we see how all the New Testament points us
back to Him as the source and center of our faith and life. Like the disciples,
we come to realize that the cross and death of Jesus was not the tragic failure
of God’s plan, but instead was where Christ accomplished His victory over sin
therefore proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the center of our message
to all the world. Because His death was not in vain, neither is our faith and
our proclamation of the Gospel in vain. In His rising, He has given us life,
to give us a share in His Resurrection from the dead. So we can say with all
boldness, He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.