Christ is risen! He is risen indeed; Alleluia!
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Here’s a pop quiz for you. Don’t worry, it’s only one question. I’m even going to give you the potential answers. Your choices are Old Testament and New Testament. Ready for the question? The Bible says that God’s Word of forgiveness in Christ will spread through the world. Where? Where does it say, “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [Christ’s] name to all nations”? Again, your choices are Old Testament and New Testament.
So, which is it? C’mon, you’ve got a 50-50 shot at being right, don’t you? Well, not really. Because if you chose “New Testament and not Old,” then you are wrong. But if you just mentally erased your answer and changed it to “Old Testament and not New,” then you are even more wrong. Just moments ago in the Gospel lesson from the New Testament book of Luke, we heard Jesus tell His disciples these exact words: “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations…” However, Jesus introduces this by saying, “Thus it is written…” That’s New Testament language for saying, “The Old Testament says…” So, both the New Testament AND the Old Testament together say that God’s Word of pardon—of forgiveness in Christ—will spread throughout the world, beginning from Jerusalem. Note this carefully, also: It doesn’t say when—or where—we should stop.
And if that is a surprise to us, then shame on us. Because most of us have been Christians long enough to know better, long enough to read through our own Bibles cover to cover more than once, and to come across this verse in Luke 24. If you’ve used your Bible so much that you’ve have worn out the pages, or—having failed to read it for so long that you’ve misplaced it—then I’m sure Wal-Mart or Target would be happy to sell you a new Bible this afternoon when you shop for bread, peanut butter, socks, and shampoo, and all those other items, too—especially the ones you don’t really need.
We have comforts and luxuries in our lives that most of God’s believers have never known at any point in history, and most still don’t today. This one simple, obvious fact—staring us in the face every day—makes our doubts about His goodness all the more ignorant and wicked.
Just like baptism and the crucifixion, like repentance and confession, recollection of—and thanksgiving for—God’s First-Article goodness ought to be a part of our daily remembrance. What’s more, especially in this Easter season more than any other time of the year, we focus on remembrance of Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus has risen from the dead so that you would be rescued from darkness; that you would have fellowship with Christ in knowing your justification and purification by His blood; that you would find salvation only in His name. He shows Himself to have flesh and bone to eyewitnesses, and He not only sends them off to you and to the world in their Words of the New Testament, Jesus also gives us the facts of the Old Testament—promises to hang our faith on; promises fulfilled in Him, by Him, and through Him. Even some promises that are already ours, just not fully realized yet.
It turns out that the Old Testament is not all that different from the New Testament. It’s the same story, because it is all about Jesus. Not some scattered passages here and there, but rather every single page connects the dots to tell us that the Son of God comes to save His people.
There is Jesus on the first pages of the Old Testament, foreshadowed as the new Adam even in the earliest days of the old Adam. He is put into the deep sleep of death while God the Father takes the Blood and Water from His side to create a new Eve, the Christian Church, to be His Son’s Bride. There is Jesus, the perfect and new Abel, the perfect and new Joseph, sacrificed into death by their brothers’ jealousy. Yet God works their evil intentions for His merciful rescue. There is Jesus, the angel of the Lord, intervening in Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, Isaac, the Father’s only Son Whom He loves.
We are Isaac, with God’s death sentence hanging over us for our imperfect obedience. Christ is the ram for the offering, too, the substitute that God Himself has provided, caught in the thicket of the Cross.
There is Jesus on the night of the Passover, the night of freedom for the Israelites from the land of slavery inEgypt. We are Israel, in bondage to death, powerless to free ourselves from our diabolical taskmaster of Sin. Jesus is the Passover Lamb, roasted by the fire of God’s judgment and His burning desire to save the world from sin. We eat and drink His seemingly plain and sparse Supper, but in it we are granted freedom and joy in, with, and under His shed blood.
There is Jesus in the Exodus, as Israel passes through their baptism in the water and clouds of the Red Seaaccompanied by Christ. Like Noah’s flood, the Red Sea crossing corresponds to Baptism, which now saves you. You come out of Baptism alive as God’s people, standing on solid ground—the Rock of Christ.
Your old sinful nature, however, is drowned as the water comes down upon it. When you see this salvation, you—like the Israelites on the seashore—believe in the Lord because God chose you to be a member of His royal priesthood, His holy nation. Peter also describes us as “a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
There is Jesus, the prophet like Moses, but one greater than Moses—one who must die before He enters the Promised Land. Not for his own disobedience, like Moses, but for ours. He is our bridge over Jordan just as He is our bridge from death to life. There is Jesus, too, the new Joshua, leading us out of the wilderness and into God’s Promised Land.
There is Jesus, the new David in weak human flesh, on the battlefield appearing scrawny and harmless in the shadow of Goliath Satan. And yet Jesus is victorious. There is Jesus, the new Son of David and Bathsheba, who dies because of David’s adultery and murder—and yet David knows he shall see his Son after this life.
There is Jesus, the new Daniel, rejected for His faithfulness to the Lord and sent into the lion’s den of death, but coming out of the pit in the morning, safe and exalted over His enemies. There is Jesus, the new Jonah, brought back to the land of the living after three days in the gut of death, going without reluctance to preach repentance and forgiveness in His name to all the Ninevehs everywhere. There is Jesus, praying the Psalms, even the Psalms confessing sins; He had no guilt of His own, but He has taken our wickedness and treats it as if it belonged to Him.
Rooted in that history of God’s Old Testament people, all of their battles, their ups and downs, successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses, is this single message: That the Christ, God’s anointed One, the Messiah, would suffer and die and on the third day rise again in order to save the whole messed-up world, so that all the nations would be blessed. Literally hundreds of years before it all happened, it is written down and handed on, all pointing to what Jesus said: “It is finished.” Jesus Christ, the Righteous One “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
If we do not know that “thus it is written,” if we are ignorant that the Son of God is everywhere in the Old Testament with His free grace and favor, then we neither know the Scriptures, nor the power therein. And that was where the Disciples were that Easter evening.
They hadn’t yet grasped that they stood purified of all unrighteousness. They knew God was powerful, but they did not understand the power of God. But then, God is there—back from the dead in the flesh, eating and drinking in their presence.
It turns out that seeing is not believing, at least not in its entirety, for they could not understand the Scriptures until Jesus opened their minds. Now they know that Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms were fulfilled when Christ suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and when repentance and forgiveness of sins is preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Isaiah 2 prophecies that the Lord’s teaching “will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” to the nations. All so that God shall bring others to His holy mountain and give them joy in His house of prayer as He faithfully forgives them. For He promises, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).
You live in that fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises. God has sent His witnesses’ Words to you. You live in fulfillment of God’s promise as you “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). You live in fulfillment of God’s promise as you receive His bodily presence at His Supper for the remission of sins, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
You live in fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promise as you declare the wonders and promises of God to others each day, for “you are witnesses of these things” around your kitchen table, on the telephone, at the park, in the car, before church, after church. Pastors have pulpits, missionaries have outposts and Apostles and Prophets have their Scriptures from which to speak.
Never, ever think that the opportunities and people God gives to you each day are any less important, though. Speak about Christ crucified and risen to someone who has never been to church, to someone who has been absent a long time or too frequently, or even to someone who never misses a Sunday. It doesn’t matter if they have heard it before. Tell them again! We must never tire of hearing God’s wonderful love at the cross, for it is the message that saves us. Nor should we tire of hearing of the resurrection, for it seals those promises of salvation.
Or do you think that you have no sin that offends God? Or do you think that others’ sin is any less offensive to God? They need the sacrifice of Jesus just as much as you do, for there is no other way to salvation. Do you think that a suffering, died, buried, and resurrected Christ is not really relevant to people caught up in the business of living? Do you think it does not apply to the daily life of every person, all of whom are sinners?
It’s critical for all, particularly in our age of alienation from others as well as from God. There is encouragement in being united in Christ. There is comfort from His sacrificial love. There is fellowship with the Holy Spirit, too, but only because Jesus died and rose again. So, if people face financial problems, have a new baby or a new job, receive a great healing, have doubts rising in their hearts, or are fallen into sin, what do you do? Tell them that Jesus died for their sins, and is risen for their forgiveness, life and salvation. When you offer your condolences at the funeral home, or when you are the one receiving sympathy, don’t just say something trite like, “He’s in a better place” without telling them why it’s infinitely better, or how you know that it is. Tell them that Jesus died and rose again for them. As bad or as good as this life gets, it will not last forever. But the Lord’s Word endures forever, and He who is faithful will deliver you from evil.
Are you thinking that you might tell them, but you do not think you can get them to believe you? That is exactly right. No matter what you say, you cannot convince them. As I told those at yesterday’s Men’s Breakfast,“you can’t argue anyone into heaven.” You would be lying to yourself if you thought you could. It is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to open their minds to believe Christ’s word of peace. That is God’s job.
Jesus opened the disciples’ minds, and whenever the Bible uses the word “open” like that, it is always the work of God, never man. Opening the eyes of the blind. Opening the ears of the deaf. Opening the mouth of the mute. Opening the wombs of the barren women. Opening heaven. All done by God.
And so, after Jesus rises from the dead, He opens the disciples’ minds by cleaning out the filth and the fear, and by forgiving the lies they had believed. Instead, he fills their minds with His Word, His Truth, His wisdom. And Jesus has done this for you and the great multitude of Christians who have heard the Apostles’ eyewitness accounts, too.
So just say the Word. His, not yours. Declare His wonders, simply and clearly. And let Christ be Christ. Believe that He has saved you without your works. Jesus knows our sins better than we do, yet He did not turn aside and forsake us. No, He went to the Cross and came back to life through the Resurrection to rescue and save us. He lived our life and died our death. And because He now lives, you also will live (John 14:19), now and forever. Thus it is written—in the New Testament and in the Old.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!