Easter April 8, 2007
1 Peter 1:3-9
732 [TLH 202], 199, 341, 200(1-3)
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
In the name of Jesus our living Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
There is a cloud over Easter and we’re not talking about the weather. It is at this time of year when a good share of the world is thinking about religion that TIME, Newsweek, and other news magazines run features questioning the resurrection of Jesus. The document called “The Gospel of Judas,” says that the resurrection was rigged. By the way, this “Gospel of Judas” was found to be fraud about 300 A.D., but it just keeps coming up in the news every so often. Last year the best-selling book, The DaVinci Code, appeared in movie theaters. This book tries to dismantle just about every Christian doctrine there is by portraying Jesus as only a man who was built up into God-like status by His followers.
The Devil will continue to use what works for him which is creating doubt. But we are here this morning in spite of what the world may say. We are here to give credit where credit is due and praise our God. On this day we recall the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer, that final word of praise found in Matthew 6. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13). In the resurrection of Jesus we find all the reason needed to give Him praise. Today, then, let us blow aside doubt, and the gloom and doom mentality that pervades those who think that Jesus is in the tomb. By faith let us enjoy the certainty of our resurrection as found in the resurrection of Christ. Praise God! I. For the Kingdom belongs to Him (Come and see/Go and Tell), II. For the power belongs to Him (He is risen as He said) and III. For the glory belongs to Him (They came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him).
The Kingdom of God is unlike any other. People have historically had a hard time getting their minds to wrap around this fact. When we try to confine Biblical concepts to our mortal way of thinking we will fail. We do know that kings come to conquer. In this way Jesus is similar to an earthly king. The difference is in what Jesus came to defeat. We think of war in terms of conquering human enemies like terrorists who want to do harm to our nation. We’ve also heard of the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on crime. If Jesus wanted to defeat earthly armies, He would have done so. If He wanted to eradicate poverty in Palestine, He would have done so. If He wanted to lock up all the criminals, He certainly could have done that as well.
But those were not the enemies whom He targeted. He came to defeat sin, death, and the power of the Devil. This He did by leaving the tomb early Sunday morning on that first Easter. He proved that He had won the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ resurrection proves that the price paid on the cross was sufficient for sin. Atonement had been made and God declares us “not guilty” through Him.
In that one fell swoop Jesus won the war against the Devil. The best the Devil can do now is come up with junk like The DaVinci Code in order to cause doubt, but he can’t change the facts. Death was also defeated as believers are connected to Christ and will also follow in the resurrection.
As believers we live under Christ our King and function as citizens n His Kingdom. We don’t do so by fighting over what is called the Holy Land as many did in the crusades 1000 years ago. We don’t force other people into His Kingdom as in the days of the Inquisition. Rather it is the simplicity of what the angel told the women at the tomb. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.” [vv.6-7]
Do you want to work in Christ’s kingdom? Come, and see, and go, and tell. See in the empty tomb that Jesus did bodily rise from the dead. It’s not like somebody would say the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King is alive in the civil rights movement. Jesus is alive in every way. He did physically rise from the dead.
His Kingdom grows as this message of forgiveness in the resurrection goes out. It is not arguments or force that changes things. It is the message of life in Christ that has changed the world and changed individual lives, and that will continue to be what causes change. We acknowledge the kingdom belongs to Jesus when we rejoice in His resurrection and come and hear about it and then go and tell it. Be prepared after this holiday to carry the joy of the resurrection with you and work in God’s Kingdom.
We acknowledge that the power is Jesus’ as well. This is shown in His resurrection. The angel said in verse 6, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” Now anybody can say that they will raise themselves from the dead. I can think of at least three different cult leaders within the last 30 years that have made that claim and no doubt there are others. But only Jesus backed it up with an actual resurrection. He even gave the exact time period, “Destroy this temple in three days and I will raise it up” (John 2:19). His enemies remembered that prophecy and set guards around the tomb in case His disciples tried to steal the body. They knew what power there was if people believed that Jesus rose from the dead. When the angle rolled the stone away, those very guards were witness to the fact that the tomb was empty. Jesus then made a dozen resurrection appearances to many people confirming that He did what He had said. He is indeed the Son of God. “Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead” (Romans 1:4).
We acknowledge that power down to this very day. Jesus has power enough that He was able to create the world. One day He will use that power to destroy the earth. He will use that power to issue eternal death sentences and proclaim eternal life from His throne. He used that power to save us. All too often we forget about that power. Much of the world goes about their day-to-day business unaware of the power and might of Jesus. We do at times as well. We think that we have to solve every problem. We worry about the future.
Forgetting about Jesus’ power is very foolish. How much energy do we waste in worry, not recognizing that Jesus wants to solve our problems? Today in the resurrection we acknowledge Jesus to be the Son of God our Savior. We rejoice that all power belongs to Him and that He used it to forgive our sins and give us everlasting life.
We read how the women fell at the feet of Jesus and worshiped Him. They gave glory to Him as the Son of God. We are here today to do that very same thing. We are nothing but a pile of dirt—literally. We are made out of dust and one day will return to dust. We worship God as our Creator—the One who gave us physical life. We worship God as the One who caused us to be born again and gave us spiritual life. We worship God as the One who gives us eternal life in heaven . In all three of those areas we had no input. Nobody asked to be created. Nobody was able to make a decision to become spiritually alive—the dead can’t do that. Nobody will be able to revive themselves from the dead. The glory belongs to God alone!
Jesus told the women and tells us, “Do not be afraid.” [v.10] Give God the glory that you can live without fear. You don’t have the shadow of death hanging over your head. The greatest fear imaginable has been vanquished. Everybody wants to beat death. It’s the one great equalizer. No matter how much money you have. No matter how strong or good-looking you are, you will have to face death. Knowing of the resurrection of Jesus you can say, “Not a problem. I am connected to Jesus. He is called the first-fruits of the resurrection. This means that more resurrections will follow. God has guaranteed me that when I am in Him I have everlasting life.” Do not be afraid. Who can harm you when you’re in Christ? Not sin, not death, and not the power of the Devil.
There is the temptation of losing momentum in giving God glory. The joy of Easter fades in our minds and we drift back into a routine of taking God for granted. We learn in the Lord’s prayer that giving God the glory is not to be an occasional occurrence. Do not think that you’re giving credit where credit is due by finding your way to a church on Christmas and Easter and tipping your cap to God. Don’t think that you have all of the bases covered by paying your dues with weekly worship. Glorifying God is your life. It goes beyond this day and beyond these walls.
It’s not duty. It’s an honor. You have the guarantee that even though you will be buried or have your ashes scattered Jesus will raise you up to everlasting life. Death cannot harm you now. You are untouchable. You stand forgiven. You have a relationship with God. Jesus deserves glory day by day in our lives, with every word and thought. He has won us back from the Devil and the fires of Hell and promised you Paradise. It is an honor to give Him glory in all that we say and do. We can’t overdo it. There are not too many words, too many alleluias, or too many acts of kindness reflecting His love. You’ll be able to give Him glory in heaven forever, but it starts here on this earth. Christ lives and so do you!
For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. Amen!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.