• October 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Jul    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • Audio Sermons & Devotions

  • Recent Posts

  • Post Categories

  • Fighting for the Faith

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 564 other followers

  • Blog Stats

    • 39,841 hits
  • Advertisements

Christ Your Hope

Jesus.EmptyTomb

 

19 If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

 1 Corinthians 15:19-21

He is Risen.  He is Risen indeed.  Alleluia!

On this joyous occasion, Christ’s church confidently rejoices in the bodily resurrection of Jesus her Lord.   The suffering and death that Christ had endured is now past.  Jesus reigns victoriously over death and the grave.  His three-day tomb remains forever empty.  Jesus is risen, just as He had said.  Sin has lost its power and dominion.

Jesus our Savior died with your sin on the cross Good Friday.  But He who knew no sin, who became sin for us, was the only victor, the only one of the two standing when all was said and done.  Darkness had covered the land with Jesus’ death.  But now, the light of Christ shines brightly, piercing through the darkness of death and rejoicing the heart with resurrected gladness.

News of Christ’s triumph flows as a river throughout the world, giving life to all who drink from it.  This water is the pure water of God’s truth.  This water contains no contaminates, nor is any harmful material to be found in it.  It does not make sick.  It brings to health.  It does not make weak.  It brings strength.  It does not cause complacency.  It moves to faith.  It does not cause despondency.  It moves to confidence.  It does not bring hopelessness.  It raises to blessed assurance, the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, that He has overcome death and the grave.  Just as He has been resurrected from the dead, so you too are brought to life in Christ Jesus our Lord, raised from the deadness of your sin to the resurrection of eternal life.

This is good news!  Christ has now arisen.  Had Christ, who once was slain, not burst His three-day prison, our faith had been in vain.  The words of Hymn 482 in Lutheran Service Book, appropriately titled, “This Joyful Eastertide,” echo the words of St. Paul where he writes, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  With these words, St. Paul the apostle demonstrates the futility and the utter uselessness of faith apart from the bodily resurrection of our Lord.

In the day of this blessed apostle, there were those who claimed that there was no resurrection of the dead (v12).  For some reason, they had lost sight of the truth of Christ’s resurrection.   Having lost sight of that, they could do no other except lose sight of the hope and promise of God.  Though St. Paul proclaimed Christ as having been raised from the dead (v12), this message had lost significance among some in the church of Corinth.  Therefore, these men falsely concluded that there was no resurrection from the dead.  Having no confidence in the Lord’s resurrection, they could do no other except construct a hope of their own making.  In the process, the very hope that St. Paul had preached to them became null and void, not because it wasn’t true, but because there was no trust in what had been rightfully and diligently proclaimed.

Except it be for the witness and testimony of the Holy Scriptures, we too would be in the same boat of doubt and denial when it comes to the resurrection of the dead.   But the Words of God before us today reveal differently.  This day called Easter witnesses and testifies, according to the Bible, that there is a resurrection from the dead and that Christ is alive according to the flesh.

These things cannot be apprehended apart from God’s witness and testimony.  They cannot be understood and held to be true based on our own personal experiences.  Instead, the things of God are not naturally known.  They are revealed through the heavenly Word, not the heavenly word of our own heart or head, but the heavenly Word written and sealed in God’s book, written by the apostles’ and prophets.

If these Word’s of our Lord were not so, there would indeed be no bodily resurrection of Christ.  There would be no ‘rose again from the dead’ or ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’ of the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds.  Christians everywhere would be making false confessions and lying before the world of Him who died and rose again; if indeed Christ had not risen.

If there were no resurrection of the dead, all worship and praise would be empty and worthless.  There would be no need to worship in a Christian congregation, for all ‘roads would certainly lead to heaven.’  There would be no uniqueness to Christianity, for it would turn into a religion of salvation by works, as all the other religions are today.  Believers and nonbelievers alike would all be going to the same place.  It would not really matter what one believed, as long as one was sincere of heart.

If Christ did not rise, then it would truly be as St. Paul says, “If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v19).  If there was no resurrection of the dead, and if Christ had not been raised, then the church’s proclamation of her risen Lord would be for nothing.  Her number one priority would not be preaching the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, but preaching man’s works and emphasizing his own endeavors, not in the service of others, but for earning recognition with God.  God’s ministers would be false teachers and false witnesses, because they testify of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise (v14-15).

If Christ had not been raised, faith would be in vain.  Worship would be void and hypocritical.  There would be no reason to come to church, even only a few times a year, because there would be no hope in this hopeless world.  There would be no God but oneself, for who could know God if the Bible was untrue?  There would be no eternal hope for a blessed peace.  All would live as many do now, living for themselves and not for the Lord or for neighbor.  There would be little concern for the future and more for the instant gratification of today.

With no resurrection of the dead, nor resurrection of Christ, what would be the hope of sinful man before the just God?  Could man by His work or ability satisfy the penalty of sin, the debt of iniquity, or the guilt of transgression?  What would be the end of it all?   And what would be the end of the entire world, even of us who confess Christ Jesus to be Lord, except hopelessness, misery, and grief.  Satisfaction and contentment could never be guaranteed and everyone would be in the ‘rat race’ of trying to make peace with God at any expense and by any means.

But thanks be to God!  It is not as they in St. Paul’s day claimed.  Nor is it as many in our day believe, that Jesus is a crutch and that one has the power to altar or change one’s destiny before God.  Christ has indeed risen from the dead!  This means everything to us and to Christ’s church.  Death could not hold Him.  The grave could not bind Him.  The tomb could not contain Him.  Christ was not sealed in by death.  He opened the way to life, the hopeful life, the confident life, the blessed life, and the eternal life.

Christ is your hope this day.  By His death, He died your death.  By His life, you are raised to new life.  No longer does your guilt have the last word.  Consciences are clear and free.  The debt of your iniquity is paid.  The penalty of your sin, forgiven.  In Christ, you have everlasting hope before the just God.  Instead of liable, you are innocent.  Instead of accountable for sin, you are liberated from your sin.  Peace with God is now our state of affairs in the presence of God.  Christ is your peace.  Hopefulness, joy, and delight are now your end.  Instead of meaninglessness, there is meaningfulness in life.

Christ is risen from the dead!  Our faith in the resurrection is not in vain.  He who died lives forevermore.  There is reason for eager anticipation and joyous expectation of what will be.  Our heavenly homecoming is drawing near.  His Means of Grace are effective and powerful.  God’s Word gives what it says.  Even today, His Word works wonders.  Great expectations are the product of the faith founded on the Lord’s promises, not only for the future, but even in the present.

The Church’s proclamation of her risen Lord is not for nothing.  Her Lord is her everything.  Through liturgy and song, the church confesses her Savior.  Through prayer and praise, she confesses her Christ.  The preaching that man’s sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus continues to be the mission of the church.  Man does not earn recognition with God by what He does.  But God, in His mercy, grants His favor to man through His beloved Son.  Through Jesus, God recognizes you as saint, holy, and righteous.  The Lord’s resurrection is true.  God’s Word is not untrue.

Because Christ has risen from the dead, worship of the Triune God is not trivial and without value.  Worship of God in spirit and truth is full of meaning and import.  Because God and His Word are true, heavenly gifts are offered at the baptismal font and at the Lord’s altar.  Our Lord speaks words of life.  Those of His sheepfold listen to His voice and feast at His banqueting table of Word and Sacrament.  Because the Lord is risen from the dead, there is complete uniqueness to the religion called Christianity.  No other religion teaches the salvation of the God who became man, died, and rose again on the third day.   All other religions do lead to the same place, but Christ alone grants eternal life.  All others lead elsewhere.  It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is.

The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds of Christendom are true.  They do give an accurate witness to the faith of Christians everywhere, both of Christians today and of Christians before.  Their confessions testify to the world of Christ’s resurrection and of Him who died and rose again.  There is a ‘rose again from the dead’ and a ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’, for Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  The Scriptures are really true.  The testimonies are correct.  The Word is sure.  The truth is found.

There is much reason to rejoice this day.  The Christ, who had once been slain, has burst His three-day prison.  Death no longer entombs Him.  ‘Christ has triumphed!  He is living!  Alleluia!’  (LSB 465, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds”).  This is a ‘Joyful Eastertide’, for Christ ‘the Crucified has sprung to life’ (LSB 482, “This Joyful Eastertide”).  ‘He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die’ (LSB 480, He‘s Risen, He’s Risen).  Jesus is your Savior, faithful and true.  Because He lives, you too shall live with Him, now and forevermore.  Amen.

Advertisements

Readings for the Resurrection of Our Lord (C)

HappyEaster.Lily

Collect of the Day

Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us.  Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament: Isaiah 65:17–25

        18But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  19I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.  20No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  21They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  22They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.  23They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.  24Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.  25The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:19–26

19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

      20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Gospel: Luke 24:1–12

1On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8And they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Readings for Easter Evening (C)

EmmausRoad

Collect of the Day

O God, in the paschal feast You restore all creation.  Continue to send Your heavenly gifts upon Your people that they may walk in perfect freedom and receive eternal life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament: Exodus 15:1–18

1Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.  2The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  3The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.

        4“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.  5The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.  6Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  7In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.  8At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.  9The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.  I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’  10You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

        11“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?  12You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

        13“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.  14The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.  15Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.

        16Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased.  17You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.  18The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

Second Reading: Acts 10:34–43

34Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Gospel: Luke 24:13–35

13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them,  “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19And he said to them,  “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25And he said to them,  “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

      28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Christ Opens to Us the Scriptures

    13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

      28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.  [Luke 24:13-35 (ESV)]

Common in the post-resurrection accounts of our Lord is the fact that even His own disciples, those who were with Him during His ministry before His death, believed Him not.   Though they had His word, that very Word through which He revealed to them what would be, not only that Word of His death, but even that of His glorious resurrection, His followers didn’t believe it.  Time after time He told them of what was to come, but they didn’t understand.  And after third day, the words of the women declaring to the 11 that Jesus was alive seemed like an idle tale (Luke 24:11).

Thomas, called Didymus, was not there when the Lord first appeared to the others behind closed door for fear of the Jews.  In unbelief, he declared to the 10, Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger, into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (John 20:25).  Like the others before him, the word others was not enough.

As of yet, they hadn’t put two and two together, that the words of Jesus spoken were as good as done.  Though everything else seemed contrary to what the Lord had said, Jesus was then dead three days, and sadness and sorrow filled the air, it was what the Lord had spoken that would surely come to pass.  Though Jesus truly did die, as He had said, so would He truly rise from the dead on the third day.  It would be no other way.  Otherwise, Jesus is not God and you are still in your sins.

This is not the case, for Jesus has risen, just as He said.  For you He died.  For you He rose, that sin no longer overcome, and that eternal death you not face, all your sin being put on Christ.  You bear that load no more.  Jesus, having taken all that was yours that was against God, has become your Savior.  Those things God knows not any longer, for they are far from Him, as far as the east is from the west, says the Psalmist (Psalm 103:12).  They can harm you none.  We stand completely reconciled and at peace with our God.

This is the joyous Easter message that permeates the Christian church loud and clear.  It cannot remain hidden.  Its sound cannot be muffled.  Though the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ fall on deaf ears, on hearing ears will the good news also fall.  There, the Word will be planted, sprout and grow, bearing fruit and producing, some thirty, some sixty, and some hundredfold (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23).

Where the Word is, there also Christ will be.  Where Christ is, there will also be faith.  That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name, God gives the Holy Scriptures (John 20:31).  He opens to you His Word and there reveals your Savior.  If He not do this, your eyes would remain closed and blind.

To unbelieving Thomas, Jesus appeared.  Our Lord Christ showed Himself to His disciple that Thomas’ disbelief turn to faith…then Thomas cried, My Lord and My God (John 20:28).  It is that you believe in Him that God has His word preached, that you hold fast to Christ, your Savior and your Redeemer.  Only in Him do you have eternal life and only through Him are your sins forgiven.

God in His grace and according to His abundant mercy, doesn’t leave you in the dark.  He sheds light, His true light, upon our darkened world, even upon you.  Though you be helpless, the Lord comes to your aid.  Though you be weak, God gives strength.  Though you be sad and sorrowful, God gives comfort and joy.

Like the two on the road to Emmaus, the Lord Jesus speaks to you His very Word that you believe and continue in the faith.  Those two disciples, not of the then 11, were down and out concerning the events of the Lord’s suffering and death.  They had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would be the ONE to redeem Israel.  They had heard the news of the women who were at the tomb and came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.  But they didn’t believe it.  They didn’t recognize the Lord Jesus for who He was.

It is also this way with us.  Jesus becomes obscured and His promises unrecognizable when we go by what we see and not by what our Lord Jesus says.  Like Peter who began to sin when He took His eyes off Jesus as he walked on water, so also our attention on Christ becomes distracted by that which befalls us.

Not everyone has strong faith in the midst of great trial and tribulation.  Though the Lord’s Word be present, it doesn’t always hit home.  God appears to be speaking in the distance, but not right here in front of us.  We can’t make sense of God’s promise on account of what we’re facing.

This is not because what God says is ineffective.  It is because we’re weakened by circumstance and have trouble seeing the radiance of God’s SON for the clouds blocking Him.  Not only this, but our eyes say something different than what God says in His Word.  Though the spirit be willing, our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

Imagine those two walking toward that village Emmaus.  Everything that they knew to be true to their experience testified against the Lord’s resurrection, everything except the Lord’s Word and work.  But in the midst of their sadness, they could not see the light.  They could not remember what was before because of what was then in the present.

The Lord Jesus walks with such as these.  Though the two didn’t recognize Him, Jesus didn’t turn from them in anger or bitterness.  Instead, He walked with them, even asking the reason for their sorrow.  Even though He already knew, He asks for their sake, that He point them to Himself.

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 14:16).

The Lord made known to them that Christ’s suffering and death was foretold in the OT and that Christ was indeed the Messiah, the ONE who would redeem Israel. Indeed, He was, but not with corruptible things, like silver or gold…with His precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19).

What the two had not yet understood was that it was through Jesus’ own death that He Himself would put sin to death and usher in new life by means of His resurrection.  Where sin has ceased, so has death.  There, the hope of life remains.  This is testified by the ONE who Himself rose from the dead and gives life to all who believe in Him.

The hearts burned within the two as they walked to Emmaus as Jesus spoke to them concerning Himself, beginning with Moses and the prophets.  Here, Jesus points the right way to interpret the Old Testament and all of Scripture, through Himself.

Earlier, Jesus had declared to the Jews, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).  Here, Jesus is not talking about the NT, for that had not yet been written.  It is the Old Testament to which He refers.

In another place, it is written concerning the Holy Scriptures, meaning the OT, that they are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).  The reason this is so is because the OT is about Christ, as is the New Testament.  Jesus is the center.

Even if your mind be clouded, even if your eyes not see, even if what you know by this word’s standards would keep you from seeing the Lord’s Christ and believing His promises, the Lord doesn’t leave you alone in unbelief.  He gives you His very Word that you believe against what you see, contrary to what your eyes tell us, and according to what He Himself bestows through your ears and into your mouths.

Significant it is that on the road and talking with Jesus, the two didn’t recognize Him.  But as Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke and gave it to them, then their eyes were opened.

We have seen these words before.  In the upper room with the Lord’s disciples, on the night when He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it (Matthew 26:26).  In the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:16), then in the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:36), Jesus did the same thing.  He took bread, blessed it, and broke it.

At that moment, they recognized Jesus for who He was.  It was Jesus, alive from the dead, just as the others had said.  In the breaking of the bread, there eyes were opened.  With them all along was the risen Lord, preaching His Word, giving comfort, and testifying to the truth of His salvation.  Then He vanished from their sight.

Right then and there, Jesus left them, believing.  His Word and the blessed bread, these were sufficient to bring about the recognition of Christ the Lord, to quicken faith, and to cast away any doubt.

The Lord continues to give you His Word and bestow upon you His grace, that you believe and remain believing in Him who died and rose again, and that you, with the two on the road to Emmaus, recognize Christ for who He is, your Savior from death and the giver of eternal life, indeed, the Messiah.

By means of His Word and then in the sacramental meal, the Lord Jesus strengthens the weak and gladdens the heart.  The Lord does not leave you alone.  Nor does He leave you in despair, sadness, sorrow, or doubt.  He continues to come to you that we hold fast to him, in life and in death.

Only, don’t ignore His Word or His promises, for doing so is a sure sign of unbelief.  Do not despair, but place your confidence in Christ.  Cast all your burdens upon Him, for He does care for you (Psalm 55:22).  Wait on Him and take heed to His Word.  Times of refreshing and joy are sure to come.  Amen.

The Substance of our Faith

19On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

      24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

      26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  [John 20:19-31 (ESV) ]

1 What unbelief, not just doubt, looks like

The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh are mighty foes indeed to faith.  Truly, unbelief is an easy thing.  It comes natural to all of us.  As the Psalmist says, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).  From birth man is cursed with an unbelieving heart.  Of ourselves and by ourselves, we do not know what it is to truly have faith in the Lord Jesus, for of ourselves and by ourselves, we are not able to receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to natural man, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, as God reveals through the hand of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:14).

It is a result of sin that natural man does not believe the promises of God or the Holy Word of God.  To remedy this state which man is in naturally, help must come from the outside, not from within.  Thus did God the Father send His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).

Man must be born anew and not remain in his first birth of sin and death.  Therefore does God give His Holy Word and Baptism, Word and water, by which your are washed of your sins and made clean, declared His child, and birthed anew of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).  Through the waters of your Baptism, God makes you new creatures.  The old has passed.  The new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Through Baptism, God gives faith, the faith given by means of the Word.  It is that Word, God’s Word, ‘in, with, and under’ the water, that gives new life.  Baptism is not water only.  It is water and God’s Word applied to the one who is Baptized.  God does the doing.  And God doing the doing means that it is done.

Faith takes this to be so.  Unbelief does not.  Unbelief wants proof, evidence, and verifiability.  It wants to see and know for itself with tangible kinds of evidence that can be handled, felt, and experienced. It doesn’t go on what another says.  It goes by what is felt in the heart, seen with the eyes, and known in the mind according to reason.  Such was the case with Thomas.  Whereas unbelief trusts what it knows according to the senses, faith in God rests in God and His Word, hoping for what it does not see and resting in another’s Word and Promise and not its own (Romans 8:24-25).

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve disciples of our Lord, was a man with a nature such as we too are born with.  This one was not with the other disciples when the risen Lord Jesus Christ had first appeared unto to them on that first day of the week called Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord.  Though the others had certainly told Him the good news that Christ Jesus was alive and no longer dead, this news and their words fell on deaf ears.  Thomas did not believe them.  With hard-headedness and in unbelief did Thomas, one of the Lord’s chosen disciples, say that he would not believe that the Lord had risen form the dead, unless he would see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place his finger into the mark of the nails, and place his hand into his side (John 20:25).

This is a sure sign, not of doubt, but of stubborn unbelief, unbelief that denies the word of not only one voice, but several voices testifying to what had indeed been seen.  So much for the picture of a Holy Saint Thomas who believed what was told him and had not a thread of sinning unbelief yet in his heart!  But what of St. Peter, who dared rebuke the Lord Jesus for speaking the truth of what was to be, that Jesus was to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21)?  What of him who also denied the Lord three times and all who scattered like sheep when their shepherd Jesus was struck and arrested (Matthew 26:31, 56)?

Holy Scripture reveals such testimony of God’s people, and even His disciples, as sinners, sinners to whom God is gracious and kind, yet sinners who remain sinners, sinners with failings and weaknesses, sinners who doubt and even disbelieve God’s Word and promise.  This is given for your comfort and for help, for you, like the examples of God’s people in the Testaments, both Old and New, are of the same flesh and blood.  You too do not believe as you ought.  You have been given the witness of Christ risen from the dead, but you still at times fear.  You are at times uncertain.  You at times give in to temptation. Though you have God’s Word placed before you, it is not always evident that you are full of confidence and have complete trust in God’s Word alone all times and in all places.

 

2 The grace of God and the blessing of faith given from Him through His Son

But you, like Thomas and others throughout the Bible, are not left without help.  Yur Lord is compassionate to the troubled, kind to the meek, and gentle to the lowly (Matthew 11:29).  The stubborn He reproves and the exalted He humbles (Mathew 23:12).  Our Lord did not leave Thomas in unbelief, for Jesus had surely known what state Thomas was in on that eighth day when He appeared unto him an declared, Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe (John 20:27).  But these were not Jesus’ first words to Thomas and the disciples on that day.  Jesus’ first words were as the week before, but now Thomas also heard for himself and with His own ears that word which first proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).  That word was peace.

Peace unto you, Jesus said, who also stood in their midst, not as one dead, but as one who had died and was now risen from the dead (John 20:26).  With these words, Jesus calmed their fears and put to rest their anxieties.  Also for Thomas.  And also for you.

The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is no myth, untrue event, or merely a teaching of what some had believed to have happened, but with no basis in reality.  Thomas and the other disciples had seen the Lord with their own eyes.  Thus does John write in his first letter,  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).

The Word of life that John speaks of is none other than Christ, the crucified Christ, the risen from the dead Christ. Jesus who once was dead has burst forth from His three day prison.  If it had not been so, utterly vain and futile would our faith in a dead savior truly be, and more pitiable than all men would we be.  But now Christ is risen from the dead! (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 20)

No longer are you in our sins.  Christ has conquered death.   This means your life.  The Good News is true.  Fear and anxiety is cast aside in the resurrected glory of Christ who has overcome death and the grave and through whom you too overcome death and the grave.  Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead means your bodily resurrection from the dead, which means that you need not fear death and the fear of death, for these Christ has overcome and swallowed up in His victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Holy Scripture testifies to the Good News of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and that peace with God through Jesus which the world cannot give and which passes all human understanding.  And through God’s Word preached and proclaimed, Christ speaks peace to your heart, blesses you with confidence before God in Jesus Christ, and gives you His grace and favor.  Unbelief is replaced by faith in God’s Son for your salvation, not because you see, but by God bringing about that faith in you through His mighty and effective spirit and life Word (John 6:63).  By means of that Word, God creates faith within your heart that you believe what you have not seen and trust alone in His promise through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God does not leave you on our own.  He does not abandon you to unbelief.  Rather does He, by means of His Holy Word, call you to the truth.  In His Word, you know that Christ is for you and not against you, Christ dying your death and Christ in the grave no longer.  But go not by His Word, and on your own and in your sin you will continue to be.  But thanks be to God!  God  has revealed His Son that you not remain in sin, but have eternal life.  Christ comes to you, revealing Himself as your risen Savior.  In Him is true confidence of a loving God and sure hope of the life to come.

3 The purpose for the Gospel of St. John, indeed, for all of the Holy Scriptures generally

The Thomas in our text did not believe until the Lord showed Himself to him.  But the Lord was kind and gentle to the troubled Thomas who trusted not in the word of others but only the self-seeking evidence of his own heart.  Jesus appeared to Thomas, nail prints, spear mark, and all.  And then did Thomas confess with his mouth what certainly was believed in His heart of Jesus, My Lord and My God! (John 20:28).  He confessed what was right and true because the Lord revealed to Him what was so. He denied it not any longer.

And that you may continue in the confession of Thomas, saying with him, My Lord and My God unto Jesus Christ, Jesus reveals Himself to you, too.  By means of His Word, even the testimony of the Apostles and prophets, God makes known unto you that we are indeed sinners, but sinners for whom Christ died.  These things, writes St. John, are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you have life in His Name (John 20:31).  You stumble and fall, but your Lord who comes unto you is gentle and kind.  He speaks to you the word of peace; peace with God, sins forgiven, and life everlasting in Christ Jesus.  He gives you His Word, that you hold to it and believe it, trusting His promises.  And thereby does He give you certainty of His favor and mercy.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

“He is Risen, as He Said”

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matthew 28:1-10 (ESV)]

Jesus is risen, as He said.  These words bring joy to the ear this morning.  These we cannot pass over.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

The joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and saw not our Lord in the tomb is also our own.  By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.  Christ is victorious over the grave.  He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).  This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.  Christ in His body is living.  Neither are we speaking of an event without significance.  As it is written, If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.  It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.   Death too is real.  It is a consequence of sin.  Sin brings about physical death, of which we all must face, sooner or later.  It also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from another who has overcome death.  This is what Christ did by His resurrection.  His resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.  So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren, of whom we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.  His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how we know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.  Believe not this, and faith will be lacking.

The Lord’s resurrection also means our resurrection.  Christ being raised from the dead means our rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of our sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.  His resurrection means the same for us.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.  Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these receive the due reward of their unbelief.  But those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them fulfilled in the now time, these Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

As to the spiritual rising only, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.  As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat or drink.  But this Jesus did.  The eyes don’t tell the whole story.  When it comes to God and His Word, do not accept what your mind tells you.  Leave reason and human understanding aside.  If you don’t, you will not rightly believe what God truly declares to be so.  From the virgin birth to His bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgement day, trust not what you think or what you believe to be so.  Trust in the Lord and in what He has said.  Only here will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgement and forgiveness, death and life, and hell and heaven.  What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.  It is not just for anyone and everyone.  It is for you.  Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.  Believing that there is a god is good thing.  But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.  The God of salvation is not unknowable.  Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world will not help you.  Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.  But His death and resurrection will not save you unless it is also yours.

You carry your sin no more.  It was crucified with Christ.  He died and rose again.  Jesus left your sin for dead on Mt. Calvary, but on the third day, His body was not in the tomb.    If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection will profit you none.  You will bear your own load and come the judgment, the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

On Christ, your sin is gone forever and God does not count your daily sins against you.  In Christ, your sin is forgiven.  Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.  Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  Through the death of His Son, God demonstrated these.  Through resurrection does Christ testify of them.

Our Lord does not lie.  Nor will He speak deception into your ears.  What He says will come to pass.  This was so before His death and His coming back to life, and this is so now.  Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that His Word He will fulfill.  Though we see the fulfillment, this matters none.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.  Before that Friday that we call Good, Jesus declared to His disciples, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again (Matthew 20:18-19).  A few other times, too, did Jesus speak of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is our surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as we hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.  For your good does our Lord speak and for your good does our Lord give.  The joy of His gifts are yours.  Christ is risen, just as He said.  Our Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

Should Christians not celebrate Easter?

Is the Date of Easter of Pagan Origin? – Answers in Genesis.

Various religious groups (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, United Church of God) deny the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus by Christians for a number of reasons.

However, the apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Colosse, says: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.  Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:16-23).

Christians are free to worship together on any day, especially for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.  The issue is not whether the celebration itself was “christianized” from pagan festivals, or “replaced” them, as according to some, if that is the case at all.  The issue is the content of such celebration.

Founded on the resurrection of Christ, there is no reason Christians should not celebrate Easter, for Christ’s resurrection from the dead surely means that the Christian faith is not futile and that we are no longer in our sins (1 Corinthians 15).

This is most certainly a day to celebrate, and rejoice in, even every day!

%d bloggers like this: