Easter Sunrise – 2018 LSB #480
Text – Job 19:25-26
For I know that my Redeemer lives, & at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.
A NEW DAY – A NEW LIFE – A NEW CREATION
Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat! Talk about turning the tables! Three days ago, on Good Friday, all looked lost & hopeless. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God – through whom the universe was created – fought Satan in a duel to the death.
It marked the culmination of a running battle over the course of the previous thirty-some years, stretching all the way back to Christmas. Jesus’s entry into the world was announced by a host of angels as He came to retake His world from Satan & from death. Otherwise, Jesus had gone underground, arriving as a helpless baby born to obscure peasant parents.
But Satan noticed & went to work in an effort to extinguish the threat. The battle was joined when Mary & Joseph fled to Egypt in order to avoid Herod’s attempt to assassinate their newborn child. Jesus’ ministry kicked off in an official way in the famous wilderness confrontation where Satan tried to bring Jesus over to his side as he had done with Adam & Eve.
The battles continued with each evil spirit that Jesus expelled, every body that He healed, every person he raised from the dead. The climactic battle took place on the hill of Golgotha when Jesus was sacrificed & put to death. God had died there. He was buried in a tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. To all appearances, Satan had won.
Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer describes this event as Satan having dragged the Son of God off His throne, killing Him, & then burying Him beneath his feet! The 19th century theologian C. F. W. Walther expressed this in vivid terms with his Easter hymn, “He’s Risen, He’s Risen.” In describing Jesus’s death he writes in verse 2, “The foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree. In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout & jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.” But it turns out to be a short-lived victory. For on this day, Jesus turned the tables on Satan. That brings us to the next verse:
“But short was their triumph; the Savior arose, 90& death, hell & Satan He vanquished, His foes.” Jesus rose bodily from the grave! He’s risen, He’s risen! What does this mean for us? Everything! All of our life & our entire hope hinges on this event that changed the course of history forever.
A few years ago, a well-known church historian, Jaroslav Pelikan died. It was reported that he spoke these as his last words: “If Jesus has not risen from the dead, nothing else matters; if Jesus has risen from the dead, nothing else matters!” Isn’t that incredible & so true?
It is because of the resurrection that today we call ourselves Christian. It is because of the resurrection that we call out to God in confidence. It is because of the resurrection that we look forward to eternal life in the age to come! With the resurrection, Jesus opens up the future.
In the early church, this day became known as either the 1st day of the new creation or the 8th day of the previous creation. That’s why it’s a custom for Christian baptismal fonts to have eight sides to them. For there we are born anew & given life in the new creation. Jesus’s resurrection is the vanguard of the new creation.
And because Jesus rose from the dead, so shall we. Easter means nothing else than that we will rise from the grave as well. Christ is the first fruit of the resurrection. Just as when we see the 1st flower bloom in spring, we know that all the others are soon to follow, so also with Jesus. Just as He has risen from the dead, we will rise bodily to eternal life.
In this way, God will bring to completion what He began in the Garden of Eden. He raised a human being from dust of the ground. Adam & Eve were given access to the tree of life, but then they sinned. In expelling them from the garden, they were deprived of access to the tree of life. They were doomed to die. But just as Adam was 1st raised from the ground, so we will be raised again from the ground in the resurrection.
And where we were deprived of access to the tree of life, we now have access forever to the tree of life, namely, the cross & the life Christ acquired for us there. And because the dust of our flesh shall be renewed so the dust of the earth will be renewed & restored.
That’s why the apostle Paul can state that the entire creation groans in travail, anxiously awaiting the revelation of God’s children on the last day. Why? Because when we are raised from the dead, creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption. Creation too will live again under the gracious & benevolent rule of God’s children along with Jesus Christ.
Life flows from Jesus to us to the entire creation. What does this mean for the art of living by faith in the meantime? Does it mean that life is going to be easy from now on? Does it mean that that the prospect of dying one day is easy & no longer frightening? Not necessarily.
In fact, the resurrection might even make things more difficult by destroying our illusions & all attempts to avoid, evade or sugarcoat the nature of death. Some years ago, the Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse pointed out that the message of Easter is not, “Jesus lives.” The message is that “Jesus has risen!” What’s the difference?
In our culture, we are all too comfortable with talking about departed loved ones in the following manner: “so & so lives on in our hearts & memories” or “they will always be with us.” Those thoughts can be a well-meaning attempt to weaken the curse of death apart from Jesus’ resurrection. No one comes to the Father except through His only-begotten Son.
Thus the resurrection in some ways does not make our dying easier (as if we are simply transitioning to a higher form of being & death is the gateway). No, the resurrection makes dying hard. The resurrection makes it clear that death is not a friend & death is not natural. It is an enemy to be conquered. Why else do we constantly try to hold back the tide of death, to cheat death, or to avoid thinking about death? We instinctively know that it is an enemy to life!
The message that Jesus is risen is the message of a bodily resurrection. It is not natural for the body to die & return to the dust. It’s not right for death to rip apart our body & soul. So the resurrection is a celebration of a body given new life, a body enlivened with breath again, a body that will live forever. Jesus did not leave His body behind when He ascended into heaven.
Thus, the resurrection of Jesus is a wonderful & unqualified affirmation of bodily life in spite of all the pain & suffering, aches & pains that we currently experience in our bodies. The problem is not your body. It doesn’t cause the suffering. The problem is the sin that causes the deterioration, the aches & the pains in the body.
Because sin will be gone, what is the future Christ has opened for us? What kind of a world will we find ourselves in? What can we expect? The Bible pictures a feast prepared for us by God! You might think of it as a welcome-home party. Remember the parable of the prodigal son? A feast that we shall see, & hear, & feel & taste! One professor thinks of it as a winery.
Robert Mondavi was in large part responsible for putting California on the map when it comes to vineyards & winemaking. It’s said that whenever he came out with a new wine, he threw a fabulous feast at his winery. He’d invite the who’s who of the wine world, the tasters & reviewers. He’d invite the rich & the famous, Hollywood celebrities & movie stars.
We might think of Jesus as the one who plants a vineyard, tends to it carefully, prunes the branches, manages the canopy cover, tastes the grapes, harvests & presses them, ferments them, & makes the wine. When all is ready, He sends out invitations to join Him at a wonderful party of food, music & wine. But these invitations do not simply go out to the rich & famous. They go out to sinners & rebels… people like you & me. Christ Himself has prepared this fabulous feast for those who are in fellowship with Him. This is what awaits us! In the meantime, let’s celebrate this victory over the forces of sin, death & devil beginning with the Lord’s Supper!
That’s why we worship on Sundays – to join the celebration of our Lord’s victory, the 1st day of the new creation, the 1st day of the rest of our lives! Amen.
The foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree. In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout & jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear. But short was their triumph; the Savior arose, & death, hell & Satan He vanquished, His foes. The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high; He lives, yes, He lives, & nevermore will die. O, where is your sting, death? We fear you no more; Christ rose, & now open is fair Eden’s door. For all our transgressions His blood does atone; redeemed & forgiven, we now are His own. Amen. LSB 480:2-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet