Easter Celebration – 2016 LSB #672
You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.
A PICTURE OF THE LAST DAY
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I’d start this sermon with one. If you google the phrase ‘Hellfire & Brimstone’ this is one of the pictures that comes up. It’s what Democrats think the United States will look like if Donald Trump gets elected president! PAUSE
But, politics aside, it can be said, in all honesty, “That is a picture of the Last Day.”
I’m going to guess that every single one of you out there would prefer the Easter lilies. They do look beautiful, don’t they, but how long do you think they would last?
Thank God, our hope for Judgment Day does not rely upon Easter lilies! Our hope for Judgment Day does not rely upon the Easter Bunny, or the Easter Dinner, or an Easter Bonnet, & it certainly does not depend upon an Easter Basket!
“Then [Jesus] will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil & his angels. For I was hungry & you gave me no food, I was thirsty & you gave me no drink, I was a stranger & you did not welcome me, naked & you did not clothe me, sick & in prison & you did not visit me.’”
“Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, & did not minister to you?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:41-45 ESV)
Those are strong words, coming from Jesus Himself, & they too are a picture of the Last
Day. St. Peter joins in the chorus when he writes: “But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, & then the heavens will pass away with a roar, & the heavenly bodies will be burned up & dissolved, & the earth & the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV)
People in our culture like to say that Jesus loves everybody, no matter what they do, or fail to do. While that is true, the attitude that we can sin however we want, just because Jesus loves everybody, does not square with Jesus’ own Words regarding the Last Day. Then we heard St. Peter make the point that the works done on earth will be exposed.
How do we line all of that up so our celebration of Easter can be a truly joyful day? It didn’t take Jesus very long to explain it. Already in the very 1st chapter of the Gospel of Mark, right after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where He preached God’s Good News:
“The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins & believe the Good News!” (1:15 NLT)
You see, Jesus knows you & I are going to sin, but His solution is not for us to simply pretend that sin is not a problem. Jesus teaches us to admit our sins & repent of them. When anyone comes to faith in Jesus as Savior, one of the blessings given to them, by God, is the gift of repentance. If we don’t use it, our sins will poison the spiritual life within!
Getting back to the Book of Exodus, listen to God’s diagnosis of Pharaoh’s spiritual illness. Chapter 8:15 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart & would not listen to them…” Then verse 19 tells us, “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, & he would not listen to them…”
Now, every one of us has been in a situation where we knew we’d done wrong, but for whatever reason just did not want to repent of our sin. Having experienced that, what does it take to not repent? We have to work at hardening our heart, don’t we? You all know it’s true. You’ve felt it. Been there! Done that! Children of God repent of their sins by nature. Our saintly nature longs to confess, & be rid of, our sin. We have to consciously work against it in order not to. And sadly, there are times when we do.
Each one of us has experienced being a slave to sin. Some of us struggle in being tight-fisted with the blessings our Lord has given us. Others struggle with believing that they always have the best way of doing things. Sometimes we’re quick-tempered. At other times we’re just plain lazy. And almost never is there a time when we focus all our attention on God’s Word.
Arguments break out & we consciously, purposely refuse to see our fault. We prefer to harden our heart & let the other person apologize alone. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, & the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8 ESV) So we confess that we are in bondage to sin, in fact we are its slaves, & cannot free ourselves.
To which Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins & believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15 NLT) The good news is that the Son of God took on human flesh, so He could suffer, die, & rise again, all for the purpose of setting you free from your slavery to sin. Thus Moses wrote of Yahweh:
“You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them by Your strength to Your holy abode.” Moses wrote those words upon crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, & seeing the entire Egyptian army being drowned in that same Red Sea. The Israelites were slaves no more, at least, not to the Egyptians.
The Exodus from Egypt is thus a glorious, beautiful, magnificent picture of the Last Day. For unbelievers, the Last Day will be the Day of Judgment. For children of God, it is a day to look forward to with anticipation & longing, yet, the Exodus is still no more than a picture. Though the Israelites had been delivered from slavery to Pharaoh, because of their sins, it took another 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. The lamb, of the Passover meal that preceded their Exodus, was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Lamb of God who would once & for all take away the sins of the world.
By His death on the cross, Jesus made possible our exodus from this world of slavery to sin. By His death on the cross, Jesus made possible our entrance in to the true Promised Land – the kingdom of heaven prepared for us since the creation of the world. The resurrected & glorified body of Jesus is the prototype for you & me.
The land flowing in milk & honey is thus a glorious, beautiful, magnificent picture of what all God’s children will finally see with their own eyes on the Last Day. That picture is a far cry from the one labeled ‘Hellfire & Brimstone.’ The resurrected & glorified body of Jesus is the 1st product of the new creation to come.
St. Peter also joined in this chorus when he wrote: “But according to [God’s] promise we are waiting for new heavens & a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The crossing of the Red Sea & the destruction of Pharaoh’s armies are to the OT what Good Friday & Easter Sunday are to the NT. On the Last Day, Satan & his armies will be destroyed & cast into the lake of fire.
Never again will they tempt us, or torture us, or cause suffering, sorrow or tears. Only righteousness will dwell in heaven. The Passover meal, the Exodus, the Promised Land, the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ death, resurrection & ascension into heaven, every one of them, in their own way, foreshadows & pictures for us something of the Last Day.
The white paraments, the candles, the Easter lilies, the banners, the crown, all of them are meant to paint for us a picture of a glorious place to be, & a glorious Day to come. It is beautiful to be here on Easter morning! Now imagine how much infinitely greater the Last Day will be for all of God’s children. As Moses wrote of Yahweh: “You will bring them in & 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. The Lord will reign forever & ever.” Amen.
Jerusalem the golden, with milk & honey blest – the promise of salvation, the place of peace & rest – we know not, oh, we know not what joys await us there: the radiancy of glory, the bliss beyond compare! O sweet & blessèd country, the home of God’s elect! O sweet & blessèd country that faithful hearts expect! In mercy, Jesus, bring us to that eternal rest with You & God the Father & Spirit, ever blest. Amen.
 Exodus 15:13
Pastor Dean R. Poellet