Easter Festival: 8th Day

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  His is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  The suffering and death of one man on a Friday afternoon was the greatest moment in the history of this fallen world!  As His death struggle drew to a close Jesus voiced an astounding cry – a cry of victory – “it is finished!”  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world claimed to have done just that – to have taken away the sin of the world!  In that horrible, brutal, bloody, death Jesus claimed that our redemption had been won – “it is finished!” 

Then came a day of rest – rest in the tomb.  Then – on the third day The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit spoke the “amen” to Jesus’ cry of finished victory on Calvary!  Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  The greatest news the world has ever heard came from the garden tomb, the proof of the cry of the Savior on the cross that proclaimed the total success of His sacrificial and saving work!  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”  

Dear Christians – it really is finished – our redemption!  The world’s reconciliation with God (II Cor. 5:21) is complete!  The risen Lord is among us in this hour to bring to us the fruits of His once-for-all sacrifice!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

You see, in finding nothing the women made the greatest find.  Jesus is not in the tomb because He is life itself! It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24) because He is life. He took on flesh that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9). Yet, by His own nature He is life! He partook of death to destroy Him who had the power of death – that is the devil (Heb 2:14) and “It is finished”!  Alleluia!

It’s not just that His memory lives on so that people can say “I’m following Jesus” while they say and do what they want. It’s not that only His soul is alive, free-floating separate from His flesh in a purely spiritual way. The tomb is empty! Christ is risen body and all!

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

No grave robbers had overcome the soldiers. No half-dead man had rolled away the stone from the inside and fought his way past the guards. The tomb was empty because the Good Shepherd who had laid down His life for the sheep had taken it back again (John 10).  There is no record anywhere, in any source friendly to Christianity or any source hostile to Christianity that reports Jesus’ body was still in the grave. Even attempts to disprove the Resurrection make clear that the tomb was empty.

It was the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath day of rest, Sunday, now forever known as the Lord’s Day! A new week began, seven days and then – once more – the week starts at the beginning – round and round the calendar goes! After Day Seven it’s Day One all over again. You don’t get an eighth day in this fallen world, a day of release from it all, a day of total renewal!

But recall with me this Easter Day God’s use of the eighth day in the life of His people!  While God created all things and rested in seven days, His use of the eighth day is rich with blessing!  The firstborn of oxen and sheep were to be given to him for sacrifice on the eighth day (Ex 22:29). After seven days of ordination for Aaron and his sons in the tent of meeting, the Old Testament Divine Service at the newly consecrated altar was inaugurated on the eighth day (Lev 9). The circumcision of Israel’s sons occurred on the eighth day (Lev 12:2). When a leper was healed of his disease the priest declared him clean by the rite of purification on the eighth day (Lev 14:10). When the temple was finished in Israel, the people feasted for a week but the solemn assembly for the temple of God’s presence was on the eighth day (II Chron 7:9). When God’s people returned from captivity and wept over the reading of the Torah, the solemn assembly for the restoration of the Feast of Booths was on the eighth day (Neh 8:18). The circumcision of the infant Son of God in the flesh, the first day that his innocent blood was shed was on the eighth day. In other words, the eighth day was for consecration, deliverance, cleansing, healing and restoration.

This Easter Day think of the day of Jesus’ resurrection in this context – as the eighth day!  The week we now call Holy had begun with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – Day One – “Hosanna” – “Blessed is He”. On Day Two – he cleansed the temple – whip in hand – throwing his weight around to restore God’s house for prayer.  On Day Three and Day Four He had taught the people. On Day Five – Maundy Thursday, He gave His disciples a New Mandate and the miracle of the Holy Supper of His body and His blood. Day Six – Friday – brought His arrest and suffering and death. Then on Day Seven – the day of rest, the Sabbath Day – nothing but grief and guilt and a stone rolled in front of the tomb. That first Holy Week had a beginning and an end.  And, so it seemed, did Jesus!

Life doesn’t come after death, in this fallen seven-days-a-week world. It just doesn’t work that way! That’s why the women were headed to the tomb at dawn loaded with spices. Death stinks, literally! It is a curse and an enemy and it was not part of God’s very good creation. The women intended to lovingly anoint his corpse with the strong-smelling balm they had prepared. The apostles – well they weren’t even at the tomb – they weren’t expecting anything except possible death for themselves.

If every fiber of your intellect and common senses isn’t automatically in tune with this wondrous news – you’re not alone! When the women told these things to the apostles…these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them.  He had taught them for three years.  They had seen His miracles. He had told them exactly how He would die – by crucifixion. He had also told them that on the third day He would rise to life again. But with the scene of His shameful, agonizing death in mind, they did not believe the news of the women.  It must be idle talk – too good to be true!  Life doesn’t come after death in this fallen seven-days-a-week world.   That is, not until the bodily resurrection of this one man! For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  

As the Lord revealed Himself restoring and healing and delivering he is seen doing so on the eighth day. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead He rose so that you might be healed and delivered and restored into the Father’s presence forever. Was it just coincidence that it was on the first day of the week – the eighth day? As a seven day week has an end so does life in this decaying world. But Christ defeats the last enemy of death so that you might have life without end – bodily life! The resurrection of the slain Lamb of God restores life and brings about the new creation! The crucified and risen Christ makes it new!

It is that newness of life that Jesus gives you in Holy baptism. Many baptismal fonts have eight sides (ours included) is because baptism is a washing of rebirth – it connects us to the eighth day of eternal life. How does St. Paul say it in Romans 6?  All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death – Day Six – Dead! We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death – Day Seven – Buried! In order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life the eighth day – the new life given by Christ!

Your Day Six and Day Seven are coming soon – as are mine. Unless Christ returns first – the day is up ahead when your body and my body will lie down in death.  Whether by sudden accident or aggressive illness – whether by something so microscopic as infection or a clot in our blood, whether by the attrition of age or medical complications – the wondrously designed body that God has given you will die.  Our culture of death – that denies death’s substance and yet sees it as an answer, that tries to make nice with death as if it is natural or a friend – leaves us in the grip of death and the grave – Day Six and Day Seven. Our culture of death also brushes aside the second death – the lake of fire that God reveals (Rev 21:8).

The greatest human inventions – the most exciting and helpful human endeavors still leave us and others in Day Six and Day Seven.  And death stinks!  Death separates from loved ones!  Death seals the end of earthly life in this sinful world.  On whatever day of the week it comes, at whatever age it comes, in whatever manner it comes – death is the wages of sin.

But that’s why He was named Jesus, the name given Him from His conception in the womb, the name that preaches, He would save us from sin (Matt 1:21). Our hope comes by way of His open tomb – God’s “amen” to His cry of victory on the cross. He is not here, but has risen…  

He is not just risen from the dead; He is risen from your death! The Holy Son of God was without sin! He did not have to die for Himself! He died for you! And “It is finished!” He hauled the sin of the world to Calvary and received the curse of God’s wrath for all of it.

And now, on this blessed, first day of the week, the day of the new creation, the eighth dayHe is not here but has risen. The day of resurrection! This is the day the Lord has made (the eighth day) – let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Worship of the risen Christ, you see, is not our sacrifice. The Sacrifice was his work and “it is finished”! Worship is now Him, the living Christ coming into our midst to teach us and to feed us! He has the words of eternal life – eighth day words! He is the Bread of Life – eighth day food – food that endures to eternal life.

So don’t go about Day One through Day Seven as if you were resigned to the grave. Your Day Six and Day Seven will come, but you already have a Day Eight that will last forever. So do your loved ones who have died in Christ! So keep watch! The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of night!  Innocence is restored to the fallen!  Joy is given to those downcast!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! Amen.

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