Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
The resurrection of Jesus is both a matter of fact and a matter of faith.
It is a matter of fact in that it is a fact of history. A pivotal fact of history. It is the fulcrum around which all of human history pivots and has its ultimate meaning. It is a matter of fact as any other fact of history from the Ming Dynasty to the Greco-Roman empire. The tomb of Jesus is empty. The body of Jesus is risen. That is a matter of fact.
It is a matter of faith in that the entirety of what we believe rests on the fact that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification. We don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we believe because Jesus rose from the dead. It’s not April fools joke, it is a matter of history.
Here are the facts.
Fact: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day.
Fact: The tomb was empty. The burial linens were folded and neat. The guards were bribed to say the disciples had stolen the body.
Fact: Jesus was seen by Mary Magdalene, by Peter and the Eleven, by Thomas who confessed “My Lord and my God,” by two disciples on the Emmaus road, by seven disciples who ate fish with Him, by over 500 brothers at one time, by James and all the apostles, and by Paul on the road to Damascus.
Fact: These were credible eyewitnesses. Sane, sober, rational people who did not initially believe that Jesus had risen from the dead even though He had told them this would happen. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain from their testimony. Many lost their lives professing the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Fact: The people in power, the religious authorities, the Roman rulers, Pontius Pilate, the chief priests and scribes had a vested interest in a dead Jesus. They had the means and the ability to produce the corpse of Jesus and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem on Sunday night and Monday morning. But they did not. Because there was no corpse. Jesus had risen from the dead, just as He had said.
But there are those nagging questions, a little doubting Thomas in us all. What if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? What if it is a terrible April Fool’s joke? What if it’s all made up, a myth, a fantasty, a lie? What if there are bones of Jesus buried in some tomb outside Jerusalem? Does it matter? Isn’t His life still inspiring? Are His teachings still relevant and meaningful for our lives?
Well, here are some facts if Christ isn’t raised.
If Christ isn’t raised then our preaching is empty and so is your faith. Our preaching is nothing more than a blast of religious hot air and your faith is based on nothing. If Christ isn’t raised than Christianity is like a meringue – a little fluff, a little sweet, and a lot of empty air.
If Christ isn’t raised, then the New Testament is a lie, the apostles are liars, and every Christian preacher for the last two thousand years are first class liars who are grossly misrepresenting God and deserve to be ignored and run out of town. All Christians would then be frauds, thieves, and scoundrels; which is pretty much what society thinks of Christians these days anyways, and it would be completely true if Jesus Christ were not raised.
If Christ isn’t raised, your faith is futile, worthless, a waste of time. You are wasting your precious time being here this morning. You are wasting your time reading your Bible, confessing your sin, praying, and worshipping. And you are kidding yourselves if you think you are right with God, because if Christ isn’t raised then the promises of God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name are worthless and you remain in your sins.
If Christ isn’t raised, then we all are back to square one when it comes to God. We need to start working to perfect ourselves. We need to get on our path to enlightenment and climb the spiritual ladder to God. We need to balance our karma, atone for our sins, make amends, fix ourselves, and work on our holiness because there is no mercy, no forgiveness, no grace if Christ is not raised from the dead.
The Scriptures are clear. He was put death for our sins and raised for our justification. If Christ isn’t raised, then we are not justified before God and there is no justification for us.
If Christ isn’t raised, then those who have died before us are lost. They are simply dead and returned to dust and nothing more. In fact, if Christ isn’t raised then we have no concrete proof that there is anything resembling bodily life beyond the grave. If Christ isn’t raised then the resurrection is just the same thought as Hindu or Buddhist thought of reincarnation, with nothing to back it up. If Christ isn’t raised, then we have nothing whatsoever to say about the dead except that they are dead.
But someone will still say, “But even if Christ isn’t raised from the dead, being a Christian makes me feel better, it helps me cope with my problems, it gives me strength and courage to face life’s problems.” That’s nice. But whoop-dee-doo. The apostle Paul says that if for this life only we have hope in Christ, if all that Jesus is good for is a little inspiration to get us through the day like a cup of strong coffee, then we are the most pitiful group of people who have ever walked the face of the earth.
But Christ has been raised from the dead. It is this historical fact that serves as the ground of our faith.
Everything from the Creation to the flood to Joseph’s coat to the Exodus lead to this point. David, Solomon, everything from the Prophets, all the Pslams, lead us to this. The Christmas season, Jesus’ birth, His baptism, His temptation, His teachings and miracles, the triumphal entry, it all leads to here. All of it is to get you to the cross, to get you to the grave, to bring you through the resurrection. Everything we do as Christians comes from here. That which you learned in the Catechism comes from here. The Commandments you’ve broken, and that’s all of them in case you are wondering, are judged and the verdict is guilty. But in the death of Jesus the sentence is carried out.
The historical reality is this, Jesus was born, lived, died, and is risen from the dead. Now you have forgiveness and resurrection. Everything we pray in the Lord’s Prayer is here, the Kingdom of God comes, the will of God done, your daily bread given, your sins forgiven, you are delivered from the evil one. The confession and absolution you receive, the living through Holy Week with shouts of Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the body and blood received all from His death and resurrection.
The sin we have done in the past, the sin we do today, the sin we will do in the future, He was put on trial for those sins. Before Pontus Pilate. Before Herod. And even though He was found innocent Himself, he was condemned guilty. Sentenced to death. Crucified with thieves. Buried by himself. But not alone. Buried with all our sin. Buried with all our shame. With all our guilt and pain. Buried with us.
Jesus doesn’t leave us there. On this day, God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Gave Him through resurrection. Gave you resurrection. Life after sin. Life after shame. After guilt and pain. God, through Jesus’ rising from the dead gave you tomorrow. Not one tomorrow or even a few. Through Christ there will always be a tomorrow for you. A tomorrow with God. Who wipes away every tear. Who gives you a new heaven and a new earth. Where sin and shame and guilt and pain are no more.
You are justified before God. His sacrifice is acceptable. His “it is finished” from the cross still holds. His word is true, His promises are certain. When He says, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die forever,” is certain for Jesus has arisen.
So yeah. Jesus’ death and resurrection are everything. Every detail around Jesus’ death and resurrection take on even more meaning. And there are so many details, that there’s no way to cover them all in a sermon. Or ten sermons. Or a hundred. That’s why we come back to here week after week. All year round. All your earthly life. That’s why we have Immanuel and Repent and Hosannas. That’s why we have Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Why we have Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Why we celebrate the Ascension, Pentecost, and other Feast days and even put aside a day for All Saints. Our whole church year, our whole life and being is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. And so everything always comes back to here.
Because without here, without Jesus on the cross, and in the tomb, and raised from the dead, without all this, we have nothing.
But Christ is raise from the dead. You genuinely have bodily life after death. We don’t just go and rot in the ground or continue on as spirits or memories or energy or what have you. We rise with bodies to live with God eternally.
Because of sin, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Our bodies are not suited for eternal life. They wear out, they get sick, they break down. But what is buried in weakness will be raised in power. What is buried in dishonor will be raised in glory.
Since Christ is raised from the dead, we know the destiny of our humanity. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.” Death is not the last word; life is the last word because Christ is the last Word. We are born leading towards death, yet on this day death is swallowed up in victory. In Christ, we die to live. This is true too, because Christ is risen from the dead.
It is a matter of faith in that the entirety of what we believe rests on the fact that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification. We don’t just believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we believe because Jesus rose from the dead. And we are sure of this, and we believe this, and we live and hope and die trusting this, because Christ is risen from the dead.
Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
And the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.