Saturday, April 20, 2019

Christ Has Been Raised from the Dead!

1 Corinthians 15:19-26 I will never forget one Easter Sunday after church when I was a boy.  We were riding in the car on the way to hunt Easter eggs at the Botanical Gardens in Ft. Worth and we were listening to Dr. Barry Bailey on the radio who was the pastor of First Methodist Church in Ft. Worth. 
And in his Easter Sunday sermon he said that it didn’t really matter whether Jesus was raised from the dead or not.  What mattered is that Jesus rose in your heart each day. 
Then and now I have no idea what he meant by Jesus rising in our hearts-- but I knew exactly what he meant when he said that it didn’t matter or not whether Jesus had been raised it—and I knew how wrong he was! 
The Bible says:  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  Do you understand what Paul is saying? 
Of all the people in the world—those who suffer and those who hunger and those who are imprisoned and those who are poor—of all the people who are misled by false religions and all people who live only for themselves—of all the people in the world-- we Christians are the most to be pitied if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.
If Jesus is for us only a wise teacher or a wonderful example to follow—if he is only the path for a good life here on earth—then we Christians, among all the people in the world, are the most to be pitied. 
If Christ has not been raised we are fools!  If Christ has not been raised we are delusional and deceivers in our own right.  If Christ has not been raised we are wasting our time right here and right now. 
That is how important the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is!  There is NO Christianity without the bodily resurrection of Jesus!  There is NO hope for life after death, there is only this life and nothing  most to be pitied.  --of more.  If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then Christians and our religion are worth nothing more than the pitiful contempt of our fellow man.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,   
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead!  The man who suffered and died on Calvary’s cross was taken down by his friends, carried to his grave by his disciples, prepared for burial by those who loved him most, and was placed in a borrowed tomb.  He died and was buried.
But early in the morning on the first day of the week, that exact same man, with that exact same body, still bearing the marks of his violent death--physicarst day of the week, that exact same man with that exact same body still bearing the marks of thlly rose from the dead. 
He appeared to his followers and even though they couldn’t at first believe their eyes, they recognized him and told others.  And then he appeared to more and more of them in the days that followed and finally there were over five hundred witnesses that Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead.
Countless believers in that first century alone were subjected to torture and suffered martyrdom death but would never deny that Jesus had been raised because they knew he had!  And what’s more they knew that he was only the beginning of those who would rise from their graves.  The Bible says that Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
This language of firstfruits is from an Old Testament harvest festival where the priest would take some of the very first fruits from a harvest and wave them before the Lord as a visible sign to the whole community that the harvest was at hand and that the Lord could be counted on to bring forth a bountiful harvest just like the first fruits.
That changes death forever from an eternal judgment that renders our lives meaningless to a peaceful rest for our bodies.
That is who Jesus is and that is what his resurrection is.  Jesus is the very firstfruits of an entire harvest of people just like him who will rise from their graves.  He is the living proof of the faithfulness of God who promised to give life to his people who are broken by sin and death.  The Bible says that:
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. 
            Sin and death go together.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death and it has been that way all the way back to Adam and Eve. 
God warned them that disobedience would bring death but they turned their back on God’s warning and went their own way and disobeyed God and brought death into the world for themselves and every one of their children including us here today and for all those we love.  And that was the uninterrupted trajectory of the world from almost the very beginning.
But with the resurrection of Jesus Christ all of that has changed.  Jesus is the new Adam whose obedience and holiness and perfect sacrifice has changed the direction of ourd holiness and perfect sacrfice eathiinheir back on God' lives from death to life.
Now, it is true that there is an order to this:  the resurrection of Jesus from the grave comes first-- but there will be a harvest of people just like him who will also come forth from their graves because they belong to Christ. 
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ that is you and me.  The Bible says that if we have been united with Christ in a death like his we will certainly be united to Christ in a resurrection life his.
That is exactly what the Holy Spirit has done for us in Holy Baptism.  He has laid claim to us and said, now you belong to Christ and you will live with him forever!
At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ each and every one of us sitting here today will rise from our graves just as Christ rose from his grave with a glorified body no longer subject to sin and death and we will live (body and soul) with our risen Savior in heaven. 
On that day the fullness of Christ’s redeeming work in his death and resurrection that we know by faith will be seen by all.  The Bible says that on that day he will:
…deliver the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
            We tend to forget this powerful picture of the Lord especially during Holy Week.  We seem him ride into Jerusalem in great humility.  We see him taunted and spit upon and beaten.  We see him die a criminal’s death. 
But in those same moments he is God’s great champion who is doing everything necessary to defeat our enemies and on this day we celebrate his victory.  One of the great hymns form the old Lutheran hymnals that didn’t make it into our new hymnal summarizes these verses like this:
Who Is this that comes from Edom,
All His raiment stained with blood;
To the captive speaking freedom,
Bringing and bestowing good;
Glorious in the garb He wears,
Glorious in the spoil He bears?
'Tis the Savior, now victorious,
Traveling onward in His might;
'Tis the Savior; oh, how glorious
To His people is the sight!
Satan conquered and the grave,
Jesus now is strong to save.
            Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day when Christ came forth from the tomb he came as God’s own great conquering champion—the victor over death and the grave, the destroyer of Satan and the dread warrior of the heavenly armies who has the victory over all his foes. 
That is who Jesus is, that is what he accomplished, and the spoils of that victory will be manifest on the last day.
On that day every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and every knee will bend before him and every mouth will confess that is he is the one true sovereign Lord.
For those who are part of his kingdom through faith, it will be the greatest day in the history of the world.  Sin and death will have no part of our life.  We will live in the th, it will be the greatest day in the history of the world.  Sin and death wilpresence of God forever.  And we will be reunited with those we love who shared our faith.
But for those who are the enemies of Christ, the day of our Lord’s return will the day of their eternal destruction. 
Until that day he rules the world at this moment with his enemies under his feet so that all of their evil plans and all of their destructive ways must is moment with his enemies under his feet so that all of their evil plans and all of their destrucive angels to be tormenteserve his own good and loving purpose for our lives in bringing us to himself as even death does right now.
Despite what the Barry Bailey’s of the world would tell us, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in human history.  It is God’s own resounding declaration that our sins are forgiven, death is conquered, and our eternal life with God secured.  Amen.

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