1 April 2018
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
CHRIST IS RISEN! And first things first: He descended into hell!
Did Satan think Christ wouldn’t come? Did death suppose that he could hold the Lord of Life? Did they not know the Sacred Scriptures?
Did the devil think hell’s gates could hold against this Man of War and Lord of Sabaoth? Or did he think he was safe, lurking in the flames, as if they were too hot for the indestructible and only King? Today the kingdom of Satan crumbles and the gates of hell are overcome! Jesus, alive and well, descended into hell! Daniel 3 is a foretaste of this day.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were set over all the affairs of the King in the province of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar thought he owned them, you see. Spoils from his victorious siege of Jerusalem.
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR MADE AN IMAGE OF GOLD, a massive thing, for all to worship in his land. He made a decree that whenever you hear the horn blast, when you hear the music of the king, you must FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP it AND, v. 6, WHOEVER DOES NOT FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP SHALL IMMEDIATELY BE CAST INTO A BURNING FIERY FURNACE—a fire like hell itself.
When the horn blasted and the pipes played and every kind of music rang throughout the land, most of THE PEOPLES…FELL DOWN AND WORSHIPED and obeyed the dreadful king. But not all. The king’s spies were seeking to catch them in a trap. AT THAT TIME CERTAIN CHALDEANS CAME FOREWORD AND MALICIOUSLY ACCUSED THE JEWS. And as malicious as it was, the Chaldeans were telling the truth about the Jews. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego heard the music, they didn’t fall down and worship as the king commanded.
The king heard this, and was stirred into a FURIOUS RAGE and he had the three men brought before him and questioned them. When he heard for himself that they would not worship as he commanded, that they would never bow down, Nebuchadnezzar WAS FILLED WITH FURY, AND THE EXPRESSION OF HIS COUNTENANCE TURNED AGAINST SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABEDNEGO. So HE ORDERED THE FURNACE HEATED SEVEN TIMES MORE THAN IT WAS USUALLY HEATED. AND HE ORDERED SOME OF THE MIGHTY MEN OF HIS ARMY TO BIND SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABEDNEGO, AND CAST THEM INTO THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE. He sentenced them to a fiery death.
Beloved children of the Resurrection, this is written for us. It’s the story of God and Satan, and humanity flipped, turned upside down and inside out. Because it was not an earthly king but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who placed us over His creation and erected an object of worship in the midst of His land. It was God who sent His angels with trumpets to call us to fall down and worship, not AN IMAGE OF GOLD, but THE IMAGE OF GOD, erected on a tree as a STANDARD FOR THE PEOPLES, so that at the sound of His Name, EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.
But we have not all bowed. We have not all confessed. No, not like He commanded. We, like sheep, have gone astray. And Satan has come before the King of Glory to accuse us maliciously before our God. “The children of men,” he snarls “have not worshiped the King as He’s commanded and bowed down before the IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD.” The Scripture, too, say, “KISS THE SON LEST HE BE ANGRY AND YOU PERISH IN THE WAY.” But we have not kissed Him, not like we should have, not out of fear and love. We haven’t listened to His voice, not as we ought, and we haven’t hearkened to the music of the heavenly host to stop whatever we’re doing to bow down before the King. The disciples couldn’t boast as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who remained faithful unto death. The disciples all denied Him. We’ve all been scattered. We all LIKE SHEEP HAVE GONE ASTRAY.
The King Himself warned us that if we do not worship Him and love Him with our whole heart there’d be hell to pay, there’d be the flames of hell, and WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH. And Satan, thrilled by the warning, has been heating the furnace of hell 7 times 70 for the children of men he so despises. Ever since we sinned, ever since Adam fell, we’ve been doomed. Our bodies and souls bound to fall, bound to sin, BOUND to fall INTO THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE, just like SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABEDNEGO.
But CHRIST IS RISEN! And, first, He descend into the flames of hell! Into the furnace! Before we were ever felt hell’s flames, Christ was there first, unbound and free, and Lord of the Flames, crushing the FIERY SERPENT’S head. If I ascend to Heaven, O Lord, You are there. If I descend into hell, behold, You are there!
After they threw the three men into the furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar ROSE UP IN HASTE and DECLARED TO HIS COUNSELORS, “DID WE NOT CAST THREE MEN BOUND INTO THE FIRE?…BUT I SEE FOUR MEN UNBOUND, WALKING IN THE MIDST OF THE FIRE, AND THEY ARE NOT HURT. AND,” said the King, “THE FOURTH IS LIKE A SON OF GOD.” What can Satan do now? What can hell do now that Christ is alive and unbounded and walking through the gates of hell as if He owned the place? What accusations can Satan bring against us? What condemnation?
Even in the fieriest of trials, even in the bowels of Hell itself cannot harm you anymore. CHRIST IS RISEN! And He holds the keys of death and hell. This, His first order of business, took place on Easter Morning. In the Name of Jesus + Amen