SERMON FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER, APRIL 28TH, 2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Epistle Reading: 1 John 5:4-10
Last Sunday was a feast for the eyes and the ears. We opened our ears to the preaching of the angels who announced those words which utterly decimated the power of sin and the grave: “He is risen. He is not here.” Mary had gone to the tomb to anoint a dead body but instead found a stoned rolled aside and an empty tomb. Jesus who was crucified, dead, and buried was now alive.
So what’s it all mean? We learn from Holy Scripture that the sin of Adam brought sin and death upon all creation, including Adam and his offspring, all his sons and daughters, that’s you and me – all of us. But that righteous act of Christ, in the once for all sacrifice of His flesh upon the cross, brought forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in the place where sin, death and condemnation had once reigned.
Once crucified and buried, Christ absolutely had to rise from the dead. And it wasn’t simply some raw power that God was exercising here. Rather Jesus rose from the dead precisely because His death actually took away the sin of the world. It was impossible for the grave to hold him in. Therefore, when Jesus stood up the resurrection, death and hell cracked under his pierced feet. Paul was not oversimplifying the meaning of it all when he simply writes: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” So through our baptisms into his death and resurrection, just as Christ walked out of the grave so shall it be for every Christian saint who lives and believes in Him. They too will walk out of their graves, just as it was with Christ our Lord. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”
Any confessing Christian should know and believe this in his heart. And so the preaching of this Gospel must continue to go out into all the world, that Christ is truly risen. The grave empty. This is our Easter Gospel, it is the center of all human history, and the very foundation of our faith.
However, this Sunday, on the Octave of Easter, we see that we’re not simply left with an empty tomb! You see, the preaching of the angel that He is risen and not here is actually just the beginning of a marvelous Easter sermon, with plenty more to come.
Because this morning in our Gospel we see that we have much more than an empty tomb. We have Jesus, in the flesh, risen and fresh from the grave, standing among His disciples, forgiving sins, restoring and refreshing His disciples, bearing also with their unbelief, and weakness, and calling them all to faith and a lively confidence in His unfailing love.
Now, I hope that sounds familiar because it’s the same pattern that happens week in and week out here in Christ’s holy church, among us right here at Luther Memorial Chapel. Where Christ, stands also among us, calling us to this same Gospel, enlightening us with those same gifts, and sanctifying and keeping us in the one truth faith. Christ again, this morning, stands in the midst of troubled people, that’s you and me, fair-weather friends, us again, and faltering disciples. Again, all of us. And He’s here among us not to breathe fire breathing threats but rather to speak kindly to you, absolve you, and share with you the fruits of His cross and resurrection.
If you can hold one thought in your mind this morning, as you reflect upon this day, and the readings, let it be this: that God is truly in our midst! All of the Christian life is characterized by this overwhelming truth, that God is present here among us. The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. It is He, the Lamb of God, that stands victorious on our altar this morning. Slain and yet living. All the glory of heaven is now flowing from Him to us. He comes to us in Word and Sacraments. We have seen His glory. From His fullness we have received grace upon grace! In Him, we are partakers of the fullness of deity, of the unspeakable, incomprehensible and incorruptible glory of the heavenly realm. Participation in the very life of God.
So hold and believe this truth: You’ve got far more than an empty tombs folks. God is in our midst. Because what happened with the incarnation of God in flesh at Christmas is no past event. The connection that was opened between heaven and earth has never since been broken. What happened on Good Friday, when Christ died and the temple curtain tore from top to bottom, is not some mere history lesson. It happened, historically, to the last detail, but it’s also descriptive of the present and ongoing reality of the atonement – that, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Reconciliation between God and man and reconciliation also between heaven and earth – all through the blood of the Lamb. That Christ may also stand among us this morning, risen from the grave, and speak so kindly and cheerfully to each and every one of us. “Peace be with you,” He says, “Your sins are put away.” Look what I have done for you! Do not disbelieve but believe!”
We sing and confess. He is risen. He is not here. That’s what the angels preach. But how wonderful also is this preaching that comes along with it: “We have seen his glory,” says that Evangelist. “That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, this we proclaim.”
Of this resurrection victory, John proclaims in his epistle this morning: “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood.” These three point to Christ and flow from Christ. Jesus shows His disciples His hands and His side, from which blood and water flowed, saying, “Peace be with you.” He presents to us those very same wounds which turn our fear to gladness and which restore us to the Father.
Jesus breathes on His disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” His breath, His words, are Spirit and life. Those words of absolution raise up our dry, dead bones and give us new and everlasting life. This is what Ezekiel foresaw in that valley of dry bones where new life was springing up from Jesus’ resurrection. The new creation: sinews, and bones, and incorruptible flesh raised by God from the dust of death to new life – by the Spirit of God. Christ sends out His ministers to do just that – to speak His forgiving, Spirit-filled words to those who repent in His stead.
This morning, hold this one thought in your heart and mind. That God has given you more than an empty tomb. He’s given you Himself. Hold and treasure this thought: That God is among us, fresh and risen from the grave. He comes to us in mercy and in grace. And wonder of wonders, He doesn’t just forgive you; He actually likes you. The Lord enjoys your company. He eats with you. He drinks with you. And He bids you all to come to Him, and let every doubt, every misgiving and every faithless fear just melt away.
Your Jesus presents His wounds to you in the Sacraments of water and blood, truly a sign and testimony of His undying love for you. And Your Jesus bids you to touch His side at His table, to receive His risen body and blood in true faith, so that believing, you may have life in His name, and confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Collect of the Day:
Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God, through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and forever; Amen!