17. April 2022
Alleluia. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
You either have all of Jesus or you have none of Him at all. If Jesus is not born of the virgin Mary on that night in Bethlehem, then Jesus cannot be crucified and die. If Jesus did not bear witness to His divine Sonship and sinless life, then God in Christ could not take all sins and death onto Himself. If Jesus did not die, then He could not be raised from the dead to the glory of God the Father. And if Jesus is not raised, then our faith in Him is vanity and we’re still dead in our trespasses and sins. And if Christ has not ascended to His Father and your Father, then the power of His resurrected life has not gone out into the whole world. You either have the whole Jesus as confessed in the Creeds, or you don’t have Jesus at all.
The resurrection of Christ came as a complete surprise to the disciples. The Gospel narratives still witness the total confusion of Easter morning when these disturbed people rushed to the grave. The rumors and testimonies of good news met together. The women came to the tomb in the dawn and found it empty. Mary Magdalene rushed away and brought Peter and John. The others in the meantime had met the angels and heard their message and in their turn, they went back to the city so excited and disturbed that they scarcely dared to tell the unbelievable news.
John and Peter came to the tomb and found the grave clothes and an empty tomb. Only John sensed something of what had happened. When they had gone, Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. And there she met the resurrected Lord himself and recognized him. Soon after this Jesus showed himself also to the women who were on their way into the city. And at last, the whole company of disciples heard what had taken place. It is significant that they did not believe what was told them, but they were sure it was idle talk, the beginning of a myth.
During the course of the day, Christ sought out one after the other of his doubting disciples. First, it was Peter, then Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus, and at last in the evening he greeted the whole group of disciples who were gathered together behind locked doors. Then their doubts were overcome. The incredible had become a reality and their sadness was turned to jubilation.
This is the way it always happens when a group of eyewitnesses tells about some bewildering and unexpected event. It is exactly the clear and obvious surprise, the amazement, the confusion, and the many unexplained connections among the various accounts that bear witness to the truth and reality of it all. If the story were fabricated, there would not be all of these unexplained connections, but in the reality of history which has been handed over to you, they are there.
It’s a shock that no one seems prepared for Jesus to rise from the dead. Only the pagans and unbelievers were prepared against the potential of fraud or hoax rising. St. Matthew tells us that, “some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”” (Mt 28:13-14) Even the hostile witnesses acknowledge that Jesus rose.
Apostles, Evangelists, disciples, and the rest of the eyewitnesses want you to know that Jesus is more than myth or legend. His birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension are all historic facts, real events that happened in real-time. And if this is not true, then there is little point to our gathering, our preaching and teaching, or any of the rites and rituals of the church. The whole business of the church becomes religious idolatry if you don’t have the real Jesus, whole and real. And worse than that, you’d still be dead in your trespasses and sins, unforgiven and outside your promised resurrection. So, listen to how the Scriptures speak of this day. Consider that they unanimously doubted in their flesh but believed by the Spirit:
St. Paul writes, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.” (1 Cor 15:3-5)
St. Luke recalls, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3)
The beloved St. John testifies, “Truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name… This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 20:11; 21:24)
St. Peter records, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
You either have all of Jesus or you have none of Him at all. The resurrection witnesses knew what they had shared. The accusation that they had made it all up they could endure. And they had to face persecution, they were beaten, crucified, and stoned. Why would they do that for a lie, a hoax, or even under some mass delusion. But they could not be silenced. St. Peter and John themselves confessed before the Sanhedrin, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
So, too, you are given to confess the whole and real Jesus and nothing and no one less. Everything promised by God—forgiveness, providential life, and eternal salvation—depends on Christ Jesus dying for your sins and being raised for your justification.
Or as Dr. Luther has taught us to confess: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”
Alleluia. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin