Preached March 31, 2013
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The long awaited feast of Easter has finally arrived, and we can say with great joy,
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
These few words are the central message of Easter, and quite likely are the only words that most will carry away from their Church services this morning. It is indeed the central message of the day, that Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, who was crucified upon the Cross of Calvary for the sins of the world has in fact over come death and has risen from the dead. It is a perfectly amazing fact when stated in isolation, just all by itself, out of any context. How many other examples of people rising from the dead can you cite, rising from the tomb after several days in which it is absolutely certain that they were buried, as we know in the case of Jesus Christ? Recall that Roman soldiers were sent to guard His tomb, because it was feared that His body might be stolen away in order to fake a resurrection story, so we may say with complete certainty, no one tampered with that grave. And yet, Jesus did arise. Getting ahead of our story a bit, we know that He was eventually seen by the disciples and many others during the next forty days.
We have been talking about the simple fact of Jesus’ resurrection, something that has been known for almost 2000 years now. We may well ask the question, What Difference Does It Make? In order to approach this question, let us take as our text for the day, a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 6:9-11 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us consider the first verse of the text, 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. Since the beginning of time, death has been the mortal enemy of man. Every man has seen his future ending in death, and this has worried mankind from the beginning. A typical example of this concern is found in Psalms 89:47-48 47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? 48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Death is the common expectation and experience of all mankind, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ has not changed that at all. But let us read on, remembering that Jesus was in fact true Man, because of the Incarnation, and verse 9 tells us that, not only has Jesus risen from the dead, but that He will not die again. We all know of cases, particularly in modern times, where a person is declared clinically dead, and yet they are eventually ressucitated and returned to life. In some cases, the resussications occur after relatively long time periods, so that one might be tempted to say that the person has indeed risen from the dead. But what invariably happens is that, eventually, that person dies a natural death at a later time. This is simply our mortal nature. But verse 9 is telling us that death has no more claim upon Jesus; He will not die again. He has broken the hold of death. Death is defeated by Jesus Christ, a completely new thing!
This is important. It says that, despite the experience of all of mankind, death is not invincible. It can be defeated, and Jesus Christ is the one who can defeat death! This is a first, and it has never been repeated by any other man, for obvious reasons: Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, and there is none other like Him! If we want to have any hope of a life beyond this life, we must look to Jesus as the only One who has shown the way.
Moving on to verse 10, we see 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. In His death, Jesus took all of our sins upon Himself, so that He who was without sin, became filled with sin, to bear the full weight of the sins of the world upon the Cross. This is very hard for us to imagine, but only in this way could Jesus truly take our sins upon Himself. In rising from the dead, however, Jesus has shaken off all of those sins, and is once again the pure, spotless Son of God so that He can live, both in this world and in heaven above to the glory of God the Father. In defeating death, He breaks all the bondage of sin. He is able to do this for Himself, and in like manner, He is able to do this for us. This is critically important, because it means that the sins that still hold us at our death can and will be broken by Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, to the glory of His Father in heaven.
Finally, in verse 11, St. Paul turns his attention to what he wants his readers to remember about all of this: 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Just as the resurrected Christ was free from sin, so likewise, we his followers should turn away from sin in every form. We are specifically called upon to lead chaste lives, to keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world, and to imitate Jesus in our lives. As Jesus lives in heaven to glorify His Father, so we living in this world should live our lives to glorify God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in every aspect of our lives.
Now, it is quite obvious that there are many in our modern world who ignore the significance of the Resurrection in their daily lives. Some do so by conscious decision that they think this whole “Jesus business” is simply for the weak and feeble minded. These are the militant atheists; they are often loudly outspoken. People such as Richard Dawkins come immediately to mind. There is a much larger number of people who simply ignore the Resurrection and its consequences by virtue of having never given it much serious thought. Our public education system today encourages this approach, often by suggesting that relgion ought to be a “very private matter,” something not to be discussed in polite company. The fact that this sort of thinking has been allowed to come to dominate our society is a failure of the Christian Church. Our Great Commission is to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations, and this cannot possibly be done if the Gospel must be considered “a very private matter.” This line of thinking, often called Political Correctness, is actually a form of Marxism, and it is designed to suppress all religious faith. We must be prepared to ignore PC, and preach the Gospel fearlessly, just as Jesus Christ did during His public ministry (can you imagine Jesus shrinking away, for fear of offending the Pharisees? It is to laugh!). No, we must be dead to sin, but alive in Christ Jesus, and ready to pursue the Gospel without fear! If we do anything less, we are not truly alive in Christ!
Today we rejoice in the Resurrection of our Risen Lord, recognizing that without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity. It is the Resurrection that is the proof of the pudding! This is the day that Jesus finally and conclusively proved beyond all doubt that He was indeed the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah of the Jews, and the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. If He had failed to return, Christianity would have withered and died like so many other religions have along the way. But it has not. It has become the religion that has changed countless lives over the last two millinia, has driven the development of European culture and all of the accompanying developments in art, literature, science, medicine, mathematics, etc. None of this would have happened without the Christian faith and the understanding of God that it has given to mankind. None of that is of the slightest consequence except as it contributes to the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God who sent His only Son to be our Saviour.
Let us pray the Collect for Easter Day:
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.