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Lindemann on the Resurrection of Our Lord

by revalkorn ~ April 14th, 2011

EASTER DAY, THE FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD

This day is the climax of the Church’s Year, the feast of feasts the king of days. The Holy Gospel and also St. Matthew’s account state that our Lord rose from the dead on “the first day of the week.” This day of the week has become the Lord’s Day. In joyful remembrance of His victory the faithful observe a weekly commemoration which has not displaced but only emphasized the annual observance. It is a day of greatest and holiest joy. Throughout the solemn weeks of Lent the Church looked forward eagerly, almost impatiently, for its coming. Again and again the Liturgy sent a ray of Easter light ahead.

Properly to reflect the spirit of the Liturgy, the preacher must be vividly conscious that the entire Lenten season is intended to prepare the faithful for the rising with Christ at Easter into newness of life. The ancient Liturgy is strongly influenced and colored by the fact that the catechumens were passing through a period of intense preparation for their Baptism, by which they were to be born into a new life. The penitents were absolved and readmitted to the body of Christ. Even today the baptismal vow is repeated and renewed in some sections of the Church on Easter Eve. When the Head arose, the mystical body was to be holy, ready to serve the Head in holiness. In Romans 6 St. Paul argues: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” The Liturgy of Easter has some important things to say about how Christians of today must spend their lives. Such moral instruction is not the main thing on this day, nevertheless it is fitting that this feast should bring its influence to bear on our conduct. At Christmas all attention is focused on the historical fact of our Lord’s birth, in which we cannot participate. St. Paul tells us, however, that we may participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Easter is the feast of our redemption and to be redeemed means not only that we are freed from sin. It means also that we are endowed with grace. The loftiness of the life in grace is the great theme and lesson of Easter. In the ancient Church the loftiness of grace that comes to us in the Easter mystery was dramatically portrayed in the newly baptized adults, who were living illustrations of the grace of Holy Baptism. “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your trespasses” (Col. 2:12,13). The Epistle puts it: “Let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” “For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Having considered the wonderful things of grace, we may now take up the subject of the risen Christ. The whole redemptive work, not only the one phase of the Resurrection, is the object of this day’s celebration. The Resurrection it-self is the divine testimony that the Redemption has been accomplished. The Liturgy portrays our risen Lord under the two figures of the Lamb and the Conqueror, each of which seems to contradict the other. The Epistle, Gradual, Sentence, Preface, and Agnus Dei all speak of the risen Lord as the Paschal Lamb, sacrificed for us. In the Gloria we sing of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Christ is the Lamb sacrificed on the Cross, the Lamb that becomes our food in the Holy Eucharist. The figure of the Lamb is one of peace. It refers more directly to the death of the Savior than to His resurrection. The other image of Christ is that of Warrior and Conqueror. This picture of Him was painted for us repeatedly during the season of Lent. On the first Sunday in Lent we saw Him as the Conqueror who defeats the devil. On the third He was shown as the Stronger One who overcomes and divides the spoil. On the fifth He conquered over bodily needs. On the sixth He came riding as the glorious King. This representation of Christ contains an important message for us. We, too, are expected to be warriors and victors. The Book of Revelation speaks repeatedly of the Christian in the role of conqueror, who is to share the crown of victory with Christ, whereas the coward will receive only malediction. In the twenty-first chapter we are told that he who conquers will inherit the water of life, but as for the cowardly and faithless, their lot will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Along with the risen Conqueror over death and hell, we are destined to fight the good fight and to emerge from it victorious. We are to be living witnesses of Christ’s resurrection by letting the grace it has brought us shine out for all to see in the holiness of true Christian conduct.

It would seem appropriate that the preacher on this day be guided by the spirit and intention of the ancient Liturgy in the choice of his text and theme. If so, the Epistle will be chosen more frequently as text of the sermon than the Holy Gospel, which is inadequate in that it does not show the risen Christ. The ancient emphasis on rising with Christ into newness of life may prove less pleasing and more disturbing to the annual visitor, but the preacher’s chief responsibility is to the faithful. Since the Monday after Easter is no longer observed generally, the Lessons for this day may be used.

In ancient days the celebration began at midnight with ringing of bells. The churches were ablaze with candles and lights. Holy Baptism was administered at “cockcrow.” The candidates were dressed in new white robes which they wore throughout “White Week,” the “Week of Weeks.” Some scholars connect the white robes worn by catechumens and clergy with the “clean linen shroud” in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of our Lord and believe that they signified “we were buried with Him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3, 4). A remnant of primitive Christian symbolism is the lighting of the Paschal Candle, which is a development rooted in the ancient Lucernarium. This light burns on an individual candelabrum or candlestick as a symbol of the risen Christ until after the reading of the Holy Gospel on the Ascension of our Lord. The Paschal Candle is so significant because ever since Christmas we have been looking forward to the victory of Christ the Light over darkness. In the Gradual for Easter we sing: “This is the day the Lord hath made.” The victory is won, the Light has vanquished the darkness. The entire season of Lent set before us the battle of the Light with darkness. The Light seemed momentarily to be overcome and Christ died on the Cross. But as at Christmas the light shone in darkness, so after the sorrowful Holy Week the sun of the Resurrection rises victoriously to shine eternally.

The Introit. “When I awake, I am still with Thee. Alleluia! Thou hast laid Thine hand upon me. Alleluia! Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain to it. Alleluia! Alleluia! O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising.”

Or: “He is risen, Alleluia! Why seek ye the Living among the dead? Alleluia! Remember how He spake unto you, Alleluia! the Son of Man must be crucified and the third day rise again. Alleluia! Alleluia! Thou crownedst Him with glory and honor. Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.”

Whichever of the Introits may be used, the Alleluia rings out to usher in the day of joy. To fully understand the first Introit, it is necessary to read the en-tire 139th Psalm. The Revised Standard Version translates: “When I awake, I am still with Thee (verse 18b). Thou layest Thy hand upon me (v. 5b). Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it (v. 6). O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up (v. 2).” A marginal reading is: “Were I to come to the end, I would still be with Thee.” The thought behind the Introit seems to be that with our Lord’s resurrection the night has come to an end and, in the words of the Gradual, “this is the day which the Lord hath made.” The work of redemption is accomplished. We have died with Christ in Holy Baptism and have risen with Him to a new day. I have risen to a new life, I have been awakened to a new day, and now I am with Thee. Thou layest Thy hand upon me, first to make me feel the misery of being separated, but now in fatherly love. Thou hast given me a knowledge of Thy love and concern. This knowledge is too high for me. I stand aghast as I realize the eternal will of grace which is at work in the history of humanity. Thou hast searched me and known from eternity my lying down in sin and death and my rising up to a new life.

The Collect. “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 Thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same,” etc.

Or: “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who celebrate Thy Paschal Feast, kindled with heavenly desires, may ever thirst for the Fountain of Life, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.”

Or: “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who celebrate the solemnities of the Lord’s resurrection may by the renewal of Thy Holy Spirit rise again from the death of the soul; through the same Jesus Christ,” etc.

The first Collect expresses the festival thought in two pictures: the Victor on Golgotha has overcome death and opened the gate of Paradise. We pray for our victory over sin and death, and for the opening of Paradise for us, for grace and glory. But this Collect also teaches that Christ’s rising in victorious power does not guarantee our rising in the likeness of His resurrection to the enjoyment of the eternal blessings. Something is required of the believer. By God’s help he must bring to good effect the good desires that are given him with the rising to the new life in Christ. As the Epistle puts it: he must cleanse out the old leaven. On the other hand, Christ’s rising is a guarantee that He who has granted us to participate in Christ’s rising will ever help us to the higher life, if we trust in the merit of the Son, if we have the will. All three Collects emphasize that we have risen with Christ, from the death of the soul to a new life, that new desires have been kindled within us.

The Epistle (1 Cor. 5:6-8). The Paschal Feast of the Old Testament was a prophetic picture of the Easter Festival. Christ, our Paschal Lamb, is sacrificed and ready to be consumed by faith. Therefore we Christians must cleanse out the old leaven of sin forever. This puts us in mind of the man in the Gospel who came to the marriage without a wedding garment. How shall we keep the feast? What kind of heart and life are we bringing?

The Gradual. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia!”

This is the day which the Lord hath made. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. Human words and speech are too poor for the Easter Festival; so we must content ourselves with expressing our thanks and praise in this little hymn. The Gradual echoes the sentiment of the Epistle, “our Passover” refers directly to Christ’s death, yet the Church uses it as a typical symbol of Easter. Again there is the implication of rising to a new life with Christ and praising God by purging out the old leaven of sin.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Mark 16:1-8). Selected in the seventh century, this Les-son seems inadequate in that it includes no appearance of the risen Christ. We see only the empty tomb. Historically this is explained by the fact that the accounts of the Resurrection were read in the daily services of Easter week, and this Gospel presented only the preliminary section of the narrative.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

(In grateful memory of many excellent sermons heard from the lips of a truly great preacher, this sermon is offered in translation. It is by Dr. C. C. Schmidt, for many years pastor of the Church of the Holy Cross in St. Louis, and was published in a volume of sermons on the Standard Epistles entitled Weg des Lebens.)

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin,
Let all the earth keep triumph
And all that is therein.
Let all things, seen and unseen,
Their notes of gladness blend;
For Christ the Lord hath risen-
Our joy, that hath no end.

So all Christendom sings and jubilates once again over the resurrection of her Savior Jesus Christ. “Let all the earth keep triumph!” the Christians cry, for they would have all the world, all men, join them in praising God for this great miracle. It would seem almost as though the world were fulfilling this desire of the Church, for we hear and read about Easter and its observance everywhere. Even the daily press brings editorials and observations on Easter and thoughts regarding resurrection. But we would be deceived if we were to conclude from this that the light of truth is beginning to dawn upon the world. What are these observations? At best they are phantasies of spring or of the resurrection and renewing of nature. The poor, blind world has no real understanding and not the slightest conception of this festival’s true significance. The resurrection of nature! What a weak, inadequate picture of the Resurrection we celebrate today! How insignificant when compared with the fact that the Son of God, who died on the cross, is risen, has overcome death and restored life to all the world. By virtue of Christ’s resurrection an everlasting resurrection now takes place, when sinners rise from the sleep of death to a life lived to the glory of God. The whole Church rose with Christ, as it were. All Christendom and all Christianity is the fruit and result of Christ’s resurrection. Day for day we Christians still live by it and in it.

The Epistle for this festival expresses the essential Easter thought when it states: “Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Because of these words the text was appointed as the Epistle for Easter. But the idea was not that this is an invitation to participate in the celebration of the Easter festival. For the words “let us keep the festival” were written for all Christians and for every day. Every day of our life we are to celebrate Easter. Because Christ is our Paschal Lamb always and without interruption, we are to celebrate Easter always and uninterruptedly. This, according to the Epistle for this day, is what is to be preached on Easter Day:

That the Christians’ Life Is to Be a Daily Celebration of Easter

in that they:

I. Daily eat the true Paschal Lamb by faith
II. Daily rise to a new life by its power

“Our Paschal Lamb,” wrote St. Paul. Who else has a paschal lamb? He is thinking of the people of Israel. They had a paschal lamb until Christ became the true Paschal Lamb. We know the story. Israel was being oppressed and persecuted in Egypt. The purpose was the liquidation of this people. Hearing the crying and moaning of His people, God at last remembered His promise and sent a savior, Moses. But this man’s efforts could not move Pharaoh to let Israel go. God’s hour of deliverance came, and He decreed to kill all the first-born in Egypt and thereby dispose Pharaoh and his people to let Israel go. To His people God gave the command that in every home a yearling lamb was to be killed, roasted, and eaten. The blood of the lamb was to be applied to the doors. When He saw the blood, He would pass over with the plague. The people obeyed, and the hour of deliverance had come. The roasting and eating of the paschal or Easter lamb became a custom in Israel. They did it annually with thanksgiving to God for having graciously spared them in Egypt and miraculously delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh.

The Apostle refers to this story when he writes, “Our Paschal Lamb.” We Christians, too, have an Easter Lamb, and therefore we have every reason for celebrating the festival. We, too, were prisoners in a land of Egypt and in great peril of a destroyer. This Egypt is the kingdom of the devil, in which we were captives because of sin. The devil kept us prisoners, and there was no escape. The only prospect was that the Evil One would carry us with him by the power of death into hell and damnation. But we were delivered and led out by an Easter Lamb, Christ, sacrificed for us. Only the day before yesterday we stood in spirit at the sacrificial altar of the Cross, on which this Lamb of God was killed and sacrificed, and we heard the wonderful words: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” See, there Christ became our sacrificial Lamb and bore our sins in His body. Today, however, He is our Easter Lamb. What does that mean? The Easter message tells us: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here.” He who was crucified for us is risen. The Lamb who was killed lives from eternity to eternity and has the keys of death and of hell.

How immeasurably important is this message! If He had not risen, who could know then why He died? Who would know or who could believe that He offered Himself a sacrifice for us, for our deliverance? The crucifixion of Christ, of the Son of God, would remain a wonderful but eternally dark and puzzling story. Only the Easter sun has brought light into this darkness. This Easter sun has written on the Cross in golden letters: Christ, the Lamb sacrificed for men, has become the true Easter Lamb. He was offered for our sins and raised again for our justification. The communion of saints sings joyfully of the Lord’s victory and confesses:

He who gave for us His life,
Who for us endured the strife,
Is our Paschal Lamb today.
We, too, sing for joy and say: Alleluia!

He who died for us also rose for us, that we may know He did not suffer and die for us in vain. He has accomplished all. His resurrection is the victory over all our foes, a public declaration of God that the world is reconciled to Him and the curse of sin is removed. Because He rose, we know that His blood was accepted as ransom and is able to deliver us out of the hand of the destroyer. Because Christ rose after suffering the most painful death as the true, patient Lamb of sacrifice, the prophetic picture of the Passover lamb is fulfilled in Him. The paschal lamb was a picture of our deliverance, but by His sacrifice Christ has truly purchased our freedom from the power of sin, death, and the devil.

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree —
So true His love! — to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it. Death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us. Alleluia!

Yes, we, too, have an Easter Lamb. We have the true Easter Lamb. Is it not meet and right, then, that we celebrate the festival? Since Christ is our Easter Lamb constantly, should not our celebration be constant? How is this done? When do we celebrate the true Easter? The celebration of the Jewish Passover required that the lamb be consumed, eaten. This was an essential feature of the proper celebration. The same is true of our celebration. The first and most necessary requirement is that we cat, consume, appropriate our Easter Lamb, Christ. This we are to do constantly, all our life. We do it by faith. We rejoice over our Savior, who died and rose for us. In this way we partake of Him. Surely that was God’s will and intention when He proclaimed that He made His Son, who died on the Cross, our Easter Lamb. What else would He expect but that we believe it with all our heart and rejoice over it? Then we are confident and no longer fear death and judgment, devil or hell, because of our sins. This is truly to celebrate the festival. This we are to do daily. This faith we are to exercise constantly, in every condition of life, in all needs and temptations, and so to make profitable use of Christ’s resurrection. So our whole life will be a constant celebration of Easter.

Whenever in church we hear the Gospel and celebrate the Sacrament, and believe and take comfort in what is offered and sealed to us, we partake of our Easter Lamb and rejoice in His resurrection. When our conscience accuses us and we must confess in shame and sorrow that again we have merited wrath and displeasure, but then call to remembrance the words, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? … It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead for us,” we partake of our Easter Lamb and celebrate the festival. When severe affliction makes our heart tremble and strength departs, and we grow faint in soul and body, but then in faith repeat the words, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” this also means nothing else but to partake of Jesus by faith and to celebrate Easter. When we are prepared to pray and then think how unworthy we are, yet remember that we pray in the name of Jesus; or when we realize how kind the Lord is and that this grace is ours through Christ, and we lift our hearts in thanksgiving, all this is a true celebration of Easter, a taking comfort in Christ, the Risen One, and a rejoicing in Him by faith. When death and hell fill us with fear and we then remember that the Risen One has conquered death and hell, and heart and lips raise St. Paul’s song of triumph: “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” surely this means to believe in Christ the Risen One and to rejoice in His victory.

Yes, that is the Christians’ daily celebration of Easter. Do we know it, be-loved, and do we live in it? You who until now have not participated in this celebration of Easter do not know as yet what Christianity is. Would you like to know? Is not this desire in you? Blessed are you if you have this desire. For Christ died and rose also for you. If you, in some measure, realize the misery of your sinfulness, then only believe as the Christians believe. Take comfort in this Jesus and that through Him you are redeemed. If there is a hunger in you for precious grace and forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death and resurrection, then take your place at the Easter table. The Easter Lamb is prepared also for you. Eat and partake of Him by faith, and your soul will be refreshed.

Thank God, we Christians know this celebration of Easter. But should we not know it better? Should we not be more diligent about it? The more abundant use we make of our Easter Lamb, the better for us, the happier and more blessed are we. May this sermon induce and entice us to make our life a constant celebration of Easter, in greater measure than until now, and to refresh and strengthen our soul daily at the ever-ready Easter table. All the more pronounced will be the second phase of a true Easter celebration.

II

The Epistle points out that the Christians’ life is to be a daily celebration of Easter also in this, that by the power of the Easter Lamb they daily rise to a new life. We read: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven ferments the whole lump of dough? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be fresh dough, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed.” The Apostle means to say: You Christians tolerate sins in your midst, you tolerate people who live in sins. This is nothing to boast about, this is no reputation for a congregation of Christians, who know and believe that Christ is their Easter Lamb. Do you not know that sin is like a leaven which soon ferments the whole lump of dough? Do you not know that for the Jewish Passover celebration all leaven had to be removed from the home? That was a shadow and prophetic picture, as was also the Passover lamb. We now have the true Easter Lamb, Christ, who died and rose for us. Therefore you, too, must have a real house cleaning. You observe Easter constantly; then you must not permit any leaven of sin to remain among you, but you must ceaselessly cleanse out whatever still remains or threatens to return.

This admonition applies to all Christians no less than what the Apostle said of the Easter Lamb. You Christians celebrate Easter, you eat the Easter Lamb; yet how much leaven of sin, how much of the old manner of life, of the former malice, is still found among you! Greediness, concern for the earthly, spiritual laziness, refusal to be reconciled, uncleanness, slandering, defaming! How can you tolerate such wickedness among you? Your boasting is not good. Is that the kind of life for Christians who celebrate Easter? No, away with these remainders of spiritual death! Cleanse out the old leaven more and more, and prove yourselves to be new dough. Prove that you truly have part in Christ’s resurrection by rising daily to a new life in the power of His resurrection.

Do not be astonished that Christians are reproved and rebuked so sharply and admonished to improve, and this in connection with the sweet, heart-refreshing Gospel of Easter. Why should it not be so? Tell me, if Christians tolerate sins among them, is that not ten times more sinful and reprehensible than if unbelievers live in sin? People who know and believe that God’s Son died and rose to redeem them, should they not keep themselves clean of sin? And where should this reproof be understood and willingly accepted and also be fruitful if not among Christians? They recognize sin as an abomination and do not wish to sin. They have eaten of the true Easter Lamb, which fills their soul with heavenly powers of life. They partake of the Lamb daily. Should not this power effect also that they fight earnestly against everything sinful? They are risen with Christ and are partakers of His heavenly life. Should they not therefore turn from the vain, sinful ways of this world and seek the things that are above, where Christ is?

Beloved, we shall welcome whatever the Apostle tells us. We know also that our boasting is not good. How much leaven of sin is still noticeable in our congregational as well as in our personal life! We know that thereby we give Satan added reason for denying us the comfort of Christ’s death and resurrection. May we, then, lay hold on this comfort by faith with ever increasing firmness. May we also imitate Christ’s spirit and strive that as Christ’s resurrection is the comfort of our faith, so it may be more and more the power of our life.

Then let us feast this Easter Day
On Christ, the Bread of heaven;
The Word of Grace hath purged away
The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed,
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other. Alleluia!

OUTLINES FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Twofold Miracle of Easter, I. For Us, II. On Us.

The Glory of Our Lord’s Resurrection. I. How and Under What Circum-stances, II. How First Proclaimed.

Christ Is Risen! I. A Glorious Miracle, II. An Established Fact, III. A Mighty Consolation.

Christ’s Resurrection. I. Its Certainty, II. Its Nature, III. Its Purpose.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

(If the Monday after Easter is still observed, the Holy Gospel is usually the text of the sermon. Therefore no serious difficulty is created by offering a sermon on the Epistle for the Monday after Easter as an Easter sermon with emphasis on the Proper Preface.)

“God raised Him on the third day!” St. Peter is preaching in the house of the Gentile Cornelius, where this upright and God-fearing centurion had gathered his kinsmen and close friends to hear the Apostle’s message. The fact that he had been sent by God to the house of a Gentile convinced St. Peter that God shows no partiality, that the good news of peace by Jesus Christ was not only for Israel but that in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him. The people assembled in this Gentile house knew the story of Jesus of Nazareth. St. Peter assures them that he was a witness to all Christ did to prove God was with Him. This Jesus they put to death by crucifying Him; but God raised Him on the third day and commanded the Apostles to preach and to testify that the Christ raised from the dead is ordained to be the Judge of the living and the dead. “To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” He is Lord of all.

As all New Testament sermons, this first to Gentile Christians was essentially an Easter sermon. They put Him to death, but God raised Him on the third day. God raised Him! Jesus of Nazareth lives! The proof is that God made Him manifest. He who was killed by being hanged on a tree appeared to men, ate and drank with men after He rose from the dead. However, God manifested the living Christ not to all people but only to some who were chosen by Him as witnesses, about five hundred.

This method of proving the astounding fact of the Resurrection is most remarkable. Christ was crucified on a hill before all. Multitudes assembled to see the sight (Luke 23:48). Many passed by the place. A crowd milled about the Cross for hours. The offering of God’s Son was made publicly. We would expect that God’s acceptance of the offering would be public also, that God would raise His Son in the sight of all. We would expect that the Father manifested Him to the multitude, so that by this public demonstration of divine power all would be compelled to believe.

But God raised Him and made Him manifest to only a few, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. No man saw our Lord rise. When the angel rolled away the stone from the door, the grave was already empty. The guards saw nothing of the Resurrection. The women did not see Him rise. Peter and John saw only the empty gravecloths.

The proof of the Resurrection is that some chosen witnesses saw Him alive after His death and that He ate and drank with them again. God showed the risen Christ only to a chosen few because the Resurrection meant something only to these few. They alone could see Him because only their eyes were focused to see. Some stars cannot be seen by the ordinary eye. To see them one must look through a certain lens. Not that the lens creates the star. The star is there, lens or no lens. The lens only reveals its presence. So only these chosen few men and women had the proper lens to see the risen Christ. Their eyes were prepared to see the meaning of the Resurrection.

For years they had been passionately in love with their Christ and had lived happily in His sweet companionship. They had left all at His call. They had built their whole life around Him. Nothing else mattered. He was their One-in-All. And now He was gone! Life was empty, all hope was dead. There was nothing to live for. They missed Him every minute. This longing to be with Him, this utter emptiness of life without Him, would only grow more acute as time went on.

Then God showed them the living Lord. He talked with them, ate and drank with them again. This changed their whole outlook on life. It did not change anything for those who did not know and love the Lord. But for them who had companied with Him and built their hopes on Him all was changed. It meant continued, uninterrupted fellowship with Him. Even death was not able to separate them from Him. It meant a companionship that stretched out through life, beyond the grave, into endless eternity. This is what a raised Christ meant to the chosen few, and because it meant this to them, God made the raised Christ manifest to them.

Surely, and without doubt, we may count ourselves successors of these spiritual aristocrats; men and women whose eyes are focused so that we can behold the King in His beauty. We belong to the chosen witnesses to whom God manifests the raised Christ, while others whose eyes are not focused can see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing but the things of earth. We know that our Christ lives, for He lives in us. His living Presence is the joy and comfort of our lives. We love Him and treasure His fellowship. Our life would be empty without Him, our eternity cheerless and hopeless. Since His living with us really makes a difference, God will make Him manifest to us who eat and drink with Him this day in the Holy Communion. The living Christ will come to us and give Himself, His life and death and resurrection in the Holy Sacrament. Seeing Him manifest with the eyes of loving faith, our Easter is an occasion of praise and thanks that God chose us to be witnesses of His life in us, that He opened our eyes to the true meaning of Easter. We observe the festival by celebrating the Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving and praise. The keynote of our thanksgiving is struck in the Preface. “It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord; but chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee.”

Nothing but the Resurrection of our Lord makes Easter important; not the return of life to nature, nor flowers, nor lambs, nor robins, nor bunnies, nor Easter parades. Not even the fact that a dead man rose again. There have been other resurrections; three in the Old Testament, and our Lord restored three in His lifetime. St. Peter restored Dorcas of Jaffa. What makes Easter the great occasion for praise and thanksgiving is that Jesus Christ, God in human form, who died and was buried, rose again on the third day from the dead.

What makes the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth memorable is that “He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us.” On the night of the Pascha in Egypt every Hebrew household killed a lamb and applied its blood on the doorposts and lintels of the house. Then, while the Angel of Death slew Egypt’s firstborn, the members of the household ate the meat of the Passover lamb in haste, ready to take off any moment in flight from the Egyptian tyranny. The blood of the Easter lamb on the door of the house meant safety for the tenants within, because it symbolized their faith in the God of their fathers. The death of the Easter lamb meant life for the human beings who painted its blood on their doors. In an indescribably more real sense the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, staining the timbers of the holy Cross, meant and means spiritual life for everyone who takes the shadow of that Cross for his abiding place. For He is the true Easter Lamb. The Paschal lambs purchased freedom from tyranny and destruction. God’s Easter Lamb purchased freedom from the slavery of Satan.

Furthermore we say in the Preface that He “hath taken away the sins of the world.” He was holy, perfect, without moral blemish and without spot of sin. On Him was laid the iniquity of us all. He received upon Himself the sins of all mankind. He took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of all sins. He met the demands of God’s love that could not bear our eternal condemnation. Because He was God, because He was holy, His sacrifice has limitless value. When, then, we say that He has taken away the sins of the world, we mean that He made it morally possible for a just God to forgive us, to overlook the sin He sees in us by looking upon Christ’s sacrifice. This makes Christ’s resurrection supremely important. It means that His sacrifice was enough to atone for our sins, that He really is what He claimed to be, and that every promise He made is liter-ally God’s truth. That is why we say in the Preface: “He is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us and has taken away the sins of the world.”

Again we say in the Preface: “Who by His death hath destroyed death.” Death is terrifying. For more than two centuries we have had the English proverb “While there is life there’s hope.” John Gay said that, but he was only adapting a phrase of the Roman orator Cicero, and Cicero filched it from the Greek poet Theocritus of the third century before Christ. Theocritus was more brutal than either Cicero or John Gay. He said: “For the living there is hope, but for the dead there is none.” This has been the terrifying thing about death, ever since our first parents purchased their dreadful knowledge of its mystery at the cost of their sinlessness. We know our world through our senses. It is created for us by the reassuring sensations of eating, drinking, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, feeling. This world dissolves in death, and with it the avenues of knowledge that furnish a basis for hope. Most belief in immortality, in survival after death, is less than Christian, just as mere belief in the existence of God is less than Christian. Easter is not a festival of immortality. Easter is the festival of Christ’s destruction of death by His death.

This destruction of death was promised to man in the Garden of Eden immediately after he had become subject to death by his disobedience. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Four thousand years later this prophecy was fulfilled in our Lord’s Passion. With a last mighty effort, evil succeeded in nailing Him to the Cross. Satan bruised His heel. But his head was being crushed by that heel. From the Cross Christ could cry, “It is finished! ” to signify not the end of His life but the success and accomplishment of His mission. With the redemption of the world achieved, He could commend His spirit into the hands of God the Father and give up His spirit. So He died, not of necessity, not because He could not live any longer, but by willing to do so. By an act of His free will He gave His life. Death was destroyed by His dying. The life that was in Christ was not destroyed by death. By an act of His free will He separated His life from His body, and so by an act of His will He could again take to His living Self the body from which He had yielded the spirit. He could give His body unearthly qualities that lifted it above the ordinary limitations of time and space. That is why we say in the Preface: “By His death He hath destroyed death.”

Finally we say: “By His rising to life again [He] hath restored to us ever-lasting life.” There is no such thing as a natural-born Christian. Every real Christian is twice-born. By the Means of Grace, God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, puts a new life, a different kind of life, into us. This new life the Scriptures call “everlasting” or “eternal” life. The terms do not refer to its timelessness, that this life lasts eternally. It is called eternal and everlasting because it is unearthly and more than natural. This new life is eternal and everlasting because it is God’s own life. It re-establishes in us the image of God, in a measure. This new life makes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the Tenant of our bodies. That is why our Lord said: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” That is why St. Paul declared: “For me to live is Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh (after his conversion) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

That life is as truly life as the physical life that keeps body and soul together, but it has its own rules. It is not dependent on the physical body. It survives the separation of body and soul. It is nourished not by food and drink, but by the Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, and by the Holy Gospel and Sacraments, through which that Word comes to us. That is why the Holy Gospel is called the Word of Life. That is why Holy Baptism is called the water of life. That is why the Holy Sacrament of the Altar has been called the medicine of im-mortality. That is why we teach and believe the Real Presence in the Holy Communion, the Real Presence not only of the Body and Blood given and shed but also of the living Christ, for “Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again.” That is why the power to forgive sins, the power to take away the guilt of the sins that kill the life of the soul, was imparted to the Church on Easter Day by the risen Redeemer.

The Holy Gospel and Sacraments are the Easter gift of the glorified Christ to the members of His body, the Church. The true Easter celebration consists in nothing more or less than in the expression of our sincere gratitude for the Holy Gospel and Sacraments. We say in the Preface that it is our obligation to give thanks to God at all times and in all places, not only on Easter. We thank God best when we devoutly use the Means of Grace at all times and in all places, because that is the way in which God accomplishes the purpose of our Lord’s Passion. That purpose is: “That I may be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,” here and hereafter, even as He is risen from the dead to life, and lives and reigns to all eternity. May our Easter resolution be: “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord.”

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