Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

The Resurrection of our Lord

Resurrection Joy!

Isaiah 26:19

April 20, 2014

Blessed Easter. It's hard to believe we went through Lent and Holy Week without one of the news magazines crowing that Jesus wasn't real or the Gospels were wrong. The closest they came was verifying that an old piece of papyrus had something about the wife of Jesus written on it. Big deal. It was still dated to be written about 800 years after the resurrection.

The more accurate gauge of how we celebrate Easter is in the ladies magazines. This last week I was looking at one that had an article about various ways a family could celebrate Easter. It had all the usual stuff: things to do with eggs, candy, feasts with food and bunnies. Nowhere was there a mention of church. Nowhere was there a mention of the resurrection. One would be led to think that Easter is some sort of spring festival.

The talk shows have been claiming that Easter is really a pagan festival in honor of some obscure Anglo-Saxon goddess. Maybe it's time to change the name of "Easter." Of course the older name "Pascha" sounds strange to us as well. So, we'd be left with the formal title for today: The Resurrection of our Lord. It's long but, in the end, it clearly states what today is about. We are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Now, that's good news and certainly more of a reason to celebrate the "not-quite-return-of-spring" this chilly morning than bunnies and eggs. If all we were doing was to mark the return of spring, today wouldn't be a good one--especially when it's still so cold outside, and no one wants to hunt for Easter eggs in this cold, windy weather.

Here's the deal. Today is more than a celebration of the return of spring with eggs and baskets. The resurrection is the proclamation of hope and joy. Belief in the resurrection of the body isn't something that originated with the early Christians. The Jews have from early on professed belief in the resurrection. Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah writing some 700 years before the coming of Christ.

Isaiah 26:19. Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Isaiah was writing during a difficult time for Israel. Fear, doom and gloom were abounding. The people had little hope. Life seemed to be summed up in the bumper sticker line: Life is hard and then you die. Where's the hope and joy in that?

The prophet gave the people hope by pointing them to the joy that would be theirs in the resurrection. Not only would they know the joy of the resurrection, but they would have the added joy of reunion with their loved ones.

As Christians we believe there is more to life than what we see and experience here and now. We believe that there is life eternal with the Lord. Although we don't know all the details of what that means, we believe that there is not only life after or beyond death but it involves the resurrection.

Jesus not only testified His belief in the resurrection of the dead, He actually brought the dead back to life. Shortly before our Lord was crucified and died, He raised His friend Lazarus from death. Although Jesus had been traveling to Jerusalem, He didn't arrive until four days later. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was met by the dead man's sister Martha. In spite of her grief, she expressed her belief in the resurrection.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."

Jesus then added words of comfort. Jesus said to her, "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. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." [John 11:21-27]

After her confession of faith, Martha saw the miracle she had only hoped to see in her wildest dreams. Jesus brought her brother alive from the grave. We can only imagine their joy. What had been deep sorrow and heart-rending grief turned into almost inexpressible joy. Lazarus, who was dead, was restored to them alive and well.

We are told that in the resurrection we will sing for joy. In the resurrection we will know one another. In the resurrection we will be restored and reunited with one another. We can only begin to imagine the great joy that will be ours.

None of this would be possible without Good Friday. Without our Lord's passion and death, there would be no resurrection, no Easter celebration. The Christian celebration of the resurrection is the very underpinning of our cultural Easter celebration. Even if people ignore the Christian belief in the resurrection, they are celebrating it today by default. Without our Lord's resurrection, the eggs, bunnies, baskets and bonnets associated with today would have even less prominence.

This isn't to say you can't enjoy the baskets, bunnies and foods associated with the Easter celebration. Simply remember what they are indirectly reminding us of: our Lord's resurrection. Jesus died. It's a fact. Jesus rose. That's also a fact. His enemies didn't deny it. They simply tried to cover it up. Those who despise the cross still try to explain away the resurrection. Try as they may, they will be no more successful than our Lord's enemies. The message of Easter cannot be hushed. It cannot be swept under the carpet. It cannot be pushed aside or buried under other diversions.

The message of Easter endures through all generations. Along with Isaiah and the people of old, we proclaim our belief in the resurrection. Today the Easter message rings throughout the world. The message is plain. The message is simple: "He is not here in this tomb. He is arisen!" Jesus lives! The victory is won! We've heard the Good News. Tomorrow, life goes on. Yet, we can now live as people of hope and joy for Jesus is risen. His victory over the power of sin and death is now ours as well. That is Good News. Rejoice! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen.


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