Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Is Jesus who He says He is? Indeed He is…and even more! Jesus is who He says He is. He is what He does. He is what He gives. He is the Resurrection and the Life. What He does is resurrect. He would resurrect Martha’s brother Lazarus. He would give him life. Jesus resurrected and gave life to Lazarus’s physical being. There would be more than meets the eye, but Martha’s and her sister Mary’s eyes were filled with tears of grief over the death of their brother. They believed He could save their brother, but they didn’t know that He would raise him. Martha believed in the resurrection of the body at the Last Day, when Lazarus and all the dead in Christ would rise to eternal life. But she wasn’t quite able to put two and two together until Jesus revealed to her who He is; that is, in identifying Himself to Martha, the Lord told her He is what He does and what He gives: “I am the Resurrection! He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” But wait. There’s more.
The Lord Jesus, the Resurrection incarnate, also said, “I am the Life! Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” There was Jesus, the Resurrection-Doer and Life-Giver, asking Martha for a confession of faith, and she gave Him one: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” What she would soon behold, Jesus resurrecting her brother Lazarus back to life, would pale in comparison to what would ultimately follow: the crucified-bloody-and-dead Jesus would resurrect Himself back to life on the first day of the week, the third day upon the heels of His crucifixion. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus would reap the benefits of this resurrection-doing-and-life-giving event of that first Easter morning. Jesus is who He says He is, does, and gives. “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. …Most true and sure is his name…. Where his name is, there is he. …He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them” (LW, p. 6).
“Most true and sure is His Name.” The name Jesus means “The LORD (YHWH) saves.” This is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do; He came to save sinners. He came to save Lazarus. He came to save me. He came to save you. He came for the life of the world. He came because we need to be saved. He came to save us because we are sinners; at the beginning of Divine Service we confessed this reality to God, our heavenly Father. I know. I heard you confess your sins…just as I confessed mine. And you heard me, a called and ordained servant of Christ, by His authority, forgive you of all your sins…just as I by that same authority forgave myself. And we need this forgiveness, for without it—without Christ dying and rising for us—God would still hold our sins against us all the way to our eternal death in hell because there would be no hope for us. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul writes: Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. [1 Cor. 15:12-19]
Like our Lord, St. Paul does not leave us to despair. He also writes: But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. …And thus we shall always be with the Lord. [1 Thess. 4:13-14, 17b]
“If we believe…”? Indeed we do believe, for God has given us a written record of our Lord’s victorious resurrection over sin, death and the grave. As proof, the blessed evangelist St. Mark, in our Gospel for today, notes that Mary Magdalene saw the risen Lord. Paul recounts: 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 [Peter], then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James [the Lord’s brother], then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also…. [1 Cor. 15:3-8a]
So what does all this mean? It means that our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, true God and true Man, is not dead. He lives! He has conquered sin, death, and the devil forever. It means that we need not fear this unholy triad, this original axis of evil, for we belong to the risen Christ. He has resurrected us and given us the promise of eternal life. He has done His resurrection-doing and His life-giving for you, to you, and in you; so let not your heart be troubled, for you belong to Him. He has sent you His Holy Spirit, that you would believe and confess along with Martha that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world, and along with Peter’s bedrock confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus lives for you, and Jesus comes to you. You don’t need to cling to the old rugged cross because the Lord isn’t there. You don’t need to hasten early to the tomb because He isn’t there, either; we know because the angel, sent by God, told Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid [past tense—laid!] Him” (Mk. 16:6). So what are you to do, since you can’t go to the cross or tomb to find Him? You behold Him as He comes to you! Behold your Redeemer at the font, where you became baptized not only into His death but into His resurrection! Saint Paul reminds us: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Behold your Savior as He speaks His Holy Absolution into your ears and into your hearts, as you hear Him forgive you all your sins. Behold your Teacher at the lectern and pulpit, as He feeds you His resurrection-doing and life-giving Word, as He alone has the words of eternal life for you. Behold your Lord at His altar, as He gives you His body to eat and His blood to drink, given and shed on the cross for you for the forgiveness of all your sins and given to you in His Supper, that the true body and blood of your Lord—in, with, and under the bread and wine—would strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith unto life everlasting, that you would depart in peace, for your sins are forgiven! This is all possible—this is all real!—because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, for He is the Resurrection, and He does His resurrection-doing of you through His Word and Sacraments—for He is the Life, and His life-giving rising to life again has restored to you everlasting life, that you would believe in Him, though you may die, you shall live, that you would live and believe in Him and never die. Jesus is who He says He is; He is your Savior. Jesus is what He says He does; He is your Resurrection. Jesus is what He says He gives; He is your Life. Jesus gives who He is, what He does, and what He gives to you and for you through His Word and Sacraments. Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” In a moment we will answer His question as we confess our faith, confessing the Nicene Creed: “I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures….”
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! SOLI DEO GLORIA
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