IN NOMINE JESU
Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence. He was one of our nation's founding fathers. He sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with the Corps of Discovery, to explore the land of the Louisiana Purchase, the bicentennial of said expedition we are celebrating here in North Dakota. Jefferson may well have been a great leader, but he was a rotten theologian. As such, he was a Rationalist. That means that he only believed in things that were rational, that made sense, to him. He produced His own edition of the New Testament, which excluded the miracles Jesus performed as well as the resurrection of our Lord! The miracles and the Resurrection did not make sense to Jefferson, and as a result, he edited them out of his Bible, for he could not accept these by faith. Not only did Jefferson not believe in the Lord's miracles, he could not believe in His resurrection. Yet it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the basis of the hope Christians have. Where and in what or whom Thomas Jefferson placed his hope I do not know. More is the pity.
Not all people have believed that Christ is risen. Such a resurrection does not make sense to the logical, rational mind. The basic premise is that people simply do not rise from the dead. This simply is something that does not happen. Such a phenomenon does not appeal to logic; it is something that can only be accepted by faith. The apostles had difficulty in accepting the news of such an event. They dismissed the news the women brought as in idle tale. The women saw the empty tomb, they heard the angels' message, which the women brought to the apostles, who did not believe them. Peter had to see things for himself. He went to the tomb; he and John went, according to St. John's Gospel. Peter marveled at what he saw, but he did not fully understand, for his mind was not yet opened to understand the Scriptures. Until he and the rest of the disciples saw the risen Lord for themselves, they would have difficulty accepting the Lord's resurrection by faith.
We are blessed. Even though we were not eyewitnesses to the Lord's resurrection, we are blessed to have the Scriptures read and proclaimed to us, including the entire New Testament, none of which was written at the time of our Lord's resurrection. In the Scriptures we have numerous eyewitness accounts of this new reality. We have been taught from the Scriptures what our Lord has done for us. We have been exposed to the truth. And the truth in Holy Scripture we must accept by faith.
Yet we are a lot like the apostles and Thomas Jefferson. We pick and choose which parts of the Scriptures we want to accept. Whether it is the six-day creation of the world, the Flood, the virgin birth, the miracles, the Resurrection, or something else, there is something in Scripture that we have difficulty accepting. We also like to select which teachings of Scripture we want to believe. We pick and choose what we want to accept for ourselves. We do not like to hear why Jesus died for us; we do not like to hear that we are sinners. We are sinners who deserve to have been on the cross on Good Friday. We deserve to die and spend eternity in hell on account of our sins. This is a fact we cannot deny, no matter how much we would like to do so. The unavoidable, irrefutable truth of Holy Scripture is that we are lost and condemned creatures. The Old Adam still lurks within us.
But behold, our Lord has made all things new, for He has overcome the sharpness of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The curtain in the temple was ripped open. The tomb is now open, and so is heaven open to us. We now have access to our heavenly Father through His Son, our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is our new reality. This is the great news we hear today. Christ is no longer in the tomb. He is risen from the dead. Death no longer has a hold of us. Where, O death, is your victory? It has been swallowed up by the resurrected Christ. There is no doubt about it. He lives; therefore we live. In Him we live and move and have our being.
"On the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures." We confessed this truth in the Nicene Creed. The Lord Himself prophesied His resurrection, and the angels reminded the women what the Lord had said. This we believe, teach, and confess, for we preach Christ crucified…and risen! We confess the hope that we have…in the risen Christ! We celebrate our new reality today and each Lord's Day, each Sunday, as we celebrate the weekly anniversary of our Lord's triumph over the grave. Our lives are lives of thanksgiving for the Lord's bringing us from death to life. He has sealed this guarantee at the font. Not only are we baptized into Christ's death, we are baptized into His resurrection.
Our risen Lord comes to us this holiest day of the year in His Word and in His body and blood, the body He gave and the blood He shed on the first Good Friday. At this Feast we are given the gift of the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord also gives us salvation, and He gives us life, new life, the promise of eternal life. While this may not make perfect sense to us, we, by the Holy Spirit, accept these gifts by faith—faith in the risen Christ. And by this same Spirit we look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen!
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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