The Resurrection of Our Lord

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Each one of the Gospels contains a full two chapters on the Passion of our Lord. That is eight chapters total of eyewitness testimony of the arrest, trial, suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. This event is the center pin of human history, the defining moment of the narrative of salvation, the single point in time in which the fate of Adam’s fallen race was decided. Because of this God ordained that the Crucifixion would be witnessed by many and recorded four times over in painstaking detail. It has long been the custom of the Church to read, not just the Passion according to St. Matthew on Palm Sunday, but also St. Mark’s account on Holy Monday, St. Luke on Holy Wednesday, and St. John on Good Friday.
But what about the Resurrection? It may surprise you to hear that not one of the Gospels contains an eyewitness account of the Resurrection. It happened, of this there is no doubt! Alleluia! Christ is risen! This is true, but no one witnessed it. Nobody saw it happen. The Resurrection was announced by the angel after it had taken place, but the event itself was not seen or recorded. Instead, God ordained for this good news to be heard and believed! He intends for the Resurrection to be revealed through the Word and the hearing of faith! “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).
What is recorded in our Easter text is not the Resurrection itself, but its announcement to a group of women who are alarmed, trembling, and fearful. These women witnessed the Crucifixion firsthand. They saw the blood, the gore, and the horror. They watched as Jesus breathed His last. They were there when Joseph of Arimathea took down the body and laid it in his tomb. And thousands of years of human suffering have taught us that death is final. So it’s not surprising that when they encounter the angel, their initial reaction to the joyful news is to flee in terror.
In this we see a picture of the life of the Christian here on earth. These women represent all believers. In our case we are eyewitnesses, not of the suffering and death of Christ, but that of our loved ones. We are surrounded by the ravages of sickness and disease. We watch our parents succumb to the slow passage of time, grow feeble, and die. It doesn’t really require a great measure of faith to believe in the wages of sin. Everywhere we look we can see the sentence of death being carried out in accord with God’s Word: the soul that sins, it shall die.
What does require faith is to believe the angel’s message: Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen. He has conquered the grave. He holds the keys of death and hell, and because He is risen, we too shall rise. Why does it require faith to believe this? Why must we hear this message again and again, not just on Easter morning, but throughout our lives? Because we don’t witness the Resurrection. Not yet, anyway. Not in this life. But we hear it announced by God’s messengers, and this message is the pearl of Christian comfort and hope.
In Luther’s Christian Questions with Their Answers, he asks the believer who is preparing to receive the Sacrament this question: “Do you hope to be saved?” The answer: “Yes, such is my hope.” But when we speak of hope in this way, it is not hope as the world understands it. A person might say, “I hope my team wins the game. I hope I get a raise. I hope to get married someday,” but none of these things is guaranteed. That is not what Christians mean when we say, “I hope to be saved.” We are not speaking about a wish that may or may not come to pass. We are speaking about reality, reality that has been spoken into being by the Word of Christ, reality that is unchangeable fact, even though we have not yet seen it with our own eyes. Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed.
They say that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. But our hope in Jesus and His promises is far more certain than these. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too shall walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). The grave may be certain, but it is temporary. It could not hold Jesus, and it will not long hold you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3) Because He lives, we too shall live. Alleluia! Christ is risen!
In Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Cross, Jesus stumbles and falls under the burden of His cross on the way to Golgotha. His mother Mary rushes to his side, trying to help Him, but, of course, she cannot. Jesus looks at His mother and says, “See, I am making all things new.” And then He summons His strength and takes up His cross once more. It is perhaps the most beautiful moment in the film, and granted, though the director took some creative license, borrowing words from Revelation, they are rightly applied to this moment in time.
All is accomplished on Good Friday, and the Resurrection on the third day is the consequence of what Jesus did on the cross. He is making all things new. On Easter morning, Jesus is placing everything back into proper order. Souls and bodies are not meant to be separated. His body and soul are rejoined as a true and deathless man, as we are meant to be. The living Lord does rise, because death can’t hold Him. It has nothing left with which to accuse Him. The wages of sin is death, but now that every sin stands paid for, now that “it is finished,” death no longer has any claim on Him. Jesus rises. Our sin is gone, and death’s claim on us is also gone. The restoration of Creation has begun!
But, like the women at the tomb, we don’t witness the Resurrection. We don’t see this glory yet. Instead, the good news is announced to us who stand in the doorway of the grave. From our perspective, only sin and death seem certain. We are assaulted by countless trials and evils. We are often seized with trembling and fear. And yet we have an unshakable faith and a lively hope. We believe that it is finished, just as He said, even though our eyes are not yet witnesses. We know that our Lord stands victorious on the field of battle. Our enemy, Satan, does not rise, not three days later, or ever again, because his skull has been crushed. Creation is being restored, and Easter morning is the first glimpse of this new future that God is preparing for all believers. By faith we hear and believe the proclamation of this victory. Alleluia! Christ is risen!
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