Sermon for Easter Sunday based on Luke 24:1-12 (Is. 65:17-25; 1 Cor. 15:19-26)
Dear disciples who have the promise of the resurrection: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The disciples didn’t just lose a close friend on Good Friday. They lost their Master and Teacher. They lost their Lord who was supposed to be ushering in a new kingdom in which they were supposed to sit on thrones. They lost all hope.
They had spent three years with Jesus, learning from Him and witnessing Him perform miracles and powerful signs. They believed that Jesus was their Redeemer, who would rescue them and all mankind from every evil. They believed that nothing could prevent the coming of kingdom of God.
Their hopes had been dashed. Two of the disciples confessed as much on the road to Emmaus. “We had hoped He would be the one to redeem Israel,” they said (Luke 24:21). They had hoped, but hoped so no longer. They had lost all hope.
They thought Jesus was God’s promised Saviour. Jesus had taught them for years, shown His power, and taught like no human could teach. Whenever He had been threatened or attacked before, it came to nothing. Jesus had simply walked away from an angry mob that tried to throw Him off a cliff. The angry rulers had been trying to kill Him for a long time, but unsuccessfully. When they had picked up stones to kill Him in the Temple, Jesus escaped from them with ease.
The disciples didn’t understand why, after all that, Jesus let Himself be arrested. They thought they’d be ushering in a new kingdom with Jesus. Peter pulled out his sword against an army, ready to fight by himself; that’s how much he believed in the kingdom of Jesus.
But then Jesus died. His death was witnessed by many, some watching with great sorrow; others with great delight. His death was confirmed by the centurion, and just for good measure a spear pierced Jesus’ side resulting in the flow of blood and water. Then His corpse was laid in a stone-cold tomb. Jesus was dead. Everything was lost. No kingdom. No teacher. No Jesus. No hope.
The disciples’ faith had been crushed. They ran in fear. They had abandoned their Lord at His arrest and then after His death they went into hiding behind locked doors, cowering in terror. They were afraid that they would be killed next.
Jesus had told them many times that He would die, but the disciples didn’t understand. Even when the women came from the tomb telling them that He had arisen, they thought the women were telling idle tales. The women kept insisting but the disciples would not believe. After all, who has ever seen anyone rise from the dead? When do you ever go to the tomb of a loved one and expect them have risen and be alive? The women also did not go to Jesus’ tomb expecting to find Him alive, but they went with spices to prepare His body for permanent burial. It was the empty tomb and the message of the two angels reminding them of what Jesus had told them that gave them faith again. “Remember how He told you… that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?” (vv. 6-7)
The resurrection of Jesus was not just a reunion with a friend who had died. It was the return of hope. It was the return of faith.
Without the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples had nothing. They had the promises of a dead man. They had more questions than answers in trying to understand what had happened. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples would have been witnesses of the victory of sin, death, and the devil over Jesus.
On Good Friday, the powers of death did their worst. The devil and his angels attacked with all their might. Sin and hell stung with all their strength and the Law of God accused with all its force. If Jesus is still dead, then sin, death, and the devil rule.
Without the resurrection of Jesus, you have nothing. You only have death and hell in your future. If Christ has not been raised, then my preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (I Cor. 15:14). If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (I Cor. 15:17); then there is no reunion with your loved ones in heaven; then you’re wasting your time coming to church today because there is no forgiveness of sins to be had here; then Baptism is an empty circus show and the Lord’s Supper is not the medicine of immortality but just a farce.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (I Cor. 15:20) We have been redeemed and rescued from every evil. Jesus had to die to save us. “[Jesus] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” (SC II.2). His death is the very thing that paid the price and took the punishment of our sins.
Jesus’ resurrection was also necessary to prove that He conquered sin, death, and the devil. His resurrection was necessary to prove that God the Father accepted His death as payment for our sins; as a substitute in our place. His resurrection was necessary to show that the strife is over, the battle done; that the victor’s triumph is won. The powers of death have done their worst, but Christ their legions hath dispersed (LSB 464 st. 1, 2). Sin, death, and the devil have been conquered.
Further, it was the death and resurrection of Jesus that brought about the kingdom of God. Jesus is the promised Saviour, but unlike the expectations of the disciples, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Jesus told as much to Pilate during His trial. Jesus has a new heavens and a new earth waiting for us in His eternal kingdom. We heard about this kingdom in our Old Testament lesson – it will be a joy and a gladness and no weeping will be heard there or the cry of distress; the wolf and the lamb will graze together and the lion will eat straw like an ox; no one will hurt or destroy in all by holy mountain, says the Lord (Is. 65:17-25).
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we do not have eternal death or hell in our future. My preaching is not in vain and neither is your faith futile because they are firmly grounded in the promises of Jesus, our risen Saviour. Further, you are no longer in your sins. Jesus has paid for them and removed them from you. You have a promised reunion with your loved ones who have died in the faith. You’re not wasting your time coming to church today and every Sunday because there is forgiveness of sins given freely here. Baptism is being buried with Jesus into His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5). The Lord’s Supper is the medicine of immortality because it gives the forgiveness of sins as Jesus promised (Matt. 26:28).
And because Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, His resurrection is the promise of our resurrection. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) Buried into the death and resurrection of Christ we have the promise that just as He rose from the dead, so we will rise also. Buried into Jesus’ death and resurrection we have the promise of eternal life in His kingdom.
Jesus is risen! Alleluia! Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.