March 5, 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
INI + AMEN.
Today is the day when we see what the Christian faith is really made of. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! Death swallowed Him, but bit off more than he could chew. Jesus burst death’s belly. He destroyed death from the inside out. He who was dead is dead no more, death no longer has dominion over Him. The Song of Moses rings out anew and forever (check Revelation 15), “I will sing to the LORD for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea!” The ancient Pharaoh, the devil, is undone. His army vanquished. All that he has left is pomp and show—no real power. Death is now the gateway to eternal life. Its doorway marked with these glorious words from Good Friday: It is finished! Sin done. Death destroyed. The devil defeated.
All false ideas about being a Christian are silenced by the empty tomb. The Christian faith isn’t just one faith among many. It’s not about being a good person. It’s not about trying to do your best, and God will do the rest. It’s not about God’s done His part, now it’s your turn. It’s not about getting on the correct side of social or political issues. It can’t be. Our Christian faith and life is founded not on ourselves, not on our feelings, our works, or our ideas. It’s founded upon what our God, Jesus Christ, sent from God the Father, as recorded for us in Scripture by God the Holy Spirit—it’s all about what Jesus has done. If today never happened, there would be no Christian faith. As Paul says later in 1 Corinthians 15, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead!” We believe it not because we feel it in our hearts, but because we have the testimony of people who saw Jesus alive after He had been dead. We know Jesus lives only because of Scripture. Our faith’s foundation is built upon the empty tomb. Today, the day of days, when Christ our Lord burst from His three-day prison, we know, we believe, we trust that
THE SUREST FOUNDATION IS JESUS’ RESURRECTION.
(I. We want other foundations.)
As we just sang in the sermon hymn, “When every earthly prop gives way…” But that doesn’t stop us from trying. We set up all sorts of foundations. Our careers. What sort of stock options can you get? What other benefits? Seems a good place to build a life for the future for yourself and your family. We’ll try all sorts of foundations. Think about your life. What keeps you up late at night? Gives you worry or concern? It’s a good bet that it causes you some worry because it’s become your foundation and it’s in danger of cracking or breaking, and if that happens what will you be left with? What if your family life is destroyed or strained or not picture perfect? Is your foundation your winsome personality? Your knowledge? Your skills? Is it just you? Is it living your life how you want?
When we have these other foundations, we try to make up for it. We’ll start with Jesus, but then quickly move to things we do to prove to ourselves and God that we’re moving in a better direction this time. Then we hear what Jesus says in Matthew 7, and we get all mixed up. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them, he will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock.” “Does them.” I just need to do all the things that Jesus says to do, then I’ll build the good foundation. What must I do? We know what Jesus says to do: love God, love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Forgive them freely and completely—no strings attached. Pray for them. Hear God’s Word and preaching. Read His Word. Pray, praise, give thanks. Love and forgive everyone. But Jesus says in another place, “When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”
The foundation can’t be what we do. In the few verses before our text in Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven. For many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, cast out demons in Your Name, and do many powerful things in Your name?’ Then I will confess to them, ‘I never knew You.’” Those who don’t enter into the kingdom have trusted in what they have done, even if they thought it was done in His name. They had no faith. We have as many works and good intensions and resolutions as the sand on the sea shore. But the house built on sand is destroyed. To do will of the Father, is to receive faith. Faith that trusts in Jesus whom He sent. This Jesus who, for our foundations of sand, died on a rock named Golgotha. His resurrection proves it’s not of works or moral living. What moral living can you do to make it so your tomb will be empty some day? None. Only Jesus’ work: His cross and empty tomb can do that.
(II. Jesus’ resurrection is an eternal foundation.)
There is only one foundation that can last. Foundations of sand don’t last. Here at Immanuel we even know that foundations built on clay are subject to wear and tear. Only a bedrock, solid foundation will last. Our foundation of faith is rock. Well, it was hewn out of rock, it’s a tomb. No one else had been laid there, except God Himself. Jesus Christ crucified and rejected for us was placed dead into Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. Three days later it was empty. Jesus who was dead is now alive again. The angels rolled away the stone to prove it. “It was very large.” The women couldn’t have opened it, but, thanks be to God, it was opened. Death destroyed. What did those women see? “When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, seated on the right side, clothed in a white garment, and they were alarmed. He said to them, ‘Don’t be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He’s not here! See the place where they laid him.’” There the eyewitnesses start. Through their eyes and testimony we believe that the tomb was empty. That empty tomb is the true foundation of our faith.
That foundation is the only one that can withstand the storms of life. “The rain fell, the rivers came, the winds blew and beat against the house, and it did not fall, because it had been founded upon the rock.” No matter what struggles you have in your life. No matter how many they are. It doesn’t matter how many sins you have. Your own death doesn’t even matter. Even if you had hundreds of struggles, or even if there were a thousand hells or a hundred thousand devils, all fall silent and are vanquished by Christ’s empty tomb. No matter what happens your end is assured. Your grave will be empty someday. The Christian faith isn’t just about going to heaven. It’s about an empty tomb. A tomb that’s a promise of your empty tomb. For being united to Christ’s death and resurrection in the saving waters of Baptism, means that when you die, you will rise just as Christ Jesus Himself is risen from the dead. Your grave, your tomb, your urn—whatever it is—won’t be filled anymore. You will be restored. You will be resurrected. You will live forever both body and soul. The body and soul you have now. For this reason we rejoice in receiving Jesus’ body and blood that keeps us both body and soul to life everlasting.
Today is the day when we see what the Christian faith is really made of. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! He who was dead is dead no more, death no longer has dominion over Him. Those who trust in their works will have a great fall. But those built on Christ and His resurrection won’t. The empty tomb shows it. The gates of hell and the gates of death can’t prevail against it. We will burst from our tombs just as Christ did from His. We’re baptized into Him, and He lives! Our faith’s foundation is built upon His empty tomb. The promise from Job will be yours: “I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Today, the day of days, when Christ our Lord burst from His three-day prison, we know, we believe, we trust that THE SUREST FOUNDATION IS JESUS’ RESURRECTION. No better foundation than that.
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
INI + AMEN.