Easter Sunday: The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Daylight Savings Time
The Hymn # 191 Christ the Lord 2:97
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 188 Hallelujah 2:20
Fear and Hope
The Communion Hymn # 206 Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense 2:81
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 212 A Hymn of Glory 2:93
KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst deliver Thy Son for our offenses, and didst raise Him again for our justification: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may rule and govern us according to Thy will; graciously keep us in the true faith; defend us from all sins, and after this life raise us unto eternal life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Fear and Hope
The behavior of everyone after the crucifixion is best explained by their fear.
Their knowledge was thorough. Raised in Judaism, they knew the Scriptures. They worshiped with hymns and appointed texts all their lives. All these texts pointed to Christ. During the Passion, they should have seen Isaiah 52-53 open before their eyes.
Best of all, they were trained by the Son of God, who foretold His death and His resurrection. In Mark 8, 9, and 10, Jesus spoke about the events of Holy Week with great clarity, withholding nothing.
First Prediction of Suffering and Resurrection
KJV Mark 8:29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. 31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. 34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Second Prediction of Suffering and Resurrection
KJV Mark 9:31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Third Prediction of Suffering and Resurrection
KJV Mark 10:33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Why would women come to the grave to prepare a corpse when they already knew that He would rise on the third day?
Luther best explained this reaction as the opposition between fear and faith. The opposite of fear is not courage but faith.
Faith does not trust human experience and wisdom, but the Word of God, which goes against human experience and wisdom. “My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are My ways your ways,” says the Lord – Isaiah 55.
When the most basic fear gripped the disciples and the followers of Jesus, faith departed. Everyone fell upon his own ideas, thoughts, and past experiences. Every single fearful thought began a new line of fears. The power of Rome was enormous and far-reaching. They had the means to find every single follower and give that person the same treatment Jesus endured.
This fear was so great that they locked themselves in a room. Yet all their current fears proved to be groundless, as they often are. Although their leader was crucified, no one was harmed or arrested at that time. Their greatest fear was not realized.
In contrast, faith does not grasp the immediate and rely on emotions, but trusts in the Promises of God revealed in His Word. For that reason, remaining close to the Word increases our faith in Him.
One of the old traditions of the Church was to have an Easter Vigil service, where all the old texts, telling of the work of God in the Old Testament, were read. That service helps people see the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, the fulfilling of everything promised in ancient texts. If God has done all those mighty deeds in the past, how could not also raise His Son from the dead?
God allows us to pass through difficult times, to increase our faith. At times we identify with the cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And yet, that verse from the Psalms reminds us that Jesus repeated what was written a thousand years before and recited in so many worship services and studies.
Loss, suffering, and loneliness are universal. There are many different non-Christian and non-religious approaches to this universal experience, but they fail because they are not true to God’s truth in His Word. There are so many losses we face throughout life, so that grief becomes a terrible burden if it is not resolved through the Gospel. And, besides the normal troubles of life, there are many difficult experiences of the cross. Just when people conclude, “Nothing good can come from this,” the empty grave echoes their voices and they realize human experience and reason were wrong once again.
For that reason, even those leaders who profess Christianity are thrown into confusion when they write about the cross. Either it is completely true or they must make up something to explain it with their own man-made philosophy. Thus the Social Gospel expressed the crucifixion as Jesus showing His solidarity with the poor. And Paul Tillich, the ultimate modernist, called the cross - Jesus being “transparent.” He used the cellophane word long before transparency became a political slogan. Nevertheless, no one can figure out exactly what Tillich meant. That is the goal of every truly profound philosopher, to be so deep that many write large books trying to discover exactly what was meant in the first place. As one blind man said to me during the lecture of a famous theologian, “What is he saying? I don’t understand a word of it? It makes no sense.” That is the ideal and the true path to fame in this benighted world.
The cross and the empty grave are the Gospel. Everything before, in the Gospels, tells us how the crucifixion happened. But everything else in the Four Gospels is an introduction, a necessary and important introduction, but still an introduction, because the atoning death of Christ and His resurrection are the message of Christianity.
One of the surest signs of false teachers is their desire to remove the cross from Christianity because it slows down the important work they need to get done. Willow Creek in Chicago boasts as many outside crosses as a Mormon church building – none. The cross is also lacking in the main Willow Creek entertainment center (nee worship center). For that reason, false teachers flock to learn how to do the same thing. After decades of this nonsense, Hybels admitted, “We have been doing everything wrong.”
Religious news services broke the news, breathlessly awaiting the next revelation of the modern-day Fatima.
The empty grave is God’s message of Creation. Just as He created life through the Word, so He also defeated death through the Word. What cannot be - is possible through God alone. What man declares impossible is real, concrete, visible, and audible. The empty grave was confirmed by angels and by the risen Christ Himself, who appeared not as a ghost or vision but as the God-man Jesus, bearing the wounds of His crucifixion, teaching, blessing, and warning His disciples.
KJV 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
My Literal Jackson Translation
And we confess:
Great is the mystery of the Faith –
1. Revealed in the flesh,
2. Declared innocent in the Spirit,
3. Seen by angels,
4. Proclaimed to the Gentiles,
5. Believed on throughout the world,
6. Received into glory.
We need to understand this great confession/hymn poem of six parallel statements. Jesus was not guilty as we are when He was justified. This is where so many confuse the issue in an effort to prop up their universal absolution of the world. They argue that this justification immediately applied as an absolution for the entire world, even though they also declare that the crucifixion itself accomplished this. That fulfills what Luther said about all kinds of foul errors rushing in when the Means of Grace are rejected.
Why was this justification in Paul’s letter, placed as a clear indication of a well-established text?
Jesus was not justified as we are, because He died without sin. However, He was viewed as a common criminal. We tend not to see the original meaning of the cross because we now speak of the cross in such positive terms as central to the Gospel. God raising Him from the dead was the declaration of innocence, but Jesus did not receive the righteousness of another, as we do.
We cannot create an exact parallel between Jesus and man, because of this difference. Through Adam all mankind became mortal. Jesus is the New Adam, but that does not mean that everyone receives eternal life through Him. He is counterpart, eternal-life giving, but that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit distributing the Gospel through the Word.
You will hear that the great post-Concord theologian Johann Gerhard believed in UOJ and promoted it in his writings. But this is what he wrote about Easter:
"When Christ arose, He brought with Him complete righteousness. For He arose for the sake of our righteousness, Romans 4:25. So then, when you, in a similar fashion, arise from sin through true repentance, you are justified from sins, for faith lays hold of this completed righteousness in Christ, by which we are enabled to stand before God." Johann Gerhard, Eleven Easter and Pentecostal Sermons, Malone: Repristination Press, 1996, p. 80. Romans 6:3-4; Romans 4:25.
Indeed, Christ has accomplished everything, but the Gospel conveys this to us and faith lays hold of it. Faith conquers our fear of death.
For Easter I placed the ancient Greek hymn on Facebook:
Christ is risen from the dead,
By death trampling death,
Giving life to those in the tombs.
EASTER SUNDAY"When Christ arose, He brought with Him complete righteousness. For He arose for the sake of our righteousness, Romans 4:25. So then, when you, in a similar fashion, arise from sin through true repentance, you are justified from sins, for faith lays hold of this completed righteousness in Christ, by which we are enabled to stand before God." Johann Gerhard Eleven Easter and Pentecostal Sermons, Malone: Repristination Press, 1996, p. 80. Romans 6:3-4; Romans 4:25.
"That the Lord Christ, after His resurrection, wishes peace to the disciples and eats the broiled fish and honey comb in their presence, and thereby portrays the benefit and fruit of His resurrection. For through His death and resurrection He has reconciled us with God, His heavenly Father, so that we may from now on, through faith in Him, have peace with God, have peace in our hearts, and have peace against the accusations of the devil and our conscience. When a war lord victoriously overcomes the enemy, peace follows after. So also, since Christ has overcome all His and our enemies in His victorious resurrection, He can thereafter wish [us] peace...Through Him, Samson's riddle was fulfilled: From the eater came something to eat and sweetness from the strong one...He is the powerful Lion from the stem of Judah, Rev 5:5, which mightily fought and overcame so that ours souls find honey-sweet food in Him."
Johann Gerhard, Eleven Easter and Pentecostal Sermons, Malone: Repristination Press, 1996, p. 52. Judges 14:14,18.
"Furthermore, another reason for stating that the Lamb of God was slain from the beginning of the world is that God the Lord, soon after the Fall in the beginning, made the promise that He wanted to have the Seed of the woman step on and crush the head of the hellish snake; and, it would also occur that the snake would bite the woman's Seed in the heel. This stinging of the heel is none other than that Devil's inflicting himself on the woman's Seed and bringing Him to the cross."
Johann Gerhard, Eleven Easter and Pentecostal Sermons, Malone: Repristination Press, 1996, p. 60. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; Genesis 3:15.
"He who follows his feelings will perish, but he who clings to the Word with his heart will be delivered."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 245. Mark 16:1-8.
"For when the heart clings to the Word, feelings and reasoning must fail."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 246. Mark 16:1-8.
"Therefore the Holy Spirit must come to our rescue, not only to preach the Word to us, but also to enlarge and impel us from within, yea, even to employ the devil, the world and all kinds of afflictions and persecutions to this end. Just as a pig's bladder must be rubbed with salt and thoroughly worked to distend it, so this old hide of ours must be well salted and plagued until we call for help and cry aloud, and so stretch and expand ourselves, both through internal and through external suffering, that we may finally succeed and attain this heart and cheer, joy and consolation, from Christ's resurrection."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 253. Mark 16:1-8.
"If I do not believe it, I will not receive its benefits; but that neither renders it false nor proves that anything is lacking in Christ."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 258. Mark 16:1-8.
"For this reason one should not be too credulous when a preacher comes softly like an angel of God, recommends himself very highly, and swears that his sole aim is to save souls, and says: 'Pax vobis!' For those are the very fellows the devil employs to honey people's mouths. Through them he gains an entrance to preach and to teach, in order that he may afterward inflict his injuries, and that though he accomplish nothing more for the present, he may, at least, confound the people's consciences and finally lead them into misery and despair."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 322. Luke 24:36-47.
"Thus we have two parts, preaching and believing. His coming to us is preaching; His standing in our hearts is faith. For it is not sufficient that He stand before our eyes and ears; He must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., xd., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355. John 20:19-31.
"The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for He Himself came with this office and the external Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 359. John 20:19-31.
"Now God drives us to this by holding the law before us, in order that through the law we may come to a knowledge of ourselves. For where there is not this knowledge, one can never be saved. He that is well needs no physician; but if a man is sick and desires to become well, he must know that he is weak and sick, otherwise he cannot be helped."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 370. John 20:19-31.
"Who are the people, therefore, to whom God makes known the resurrection of His Son? Women of little learning and poor fishermen."
Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, 3 vols., ed., Eugene Klug, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, II, p. 22. Luke 24:13-35.