He has risen (Luke 24:1-12). This is the reason that we are celebrating today. We are rejoicing in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for us.
Three days ago, on Friday, Christ died for your sins, being perfectly obedient to the Father and fulfilling all things. He spilt his blood on the cross to atone for your sins; our great High Priest made the all-sufficient sacrifice of himself on your behalf. On Saturday, yesterday, the Sabbath rest, the Lord’s body was sealed in the cool, stone tomb.
But, now that rest is over and the Son has arisen. Today is a new day, the eighth day of Christ’s Passion week, the first day of the beginning of the new creation. In the original creation, God created in six days and rested on the seventh, and when the first day of the new week dawned things were all very good. Now Christ has come to restore His fallen creation by working the six days of Passion week (culminating in the finishing work of the crucifixion), resting on the seventh, and rising on the first day of the new week so that all things can again become very good.
So, this is the Lord’s Day, Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead, the day of the empty tomb when Christ conquered death by rising to life, leaving the tomb behind, vacant and devoid of power. And where death is conquered, sin is conquered as well, because it is sin which led to the intrusion of death into this world. It is sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, which corrupted God’s good creation by bringing evil into it, including decay and death. But, Christ has defeated all these; he has been victorious.
Therefore, Christ’s death and resurrection has far-reaching consequences that extend beyond our present lives. For, it is not for this life only that we hope in Christ. Christ did not die and rise for us so that we could have more money, more friends, or even more happiness in this life. He didn’t die for us so that we could have our best life now.
How often, though, are our hopes so small, so shortsighted, that they only encompass the span of our lives and end at our deaths. St. Paul says that if this is the content of our hope, this life only, then “we are of all people most to be pitied.” For if we look to Christ simply for blessings in this life, then we are missing the point. For our best life now is not the content of our hope. In fact, often times, we as Christians endure ridicule, suffering, persecution, and death for our faith; our lives now are often anything but peaceful and good. Even today, Christians in Sri Lanka were killed at Easter worship services, just as Christians have been killed for their faith throughout history. If this weren’t enough, we still have the temptations and pull of sin, still suffer decay, and still succumb to death, because although Christ has conquered, and although we have a foretaste of the “good,” things are not yet fully restored to as they should be. Things are not yet “very good.”
So, St. Paul’s point to the congregation in Corinth, and to us as well, is that our hope does not end in death, because the proper object of our hope is the one who has died and yet has risen from the dead and now lives (1 Corinthians 15:19-26). We trust in the one who has conquered sin and death on our behalf, so that just as we too will die someday we will yet live for eternity; our best life is yet to come in the restoration that he is bringing with him upon his return. We will then be reunited with all the Church, including those Sri Lankan Christians who went to the grave today.
So, it is in this Jesus Christ, the one who died and yet rose on this day, that we truly have hope. We were all born into the sin of Adam, cursed by decay and mortal death from the moment of our conception. Our lives lead into death and destruction, and all the things we accumulate in this life go to someone else after we die. If we want plenty of rest, the grave is where it is found, because this life is not easy, nor is it leisurely; we live by the sweat of our brow.
But, Christ has a true rest in store for you that is not in the bed, nor is it in the grave. For, Christ has died for your sins and conquered death for you. It is through his work on the cross and empty tomb that you are saved and brought into the Sabbath rest.
And Christ is the firstfruits of what is to come. The firstfruits of a crop provides assurance that the rest of the crop is going to come in. Christ is the firstfruits of the bodily resurrection, because he rose from the dead and therefore he is the guarantee and guarantor of your own resurrection. The point is that because Christ died and rose, you can be sure that you will also rise, although you die. So, your hope in him is not for this life only, but rather extends out into eternity where you will have rest from all your works and from sin and from death. This is the grace and mercy of God that we see on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that Christ has died and risen for you. Friday we see the consequences of sin and death, as the sinless one died on our behalf; Sunday we see the consequences of God’s grace and power as that sin and death is defeated and life and light breaks into the darkness.
So, all that plagues you in this life – illness, sorrow, decay, temptation, sin, grumbling, conflict – Christ has already defeated these through his cross and empty tomb. These evils came into the world through the sin of Adam, but Christ defeated these enemies of his good creation. And he has also defeated the ultimate enemy, which is death.
Death is still here with us, of course, in this life, but it is no longer the last word. Death is our enemy and it is the enemy of God’s good creation, because it is not meant to be here; it intruded into creation through the sin of Adam. But, this is not how things are meant to be. God created you to live with Him forever, but sin got in the way and brought death and the other evils with it.
However, as we have seen and heard, Christ – the new, perfect Adam – has defeated death; he rose from the dead, he left the tomb behind. And he is returning to raise you up also.
We confess we believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Thus, wherever your bodies are on that last day of this age, the day of his return, Christ will make you alive, body and soul reunited together. If your ashes are in an urn or scattered over field or sea, Christ will make your body alive. If your bones are in a grave, Christ will make you alive. If your body is fallen on some battlefield far away from home, Christ will make you alive. And if you are still alive in the body when Christ returns, he will make you truly alive. For you will live for eternity. And if it were possible for someone to peer into your graves and look for your bodies at that time, they would hear what the angels asked the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
Because when Christ returns he will take death, which he has already defeated, and destroy it forever so that neither sin, nor death, nor the devil can plague God’s good creation any longer. So, as the prophet Isaiah who saw that day says, no more will an infant live but a few days or an old man die, because death will be no more (Isaiah 65:17-25). There will be no more war, no more sorrow, no more death, and the “wolf and the lamb shall graze together.” There will finally be peace, eternal peace.
And you will finally meet in person the Church that has come before you and the Church that comes after you. And you will all then live eternally in the glory of the Lord in a new, restored creation – a new heavens and a new earth. The former sorrows and pains that you had, and death that you experienced will be no more, nor will they be remembered or come to mind. For you will inhabit the new Jerusalem, with no sin or evil or death in it; just the Lord and His people dwelling together forever and enjoying God’s good and perfect creation.
All this because Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. And this victory is yours, because He has willed it to you through the testament of his blood.
So, Easter morning when Christ rose is the day we celebrate every Sunday, and indeed every day as we live out our lives together, as his people, in the light of his victory and in the hope we have in him.
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” He is risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia!
(Image: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By Tintoretto – Web Gallery of Art: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15542320 )