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“Easter = already risen from the dead!”
April 16, 2017 (Easter Sunday A)
Do you believe in miracles? Nowadays many people would say “no” – and so they wouldn’t bother coming to church today because they don’t believe that anyone could ever actually rise from the dead. But it’s actually a trick question . . . everyone believes in miracles! Even the most sceptical and hardened atheist who claims to believe in nothing that cannot be directly proven by science and natural causes . . . is FORCED to believe in miracles. After all – life can NOT arise from dead inorganic compounds. It’s far too complicated and delicate. DNA is simply astounding and the brilliance of life is one of so many proofs for a Creator. Science can observe and examine mutations – but they are always destructive in nature and incapable of adding any new information. They simply disrupt, mangle, or destroy the genetic information that’s already there. The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly clear: everything is in a state of decay. It’s a Law of Physics! Things go from order DOWN to chaos. Going the other direction – from death to LIFE . . . requires nothing short of a miracle.
What’s crazy in our modern age of scepticism, is the miracles people actually choose to believe in! I read an article in the National Post on Thursday about children who were removed from foster care here in Ontario – because the parents refused to teach the kids that the Easter Bunny is REAL. Absurd? Yes – but apparently now we are only allowed to believe in the “miracles” that have been approved by the liberal elites.
As Christians we have always embraced miracles. And – among the miracles we believe in – EASTER tops the list. Jesus died on Good Friday, and He was alive on Easter Sunday. Our God, the Author of Life – is capable of bringing life from death / even life from nothing at all.
What makes this particular miracle of Easter easier for us to mentally grasp is the fact: He SAID He would die and rise again on the third day! His enemies knew that and even posted a guard outside the tomb. No one but the Son of God could make that claim / the promise – and carry it out. On top of that, multiple prophets scattered across Old Testament history said (prophesied) that He would suffer, die – and RISE from the dead. Christians trust the Bible because it’s the only place where you can find prophecies about miraculous events yet to happen – and the actually happened – exactly as predicted! To date the Holy Bible has a 100% accuracy rate. If it truly is God’s Word (which it is) I suppose that’s what we should expect. God also made sure to have multiple eye-witnesses (hundreds and hundreds of them) over a period of 40 days – to nail down the historicity of this miracle, so everyone would know that Jesus was actually dead and physically alive again on the first Easter.
When God wants to make a point and ensure people know what happened – He doesn’t skimp on the evidence. The Virgin-born Son of God publically performed so many miracles that not even His enemies could deny it. He was publically executed by the Roman soldiers who knew how to do their jobs and would lose their lives if they failed to kill their victims. And – He was publically seen by crowds of people who knew Him personally and were willing to die for the sake of sharing this great Easter miracle. He – the Crucified and Risen One – told us the miracles recorded in the same Bible we hold – actually HAPPENED and that the history of it is reliable. From the miracle of creation where the first human beings arose in perfect genetic purity from the dust of the ground that He had just created from nothing . . . to the Great Flood of Noah, to the Exodus under Moses, even mentioning Jonah being swallowed by a gigantic sea creature and puked up 3 days later . . . to His own resurrection from the dead, to the Pentecost miracle, and the next big one that will top it ALL off: His own glorious return in Judgment where everything will be destroyed by fire and God’s family of believers will have a perfect, new, and eternal home.
But – the miracle of Easter is not just an event we celebrate in the ancient past – it directly impacts us, who – as Paul says here in our text, have experienced and accepted the miracle of the Resurrection by FAITH. Easter not only means Jesus was risen from the dead . . . it means we are risen from the dead too . . . and I’m not just talking about the future Day of Judgment – here, right now, we are already risen from the dead!
Colossians 3:1–4 (NIV 11)
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The Holy Spirit of God has worked a miracle in the hearts of everyone who trusts that Jesus is actually the Son of God who actually died for our sins, and actually rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. We generally call that FAITH, but the Lord also calls it new LIFE. Spiritually speaking we have been brought from death to life – which requires nothing less than a miracle. Jesus said that those who trust in Him have crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).
Paul encourages us to embrace, to cherish, to protect, to nourish and to FEED that new miraculous life we’ve been given. It is, after all, connected directly to the miracle of Jesus’ own resurrection on that first Easter Sunday. But until we cross over to that land without sin or death . . . down here the new life God’s Spirit has given us can be killed off. That life starves when we “put it on the shelf” and forget about what God has done for us – because we’ve become engrossed in earthly things. Our primary focus in life can easily become money / work / studies / sports / entertainment / social media / activities / worldly cares, concerns and passions . . . and . . . the glorious victory of Easter can be lost among the Easter eggs, buried under the chocolate, or disappear with the Easter Bunny. Look around – this is not a hypothetical – our culture is losing the real meaning of Easter and, therefore, the real meaning of life and the secret of eternal life. In rushes a flood of earthly things to distract us from what’s really important – and with it comes darkness, sin, guilt, doubts, fears, and spiritual death swallows up the life.
LIFE needs to be fed and nurtured, and repentance is like that never ending struggle of pulling weeds up in the garden. If the weeds (the sins) are left unattended, they will take over and kill off the things we actually want to grow. Get back to God’s House every week for regular spiritual tending of the LIFE He’s given you – together we kill the “weeds” and feed the faith. Be in the Word of God every day. Find a Bible study that works for your schedule and dive in. Protect that miraculous spiritual life God has given you. We worship every Sunday for a reason – the early church wanted every worship service to be a weekly reminder and celebration of the Easter miracle / the Easter victory.
In the EMPTY TOMB we find a place big enough to dump all our sin, our guilt, our doubts, our fears, and whatever other “weeds” might plague our souls. In the EMPTY TOMB we find boundless grace and forgiveness. In the EMPTY TOMB you can find peace that only the Risen Jesus can provide! He meets us in Word and Sacrament, where He has promised to be miraculously present – and says to us: “Peace be with you! I’m not angry with you because of your sin, your weakness, your betrayal and your cowardice – for God took out His righteous anger over your sin on ME. I died for all those sins and you are forgiven and make alive by my death and resurrection. I accept you, and I welcome you into my family!”
Our church exists to help people find the Truth God has miraculously recorded and preserved in His Word / the “Miracle Grow” of God’s power – truth that drives away all the darkness, uproots all the weeds, and replaces it with hope, joy, confidence and strength – as the Holy Spirit feeds and fuels that life within us. That’s why we don’t bother with gimmicks, fads, or “flash in the pan” type entertainment stuff . . . you can’t improve on what God gives us in His Word / in His gift of Holy Baptism / and in His Holy Supper. Good old fashioned Bible-based Christianity that brings you back to what God has told us, promised us, and done for us – is all you need to keep growing in the new life He’s given us.
As we grow, He opens our eyes to see the miracles of God’s grace that we are daily surrounded by. Life itself is a MIRACLE – both physical life and spiritual life. We rejoice to see babies born, and given new spiritual life in the waters of baptism. We rejoice to see hardened atheists come to love and trust in Jesus. We rejoice to see God’s power bring healing and hope to people struggling through the most difficult of times. It’s even a glorious miracle when a Christian breaths his/her last – and God, through death, takes His redeemed child home to eternal LIFE. All of these miracles (and so many more) are there because of Easter – the greatest miracle of all.
In so many ways you could also say God’s miraculous life yet remains hidden from our eyes – until – that is, Jesus returns in power and glory. On that Day you won’t find one human being on the planet saying they don’t believe in miracles – for all of us will see and experience in a supernatural way, the fulfillment of everything that Easter really means . . . when death itself has finally and totally been swallowed up by LIFE.