Posts tagged Resurrection
In the upper room on Easter evening, when Christ told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until God had “clothed them with power from on high,” Jesus also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…’” (Luke 24:45-47).
In the same vein, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The core of apostolic ministry is the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.
The matter of first importance is the delivery to others of what we have received – Christ’s death and resurrection for us.
In our family, when talking about sermons, I’ll some times ask, “Did the preacher deliver the goods?” Did the sermon deliver what God promises? Or was he just talking about the Gospel? In other words, what was the real goal of the sermon?
You see, I believe that whatever the goal of your sermon or lesson, whether it is a “faith goal” (that the hearers/learners might grow in faith) or a life goal (that the hearers might grow in living the Christian life), nothing good will happen unless you truly “deliver the goods.”
The Gospel is more than happy talk about Jesus and God. The Gospel is preaching and teaching that actually brings forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Jesus’ name. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus personally applied to dying sinners.
Where the Law has exposed the cuts and wounds from living in a sinful world, “delivering the goods” means applying the healing medicine of forgiveness in a personal way: “Your sin is forgiven!” Indeed, when the Law has killed us by exposing the fact that sin is not only “out there” but also “in here” – in my heart, my life, my being – “delivering the goods” means bringing to dead ones the living Word of the God who raises the dead. Jesus is alive! In water, in Word, in Body and Blood, He makes you and me alive.
So remember, you are called to speak the Word of Christ, and His Word does what it says. “Peace be with you!” said Jesus (John 20:19), and His Word actually brings peace. “Because I live you will live also” (John 14:19b), Jesus told His disciples. And His promise brings what it says – life! When you have prepared to preach or teach – go back, look it all over and ask, “how do these words bring life, the life of Christ, to my people, my students?”
My fellow colleagues in ministry, think of it! You have the privilege of actually delivering God’s life-giving promises to people when they need it most. You are the delivery person in your pulpit, your classroom, wherever God takes you. Let every word always serve this goal – to bring life, to “deliver the goods!”
What a high privilege! What unending joy! Jesus gives LIFE, and He uses you and me!
Peace be with you!
First Vice President – LCMS
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 ESV). It was Sunday morning, and they had “bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” (Mark 16:1 ESV).
What were they looking for when they went to the grave early that morning? A dead body. That was all. All they were thinking of was doing the job they were unable to finish on Friday afternoon.
Indeed, they were so focused on that task that they had even forgotten the stone covering the entrance to the grave. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3 ESV), they were asking each other on the way.
Jesus had told them he would die and rise again, but now he was dead. They had seen him die, were there when they took Him down from the cross. And they could think of nothing else than finishing the job – making sure His body was properly prepared for burial. Remember, they don’t know this is the first Easter. They are not hoping to find the grave empty. They are not talking about what they will say when they see Jesus. They thought it was all over except to finish their sad job.
Of course, you and I know the end of the story – God had already sent an angel to move the stone – not to let Jesus out, but to show them He had risen from the dead. But when these women made their way toward the tomb early that morning, all they were expecting was a dead body.
What are you looking for? Are you looking for something alive or dead? What do you expect is going to happen?
You have a child who doesn’t seem to “get it.” Your heart has been broken by a member of your family and you don’t know how to repair the relationship.
You just can’t seem to get over the death of someone close to you. Your parish is getting more and more restless, and no, it’s not because they are restless to spread the Gospel!
You have preached and taught till you were “blue in the face,” you think, but it’s like no one is listening. Your confidence is long gone and your worries give you no peace.
Everything looks, well, dead. From the body in the casket to your hopes and dreams to the blank look on the faces of some of your people. “Who will roll away the stone for us?”
My brothers and sisters, God still moves stones!
There was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.’” Matthew 28:2-6 ESV)
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
He still moves the stones of unbelief and death. He still turns stony hearts in the living hearts of flesh – even yours and mine! (Ezekiel 36:26). Jesus is alive to be with us always. He is our peace. He is our confidence. He is our life.
He rolled away the stone of our sin and has made our grave the door to eternal life. He is alive to give His Spirit – over and over again, even when we can’t see it – whenever His Word is spoken, the waters of Baptism are poured and His body and blood are given.
Now, what are you looking for? Jesus is alive to enliven our preaching and teaching. He is alive to restore your confidence and take away your worries. He is alive to forgive you and help you restore your relationships. He is alive to reawaken your hopes and dreams – alive to assure us we shall also rise to eternal life.
Yes, God still moves stones. And the grave is still empty, for Jesus lives!
A blessed Easter to all!
First Vice President – LCMS
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14f).
I have two brothers who are pastors, and was talking with one of them the other day about the pastor’s struggle with death. This pastor is now in his 24th year in his first congregation. He’s had a number of calls, but the Lord has seen fit to keep him in his first parish in a very fruitful ministry. But after 20 years in a long ministry, the pastor is burying people who have become almost life-long friends.
It becomes a struggle. People you have known more than half of your life and have seen virtually every Sunday for more than 20 years are now the ones for whom you are conducting funerals. The pastor more and more must deal with his own grief even as he comforts the grieving family. Only the knowledge that Christ Himself “partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death…” can sustain both pastor and people.
This struggle with death takes many forms. Recently I visited the cemetery of the congregation my father was serving as pastor when my parents married. There was a gravestone for a two-week old baby my father buried 8 days before I was born. What was going through his mind two weeks later when I was baptized at his hand?
When a parishioner was recently taken to a hospital with a life-threatening illness, my son, also a pastor, calling me on his way to visit him, exclaimed that he would not have been able to sleep, had he not gone to see him. Those are often golden moments in the hospital, when people are surrounded with the law (in the form of all the medical procedures and other reminders of death) and are often desperate to hear the good news of Jesus, the One whose death and resurrection gives us life. You have the privilege of bringing hope and peace in Christ.
In a way, all true pastoral work is a life and death struggle. Preparing sermons we want to bring the law to expose sin for the deadly poison it is, while also bringing the “living and abiding Word of God” in such a way that our people truly hear it and believe it. For only the Word can speak life, and bring to life those who are spiritually dead. Only the Word of Jesus can sustain us in the life of faith, for in the end it will be the Word of Jesus that will call us forth from the grave to rise to eternal life.
When a pastor hears a confession of sin, he is bound by the command of our Lord to speak forgiveness in Christ’s name. When a pastor listens to the cares and concerns of his people, he will point out the signs of death but will even more clearly speak of life in Christ, the One who has conquered death and the devil. When a pastor plans worship and preaching, his greatest desire is to bring life, the real life in Christ, to his hearers. Teaching, visiting, counseling, working with people, the pastor brings life into situations where death has ruled. And death often does not want to give up what he considers his territory!
So the pastor will also be conscious of his own mortality and his own need for Christ. He is a dying sinner just like all the rest. He lives by the same good news in Jesus he brings to others. In fact, knowing this about himself is the Spirit’s way of giving him empathy for people, both within and without the Church.
That’s why, dear pastor, wherever you go, you bring life into the midst of death. Your pastoral work is a matter of life and death. We sinners need the law to show us our sin and death. But even more we need Jesus, the One who conquers death, the One who forgives sin, who brings life by His resurrection. This is what pastoral work is all about. Never forget this is what matters for eternity.
Yes, pastoral work is often a struggle with death, but “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
+Herbert C. Mueller