April 12, 2020
“Easter Sunday: He Who Was Crucified is Risen!”
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. Mark 16:6b
All four Gospels report that it was the first day of the week. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke angels – messengers from God – refer both to Christ’s crucifixion and to his resurrection. In John’s Gospel Jesus shows his disciples the wounds of his crucifixion. On this Easter Day let us ponder two things that the Bible teaches us about Christ’s resurrection: First, Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday; second, the crucified Jesus rose from the dead.
There is something strange, something not right, something disturbing about being required to stay at home on Easter Sunday and not attend church. It is not natural for us Christians to do so. The church in Old Testament times was required to rest every Saturday. Saturday began at the setting of the sun on Friday evening and ended at the setting of the sun on Saturday evening. Jesus died at three o’clock on Friday afternoon. He was in the grave for a part of Friday, for all of Saturday, and for a part of Sunday. He rose early in the morning on Sunday. He appeared to his disciples on Sunday. Sunday is the Lord’s Day. It is the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.
After Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning he appeared to his disciples. His disciples have been gathering together on Sunday mornings ever since. That’s what we do. Some people teach that Christians should worship on Saturdays like they did in Old Testament times. Some teach that the Church changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Some teach that God changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. They are all wrong. The reason we worship on Sunday mornings is because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning. He appeared to his church on Sunday morning. It makes sense to worship on Sunday morning. We gather together on Sundays to worship him who rose from the dead on Sunday. How do we keep the Sabbath? The Old Testament mandated Saturday as the day of rest and worship. That was a picture of the rest and peace that Jesus Christ would bring. The New Testament mandates no specific day. This is what God’s word teaches us Christians about keeping the Sabbath:
This is what Sunday is all about. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. Christ’s resurrection from the dead proves the promises of God’s Word that through faith in him we have eternal life. Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead proves the truth of the faith that confesses, “I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
Second, it was the crucified Jesus who rose from the dead. In Matthew’s Gospel we read,
In Mark’s Gospel we read,
In Luke’s Gospel we read,
He could not rise from the dead if he did not die first. He had to die to rise. But he didn’t just die. He was crucified. We gather together in Jesus’ name for worship every Sunday morning because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning. When we gather together to worship, we come to worship him who was crucified for us.
Crucifixion was a gruesome way to die. It was torture. It was the ultimate humiliation. Physical torment, blood, mockery, and public scorn combined in a graphic display of savage justice. But it is far worse than that. Worse than the physical suffering Jesus endured is the suffering he received from God’s hands as bore the curse of sin for the world. The Bible says that God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us.
Today is Easter Sunday. Every Sunday we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. There is no resurrection without the crucifixion. He who was crucified is he who rose. God did it. God is responsible for both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. God is responsible for the crucifixion. Isaiah wrote: “And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” (Isaiah 53:6b, 10a) God required the crucifixion of his innocent Son. Only he could bear the sin of the world to take it away. This is the scandal of the cross. This is the rock of offense, the stone of stumbling, and deathtrap or scandal that destroys the religion of human pride.
The crucifixion offends people not because it is such a messy way to die. We deal with messes all the time. A surgeon has to contend with blood every time he cuts with his scalpel. People offended by Christ’s blood aren’t agitating for a ban on surgery. What offends them about the crucifixion is what God says about it. They don’t want to know what God says about it.
We know what God says about Christ’s crucifixion. We know why Jesus had to die. Jesus tells us every Sunday that we gather together. He gives us to eat and to drink his holy body and blood and he says, “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” This is why Jesus died. It was for the forgiveness of our sins. This is why Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper: for the forgiveness of our sins. People don’t like to hear about the suffering and death of Jesus to take away God’s anger against them because of their sins. It’s not that they don’t want to hear about blood, suffering, and the anger of God. They can cope with blood and suffering. These are facts of life. They even approve of God’s anger when it is directed against someone else, perhaps a calloused murderer who committed a heinous crime for which he isn’t the slightest bit sorry. What offends people about the crucifixion of Jesus is that it tells them they are sinners who deserve to suffer what Jesus suffered in their place.
This is why Easter Sunday is more popular than Good Friday. But there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. “You seek Jesus who was crucified.” We can never get away from this, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The risen Lord Jesus is the Lord Jesus who was nailed to the cross, who was lifted up for public ridicule, contempt, and shame. Your sins are either on you or on Jesus. Either Jesus bears them or you do. You who trust in Christ’s holy sacrifice as the offering to God to take away your sins receive the forgiveness of sins. The risen Lord Jesus who bore your sins in his body on the cross forgives those sins he bore when he speaks his gospel to you. You who deny your own personal need for Christ’s suffering and death, refuse to repent of your sins, and scorn that bloody sacrifice, embrace the very sins he forgave. You bind your sins to yourself. You live with them. You die with them. You suffer eternal damnation with them. Your sins are either on you or they are on Jesus. Either they condemned him on Calvary and that’s why he died, or they condemn you before God every day of your life.
We don’t look away from the bloody death of Jesus after Jesus rises from the dead. To the contrary! The risen Lord Jesus points us back to the crucifixion. Jesus showed his apostles the wounds of his crucifixion on that first Easter evening. He did so again the following Sunday when Thomas was also there. On the road to Emmaus he chided the disciples for being so slow to understand that he had to suffer and die and be crucified and rise on the third day. St. John in the Book of Revelation describes Jesus as he will appear to us in heaven as the Lamb who was slain. Even in heaven we will glorify God for the crucifixion of Jesus. We never look away from the crucifixion of Jesus.
To despise and turn away from the bloody death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute is to despise and turn away from heaven. It is to embrace death.
No knowledge brings us a sweeter and more perfect joy than the knowledge of Christ’s suffering. Think of what you suffer. Think of your own sins this morning. Have you committed a sin that gnaws at you and you cannot let it go because you jeopardized your future and the future of others and so much pain came about because of you? Must you bear that sin on your conscience? Or can you be set free? Have you suffered from wrong done by another? Have you become bitter? Does that bitterness distress you because you know it is sin against God? Must the one who has wronged you remain unforgiven? He’s not sorry, you know. Can you still forgive him? If you don’t know that God forgives you your sins you cannot forgive those who sin against you. If you cannot forgive you are not ready to die.
Jesus was crucified for us that we may be ready to die. Brothers and sisters in Christ, what does the blood, the anguish, and the anger mean? It means that God has already confronted the sin in your life and faced its consequences: the guilt, the bitterness, and the sorrow. He has already dealt with your sin and death with finality. It may not claim you. It may not drive you away from God. The crucifixion of Jesus is the solution to every single problem you have ever faced or will face. Every evil ever done by you or to you was heaped up upon his innocent head.
And he died. Water and blood poured out of his side. His body became cold in the tomb. There was no life in him. He was dead.
He rose. All our hopes are grounded in that historical fact. He was crucified. He is risen. It is not enough to say that he lives in our hearts. Many things that live in our hearts end up dying. He is risen bodily from the tomb. The angel said, “He is not here.” His body was dead. His dead body rose from the dead. His body is alive. He is alive.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed for us. We keep the feast. We get rid of the leaven of malice and wickedness. We cherish God’s word in pure hearts and seek peace with those from whom we are estranged. We forgive as we have been forgiven. In this way we confess that we believe in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won on the cross, declared to the world in his resurrection, and gives us today in his gospel.
And we rejoice. Today is Easter. It is God’s guarantee to us that he will open up our graves and give us glorious and immortal bodies untainted by sin. As Jesus is, so will we be who trust in him. We are not ashamed to claim him in his shame for it was our shame that he bore. He is not ashamed to acknowledge us before his Father in heaven. Right now he pleads for us above.
For a little while we are kept from gathering together on Sunday mornings. But nobody can keep us from rejoicing today. Jesus who was crucified for us is with us on this holy day. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Rolf D. Preus