Easter Vigil| Romans 4:25| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| April 3, 2021
“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
If you ask any three-year-old child, who regularly goes to church, why Jesus died on the cross, you will hear something like, “to take away my sins.” This is the simplest answer that even our little children can accept. Sin is bad. You are punished for doing bad things. Jesus was punished for our bad things in our place. Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses. Yet, this is a very difficult thing to accept. Our guilty consciences do not want to accept this truth. Our reason is offended that Christ could be punished for the sins of another. Yet, this is clearly what the Bible teaches.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. … the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5, 6b) “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) “The Son of Man came not to be served by to serve, and to give his life as ransom for man.” (Matthew 20:28) St. Paul did not make up that Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses. This is the clear and persistent message of Holy Scripture. What we remembered this Friday was done in payment for our sins. Our sins were laid upon Jesus for him to take them to the cross.
And was raised up for our justification. What does this mean? The Greek can be translated one of two ways: He was raised up on account of our justification, or he was raised up for the sake of our justification. These seem to be two very different interpretations. The first says that Jesus was raised because of our justification. The second says that he was raised up so that we are justified. Which one is the correct interpretation? Well, they are both in fact true!
Jesus was raised up on account of our justification. That is to say, Jesus was raised up because we are justified. Jesus went to the cross bearing all of our sins. He bore the agony for them. Even before the chief priests laid a hand on him or even the betrayer kissed his cheek, Jesus was bleeding drops of blood in the garden with a soul agonizing to the point of death. So weighed down was he already with the guilt of the whole world. When Jesus paid the debt of our sin, our sins were taken away forever. They were drowned in the depths of the sea. They were nailed to the cross. They were washed away in his blood. They were released, covered, not counted, and whatever other language from Scripture you want to use to describe them. Jesus’ death paid the debt of our sin, so that they are gone forever.
And on account of this, because Jesus had no sin of his own to die for, Jesus was raised, because God accepted his payment for our sins and had declared us justified. Because God counted us just, Jesus rose from the dead. When Jesus rose from the dead, he was vindicated. What does it mean to be vindicated? It means to be declared innocent, to be proven to be in the right. Jesus had no sins of his own. He did not die for his own sins. Had Jesus had sins of his own, had he been guilty in any way, then he would not have risen from the dead. But, by the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, he was vindicated. He was cleared of all guilt. Jesus’ resurrection proves that his teaching is the truth. Jesus’ resurrection proves that he is the Son of God. Jesus’ resurrection proves that we are justified before God.
Jesus’ vindication is our justification. Justification means that God has declared you righteous and innocent of all sin. Jesus was vindicated in his resurrection, because it proved that he had no sins of his own and that he had the power to pay for our sins. Jesus’ resurrection proves that we are justified, because had our sins been too much for him to pay, then he would have remained dead in the tomb.
And this then proves the second interpretation correct. Jesus was raised up for the sake of our justification. We are justified. How do we know? Because Christ is risen from the dead. If Christ did not rise, then we would still be in our sins. We would be of all people most to be pitied. Our faith would be in vain. Yet, since Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, we know that we are justified before God. How could we not be? If Christ died for our sins and is now risen, then our sins must be gone! So, it is clear, that Jesus was raised for the sake of our justification. God raised him from the dead not only to vindicate Christ, but to justify us!
We can only be justified through faith. That is to say, we can only receive a good relationship with God and receive the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection when we believe that God finds us innocent for Christ’s sake. We must not only believe that Jesus died and rose. We must believe that he has done this for us and for our salvation. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Abraham was declared righteous before he had done any works. God justified Abraham through his faith. This is how Noah was found righteous. This is how Moses was justified. This is how the three men in the fiery furnace were saved. It is through faith alone. But these things were not written for their sake only. They were written for us. We too will be justified before God through faith when we believe that Christ Jesus was delivered up to the cross on account of our trespasses and that he was raised, because God has justified us.
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God. But I don’t feel at peace with God. I feel my sin. But faith does not have to do with feelings, but with facts. God has justified us for Christ’s sake. But, because our sinful flesh still hangs on to us, we still sin and we still feel sinful. That is why we must repent of our sins daily and cling to the promise of Christ’s justification for us. Because we are justified, our new selves will fight against our sinful flesh. Everyday our sinful flesh will grow weaker. Everyday our new self will become stronger. Through this faith, we will continue to grow in love and confess Christ with our actions until we finally shed this sinful flesh once and for all and are raised with Christ in righteousness and purity forever. Amen.