Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Resurrection of our Lord 2011

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Matthew 28:1-10
Theme: The Bodily Resurrection

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Bodies of the deceased could not be prepared for burial on the Jewish Sabbath. The sacred command was to first honour the living God and His holy day. Before dawn the Marys went to attend to this task for the body of Jesus. We can see the irony. Their experience is recorded in a candid and uncomplicated manner. They were greeted by angels. The tomb was open. The body of Jesus was not there. They met Christ on the way to tell the disciples the news. They had witnessed the event that would change the world and alter eternity. At the moment they were stupefied to see Jesus alive.

Without the living Christ humanity would face a living hell. Jesus resurrection proves- among other things- that the Father accepted His Son’s sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. This is the crux of the matter. Many are greatly offended at the idea that they would need assistance to be worthy of the next life. It’s much less confronting to the ego to assume that one can safely pass to the next world based on personal merit and accomplishment. Some simply believe there is no obstacle at all. Christian truth makes quick work of these falsehoods. It’s a great offense to assume you are not a sinner that needs the benefit of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Many explanations have been put forth to explain away the miracle of the resurrection. The earliest is recorded here in Matthew “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’”1 Others have claimed that He never really died but recovered and walked away from the experience. None are satisfactory even from a secular, historical standpoint. Those who deny the veracity of Christian truth are better off remaining aloof from discussions of the resurrection.

The Christian faith is deeply rooted in historical reality. Jesus was crucified. His tomb was found empty. He was seen alive. There were many witnesses. Paul mentions more than 500 at one time. This miracle is the bedrock of our belief. But your personal faith cannot be sustained by unique miraculous experiences or signs from God. Your confidence must rely on His word and sacraments. We see Him through these means with eyes of faith. The person who demands other proof from God- some sort of personal testimony, a vision or grating of a wish- can never have certainty. The memory fades, doubt rises and a new sign is demanded. This approach is as old as Adam’s fall.

Cain was given a mark. But the ungodly still transgressed God’s command. The Israelites saw God’s mighty deliverance in crossing the Red Sea. But soon doubt and complaint set in and many lost their faith. Many throughout the ages right up to the present day have had their faith dashed when- in some way, shape, or form- they thought God failed to show them the proper sign- to give them “proof”. The Jews repeatedly asked Jesus for signs and He said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”2 In other words, the death and resurrection of Jesus was THE sign.

Undeniably Jesus did many miracles during His earthly ministry. Miracles continued in the apostolic age. Today God still sends His angels and interventions as He sees fit. But there is no promise that this is His ongoing program to engender faith. He does not employ a regimen of personal signs and miracles to convert people from unbelief to faith. Were that the case humanity would require a constant stream of spectacular displays. “What have you shown me lately?” would be the cry. These too would soon be met with skepticism and complaint. Short of forcing people to fall prostrate those of hardened heart would never honour God.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the validation of divinity and proof that the Father accepted His sacrifice to cover the world’s sins. Christ’s bodily resurrection will not remain limited to His own person. As a preview of what’s to come the graves of believers were opened in Jerusalem on that first Easter. The Scripture says, “They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”3 Now, how can you be convinced that you also will be raised bodily from death? Irrational assumptions are of little use. The Holy Spirit directs your heart and mind to the One who has been there and done that.

Jesus says, “He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”4 He says, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”5 These are the promises we rely on. We will find on this earth no fountain of youth. Oh what little certainty human strength and ingenuity can give us. God grants humans many skills but the outcomes still depend on Him.

A hospital administrator was alarmed to see a patient fleeing down the hall out of the operating room, his loose hospital gown flapping in the breeze behind him. He stopped the patient and said, "Do you mind telling me why you ran away from the operating room?" The patient looked at him with startled eyes and said, "It was because of what the nurse said." The administrator said, "Oh, what did she say?" "She said, 'Be brave! An appendectomy is quite simple.'" The administrator said, "Well, so what? It is quite simple; I would think that would comfort you." The patient said, "The nurse wasn't talking to me; she was talking to the doctor."

Yes, sometimes human assurances are of little comfort. A farmer in a drought area went into a small town bank to see about getting a loan on his farm. "I think I might be able to do it," said the banker. "But maybe we'd better drive out and appraise your property." "No need to trouble yourself," said the farmer, looking out the window at a vast dust cloud rolling up over the horizon. "Here it comes now." Certainty in human affairs is elusive. That’s why we have laws, lawyers and lawsuits; codes and regulations. And still, it’s not enough. What is certain is God’s love in Christ.

His resurrection effects a spiritual resurrection in all believers. In baptism you were raised in faith. You live now in that faith clothed with the righteousness of the crucified and risen Lord. Your future is in God’s hands. Today is the day of victory. Each Sunday marks its celebration. Every Lord’s Day we have the privilege to gather as His people. The Table is set in the new “holy of holies.” We no longer eat the flesh of the Passover lamb, but the body and blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.6 We live in the new era of salvation. The risen Lord prepares us for His return. Daily we are sustained by His promises. May the words of Job spoken so many centuries ago be our source of confidence and joy on this day of resurrection, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”7
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable love in Christ! Amen.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
+ in nomine Jesu +

The Resurrection of our Lord
Easter Sunday
24 April, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 28:12-13 2 Matthew 12:39-40
3 Matthew 27:53 4 John 11:25-26
5 John 5:54 6 See John 1:29
7 Job 19:25-26

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Friday 2011

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 19:11
Theme: The End For Sin

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

At Golgotha women wailed and angels wept. Many mourned Him but none came to His aid. The sun went dark and the earth shook. The face of the Father was turned away. The triumph of evil was at hand. Yet the victory of salvation was taking place. Such is the paradox of the death of the Son of God.

To relive the trauma and emotion of that first Good Friday can serve only the interest of speculation or a desire to make it relevant. But the event is in every respect unrepeatable. What concerns us is the consequence. The judgment for your sins coincides with the death of Christ. When He dies the atonement is made. When He breathes His last the price is paid; the debt is canceled. There are no further negotiations. Reconciliation is complete. The eternal fate of the believer is sealed. The countenance of God changes from wrath to favour, from judgment to acceptance.

Now the reality of time can make this truth hard to fathom because the Bible clearly says there will still be a judgment day. Yes, He will still gather all humanity before Him in public display of His justice and glory. Then there will be no uncertainty about those who are His. Then Satan’s little day is done and unbelief is brought to an end. The Bible is abundantly clear that those who believe and have shown the fruits of faith will be saved and those who have rejected God’s grace- as shown by their lack of fruits- will be consigned to hell.

Certainly the image of the judgment and the picture of Christ Himself are awe-inspiring. John gives this description in Revelation, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were blazing like fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”1 It’s an image to be reckoned with to say the least.

But the last judgment will not involve a tallying of both sides of the ledger to see whether each individual has done enough good to outweigh the bad. If there were a weighing in the balance at the judgment NONE would be saved. The Psalmist says it this way, “If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?”2 The scales were tipped at the crucifixion. The last judgment serves to separate out those who died in faith or who were living in faith at the time of the Second Coming from those who oppose God’s will and His ways. Good works are the fruit of faith not the cause. They are the evidence, not the source. Only God can identify faith in the heart. The outward signs only assist the rest of us. The veracity of these biblical truths is indisputable.

Still, doubt is commonplace. Satan’s tool is fear. To the human intellect and emotion death is a vast ocean of darkness and uncertainty. We should never approach it with arrogance. No human knows the secret to death. God humbled Job saying, “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over earth...Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?”3 Physical death is the final, evil consequence of sin. And the darkness of eternal death is not only impenetrable but horrifying beyond imagination. Need we anything more to drive us to humility and repentance?

The death of Christ changes everything. Human reason cannot reckon what makes His sacrifice so scared. The Holy Spirit must teach us and grant us an unconditional faith in the prophet and Messiah of Galilee. He was not a likely leader by this world’s standards. He had no upbringing or training to make a splash in the public eye. He had no countenance for television. We would not have been naturally drawn to His image. The Scripture says rather, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.”4

Yet, we have here no spineless Redeemer. Christ is not gutless or faint-of- heart. He does no deals with Satan. He makes no negotiations with death. He does not walk on egg shells fearing to offend His opponents. He resolutely sets His face to the task. And a daunting, seemingly insurmountable task it was. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me, yet not My will, but yours be done.”5 But He did drink the cup of the Father’s wrath- for us and for our salvation.

The death of Jesus changes the game. Into His death is incorporated the eternal death each sinner deserves. In baptism we pass right through the horrors of eternal death so that at our physical death we merely realize our mortality and are freed from sin’s constraints. We are forgiven. Holy Communion is a testimony to these truths. And the more prepared we are to face death the livelier our Christian faith will be. We live in profound joy for Him who did not come down from the cross and whom the grave could not hold. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Good Friday
22 April, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Revelation 1:14-16 2 Psalm 130:3
3 Job 38:33, 17 4 Isaiah 53:2-3
5 Luke 22:42