Sunday, April 19, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter (B) 2015

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

Text: Luke 24:46
Theme: The Old Testament Christ

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The risen Christ is among us. Each Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. God’s people changed from gathering on Saturday, the Sabbath, to the day the tomb was found empty. There was no requirement to do so. In fact, since the redemptive work of Christ has been completed, every day is holy to the Lord. Nevertheless, Sunday seemed most appropriate for the public assembly of the saints. Our hope and salvation rest not in memories of the historical Jesus but in the living Christ who rules and intercedes on behalf of His church.

Again today, we find Jesus with His disciples on that first Easter Sunday. It’s very telling that the risen Jesus did not simply let His astonishing triumph over death speak for itself. He explained Himself on the basis of the Scriptures. Far from indicting that the Old Testament could be dispensed with now that the new era had come, He established its importance. He says, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”1 He knew the apostles would need to witness to the work of Christ not only on the basis of their personal interaction with Him, but also through the Old Testament Scriptures. Easter Sunday was a time of intense catechesis.

The Old Testament doesn’t make casual or occasional reference to Christ. He is its heart and centre. The Old Testament is God’s inspired word. Any effort to relegate it to a second-rate status, whether intentionally or inadvertently, fails to recognize it as the continually relevant revelation of God to the human race. God didn’t come up with a new idea in the sending of Jesus; Christ was the divine plan from the beginning, from eternity. Luke says today, “Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name.”2

God’s plans are not random or arbitrary. The forgiveness of sins is God’s mode of operation from start to finish. But don’t ever assume that the forgiveness of sins is easily grasped or readily received. In fact, as sinners, we cannot grasp it at all without the Holy Spirit. Even after conversion, the powerful draw of the sinful will seeks to pull us away from God’s purposes and plans. God’s law is never done convicting and correcting us. The gospel is never done consoling us. You will never out grow your baptism.

Jesus came so that the last would be first and the first, last. Christ reverses the order for the penitent. Forgiveness is an equalizer beyond human comprehension. That’s what makes the gospel so subversive and at the same time so magnificent. God reconciles the sinner to Himself and in so doing abolishes all human constructions of rank, status, and worthiness. In contrition and faith the prostitute enters heaven while the pope and pastor stand outside. The murderer is received while the federal judge is expelled. The widow and her mite are honoured while the philanthropist and his money are shunned. The one who washes the foot is esteemed above the one who demands others bow at his feet. The exalted are humbled and the humbled are exalted. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”3

We are wandering sheep that have been gathered safely into the fold. We are rebellious children that have been restored to the family. We are refugees from the dominion of Satan that have been given asylum in the kingdom of Christ. More than that, we are paupers who have been made princes, orphans who have been adopted; outcasts who have been given an inheritance. We brought nothing into the world and we will take nothing out of it. But in Christ we have all that we need- and more!

After the resurrection life was a struggle for the early followers of Jesus. Undoubtedly they would have liked all of their challenges to be over. But their Master did not institute a Utopia on earth. We tread the same path they walked. We eat the same sacred food as the Emmaus disciples. But we continue to walk by faith, not by sight. Like them we look forward to Christ’s return in glory. Meanwhile, we do not wait passively nor can we expect life to be problem-free.

Sometimes we do not see the future benefits that result from the struggles of the present. The trials of the day often prepare us for the challenges of the future. Life is full of hidden blessings. Consider the example of the man who was celebrating his 100th birthday. He was married on the same day and had his wife still been living it would have been their 75th anniversary. Healthy and spry for a centenarian his guests asked his secret to remaining so fit. He said, “On the day my wife and I were married we promised each other that the person who was decided to be the loser of an argument would go outside for a walk in the fresh air. I’ve been out in the fresh air ever since.”

The Bible is full of examples of God’s people living by sheer faith and clinging to hope that defied the evidence. Could Joseph see the blessings that would come from being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers? Not only was he elevated to a position of authority, the whole family of Jacob was spared from famine through his protection. Could Daniel have foreseen the blessings that would result from being taken into captivity in Babylon? He gave such powerful testimony after God spared him from the den of lions that King Darius said, “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end.”4

Think, dear friends, how cherished we are in God’s sight! The apostle says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”5 And that sets us apart from a world of unbelief. It sets us apart from a world that lives only for the moment. It separates us from those whose view of the future is a false security that all will go to a better place. It also distinguishes us from those whose interest in the present involves the dead end of self-indulgence. Note how John continues, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”6 For then we shall be resurrected in body and soul. His promise will not fail for He has already passed through death. Amen

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday of Easter
19 April, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Luke 24:44
2 Luke 24:45-47
3 Matthew 5:7
4 Daniel 6:26
5 1 John 3:1
6 1 John 3:2

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