+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 5:24
Theme: Incorruptible Resurrection
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Today is a Sunday to put last things first. On this final Sunday of the Church Year our gospel reading focuses not on those cosmic and tumultuous events that will precede the end of the world (we will hear more about those in coming weeks); but on the most relevant and significant reality that will affect human beings: the resurrection of the dead. It will be the culmination of Jesus’ work and show the stunning power of God over death. Jesus says, “As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”1 “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.”2
The dead will be raised. In Christ, the dead have been raised. You see, all believers experience two resurrections. The first is a spiritual resurrection. This resurrection is baptismal. The Scripture says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.3 The Holy Spirit raises us from spiritual death through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Spiritual death is a genuine incapacitation. Fully matured sin results in death. It is not a theoretical or contrived state in which people are still able to exercise some natural power to know God, love God, or consider the implications of His truth. It is rather, such a complete darkness and blindness that God is considered the enemy, if not consciously, at least willfully. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”4 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”5
So important is this truth we can’t properly appreciate the gospel without believing it. It’s akin to believing we are sinners who cannot save ourselves. We are completely at God’s mercy. The Lutheran Reformers said it this way, “Just as a man who is physically dead cannot of his own powers prepare or adapt himself to obtain temporal life again, so the man who is spiritually dead in sins cannot of his own strength adapt or apply himself to the acquisition of spiritual and heavenly righteousness and life.”6 Spiritual resurrection is the same thing as conversion or regeneration. That which was dead is made alive. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The second resurrection is the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. At the coming of Christ all the dead will be raised, their bodies will be reunited with their souls, and all will be gathered before Him for judgment. The wicked will be condemned to everlasting torment. Christians will enjoy eternity in their complete personhoods; redeemed and restored in the image of Christ. The Scripture says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”7 This mystery is beyond our comprehension but is the consummation of our hope.
Until that day we live in the tension of the already but not yet. The struggle for souls is fierce. Satan knows how to play on our fears. Christians struggle too. One theologian expressed it this way, “Anxiety is the liturgy we offer to the idols who have failed us.”8 Misplaced trust will always result in a false sense of security or in angst and fear. If we place our hope in money, become over-confident in good health, too reliant on a good job, overly-dependent on a stable family, we will be disappointed. If too many supports crash down at once we may be in crisis. We fret. We worry. We wring our hands in anxiety and sometimes desperation. Our expectations have become unreasonable because our hope has been mislaid.
The borrowed spiritual capital our society has been living on these past decades is quickly running out. People have little interest in distinguishing between what is true and what is false. The mantra is tolerance. But what does this really mean? People naturally want material prosperity, but at what cost? At what point will people realize they cannot find meaning in life just through indulgence in material things? We can already see how the vicious cycles of addiction, violence, and abuse are decimating the stability of society. These problems cannot be solved through legislation and law enforcement. Hearts must be changed.
It would be tempting for believers to just give up and give in. As the saying goes, “If you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And that’s exactly what many are doing. We must be honest and courageous enough to recognize the hollow claim of many who say their faith really matters. The proof is in the pudding. Actions speak louder than words. We can fool ourselves and others but we can’t fool God. We are never without hope because we have the One who is God of the living and the dead. We have forgiveness free and certain.
To the naked human eye God’s redemption of the world through an infant born in a manger and crucified on a cross doesn’t square with what’s visible. The triumph of Christ isn’t readily apparent. The reign of God isn’t immediately evident. The rule of the Holy Spirit isn’t clearly visible. The power and presence of God is hidden in apparent weakness. God wants His love to be known through the cross. His mercy is understood through sacrifice. Grace is displayed through Jesus’ complete surrender. Human logic cannot grasp these truths. The Holy Spirit is required. We are saved by grace through faith. No one can be saved any other way. His means of word, water, bread, and wine appear too mundane to accomplish magnificent spiritual achievements. Yet Christ is present in a peaceful and powerful manner. That’s the nature of forgiveness. It is God’s mode of operation in this world.
But rest assured, there will be no mistaking Christ’s glorious return. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God’”9 There will be no second chances, no negotiating, no plea-bargaining. Christ will be recognized as Lord over all. Satan’s “day” will be done. An incorruptible resurrection awaits us. Christ, the Lord over life and death says today, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”10 May God make it so in His time! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Last Sunday Of the Church Year
22 November, 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 5:26
2 John 5:21
3 Romans 3:3-4
4 Romans 8:7
5 Colossians 2:13
6 Formula of Concord, SD 11
7 Philippians 3:20-21
8 Kenneth Korby
9 Romans 14:10-11
10 John 5:24