Monday, April 10, 2023

The Word That Changes Everything

[Below you'll find live stream video of both Easter worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church as well as the text of the message shared at both services. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!]

Matthew 28:1-10
Easter is the most important event in the history of the world.

Easter works differently from the way things work in this cosmos, though. Here, everything starts with life and ends in death. This is why the novelist Ernest Hemingway said that every true story ends in death. In this though, as in most other things, Hemingway was wrong. We know this because the true story of Easter begins in death and ends in life…and not just for Jesus! This is what makes Easter so important.

God’s Word says, “[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

We are born sinners mired in sin and self-absorption, turned away from God, thinking first of ourselves and acting accordingly. For this, we deserve death, condemnation, and everlasting separation from God and others.

On the cross, Christ, truly God and truly human, Who was sinless, bore the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine: all the ways we fail to love God and others, all our idolatry, murderous thoughts and actions, all our contempt for parents and others in authority, all our theft and greed, all our gossiping and injustice. Jesus took all this sin into Himself.

He was delivered to death at the prompting of God the Father, taking the punishment of damnation and everlasting isolation from God that you and I deserve.

But after Jesus died on Friday, the first day, laying lifeless in the tomb on Saturday, the second day, God the Father raised Jesus on the third day, Sunday, Easter day.

He did so for our “justification.”

To be justified means to be declared innocent, righteous, verified, able to leave the solitary confinement of hell, acceptable to enter into life with God and His people, now and forever.

To be justified by God is to be declared innocent despite all the evidence to the contrary.

A person who has been justified by God’s charity–that is, by God’s grace–through God-given faith in Jesus can say, “I’ve been made right with God, forgiven, brimming with new life from God, just if I’d never been a sinner, never had a sinful thought, never done a sinful thing!”

Jesus has taken our old dead bodies into His own and gives us His new, sinless body!

And so the Word tells us: “[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

This Word also tells us that Christ is the end of the Law’s condemnation for us, because Christ has already borne that condemnation. Christ fulfills God’s promise given through the prophet Micah, centuries before Jesus’ birth, to hurl our sins into the depths, never to be seen or heard of by God again.

God has called you to be here this morning, whether through family expectations or traditions, a nagging family member, or through heartfelt desire on your part.

He called you here not to deliver information like, “Jesus died and rose” to you. Even Satan knows that Jesus died and rose. Mere information won’t save you and me from condemnation and hell.

No, God has called us together on this Easter Sunday for the same reason God calls His Church to regular worship Sunday after Sunday.

God calls us to worship so that we can be immersed in His Word–read, spoken, sung, or given in, with, and under water, bread, or wine–and so that we may here and now be crucified, convicted of our sins, and be raised again to face another day, week, month, year, a lifetime, and eternity itself with the certain hope that nothing can separate those who trust in Him from the love of God given to us in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

The Gospel Word that Jesus was delivered to death for you and raised to give you everlasting life comes to you not as data to be filed away and forgotten, but as your deliverance from the grave, your gift of joy and certainty in a lost and uncertain world.

Matthew’s account of the first Easter Sunday is well known to you.

According to Matthew, Mary Magdalene and another Mary, presumably the sister of Lazarus, go to “look at the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)

They have no expectations. They just want to look at the tomb.

They live in a dark and fallen world. Even the One they once hailed as the Messiah, God’s own Son, has died.

But Matthew tells us that an angel, a messenger from God, is sent to the tomb and creates an earthquake. He rolls away the stone that has covered the tomb from which Jesus has already risen, then sits on the stone.

The angel’s appearance indicates that he’s just come from the presence of God in His bright glory.

Just like all the hard-hearted and closed-minded of the world–people like I used to be when I was an atheist, the Roman guards placed at the tomb by Pilate are not happy to see this ambassador from God.

They’re terrified, becoming like what they are–like what we all are without the forgiveness and new life God gives through faith in Christ–dead men.

The angel tells the women that Jesus isn’t dead anymore. “He has risen from the dead,” the angel says, “and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.”

The women run back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. This is good news to be shared!

“Suddenly,” Matthew says, the risen Jesus meets them.

In part, Jesus is going to give them the same message the angel gave them. “​​Do not be afraid,” He says. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

But before saying that and before the women fall down, grasping the feet of Jesus’ now-living body, and worshiping Jesus, Jesus says something else.

He says one Word.

It’s a single Word that changes human history.

A single Word that transforms those who, by the power of God’s Spirit to work faith in us, receive it.

It’s a Word that changes us from God’s enemies to God’s friends, from the damned and dead to the favored and living, from the guilty to the justified.

Jesus’ first Word, His Easter Word, to the women and to you is this: “Greetings.” (Mattthew 28:9)


You have a right to be.

The translations in all of our English version Bibles of this Word are anemic. None of our common English translations do this Word justice. None of the translations are bad, per se, it’s just that none of them really deliver the good news–the Gospel–that Jesus wants to give us here this morning!

According to Matthew, who wrote his gospel in Greek, the Word Jesus spoke to the women, that He speaks to you and me today, is Χαίρετε.

That was a word that in common usage had come to mean little more than hello, just like a word that once meant God bless you in English has become nothing more than goodbye.

But what this word Χαίρετε, from the word for  God’s grace, His charity, for sinners, means coming from Jesus at this moment is this. Listen: “All My grace, all My favor, the blessings of Resurrection and of new and everlasting life, the reality of the forgiveness of your sins, all the joy of heaven belongs to you who turn from sin and turn to Me.”

All of that is what Jesus means when He greets the women!

In other words, Jesus is telling the women and you, “Resurrection to you! My victory over sin and death to you! You thought that death and darkness were all that were left to you. You thought all you could do was look at a tomb. But I’m going to raise all who believe in Me from their tombs to live with Me forever!”

And, friends, that is Jesus’ message for you this morning!

He is no longer in the tomb.

He sits on the right hand of God the Father and through God the Holy Spirit, His grace and power have been set loose in this dying, tomb-pocked world.

Wherever Jesus isn’t received, there is death, condemnation, uncertainty, fear, furtiveness, and fatalism.

Wherever and whenever He comes to us in Word and Sacrament, there is forgiveness, grace, joy, peace, and resurrection.

These are the gifts of the risen Jesus.

His Word gives these to you once again today and they belong to all who receive Him and His gospel with the faith His Spirit and His Word give to those who hear it openly.

[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

He died for your sins and rose for your justification. You can trust in Christ for this.

A blessed Easter to you, friends. Amen!