He is risen! The Lord’s resurrection gives power and hope to our witness.
Daniel P. Leyrer
Fred, the once-a-year churchgoer, addressed the pastor after the Easter Sunday service: “Hey Rev, you’re in a rut! Every time I’m here I hear the same thing—‘He is risen.’ ”
Of course, even if Fred were to attend many more Sundays a year, it’s likely he would find the preacher in the same “rut.” And thank God for that! There is no biblical truth, no biblical account, no biblical theme more essential to the Christian faith than “He is risen!” God’s message to mankind hinges completely on the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. How earnestly the apostle writes: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17).
If we want to be witnesses to the meaning and power of Jesus in our lives, we will want to spend some time in Joseph of Arimathea’s garden, gazing into the empty tomb.
Jesus is the One
Consider the message of the apostles. Where did they go in their sermons and testimonials to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the Messiah whom God had promised? Easter. Always Easter. As we journey through the Acts of the Apostles, we hear them return to that Sunday morning at every turn.
● Listen to Peter as he proclaims the risen Jesus as the fulfillment of Psalm 16 to the Pentecost crowd (Acts 2:31).
● Listen to the apostles defend their gospel preaching before the Sanhedrin by appealing to the resurrection (Acts 5:30-32).
● Sit in on Paul’s meeting with the Athenian Areopagus and hear the clincher to his testimony to Jesus of Nazareth as true God. It’s Easter! And whether that testimony was met with sneers, snickers, or suspicions, no matter, Christ’s resurrection remained the heart of his witness (Acts 17:31,32).
● When his life was on the line before a Jewish king, Paul chose to defend his ministry by pointing to Easter as proof that Jesus was truly the Christ (Acts 26:23).
Easter, Easter, it was always Easter that filled the apostles’ hearts and fell from their lips as God used their testimonies to build the church. The tomb is empty, they would say, and that’s your assurance that Jesus is the One to follow in faith.
Wouldn’t it be appropriate that Easter fill our testimonies to Jesus as God and Savior too? We are not inviting our unchurched friends and family members to consider worshiping a noble martyr. We are not asking them to trust a dynamic leader to change their lives. We are not confronting them with the latest, greatest philosophy to help them feel better about things. When we testify to Jesus among our friends, we are confronting them with God—the one true God. And Easter backs us up. Just like the apostle Peter we proclaim a God-man on whom “it was impossible for death to keep its hold” (Acts 2:24). Jesus is the One! Human beings need God to take care of their problem of sin. Unabashedly and without hesitation, we use the empty tomb as one of our evidences that believing in Jesus is believing in God.
Jesus really won
The apostles also took people by the hand to the empty tomb in order to preach the forgiveness of sins. How do we know that the God-man actually accomplished our salvation? Took away our sins? Conquered death for us? Defeated the devil? It’s Easter!
Paul’s sermon in a Pisidian Antioch synagogue during his first missionary journey leaves no doubt. To testify to Christ’s resurrection is to testify to God’s forgiving our sins. “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. . . . Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses” (Acts 13:32,33,38,39). Consider the apostle’s line of thought in this witness to Jesus. Do you want proof that the Christian gospel really is good news? Do you want proof that in Jesus there is forgiveness of your sins? Do you want proof that the verdict God pronounces upon you through Christ is “not guilty”? Look in his tomb! He is not there! He is risen!
Many years later Paul would give the summation to his Easter testimony: “[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
Rightly we bring our unchurched friends and family members to Calvary in our testimonies to what Jesus has done for us. They need to hear the suffering Savior say, “Father, forgive them.” They need to see God’s Son being forsaken under the weight of our sins so that we might become God’s daughters and sons. There can be no gospel testimony, no evangelism, without traveling to the hill outside Jerusalem’s city gates on that Friday so long ago.
But let’s not linger there too long as we communicate Christ. How do I know that “it is finished!” was truly a victory cry and Jesus meant what he said? “He was raised to life for our justification,” that’s how. Yes, the payment for sins was made and accepted. Yes, the battle with the devil was engaged and won. Yes, the One who gave his life on the cross is my only hope for a life after death. All this I know because Jesus rose from the grave. Easter Sunday is our proof that Good Friday worked. Our sins went into Jesus’ tomb and stayed there, buried and forgiven, when he rose from the grave.
Easter changes us
In Christ’s resurrection we are changed.
A risen Lord changes our view of God. He is not a distant, angry deity; he is a loving God who sees us wrapped in the robe of Christ’s holiness. Easter proves it.
A risen Lord changes our view of what happens when we die. We now know that journey to be one from which our Pioneer returned, giving us every confidence that his victory over death will result in our victorious life eternal. Easter proves it.
A risen Lord changes our testimony. There is no need to debate philosophies or argue maybes. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead empowers us to speak in the certainties and affirmations the people around us long for: “Jesus is the God you need to rescue you. Jesus has paid for every one of your sins. Easter proves it.”
We are Easter witnesses.
Daniel Leyrer is pastor at St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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Author: Daniel P. Leyrer
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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