Easter Sunday

S. Easter Sunday.23 “Finished, Pt. II” Matt.28:1-10

So, we left you with a bit of cliffhanger Friday, and last night. Jesus declared with his last word from the cross “Finished!” and while it’s a bit of a double-entendre—in that he was finished-off and died, it’s also a declaration of victory that sin, death, and the devil are finished as well. By trapping Jesus in sin, death, and hell’s maw, the trap itself has been broken, finished-off, completely.

So how’s he doing today—Jesus, that is? Uh, well, Great! Terrific, in fact. For Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

I know you were waiting for that, so we got that out of the way early this year. 😉

But what does this mean, exactly: that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? Well; it means sin, death, and hell are finished—for everyone. And you’re like—“I see that sin, death, and hell are finished for Jesus! He’s clearly conquered them, all by himself. But how does that help me?”

And that’s a great question—which exposes the opinio legis as Luther called it—the inborn conviction we all have that we have to do something ourselves, fulfill the law in some way ourselves, to fully share Jesus’ victory over sin, death, devil and hell. And honestly, that’s the problem the world has with getting Xnity. As long as you think you have to do or become something by your own works for yourself (or others 😉 to complete Christ’s victory, you’re insisting Jesus’ life and death were not enough to finish them off, and thereby sin, death, and hell are not finished with you!

You know: they really were finished on the cross, just as Jesus says! Truly. Completely. All done. The strife is o’er. The battle won. Sin, death, and hell are all over, vanquished, finito at 3 pm April 6, 30 AD. Because Jesus said so. And his say-so makes things as he says (‘cause he’s God! 😉 By his Word, he created the heavens and the earth. When he says “let there be light” there is light where there was none before. When he says “let the oceans and land teem with living creatures”, they teem. When he breathes his own Spirit into Adam to make him a living being in his own image, Adam becomes a living, breathing, son of God, a god, himself.

And when he says “the day you eat of that apple, you’re dead” then Adam and Eve are dead (like zombies, for about 900 years) the day they eat the apple. And the only way to undo that death was for Jesus to take on our flesh and die himself to break it so that it won’t work anymore.

But, surely, pastor, I must at least believe this to activate this resurrection superpower?” Uh, no. Nope. Not at all. Actually it’s your thinking that, your insistence on doing something yourself to win the victory that prevents you from getting and enjoying it…

But Lutherans say “faith alone saves” so faith must be something, some superpower in us?”

And I say, “Nah, faith’s a nothing.”

And you go: What?! Faith is essential for salvation! How can you say it’s nothing!?”

Well; correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ll wager that you naturally think faith is having the right ideas in your head or feelings in your heart about Jesus—that it’s a positive thing you do or have?

But, really: no! St. Paul says: salvation is “not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” Faith’s literally a nothing. It’s the “non-rejection of Christ the Word made flesh. Faith isn’t doing anything; it’s stopping doing stuff. It’s being finished with our most cherished ideas, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, aspirations. It’s the non-rejection of Christ the Word! Faith is a negative. It’s stopping all your doing and striving and thinking and feeling.

Faith is the trust-fall into the grave with Jesus, letting him catch you.

That’s why Jesus says we have to become like children, little babies, in order to enter his Kingdom. Infants can’t do anything, they have everything done for them by loving parents. They have to be carried to the baptismal font, nursed and fed, passively. If they reject their mother’s breast, they’re in really deep trouble. They don’t have their own powers. Infants just receive.

Heaven is filled with Jesus’ little lambs for whom he has bled and died, whom he’s grabbed and saved. Hell is filled with strivers, builders, try-harders, doers, self-made men and women, strong, independent types, who don’t rely on charity but dole it out as they see fit. Which is why the rich man in hell is kinda paradigmatic (see Luke 16) and Lazarus, the poor beggar is the proto-Xn saint.

When they asked Jesus “what must we do to work the works of God?” (John 6), Jesus sighed and said: “This is the work of God—that you believe in him whom he sent.”

See? Belief God’s doing, alone. It’s the non-rejection of the Word. 😉

So, let me get this straight, pastor. If I do absolutely nothingmake no changes in my thoughts or attitudes or behavior, just sit and listen happily to whatever Jesus says (like Mary at his feet while Martha’s slaving away in the kitchen) just let art flow over me, that’s it? I’m saved? I’m more than a conqueror over sin, death, and hell?”

Yep. Finally, you’re getting it. Be a beggar, for Christ’s sake! Let Jesus have his way with you, and you’re already there—in heaven with him! Faith, Luther says, is pure passive—not an active doing, just a mere receiving of gifts, soaking up the Son on a Caribbean beach…

The women come ready to work, Easter Sunday. But Jesus stops them short with his greeting (like Ted Lasso’s Zava): “Rejoice! It is an honor for you to meet me.” Jesus is different, now. The humble sin-bearing servant thing is finished, now. He is all glory, laud, and honor, now. He is exalted. He’s the King. For the first time, we see a Real Human Being—which, perhaps, shakes us more than it stirs us?

Sin’s always busystriving, doing, plotting, planning, worrying, scheming. That all died on the cross. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, and lions on the savannah in Africa are kings at lounging, relaxing, playing, letting the days slide by, feasting on the odd antelope when they feel like it, but basically just enjoying being king.

This is how the Lion of Judah rolls. And if you could—for just a second, quit all your doing and striving and worrying and scurrying, you’d be living the life with Jesus, right now. Hey: the angel says “indeed, he is going before you into Galilee; there you will see him.” Jesus is always ten steps ahead, his Kingdom just beyond your reach. So… stop reaching. Let it catch you up, whenever…

William Irons gets the Xn lounge life beautifully, in one of my favorite hymns. So; enough talking, let’s just “Sing… (with all the saints in glory 😉 the resurrection song”.

For Christ is risen… indeed. Alleluia.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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