(The three sections of the sermon are based on the stanzas of the hymn “Look There! The Christ our Brother Comes” by John Bennett.)
Look there! The Christ, our Brother, comes
Resplendent from the gallows tree,
And what he brings in his hurt hands is life on life for you and me.
On Easter we beautify the Cross. We drape it in white and surround it with lilies. That’s because on Easter we rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin. We rejoice that he is the one who has trampled down death by death. But the Cross is not simply a decorative motif in Christian art. The Cross was an instrument of capital punishment. Crucifixion was a criminal’s death, one of the most cruel means of torture and execution ever devised. The Cross was the gallows-tree. Jesus endured the most humiliating, painful sort of death imaginable, and we are the ones who nailed him there. But look! Now Christ, who died in such an ignoble way, returns—resplendent! And because he has returned from death, because he is the victor over death and sin, we know now that what he promised—eternal life, abundant life—is not an empty promise. If you trust in Christ today, that abundant life is yours. Life upon life, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul tells us the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Victory over what? Over death and sin, but also over the law! The law that condemned each one of us. The law that you and I could never hope to keep, Christ kept perfectly. And by his righteous life and sacrificial death, through which he shows us the full extent of his love, he now gives us life on life. Abundant life. Living water. Not just the promise of heaven when we die, as beautiful and comforting as that is. But life now. Joy now. Peace now. Love now.
Good Jesus Christ, inside his pain
Looked down Golgotha’s stony slope
And let the blood flow from his flesh to fill the springs of living hope.
I Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. What is a living hope? Well, St. Paul tells us that the hope that God gives us in Christ is a hope that does not disappoint. I’ve hoped for things that never came to pass. I’m sure you have too. I have hoped and then been disappointed. Plans fall through. People cancel on us. Promises get broken. Disappointment is one of the most painful experiences we know. But this living hope never disappoints. The hope we have in Christ is not a tentative hope: it is a living hope. It is alive because Christ is alive. Because he is risen from the dead, we too will be raised from death. Because he has ascended to the Father, we too will go to the Father’s house. There was a time when you could take a paper dollar and exchange it, any time you wanted, for a gold dollar. That paper dollar represented something solid: a piece of gold. The dollar was a guarantee of gold in the vault. It’s not that way anymore when it comes to money, but that’s how the resurrection of Christ works. It is a guarantee of our resurrection. His life is a guarantee of our eternal life. The blood that flowed from his flesh fills the springs of living hope.
Good Jesus Christ, our Brother, died
In darkest hurt upon the tree
To offer us the worlds of light that live inside the Trinity.
Jesus said, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus, sharing this abundant life with us, lifts us to his experience of the Father. You see, the death of Christ is not just his death, it is ours too. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that those of us who are baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. We have been united with him in his death, so in that he has died unto sin, we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin (we sang those verses earlier in the service). Likewise, we are united to Christ in his resurrection. So now, in that he lives unto God, we are to reckon ourselves alive to God. Jesus, by his resurrection, brings to us what is his and shares with us what is his, including his relationship with the Father. Through our union with Christ, we dare to address God, the Creator of the Universe, as “our Father.” Jesus has lifted us to share in the worlds of light that live inside the Trinity. He has made us a part of that eternal community of love that exists amongst the three Persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said that both He and the Father would come to us and make their home with us. We share in the Trinitarian life!
The refrain of the hymn says, “Joy, joy, joy to the heart all in this good day’s dawning.” The joy of Easter is unspeakable. It is the joy of knowing the abundant life that Jesus promised—eternal life through belief on his name. It is the joy of a living hope: the hope of our resurrection from the dead and of an eternity with God. And it is the joy of being lifted up to participate in the Trinitarian life. Do you know this joy today? Do you have eternal life? Do you have this living hope? Do you have the life of God within you and have you been made a partaker of the Trinitarian life? You can.
Know that it was your sin that put Jesus on the Cross. Know that you stand condemned by the Law of God, because you have broken that Law. Know that Christ kept God’s law perfectly, never committing the least sin. Know that he gave his own life as the perfect sacrifice. And know that he trampled down death by death, rising victorious over sin and death. Hear his promise to you: “He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Hear the Word of God, “If you will confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and will believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Hear his Word to you today. Believe, live, and rejoice. Rejoice in eternal life, in living hope, and in the Trinitarian life.
Joy to the heart, all in this good day’s dawning!