The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 24, 2011
“United with Him in a Resurrection Like His” (Romans 6:1-11)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Indeed! And Christ’s resurrection has great implications for our life now–and our life forever. Both of these are brought out in our text for today, from Romans chapter 6, reading as follows:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
You know, we used this same text, Romans 6, way back on Ash Wednesday, when we began this series on Romans. On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, we emphasized how our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection means a great change in our life now: that daily we die to sin and rise to walk in newness of life. Now today, on Easter Day, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord–his literal, physical rising from the dead–I want to emphasize what our being baptized into Christ means for our life forever: that we too shall literally, physically rise from the dead, with new and glorified bodies. This great hope that we have, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting–our being baptized into Christ means that we shall certainly be “United with Him in a Resurrection Like His.”
Dear Christian, your resurrection–I mean your future, physical, bodily resurrection–your resurrection is directly tied to that of Christ. No Easter, no hope. Death would be the end of it for you, and your body would just lay rotting there in the grave. But because Christ has been raised, you will be raised also.
Look, your Creator means for you to have a body. You’re not just going to be floating around like Casper the Ghost for eternity. No, our God is the God of Creation. God is committed to having a material world. God created the heavens and the earth, and it was all very good. Earthy, physical stuff. God even likes to get his hands dirty. He formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathed life into him.
But sin fouled everything up. Death entered the picture. Death and decay all around. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Futility entered the picture. Things don’t work right, the way they’re supposed to. Fields and crops–thorns and thistles, weeds and crop failures. The weather doesn’t work right. Tornados rip through neighborhoods and airports, blowing out windows and tossing shuttle vans around. Earthquakes and tsunamis. Whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. “The creation is groaning,” Paul says later, “as in the pangs of childbirth.”
Creation is messed up, and that includes our bodies. The human body was not meant to die. Death is an alien intruder. It comes as the curse following sin. Our bodies don’t work right. I’m sure you can testify to this. Aches and pains, creaky joints, bad eyesight. If you aren’t experiencing these things yet, just wait, you will. Age does a number on us. Creeping mortality advances upon us. The grave gets a step closer every day.
Well, we get 70, 80 years, if we’re lucky. But even if you make it to 95 or 105, that’s a pitifully short time in the context of eternity. Is that all there is, my friends? The grave swallowing up sinner after sinner, with no end in sight? In that case, the Bard would be right: “Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
But Jesus changes everything. Everything, including our bodies. Jesus changes our standing before God, our life now as God’s children in this world, and our life forever with glorified bodies and no more sin in the age to come.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the history of the world. It is the big game-changer. Christ’s death is the death of Death. You see, Good Friday and Easter are a package deal. They go together. You can’t have one without the other. Easter is God saying yes to Good Friday. It is God’s acceptance and his public approval of what his Son did by dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world. It is God’s testimony to us, that, yes, Jesus did pay completely for your sins, all of them, and that the result now is that death is defeated, powerless. With your sins taken away, death has nowhere left to lay its grip on you. That’s what happens when you are joined to Jesus. You receive the forgiveness Christ won for you, and therefore you will share in his resurrection from the dead.
Dear friends, you were joined to Jesus when you were baptized. Your sins were washed away, and you put on the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit was given to you as a gift, and he has created faith in your heart, so that you believe and trust in Christ your Savior. Cling to Christ, my friends, he is your only hope.
Your hope is in the righteousness and the life that Christ gives you. Life bursts out of that tomb on Easter Day, glorious, victorious life! You have that life now–you’ve been baptized, remember. And that life will ultimately have the last word when Christ returns on the Last Day and empties out our graves. Our returning Lord will say the word, and up our bodies will arise, new and glorified–just like his body came forth on Easter Day. Paul says in Philippians: “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.”
Or, as our text in Romans puts it: “We shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Listen, do you understand what this means? Oh, you will still be you. But with some major, major changes, thank God! To begin with, you won’t have that old sinful nature anymore. You will think and act like a child of God is supposed to, and this will be very joyful. Right now, we’re running like a beat-up old car with a clunky carburetor, and a valve missing, and we’re trying to drive with the parking brake on. It’s a real grind. But then, in the age to come, we’ll be humming along, smooth and purring like a kitten, everything operating according to the owner’s manual. It will be quite a difference.
And another thing is that your body will be different. Now here we have very little information to work with–the Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of details. But we do know enough to know it will be good–very, very good, excellent, beyond anything you can imagine. Your body will get a thoroughgoing makeover, and it will be perfect, as good as new–better than new.
You know, when you were baptized, the water came over your body, showing that God is redeeming not only your soul but also your physical body. Again, God is committed to having a physical, material creation–restored and made new, to be sure, but a material creation, nonetheless. “According to his promise,” St. Peter writes, “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” And we, the people of God, in our resurrected bodies, will dwell there, too.
Christ’s resurrection gives us a sneak preview of our own resurrection. And so you will have a body, with flesh and bone that you can feel and touch. Only it will be a body fitted out for eternity, no longer subject to death or decay. I don’t know what exactly you will look like, or what “age” you will be, if that category will even apply anymore. But I’m pretty sure you won’t need any walker or oxygen tank, no specs to see with, no bent-over decrepitude. But rather, standing up straight, with worshipful voices full and strong–that’s what it will be like.
I’m pretty excited, I’m jacked! This is something to look forward to, big-time! A heavenly, holy community, the saints of all times and all places, everybody getting along, with Jesus in the middle. I’ll finally get a chance to have a conversation with St. Athanasius, and Abraham, and St. Paul, and Luther, and Bo Giertz–people I’ve been wanting to meet and talk to. And it will be good to see my Grandma and Grandpa Henrickson again. The trees and the river, the jewel-like walls of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, the feast and the music–what a day that will be! And there will be no end to those days.
The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Easter is the day that gives us hope. Your baptism is your reservation for an endless Eastertide. You and I have been joined to Jesus, dear baptized believer in Christ. And for us, that means “we shall certainly”–certainly!–“be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)