They believed in the resurrection, but they didn’t think that it was now. They expected a dead body in Lazarus’s tomb and they expected a dead body in Jesus’ tomb. But the time was exactly right for the reign of death to end that morning (St. Paul says, “the fullness of time”). Instead of what they expected, they got an ear full from angels. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Everything has been turned on its nose. The reign of death is over and the reign of life has begun. This Jesus can’t be in the grave. He is alive and alive is not right for tombs. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Ah, yes, all of the Law is completed in this Jesus and all that the Prophets spoke concerning him pointed to this day. This is the long awaited Messiah. This is the one promised in the Garden of Eden that would crush the head of the ancient serpent. Alleluia, the resurrection is now, the resurrection is for you. Alleluia, Jesus is alive and he gives eternal life, his life, to you. So let us meditate on the word of the Law and the Prophets. Let’s ruminate on the stories of the One who conquered death and the devil. Let us rejoice in the resurrection now applied to us in our baptism. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
The world and its henchmen have honed their craft. You know these enemies of the Church of God: The Devil, the World, and our own sinful Flesh… there is no where to hide, no where to go. The Devil goes to and fro upon the Earth and back and forth upon it. He prowls like a hungry beast ready to devour his meal. The world has location. It’s everywhere. Hedging you in on every side, it entices you with its pleasures and feelings. It panders to your emotions…always trying to out do the pleasures and enticements that came before. And if that were not enough, your own flesh betrays you. These enemies of God and of God’s people do not want us to hallow God’s name or let his Kingdom come. They despise the gifts of God, hate his mercy and grace, and twist the Word of God into lies. Oh, it sounds like the Word of God, but they have twisted it and turned it into deception and thievery. They would convince you that there is no need for anyone to die for sins. No need for spilled blood. And yet they would demand your blood as payment for the sins you have committed. Their goal is to pull you away from Jesus, convince you that you don’t need him, that you should abandon your faith for better things.
The devil, world, and the flesh work together, accomplices, with diverse and strange teachings…and yet they attack you with one accord with that which is another gospel. They call it good news… Good news for world, bad news for you. Bad news for you because it leaves you in the law. It sure sounds good…at least on the surface.
Their teachings are diverse because they appeal to our bored imagination by their colorful novelty, showy variety, and superficial glitter, and they are strange because they are alien to the tradition of the Church and unauthorized by Christ and those he has sent to preach and teach his Word. Their teachings are full of all sorts of odd and yet a teaching that gives comfort to the passions of man. The only Gospel that is truly good news is the news that Jesus shed his blood for the sins of the world. So there is one religion of the Devil, the World, and the Flesh, and another of Jesus. They are diametrically opposed.
The religion of the devil captivates on the law because the law requires everything of you and provides no way to accomplish it. Your enemies can trip you up and leave you for dead in the law. It appeals to human reason and wisdom, but crushes, accuses, and kills. In Latin we say, lex semper accusat, which means, “The Law always accuses.” And the Devil loves to accuse you and heap heavy burdens upon you. The devil lays a heavy burden upon you and the flesh wants to convince you to climb to God, impress God, and win his grace by your works and your life. The Law will always crush, shatter, accuse, and kill. Your enemies are happy to leave you in despair with a heavy burden. Where will you turn?
The second is the religion of your God, the religion of Jesus. In this religion, God rescues you from your sin and gives you life eternal by the blood of Jesus Christ. He takes your condemnation and guilt and puts it on Jesus. He who knew no sin becomes sin and is condemned and punished instead of you. The Law has its place here. It still crushes. It still accuses, it still kills. But the Gospel, the blood of Jesus, always rescues the dead, visits the heavy laden, relieves the sick, and redeems sinners. The Blood of Jesus sanctifies and makes whole. The Gospel provides everything, indeed, even the very treasure of heaven, but its burden is light. For Christ keeps the Law for you and dies for you. He dies to make death a portal into life. He lives victorious over death and the devil.
So something outside of you must come to you to rescue you. Left to yourself, you are left to despair and death. You are attacked by the enemies of God. But the Law, which is written upon your heart can only lay heavy burdens on you. “Look, you are a sinner!” the Devil accuses! You deserve to die an eternity of deaths. You are poor, and miserable, and God should be angry with you, his wrath kindled against you. Because of your sin, your blood should be shed. You should die. Thus far the devil as he turns and twists lie after lie into your ears.
Yes, there must be blood. There is no other remedy. There can be no other route to salvation. There can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. But your God will not leave you to that demise. He becomes part of the creation. He takes on human flesh and blood so that he can shed his blood and win you back. He weeps, He sorrows…He sheds blood so that you can live. Jesus isn’t going to shed the blood of goats, or cows, or sheep. He is going to offer a different sacrifice. His sacrifice must be for all time. His sacrifice must be for all the people. His sacrifice must be holy in order to make you holy by it.
So here is the pure Gospel for you. God becomes man. He takes on the flesh of Mary and is born. He keeps the Law for you perfectly. A high priest that does not serve according to the order of Aaron and his sons. Instead, Jesus serves as the High Priest according to a different order…he serves according to an eternal order. And don’t forget, a priest serves by sacrifice, but it couldn’t be the blood of beasts. Not all the blood of beasts upon Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. Instead, Jesus must offer the sacrifice that is his own body. He shed his own blood. Thus he sanctifies….he makes holy the people outside the gate. He sanctifies you. Thus when you God looks at you, he sees his holy precious children. The wrath that our sin caused has been stilled.
So when the devil accuses and spits and sputters at you. When the Law presses down hard upon you and Satan points his finger in your direction… you can say: What of it, devil? Christ Jesus has made me holy by his own blood on the cross and now I am a child of God. When the world hedges you in on every side, return to Lord your God. When the flesh rears its ugly head to pursue all matter of desires, push him back under the water and promise of your God. Christ, the eternal high priest, the heavenly Lamb, has made you a new creation. Christ your Lord unites with you against the devil, the world, and your own flesh and takes all your sins away.