19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.
So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? The Scriptures proclaim that neither of those answers is accurate – the meaning of the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence and the pledge of His forgiveness. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth. As I said in our greeting this morning – Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
John records the significance of Jesus’ Lordship in his Gospel. In the evening of this day, Jesus appeared to the disicples and pronounced his blessing upon them and commissioned them to be his emissaries to the world. “Peace be to you!” he said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even as the Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile us as human beings to Himself, so Jesus has sent the Church into the world with this same mission – He has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation so that we petition others on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled to God!”
To accomplish this task, our Risen Lord has poured out His Spirit upon us and given us the immense privilege of proclaiming forgiveness in His Name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” We have the privilege of declaring to all those who put their faith in Christ, “You are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death. He is our great High Priest who makes reconciles us to God.”
Alongside this joyful task, we have the solemn duty of warning the nations that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. We must come to God through Christ alone. “If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” There is no way to be accepted by God other than through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All other paths end in judgment.
So listen – where have you placed your confidence for acceptance by God? Jesus is the Risen Lord, the ruler of the kings of the earth. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before this King as our judge and give an account of how we have served him. If we remain in rebellion against him, refusing to find in him the one who reconciles us to God, then we shall be judged. So turn from your sin and turn to Christ; rely on Him and Him alone for forgiveness. Only in and through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.
Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us kneel and seek His forgiveness in Christ.
Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the single most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have iphones. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, peace with God. All because of the resurrection.
Paul highlights the world transforming nature of the resurrection in our text today. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this turn of phrase?
Many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God, had a divine nature. Now while it is true that Jesus is both God and man, this text does not prove it. After all, our text declares that the resurrection signals some sort of change in Jesus as the Son of God. But Jesus’ divine nature has never changed. He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. When Paul says that in the resurrection Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, he is not speaking of Jesus’ deity.
So what is Paul saying? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in Jesus’ calling as a result of the resurrection. First, note that Paul tells us that Jesus was born of the seed of David. In other words, Jesus possessed the natural right to rule as King. He had a legitimate claim to David’s throne. But simply having a legitimate claim does not make one the ruler. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim means little if one does not actually have the throne. So it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a legitimate claimto the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power– that is, the resurrection was Jesus’ coronation as King. God, as Peter says elsewhere, made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ by the resurrection from the dead.
What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.
Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him.