St. Paul's Lutheran Church

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Easter Sunday Slide

Easter Sunrise/Day
March 31, 2024

I can almost guarantee you that most Lutheran pastors, if not pastors of churches all over the place, will start out their sermons today, pretty much like I’m going to start mine:

Today is Easter Sunday, and tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, and it’s fitting since the world sees Christ’s resurrection as quite foolish.

Well, guess what? Every pastor who preaches this is absolutely right! Today IS the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, and tomorrow IS April Fool’s Day, and it’s sort of nice when these two festivals fall on the same day or within a day or two of each other.

Because you see, for 2000 years, the world has considered the resurrection of Jesus to be a very foolish, very silly idea. I mean it’s bad enough that those crazy Christians talk about the bloody crucifixion of this man they adore, but then to suggest that He rose again a few days later? Come on. How convenient, right?

And for 2000 years Christians throughout the world have stood up, defended the faith, preached the Gospel, and have even died on account of this resurrection from the dead.

The world’s wise people say, “no one rises from the dead.” So instead of believing and by faith, receiving the benefits of our crucified and risen Lord, what do so many people do? They come up with all sorts of clever stories surrounding Jesus’ mysterious disappearance from the tomb.

One thing you must accept and grapple with is the fact that, in this world, most people will see the resurrection of Jesus as an April Fool’s joke, a lie, a myth, something that never happened. They’ll be more than happy to accept Jesus as a historic figure who taught love and a good inclusive philosophy, but to rise from the dead is just beyond the pale.

And we are inundated, day in and day out, with this idea – not from heaven by the way, but from the devil himself – that in order to save this world, we need to embrace all opinions, all beliefs, and taking diversity to its extreme, not draw any lines between one god and the next, one belief and the next, between one lifestyle and the next, and if we do draw lines, we’re being judgmental; we’re being immoral and we need to be silenced.

And this is not a “liberal/conservative” or “democrat/republican” thing – this is really how it’s always been, only now we have social media to further move and enforce this way of looking at life which is why it’s so prevalent in the airwaves of society these days.

500 years ago, this same sort of relativism existed, only it was within a family, or within a small community. It didn’t stretch from shore to shore through Wi-Fi or ethernet cable.

Even 2000 years ago when our Lord was raised from the dead, the Roman Empire certainly pushed this relativism, telling the citizens that they could worship any god they wanted to worship, but to just keep the peace and pay their tribute to Caesar.

Go back further than Rome, to the time of Isaiah the prophet, and it was no different with the people of Israel. They’d get zealous and commit themselves to the God of all creation, but then, over time, they’d become indifferent, they’d worship other gods, they’d forget about the covenants and their history as God’s people. The other prophets preached about the same things. Go even further back, to the time of Moses. The people praised God and worshipped Him after they were saved from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, but not a moment later they were forging a calf of gold and doubting God could save them again.

Nothing changes, folks. We are no better or no worse than the Israelites were 3000 years ago, than the people who lived when our Lord rose from the grave, than the time of Luther, or at any other time in history. We still live in a world where most people simply will not believe in the Gospel because, to the world, the thought of a man being put to death and rising again is nothing more than an April Fool’s prank pulled by some very crafty chauvinistic men who wanted a name for themselves.

And worse, the world turns the Gospel into something that it’s not. Did you know that the Gospel is not a “just love everyone and let them do what they want and live their life any way they want; don’t judge” message? That’s man’s Gospel – it’s not God’s Gospel. There’s not really any good news in that statement to embrace.

When we see the steep price that our Lord paid because of sin – the price of death by crucifixion – the thing we must acknowledge is the seriousness of sin and the horrific consequence of sin, eternal death.

Yes, folks, hell and eternal damnation is real, and God has given you an out by sending His son to die for you.

But we are so easily swayed by the opinions of men, and for so many who refuse to believe in the resurrection, they will hear from the very mouth of Satan himself “April fools!” when they find themselves in hell. And then, none of the excuses will matter; it’ll be too late.

And here’s what frightening about this: those who refused to repent and believe and who end up in hell, they’ll very clearly know for eternity why they’re there. There are no unbelievers in hell, no atheists in hell, no impenitent in hell. In life they refused to repent, in life they refused to believe, but not in hell. God’s Word and the truth will be plain as day to them in the place where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth, but it will be too late. Some might say, “unfair,” but this is how God has set it up and we have little right to call our creator unfair.

God has given every human being a way to escape the eternal judgment of hell. That escape is Jesus who was crucified and rose again on the third day. He who knew no sin became sin for us.

For sin ruins us, it destroys us, it never results in good, not ever. And at the heart of sin, the very core of what makes sin utterly sinful is this dark nature within us to deny God, to deny that He even exists. And every sinful thought, word, or deed that spews out from our hearts comes flying out because deep inside of us is that nature which cries to us day in and day out, beckoning that we deny God, trivialize His resurrection from the dead, call His prophets and apostles, his pastors and teachers liars or worse, and that instead of seeking Christ and His forgiveness and admitting we need His forgiveness, to seek the pleasures and carnal desires of the heart which only the world provides.

And it has been this way ever since Adam and Eve bit deeply into the fruit of that tree. That the things of God, the commands, the work, the promises, they are but foolish to the world, while the things of the devil, the sin and rebellious nature, they are most wise and enlightened to the world.

As Isaiah laments, all we, ALL we like sheep have gone astray.

And this is why Christ had to die. See, our hearts, our emotions, our minds are so easily swayed by every wave of opinion and belief that crosses the seas of this world. It’s just the facts.

But none of these things will make right the relationship God created between he and man, which Adam destroyed when he brought sin into the world. We can’t fix ourselves. We can’t make the problem go away by denying that it’s really there or by calling God foolish. In fact, there is NO way that we can fix this eternal problem, a problem which comes fully loaded with condemnation and death. We can’t fix it.

This is why Christ had to die. For all we like sheep HAVE gone astray, and like sheep we continue to go astray and complain at every discomfort. Thus, God had to provide the only solution which would save the entire world, all humanity, from sin, death, and the devil.

For without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. This is why the Christ came. He came into the world as any man but conceived by the Holy Spirit. He grew and learned and lived as any man, yet without falling into temptation or sin. He glorified His Father by being obedient in every way, by keeping the law, by fulfilling everything which Adam could not. Even as death approached, even as the pain and suffering and ridicule of the world who hated Him was heaped upon him, he remained faithful. Knowing that the full weight of all the sin of humanity was upon His back, knowing that He would be labeled the true sinner by the very Father He so dearly loved, yet He remained faithful even to death on a cross.

And on the Third Day He fulfilled His promise to all of us by rising again. No one believed it or expected it, but there He was, full human body, scars and all, standing in the midst of the fallen world proclaiming triumph to the universe, that sin had been paid for and eternal life had been secured.

All the promises, all the work – it was finally fulfilled for all to see. And 2000 years later, Jesus’ resurrection from the grave still holds true for you and for all who, by faith, receive the promises of forgiveness and salvation.

On April Fool’s Day, don’t be fooled by the lies and temptations of this broken world, the devil, or your own sinful self. Instead, repent, and believe in the foolishness of the cross, cling to He who died there for you. Look intently into the empty tomb and see your salvation in the resurrected Lord and God of all, and rest assured in the absolute and only truth – that God loves you and forgives you completely thanks to the work of Christ His only Son, who will return to judge the living and the dead and lead you to paradise forever. Amen.