A matter of life and death!
How can there be peace when there is so much confusion?
Easter is much more than an insurance policy that we get to cash in when we die. Easter has to be more than a “get out of the grave free” card. If that’s all there is to Easter, then a one-day celebration would suffice. Easter has to mean something for us while we ramble through life, doesn’t it? Understanding what Easter means didn’t come easily for those early disciples. And, truth be told, we don’t get it very well either. Cleopas and another disciple had a long conversation with the risen Savior on the road to Emmaus and then they ran back to Jerusalem to confirm the resurrection. Their story together with that of Peter and John were exciting but hard to understand. Their heads could not comprehend what had happened that day. And their hearts were filled with all kinds of emotions.
Understanding Easter is a matter of life and death! If Jesus resurrection doesn’t mean anything to us, we will surely die and face God’s condemnation for our lives of sin. If we understand Easter, then we know that we live as forgiven children of God every day. Life becomes opportunities to serve Christ in our vocation, in our families, in our recreational activities, in everything we do! So, understanding the events of Easter because Easter is a matter of life and death for us too! Therefore, let us consider this thought:
Easter is a matter of life and death
The emotions consume the disciples
The evidence confirms the truth
It was Easter evening. Luke wrote: “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” Why did they think Jesus was a ghost? Because they had been talking with the Emmaus disciples about Jesus’ appearance to them in Emmaus and how he revealed himself to them! It made no sense to them that they would be able to walk with Jesus after all the things that had just happened. Then he broke bread with them. They ran back to Jerusalem and then Jesus “popped in” on them while the Emmaus disciples were telling their story and said, “Peace be with you.” Where did he come from? How can he just “appear?” How can there be peace when there is so much confusion? Why did Jesus look just fine when he was supposed to be dead! Nothing made sense to them.
Jesus said that they were troubled and that they had doubts in their minds. You can understand their emotions.
People don’t just show up like nothing is wrong after a tragedy like they witnessed when Jesus was condemned and died on the cross! They doubted what they saw! They didn’t believe what they heard or what they saw. Their eyes and their ears were playing tricks on them!
Jesus “showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” Fear and amazement are replaced with joy and amazement! There is no denying that the one standing before them is not a ghost. They touched his flesh. They watched him eat some boiled fish. They were filled with joy and amazement – but what were they supposed to believe?
Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Confusion became conviction only as Jesus opened their minds to understand what their reason could not figure out. Those disciples would not have understood Easter had Jesus not given them the understanding.
Easter is the foundation of the Christian faith. You and I struggle with a whole bunch of emotions when faced with matters of life and death. We don’t know what to feel or think or do. We question everything. We wonder if it is possible to live again after we die. We hear voices and try to come to grips with the fact that we won’t see our loved ones on this earth again. We know the emotions the disciples struggled with because we have the same struggles. We want to believe that there is hope beyond the grave and yet it seems too good to be true. What weak Christians we are! We look to our emotions and to our feelings and to our hearts and to our minds instead of looking to the Scriptures and trusting the Word of God! Easter is a matter of life and death – not only for Jesus, but for us!
Therefore, consider the evidence of Christ’s victory. “Peace be with you.” Real peace is knowing that your sins are forgiven before God forever! Easter gives us that peace because now we know that the death Jesus died did wash away the sins of the world! God raised Jesus to life to assure us that our sins are forgiven! Jesus has reconciled us to God! God’s smiling face shines on you! The evidence of Christ’s victory is the announcement of “Peace.” It is an announcement that we share with each other in every worship service when we say, “The LORD look on you with favor and give you peace.”
The evidence of Christ’s victory is found in his bodily resurrection. Jesus didn’t rise “spiritually.” He rose bodily! He rose with the same flesh and bones. They could see that and they could touch him! You cannot do that with ghosts! Jesus ate with them to assure them that he is alive in the flesh. St. Paul tells us that Jesus will “transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.” You see this body of Jesus in a glorified state and you have a picture of what your life will be like on the other side of the grave. Easter announces to us that our bodies will rise from the dead!
Jesus said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” You will never understand the importance of Easter unless you see that Jesus came to do everything the Bible promised the Savior would do. Jesus fulfilled the whole Bible – the Law and the Gospel! Salvation is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life – these are the Scriptures that testify about me.”
Many people approach the Bible as though it were a “how to” book. It is a book that tells you how to be a good neighbor, a good spouse, a good child, a good citizen. They use the Bible to justify their preconceived notions instead of God’s voice to guide us into all truth. But if people don’t find their Savior on the pages of the Bible, nothing really matters. The bottom line is that Jesus is the only one who has the answer to the real matters of life and death.
He proved it on Easter and he teaches it to us in the Bible.
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Notice how matter-of-factly Jesus says what happens. Jesus did suffer and he did rise the third day. He is just as confident that the church will preach the same message he and John the Baptist preached to the people of their day: “Repent for the kingdom of God is near!” He is confident that his Church will use the keys of the kingdom of God around the world announcing the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all people. Matters of life and death are solved in the message of Easter! There is no question about the future because there is no question about Easter! Jesus is alive. Our sins are forgiven. The world needs to know!
“You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” You! That’s right! You are! That’s right! Not, “you should be … could be !” You are! It is the nature of Christians to tell peoples the good news that Jesus is raised from the dead. It is the nature of a Christian to share the peace we enjoy in Christ with others. Our sins are forgiven! The Holy Spirit convinces, empowers and emboldens you to believe that truth. You are naturals for being witnesses of the most important matters of life and death.