Easter, The Resurrection of Our Lord + 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 + April 16, 2017

WHEN I || awake, I am still with You. Alle- | lu- | ia! *
            You have laid Your hand upon me. Al- | le- | lu- | ia!
|| Such knowledge is too wonderful | for | me; *
It is high, I cannot attain it. Alleluia! Al- | le- | lu- | ia! (Psalm 139:18b, 5a, c, 6)
|| O Lord, You have searched me and | known | me. *
            You know my sitting down and my | ris- | ing | up.
|| You comprehend my path and my lying | down, | - *
            And are acquainted with | all | my | ways.
|| If I ascend into heaven, You are | there; | - *
            If I make my bed in hell, behold, | You | are | there.
|| Even there Your hand shall | lead | me, *
            And Your right hand | shall | hold | me. (Psalm 139:1–2a, 3, 8, 10)
|| When I awake, I am still with You. Alle- | lu- | ia! *
            You have laid Your hand upon me. Al- | le- | lu- | ia!
|| Such knowledge is too wonderful | for | me; *
It is high, I cannot attain it. Alleluia! Al- | le- | lu- | ia! (Psalm 139:18b, 5a, c, 6)

Collect for the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord
Almighty God, Who through Thine Only-Begotten Son Jesus Christ, hast overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life, we humbly beseech Thee that, as Thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Isaiah 52:13-15
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Mark 16:1-8 

Sermon on the Epistle Lesson - 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

1)         Dear saints, every now and again an archeologist discovers an ossuary, which is a bone box, in the Holy Land that dates from the first century and is inscribed with the name “Jesus.” Over thirty such boxes have been discovered over the years and archeologists are quick to point out that “Jesus” was a very common name in first century Palestine. No one believes that any of these ossuaries belong to Jesus of Nazareth. Yet every few years the media trot out headlines to mislead the casual reader to believe that someone has dug up the remains of Jesus so that Christianity is surely a scam. Even if no one dares stretch the truth to that extent, the yearly barrage of such headlines does its best to inculcate us with the idea that even though we haven’t found His remains, they will be discovered someday. This is a wild goose chase fueled by unbelief and desire to discredit the Christian verity. The angels tell us there are no remains! He is risen! His disciples saw the place where Christ lay. He was not there! There are no remains to be found because the remains that were wrapped in linen and spices, the remains that were laid to rest in the freshly hewn tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, are alive! There are no remains because Christ has risen.

2)         St. Paul writes in the Epistle appointed for this Festival, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover, just as He is the fulfillment of everything established in Moses. Every dietary restriction, every Festival, every Sabbath, was a type of the reality to come in Christ Jesus. St. Paul says in Colossians 2:17 that all these things are “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” This is why Christians do not celebrate the Hebrew Passover and why there’s no purpose in exploring the Jewish Seder. It is a shadow and type of the reality to come in Christ Jesus. That festival, as an institution, was to last only until Christ was revealed, just as all the Mosaic institutions were to serve as pictures of Christ’s ministry and atonement. It would feel the height of foolishness to choose to remain in the shadows when the brightness and truth of the reality has come! Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed on the Day of Preparation when all Israel would be slaughtering their household lambs. Christ gives His flesh to Christians to eat in the Lord’s Supper just as the Israelites were to eat the flesh of their Passover lambs.

3)         It is because Christ is our Passover that there are no remains, for His resurrection is foretold in the institution of the Passover while Israel was still in Egypt. The Lord commanded Moses in Exodus 12:10, “You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire.” Whatever is not eaten at the Feast that evening is to be burned with fire the next day so that nothing remains of the Passover. This practice was a shadow of the reality to come in Christ, the true Passover, of whom there would be no remains in the tomb. David wrote in Psalm 16:10, “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” St. Peter tells us in Acts 2:31-32 that David “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” Jesus’ body did not experience the corruption and decay of death because He is risen! Christ our Passover has been sacrificed and as our Passover, there are no remains, for Christ now lives into eternity!

4)         Because Christ is our Passover, because He is risen from the dead, free of the corruption and decay of death, St. Paul tells us that we are to “purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.” The Old Testament Passover was also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Lord commanded Moses in Exodus 12:15, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.” The Lord reiterated that command four verses later to show the severity of His command. Leaven, what we call yeast, was not to be used in the bread eaten during the Passover. What might seem to be a meaningless command is a shadow of the reality to come in Christ, for none of God’s Words to us in the Scriptures are meaningless. The Scriptures often use leaven as a metaphor for sin and false doctrine. Christ warns His disciples of the leaven of false teaching in Luke 12:1, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Christ only uses the word “Beware” when He speaks of false teaching. False teaching is a leaven which seems small and insignificant. But like leaven, the tiniest bit of false teaching eventually spreads throughout the faith in the heart and entire congregations. We see this all too often in our day. A new practice or teaching is introduced in a church which seems harmless, though it detract from Christ’s gospel or glory just a bit.  If it is not removed with the scalpel of the Word of God, it eventually takes hold and becomes irreplaceable, so that even those who once fought such error eventually become partakers of it by their association with it. St. Paul echoes the words of Jesus in Galatians 5:9 and warns, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” False teaching and errant practices are not to be tolerated in the church because Christ says they will only grow and sour the entire lump.

5)         Because Christ our Passover has been sacrifice and is raised from the dead, we are to hold fast to His Word and beware the leaven of false teaching and church practices which normalize false teaching in the hearts of the saints. False doctrine and errant practices aren’t the only leaven we are to rid from the house of our hearts though. St. Paul writes in the Epistle, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Since Christ has sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins and since faith in Christ’s atonement justifies us so that God declares us righteous in His sight, we are no longer to allow the leaven of malice and wickedness to dwell within us. Those sins which cling to us and we find ourselves doing, often out of weakness, we are to cast from our hearts with the aid of the Holy Ghost. St. Paul says in Galatians 5:24 that “those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Those things which are flesh desires we are to cast off as the Israelites were to cast all leaven from their house and from their camp during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We must take to hear the words of St. Paul in Romans 13:12-14. “Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. Paul calls us to cast out the leaven of our sins so that they do not grow and fill our hearts, souring our faith and eventually displacing it altogether.
6)         Finally, since Christ is our Passover who has been sacrificed for our sins and raised to justify all who repent of their sins and believe the Gospel, we rejoice as the Israelites rejoiced at the first Passover. The first Passover was to be eaten in eager expectation that the Lord would that very night deliver Israel from the iron furnace of Egypt. The first Passover was eaten in faith that God the Lord would visit Israel and raise them up from the living death of Egyptian slavery and grant them life in the Promised Land. This deliverance is also a shadow and type of the salvation to be revealed in Christ Jesus to all mankind. Christ our Passover rises from the dead, never to die again. Because He is risen from the dead, He promises everlasting life and the resurrection of the body to all who believe on His name and trust His Word, for He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26. As Israel participated in the first Passover and received deliverance from Egypt, so everyone who participates in Christ the Passover by faith will be raised to new life on the Last Day. Our promised Land is not a patch of land or a physical Kingdom as it was in the Old Testament. Our promised land is that sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect, the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and New Earth. For this promised land of everlasting life in paradise we wait in eager expectation. “The hour is coming,” says Jesus, “in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” (John 5:28-29).
7)         Christ our Passover has been slain to be “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2), “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ our Passover has been raised from dead, incorruptible and immortal, so that all who receive Christ in true faith will be raised from the dead on the Last Day. On that day, “when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). There is no need to search for His remains. The heavenly messengers have told us, “He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him” (Mark 16:6). There is no need to dig in the dirt, sifting through centuries of rubble for Christ’s bones because God the Father did not let His Holy One see corruption, just as He had prophesied. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Let us rejoice that His sacrifice atones for our sins so that all who believe this are righteous in God’s sight. Christ our Passover Lamb has been raised form the dead. Let us rid our hearts of the leaven of malice and wickedness, lest it grow and smother our God-given faith. Christ our Passover lives, never to die again, to raise all who believe in Him to everlasting life even as He is risen from the dead.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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