The Great Reversal

Audio here.  Video of the service is here.  Bulletin here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Today is the great reversal. Today the perishable is clothed with the imperishable, the corruption with the incorruptible, the dead with the undying. Today, the creation which was subjected to futility by the curse declared to the serpent, to the woman, and to the man in the Garden—today, God’s creation is restored. Yes, today. Even though we are meeting very early in the morning, we are not here simply to remember or celebrate something that happened in the past. We are not re-enacting a drama that took place once upon a time. We are not trying to put ourselves back then and imagine what it must have been like. We don’t have to. Because what happened very early on the first day of that week was not a solitary event, like most historical events. It was much more like a birth, which takes place at a particular time, but is really just the beginning of the life that is to follow. In fact, Paul calls the resurrection of Jesus a birth when he says that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.

So every Lord’s Day has been celebrated and understood not as a memorial of the resurrection, like an inscribed stone in a graveyard, but in and of itself as a little resurrection day, flowing out of that first resurrection day. Today, again, the faithful who are marked with the Name of the risen Jesus are raised up again by His living word of peace. Today, again, the faithful welcome the risen Lord who comes to them upon the altar: a sacrifice from the cross that is now full of eternal life. That Day, marked by Christians around the world, was only the beginning of something that has no end, either in this world or in the world to come.

The life unleashed from that grave has flowed like a torrential flood through history, sweeping up in its tide men, women, and children from every nation and every language and every people, and it flows on to the completion of this age and will bring in the new creation age. An age when, as Isaiah says, we will awaken like children in a world without the curse on all Adam’s children, something we can hardly even imagine. We will, Paul promises, find that the burden and weariness of the labor we carry out under the curse spoken to Adam: our burdensome activity in this world that exhausts us and so often seems meaningless will turn out to be the exact opposite for those who are in the Lord. We are steadfast and immovable in what we have been given to do, simply and only because Jesus is risen from the dead and our perishing and corrupt flesh will be clothed with the immortal life of Jesus.

Jesus lived the life of Adam in reverse. He who was incorruptible and eternal was clothed with flesh in Mary’s womb so that He might bear corruption and death for all who have been born into the perishable flesh of Adam. He lived His life back into the curse, back to the point where God said to Adam: in the day you eat of it you shall surely die. And Jesus ate up all the bitter fruit that Adam and his children and we have produced by what we have done and left undone. In the day He ate of it, He died. But His cross, dead and withered, was watered by His own blood; thence it budded and blossomed and bore the fruit of the tree of life. And now we live from that cross; we live Christ’s life in reverse. When we are baptized into Christ, we die before we live. We have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer I, or you, who live. We do not live our lives. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me; who loved you and gave Himself for you. Our life is now hidden from our sight with Christ in God, but when our living Lord appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him in whom we have trusted. The victory of death is no more. It does not get the last word. Because Jesus is the victor over death, and because that victory has been given to us in Jesus, now even death dies. When we are raised, when we who are perishing are clothed with the imperishable, we will indeed say back to God His words through the prophet Hosea: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Though, at times, that joyful hope seems as uncertain to us as it must have to Hosea and to Israel, as they looked around at God’s judgment in the world, it is nevertheless a physical and concrete reality in the flesh of Jesus. And because of Him, we say those words now: Death, where is your victory, where is your sting? It’s as good as done: Death is dead, and hell’s gates are broken open. Sin, and the Law which condemns sin, are not God’s final word, because the Law is a word that only sinners need. We will see the undying Jesus, having already been found in Him, and sin will vanish like a fading dream, and we will stand with Job, and Moses, and Paul and rejoice without the pain and the sorrow and the burden of our sin, because our Redeemer lives. In that Day, we will finally love perfectly, even as we are now loved by God in Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus is the resurrection of the end of the age. The last day has already come to you. Nothing is in doubt; it is finished. I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last I will stand upon the earth, clothed in my own resurrected flesh, and I will see Him with my own new eyes, clear and undimmed. Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/22/16

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