In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Allelluia!) This is the Day that the Lord has created. It is a new day. Not just a new day, as the sun rises in the morning; not just the first day of the week, or the first day of that week when the women came to the tomb expecting to find a dead Jesus, a body that they could anoint with spices and perfume, to prepare it for long-term burial; but the first day of a new creation in the body of Jesus. Look! I make a new heavens and a new earth, God says. He refused to give Jesus over to death, refused to let Him stay in the grave, refused to let His Holy One see the corruption of the dead. So He raised Him from the dead on the third day.
This is the day that the Lord has made, and only the Lord could create a day like this. This is the eighth day, a new creation day in the middle of the old seven-day creation. Jesus rested on the seventh day from all the work of salvation that He had done, and then, on the eighth day, He rose from the dead. He brings an eternal day into the middle of time, and He brings all His people, on whom He has put His holy Name, into that eternal day. When you are baptized, you are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and that means that you are brought into the eternal day of life. That’s why many baptismal fonts have eight sides: to remind you as you walk by that you live in that eternal eighth day, even as you live in the seven days of this world. When we gather in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day at a particular hour, we do not cease to be in time, but Jesus brings eternity to us in His own flesh and blood. And we who are in time join the song of angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven, who are in eternity. Because Jesus is risen from the dead, time and eternity, heaven and earth, are joined in Him for the sake of all who are His.
But we live in this eternal day only by faith for now. We do not see the resurrection of the body; we do not see the new heavens and earth; we do not even see Jesus face to face. We certainly have His promise, but we have it by faith, not by sight. Sometimes we begin to think that faith, what we believe, is somehow less certain, less concrete, less physical than what we can see, taste, touch, and experience with our senses. But Paul says that it is exactly the opposite: what we see is passing away, what we see is transitory; what we cannot see—Jesus, the resurrection, the new heavens and earth—those things are eternal. Christians do not simply believe; we do not simply “have faith.” Our faith, our trust, our hope, our joy and our life, they are all, literally, in Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead. And if your trust and hope are in Him, who can steal you away from Him? He is alive, never to die anymore. Your life is not here, not really; it is not among the things that you see and touch, where you still live in the flesh; the life you live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God, who loves you and gave Himself for you. Your have already died, and your true life is hidden with Christ in God. When Jesus, who is your life, appears, then you will be like Him: you will share His glory, you will share in His resurrection; your lowly body will be transformed to be like His glorious Body. You will be like Him, because you will finally see Him as He is. Not as He will be, but as He is now, resurrected, ascended, glorified.
This is the day that the Lord has made! The day when God made the Stone the builders rejected into the chief cornerstone. Jesus was that stone, sent from God, to live among those whose hearts had grown stony and hard. But when they examined Him to see if He was worthy of building upon, they found nothing that appealed to them. They rejected Him; they rejected His authority as the Son of God; they rejected His claims to bring life and salvation from God Himself. They called Him a liar and a blasphemer, and they rejected Him and turned Him over to be crucified. Pilate, in turn, turned Him over to their will. And their will was to kill the one whom God had sent. That is always the will of sinners. It’s what sin calls for, because sin, at its root, is rejection of God and His Word and His way. So it was not only the Jews and the Romans who killed Jesus. It was every single person who has ever lived or will ever live. It was you and me. Before you object, consider that if Jesus bore your sin, if He died under your sin—and He did—then you share in the will that shouted crucify. But God takes the will of sinners and turns it to His own will. He takes the death we make, and turns it to life in Jesus’ own body. This is the day the Lord has made! The stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner—that stone in the middle of the arch that holds the whole thing together. Remove that stone, and it will all fall down. Or the cornerstone, which you cannot remove without the entire building falling to pieces. We are the household of God, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone. We are living stones built on the living stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious in the eyes of God. There is no Church, no people of God, apart from the living Jesus. It would make no more sense to say that a body goes on living without its head, or branches go on living without their vine. If Christ is not alive, then we are still in our sins, everything is exactly as it has always been, and we are to be pitied above all people, especially for gathering here this morning. But Christ is alive, the Head of His Body, the Church; the true Vine, who gives life to the branches. He is the one in whom all things hold together, who is Himself the resurrection and the life, who gives life to the world, to all who believe Him.
This is the day that the Lord has made, it is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes! It is the sweet aroma of salvation to those who are being saved, but not all believe. Even that first day, when the women heard the words of the angels, who said that Jesus was not there, but was risen from the dead; when they remembered what Jesus had said, that it was necessary for the Son of Man to be delivered over into the hands of sinners, to suffer, die, and on the third day rise from the dead; they went and told the disciples what they had seen and heard. But the disciples did not believe them. They found their words to be foolishness and idle talk, not because they were the words of women, but because they did not yet remember and believe the words of Jesus. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb. He looked in and saw an empty grave, and empty grave-clothes. And he went back marveling at what had happened. Still today people find the words of the angels, the words of the women, the words of the apostles, foolishness and idle talk. They make the resurrection into a spiritual happening inside of your mind or heart, they make it about nice feelings and pastel colors, they make it something completely disconnected from the crucifixion. We cannot control what people do with the words. Still people will get rid of the crucifixion; still people will get rid of the bodily resurrection; and so they will get rid of a real, living Jesus who can do something more than be a good example for humanity. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But we will not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it is the power of God to save those who believe, and it is the only saving word there is. But God will still do His work through the words that appear foolish to this world. He will still raise up people to come and see that Jesus is risen from the dead, and He will still grant faith to their marveling hearts. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is always marvelous to behold.
This is the day that the Lord has made, the entire hope and joy and life in the midst of every single day we live in this creation. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Now no more can death appall; now no more the grave enthrall; Christ has opened paradise, by opening the grave, and all you, His saints, He will make to rise. Alleluia! 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, 3/26/16