Bishop and Christian*, April 2017

It’s no secret that the Scriptures view the resurrection of Jesus—and the eternal life that flows from Him—as of first importance and all-encompassing (1 Corinthians 15). But what does it mean for our lives in this world where death, and not life, seems to reign and rule?

First, it means that if we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection (which He says happens in Holy Baptism), then if Jesus is alive, not even death can separate us from Him. He’s already on the far side of death so that, when we die, He will bring us into life.

Second, it means that we are freed from making things more important than they are. We are freed from the anxiety and worry that if we do this or that, or if we don’t do that or this, then everything will be okay. Everything is already more than okay, because resurrection is the final word! Anxiety and worry and fear come because we cannot see or know the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or next month, or next year. So we start to get nervous and try to take things into our own hands or under our own control. We constantly live on the edge, and if you live on the edge, your nerves will always be on edge. Everything, even the simplest word or action, becomes a matter of near-life-and-death. If someone says something, we take it in the worst sense possible. If someone does something, we assume it means this or that. The fear in our gut rules us, because we do not know what will happen.

But we fear and worry and become anxious because what we see in our surroundings and circumstances become disconnected from Jesus Himself, and His victory over both life lived in the midst of death, and of death itself. If He is risen from the dead, what do we have to fear? What do we have to fear from our own bodies or minds? What do we have to fear from other people’s words and actions? What do we have to fear from the world or the devil? What’s the worst that can happen? Death? Is death anything where Jesus, the Life, is present and active? The resurrection of Jesus, by which He restores all things, means that we are free from our consuming desire to control every outcome for ourselves, our congregation, and our lives.

The life that Jesus has in Himself, the life that is in His Father and the Holy Spirit, He gives to us through His own life-giving means. His gift of life is not in doubt and, therefore, the future—finally—is not in doubt. We can let love cover over a multitude of sins and small slights, a multitude of words, a multitude of worst-case assumptions and scenarios. Is Jesus really risen from the dead? Then all things belong to Him—past, present, and future.

If Christ had not been raised from death/Our faith would be in vain,/Our preaching but a waste of breath,/Our sin and guilt remain” (LSB 486:1). But “Jesus lives! The vict’ry’s won! … Jesus lives! And now is death/But the gate of life immortal;/This shall calm my trembling breath/When I pass its gloomy portal./Faith shall cry, as fails each sense:/Jesus is my confidence!” (LSB 1, 5). Jesus is my confidence, here and now, and into eternity.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

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