The Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter Day)

Readings: Job 19:23–27 | 1 Corinthians 5:6–8 | Mark 16:1–8

Text: Mark 16:1-8 (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

On Good Friday, I made the point that when Jesus was crucified, it was a change to the entire Cosmos.  Everything about how God relates to this world has changed.  On this holy day, we rejoice in what happened next.

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”

The Jewish Sabbath is now passed—not just in terms of the passage of time, but in that it has now been fulfilled.  Under Moses, the Sabbath connected back to the first creation

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” (Ex. 20:11) 

On that particular day, God commanded—even with threats—that His people stop their labor to keep the Sabbath.  But it was fulfilled when the Son of God, Jesus, took His rest from all the labors He had done in salvation…by resting in the tomb.  “And he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Gen. 2:3)  He truly made that Sabbath holy by entering it Himself, and fulfilling its true significance.

What’s left to the people of God is an even greater Sabbath—a true rest from Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath [Matt. 12:8].  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)  Your works, no matter how long and arduous, no matter how obedient or disciplined you are in God’s Word, can save you.  Our labors cannot save; Jesus’ can and do.

Quoting from Psalm 95, the Apostle to the Hebrews writes:

11             As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end… 4:9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 3:11-14, 4:9-10)

All who believe in Christ have that promised rest, and the salvation that He has worked for them.

“2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”

With the close of the Sabbath is also the close of the command for a specific day—the seventh day—as the designated day for worship.  Many in the early Church, including the Apostles, took this as a cue to worship on the first day of the week, Sunday.  After all, while the Lord completed the first creation and rested on the seventh, He rose from the dead on the first day. 

As one hymnwriter so aptly put it:

This day at earth’s creation

The light first had its birth;

This day for our salvation

Christ rose from depths of earth;

This day our Lord victorious

The Spirit sent from heav’n,

And thus this day most glorious

A threefold light was giv’n.[1]

The first day of the week signifies the beginning of the new creation.  As we heard from St. Paul on Good Friday, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)  This is reminiscent of the words of Isaiah and of Revelation:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” And, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Isaiah 65:17; Rev. 21:1) 

For us who are in Christ, we have the first taste of this new creation.

For the Christian, the first day of the new week signifies the beginning of eternity.  The Christian’s life is not only marked by weeks and years, but in a the rendering of time in the new creation—of endless days.  Why, then, insist upon certain days of this passing world?  In the words of St. Paul,

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17)

How we are to live as the people of God in Christ does not sever our roots with the sons of Israel.  Some accuse Christians of preaching a “replacement theology” that would discard all that God has done before for Israel and consider it utterly obsolete.  But this is far from true!  Consider the words of the Epistle, where Paul teaches us the fulfillment of the Passover:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

The Passover has been fulfilled in Christ. The Lord, by His true Passover, though, goes deeper and wider to save.  He goes wider in that this is not simply for Jews and no alien; it is prepared for all people.  He goes deeper in that it is not an outward change that the Lord does, but one in the heart.  He doesn’t just want to see you in church or at Bible study.  He wants all of you to redeem you.  Cleanse out all that is contrary to His will in you.

No longer see God through Moses; but through His only-begotten Son.  Cleanse out the old leaven as God has cleansed out the old.  Ridding your house of leaven and painting your doors with lamb’s blood were certainly fine outward training—at the time.

[1] “O Day of Rest and Gladness” by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-85). Cited from LSB 906, st. 2