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Witnesses of the Resurrection April 23, 2017

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Acts 5:29-42

Second Sunday of Easter

April 23, 2017

 

Focus:  God forgives the sins of all people.

Function:  That the hearers obey God by witnessing His resurrection.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.

 

Witnesses of the Resurrection

 

Throughout the Easter season, we will be randomly jumping around through the book of Acts.  So, before we start that today, just a quick refresher on what the book of Acts is.  It’s written by Luke and serves as a sequel book to the Gospel according to Luke.  If we were to say his first book was all about the life and work of Jesus Christ, then this second book would be about the work of the Holy Spirit in building up the bride of Christ, His Church.

Acts begins with the account of the Ascension.  Forty days after His resurrection, Christ was taken up into heaven.  It then covers the day of Pentecost, another ten days later.  And that was a great day indeed in our church’s history.  Three thousand people heard the good news of Christ crucified and their sins forgiven.  And they joined the church and Peter baptized them!  But, that’s our text next weekend.

After Pentecost we see Peter and John heal a crippled beggar in the name of Jesus Christ.  This outraged many of the leaders, and the Sanhedrin had them arrested and brought to trial.  And it’s before this council that Peter can proclaim

11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

Peter and John’s proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ left the members of the Sanhedrin baffled.  Luke records a little of their confusion, but ultimately doesn’t tell us whether they believed in what they heard.

After giving them a sound beating and a warning to stop preaching about Jesus, they sent Peter and John away.  But they didn’t listen.  They didn’t stop proclaiming Christ.  And so we come to Acts 5.  But to get the full context, we need to start a few verses earlier.

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported,23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

 

That’s the context of our reading today.  Peter and John performing miracles in the name of Christ.  Preaching and teaching and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins in Christ alone.  And once again, arrested.  But this time, rather than being released, God sends an angel to set them free and to encourage them to go and preach some more.

And so when the chief priests and the officers finally find them, that’s precisely what they’re doing.  And those last words of the high priest are incredible.  If only he had realized it himself.  “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  Yes!  Exactly!  Because it’s this Man’s blood that forgives you of your sins, even the sin of crucifying Him.

Our text today began with Peter’s response.  And it’s a verse you know well.  “We must obey God rather than men.”  As we talk about our government, the laws that they pass, the things they tell us to do or not do, this verse is a helpful guide.  God has given our government the authority they have, and we are to honor them.  But, if their directives go against the will of God, we must obey God.

It’s sort of like the Venn Diagram, those two overlapping circles you learned about in your school days.  In the one circle we have the things of God, in the other, the things of man, and so long as the things of men overlap the things of God, they’re okay.  But they certainly don’t always.  In fact, we could argue they usually don’t.

Even Christians fall for this trap, though.  How much were the two presidential candidates this past fall painted as saviors?  The promise of Trump’s campaign to Christians was that he would protect their religious freedom and stave off persecution of the church.  Go home and Google Barronelle Stutzman, and you’ll quickly find out that’s not true.  The President can’t save anyone.  It’s not his job.

Another source of men that we often obey rather than God is our peers.  You may have thought peer pressure ended when you graduated from high school.  But peer pressure is alive and well among us adults, perhaps even more powerful than it was when we were growing up.  Think about it for just a moment.  One of the things that God has given you to do is to be a witness of the resurrection, to tell others of the forgiveness of Christ given for them on the cross.  What stops you?

What stops you?  Do you not tell them because you don’t like them?  That’s not usually the case, is it?  It’s usually because we like them that we don’t tell them.  We fear losing a friend, or making the relationship more awkward.  We fear the reprimand of our boss if we actually said “I forgive you” when they’ve done something wrong.  Or we fear the persecution of strangers if our faith becomes known.

And so we don’t.  We don’t witness.  But, we are forgiven.  Even for this.  Even of all those times when we could have shared Christ with another, we’re forgiven.  The very message that we’ve been given to carry and proclaim is the message that’s been proclaimed to us.  And its efficacy, its ability to work, doesn’t depend on you.

Let me say that again a different way.  Your forgiveness isn’t dependent on what you do.  Christ doesn’t withhold forgiveness from you because you failed to tell someone else about Him.  That’s not how any of this works!

In the body and blood of Christ, broken on the cross, your sins are forgiven!  Done, gone.  It’s finished.  In His resurrection from the tomb, your death is conquered.  It has no power over you.  The grave is defeated.  Sin and death are removed.  Even yours. Even mine!

We’re forgiven and alive in Christ.  The very message we are to deliver to others is the very message that delivers us: Christ, and Him crucified and risen again.  This is the message of the Apostles.  Even when speaking to the authorities, this is what they preach: the forgiveness of sins.

pause

Often times the word “evangelism” causes us to pause.  That’s Pastor’s job, not mine.  I don’t have time for that.  I wouldn’t know what to say.  All of these things are false.  A brother pastor, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, wrote up a really nice piece on what evangelism actually is.  And listen to just one paragraph from his article:

The Word of God, being the means of the Holy Spirit in creating faith in the heart of sinful man, is effective. It is a false and dangerous tendency to treat the Word of God as mere information that only has benefit when accepted and acted upon (as is the case with American Evangelicalism). The Gospel is the authoritative declaration of sins forgiven (Absolution). In fact, the central act of Evangelism is not asking the unbeliever to come to Jesus, but rather, in the name of Jesus, forgiving their sins. Evangelism is the Church speaking the Absolution to the World.

 

Read the book of Acts, and this is what you’ll see.  When Peter and the others are preaching on Pentecost, the people are crushed in the guilt of their sins.  And how does Peter respond?  Does he chastise them further for crucifying Christ?  Not at all!  He forgives them.  And 3,000 are baptized.  That’s what we pastors call, a good day.  Forgiveness proclaimed to a broken sinner.  That’s a good day, regardless of numbers.

When, in Acts 7, Stephen is being stoned to death, his very last words mirror the last words of Christ.  “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  Even in his dying breath, he’s praying for their forgiveness.

This you can do.  You can announce the forgiveness of sins to a despairing neighbor or coworker.  You can tell them that their failure is not their end.  That their life doesn’t depend on them, but it’s been won for them in Christ.  You can tell this to your beloved spouse or children, as you live together, loving one another as Christ loved His church.

But really, again, the beauty is, it’s not your work.  The Word of God is efficacious, it does stuff.  The Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t depend on you.  This is why the Apostles could readily die for their faith.  It didn’t depend on them.  The church wouldn’t fail the next day because Peter was crucified.  The church is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The forgiveness of sins is the work of Jesus Christ done to you and for you; not by you.

This is how you live.  You are the despairing neighbor.  You are the crushed and accused.  You are the spouse or the child in need of the love of another.  And you have it.  It’s yours.  It’s been given to you by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Forgiveness and life are yours.  He bought them with His own blood, and He gives them to you.

This led to the wise words of Rabban Gamaliel in verses 38-39, where he said,

So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

 

Don’t misunderstand that.  Gamaliel isn’t taking the side of Peter and John.  He taught Saul everything he knew about Judaism, and Saul became the greatest persecutor of the church, well, until Christ forgave him.

“If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”  The church is the work of God.  We didn’t die on the cross.  Christ did.  He gives to us the forgiveness of sins.  We didn’t rise from the tomb by our own power.  But on the Last Day, we will rise from our graves by the power of Christ Himself.  These things aren’t our doing, but they’ve been done for us.

And so Peter responded that we must obey God rather than men.  The focus of Peter is on obeying God.  And obeying according to this text is to witness to the resurrection.  And that’s a both/and.  We witness the resurrection not just by telling our neighbors, but because Christ rose.  To witness something is to see it.  And while we may not be witnesses directly, by the power of God, our sins are forgiven, and the gift of life is ours.  And it is in Christ and it is in the work of the Spirit alone that we can be witnesses of this truly awesome thing: Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

A Certain Thing March 27, 2016

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Luke 24:13-35

Easter

March 27, 2016

 

Focus:  God raised His Son from the dead.

Function:  That the hearers are certain of the resurrection of Christ and the Last Day.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view…here is the claim of the gospel.

 

A Certain Thing

 

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Why do you say that?  That’s just some made up story your parents taught you so you’d be a good person.  It never really happened, people don’t just come back from the dead.  And really, Jesus probably never existed, or if he did, was just another teacher and he never said those things.  He certainly didn’t do miracles, and He didn’t mean to start a religion, the disciples just made it all up.  And that’s the problem with you Christians, you go around believing in some dusty old book.  It’s not relevant, it has no bearing on my life.  A bunch of women-hating men just made up some stories and wrote them down.  And none of their stories even line up, there so full of errors and contradictions.

The attacks on your faith come from all around you.  You can’t hide from them.  Satan is working desperately, diligently through the world around us to tear down your faith.  Whether it’s from the media, peer pressure, public schools, or even Christian universities and some pulpits, the attack comes from just about every direction.  How do you know?  How can you be sure?  What makes your truth better than mine?  They attack the Word of God and cast doubt on our faith.

This leads you to a very difficult choice.  Next Sunday we will begin two new Bible studies here at St. John’s.  Pastor Fritsch will begin a class on the book of the Bible everybody wants to talk about, but we never do: Revelation.  And to go with it, we might even do a preaching series.  But then to make your decision difficult for you, I’ll be leading the other class on this topic of whether or not we can trust the Word of God.  Is it true?  How reliable is it?  Can we really be sure who wrote it, and that we even have what they wrote?  When was it actually written? What about all the mistakes?  And didn’t the authors just borrow from other myths?  We’ve got a couple of great topics, and I certainly invite you to join us for either class.

And while we may never be able to use arguments or logic to persuade someone to believe, these things are gifts of God, and they are important.  We have a need to witness to the faith that we have, to trust in God in the midst of all these doubts and attacks on our faith.  And these things are nothing new.  People have been trying to cast doubt on God and on His Word for six thousand years.  It’s the devil’s old trick, to sow a seed of doubt.

We see this in all three of our readings this morning.  Jesus, Peter, and Paul are all talking about certainty, they’re all arguing that witnesses are important.  That what we’ve seen, heard, and shared with others matters.  And while eye witnesses may no longer be around to tell us about the life of Christ and His resurrection, they left it in writing.  Our witness, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is the Word of God.

But before we dig into our texts, I want to give you a snippet of the sorts of things we get to look at over the next two months in Bible class.  One of the helpful tools, one of the things that can strengthen our faith and grant us reassurance, is that history validates God’s Word.

Non-Christians, most of whom are hostile to the faith, actually support the Scriptures with their writings.  Looking at the works of 1st and 2nd century pagans, they acknowledge many of the things the disciples recorded for us in the Bible.  I posted an article on our website this week that pulls in from these different sources, but here’s the summary paragraph of what it says you can find out about Jesus from non-Biblical sources:

Jesus was born and lived in Palestine. He was born, supposedly, to a virgin and had an earthly father who was a carpenter. He was a teacher who taught that by repentance and belief, all followers would become brothers and sisters. He led the Jews away from their beliefs. He was a wise man who claimed to be God and the Messiah. He had unusual magical powers and performed miraculous deeds. He healed the lame. He accurately predicted the future. He was persecuted by the Jews for what he said, betrayed by Judah Iskarioto. He was beaten with rods, forced to drink vinegar and wear a crown of thorns and crucified on the eve of the Passover. His crucifixion occurred under the direction of Pontius Pilate, during the time of Tiberius. On the day of his crucifixion, the sky grew dark and there was an earthquake. Afterward, he was buried in a tomb and the tomb was later found to be empty. He appeared to his disciples resurrected from the grave and showed them his wounds. These disciples then told others that Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven. Jesus’ disciples and followers upheld a high moral code. One of them was named Matthai. The disciples were also persecuted for their faith but were martyred without changing their claims. They met regularly to worship Jesus, even after his death.

 

Romans, Jews, Greeks talked about these things in their writings.  They acknowledge the existence of Jesus, and that’s exciting for us as Christians.  It’s fun.  Witnesses, things that testify to Christ and to His resurrection.

And that’s what Jesus was doing.  The Road to Emmaus.  Two Jews, followers of Christ, one named Cleopas, are just walking on the road, when Christ comes up to walk alongside them.  And He notices their emotions, how in the dumps they seem to be.  And He listens as they explain themselves.

Are you the only one in all of Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened this week?  A mighty prophet was condemned to death.  We hoped He would redeem us, we hoped He’d be our king.  But instead our leaders killed Him.  But now, now the women are telling us the tomb is empty.  That His body’s gone.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

And so Christ spent their seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus telling these two men how all of the Old Testament had been talking about exactly this.  How all the prophesies of a Savior were not about some earthly king, but rather a Christ, a Messiah who would come, who would die, and who would rise again.  That in the depravity of our sin, we would be lost forever.  But in this Christ, those sins would be forgiven.  Our relationship with God would be restored.

Jesus spent a leisurely walk that likely lasted a couple of hours probably preaching the greatest gospel sermon ever told, and we can’t even put it on YouTube.  On account of sin, your sin and my sin, nothing but death stares us in the face.  That is our end result.  That is our punishment, our just reward for our deeds.  And yet, in the great mercy of God, rather than pouring out His wrath and judgment upon us, the Father poured it out on His Son Jesus Christ upon the cross.  That as He hung there, bleeding out, suffocating, starving, dying, Christ took upon Himself our death, our punishment.  Just as the Old Testament said He would.

But it doesn’t end there.  Praise the Lord it doesn’t end there.  Because Jesus had made a promise.  A promise that was so much more than the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus had made the promise of a life that never ends.  Even as He hung upon the cross, He looked at the thief by His side and declared, “Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:43.

There is life in the resurrection!  That as Christ burst open the tomb on Easter morning, the powers of sin, death, the devil, and hell itself were defeated.  They no longer have hold of you.  They no longer lay claim to you.  To your body, to your soul, to your life.  In Christ, in His death, and in His resurrection, you are truly saved.

That’s what He got to tell them for a couple of hours that day.  And then as He entered into their home, He revealed Himself in His covenant.  He broke the bread, and the disguise, the veil, whatever hid His identity from them was removed.  Cleopas and his brother recognized Christ.  And they ate, and they drank.  The Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ, the true hope and power of the resurrection to life everlasting was theirs that day.

Then Luke tells us in our reading from Acts that this is what Peter got to share with Cornelius and his entire household.  That Peter and the other disciples are witnesses, that they witnessed all the miracles Christ did, all the things He taught in His ministry for those last three years.  That they witnessed, they watched with their own eyes, as Christ was nailed to a tree.  But that more than that, that Peter and the other apostles saw, touched, heard, listened to and dined with the risen Christ.  “We are witnesses.”  And then the Spirit granted the gift to baptize an entire family and their servants, to bring them into the kingdom of God.  To give to them Christ’s gift of life.

And then we have the Apostle Paul, as he wrote to the church in Corinth.  He shares the good news, that just as the Old Testament said, Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again.  And then he pointed to the witnesses.  For certainty, Jesus appeared to Peter, to the twelve, to over 500 brothers, most of whom are still alive.  To James, and to me.  In other words, if you doubt it, if you need to know more about the resurrection, we have hundreds of eye witnesses who can tell you all about it.  There is certainty.  We were there, we have seen Him.  He is alive.

For you and me today, we have a wealth of witnesses.  The words of Peter and Paul, the accounts of the 500 plus men who’d seen the risen Lord have been passed on from generation to generation.  They’ve been shared around the world.  The good news has been a legacy in families.  For roughly 2,000 years, the certainty that is our faith, our brothers and sisters have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, they’ve received the forgiveness of their sins through the body and blood of the Lord’s Supper, and they’ve preserved the gospel of Christ in His Word for us.  Baptism, life, and forgiveness are yours this day.  Because of this we can be certain: Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!  ALLELUIA!

 

 

He Has Risen; He is Not Here April 5, 2015

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Mark 16:1-8

Easter Sunday

April 5, 2015

 

Focus:  God did as He said…He is Risen.

Function:  That the hearers share the good news…He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

Structure:  This is the historical situation in the text…these are the meanings for us now.

 

He Has Risen; He is Not Here

 

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!  How do you know that?  Were you there that morning?  Did you get to see the risen Lord?  Did you get to speak with Him, or touch the marks in His hands and His feet?  Were you there to witness the tomb burst open and the crucified Christ raised from the dead?  How can we say with any certainty that it happened at all?

In a sense, that’s precisely how Mark decided to end his gospel.  Right where our gospel reading stops.  No resurrection appearance, no visions of the risen Lord, no accounts of anyone seeing Jesus at all.

But it’s style, it’s a technique.  Think about it.  You’re watching your favorite TV show.  They’ve already announced that tonight is the season finale.  You’re interested, you’re hooked.  You like the show and you want more.

And so tonight’s episode begins.  And the plot twists and turns.  The guy you thought was the good guy, suddenly reveals that he’s been evil the whole time.  And then, at 7:58pm, right before the credits, your favorite character on the show gets put into a terrible spot, and that now evil guy pushes him off a cliff.  Cue the credits.

You’re hooked, you’re interested, and by dangling your favorite part of the show off the edge of a cliff, the producers have you ready for the next season of the show.  You have to know what happens!  It’s the cliffhanger ending and it’s been around for a long time.

As Mark was writing his gospel, his audience wasn’t the same as the other three gospel writers.  He’s writing to the Roman population.  He’s creating an action packed account of Jesus’ ministry in Roman territory.  He sets it up with the preaching, the teaching, the authority, the miracles Christ did in His life.

It’s also the shortest of the gospel accounts, because Mark knows that his hearers aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt.  This isn’t the fourth Transformers movie where you’re simply going to watch it because of how you really liked the first three.  The Spirit is working through Mark to share the gospel, to work faith in the hearts of the Roman people, but it has to be powerful and concise.

And so we’ve reached 7:58pm.  The end of the gospel is coming up.  Christ has been crucified.  And it’s no coincidence the importance placed on the centurion at the foot of the cross.  Who gets to call Jesus the Son of God?  A Roman.  Not the disciples, not one of the many different Mary’s, but one of the Roman soldiers who crucified Him.

And we get the account of Jesus’ burial.  And then we’re told about one last event.  On the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome go out to the tomb.  They went with spices in hand, thinking they could put them on Jesus to help mask the smell of decay for a few more days.

As they walked along the road, they remembered just how large the stone was that sealed the entrance to His tomb.  And they started to discuss together how they could possibly move it, or who might be able to move it for them.

And then they arrive and the stone’s already out of the way.  And instead of finding Jesus inside the tomb, they find a young man, dressed in white, and they were alarmed.  Now if you’ve been following along, or know more about the Scriptures, you’ll know this isn’t a man at all.  Because who appears to men, dressed in white, and always has to start by saying something along the lines of “Do not be afraid?”

Interestingly enough, fun little nuggets like that in the entertainment world are called Easter eggs.  A little bonus, something a little extra for someone who really knows the story inside and out.  Or, something you can pick up by reading or watching it again.

So this young man, whom they’ve never met, speaks to them and says, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen; He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.  But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see Him, just as He told you.”

Unlike today, non-Christian writings of that day don’t try to deny the empty tomb.  They admit it happened, they have no problem saying that Jesus’ body really was gone.  It was a fact.  So instead, if you were to read the writings of Jews or Greeks in that time, you’d find them going out of their way to come up with other ways it could have happened.  His disciples stole His body and it just ended up buried somewhere else.  It was a political move trying to scare the leaders of the day.  Or even some that said it was a work of sorcery.

But the tomb is empty, and the three women don’t know what to do.  And so trembling from fear of what this could possibly mean, but also astonished because someone just told them that Jesus is alive, they left.  Cue the credits.

That’s how Mark ends his gospel.  No resurrection appearances, no denial of conspiracy theories, it just ends.  Knowing that God always has a plan, and that He works through His people, this was an intentional cliffhanger.  Some Romans were hooked.  They were interested, they wanted to know more.  And so they’re going to find out.  They’re going to go to the empty tomb.  They’re going to speak to the soldiers.  They’re going to seek out Christ’s disciples.  They’re going to ask questions, they’re going to hear testimony.  They’re going to be witnessed to about the resurrected Lord.

In many ways, Mark’s gospel ends the same way we live our lives.  We haven’t seen the resurrected Christ.  We’re in the same boat as the three women, the testimony of one man, or angel.  And then we’re told to go and share this good news with the world.  Go and tell.

And we often find ourselves fearing as well.  Fearing how people will respond to us if we try to say that Jesus is Lord of all the earth.  Fearing what our friends and family might think of us if we live the life we’ve been called to, loving our neighbors and sacrificing, giving of ourselves for them.

And we sometimes tremble, worrying about the future.  Wondering deep down if our faith is really true.  Do we believe in the true God, or is this just another story?  We’re uncertain about what the future holds, about heaven, hell, a new earth.  What will life be like?  And sometimes we wonder if we’ll see our loved ones again, or if there even is something after this life.

This is where I think we benefit from Mark’s gospel and even his cliffhanger ending.  You see, there’s so much more here.  Throughout Mark’s gospel, Jesus was telling His disciples what would happen.  He told them where they’d find a donkey, and how they’d be asked what they were doing when they were untying it.  He told them, that when they entered the city, they would be greeted by a man with a watering jar.

He told them that that man would already have a room prepared for the Passover.  He told them one of the twelve would betray Him.  He told them He’d be arrested, and ultimately killed.  And with all of these things, Mark says it was “just as He told you.”

And that’s the power of what the angel says to the women at the tomb.  This isn’t my testimony, Jesus Himself told you that on the third day, He would rise again.  And He has, just as said He would.  Go, find Him.

And then we know from the other accounts of Scripture, we know from Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts that many of Jesus’ disciples had the honor of seeing the resurrected Lord.  Paul even tells us in 1 Corinthians that “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (1 Cor. 15:6).  That matters, for the Romans, and for us.  They could ask, they could hear, they could see the witness of many.

And it has only grown with time.  We shouldn’t discount the great men and women of the faith these past two thousand years.  Men like Paul, Timothy, and John.  Women like Priscilla, Lydia, and Candice.  Early church fathers like Augustine, Origen, and Tertullian.  Others like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchton, and C.F.W Walther.  Even many of the Popes.

We truly have a wealth of witnesses.  Your parents, and their parents, and their parents before them.  Billions of men and women over two millennia who have witnessed and testified to a living Christ.

But it’s more than people, it’s more than the church, it’s the gospels and the Scriptures themselves.  We have the Word, and that alone would be enough.  And that’s why Mark’s gospel ended with a witness simply saying, “He has risen…just as He told you.”

That’s why we don’t need to fear, because the Lord’s Word is certain.  That’s why we don’t need to worry about the future, because He has told us.  Just because Mark used a common technique, this isn’t entertainment.  This isn’t just some story.  This is life.

That one statement, “He has risen,” is filled with so much beauty and certainty.  In those three little words, we receive the hope of salvation, that God would intervene and rescue us from the powers of sin, death, and the devil.  In those three little words, we receive victory over our sins, Christ has forgiven us.  In those three little words, we don’t have to wait for the last day, because we already have these gifts.  This hope of salvation isn’t some far off future thing.  It’s already happened.  It’s already now.  Forgiveness, salvation, and life are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Christ is risen!  He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!!