Obviously we are here today at this beautiful worship service on this wonderful day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but who does the opening verse of our lesson tell us also has been raised from the dead? St. Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…” This may sound strange to us when we first hear it, but this worship service is also an Easter celebration of your and my resurrection from the dead. On this great festival of the resurrection of our Lord, let’s see what it means that each and everyone of us is able to say just as much as Jesus Christ our Lord – and why it is so important that each and everyone of us is be able to say just as much as Jesus Christ our Lord – “I have risen from the dead!”
Well, if God says we have risen from the dead, that means we must have been dead at some time. And that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, because the fact that I can feel my face and my arms at this time means that right now I am alive — and the fact of the matter is that ever since I have been alive, I have been alive.
But that’ why it’s so important to do what these words tells us and to “set our hearts and minds on things above” – on the things that God tells us in his Holy Word in the Bible. The Bible tells us that it is not really true at all to say that ever since I have been alive, I have been alive. Just a little before the verses of our lesson, the apostle Paul had said something that God in his Word says time and time again. Earlier Paul had said, “When you were dead in your sins…, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” Do you see why this is a very difficult thing for many people to accept, and why it is so easy for us to keep forgetting it and to even rebel against it? God says that at one time I was dead – that at one time I was dead in my sins – that therefore at that time I was as good as dead to God. In other words, the moment I was alive I was dead in spiritual death, because the moment I became alive I was dead in the sin that has been passed on from every single mom and dad to every single son or daughter who has ever been born.
And that’s why we have to talk about the birth of Jesus on this day on which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There is no Easter without Christmas. Jesus’ mother was a virgin and his Father was God. He was the only person ever not born in sin, and he is the only person for whom there should not have been a resurrection from the dead, because he is only person who should not have died. But the holy Jesus did die – and what does verse 3 say about that death? “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Even his death is not his own. When he died, it’s like you and I died. One reason I can say that I have risen from the dead isbecause of the One I died with!
So think about that for a moment… On Good Friday just past we reflected on the death of our Savior – a death that was the direct result of your and my sins against our Savior. God says on that cross with our Savior you and I also died. The whole point of Jesus’ suffering and death for sin is that he was suffering and dying for someone else’s sin. He was suffering and dying for your and my sin. He was your and my replacement, our substitute. All those sins that should have had us die as punishment for them – Jesus paid for them. The lies I have told, the words I wish I could have back, the envy I have felt, the gossip I have spread, the anger, the complaining, the jealousy, the hate – all the things that caused the death of Jesus by the death of Jesus have been erased from God’s sight so that when God looks at me he sees Jesus, because I died with him – and by believing that, I have risen from the death of my sins, knowing how much God loves me and wanting so much because of that to love him more and more.
That’s why God encourages you and me in these words, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”Can you see Jesus at the right hand of God as you go about your lives day by day? Obviously we can’t see him with our eyes. And sometimes it seems like he doesn’t see us, doesn’t it? That’s why Paul says that our life is “hidden” with Christ in God. We live by faith in what can seem so hidden to our earthly eyes, but what God promises is as real as the day Jesus Christ left the tomb. In fact, that’s the thing to keep remembering when we wonder if God really sees us or cares about us or can do anything to help us – remember the day Jesus left the tomb. Remember that until we see how everything works out in the end, things can seem hidden to us. Wasn’t that exactly how it would have looked to us if we had been there on that first Good Friday and Holy Saturday? After all, where was Jesus? In the grave. And where wasn’t Jesus? Walking around with us or talking to us. But if on those days we were setting our hearts on things above – on the things of God – where was Jesus? Jesus was exactly in the place God had said he would be in his Word in order to die the only death that could forgive sin and in order to rise from death to prove that that sin was really forgiven. That is the Jesus you and I died with – the One now seated at the right hand of God in heaven.
… and that is the One you and I will live with. Verse 4 tells us what is the goal of every Christian and the most important reason for celebration of Easter – those words where St. Paul says, “When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him glory.”That is why we can set our hearts and our minds on things above. That’s why we can focus our attention on what God wants us to focus our attention on. Everything that now may seem hidden to us and may not make sense to us will be shown how God wanted it to come out in the end when Jesus comes at the end of time to take us home – our real home.
So, for example, if someone tells lies about us or if someone is mean to us without any reason or if someone takes something that belongs to us – any bad things that make our life on earth at times an absolute pain: Will any of that change anything God has promised about appearing with Jesus in glory when we are taken to live with him? Not at all. If I don’t get to accomplish all the goals I would like to accomplish in life, if I don’t get to travel to all the places I would like to travel in life, if I don’t get to live all the days I would like to live in life – anything that makes me feel bad about what I have not been able to do in my life on earth: Will any of that change anything God has promised about Jesus appearing in glory when we are taken to live with him? Never. That’s what gives us all the more reason to use whatever time God does give us here below to not do those same kinds of things to others that would make their life a pain and to instead make it our goal to accomplish things that likely will never get noticed by anyone but Jesus – simple, everyday acts of kindness that are the everyday things people do who every day are thinking about God – who every day are setting their hearts and minds on things above – who every day are simply wondering, “What can I do today to show I thankful I am that I have risen from the dead?”
You may or may not be familiar with the fact that over the centuries in the Christian church there was a custom that new converts to the Christian faith would wait to be baptized until the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Do you have any idea why that would be? It has to do with what the Bible says about Baptism and how baptism makes the Good Friday and Easter of Jesus the Good Friday and Easter of you and me. In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul said, “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too will live a new life.” When those new converts to the faith came forward to be baptized, they were saying what every single one us can say because we have been baptized. “I have risen from the dead because of the One I died with and because of the One I will live with. Those words — ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ when connected with the water — raised me from the spiritual death of my sins – and those words placed God’s name on me, making me part of God’s family and guaranteeing me that God’s home is my home – and that I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
So, baptized brothers and sisters, as you go about your lives on earth below, set your hearts and minds on things above, because someday, no matter how hard for you or how hidden to you it may seem right now, through the crucified and risen Jesus Christ your Lord, you are going to live there. That’s where people who have risen from the dead go after they have risen from the dead! Amen. A Blessed Easter to all of you now and forever. Amen.