It’s the service no one wants to miss. After forty days of somber Lenten reflection and repentance, everyone is hungry for the exuberant joy of Easter morning. It’s time to put on the best dress and suit. Trumpets, organ, and voices crescendo into one thundering “Alleluia!” after another. In many of our churches the service is preceded or followed by fellowship time over breakfast. Everything feels fresh and new. Hope abounds—for good reason!
Christ is risen!
The sin and death brought into the world by one man is defeated by the second Adam. Jesus proved Himself to be just Who He said He was—the God-Man, the Messiah anointed by God to be the Savior of all people. He accomplished all He set out to do. He was faithful in every situation where we have disobeyed God’s will. He was obedient even to the point of death, the death of the cross where He suffered the penalty of hell itself for your sins and mine. We never tire of hearing the angels’ stunning question and exclamation to the women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6 NIV84) How awesome to be present in the upper room when the resurrected Christ suddenly appeared!
While we rightfully commemorate the first Easter, there is another, even greater and more glorious one on the horizon. My congregation has a custom of inviting members to bring “remembrance lilies” to our Easter service. Typically, dozens fill the altar and spill over onto nearby tables. They are placed in remembrance of loved ones who have been called from this earth through death, but whose souls are with the Lord now, and who, along with us, will one day experience their own personal “Easter.”
Paul explains, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
(1 Corinthians 15:20 NIV84) God commanded His Old Testament people to offer Him the first harvested sheaf of ripe grain brought in from the field. By doing so, they expressed their thanks and their confidence that the rest of the harvest, which they depended upon for their livelihood, would certainly follow. Likewise, Jesus’ resurrection is the first of countless resurrections to come when He returns, calls all from their graves, and ushers believers with their glorified bodies home to heaven.
Just imagine that celebration. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
(1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV84) It won’t be only our local churches with pews filled, but “a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9 NIV84).
Clothed in the dazzling white robes of Christ’s
righteousness, we will join the thousands of angels in singing praises to the Lamb. We will enjoy the feast of salvation which has no end.
Our celebration of Easter Sunday 2019 will quickly come and go.
Monday will bring all the usual challenges, obligations, blessings, and frustrations. We will face Satan’s temptations and the pressures of those around us at work or school to compromise our stand on the Word. Our congregations will wrestle with financial shortfalls, an aging membership, and the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel so as to be heard in our noisy, social-media-driven society. We will grieve at the toll death takes on family and fellow believers.
But then look ahead. A future “Easter” is on the way, that final and most glorious one of all, made possible by the empty tomb outside Jerusalem. It’s the Easter none of us want to miss!
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.