If Jesus did not Rise then.
Paul says if Jesus didn't rise from the dead then the Christian faith is empty; you are still in your sins, and Christians are to be pitied more than all men. Why? Didn't Jesus Himself say it was finished on Good Friday? Why does Christian faith and forgiveness hang on an empty tomb? Why are we to be pitied more than unbelievers, atheists, and followers of non-Christian religions if Jesus did not rise?
If Jesus did not rise then the Law of God hangs over our heads undone. If Jesus did not rise then our life is one big to-do list that never ends. You're never able to cross out that last thing and say, "I'm done doing the law." Luke shows us this. The verse before today's Gospel says, "On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment." The women at the cross went away from that brutalizing, frightening scene to get the spices and ointments before the Sabbath started at sundown on Good Friday. The next day they rested. They would rather have gone right to the grave and buried Jesus properly, but they had, they must keep the Sabbath commandment.
If Jesus be not raised, then so do you. Then all the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws are still in effect and the moral ones left undone. Your life is one big ought, should, and must. Whenever you look up be it at home, work, or play, be it with family, friends, or coworkers you see a list of things you must do, must think, must say. What does the Law say about this and that? The Law has something to say about everything, doesn't it?
No wonder we're to be pitied more than anyone. We're imprisoned under the Law if Jesus did not rise. Why is that? Paul says, "God sent His Son into the world to be born under the Law to redeem those under the Law." God the Son, being true God, wasn't under any laws because whatever God wanted to do was legal for Him. It's like in a monarchy where the king is absolute sovereign. If he wants to drive 100 miles per hour on the highway or park in handicap parking, he can. Likewise, God is sovereign over all things. He is not only above the law; He is the law.
So God the Father sent God the Son to become a Man in a virgin's womb. That put Jesus under the Law just like you. And He lived that way perfectly as an infant, toddler, teen, and adult. All those shoulds, oughts, betters, have tos, Jesus did. Then Jesus offered His perfect life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. If Jesus had sinned once, had broken one law, He couldn't offer His life in place of yours. He would have died for His own sins.
We're not ready to tie this up yet. So far we have if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the law hangs over your head undone and so does punishment here and hereafter. If Jesus did not rise from the dead your sins are still on you and the law make you guiltier with every passing day so judgment looms ever larger. Even unbelievers have a sense that accounts must be settled because in crisis they try to make bargains with God. If He will do this, then they will do that or change this. And the most nagging thought of all even to atheists is what if this isn't it? They can deal with death being lights out, game over, but what if there is something beyond this, where accounts are settled?
If Jesus did not rise then accounts aren't settled. We last left our account with Jesus keeping the law in our place. Where we curse, Jesus did not. Where we lust, Jesus did not. Where we worry, Jesus had faith. Where we despair, Jesus hoped. He was the perfect son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, employer, employee, church member and citizen. We are not, and our sins had to be punished, to be paid for, to settle our account.
It mystifies me when people don't think God Almighty should be wrathful against sinful mankind or that His wrath demands to be satisfied. Haven't they ever had an enemy? Haven't they ever been wronged? Didn't anyone every show them ingratitude or disrespect? Don't they get mad when someone sins against them? If I a sinner who have wronged so many, so often, still feel justified in my wrath and want it satisfied, how much more God who never wrongs anyone and gives no one an excuse to wrong Him?
If Jesus be not raised, then God's wrath still seethes against us. Why? Because Jesus went to the cross as a wrath removing sacrifice. He went to the cross to bear God's curse against all sinners. God set this up in the Old Testament. He said, "Cursed is everyone who doesn't keep all the laws of God." That means cursed, damned, judged are you and me. But God also said, "Cursed by God is anyone who is hanged on a tree." God nailed His only beloved Son to the tree of the cross to curse Him in your place. All the wrath, anger, judgment, we deserve, God the Father poured out on His Son on Good Friday.
"Take Me Father instead of them," Jesus said. "Judge Me Father not them." "Give Me the cup containing Your wrath against the sins of the world and let Me drink it for them." "Make Me suffer not them; damn Me not them." And God did. He handed over His Son as if He was the worst sinner in the world. He damned Him to the lowest pit of hell because He was piled high with the world's sins, and Jesus died as sinners deserve to.
Jesus didn't die because He was a sinner. Jesus died as a sacrifice for sins to appease God's wrath. Jesus as true God couldn't be held by death unless, and this is the big one, unless death still had a claim on Him. Death has a claim on sinners till their sins are paid for. Hell is forever because sinners can never pay off their debt on their own. Jesus wasn't a sinner. He was holy and He lived holy. His holy life and innocent death could pay off sins debt, and once paid death couldn't hold Him. His rising proves all Laws have been kept and that all sins are paid for. Jesus would still be dead if they weren't.
If Jesus did not rise, then the Christian faith is useless; you're still in your sins, and we more than all other people are to be pitied. Why? If Jesus didn't rise God's laws hang over us demanding to be kept before we can be saved and God's wrath against us for breaking His laws has not been satisfied. And finally if Jesus did not rise, then zombies do rule.
Fixation on zombies comes and goes in America. They're popular now and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we're all zombies. All mankind fell in Adam's sin, and when Adam fell he died and we died with him. If Jesus did not rise to life, not Adam or anyone else does either. We're the living dead now and when we go into the grave our bodies don't come out glorified but zombified.
If Jesus is not raised then Death does get the last dance. The Dance of Death is known in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Estonia, and Italy. Death personified summons people from all walks of life to dance along to the grave. There is a 17th century vestment, a chasuble, which was used for funeral masses, called the Totenkasel, death chasuble, that depicts this. It has a skeleton standing over broken crowns, scepters, and a papal tiara. It emphasizes that Death overcomes all mankind no matter how powerful you are in this life (Oxford History of Worship, 845). If Jesus be not raised, then Death is not just our common condition but our permanent one, like Zombies.
If Jesus doesn't rise out of that tomb on Easter, then throw every one and everything in there with Him. When Attila the Hun was buried his followers threw into his grave the spoils of the nations he had plundered and the captives who had dug the grave (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 525). Yes, put it all in Jesus' grave. Jesus said He came to ransom lost souls. If He didn't rise from the dead, then those souls are in that grave with Him. He said He was the Resurrection and the Life. If He didn't rise, then you get no better body or life than the fallen one you have now. He said He was the creator of all things. If the Creator be not raised, then creation itself is eternally dead.
But Jesus did rise. Sin, Death and the Devil, took their best shot. There Jesus was helpless on the cross the sins of the world hung around His neck. There's the sin of unbelief, of misusing His name, of neglecting His Word; the sins of fornication, abortion, homosexuality, adultery, stealing, lying, and lusting hang heavy on the crucified Jesus. Death and the Devil attack this One totally covered in sin and swallow Him whole, but they had to spit Him out. Sins could only be paid for once. Having done that the Law was satisfied and God's wrath was too. What force can hold the Man who is God, the Man who is Life itself? Nothing. Sin, Death, and the Devil had no Law to cite that Jesus hadn't kept and no curse, no punishment, no wrath that Jesus hadn't already endured.
If Jesus is not raised, then there is no point to being here because we have no reason to sing alleluia. The Law would still be hanging over our head and our sins around our neck. Our life would be one big to do list; we would be ever cringing waiting for God to bring the club of judgment down upon us; and this would be how we "lived" until we died forever. So if you are living under the law of have to, better, should, must you're living as if Jesus didn't rise from the dead. If you're living expecting to be cursed by God rather than blessed, you're living as if Jesus stayed in the tomb. If you're living as if the only dance partner you have left is Death, you're living as if Jesus never rose.
But He did. Angels tell us. Apostles tell us. Scripture tells us. The Spirit tells us, assures us, guarantees us that Jesus is raised by every drop of baptismal water, by every syllable of absolution, by every morsel of Body-Bread and every drop of Blood-Wine. As St. Paul would say it: My preaching is not useless; your faith is not is not in vain. You are no more in your sins than Jesus is in the grave. And we neither want nor ask pity from any man, but on the contrary we want and ask for all men everywhere to join us in saying: He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Resurrection of Our Lord (20130331); I Corinthians 15: 12-19