“He’s risen! He’s risen indeed, Alleluia!” This declaration of Jesus’ being raised from death has been the Church’s victory cry for more than two millennia. It announces the historical tomb-exploding fact of God’s Word overcoming death and hell. This isn’t a myth or theory competing for attention in the marketplace of ideas. Jesus’ death and resurrection, when the Church says it clear and true, is a fact.
Jesus, God’s Word in the flesh, actually died. Then He actually rose from death three days later. And because her Savior is flesh and blood, standing firm on the plain of history, the Church is a flesh and blood kind of Church. No pie-in-the-sky ideals or folktales about outrageous people performing outlandish feats. Like her Lord, the Church has dirt under her nails, the smell of coffin wood on her clothes, and a hunger in her belly. And in her mouth, the proclamation that Jesus overcame sin’s deathly-dark prison.
That’s the Church’s Easter preachment. It’s hers because her Lord brought it with Him out the other side of the grave and bequeathed it to her as His end times gift. The Church speaks to a world enchanted by the ancient story of how, in the midst of life, we die.
Martin Luther took this worldly fallacy captive and captured it in Christ, and recast it for the title of a hymn: “In The Midst of Death We Live.” What Luther understood is what the Church in every generation is overshadowed by, and that is that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the hub of all space and time. Behold, the Lamb of God who dies for the sin of the world. That word in Greek, for world, is cosmos. Jesus shed His innocent blood for the cosmos, for the whole universe. On Calvary all space and time was inhaled, devoured by Christ’s blood-saturated lungs. Then, three days later, while the universe was still picking up the pieces, Jesus burst from the tomb, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right of the Father, where He holds all of space and time, all of what’s past, present, and what’s to come, in His right hand.
This is the Church’s sermon. It’s the declaration that every day is Good Friday. Every Sunday is Easter. Every we stand in the shadow of Golgotha and every Sunday we arise to stand before Jesus Christ, God’s Word coming to again strengthen and encourage us, not even death can imprison me, and because I AM yours and you are Mine, it can’t lay a finger on you either.
The Church doesn’t offer fairytales or morality plays or tragedies to the world. All she has to say is the truth, the rock-solid historical fact that, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who dies for the sin of the world, most especially yours! And, before you get distracted, ‘He’s risen! He’s risen indeed, Alleluia!'”
Not only does the Church declare that the sin of the world is covered one time for all time in the precious blood of the Lamb, but with it, Jesus has taken away the sting of death. Death no longer scares us. And so we are baptized into Jesus’ death, and we are declaring Jesus’ death “until He comes again” every time we receive His body and blood at the Table. And that sweet, savory Gospel not only announces all our sin forgiven, forgotten, no longer recalled to memory by God, it also imputes to us life and eternal salvation.
The Church’s victory cry is Jesus dead and risen from death. She doesn’t deal in science fiction or fantasy, she doesn’t peddle generic religion pills, and she definitely doesn’t “fake it till she makes it.” Christ’s Bride only deals in bare naked facts: “He’s risen! He’s risen indeed, Alleluia!”
Her message from the beginning is simple then, it’s just not easy to hear. Almost as difficult as it’s been for the Church over the millennia to confess. That is, Christ Jesus is risen from the grave’s dark prison for religious zealots and atheists. He’s risen for single mothers and polygamists. He’s risen for Republicans and anarchists. He’s risen for addicts, and divorce lawyers, and maybe even a clergyman or three. He’s risen… It’s the bedrock fact of all space and time: Christ is Risen! He’s risen indeed, Alleluia!