SERVICE VIDEO (link)
TEXT: Luke 24:1-8; Romans 1:1-7
Easter Sunday – April 9, 2023
A few weeks ago I talked about story of Lazarus as a “preview of coming attractions.” In Lazarus Jesus demonstrated the power of God over death and Jesus declared to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Well today we are no longer watching the previews; we have come to the main attraction. Jesus, dead and buried, was raised on the third day – on THIS day – to life.
Every Easter I like to make this point – and today is no exception – that Easter is not when Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world. That was Friday, and that’s why we call it Good Friday! And that is so important. Because Jesus died for us, our sins are forgiven and we can be reconciled to God. But that’s not the end. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Easter is the rest of the story, the next chapter, the “so what” of it all. In Romans 6:4 the Apostle Paul writes:
We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Paul wrote Romans to share the Good News about Jesus Christ and his Resurrection. In the opening verses of Romans, which was our second scripture reading today, Paul identifies himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus, set apart for the gospel or Good News of God. I want to look at these verses with you because they present in short form why the Resurrection is Good News and what it means for those who trust in Jesus Christ.
What is the Good News? à Jesus is the Son of God! (v.4)
Paul understands himself to be a servant of Jesus, called as an apostle. That means that he is a man on a mission, and that mission is sharing the Good News (gospel). That’s his purpose in writing this letter to the Romans and it’s his life-purpose. So I want to ask, “What is this Good News?” Even in these introductory verses, Paul has quite a bit to say about it, noting that Jesus was PROMISED and PRESENTED as the Son of God.
2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures
3 concerning His Son, born of a descendant of David according to the flesh
First, Jesus was promised… through the prophets in the holy Scriptures (v.2). We’ve noted that Jesus fulfilled numerous scriptures written about the Messiah, from the healing and freeing of people captive to spiritual, emotional, and physical maladies to symbolic acts like riding the donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And by no means least among the promises in the Hebrew scriptures of our Old Testament are the promise that the Messiah would be born from David’s line. And so two of the Gospels trace this lineage from David to Jesus.
The Good News God “promised beforehand” was that He would send the Messiah to usher in the Kingdom and declare peace. And up until Jesus’ death, more and more people in Jerusalem and the surrounding area were believing that Jesus was that Messiah, so much so that he was perceived as a threat to the religious and secular powers of the day. But short of resurrection, all that seemed like it had failed. He had been killed, put down before he became too much of a threat.
4 who was declared the Son of God
with power by the resurrection from the dead
according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord
It’s this next part that has to do with today and resurrection. In verse 4 Paul writes that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” That word declared can also mean demonstrated or even ‘presented.’ It was the Resurrection that showed Jesus to be who he said he was, who scriptures promised he would be. It was the power of God on display. If you were here two weeks ago when we talked about Lazarus, we noted that raising him from the dead was the demonstration of God’s power in a public way. Even more so, the Resurrection of Jesus demonstrated God’s power and Jesus’ victory over sin and death. He was not defeated, but victorious!
Some would try to discredit the Resurrection, saying that he had only fainted or that the body had been stolen. But it was publicly witnessed that the soldiers verified his death by piercing his side while still on the cross. And they knew what they were doing. The Gospel writers list out eye-witnesses to the Resurrected Jesus, not just one or two, but hundreds who could be interviewed and corroborated in the days that followed.
The Resurrection is at the heart of the Good News because it demonstrates or shows Jesus to be just who Paul names him to be: Jesus Christ the Lord. And for those of us who accept the testimony and demonstration presented to us by the Resurrection, he is Jesus Christ OUR Lord.
Invited: Now that You’ve Heard… (vv.5-7)
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship
to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints
Paul doesn’t end there; his letter is not just a summary of what Jesus has done. He goes on in verses 5-7 to address those who would read this letter. It is no longer Paul talking about his own mission and calling, but now WE who have received “grace and apostleship and a calling.” For all who have heard this Good News that Jesus is the Son of God, there are six take-aways that involve you.
Grace – Through Jesus Christ, we have received grace. Grace is a gift, a kindness. It is God’s forgiveness, love, adoption, and calling all rolled into one. God loves you and wants you to be a part of His family and work. In Christ you are welcome and you belong.
Mission – I mentioned God’s work; it is no surprise that it is mentioned right there alongside grace. ‘Apostleship’ is the mission we are on, to love God and love others, to serve God and serve others. We aren’t saved and shown grace to simply be put on a shelf of holy things, but God welcomes us in order that we participate in what He is doing in the world. And so we are sent into the world to love and to serve.
Obedience – Paul goes on to mention one aspect of this mission: it is “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.” For a mission that started in Jerusalem, this is another way of saying “to the whole world.” This Gospel, this Good News, this mission… it is for everyone, for all who will hear. It’s not just for those who come into our church, but for all we come in contact with (and beyond) when we walk out of here. Our own participation in the mission might be described as “obedience of faith” because someone shared the Good News with us. And we are sent out in the same way, that others might believe and trust the Lord.
Faith – Faith is what I described earlier as believing the testimony of what has been presented to us about Jesus. The women and the disciples had the opportunity to see, talk, and touch the risen Lord. They had proof. We have their testimony and the promises and presentation of scripture and people, but we have to accept it on faith. We then become part of presenting testimony and service to others, that they might believe in faith.
Loved – Paul describes those to whom he writes as “beloved of God.” This is important to name as well! God loves you! It’s not all about the mission and the obedience, but the belonging. In Christ you are a part of God’s family; you are wanted; you are loved. You are God’s beloved.
Purpose – Paul ends this introduction with “called as saints” and twice uses “called” in vv.6-7. Saints sounds like some kind of super-Christian, something other than how you think of yourself. But it simply means “set apart.” It’s another way of saying that you belong to Christ and that he has work for you to do. That doesn’t mean be a pastor or a missionary (though it might!), but to be a follower of Jesus in the world. Last Thursday night we talked about the last commandment Jesus gave: to love as I have loved and to serve as I have served. This is our work and purpose, elaborated in the other teaching of Jesus and pages of scripture. But that’s what “called as saints” means: Jesus is Lord and you follow him with your life.
The Resurrection Means…
All six of these things are a quick take on what does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that God raised him from the dead? This is just the “Dear Reader” part of Paul’s letter! He writes 15 chapters to elaborate on these few short verses here. But the intro provides a good overview and summary: God has shown you in Christ that you are loved, wanted, and invited to participate in God’s work in the world.
That’s what we are about at Good Shepherd. Come back and be a part of that with us! In the weeks to come we will continue to explore this theme as we look at several post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus to different people. Come back and we’ll explore together! Amen.
Some Music Used
- Choral Call to Worship: O Lamb of God (Boesel, Youngblood)
- Christ the Lord is Risen Today
- Behold OUr God
- Is He Worthy
- Offertory: Crown Him with Many Crowns (organ/piano duet)
- King of Kings