Summary: Using C. F. W. Walther’s hymn He’s Risen, He’s Risen this sermon celebrates the truth that Christ is risen and the certain comfort that brings.
Epiphany 6 C
Hymn Study LW 138
Our hymn’s story begins with a group of German theological students from the region of Saxony. Among them were men like E. G. W. Keyl, Theodore Buenger and a young pianist and accomplished hymn-writer by the name of C. F. W. Walther.
One would think that would assure these men a faithful upbringing in the truth of God’s word. After all, it was Saxony from which Martin Luther conducted his most of his life and ministry from which the Protestant Reformation grew. But after Luther died, “Lutheranism” as a movement, grew much more conducive to compromising the truth of God’s Word. It was encouraged to do this even more by various movements within Christendom; movements like Pietism (that believed deeds were more important than creeds) and Rationalism (that argued that human reason should be the sole judge as to the truth of God’s Word).
It was the latter that was particularly troublesome since it called into question, anything and everything that was not in harmony with “rational” thought. Gone was any idea of Jesus being conceived by the Holy Spirit or born of a “virgin” Mary. Gone were the accounts of Jesus’ victory over the temptations of the evil one. Gone were the miracles of Christ, especially his own resurrection from the dead; all of which proved intolerable.
It was Corinth relived. Paul had faced the same breed of pointy-headed, intellectual deniers from within the church; people who just couldn’t bring themselves to accept the idea that the dead will live again. And I suppose every generation has them, ours included; but not without consequence to the Gospel.
“If resurrection from death is impossible then Jesus, who was true man, couldn’t have been raised to life either. It then follows that if Christ wasn’t raised, the preaching of the apostles is a lie, baseless, a total delusion. And since that faith is essentially trust in the forgiveness of sins made possible by Christ and guaranteed in his resurrection, you would still be under sin’s condemnation, subject to judgment. Then also, those who have already died trusting in this redemption of Christ, would have done so with a worthless hope of obtaining salvation. It would be a sham. And our condition would be even worse for not only would we be lost together with everyone else; but we would be lost having confessed a hope, having conformed our life according to that hope, having suffered reproach and every kind of ill for the sake of this hope only to have it turn out to be empty. Go ahead and discount the miraculous, deny the resurrection,” Paul says, “but I don’t know why any follower of Christ would. To deny the resurrection is to discredit the Word upon which our hope is founded and it negates any true hope we might have in Christ. Besides that, to our great joy, Christ has been raised and the results are staggering.”
He’s been raised like the first-fruits of a harvest; which according to Jewish law were always brought before the Lord as a sign and token of the entire harvest that would come by the Lord’s hand and that would be set aside for His purposes. Jesus was the first to lay aside his mortal flesh and assume a spiritual body which would not be subject to death for all eternity. And so they that fall asleep, hoping in Him, will also rise from death. The first harvest-sheaf will be followed by all the others sheaves. All believers will lay aside their mortal flesh; and set apart to God by faith, they will partake of the same glory in the life to come. Maybe Jesus said it best in the 14th chapter of John on the evening before his death on the cross. “1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:1-6, 18-19). Because I live, you will live also, with me, in the place where I am going, because of what I’m about to do for you.