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“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

On the evening of that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to His disciples where they were gathered together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews and showed them His hands and His side to prove to them that He truly was Jesus and that He really had risen from the dead (John 20:19-20).

Two times Jesus said to them: “Peace be unto you.” Since Christ had died upon the cross for their sins and was risen again in victory, they had peace with God – the peace of having all sins pardoned and forgiven through faith in the shed blood of Jesus (cf. Eph. 2:11ff.; 1 John 2:1-2).

The Bible says: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

Not only did Jesus bless them with the peace of sins forgiven, He breathed on them, gave them His Holy Spirit and commissioned them to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain (not forgive) the sins of impenitent sinners as long as they do not repent (John 20:21-23). We often speak of this as the Office of the Keys because it opens the gates of heaven to those who are sorry for their sins and look to Christ and His redemptive work and closes the gates of heaven to those who are not sorry for their sins or do not trust in Christ for forgiveness. Indeed, it takes the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to rightly use and apply these keys to others, but this is what Christ our Savior would have us do!

Some would object and say, “How can we, as believers in Christ, forgive and retain sins? Only God can do that!” This power is given us precisely because of Christ’s death upon the cross for the sins of all mankind and His glorious resurrection on the third day. Since Christ has paid for all sin and is risen in victory, we can announce and proclaim God’s pardon and peace to penitent sinners. And since Christ is the only way of salvation, we must also warn those who continue in sin and unbelief of the coming judgment of God upon all who do not repent.

As Jesus says, “He that believeth on Him [the Son] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we thank and praise You for Your death on the cross for our sins and for Your glorious resurrection and ascension. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in You and find peace in the pardon You have won for us, and help us to rightly apply Your Word to others that they too might receive the comfort and peace of knowing their sins are forgiven and that they too might have life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture Quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:8-11

As we consider Jesus’ sufferings and death for the sins of the world and His glorious resurrection from the dead on the third day, it is fitting to consider what this historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection means for each of us as believers, and Psalm 16 is one of many passages of God’s Word to consider.

After Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of the world, His body was laid in the tomb. But, as the psalm states and Peter testified at the feast of Pentecost, and Paul at Pisidian Antioch, Jesus’ body was not left in the grave and did not see corruption and decay. Rather, His body was raised up to life on the third day, a glorious and heavenly body, and was received up to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, where there are “pleasures for evermore” (cf. Psalm 16, Acts 2:22ff.; 13:34ff.).

So also, because Christ has died for us and is risen again, we who believe have been raised up to spiritual life in Christ and have the LORD God at our right hand (cf. Eph. 2:4-7) to preserve and keep us — we shall not be moved. We have a glorious inheritance awaiting us in the promised land of heaven.

Because Christ has paid in full for all our sins and is risen again, our hearts, too, are glad; we trust in Him and rejoice in His mercy and forgiveness toward us.

When we die, our bodies rest in hope — looking forward to that day when the dead in Christ are raised up with glorified bodies and will be forever with the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:35ff.; 1 Thess. 4:13ff.). Because Christ’s body saw no corruption but was raised up again on the third day, we can be certain that we too will be raised up and we shall see, in our resurrected and glorified bodies, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ (cf. Job 19:25ff.; 1 Cor. 15:20ff.).

Because of Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of the world, and because He rose again in victory, we have the confidence that we will be raised up in Christ’s likeness and that we will enjoy the pleasures which are at God’s right hand forevermore! (cf. Psalm 17:15).

“Jesus lives! And now is death but the gate of life immortal; This shall calm my trembling breath when I pass its gloomy portal. Faith shall cry as fails each sense: Jesus is my confidence!” (Lutheran Service Book, Page 490, v. 5).

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….” Matthew 28:5-6

It had been a painful week for the followers of Jesus. They followed Him as He rode into Jerusalem, hailed as Messiah and King of the Jews. They heard His words as He taught in the temple. They heard His laments and rebukes because of unbelief and heard of the judgments to come. They saw His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. They witnessed His trials, the horrors of His crucifixion and saw His lifeless body taken down from the cross and hastily laid in a nearby tomb before the Sabbath day began.

Now, all that remained was to complete His burial before returning home. Jesus was dead. All His teaching about forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and eternal life in God’s kingdom was buried with Him in that tomb.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the women (Luke 23:55 – 24:2): “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre….”

For many today, Easter Sunday is a day to finish properly Jesus’ burial. Lent is over and we can now put Jesus’ sufferings and death behind us and move on to other things – at least for another year. It is a day to say His life and death have meaning and His legacy lives on in our hearts.

But Jesus wasn’t in the tomb! Instead, an angel was there and announced to the women: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….” And, as the women hurried to tell Jesus’ disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. He was alive – not just in spirit, but bodily – they held his feet and worshiped Him.

His death was full payment for the sins of the world; God accepted the sacrifice of His Son and raised Him up, proving that all who trust in Him are justified and forgiven (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20). He truly is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26). He lives and we shall live also (John 14:19; Job 19:25-27;1 Thess. 4:13-18). All His words and teaching are indeed true! He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15) and we shall reign with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-7)!

We come today not to eulogize Him in death but to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil and to rejoice in the new and everlasting life He won for us!

O crucified and risen Lord Jesus, grant that we might see and believe the message of the angel and rejoice in Your triumph over sin and death that we might have the certain hope of life everlasting in You. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….” Matthew 28:5-6

It had been a painful week for the followers of Jesus. They followed Him as He rode into Jerusalem, hailed as Messiah and King of the Jews. They heard His words as He taught in the temple. They heard His laments and rebukes because of unbelief and heard of the judgments to come. They saw His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. They witnessed His trials, the horrors of His crucifixion and saw His lifeless body taken down from the cross and hastily laid in a nearby tomb before the Sabbath day began.

Now, all that remained was to complete His burial before returning home. Jesus was dead. All His teaching about forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and eternal life in God’s kingdom was buried with Him in that tomb.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the women (Luke 23:55 – 24:2): “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre….”

For many today, Easter Sunday is a day to finish properly Jesus’ burial. Lent is over and we can now put Jesus’ sufferings and death behind us and move on to other things – at least for another year. It is a day to say His life and death have meaning and His legacy lives on in our hearts.

But Jesus wasn’t in the tomb! Instead, an angel was there and announced to the women: “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay….” And, as the women hurried to tell Jesus’ disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. He was alive – not just in spirit, but bodily – they held his feet and worshiped Him.

His death was full payment for the sins of the world; God accepted the sacrifice of His Son and raised Him up, proving that all who trust in Him are justified and forgiven (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20). He truly is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26). He lives and we shall live also (John 14:19; Job 19:25-27;1 Thess. 4:13-18). All His words and teaching are indeed true! He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15) and we shall reign with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-7)!

We come today not to eulogize Him in death but to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil and to rejoice in the new and everlasting life He won for us!

O crucified and risen Lord Jesus, grant that we might see and believe the message of the angel and rejoice in Your triumph over sin and death that we might have the certain hope of life everlasting in You. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 (Read v. 1-20)

The apostle Paul wrote (v. 14-19): “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

Did you get that? If Jesus did not rise bodily from the grave on the third day, the following is true:
1. Our preaching and faith is vain and useless.
2. We are false witnesses of God for preaching that Christ was raised from the dead if He was not.
3. Your faith is worthless and you are still dead in your sins.
4. Those who have died trusting in Christ are perished forever – they will not be raised up, nor will we.
5. If our hope and faith is only for this life, we are of all men most miserable.

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

As we have heard, Christ Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

And Jesus was seen alive by Cephas (Peter), the twelve, more than 500 brethren at once (many still alive when Paul wrote), James, the apostle Paul (v. 5-8). And we can add to that the two on the road to Emmaus, Mary Magdalene and the other women (Mark 16; John 20-21; Matthew 28; Luke 24; Acts 1; Acts 9).

As the angels said, Jesus is alive. He has risen as He said. But what does this mean for you and for me?

Because He lives:
1. Our preaching and faith is true and should be heeded (Mark 16:15-16).
2. We tell the truth when we claim that Jesus rose from the dead and will return to judge the world (Acts 10:39-43).
3. Atonement has been made for all our sins and we have full pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus (v.3-4; Romans 3:23-26; 4:25; Colossians 1:19-23; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).
4. Those who died trusting in Jesus are safe in His arms and He will bring them with Him when He returns on the last day (Luke 16:19-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Psalm 16:8-11; Revelation 7:9-17).
5. We have the certain hope of life everlasting (cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-26; 14:1-6; Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 ; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 35-58; 1 Peter 1:3-9).

O dearest Jesus, we thank You for bearing upon the cross the full punishment for our sins and for rising again in victory that we, too, might have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

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