Sydney slouched in her desk. High school isn’t so easy. She finished her history presentation late last night and had no time to study for her math test or science quiz. Her best friend is miffed at her because they both liked the same boy. Now even her other friends cold-shoulder her. Upperclassmen look down on her; underclassmen ignore her. She feels so isolated. Where do you find strength?
Jeff stared back at the reflection in the mirror. How could he think such disgusting thoughts about his friend? The soul-crushing shame leaves him worried that God cannot forgive him. In fact, at this moment, he does not even feel saved. And if he does not feel saved, then does that mean he is not saved? Is he even a Christian anymore? If he were to die this minute, would he go to hell? How can you be sure that you have faith?
Walt sat beside the pit. A casket was suspended above it. His beloved wife of 53-years lay inside. This is it. After decades spent together, this is where he must leave her and where she leaves him. It hurts. He feels so empty inside, so abandoned. Tears flow as the memories replay. The future appears so empty, so unfulfilling. Will you ever feel happy again?
Well… what are the answers? You have four different people at four different stages in life, all looking for the same security, the same certainty, the same rock-solid assurance that everything will truly be alright. Where do you find the answers?
The natural reaction is to dig inside of yourself. To consult your mind, to trust your decisions, and do whatever makes sense. Yet, God gives an even better answer, an answer that fills you with the security you crave. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept and it unlocks a life of peace.
We’re still focusing on Easter, and more specifically, Easter Day. Do you notice that each gospel book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) share various reports about the first Easter? You do not read, “On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. Then he ascended into heaven. Now he sits at the right hand of God the Father. The end.” No, each gospel writer spends time recounting the many different events happening at the tomb. In fact, each gospel-writer describe the angels surrounding the empty tomb, sharing the happy message: “He’s risen!” The disciple John says he and Peter sprinted off to the cemetery to see for themselves if the tomb was really empty. Luke tells you that Jesus appeared to two disciples who were hiking to a city called Emmaus. In our Easter sunrise service, we piece these Easter events together into one ongoing narrative. (It takes 40-minutes to read that account—and some resurrection-visits are still left out!) You see, God provides so many details about Jesus’ resurrection because the human heart is so slow to grasp the precious peace Jesus brings you.
I mean, just look at our reading from Luke 24. It’s still Easter evening and you discover the Eleven disciples are still barricaded behind locked doors (John 20:19)—even after everything that has already happened. Yes, still hiding even after Mary Magdalene tells them: “Jesus is alive!” (Luke 24:9-11). Yes, still afraid for their lives even after Peter saw the empty tomb (24:12). Yes, still unsure what happened to Jesus even after the two Emmaus disciples say they ate with Jesus (24:34-35). The disciples still do not understand what the resurrection means for their present-day life.
While they were still talking about [these resurrection reports], Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” What kind of reactions would you expect? Joy? “Jesus, you’re not dead! Hurray!” Relief? “Jesus can protect us!” Peace? “Our Teacher is alive!” Nope. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
Did you catch the reason for their fear? They thought [they saw a ghost]. And it sounds so silly, doesn’t it? Like the disciples are these uneducated, superstitious dummies. Why do you think they saw a ghost? Well, they saw Jesus crucified. They saw him buried. They saw a large stone seal the tomb shut. Dead people remain dead; they do not come back to life. So, they think they see a ghost because they this is what their brains and their hearts tell them is true.
Yet, do you see what they rely on? Their brains. Their hearts. Two sources that cannot give them peace, safety, or certainty.
Are you any different?
Yes, you may not fear ghosts, but the future is scary. So much is unknown: how will you pay for college? …provide opportunities for your [grand]child? …make sure your [grand]child has a great life? You trust your own decisions and feelings, always nervously fretting if everything will be fine.
You feel not-saved. Guilt makes you feel so unworthy to be a child of God. In order to silence the worry, you try to feel saved. You point at your good behavior. You try to convince yourself that you must be pretty good. You never know if this is enough.
Life feels aimless. Your friends forsake you. Your spouse leaves you. How will you feel better? You do not really know, so you just sink into despair.
You see, like the disciples, you (and I) have a heart that craves security. Yet, when troubles flare up, you rely on your own guidance instead of running to God’s Word for strength. You trust yourself, thinking you can control the future. Yet, that is why fear grips you— because you cannot control the future.
So, why rely on yourself? Isn’t that what Jesus is asking you? “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” When has Jesus ever broken a promise? When has putting God’s Word to work led to greater misery? Why do you (and I) live troubled? Because, if you are truly honest with yourself, you do not trust God will keep his Word. That, my friends, will throw you (and me) into unending misery.
When you are frightened, when you are scared, when you face trouble but do not know where to turn, remember this: The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear!
Each word Jesus speaks reveals promises kept. Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. The disciples shove their fingers into the hands and side. They touch the soft, warm flesh. Their hands stop at his body; they cannot pass through. Little by little they realize this is no ghost. Yet, They still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…
So, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. Yet, touching and watching does not strengthen faith. Jesus gives something even better. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
There’s the comfort. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear because It reveals promises kept. The Old Testament promised: The Christ would suffer. Did the Christ not suffer in your place, for your self-trust? Since he died for you, has God not kept his Word? The Old Testament promised: The Christ would rise on the third day. Did the Christ not rise to declare your sins removed? Since he does rise and brings your forgiveness, has God not kept his Word?
You see, all things have happened just as God said they would. When your heart search for peace and when worry seizes you, turn back to the Word of God and grab onto those promises. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept and It unlocks a life of peace.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Understand, the disciples knew their Bibles. They knew Moses promised a great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15). They read the Old Testament prophecies which pointed to a Savior who would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; and our punishment that brought us peace placed on him (Isaiah 53:5). The disciples knew the psalms told how God would raise Jesus up to be the capstone, the King of the heaven and earth (Psalm 118:22-24). Yet, Jesus takes what the disciples saw and connects it to what Scripture promised. With renewed focus they saw Jesus as he truly is: the Son of God! They could turn to their Bibles, read them, take hold of God’s promises and know those promises are as good as kept. Yes, Jesus opens their minds unlocking a life of peace.
The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! Your minds have been opened to understand God’s Word as truth. The Holy Spirit has created faith in your heart to receive the Bible as God’s truth. The Holy Spirit continues strengthening faith only through the Word and sacraments.
Set your attention on the promises your Jesus has (1) made and (2) kept in the Word for you. In baptism, water is splashed on the head and God’s Word spoken. “Baptized in the name of the Father, Son and (+) Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When you were baptized, God made you his family member. So, when you feel hopelessly alone, point at your baptism and see God stands with you. When guilt crushes you, point at your baptism and say, “I am forgiven because Jesus promises so!” The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear as it unlocks a life of peace.
In Holy Communion Jesus gives you his body and blood with the bread and wine. He wraps his arm across your shoulder and says, “See, I carried away your guilt and shame. I died to set you free from hell. I rose to tell you that all is done. Go, live in peace because you are at peace with God.” When you are tempted to think that you must remove your sin, point to the Lord’s Supper and say, “Jesus died to cleanse me!” The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear as it unlocks a life of peace.
When life seems aimless find peace in The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord. God makes promises he will not break. When the anxiety of older age and the pressures of parenting leave you feeling without answers, The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord gives you strength. Jesus promised to open heaven and kept his Word. You can be sure he will be with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
The natural reaction is to dig inside of yourself for answers. To consult your mind, to trust your decisions, and do whatever makes sense. Yet, God gives an even better answer—one that does not fail or fall like ours so often do. Turn to the Word of God. The very instant trouble rises up, go to him. When fear nags you, remember your baptism, remember the Lord’s Supper. Here, he makes you his and strengthens you to remain his.
You hear so many Easter events because our hearts struggle to grasp the real peace Jesus gives. Set your attention on The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept. It unlocks a life of peace.