The text for our consideration this Easter Sunday is Psalm 98, the first verse. “Oh sing to the LORD a NEW SONG, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” (Ps.98:1)
We have come here this morning to hear the story about Jesus Christ – who claimed to be the Son of God, who was crucified, died and buried, rose again from the dead on the 3rd day. It’s a strange story to say the least. And yet it’s a story that those who believe that this Jesus Christ really is who He says He is – the very Son of God – hold to be the greatest story ever told – and just as importantly, the greatest story ever heard.
For as strange a story as it is, we believe it to be absolutely true – not just ‘hypothetically true’ or ‘true in some symbolic or spiritual sort of way’ – but literally and concretely true.
• He really is who He says He is.
• He really was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
• He really did die on the cross.
• He really did rise from the dead in both body and soul on the 3rd day just as the Scriptures describe it.
• He really was seen by the men and women whom He visited during the 40 days before He really did ascend into heaven.
This is the story that we believe to be absolutely true – as strange a story that it is. And we love to hear this story over and over again, not simply because it’s so remarkably true, but because we believe that in some profound and mysterious way, the dying and the rising of this God/man, is the single event to which world history was moving from the beginning of time, and the single event that determines where this world is headed at the end of time.
Easter is God’s promise of a SEQUEL to the creation of the world in the beginning – where everything was new and perfect and VERY GOOD. Easter is the NEW CREATION of the world – IN THESE LAST DAYS – where everything is new and perfect and VERY GOOD again.
And of course, the only reason there needs to be a SEQUEL to the first creation – is because it became infected with a deadly virus called sin that spread to all people and even worked its way into the material fabric of the creation itself – all because of one man named Adam.
If you’re going to understand what the big deal about Easter is – you’ve got to understand the nature of this deadly virus called Sin. Sin is not primarily the sinful things we do. Our sinful actions are only the inevitable result our sinful nature. The ‘virus’ has gotten into our very being and taken us over. It’s not that we are sinful because we sin. We sin because we are by NATURE, sinful. When we SIN we’re just doing what comes natural.
We all know that this old world is falling apart and that the times are evil and every generation is right when it says, ‘things have never been this bad and I don’t know how much worse they can get.’
But in our desperate search for a remedy to cure the disease we typically only treat the symptoms. We keep hoping that stronger government and better programs and even holy wars will finally do the trick. We keeping hoping that advanced medicine and the latest technology and faster internet will provide the solutions that we need to make this world a better place to live.
But every significant ‘advancement’ turns out to be nothing more than anesthesia that may dull the pain for a while, or even given some small measure of joy, but only for a while – but then it wears off and the pain returns.
Every new invention that promised to make our lives better; every war that promised to be the end of all wars; every advancement in science and technology that promised utopia, was either only amazingly temporary or has actually backfired in ways that were never anticipated.
And everyone who has ever put their hope in these things for a new world or a new life or a perfect marriage or perfect children have either been terrible disappointed or most certainly will be.
Because all of these things only treat the symptoms. Because that’s all that they can do. Because human beings who are infected with the VIRUS themselves cannot get to the heart of it – which is the human heart. All we can do is address the symptoms – we cannot change our nature.
So on Easter, by the foolishness of a cross and by the shame of crucifixion – the Son of God – God got to the heart of the problem which is the human heart. The only one who was NOT INFECTED with Adam’s deadly virus was the only one who could actually deal with the corrupt, sinful nature in us and create a whole new man – with a whole new nature – the nature of the 2nd Adam who is Jesus Christ.
This is the heart and soul of the Easter story. On Good Friday and Easter, which is all one, divine, indivisible act, God established His NEW CREATION. In the CRUCIFIED CHRIST, He has put the old, sinful nature in us to death. In the RISEN CHRIST, He raised up His NEW ADAM – and through Him, a whole new generation of human beings are RECREATED with a NEW NATURE not like the old.
Paul announces the good news to the Corinthians saying, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION. The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Paul tells the Galatians to quit focusing so much on the symptoms. That’s not the real problem. “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a NEW CREATION.” (Gal. 6:15)
Historically, Easter Sunday has always been Baptism Sunday for the church. Holy Baptism is where that OLD, DESEASED, sinful nature in us is crucified and dies with Christ, and a whole NEW person is raised with Christ. Writing to Romans, Paul declares, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in NEWNESS OF LIFE.” (Romans 6:4)
This “newness of life” is not just a new resolution to try harder and do better. We all know how long that lasts. The “newness of life” that Paul is speaking of here is a WHOLE NEW NATURE.
Paul reminds the Ephesians that in their baptism, they have both, “PUT OFF your OLD SELF, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires… and PUT ON the NEW SELF, created AFTER THE LIKENESS OF GOD in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Through Jesus, crucified and raised from the dead, God has done FOR US what we can never do for ourselves. He has created in us a whole new nature – in fact – His own nature.
And now He sets all of these ‘new creations’ loose on this old, dying world – each and every one of them, guided by His Holy Spirit – to work at making stronger laws and better government and advanced medicine and more technology – NOT in the foolish hope that this will save this dying world or the people in it from dying – but simply because it’s the loving thing to do.
And for all of those ‘new creations in the likeness of God,’ the loving thing to do is just doing what comes natural.
The baptized into Christ are His ‘new creatures’ who mingle and mix with the ‘old creatures.” And we’re not just talking about ‘us’ and ‘them’ – because the ‘new nature’ is still mingled and mixed with the ‘old nature’ in each of us. And every day the NEW CREATION struggles and battles with the OLD – and the losses outnumber the victories – and every day is a returning to your baptism and a dying again to sin and a rising again to that NEW LIFE in Christ again.
But every day, day after day, all over this dying world, men and women, boys and girls are being baptized. And more and more ‘new creations’ are populating this dying planet every minute. And our Lord knows the number of the elect and one day, which no one knows when, but it could very well be tomorrow, He will come again and SEPARATE the old from the new as far as heaven is from hell – never to be mixed or mingled again.
The apostle John, sees the FINAL OUTCOME of Easter’s victory from his heavenly perch and declares what he sees.
“Then I saw A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:1-5)
This is the Easter story. The strange story of what our Lord, Jesus Christ has accomplished by His death and resurrection from the dead.
On Easter Sunday, (which is EVERY SUNDAY by the way), we come together in this place and countless other places in this old, dying world,
• to hear the story about Jesus Christ and all that He has done,
• to be confess our sins and receive His forgiveness,
• to eat and drink the body and blood of our crucified and risen Lord for the forgiveness of our sin and the strengthening of our faith,
• to encourage and support and pray for one another in the struggle and the journey,
• and with one voice, to sing the NEW SONG of the NEW CREATION.
“Oh sing to the LORD a NEW SONG, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.” (Ps.98:1)