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Acts 3:13-19

 

"The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  And his name - by faith in his name - has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

 

"And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out." (ESV)

An End to History

Easter Wednesday

8 April 2015

In 1989, at the end of the Cold War, American political philosopher, Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history. He presumed that at the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world would settle into a quiet and inevitable trend toward liberal democracy. Of course, Fukuyama was found to be wrong. At least in the short term, there has been no end to history as anyone in the U.S. military will easily attest.

 

In another way, Fukuyama overshot the real end of history; by some centuries. History ended on Easter Sunday morning some two thousand years ago. The ultimate war between God and sinners has been pronounced over by the decisive act of the resurrection of God's Son from the dead. God's enemies vanquished lie as Christ the Victor surges forth from a tomb of death that could not hold Him. Your sin lies in the tomb: "See where he was laid!" says the angel to the women. "Go ahead, look! What do you see there? Only the left-overs of death: the detritus of burial, spices to reduce the smell of decay scattered over the floor of the tomb. No such smell ever arose from the body of God's Son. His Father had promised Him: "You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption" (Ps 16:10). Neither death nor its decay could grasp Him. He suffered not the rigors of death. His body, suffused with divinity could not become stiffened with one eye open, the other shut, His mouth gaping distorted to one side in agony, arms stretched out to embrace death upon the accursed tree. No, His Father promised Him that His death would not have those awful signs of putrefaction that ours does. Even in death, He was filled with joy for the work He accomplished. The entombed Lord exults: "My whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure" (Psalm 16:9).

 

History's object is death. There is no end to that history. Everyone has a date with death. As Civil War general and President Ulysses S. Grant was dying, he was trying to finish his memoirs. He wrote to his doctor: 'With every word I had been adding to my book and to my coffin.'" The death of political figures is the staccato flow of historical reality: President Lincoln is assassinated, Napoleon Bonaparte perhaps poisoned, Gustavus Adolphus dead upon the battle field, Adolf Hitler thrown into a shallow ditch and burned. Thousands upon thousands slaughtered under their leadership, bodies strewn from Stalingrad to Gettysburg; millions suffering the rigor mortis of a wretched death: frozen in time, to become merely gruesome Matthew-Brady-photographs from a field turned from glory to slaughter. 

 

But at the entry to the empty tomb here now was the decisive end to history. The soldiers faint as though dead. They flee; their office now obsolete in the face of the power of life. The tomb cannot hold that one indestructible life. The final enemy, death, lies now dead, exploded by the life of Christ, the risen Lord. Those whose office it is to cause death, find themselves unable to carry out their work. Christ could not be put down by their best professional efforts. Now they know their whips, swords, and spears cannot possibly have any effect on Him. Now they see that these weapons of suffering and death only spread the seed of His suffering and death: splattering the life-giving blood about the Praetorium, pouring water and blood upon the Hill famous for death, now the sign of life. Death itself has become the servant of life. Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (Jn 12:24-25). The signs of slaughter only make His life greater and more powerful. "Drop the instruments of death and run, soldiers!" Life is running at you full tilt. You cannot kill it! 

 

Martin Luther

 

"Isaiah says: 'his resting place shall be glorious' (Is 11:10), that is, His burial, which all men regard as the utmost confusion and misery, is glory before God. So He Himself says: "You will not let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life, etc." (Ps 16:10-11).

 

"Therefore the might and kindness of God must be set over against our infirmity and poverty, and finally against death itself. The Germans use an elegant proverb which says: 'God has more than He has ever given.' God still has more good things and more help than He has ever distributed. With this saying they wanted to point out the immense and inexhaustible goodness of God. For if we die, we really do not perish, but we live by believing His promise. And even though He lets life, goods, wife, and children be torn away by the pope or the Turk, what happens? The present life is taken away in order that another and far better life may be restored to us. For God is able to give, and will without any doubt give, more than He has ever yet bestowed."

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 45.5
 
Collect for Easter Wednesday

Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord would continue to bless him with strength and healing

 

For those who are seeking work, that the Lord Jesus would grant them labor in keeping with their vocation

 

For all those who are suffering losses from inclement weather, that they would get the help they need and the strength to confess God's goodness in the midst of trial and death

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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