Legacy Admission
Friday of Easter 3
5 May 2017
"That which is started well is half done," says the homey proverb. Christ's resurrection is that sort of start to our own. We live as the resurrected ones though Him who is the firstfruits of those who sleep. John the Apostle is particularly adamant that eternal life is a present possession (Jn 3:16-18), but Paul also sees resurrection as a proleptic possession, that is, that we now have it and will also possess it fully on the Day of Judgment. Certainly, the rising to newness of life in baptism is part of the present possession of the life to come (Rm 6:4-5).
 
Christ's resurrection gives us certainty about our own. Just as He was laid in the grave, so too will we be. Just as He burst death's doors, so we shall burst forth from death unto life. It must be this way, just as the head is always followed by the body. If the head rises, so also will the body. We are that body that follows the Head from the grave. Here is why there is such great joy in the Easter season for us Christians, because it proclaims not just the Lord's indestructible life, but it also teaches us our own. Christ in Himself has no need of the Easter mystery. He is the Easter mystery. But He does not need to die, and for that reason has no reason in Himself to rise from the dead. He does all this for our sakes, that we who are His body by faith might die and rise with Him. So certain are we of this life in Christ, that for us death is only a "little sleep." Jesus describes the dead maiden (Jn 5:39) and His friend, Lazarus (Jn 11:11-12), as only asleep because they will rise. Paul is so certain of this awaking that he does not speak of us as the "dead," but only as those who are asleep (1Co 15:18-20). I am just as certain that I will rise from the bed of death as I am that I will awaken tomorrow morning after a peaceful night of sleep. This is why we pray, "Now I lay me down to sleep..."
 
Some colleges have what they call "legacy" admissions for students whose parents or grandparents are graduates of the institution. (I wonder, since there are "legacy" admissions, if there wouldn't also be "legacy" rejections for students whose parents or grandparents might have perpetrated some particularly egregious student prank.) Certainly, there is a legacy admission to the new life, the resurrection of the flesh, and the life of the world to come. For Christ has been the Father's favorite, that we might become His favorites. The Son has triumphed over death, therefore we have triumphed over death. The Son has been admitted into the heaven, which our Father has prepared for us, that we might enter with Him to that life. Whatever He did, He did for us sinners. He has gained admission to the new life, therefore we also are admitted. Christ has left us a legacy of life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"It was not necessary for Christ to die for Himself, because He was born without sin and the devil had no claim on Him. Moreover, He was Lord over devil and death, so that the devil did not dare to attack Him. Christ might well have defied the devil and challenged him to touch one little hair of His head. This is the way He repelled the Jews in the Garden when He said: 'I am He' (Jn 18:5). No, we must view Him in this light, that this dying and rising again were for your benefit and mine. As He died and lay under the sod as you and I must die and be buried, thus He also rose again for our sakes and made an exchange with us; as He was brought into death through us, we shall be restored from death to life through Him. For by His death He has devoured our death, so that we all will also arise and live as He arose and lives. Therefore Christ is rightly called Primitiae, 'the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,' since He takes the lead and draws the whole throng after Him. For whenever a first one is mentioned, it is implied that more than one are involved. The others who follow, the second, the third, and so forth, are included here, all bound together, as many as have fallen asleep. Otherwise, if Christ had risen alone and no one were to follow Him, He could not be called the First.
 
"And note well that Paul refrains from calling those 'dead' who will rise after Christ. No, he says that Christ is 'the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.' And yet he says that Christ arose, not from sleep but 'from the dead.' For what was a true and eternal death prior to this and without Christ is now, since Christ has passed from death to life and has arisen, no longer death; now it has become merelya little sleep. And so the Christians who lie in the ground are no longer called dead, but sleepers, people who will surely also arise again. For when we say that people are asleep, we refer to those who are lying down but will wake up and rise again, not those who are lying down bereft of all hope of rising again. Of the latter we do not say that they are sleeping but that they are inanimate corpses. Therefore by that very word 'asleep' Scripture indicates the future resurrection.
 
"And what is more than that, by calling Christ 'the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep' Paul wishes to signify that the resurrection is to be viewed and understood as having already begun in Christ, indeed, as being more than half finished, and that this remnant of death is to be regarded as no more than a deep sleep, and that the future resurrection of our body will not differ from suddenly awaking from such a sleep. For the main and best part of this has already come to pass, namely, that Christ, our Head, has arisen. But now that the Head is seated on high and lives, there is no longer any reason for concern. We who cling to Him must also follow after Him as His body and His members. For where the head goes and abides, there the body with all the members must necessarily follow and abide. As in the birth of man and of all animals, the head naturally appears first, and after this is born, the whole body follows easily. Now since Christ has passed over and reigns above in heaven over sin, death, devil, and everything, and since He did this for our sake to draw us after Him, we need no longer worry about our resurrection and life, though we depart and rot in the ground. For now this is no more than a sleep. And for Christ it is but a night before He rouses us from the sleep." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 20-21
Revelation 1:1-8

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You stand victorious o'er death and grave. Help me to live in faith and hope even at the moment of my death that I might pass death's portal with peace in You. Grant that through faith I would fear my grace as little as my bed. Amen.
 
For the family of Dan Harrison, who passed away, that they would grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
 
For the conference at LINK, San Antonio, that those who attend might be strengthened in their courage and built up in the holy faith of Christ
 
For Ellen Brda as she recovers from chemotherapy, that she might regain full health and strength and thank the God who has brought her healing
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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