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Witnesses of the Resurrection

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Grace, mercy and peace be yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Risen and Victorious King. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!...

Introduction

Jesus tells His disciples the first Easter Evening: “You are witnesses of these things?” Witnesses of what? The answer is simple: witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, the disciples are witnesses…firsthand witnesses. They saw the Risen Lord! They saw his hands and his feet. The saw him eat. Yes, the disciples are witnesses of the resurrection, but it’s also more than just them. Today in all of our readings, it talks about witnesses, witnesses of the resurrection…so this is the theme for today. So who are witnesses of the Resurrection?

The Disciples

Most obviously the disciples are witnesses of the resurrection. These are the disciples, those in the Upper Room on the first Easter Evening. The disciples physically saw and heard Jesus as he stood among them. They saw him alive. Even though, they are slow to believe. After all, Jesus appears before them and they are terrified. They think he was a ghost. Last week I said that even after three times of Jesus telling them that he was going to rise from the dead on the third day, they weren’t expecting him. So naturally, they think he’s a ghost, a spirit come back from the dead. Jesus tells them explicitly, a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones…and he shows them his hands and his feet. They saw the risen Lord but still disbelieved for joy and were marveling. As he could still see their disbelief…even though they had joy and were marveling, Jesus asked for food and he ate! Ghosts do not eat. Jesus eats! Jesus is alive!
These disciples are witness of the resurrection and they go out and proclaim the resurrection as we heard in our reading from

13 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. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 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.

Peter and the rest of the disciples proclaimed the Risen Christ. They were witnesses to the fact that Jesus Christ is Alive. This whole fact of being witnesses of the resurrection was crucial for the filling of the office of Judas in . One of the requirements to filling Judas’ office is that the man who fills its must be a witness of the Resurrection. Not merely proclaim it, but to have seen the risen Christ himself…Matthias did. Matthias became a witness of the resurrection.
Jesus also gives the command to be witnesses as we heard the disciples carry it out in . He tells them to proclaim what you saw and heard.
But before he sends them…he does something else on that first Easter Evening.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures

Did you catch it… He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

The Holy Scriptures

He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Which showed that they didn’t clearly understand the Scriptures before. And yes, dear Saints, these Scriptures the very Word of God, is a witness of the resurrection. And He even gives to to you today.
This is clearly stated by the Lord Himself:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

The Scriptures, even in the Old Testament point to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus…and even the very fact that the repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations. This is biblical even from the very beginnings of Holy Scripture.
Yes, dear Saints, all 66 books of the Holy Scriptures, point to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Scripture, the Very Word of God is a witness of the Resurrection, penned by human hands with the author being God.
The New Testament was written down by actual people who saw the Risen Christ alive…whether it be Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Jude, James, or Peter. But yet, you and I, are much like the disciples…we don’t understand them. Yes, the disciples walked and learned from Jesus for three years, but yet, they were still slow of heart to believe.
And so are we, we are slow of heart to believe. We have the very witness of the Resurrection, but yet, even perhaps among us, we don’t hold it as important as we should. Even I have been guilty of this! The Word of God, the witness of the Resurrection, has power from God on high. Yet, how often does it sit on the shelf and collect dust. How often do you get to the night, and you are too tired to open it up and read it…or open the app on your phone? How often do you neglect hearing the first hand accounts of the Resurrection in the Divine Service, or studying the Scriptures in Bible Study.
Maybe it’s because you are slow to understand. Maybe it’s because your families don’t find it to be too important. Maybe you think, well, it’s pastor’s job to tell me what’s in it…even though I don’t attend Divine Service or Bible Study very often. Maybe it’s because as a child you weren’t taught it very well if at all. Maybe it is because I or another pastor that you have had is slow to point out the importance of the Scripture being a norm for your life. And for that, I confess that sin to you and I seek your forgiveness.
I encourage, I urge, I exhort you to hear the Word of God, to Read the Word of God, to come to bible study and Sunday School to learn and seek understanding of God’s Word. This Word of God is the very witness of the Resurrection. This Word of God gives you life. It forgives your sins. It proclaims to you the death and resurrection of Jesus from Genesis all the way to Revelation. The Word of God is also Jesus Christ himself, the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us. Jesus Christ forgives you through His death and His Resurrection.
Yes, Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the power of the Most High came upon them, they were given to the Holy Spirit…and you have that gift as well…you received him in your baptism. In baptism you were clothed with Christ.

US

And because you were Clothed with Christ, you have received a great love from the Father, and because of this, you are called Children of God, you aren’t just called Children of God…We are God’s Children Now. You and I are children of the heavenly Father.
And because you and I are children of God through baptism and our faith in Christ, which is all a gift from the Most High. You and I are children because we receive the forgiveness of sins. We have heard that proclamation. We receive forgiveness in Baptism, in the Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. Or as I heard this passed week we receive forgiveness in the ABC’s of salvation…Absolution, baptism, and communion. You receive the forgiveness of sins as it is proclaimed to you in the Divine Service. You receive it when you confess to another and you hear those gracious words of of life. You receive forgiveness because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which is witnessed to you and me in the Word of Holy Scripture…as the Old Testament points to Jesus, and the New Testament, we receive the very first hand accounts of the resurrection of Jesus.
And so indeed, as we here from John in his epistle in the reading for today:

2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

When Christ Jesus returns and grants us the resurrection, we shall be like him…because we shall see him as he is. In the resurrection of all flesh, dear Saints, fellow heirs and Children of the Heavenly Father, you will become one with those first disciples who physically saw the Lord of Glory standing in flesh and bone among them. You dear saints will see…You will become a witness of the resurrection.
Even as you are now…you by the fact that you have received the forgiveness of sins, that you have tasted and seen the Lord is good in His Supper, as you have been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ in Holy Baptism…you are witnesses of the resurrection. You also have the very Word of God given to you. You have the eyewitness testimony of the crucified and risen Lamb of God. You have the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms of the Old Testament that point to the crucified and Risen Christ. And because of all of this you are witnesses…witnesses of the resurrection. Praise be to God, that even when we have not “physically seen” the Lord Christ, we still believe. Praise be God that Jesus who once was dead now lives for you and promises you life!
Praise be to God that one day we shall be like him and be first-hand witnesses of the resurrection, but even ourselves will experience the resurrection, and we too shall live!
Yes, even as Jesus, appeared among the disciples on the first Easter Evening, and other times in 40 days following his resurrection, Jesus told them, “You are witnesses of these things” after opening up their understand of the Scriptures. Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus they are, and so are are we as we go to our families, friends, classmates, and co-workers with the message of the resurrection and the Grace of God! The grace of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Life, death and resurrection of Jesus..changes everything…and it changes you to be a witness of the resurrection!
In Jesus name. Alleluia! Jesus Christ is Risen!…Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds and keep them focused in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, our Risen and Victorious King. Amen.
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