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EASTER  SUNDAY      “Eyes on Jesus:  angel eyes”

April 12, 2020     Matthew 28:1-10

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ, 

“Eyes on Jesus.”  That has been our theme  for this season of Lent = ‘eyes on Jesus.’  Hebrews 12:2 says  come let us  “fix our eyes on Jesus,  the author & perfecter of our faith,  who for the joy that was set before Him  endured the cross,  despising the shame,  and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  

So,  we’ve thought about the different ‘eyes’  we see during the Passion of Christ:   such as:  /the betraying eyes of Judas,  /the sleepy eyes of those in the Garden of Gethsemane,  /the denying eyes of Peter,  /the murderous eyes of the Jewish leaders,  /& the worldly eyes of those who put Jesus on trial & condemned Him to crucifixion.

They all had their ‘eyes on Jesus’  without actually seeing in Him  the grace & mercy     of God for themselves & for the whole world.   St.Matthew tells us about more eyes on Easter Sunday morning:  there were  Angel Eyes.   Angel eyes saw a rock that needed moving, to reveal an empty tomb;   then he sat on it, & patiently waited there  with some good news for the women who came early Sunday morning.

The two Marys were shocked to see the large stone rolled away from the entrance,  and even more shocked to see an angel of the Lord.  So,  they were alarmed that the tomb was open,  the guards were like dead men,  and there before them was one of heaven’s holy creatures.

In the Bible,  people’s reactions to God’s angels is always one of fear,  or at least nervous awe.   Even when appearing as young men,  God’s angels are unlike earthly humans,  & they rightly caused the hearts of sinners to fear.  That’s why the first words out of the mouths of angels are almost always,  “Don’t be afraid!”

So,  that’s what happens here.  There’s no need for alarm,  since this angel has come in peace with Good News.  The word we translate as ‘angel’ is actually a job-description;  ‘angelos’ means ‘messenger.’  So bringing the Gospel message is His main job!    The angel directs the women to see with their own eyes  that Jesus isn’t there;  he knows this  because his angel-eyes  have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus,  who was crucified.

In the original Greek,  another way of translating that last phrase is  “Jesus, The Crucified One.”   Listen to the subtle  but significant difference  between those two ways of saying this:  ‘I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.’   OR   ‘I know that you seek Jesus-The-Crucified-One.’

There IS a difference;  one depicts a past event which happened to Jesus;  the other depicts a present title for the living Savior of the world.   With sorrow-filled eyes, these women had looked upon innocent Jesus,  being mocked & tortured unjustly on a Roman cross;   and they had looked-on as Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus took the corpse of Jesus  down from the cross  and laid him in the tomb.   On Friday,  they had sad-eyes seeing a dead Jesus,  and they had the same sad-eyes on Sunday morning.   The angel-eyes had seen much more than all that.  He has seen the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes,  but doesn’t call him  ‘The Risen One’;   he calls Him  ‘The Crucified One.’

Later that afternoon,  the risen Jesus would appear to ten of His apostles,  and prove His identity by showing them the scars of nails & spear  on His hands, feet & side.  His crucifixion was not just a way for Him to die;   it was the only way for Jesus to be our Savior.  Even in His resurrected, restored & perfected body,  He bears the marks of our salvation.

So,  here’s a Q:   When you get to heaven,  *will you be known for the kind of death you died?   Will you be  /‘the heart attack one’  / ‘the cancer one’  / ‘the car accident one’ / or  ‘the coronavirus one’?   No.  Your cause of death won’t matter;  it will be just a past event.   But NOT SO with Jesus!   His crucifixion is never to be forgotten,  because it is only with His prophetic & promised death,  that He will have paid for & forgiven the sin of the whole world,  and saved every soul that will be saved.

Jesus wasn’t just UN-lucky enough  to have died by a terrible & torturous crucifixion;     He is ‘The Crucified One’  who has purchased salvation for all mankind,  and who alone defeated our greatest enemies:   sin, death, & the devil;   by taking them to that cross  and rising from that tomb.    His death was purposeful,  sacrificial,  & atoning for you.

To say that Jesus died by crucifixion  is to acknowledge the past history = and even unbelievers & Satan can acknowledge that.    But to say that He is ‘Thee Crucified One’  is

way to confess  that Jesus is  /the OT Messiah,  /the promised Suffering Servant ofIsaiah 53,   /the very Son of God,   /and the world’s Savior & Lord.

Next Sunday,  we will hear Jesus invite ‘doubting Thomas’ to touch those scars.   Thomas knew Jesus had been crucified;  but when The Crucified One confronts him  =alive & in the flesh=  Thomas cries out in faith:  “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).  Months later,  pharisee Saul would encounter the Living Jesus on the road to Damascus, and then would write to the Corinthians,  “I decided to know nothing among you  except Jesus Christ  and Him crucified.”

          You might be thinking,  ‘come on pastor,  this is Easter!  Why are we still so focused on the crucifixion?’   Because the cross must always be the center of our theology;  it is an essential focal-point of our life-of-faith.      We’ve heard that word ‘essential’  a lot in the last month of this virus-pandemic.  There are essential businesses,  like grocery stores & hospitals;  there are non-essential businesses,  like movies in theaters,  or stadiums of people watching baseball.   For our knowledge of  & faith in God,  some things are absolutely essential.

Such as:  /the teaching of the Trinity,  /the divine & human natures of Jesus,  /AND … the crucifixion-death  & resurrection of Jesus.

Let our eyes be opened  so that we would see The Gospel.   A savior who died of old age or natural causes  would NOT be the savior God promised,   and would do you no good ==  even if he did later rise from the dead.    There were two other men crucified at the same time & on the same hill as Jesus;   but neither one of them  could save anyone by their crucifixion.       The crucifixion was essential,  but NOT because it was a terrible or unique way to die ==crather,  because one crucifixion  -in all of human history-  was attached to a special promise.   Jesus=The Crucified One & His cross  has become our life of  faith, hope & service.

It means we are living under His forgiveness;  it means we have taken up our cross in this life to follow Him;  it means we turn away from the world’s ways of sin  & obey His holy ways. It means  we are moving toward our eternal home.

St. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live,  but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live  in the flesh  I live by faith in the Son of God,  who loved me  and gave Himself for me.”       Paul said,  “far be it from me to boast  except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,  by which the world has been crucified to me,  and I to the world.” Gal.2,6

Jesus was not the only person ever to be crucified;  but He IS the only ‘Crucified One.’  Likewise,  Jesus wasn’t the only one to come back from the dead; but He IS the only ‘Risen One.’   Certain people were raised to life by the prophets;  Jesus brought at least 3 people back from the dead.  But none of them are referred to as ‘The Risen One.’

Your salvation is connected to  these 2 ancient promises.   Jesus alone fulfilled them both;  and He alone is our Redeemer.

So,  He alone receives our praise of ‘hosanna’ and ‘alleluia’,  & is the One we confess as our   Lord and God.

With the angel’s eyes,  we see Good Friday and Easter as two sides of the same coin.  A one-sided quarter is fake,  & You can’t buy anything with it.   Jesus couldn’t pay for your salvation only by dying,  or only by rising;   but by both.    In His promised living,  He obeyed God’s Law for us,  and in His promised dying  He suffered our penalty for us.  According to  the promise,  He had to be ‘lifted up’,  give His blood, & be made alive again  on the Third Day.

Because He was able to accomplish all of that,  so we are able to celebrate a full Easter with BOTH a death and a resurrection  that is unique,  and gives us a full salvation in the eyes of God.

And now with a full salvation,  you & I are brought into a full life as a child of God, /as a washed & forgiven believer,  /with a place reserved for us in God’s heaven,  /with our names written in the Lambs Book of Life.   Even now,  since we have been bought-back with the price of His crucifixion,  so now we are not our own.

Our life belongs to Him  who died for us;   and our hope & future is in Him alone  who rose up from the dead  as the first-fruits of the resurrection.    Even now  He helps us crucify our old desire to sin,  and He enables us   to rise each day  to live in God’s better ways.

This is why Good Friday and Easter mean so much to the people of God;  it means that we are dying to our sins,  and living with The Crucified One =who is alive forevermore.

This is the good news that angel of God  had for everyone that first Easter morning;  for the women whose eyes saw the empty tomb,  and for the hiding-disciples  who could not see a way out of their fear & trouble.

This is the good news for US.  Even though our eyes can see our own sin,  or see disease & trouble,  sickness & death in the world;  that’s not all we see.   God has shown to us a cross and an empty tomb,  so that we will fix our eyes on Jesus,  the One who has given us salvation.  We fix our eyes on Jesus,  the Christ,  The Crucified One  and the Risen One.

Thanks be to God!    Amen.