Remember Jesus Christ: He Has Risen (Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019)

Sermon Text 2 Timothy 2:8

Pastor Steven Pagels

In the name of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, dear friends:

For many of us, the Easter story is a familiar story.  And if you didn’t know it before, you just heard it in the Gospel lesson for today (see Luke 24:1-12).  It was early Sunday morning, and some of Jesus’ most faithful followers were planning to take the spices they had prepared to anoint his body.  But when they reached the tomb, they didn’t expect to find it open and empty.  And there is no way they expected that two men dressed in gleaming white clothing would give them an explanation.

The angels said to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen (Luke 24:6a)!  He has risen!  Three little words.  Three words of truth, beautiful words, miraculous words, words that made the women’s fears disappear.

But the angels didn’t stop there.  After they told the women what had happened, they told them that they should have known this would happen, that they should have remembered Jesus told them what would happen: “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’” (Luke 24:6b-7).

If some of Jesus’ closest followers could forget his words, we can understand why Paul wanted to emphasize the importance of Easter when he wrote to Timothy a couple generations later.  And a couple thousand years later Christians around the world gather today to meditate on the miracle of the resurrection.  Because we can be slow to understand, because our weak minds are prone to forget, because the events of this day are the heart and core of the Christian faith, because what happened on this day gives every Christian hope, we need to hear and heed Paul’s encouragement to…

Remember Jesus Christ: He Has Risen

Paul authored about half the books of the New Testament, but 2 Timothy was his last letter.  His ministry was coming to an end.  His life was coming to an end (2 Timothy 4:6-8).  And Paul had so much to say, so many words of spiritual wisdom to convey.  Because his time was short, because every word was important, because every phrase of this little letter is significant, we need to ask ourselves: Why these three words? Why this specific command?  Why did Timothy need to be reminded to remember Jesus?  What tactics was the devil using to distract him?

2 Timothy doesn’t give us direct answers, but we can find clues scattered throughout the letter.  And one of the major themes of the book is persecution. Paul was in prison because of his preaching, and he encouraged Timothy to follow his example, to embrace the suffering that comes with proclaiming the gospel (1:8).  Paul wanted Timothy to understand that his experience was not exceptional either.  That’s why he explained to him in words that were direct, bordering on blunt: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12). 

And perhaps there was a part of Timothy that wasn’t ready for that.  Maybe Timothy didn’t want to believe that.  Just surviving in the ancient world was hard enough.  Who would blame Timothy if he had second thoughts about putting a Christian target on his back?  No one wants to suffer.  No one wants to be persecuted.  And we certainly don’t want to be reminded of the times when we consciously avoided persecution, when we chose to do the easy thing instead of the right thing, when we should have spoken up and said nothing.  Those are things we would much rather forget.

Before this letter became part of the New Testament canon, it was personal.  In the opening verses Paul called Timothy his dear son (1:2).  And like a father, Paul gave Timothy advice, including the encouragement to “flee the evil desires of youth” (2:22).  Paul wasn’t naïve, and he didn’t want his young co-worker to be naïve either.  Just because they were Christians, just because they were Christian missionaries didn’t make them immune to temptation.  And neither are we.

I don’t like to talk about temptation.  I don’t want to think about all the times I have given in to temptation.  And so I can understand why people want to deny the resurrection.  I can understand why people would prefer to believe there is no God. If there is no God, there will be no final judgment.  If there is no Judgment Day, there is no reason to flee from temptation today.  I don’t have to remember my sins.  I don’t have to repent of my sins.  I can do whatever I want without any consequences.

It wasn’t just the threat of persecution or the possibility of giving in to temptation that posed a threat to Timothy’s faith.  In addition to these attacks from the outside, there were other issues, issues inside the church that threatened to divide or even destroy the church.  False teachers.  False teachings.  False brothers.  To make a bad situation worse, Paul had been incarcerated.  And this time Paul fully expected to be executed (4:6).  And if his prediction came true, that would leave Timothy to fight all these spiritual battles by himself.

Is it possible that Timothy was overwhelmed by it all?  Because he had to deal with so many problems, because he was confronted by such huge challenges, do you think he was tempted to throw up his arms and throw in the towel and say “Forget it?”

Can you relate?  Do you sometimes feel like giving up?  Maybe you didn’t realize how much you have in common with Timothy until this moment.  If you are tired of struggling, if you need to be convinced that the Christian life is a life worth living, if you are in desperate in need of comfort and encouragement, you have come to the right place.  And this morning it is my privilege to direct you to the perfect passage.  Remember the words Paul wrote to Timothy.  Remember the reason we are here today.  Remember the reason we celebrate today.  Remember…

Jesus.  I’m sure Mary remembered when the angel told her that God had chosen her to give birth to Jesus.  And I am confident that her husband Joseph remembered when he was told in an angelic vision why he should name Mary’s son Jesus…”because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  That is the reason, the only reason, Jesus was born into this world.  To rescue the world from sin.  To take away all your sins.  Remember that.  Remember that Jesus is your Savior and that he is the…

Christ.  Christ is not a name.  It is a divine title which conferred on Jesus a divinely appointed office.  He is the Messiah, the anointed One, the One set apart by God to carry out God’s plan of salvation.  Remember everything the Christ has done and still does for you.  Remember that he died on the cross for you and three days later he was…

Raised from the dead.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  This is the glorious message of Easter.  It may not make logical sense, but it makes all the difference.  It may confound our minds, but it warms our hearts.  The resurrection proves that Jesus is true God. The resurrection assures us that our sins are forgiven.  Easter is God’s guarantee that one day the body of every believer who has died will be brought back to life, that every believer has the sure and certain hope of eternal life.  And as we stand in awe of his almighty power, we also are grateful for his humanity, for the fact that he was…

Descended from David. The fact that Jesus descended from anyone reminds us that he was a human being.  The fact that Jesus was a direct descendant of David reminds us that this human being is also a king.  Jesus rules the world with truth and grace.  Jesus rules in the hearts of believers by faith.  And as a man, this one-of-a-kind ruler is able to relate to us. He was tempted…just like us.  He felt pain…just like us.  He shed tears at the loss of a loved one…just like us. Because Jesus is fully human, he is uniquely qualified to hear and answer our prayers, to help us with our problems, to take care of us and always do what is best for us, body and soul.

This is my gospel, Paul declared.  But don’t get the impression that Paul was being overly possessive with this statement.  He wasn’t telling Timothy: “God gave me this good news. You need to go and find your own.”  Paul dedicated his life to sharing his gospel with anyone who would listen…because it wasn’t his gospel.  The good news comes from God.  The good news of Easter is meant for everyone.

Do you understand what that means?  It means that Paul’s gospel, the Easter gospel is for you.  If you are feeling down, if you are feeling guilty, if you are feeling numb, remember this truth.  Jesus lives! He lives to silence all your fears. He lives to wipe away your tears. He lives to calm your troubled heart. He lives all blessings to impart. He lives, your kind, wise, heav’nly friend.  He lives and loves you to the end.  He lives your mansion to prepare.  He lives to bring you safely there.

More than anything else, Paul wanted his friend and fellow believer Timothy to remember Jesus. And more than anything else, Paul wants us to remember everything Jesus did for us on this day.  So how do we do that?  What can we do to make sure that we don’t forget?  Should we tie a string around our finger and vow to never take it off? Or as soon as you get home from church today, should you hang pictures of Jesus in every room of your house?

Doing those things might help, but here is another suggestion that I hope will help you remember the meaning of Easter.  It makes use of the word that we welcome back into our worship today: hallelujah.  Sometime this week take a piece of paper and write the letters of the word, “hallelujah,” vertically down the page, and then use those letters to create an acrostic poem to express what Easter means to you.  And if you think it would be helpful to have an example, this is what this day means to me…

H – He is risen.

A – Angels shared the good news.

L – Love prophesied and fulfilled.

L – Loved ones who died in faith we will see again.

E – Eternal life.

L – Life eternal.

U – Unending joy because…

J – Jesus lives.

A – All is accomplished.

H – Heaven is ours.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Amen.