Easter Sunday Sermon: 2 Timothy 2:8
When the women arrived at the tomb early Easter morning, the angels who greeted them did so with three unbelievable words of truth: He has risen! And then one of the angels told them that this miracle should come as no surprise to them: “Remember how he told you . . .” (Luke 24:6).
Remember, remember, remember. How many times did Jesus say that to his followers during his earthly ministry? Probably not enough! Probably not enough for followers who are described in Scripture as being slow to believe, afraid, people with doubts arising in their minds. Remember . . .
St. Paul, whose words we have before us this joyous morning, also told young pastor Timothy: “Remember.” These were some of the last words that St. Paul ever wrote. He knew that his work on earth for the Lord Jesus was nearing completion, that he soon would suffer a martyr’s death at the hands of the Romans. What does a person about to die think about? Childhood joys? Memories of teenage freedom? Professional accomplishments? Friends? Family? This is what was on Paul’s mind: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” (2 Timothy 2:8)
In contrast to what much of the religious world thinks, the heart of the Christian faith is remembering — remembering what God has done for us. The main message that God has for us is not “Go and do!” but rather “See and believe!” That is what we remember this Easter morning — the great things our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us so that through faith in him we may have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
We really can’t do anything else, can we? What else can we do this morning but go to the empty tomb, gaze inside, and then ponder with amazement what this means for us? Nothing! There’s nothing else we can do, and there is nothing else we need to do. God in his rich grace has done everything for us. He defeated sin, death, and hell. He rose in victory — the guarantee that sin is paid for, the guarantee that by his power he will also raise from death all who trust in him. It is he, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, who “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
How could we possibly forget those great things? Jesus hasn’t changed over the centuries, and the nature of his disciples hasn’t changed too much either. We have fears, we have doubts, and we too are slow to believe.
All the more reason to listen to what God the Holy Spirit says through St. Paul this morning: “Remember Jesus Christ.”
Remember Jesus Christ. “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. Much! A person’s name represents everything they are, everything they have done, everything they stand for. We hear names and immediately mental images form in our minds: LeBron James, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley. . . .
Remember Jesus. God himself gave that name to his Son, the name that means “Savior.” Jesus came to this earth in the quietness of Christmas on a violent mission. He came to do battle with the forces of hell. Throughout his earthly ministry he undid what sin and Satan had done; he healed the sick, drove out demons, raised the dead. But it was on Good Friday that the battle reached its final, decisive hour. “It was,” as Luther wrote in a hymn, “a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended.” Remember the writhing agony of the cross, as God and Satan went head-to-head for the eternal possession of your soul. It was a struggle to the death. And by the end of the day, Jesus the Son of God lay dead in a tomb.
But, as the hymn goes on, “The victory remained with life; the reign of death was ended” (CW 161:2). He has risen! He is alive, and death is dead.
For remember that Jesus is the Christ! Christ means “the Anointed One.” This is the one whom God handpicked and anointed to be our champion. He is the Messiah; all the prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled in him. There is no mistake. This is the one, the only one, who has God’s own approval. Why would doubts rise in our minds if our Christian faith is the right one? Jesus is the Christ; this does not just mean he was the one that God appointed to suffer and die; he is also the one God appointed to rise and live forever and ever. Jesus rose to ascend to the right hand of God, where he rules all things in heaven and earth. And if he has power to rule all things, he has power to save those who believe in him. Remember Jesus Christ.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. If there is perhaps one word that creates more doubt, more uncertainty, more fear than any other, it is the word death. We know it’s part of life. We know that it’s coming — to friends, to family, to spouses, to me. It is said that fear usually is caused by the unknown. Death is very well known, but it still fills us with fear. Why?
The fear of death comes from the knowledge of sin, which we either learn from the Bible or from our own conscience. Deep down we know that there is a God and that he is holy, good, and just. Deep down we also know that we have each failed to perfectly do what he requires: to live a holy and sinless life in perfect love for him and every other human being. And Scripture rather bluntly draws the inevitable conclusion for us: We die because we have sinned. That’s what fills us with fear. We were created to live in harmony with God, but our sins bring God’s wrath and judgment. Our sins separate us from God and his love, from peace and joy. They bring upon us God’s sentence of “guilty of eternal death.” What will we do?
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. Out of the tomb has come the one who paid for all your sins. He carried them to the cross. He left them in the tomb. Your sins are gone! They are dead! They are buried! Out of the tomb came a holy Lord Jesus Christ. On the cross he had been covered with our sins, and he had suffered death. But now he is alive — the proof that God has accepted his sacrifice.
Jesus’ resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. That’s what we celebrate today. His resurrection gives us certainty about our forgiveness and all the promises God has made. Look what God has done for you! You can trust him with your life and with your soul!
And seeing Jesus Christ, raised from the dead creates unshakable faith and hope that is ours no matter what may happen in our earthly lives. Around 1930, a Russian communist leader named Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev. His mission was to address a huge reeducation assembly. His subject: atheism. For a solid hour he aimed his heavy verbal artillery at Christianity, hurling argument and ridicule. At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak. He mounted the platform and moved close to the communist. For a while he slowly scanned the audience. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “Christ is risen!” The vast assembly arose as one man, and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche: “He is risen indeed!”
I have always wondered about the cynics and nonbelievers. What do they do at Easter? On this day when the Christian church joyfully celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what do they do? Humanism may be a somewhat believable theory for them in the classroom, a theory that warms the heart with thoughts of human goodness and potential. But what about at a cold graveside, where everything seems so final, so meaningless? It is precisely at that point that our Christian faith holds on to the promise of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).
That is your faith, your hope, and your joy too, dear friends. And so that you may always have faith, hope, and joy—even on the darkest of days in this world — remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.
Finally, remember Jesus Christ, . . . descended from David. He comes from a king. He is a king. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool. He commands and rules all things by his powerful Word.
And this King with all power protects you. In this same letter to Timothy, St. Paul wrote, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
But there’s another reason we rejoice this morning that Jesus Christ is descended from David. David was a king, but David was also a man. So is our Lord Jesus Christ. It wasn’t just the Son of God who came out of the tomb on Easter morning but also the Son of Man. It was a human being, fully like us, who rose from the dead. By his resurrection we are given a glimpse of the glory that will one day be ours when Christ, by his almighty power, calls us out of our graves to glory everlasting. We won’t look as we do now — the slowly aging body that gradually reveals its own weakness and decline. We won’t feel as we do now — the hurts, the pains, the handicaps, the illnesses, the diseases, the death. We won’t ache as we do now — from shattered dreams and disappointments, from failures and shortcomings, from sadness and grief.
Rather, “we will all be changed,” Paul wrote the Corinthians, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52). Jesus Christ, who by his resurrection shows that he has power over death, will raise from death all people and glorify the bodies of those who trust in him. Look at the human body of David’s Descendant when he came out of the tomb. We will be like him, and what Job confessed we also believe: “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:26,27).
And regarding all that we have said this morning, dear friends, St. Paul says, “This is my gospel,” the “good news.” But this is not just Paul’s gospel, or my gospel, or your gospel — as if these were some privately held religious opinions. No! This, rather, is the gospel, the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ. It is God’s own message of peace and hope to the world. He is the one who has spoken these things, and because God himself said it, it is true! He spoke these things to Paul; he in grace has spoken them to us. Your faith in him is secure and solid. For this gospel is rock and not shifting sand.
So remember this gospel always, dear friends, for by it you are saved. Remember always what God has done for you. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. Amen.
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