EASTER SUNDAY

Pastor Jake Schram

Worship Theme: Victorious!

First Lesson: Exodus 15:1-11 (NIV)
Second Lesson: Romans 4:25 (NIV)
Gospel : John 20:1-18 (NIV)

Music:

  • CW 445: He's Risen, He's Risen
  • Senior Choir: My Redeemer's Love
  • CW 450: The day of resurrection
  • Senior Choir: See What A Morning
  • Solo: Forever
  • CW 438: Jesus Christ is Risen today

Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

Watch the livestream beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

View Livestream on YouTube

Message: Victorious!

Pastor Jake Schram

Victory is ohhh so sweet! It’s just so nice to win, isn’t it? The emotions often bubble over into some sort of celebration. A lot of times when players score touchdowns, they do little victory dances. When people get promotions, they might play it cool just long enough for the boss to walk out of sight, but then the exclamations of joy are shouted to the heavens. High fives, fist bumps, and dabbing abound when victory has been achieved. I know for myself; a lot of times victory is expressed by a little victory shake, a tiny shimmy of sorts. Whatever your way of celebrating, whether a dance that would embarrass your kids or throwing your hands up in the air like you just don’t care, get ready for today! Because today we celebrate the greatest victory of all!

Our sermon text for today is a whole one verse long so I don’t feel bad in the slightest reading it again. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If you ask a believer, “What did Jesus do for you?” Many will probably say something along the lines of “Jesus died for my sins.” That’s a pretty good answer. We hear that same answer in the first part of Romans 4:25. “He was delivered over to death for our sins.” Even very young children can understand what happened on Good Friday and what it means for all of us. However, when asked, “What did Jesus do for you?” Very few would probably mention what occurred on Easter Sunday. We don’t often point to the resurrection of Jesus.

It's not that we don’t know what happened that day. We know. We confess it nearly every week when we profess our faith in one of our creeds. “On the third day he rose again from the dead.” This morning I said, “He is risen.” And you said, “He is risen indeed!” So, we definitely know what happened on Easter Sunday.

And this is a world shaking, universe altering truth. Raising someone from the dead is not an act most people can do. It’s attention grabbing and really makes a statement. Earlier Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and it made the statement that Jesus was the Son of God. He had power even over death.

But this verse shows us something different. We often think that Jesus raised himself from the dead. And that is true. There’s nothing wrong with thinking that. That sentiment is shared in the Bible and Jesus is part of the Trinity so he’s able to do it. But here, the verse says something we might not expect. It says Jesus “was raised to life for our justification.” Was raised! Notice the language is passive in form. In other words, someone is also doing the action to him.

In case you think it’s a typo, The Bible also talks about Jesus being raised here in other places like Acts 2:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:15. So someone is raising Jesus from the dead. If you are wondering who it is, the Bible reveals the answer in the verses I just mentioned. Acts 2:24 says, “God raised him from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:15 says, “We have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.” So we’ve answered who is doing this, God the Father, but now we have to figure out why. What statement is being made?

Romans 4:25 stated that he was raised to life for the purpose of our justification. Now there are a ton of terms in the Bible and all of them are important, but perhaps justification is the most important and crucial for us to understand. Justification is really a courtroom term. Justification is the picture of a judge who has just proclaimed the verdict of not guilty.

Usually when we use the word justify in English, we talk about trying to explain ourselves out of a situation that looks bad. As if one is saying, “Hey, I’m not guilty. I am justified in my actions.” And whether people are actually guilty or not you will see them try to justify themselves in the presence of others. Because they don’t want to hear it from themselves. They want to hear from someone else that they are not guilty. We look for the approval of our parents, our friends, anyone who will join our side, even if we are guilty.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say, my wife Sarah asks me to fold the laundry and I say I will. But then I don’t. Sarah sees it (show crumpled laundry) and says, “What is that? I thought you said you were going to fold the laundry.” I could try and justify myself with all sorts of approaches. I could tell her I invented a new, better folding technique called the “crumpled style” of folding. I could tell all my friends and the whole congregation how unfair she was being to me. Let’s say it worked and I was able to convince everyone to my point of view and everyone agreed with me and said I’m in the right except her. It wouldn’t matter. I would still be guilty and she would know it. I would need her to justify it, not you guys, not me.

The one we need to justify us—to declare us not guilty—is God, because you and I have committed crimes against him, and I’m not talking about minor crimes. There is no such thing as a minor crime against God. Every sin we commit is a capital crime. Every sin makes us worthy of the eternal death penalty. That’s what God says. Others might nod in agreement with your actions, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is what God says about them. He’s the judge who decides. He’s the only one with unbiased morality. And His Word says you are guilty in your actions, in your words, even your thoughts. You have sinned time and time again and no matter how much you try to justify yourself, you can’t. God’s Word says we all deserve the death penalty. We’ve all lost our courtroom case.

Well, not all of us. One of us has been declared not guilty. Throughout the year, we’ve seen how Jesus lived that perfect life. He was declared not guilty. As he was crucified on Good Friday, we heard Pilate and the thief on the cross declare Jesus had done no wrong. Even as Jesus was dying, he said, “It is finished.” He had accomplished absolutely everything the Father had sent him to do…perfectly!

The Greek word Jesus used for “It is finished!” is a word which means a debt is completely paid in full. Jesus had given his life as a full payment for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of the world. It means something to us and for us. Jesus is like the defense attorney, storming into court, knowing God’s law perfectly, and saying he has finished the work so that the rest of us are not guilty.

We know this, but so far in the story one person’s verdict on Jesus’ completed life hasn’t been heard yet. The one who makes the verdict, God, the Father Almighty, the judge of all, the one with the power to justify or not justify, the one with the power to declare guilty or not guilty—we hadn’t heard him speak the verdict yet.

Until Easter morning. The resurrection showed God’s verdict. He raised Jesus to life in clear declaration that Jesus was not guilty. The Father was reiterating everything the Son had said. “It really is finished. Everything I sent you to do has been finished. Therefore, I justify you. I declare you not guilty! To show this, I raise you from the dead!”

Understand that last part well. Understand what God was really saying through that empty tomb, whom he was really justifying. While the passage in Romans chapter 4 states quite clearly that God raised Jesus to life, it’s not only a statement of Jesus’ innocence. If that was all that happened that first Easter morning, we’d be here this morning doing nothing more than celebrating things that turned out well for Jesus. We’d be nothing more than death row inmates hearing the news that an innocent man had been declared not guilty. “Great,” we’d say, “but it doesn’t do us any good.”

However, listen closely to the words Paul is saying, because there is one word that changes everything. I want you to listen for it. “He was raised to life for our justification.” Did you hear it? You, me, all of us are declared not guilty by the judge of everything. All of us are labeled as innocent and worthy of eternal life through Christ’s resurrection. We are victorious.

This victory means forgiveness. It’s a victory of second chances. Any time you mess up and feel there is no possible way back for you, there is a path through Jesus’ death and resurrection. When you feel unloved, throw that feeling out. Because God loves you with an unbreakable love, forgiving even your worst offenses. And this forgiveness isn’t just for you. It’s for others too. We get to forgive one another as we attempt to replicate the love of God among each other. What an awesome privilege, to show people they are loved even on their worst days. That’s what the resurrection means for us. Not only are we forgiven, but we get to forgive others and show them Christ. We get to encourage them to hear his wonderful message and have the Holy Spirit work through it so that all people can be saved. We want all people on the winning team!

Did I ever tell you the reason I became a pastor? God gave me the victory of his actions at a time I was utterly defeated. His grace was more than I deserved, yet it was there, pure, unchanging, and complete. Even on days that are painful, victory has still been achieved by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now I get to share this victory with others. But it’s not just me who gets to do it. It’s all of us. Let’s share and celebrate this victory.

Sometimes around Easter you will hear people say that Easter isn’t about bunnies or candy. That’s true. We have something so much better: Jesus. But Easter isn’t just about Jesus. It’s really about you too. What Jesus did affects all of us. Easter is about how Jesus freed you from the prison of sin and the fear of death. It’s about you being declared not guilty by the one whose judgment matters above all else. It’s about you being justified, just as if you’ve never sinned by God. Happy Easter everyone. Today we see we are victorious through Christ! Amen.

*Many parts of this sermon were borrowed from a sermon from “The Crucial Hours” series by Paul Rutschow