Editor’s Note: Due to a technical issue, the audio recording for this sermon is not available.
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Grace and peace to you from Him who is, who was, and who is to come, our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, In his name, dear friends in Christ, I counted a little over 50 baptisms that I’ve done since I came to St. Mark’s in 2011. Now some of them were of non-members and some of them were adults, but most of them were children of active members of St. Mark’s. For them, I’ve been their only pastor. But for many of you, you’ve experienced what is about to happen and that’s a transition of pastors, I’m leaving and soon you will have another shepherd here to care for your souls. A transition. The Israelites would have experienced such transitions as well. Their priests were priests for life…but they died. Historians estimate about 83 different High Priests in the 1400 years between Moses and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Priests came and priests went. And you’re experiencing that as well- pastors come and pastors go, but that’s what makes what we’re going to focus on this morning so comforting: In Jesus you have the eternal High Priest.
Throughout the OT there were good priests and their were bad priests, but all of the priests were the same in this: they were sinful. And since they were sinful they had to first offer a sacrifice for their own sin before they could offer a sacrifice for others’ sins. But Jesus was different. He had no sin. That’s the whole point. In fact, that’s what Pilate said when he said that he found no basis for a charge against him, that’s what the religious leaders said when they had to resort to false witnesses to bring a charge against him, that’s what Judas said when he said that he had betrayed innocent blood. Jesus is perfect – he truly meets our needs – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners.” So Jesus’ sacrifice was different. All those OT sacrifices were simply pointers, they couldn’t actually take away sin, but Jesus’s sacrifice could and did. He sacrificed himself on the cross as the payment for all sin of all time.
How do we know? Because He lives! Because He lives forever! Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is God’s proof that our sins are forgiven, that death has been defeated, that death can no longer sting us, Jesus has ripped the stinger out of death, one of my favorite illustrations of that is of a dad and a boy riding in a car together, the window is down and a bee flies into the car, the child panics because he’s deathly allergic to a bee sting and there’s no epi pen, the bee’s flying around when the dad grabs the bee in his hand and then let’s the bee go, the boy says, “Dad! What are you doing!” And then the dad shows the boy his hand, the bee’s stinger is in the dad, and he tells his boy, “The bee can’t hurt you any more, I took the stinger.” That’s what our God did on the cross, he took the sting of death, that is our sin, and how do we know it worked? Jesus rose from the dead! Now death can’t hurt us and our grave can no longer hold us! He’s alive!
And not only did our High Priest sacrifice Himself once for all to save us completely, but as our living Lord he goes with us interceding for us. You see, one of my jobs as your pastor is to pray for you- pray for you when you’re sick or hurt or in trouble, pray for you when you’re lonely, depressed or sad, pray for you when Satan tempts or when you’re wandering away. That was also part of the job of the high priest -to intercede for the people. But neither the high priest, nor I can do it perfectly, because we’re sinners. But notice what we’re told about Jesus: “He always lives to intercede.”
One of the first things Jesus said through the angels on that first Easter was, “Go and tell his disciples and Peter.” Why “and Peter”? Peter who denied him, Peter who had abandoned him, Peter who fled, Peter who had wept bitterly. What did Jesus want him to know? That Jesus is alive! That his sins are forgiven so that Peter, too, might have the joy and peace of Easter. That’s our Savior. That’s why we sing, “He lives to bless me with his love; he lives to plead for me above. He lives, my hungry soul to feed; he lives to help in time of need.”
Priests came and went. Pastors come and go. Friends depart. Family passes away. But Jesus lives! Because Jesus lives, because Jesus got out of the grave, because His grave is empty, because death could not hold its slimy grip on Jesus, because lives and will never die again: your sins are forgiven, your guilt is gone, death is defeated, your grave is destroyed, and no matter what happens in life, no matter what you face, your Savior Jesus lives to intercede for you, to help you in every need, and take you to your eternal home in heaven. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.