Sermon for Easter
April 1, 2018
The Right Kind of Jesus
This past week there were two articles in the paper that discussed what kind of chocolate bunny was the right kind. One of the articles talked about whether it should be milk, dark, or white chocolate, whether it should be solid or hollow, and whether one should begin eating the ears or the feet first. The other article was concerned about different things. It assumed that everybody wanted a bunny and tried to answer the question of which bunny would be right for you. I quote: “Most people go for the classic side-profile rabbit that sits upright nicely in an Easter basket full of fake grass, gazing off into the distance, unaware that its ears are about to be savagely bitten off. But there are plenty of other options, especially at candy stores such as Haven’s Candies and Wilbur’s of Maine, each of which has 30-plus different styles of chocolate bunny molds in their collections. If you want an active bunny, choose the daredevil bunny that rides a motorcycle, or the weird one that rides a rooster as if it were a horse. For the avid golfer, consider the bunny who would rather play a few holes than hop down one.” The list included a bunny for the fan of Downton Abbey, the student of art, and the horror fan. There is a bunny for the workaholic, the teenager, and so on. It seems that there is a chocolate bunny to satisfy everybody.
We are used to being satisfied, aren’t we? Our fancy – tickled. Our choices for trousers are enormous. The varieties of apples available are enough to satisfy our various palates. From the style of car we drive to the color of paint for our bedroom walls, we are not short on those that satisfy even the pickiest of individuals. We are so used to getting our way that it’s no wonder we think we are guaranteed eternal life and can still pick the kind of Jesus that we want from the smorgasbord of beliefs and religions available.
Just like the numerous choices of chocolate bunnies, there are numerous choices of Jesus to choose from. There is the ever favorite therapeutic Jesus that never really stands for any kind of truth other than the idea of being true to one’s self. He doesn’t exactly tell us anything but he listens very well. When he does have something to say, it is to affirm us and never a call to repentance. Even if such a Jesus were to rise from the dead, it wouldn’t hold any promise for his self-assured follows that never died to self. Without death there is no resurrection. Without Good Friday, Easter doesn’t mean anything. None of us needs a Jesus that just makes us feel good about ourselves. We need a Jesus that is the Divine in human form that takes our place for the consequences of our sin and gives to us a righteousness that is not to be found within. He doesn’t find good in us. He puts it in us. His resurrection means something. It means our sin has come to its end. It has been dealt with by His innocent suffering and death.
The Jesus varieties don’t stop with the therapeutic kind. There is the Disneyland Jesus that is always happy and whose joy is just contagious. He teaches you how to whistle while you work, to forget about your troubles and to just notice the bluebirds and the chipmunks. There is the Life Coach Jesus that is the self-help expert par excellence. He gives you all the tips you need to improve your behavior and maybe even achieve a human perfect never before seen. There is also the Shamon Jesus that is better than any practitioner of traditional or non-traditional medicine. He has the cure for what ails your poor body, or so it would seem because such a Jesus doesn’t point to root of the problem. And, of course, there is the Hipster Jesus that is getting some new publicity with a newer version of Jesus Christ Superstar being released. He has an enticing smile, a magnetic personality, perfect hair, and the coolest sandals. He is the kind of guy everybody wants to be seen with and hopefully befriend.
Every Jesus from these variety store shelves has some aspect of the real Jesus that attracts every one of us but every one of them leaves out the crucial necessity of the real Jesus. The real Jesus could whistle but at the height of His work, it was the tune of anguish that we heard as He was even abandoned by God over our sin. The real Jesus absolutely is the perfect example of how to behave and how to speak but such perfection in this life wasn’t to teach us how to achieve our own resurrection but was done that a resurrection like His would be ours. It wasn’t the root of any plant that was the source of His remedies for disease and illness, it was the destruction of the root of disease – sin. His death that He died to sin is the remedy for our every illness and the life that He lives is our guarantee of a body in the resurrection that knows no corruption. And magnetic smile or not, the real Jesus draws us to Himself at the foot of His cross to be sprinkled with His blood that He might present us to the Father in heaven as His brothers and sisters and heirs with Him of the kingdom of heaven.
If our Jesus is one of the garden variety then our chocolate bunny had better be more marvelous because the resurrection of any Jesus other than the One that died a death under the burden of sin is not a resurrection that holds any substance for us. Our Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is the Jesus that took everything that was ours so that we might have everything that is His. He removed the veil of death and sin and set the table of rich food and well-aged wine. The Jesus that appeared to James and all the Apostles, even to one untimely born, is the One that first died for our sins that His resurrection would be our victory and not just His.
It is our victory because in His resurrection He shows that He has once for all dealt with sin and the devil’s accusations against the sinner. He has silenced the devil and defanged him. No more can Satan accuse you because of sin. Your sin was atoned otherwise Jesus could not have risen. It shows that His death was enough for your sin and my sin, even the sin of the whole world. If His payment were not enough, He would still be in the grave.
The answer to the dilemma of the women in our Gospel reading is the answer that destroys every Jesus that would direct us to look inward at ourselves. They deliberated over how the stone might be removed from the tomb’s entrance. They knew that they were not strong enough and that they would need help. But upon their arrival, they discovered it had already been moved. The tomb was open and had been robbed of its treasure. The Jesus that had been crucified was not there. He had risen. There wasn’t any need for their mourning, their burial customs, nor the effort of rolling away a stone. As the tomb of Jesus lay open and empty, so too would their tombs be empty and bare. Just as the life that Jesus lived was lived for them and us, and the death that Jesus suffered was a death for them and us, so too is the resurrection that Jesus was given was a resurrection for those women and us. Our tombs will likewise be empty and bare while we in our bodies enjoy a resurrection unto life.
No dime store Jesus can offer such a promise, not even if he were hatched from a faberge egg. Only the Jesus that you confess in the Creed, the Jesus spoken of in the Scriptures, the Jesus that died and rose for you. The Jesus that continues to offer Himself in His Word and in His Sacraments where He does for you what you cannot do for yourself. He forgives your sins and bestows upon you life that does not end.
Alleluia. He is risen!