Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 4, 2010

Sermon on Luke 21:25-28

Sermon preached for the Easter Festival service at St. Mark, concluding the Lent-Easter series, “From the Catechism to the Cross,” focusing on the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Downloadable Version

Faith Means No More Fear

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Did you notice how much fear and terror there was that first Easter?  The Romans soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb experienced the earthquake, saw angels and passed out cold.  When they came to, they went to the chief priests, who were so fearful of the resurrection report, that they spread a lie about the body being stolen.  The women who came to the tomb were alarmed and afraid by what they saw and heard, so much so that they didn’t just walk back to Jerusalem, but they fled, trembling and bewildered.  The first time Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were startled and frightened.   Only eventually did this fear wear off.

Were you afraid this morning?  Does Easter fill you with fear?  I don’t imagine so.  I don’t think anyone sang This joyful Eastertide? Instead, you sang, Away with sin and sorrow! Because you know what’s coming.  Jesus enters Jerusalem.  Jesus offers Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Jesus dies.  Jesus stays in the tomb for three days.  And then, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  No fear, just joy.

This isn’t because you’re better than all those people who were alive when the resurrection happened.  This isn’t because you’re a super-Christian and they were those of little faith.  You’re not frightened now for the same reason their fear eventually wore off.  The Holy Spirit did His job.  He brought you to faith, a faith that means no more fear.  No more fear about Easter.  No more fear about death.  No more fear about the end, because through faith you believe in God the Father Almighty – your mighty warrior who crushed the armies of Pharoah; because through faith you believe in God the Son, who redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature, who has risen from death to make you His forever; because you believe in the Holy Spirit and that on the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead; and he will give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

Because the Holy Spirit did His job, because He anointed you with faith in Baptism, because the Word of Christ brought faith into your heart, because Holy Communion has fed and nourished that faith that sometimes shrinks, fear is a thing of the past.  It’s done.  It’s over.  It’s gone.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Faith in that means no more fear.

And yet…it’s easy to say such things.  It’s easy to not be afraid of things already done.  You’re not afraid of the test you just finished.  You’re not afraid of the roller coaster you just conquered.  You’re not afraid of the meeting that just ended.  But before all those things happened…you’re terrified.  Likewise, Easter isn’t scary because it’s already done.  But what about the Last Day?  I already said that faith means no more fear about the end.  But we’d all be lying to each other if we weren’t a little bit nervous about it.  Especially the way Jesus describes it today.  Today, we heard the tail end of Jesus’ insights into the end times, which He shared with the disciples just before He died.  Hear some of the context.

Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.…[T]hey will lay hands on you…. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors…. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.  When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

A scary picture.  One that, at times, leaves you afraid.  “Will I stand firm to the end?  Or will I fall?  Will I be welcomed into the kingdom, or will I be thrown into hell?  Will I pass the test, or be found wanting?”  Yet, Jesus ends His discourse simply:  When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Because Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  The resurrection means no more fear.  Faith in Christ means no more fear.  The resurrected Lord doesn’t scare you.  His announcing angels don’t scare you.  His sometimes incomprehensible behavior doesn’t scare you.  His awesome power doesn’t scare you.  His return in glory doesn’t scare you.  The fact that everything firm, sure, and secure will be shaken doesn’t scare you.  The destruction of the world in the twinkling of an eye doesn’t scare you.  Instead, you stand up straighter, you lift up your head, you look with anticipation.  Because it’s coming: redemption, ransom, release, inheritance.  He rose to make it so.  You’re not afraid, because faith in Christ makes it so.  Faith means no more fear.  Your faith, worked by the Spirit, is the reason why these words are spoken to you and have meaning to you.  They’re the reason you’re standing, not fainting like the rest of the world, who without faith in Christ are without hope.  They’re the reason you’re lifting up your head in joy and anticipation, not looking for a mountain to cover you, as all those who put their faith elsewhere then in Christ will.  They’re the reason today is a full-throated singing day, not just a day for hams, candy, Easter eggs and family!  Because this is most certainly true:  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Amen.

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Responses

  1. Amen


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