24. April 2011
Easter Sunrise Festival Service
Mark 16:1-8; Job 19:23-27; Psalm 118
In the garden there are two trees. One brings life and the others brings death. One bears the fruit of life eternal. The other bears fruit giving knowledge of good and evil. Both are from God but both are not for man.
Mankind was never meant to know evil. We were created in God’s image, possessing God’s goodness, bearing fruit in keeping with our Father and creator. We were to live in the garden forever, walking with God in righteousness and holiness. We would bask in his glorious radiance, day in and day out. Our lives were to be full of feasting and joy, the bliss of God’s own family in God’s own home.
But one man, Adam, did not love God with his whole heart. He stood by idly while the woman, whom God gave him, blissfully listened to the tempting Serpent. The serpent lies were truthful sounding. They were the truth laced with that poison of doubt, “did God really say?”
“Did God really say not to eat of the tree that would make you like him?” Actually, yes. But we don’t much care for God’s Word, at least not the “thou shalt nots.” We’re like infant children. We love what our parents give us. We love their care and nurture, their love and affection. We love our mother’s milk and our father’s deep voice. But when either parent says “no,” our smile fades, our brow furrows, and we let out a howl like bloody murder.
We’re too quick to judge Adam for his sin. Surely, he knew better than to go against God’s holy command. Surely he should have left that tree and its fruit alone. I’m sure there was a bit of trepidation before Eve took the first bite and handed the delicious and deadly fruit to Adam.
That one sin had fatal consequences. God’s anger was kindled against man and against the tempting snake. The sweat of the brown and the pain raising godly children was their burden. Animals were slaughtered and their hides given for clothing for ashamed man.
God cursed man to live outside the garden, away from him. Their God and Lord banished them from his kingdom. Angels with flaming swords permanently bar the entrance, threatening to slice and dice even the littlest intruder.
Since then mankind is doomed to wander in the wilderness of exile. Our sustenance comes only with by ripping it from the soil or its blood spilt. Our homes and families are tended to with great sorrow, grief, and exhaustion. Even the the forces of nature have turned against us, flooding and tornados, earthquake and tsunami.
That’s what life is without God. Without God, we are parched and barren, devastated and doomed. Our life has become the living hell. Its not God’s fault. Our forefather, his children, and even all of us have followed thereafter in rejecting God and his injunctions, “thou shall not.”
Into this fallen creation, this ugly reality, Jesus is born. The son of a pious Jew named Mary. The illegitimate but adopted son of Joseph. He is like us in most every respect. His life began as the tiny fertilized egg in the womb of Mary. He grew into the zygote, the embryo, and whatever other names science has given to children growing in wombs. His heart beats, his limbs, his senses, and his mind grows. In the safety of a woman’s womb he grows until the day he leaves to shine his radiance upon the earth.
But he isn’t like us in every respect. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Through a miraculous word of God, spoke by his angel Gabriel, God the Father beget his Son. Son of Mary, to be sure, but Son of the only and almighty Father. Born of woman but born without sin.
This Christmas miracle is as brilliant then as it is today. For what was once the case is now the case again. God’s image bearer was to conceive and give birth to children who would be God’s own likeness again. Perfect creatures of the perfect God. Yet before the good gift of children was given to our first parents, they entered into corruption. We never saw what life as the family of God have been like in the garden.
Yet, the Father begets a savior to those whom he had cast out to wander. The Father gives the redeemer of the world to the world who has forgotten, neglected, or even hates him. This is the way of salvation. One man brought us to corruption. Now one man returns us to God.
We have heard again how our Lord was baptized with our sin. In the river Jordan he took our trespasses into himself. We have heard how he revealed himself through miracles of healing, over nature, and exorcism. We have heard how he fasted for our sake, showing us true obedience.
Unlike our ancestor Adam, he resisted Satan’s lies. Three times the great Deceiver tried to lead him astray and he resisted.
Then, he travelled from Israel and Judah, to the Decapolis and to Samaria to gather the scattered children of Adam. They gathered about him, pressing on him from every side. They know he is different. They know that he is in this world but most definitely not of this world.
Everything that had gone so terribly wrong by Adam is restored by the new Adam. Seas are calmed, bleeding is stopped, demons are cast into the ocean deep to drown, and food never runs out. The faithful remnant gathers about him, listening with anxious breath.
The pestering multitude has heard of the resurrection of Lazarus. What a miracle, they think. They follow him close, hoping that they will be part of his kingdom when it comes.
Into Jerusalem they go. Now, they have their king, the Son of David, the Messiah. Waving palm branches and strewing their coats before him, they follow. They follow singing “Hosanna in the Highest!”
But Christ is not entering into a kingdom of this world. His kingdom is of God and from God. It is not of Caesar or Jerusalem. Nor does his kingdom come through fanfare and pomp. It comes when the lowly son rides forth to die.
While Adam saw the flaming swords of the cherubim barring his way, Christ saw the murderous swords and clubs of the mob. Roman and Jew alike burned hot for his blood. Both Roman and Jew condemn him to die. He will not escape this world except through the sharp nails, piercing sword, and the fires of hell.
But notice this, he is lifted high upon the wooden cross. They fastened for his death a tree, torturous and deadly. But upon the tree is not the end.
For this tree is not the knowledge of good and evil. This tree is the tree of life. From its boughs hang the fruit of Christ’s death. He is the all-atoning death and all-sufficient sacrifice. He is our Passover lamb, who has been sacrificed.
His blood now covers the door’s posts and lintel. The way that was barred is now open. Freedom from bondage is purchased in his blood. The life is in the blood and it is now poured out for you and the sins of the whole world.
Then they took his body and laid it in the new tomb. This tomb was in a garden. Its probably not as spectacular as the original. But the fruit of the tree, the cross of Christ, lay upon the stone, sealed until his kingdom comes.
That day is today. The garden of God, where we would dwell with him forever is once again opened. The flaming swords no longer swing. Through Christ, we have entrance into God’s own dwelling place, his holy of holies. Through the death of Christ, the bonds of sin are shattered, the way of heaven is opened, and we are led on the path of righteousness for his name sake.
We know that our Redeemer lives. For not even death could hold him. Its stranglehold has been loosed, its death grip broken. Death has no victory nor any sting. Having destroyed sin and crushed Satan with cross, this last enemy is no match for our Lord.
Those women had forgotten how he had said that Son of Man must be crucified and on the third day rise. They fled to the garden, with the tree of death still etched in their mind’s eye. And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back… And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
So it is with the cross. What looks like a tree of death is truly the tree of life. What looks like the sacrifice hated and cursed by God is the only sacrifice that takes away each and every one of our sins. What looks like a garden for the dead becomes a place of rest for those who sleep until the resurrection.
Make no mistake, that’s the point. Resurrection. What Adam destroyed, our Lord restores. The curse of death upon the living is reversed and life is given to the dying. The kingdom of God is opened to all believers. Even after our skin has been thus destroyed, we shall see God for ourself, and our eyes will behold and not another.
The time of death is over. The curse of man has end. Today is a new day, the day of resurrection. It is the day that Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Let us rejoice and receive the fruit of the tree. THe lamb that was sacrificed. The blood that is life. Let us eat and drink and never die.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church