Beloved. Easter is all about newness. Because Easter is in our springtime, we see all around us evidences of new life, of nature awakening from the long winter slumber. The symbols of Easter used even by the secularists are things like chicks. We have the greeting cards wishing us “Happy Easter, happy spring!” But for us Christians, Easter and its newness is much more than a few flowers and a couple chicks. Yes, as Christians we, too, are reminded of newness of life as nature comes back to life but we know it goes much more beyond this. For us, Easter is all about Jesus’ coming to life again, His resurrection from the dead and so we see nature’s return to life as nature preaching to us of Jesus’ resurrection. St. John of Damascus from the 8th century wrote in his hymn [TLH #204, 2]: All the winter of our sins, long and dark is flying From His light, to whom we give Laud and praise undying, and in another hymn [205, 1]: The day of resurrection, Earth, tell it out abroad, The Passover of gladness, The Passover of God. From death to life eternal, From this world to the sky, Our Christ hath bro’t us over With hymns of victory.
This newness—this newness of life—is also picked up in the Introit appointed for this First Sunday after Easter. This Sunday gets its Latin name from the first word of the Introit in Latin: Quasimodogeniti, which means “as newborn babes.” It comes from St. Peter as he writes [1 Pt. 2.2]: As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby. The Christians, but especially the new converts, are called newborn babes. We have new life in Jesus—new life because He rose from the dead and gives us that new life of the forgiveness of sin and peace with God; we have new life because He brought us to faith, giving us this new spiritual life. And as we have this new spiritual life in Jesus, a life of faith, we are really always as newborn babes, that is, we are always growing in the faith—no matter how old we are or how much we have already grown in the faith. We are still as newborn babes. And as the newborn babes need milk, so we as Christians always need the pure milk of the Word, that [we] may grow thereby. Think of how much growing a baby does both inside and outside of the womb. That’s a picture of us as Christians always growing in the faith. Where there is growth, there is life. That growth is always by the pure milk of the Word. Dear Christian, we have new life; let us grow in that new life.
The heart and core of that pure milk of the Word is Jesus and His life, suffering and death for our sins to reconcile us sinners to the holy God; it is His glorious resurrection from the dead as Victor over sin, death, devil and hell; His resurrection that is God’s pronouncement of “forgiven” on the world. Because Jesus took all the sins of the world on Himself to the cross and suffered and died for them there but then rose from the dead, means that all our sin and guilt still lay dead and buried in the tomb. Jesus rose victorious from the dead and now gives us the forgiveness of sin and eternal life—new life—He won for us!
Last week on Easter, we had the fact of the resurrection. Jesus rose bodily, physically from the dead—and as we heard, that was the preaching of the burial cloths. This week’s Gospel has Jesus telling us what His resurrection means: the forgiveness of sins; and this forgiveness of sin He won for us is to be proclaimed and given to the penitent. Jesus told His disciples “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This is what we call The Office of the Keys. It is that special authority that Jesus has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of those who are sorry for their sins but to withhold forgiveness from those who are not sorry for their sins. Jesus entrusted this privilege to forgive sins to His Church. And this is what we hear prophesied in our text today from St. Isaiah. How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" The holy apostles were the first who did this. They were the first of the NT Church to receive Jesus’ command: “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” … “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” And go make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them [Mt. 28.20].They brought the Gospel—the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus—from Jerusalem into the whole world. And that message of the forgiveness of sin was passed on and picked up by their successors, by all true teachers and preachers of the Church until it came down to us today, and may we bring it faithfully to the generation after us.
What gives the apostles such importance is that upon their word and preaching the Lord in grace built His NT Church. They saw the resurrected Jesus. He stood there in the midst of them; He showed them His hands and side; He ate fish showing He wasn’t some phantom; He taught them; and with His ascension He marked the end of His post-resurrection appearances but He sent them the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to accompany them. The apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and glory. Look at our text: Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the Lord brings back Zion. The apostles—they were the first to lift up their voices and to announce that Jesus rescued us from sin, death, devil and hell. Again, Jesus’ resurrection means the forgiveness of sin. And what does our text say? For they shall see eye to eye When the Lord brings back Zion. They—the apostles, those who would first bring good news and proclaim peace, shall see eye to eye When the Lord brings back Zion. That’s what we have in our Gospel today—Jesus the Lord [brought] back Zion, He rescued us from sin, death, devil and hell; He has given us new life—a life of forgiveness of sin and peace with God; that’s what He did by His life, suffering, death and resurrection. And when He rose from the dead, He came to His disciples and they saw Him eye to eye—He was right there in front of them. There was no doubt that it was Jesus—alive—who had once been dead. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. They would proclaim Him, His forgiveness, His peace, His victory over our enemies for us.
How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" The scene here is of runners or messengers who ran from the scene of a battle to bring the news to the people waiting for the outcome of the battle. What is described here are messengers who after the battle bring good news. Their feet are beautiful because they are bringing the news that people wanted to hear/ long to hear. The apostles and those who follow them proclaim the news of the battle that was fought between life and death—and life won! Jesus rose from the dead. The reign of death has been broken. And if death’s reign has been broken, then so, too, the cause of death is destroyed—sin.
Jesus’ life here on earth—from His conception and birth to His death—was a battle, a battle to rescue us from sin, death, devil and hell. Our text describes it this way: The Lord has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations. Making bare the arm is for battle; the Lord reveals His strength and power. And Jesus did that in a most amazing way—in weakness. He allowed Himself to be tempted, but never sinned. He allowed Himself to suffer, to be betrayed, to be beaten, whipped and crucified; He was made the world’s sinner—taking all your sin and mine on Himself and there on the cross suffering all of God’s wrath and punishment for them. He died and was placed in the tomb. But He rose on Easter. Jesus won the battle over sin, devil and death. That’s why we have the forgiveness of sin; that’s why we have new life in Him.
The forgiveness of sin and new life was brought about by a battle that Jesus fought and won for us. That’s the proclamation of the Church. That’s the message that made the feet of the apostles on the mountains so beautiful. It is good news for us! Our spiritual enemies are destroyed/ conquered. Jesus rose from the dead. We, who had been destroyed by our spiritual enemies of sin, death, and devil are now comforted with Jesus’ victory and we are given the fruits of His victory: the forgiveness of sin, eternal life, peace with God, the Holy Spirit, etc. Our text: Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
This is the Easter season. It is the time greatest joy as we hear again and ponder the message/ Easter Gospel first relayed by the apostles who had seen the risen Lord Jesus. And what is this Easter Gospel? [It] proclaims peace, [it] brings glad tidings of good things, [it] proclaims salvation. The subject of Easter is peace—peace between us and God. We have been reconciled to Him by Jesus. The very holiness that God demands of us but that we cannot do and so we sin, Jesus has done for us; He has obeyed God’s holy Law for us. The very sin that separates us from God, Jesus took on Himself and paid the price for on the cross. Now with the forgiveness of sin, we no longer see God as the one who will damn us for our sin, but in Jesus we know Him as our dear loving heavenly Father.
And since the Easter Gospel proclaims peace, it then brings glad tidings of good things. The content of the Easter Gospel is something good—it is the good things of God that He now gives us. In it God announces and gives the good things to us—He gives us the salvation Jesus won for us. We don’t have to go hunting for it. Instead, with these glad tidings of good things, in it God gives us the forgiveness of sin, in it He gives us salvation, in it He gives us true spiritual joy and happiness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And why? Because it proclaims salvation. Both the message and the salvation come from God. That’s why it is certain and true and why we can believe it. With the cross and empty tomb the Easter Gospel proclaims: "Your God reigns!" This is the voice of the Gospel telling us: “Receive your King!” With Easter Sunday, we see Jesus reigning as He crushed/ defeated our spiritual enemies once for all. He is reigning and there is no doubt about it—He rose from the dead bodily as Victor. He now, in grace, entrusts His Church with this Easter Gospel/ proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and the privilege of sharing it and bringing it into all the world and into our little corner of the world—family, friends, coworkers, neighbors.
Now today through you and me, each time we tell others the Good News about Jesus, we follow the apostles and become those with the beautiful feet on the mountains. This is a message the whole world needs to hear—all people need to hear of their Savior from sin, of their Savior who conquered sin, death, devil and hell. It is only this saving message of Jesus that can and does give people that new life that we all need and that Jesus has made possible. And in our text, the Lord gives us the wonderful promise and encouragement that not only is Jesus and His saving work for all people, but all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God. Easter means the forgiveness of sins for all people. In faith, let hear and receive it again and anew and share that Easter Gospel with others. INJ Amen.