“Amen” (Sermon on the Lord’s Prayer and 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)
“Amen” (The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Yes, “Alleluia” of course is the word of the day for Easter Day. We’ve been saving it up all Lent, and now today we finally get to let it loose. And what a day to do so! Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on this day, winning the victory for us over death and the grave. If that doesn’t elicit an “Alleluia,” I don’t know what will. “Alleluia” is a Hebrew word originally, and it means “Praise ye the Lord.” And praise is most fitting for us to render unto the Lord God for the great salvation he has assured us of by raising his Son from the dead.
“Alleluia,” the word of the day for Easter. But today I’d like to suggest another “A” word that works just as well on this day. And that is the word “Amen.” “Amen” also is a Hebrew word that has carried over into English. It means “to be sure,” “to be certain.” The basic idea is firmness or certainty. In the Bible, the word “Amen” expresses a certain affirmation in response to what has been said. And that idea, and the word itself, carried over into the Christian church, and on through all the centuries, all around the world, down to this very day. “Amen,” we say, whenever we want to affirm as solid and trustworthy whatever has just been said, whether that is a prayer or a blessing or what have you.
And friends, there is nothing more sure or trustworthy than Christ’s resurrection from the dead! Therefore Easter is a perfect day for a big “Amen,” as well as a big “Alleluia.” And the reason we can say a hearty “Amen” at the end of our prayers is because God himself has put a big “Amen” exclamation point on the work of Christ on the cross by raising from the dead. Easter is God’s “Amen!” to what Jesus did on Good Friday. And this in turn gives us confidence to say our Amen to the prayers we pray to God, knowing with all certainty that our heavenly Father will hear us and look on us with favor for Christ’s sake.
Listen to what St. Paul says about this in 2 Corinthians chapter 1: “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
Did you catch that? “All the promises of God find their Yes in him,” that is, in Christ. “That is why it is through him,” through Christ, “that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
“All the promises of God find their Yes in him.” Everything that God has promised to mankind, to ancient Israel, to the church, to us–all of these promises find their fulfillment and their focus in Christ. Track all of the promises of God in the Bible, and they all come to fruition in Christ. The seed of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head. The seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. The new Moses and the new Joshua, who will lead God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land. The Son of David, the Messiah, who will reign over an everlasting kingdom. The Servant of the Lord, prophesied by Isaiah. All of these Old Testament promises were looking forward to their fulfillment in Christ.
Yes, including that Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53. The one who would suffer for the sins of the people. The one by whose stripes we are healed. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, the one who looked like the world’s biggest loser, scorned by men and seemingly abandoned by God. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him,” to put him to grief. And after he has been laid in a tomb, “he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” This is a prophecy of the resurrection of the Christ, after his atoning work of dying for the sins of the people–for our sins.
Here we can see that Good Friday was not a detour from the plan of God–it was the plan of God! It was not a temporary setback; it was instead the ultimate solution. The cross was God’s plan and God’s purpose coming to its goal, its fulfillment: Christ, the Messiah, dying for sinners in order to redeem them, to win their forgiveness and thus their freedom: freedom from guilt and punishment, freedom from the stranglehold that death had on us, freedom to be the people of God in faith and love and filled with the Spirit. This is what Christ did for us on that cross, stomping on the devil’s head, purchasing our release from bondage by the holy blood that he shed. This is the wonderful thing Jesus did for us by his death on the cross. And so Easter, then, is God the Father saying a great big Yes to all that. It is God affirming the work of Christ by raising him from the dead. The Father glorified the Son by highly exalting him in resurrection victory. Easter is God’s Amen to Good Friday.
And dear friends, this is why we now can be bold and confident to say our Amen whenever we pray to God. As our text in Corinthians says, “That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” We can say Yes and Amen to our prayers because we know Christ has given us access to the Father, and so it is right and fitting that we conclude our prayers by saying, “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then adding a big old “Amen” to it.
And that includes of course the prayer our Lord himself taught us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. If ever there was a prayer we can be absolutely certain God will hear and we can put an Amen on, it is that prayer. The Amen we say at the end of the Lord’s Prayer means, as Luther explains it in the Catechism–it means I can be “certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.”
And so we come to the end of our series on the Lord’s Prayer, with the Amen on Easter Day. Can we be sure our heavenly Father will hear our prayer that his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done? Yes and Amen! Christ’s resurrection is how it happens. Can we be sure God will give us our daily bread? Yes and Amen! “If he did not spare his own Son, how will he not with him give us all things?” Can we be sure that God will forgive us our trespasses? Amen! That’s what happened on Good Friday, when Christ bled and died for our forgiveness, and God gave his Yes to that by raising Christ from the dead. Can we be sure that God will give us strength to face temptation and that in the end he will deliver us from evil, including the evil of death? Yes and Amen! Easter guarantees it!
So in the confidence that God has accepted the work of Christ on Good Friday by giving it his Amen on Easter Day–in this firmness and certainty, we can conclude the Lord’s Prayer and all our prayers with our own “Amen!” Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And all of God’s people said . . . Amen!