“The Lord’s Prayer in the Lord’s Passion” is the theme of the Lenten devotion that Steadfast Lutherans has put together this year. The following sermon addresses the Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer. For further reflection, read The Large Catechism, III. 119-124 (The Amen of the Lord’s Prayer).
The Lord is risen! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
On a certain occasion, some of the scribes and Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus. He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
The prophet Jonah lived some centuries before the Son of God came in the flesh. The Lord told Jonah to go preach repentance to the Assyrians in Nineveh. Instead, Jonah tried to flee from the Lord. He paid the fare and got in a boat and sailed in the completely opposite direction.
In spite of Jonah’s disobedience, the heavenly Father made this event a prophecy of what his Son would do. “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.” This tempest represents the raging chaos of sin that we brought on ourselves because of our disobedience to God’s Word. “Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.” So also we cried out in desperation and fought for dear life. Yet nothing we did improved our lot.
“Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.” This reminds us of the time when the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus was in the stern of the boat, asleep on the cushion. A storm arose, and the disciples cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jonah’s sleep and Jesus’ sleep reveal God’s patience. We were in the raging darkness of sin, and the Father waited some time before sending his Son. Yet God’s patience did us no harm; rather, his timing was perfect. The captain came to Jonah and said, “Arise!” And likewise, at the right time and in answer to our cries, the Father said to his Son, “Arise!” and sent him to us in our plight.
Jonah came and was present with the sailors. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you.” It was as Jesus had foretold to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.” On Friday we heard how this came to pass: how our Jonah was thrown into the sea, how Jesus went to his death. “So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.”
The sea ceased from its raging. Jesus forgave our sins by giving himself to suffer for them. And by his suffering and death, he has given us peace and rest. There was a Sabbath that followed Jonah’s plunge into the depths, just as a holy Sabbath followed Good Friday. No longer could sin threaten us.
But what of Jonah? It says, “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Similarly, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, wrapped, and placed in the tomb. And then a massive stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. The awful fish called Death closed its mouth over our Savior.
Now we don’t know what happened to the mariners who sailed with Jonah. Perhaps they wondered what became of him, but ultimately, what became of him after the sea went calm had no bearing on them. Yet this is not so with Jesus. He is our life, and therefore if he sank under the waters never to rise again, then the same must be true for us. Death would have to be the strongest force in the world: the end of Jesus and the end of us all.
Thus we find ourselves asking the great Easter question along with the women, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” We ask not that we might anoint Jesus with spices. We ask for ourselves, knowing that one day our bodies will be sealed up in the tomb. Who will remove the stone and let us out? Who will open the fish’s mouth and free us from death?
But then the women found something unexpected. When they came to the tomb, 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, the Crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.’”
The Lord is risen! But what happened? The simple answer is, it was not possible for him to be held by death. Jesus was never at death’s mercy. His death was completely voluntary. Jesus said in John 10, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
When our death comes, we have no power to retain our spirit, nor do we have the power to release it at will. At death, our soul and body separate whether we want them to or not. But this is not the case with Jesus. He can retain his spirit as long as he wishes, he can release his spirit when he wishes, he can even rejoin his body and spirit as he wishes. And thus at Jesus’ death it says, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” He did not die because of blood loss or suffocation or intense pain. He died because he gave up his spirit and willingly went into death.
Death, for its part, didn’t realize the danger it faced as Jesus slid down its gullet. Death welcomed Jesus’ corpse the same as it welcomed the corpse of any human. Except that Jesus isn’t any human. Jesus is God. His human body is God’s body. His death was God’s death. And Jesus used his death to destroy death with death. Thus death swallowed Jesus and found itself swallowed up, as we heard in the Epistle, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Then the sign of Jonah reached its end: “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” The stone was rolled away from the tomb, the fish opened its mouth, and Jesus emerged victorious. Now we can’t say what happened to the fish that swallowed Jonah. Perhaps after spewing him onto the land it turned tail and returned to haunt the deeps and look for its next meal. We can say with great certainty what happened to death when Jesus took up his life again. Death came to the shore, Jesus emerged, and death did not turn tail; it did not go back to its former haunts. When Jesus took up his life again, death died. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15, “the last enemy, death, is destroyed.”
And what does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us? I’m sure there are many things that could be said. This morning I’ll mention four of them. First, Jesus’ resurrection means that the Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Certainly, the Father had said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Nevertheless, if Jesus had remained dead, we would have no certainty that our sins have been forgiven. In fact, Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, and therefore you have the certainty that the Sabbath which Jesus has brought is an eternal Sabbath. The tempest of your sins can threaten you no more.
Second, Jesus’ resurrection means that he lives to justify you, or in other words, he lives to declare you righteous in the sight of God. This is what it says in Romans 4, that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” The Word of God has not gone down silently to Sheol, but has risen from the dead and continues to preach his Gospel. The living voice of Christ gives you his righteousness.
Third, Jesus’ resurrection means that you will rise from the dead. Inevitable death has been replaced with inevitable resurrection, as Jesus says in John 5, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out.” For those who died in unbelief, this will be miserable. The resurrection for them only means bodily suffering in addition to their spiritual suffering. But for us who believe, the resurrection is our great hope. We fear death no more. We call it “falling asleep.” And why wouldn’t we? It’s not like death is permanent. On the Last Day, we’ll get up again, same as we do every morning.
Nor do we have to wait for the joy of the resurrection. It says in Colossians 2, that you have “been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him.” Eternal life has begun, and death is already out of the way, as it says in Colossians 3, “for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus means that God is almighty. The devil could not stop God’s Son, the world could not stop God’s Son, death could not stop God’s Son. In the resurrection of Jesus, God proved the master of them all. Therefore the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The devil, the world, and death have lost all their power, and Jesus reigns. This brings us nicely to the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which we have contemplated these past weeks: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”