You sure look nice today, all dressed up in your Sunday-best for Easter!” Did someone give you that compliment today? Did that make you feel good? Of course!
It might be that you will say to the preparers of today’s breakfast something like this: “Good job! The breakfast was awesome! Thank you for your work!” That will give a lift to their spirits and assure them their early rising was worthwhile and their effort was appreciated.
Easter Sunday declarations like these are definitely encouraging! But God has an even better one to give you! It is found here:
Romans 4:25 He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
How fantastic and fulfilling is that!?! That is GOD’S EASTER SUNDAY DECLARATION ABOUT YOU! And even more— it is not only for today and not only for you. It is for every day of your life and for everyone in the whole world!
On Friday, we looked at the first part of this passage and were reminded that Jesus’ death came about, not by his own sins— for he had none— but for ours. God delivered his very own Son over to death as our Substitute and accepted Jesus’ payment of his holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death to rescue us from the pit, pain and punishment of hell. What happened on Friday is amazing and awesome, but it would be meaningless if not for Sunday!
On Sunday, Jesus was raised to life for our justification! Is that how you say it or do you say, “Jesus raised himself to life”? Either way is fine! God’s holy Scriptures reference it both ways (Ro 4:25; Jn 2:19). Either way Jesus is not dead! He is alive! The important thing is to know that Jesus rose (or was raised) and why!
We answer the question “why?” the way Paul does here: for our justification! That is a great Easter word! That big theological word is also a judicial word. If you have been through Catechism training, you have been taught this word and probably quizzed on it and, hopefully, remember its meaning.
Picture yourself in a courtroom. You are on trial for your crimes against God and humanity, being accused by the devil, who is listing every one of your sins in his opening statements before the judge, who is God. The situation looks bleak as you have to admit that you have thought, said or done every one of those crimes of which Satan is accusing you! And you know the punishment for those crimes is hell!
Just as God the judge lifts his arm to bang down the gavel with his judgment against you— just when you think all is lost and you will be condemned eternally— Jesus, who is your lawyer/advocate speaks up and announces that he has already suffered the penalty for your sins, so you do not have to be punished. God, knowing his own Son and the perfect life he lived for you and the innocent death he died on the cross for you, comes down with the gavel and announces a verdict of “not guilty!” In spite of your sins, you have been declared just— justified— because of the work of Jesus on your behalf!
You have been justified— not by people whom you will try to convince that the crime you committed wasn’t really that bad or that the commandment of God you broke shouldn’t have been a commandment anyway. These people might be hoping that you will do the same for them someday.
You have been justified— not by you who will try to convince yourself that one more drink for the road is not going to be a problem for you or others or that you can lie and no one will get hurt or that you can be disrespectful or unloving to your spouse because he/she has promised to remain with you no matter what. No matter how hard you try to justify yourself and your actions, you will always come up short!
But God’s Easter Sunday declaration about you is that you have been justified by him— the Maker of heaven and earth, the Master of all things, the Manufacturer of the greatest plan ever devised. It is only his decision that counts. And his decision is that by his grace, through faith in Christ Jesus, you are declared “not guilty” of all of your sins!
Did you ask anybody this week what makes Easter so special for them? One common answer would be “our family gathering.” Another might be “great food.” Another one could be “bunnies and baskets.”
But the best answer is “Jesus”, right? Yes, for he is the one who made Easter happen by coming back from the dead: faithful to his Word, victorious over Satan and setting the precedent for our own resurrection from the dead.
But the other “best” answer is you! Easter is all about you! Jesus was raised to life for our justification! Our equals the Apostle Paul…and the Romans…and me…and you. You were declared not guilty at Jesus’ empty tomb. You were freed from the prison of your sin and the fear of death. When God raised Jesus back to life, he also justified you!
Easter is very special no matter what you do because it is all about what Jesus has done for you. But how can you make sure Easter remains special?
One way is to take this message of God’s Word to heart. Reflect on this truth the rest of the day. Rejoice in it the rest of the week. Return to worship with us the rest of the Easter season— the next six weeks— to enjoy hearing the message of your justification over and over and over again.
Another way to make sure Easter remains special is to live it. Be thankful in your worship. Be generous in your offerings. Be kind in your dealings with others. Be forgiving of those who have offended you.
And don’t forget to make sure Easter remains special by speaking to others about it. It doesn’t take special glasses to see how wicked this world has become. It doesn’t take special hearing aids to catch the cries and complaints of God’s people suffering under the weight of their own mayhem and mischief. Instead of shaking our heads and giving up, thinking there is nothing we can do, go and do what Jesus has told us to do. “Proclaim among the nations what he has done” (Ps 9:11). Announce to your relatives today, your neighbors tomorrow and your classmates the next day that Jesus’ Easter victory was not only for him, but also for us and for all!
Enjoy the family gathering, the special meal, the baskets and bunnies today! Enjoy any compliments you might receive today! Above all, enjoy God’s Easter Sunday declaration about you which not only makes you feel good, but makes you good in your standing with God! Jesus was raised to life for YOUR justification!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!