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He is Risen!

The Resurrection, tapestry from the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, c. 1530. (Design by the school of Raphael).

by Klaus Detlev Schulz

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem still resonates in our ears from Palm Sunday’s Gospel in John. While sitting on a young donkey, the crowd received Jesus with branches from palm trees crying out loudly: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” Five days later, this welcoming cry changes into “crucify Him.” Disappointment, frustration, and anger replaced hope in the person whom they thought would be their new Messiah, the promised King, who would liberate them from the political oppression of the Roman rulers. The person entering Jerusalem is nothing of what they thought He would be. Christ’s path to the cross has begun; His crucifixion and death is near. He will die a death.

And yet, death does not have the last say. He is risen. There is no doubt that the empty tomb to which the disciples Peter and John ran is evidence that the Lord has risen. This person who died on the cross and lay buried in a tomb is indeed the Messiah, the promised King of the whole world who, through His resurrection, conquers the power of sin and death over all people.

Easter awaits us all. By His wounds we are healed, and through His blood we are made whole. May we all this Easter treasure the divine gift of joy that came through the suffering of our Saviour. It is the day we commemorate His resurrection, His victory over death, and we celebrate His life and our future life with Him. The readings for this week of passion speak so much of Christ’s glorification (John 12:16.23.28), of Him being King (Zechariah 9:9), that “every knee, in heaven and on earth, should bow” before him and “every tongue confess Him as Lord” (Philippians 2:10). Indeed, Easter makes glorification come true—but only after Christ had chosen a path of total humiliation to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:5). His humiliation required His total obedience, even if the prospect of such a bitter suffering and death made Him want to have it pass Him by.

Easter awaits us all. By His wounds we are healed, and through His blood we are made whole. May we all this Easter treasure the divine gift of joy that came through the suffering of our Saviour.

Easter has come. Death and burial have given way to life and hope. We should look around us, and as we see the faces of other people, we may rejoice that Easter is meant not only for us but for them, too. Easter is universal in implication and as a festival commemorated by millions of Christians around the world. For us, it means that we look to our baptism, where we died and rose with Christ (Romans 6) to receive the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Sadly, many people have not yet heard the message of Easter. We pray that all churches of the International Lutheran Council will proclaim this message unrestrained, so that Easter’s blessings may shower over all who hear it. Let us, as preachers of Easter, never become weary of proclaiming the full meaning of Easter: someone offers Himself as Saviour on our behalf so that we may not die but live.


Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

He is Here for He has Risen

The Two Marys by Nikolai Koshelev (c. late 19th century).

by Timothy Quill

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” – Matthew 28:1-2

The angel of the Lord sat on the stone. What a thought-provoking sight: an angel whose appearance was as lightning and with clothes as white as snow, sitting there on a large stone. With this simple action the angel draws our eyes to the stone. The large stone which had been used to seal the lifeless body of Jesus in his grave.

It is a custom in some countries today for the family of the deceased to leave the room when the lid on the casket is closed for the last time and to leave the cemetery before the casket is lowered and buried in the ground. Emotionally it is just too much to take—so we are told. Once the lid is closed, the loved one will not be seen again in this lifetime. The closed lid removes the loved one from sight but not from memory. So, the bereaved continue to visit the graves of those they love—the heart aches, tears fall, prayers ascend, and flowers are placed next to grave stones.

So it was also with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They went to see the tomb. They brought spices to anoint the dead body of our Lord. They had been with Jesus and experienced His kindness, love, and mercy. Love drew them to His tomb. They arrived at the tomb at dawn on Sunday but to their surprise they saw that the rock was rolled back and upon it sat an angel. In Jesus’ day, preachers sat down when they preached. Jesus sat to preach in the synagogue in Nazareth and in the boat in the sea of Galilee. Now the angel sits upon the stone to preach the first Easter sermon and the women listened. “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay’” (Matthew 28:5-6).

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.”

With these words faith is born and despair gives way to joy. The resurrection changes everything. Today, whenever and wherever Christians join Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in their trek to the cemetery—when we stare into the dreadful dark pit which slowly swallows up the body of our friends and loved ones—we believe and confess with Mary Magdalene and St. Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory” “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 15:54, 57). We believe and take comfort in Jesus’ own words: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”(John 11:25).Our Lord’s words comfort us in our grief, and they also prepare us for a blessed death.

Christian funerals are celebrations of the resurrection and of Holy Baptism. St. Paul tells us: “All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death… If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection”(Romans 6:3, 5). At the time of Christ, the Romans buried people at night because they believed that a funeral was an evil omen. Christians on the other hand chose the daytime. They processed to the grave wearing white garments. They carried palm leaves, together with lights, and incense was burned—all to express the idea of triumph over death. They sang psalms of hope and alleluias of victory.

And what do Christians do at funerals today? We sing.

Christ is arisen from the grave’s dark prison.
So let our joy rise full and free;
Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia! (LSB 459)

He who was freed from the grave’s dark prison, He who no stone could keep captive, sets us free! So, we sing.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve listened. She listened to the words preached by the evil angel. She believed what he said, ate and shared the deadly fruit with Adam. And death entered paradise. The first sermon preached after Jesus’ resurrection was also preached by an angel. Mary Magdalene listened and believed what he said, and shared the life-giving news of Jesus’ resurrection with the disciples. The two Marys left the tomb, their hearts filled with fear and great joy. While on their way, they were met by the risen Lord Jesus who greeted them. First, they believe, then they see, fall before Jesus, take hold of His feet and worship Him.

This sequence of events is repeated every Sunday when the Church gathers to worship Jesus. First the Word is preached, then we hear the greeting from the risen Lord, and then His body and blood are touched and worshipped. First is the Word—the sermon—for it is the Gospel of Christ that creates and sustains faith. The ears hear, the heart believes and the lips confess. We live by faith not sight. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

First the Word is preached, then we hear the greeting from the risen Lord, and then His body and blood are touched and worshipped.

As it was with Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morning, so it remains today in the Divine Service. After the consecration the pastor elevates the body and blood for all to see and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” In one sense the pastor is saying, “He is here for He has risen.” After the greeting the Bride of Christ not only takes hold of the feet of our Lord, but also His hands and His side—in fact, Jesus embraces us. He fills us with His sacred body and blood. In the breaking of bread our eyes are opened to see the risen Lord Jesus Christ before us. The Proper Preface for Easter Day says it beautifully:

“It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks… And most especially are we bound to praise You on this day for the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, the very Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us and bore the sins of the world. By His dying He has destroyed death, and by His rising again He has restored to us everlasting life. Therefore, with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and with all the witnesses of the resurrection, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.”

We join with Mary Magdalene when we gather at the grave side with fellow baptized Christians to bury our dead, to confess the resurrection, and to sing hymns. On Easter we gather with angels and archangels—including the angel who sat on the tombstone and preached the good news of our Lord’s resurrection. And we join with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and all the witness of the resurrection who saw Jesus yet like us were saved by grace through faith, not sight. We join with them when we give thanks and when we sing the heavenly Sanctus in the presence of our risen Lord at Holy Communion. And we join with seven million Lutheran brothers and sisters in the International Lutheran Council from sixty countries around the world who joyfully sing Easter hymns on Easter morning and shout, “He is risen indeed!”

Joseph and Mary went up from Galilee to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4). On Easter morning, Jesus told the two Marys: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brother to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). To Galilee—the Galilee of the Gentiles. Galilee where Matthew’s Gospel ends with Jesus sending His disciples to all nations by preaching and baptizing. On Easter morning all over the world, on the dawn of the first day of the week, Christians open their sleepy eyes and smile as they realize: “Today is Easter Sunday—the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.”

And the words of the angel to the two Marys echo through our ears: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen.”


Rev. Dr. Timothy C.J. Quill is General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council.

Easter and the Medicine of Immortality

The Resurrection: Daniel Hisgen, 1770 (St. Michael’s in Oberkleen. Photo: Kurt Hanika).

by Hans-Jörg Voigt

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

With voices united, the Evangelists and Apostles witness to this fact: the grave of Jesus was empty on Easter morning, for God endowed His Son’s body truly with new life. They saw Him. They touched Him. They ate with Him. The certainty of this Easter message is the centrepiece of our faith. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Perhaps you’ll ask, what does this have to do with my life in these difficult days of the pandemic? The answer: by the power of Holy Communion, the life of the resurrection enters your life. This Sacrament has been called “pharmakon athanasias”—that is, the medicine of immortality. In the Lord’s Supper, you receive immortality.

Why is this sacramental faith so important? Let me point to an example from the area of medicine: for some time now, the so-called placebo effect has been known. It refers to the therapeutic effect that occurs when people take pills without any active pharmaceutical ingredients (i.e., placebos), where the patients are not aware of the fact that they are not receiving a real effective medicine. Sometimes placebos are used to test the efficacy of a newly developed medicine. At times, such placebos set free some rather astounding healing results within the test patient.

But just because placebos can be effective to some extent, no one would therefore deduce that he has no further need for medicines with real active ingredients. A cancer patient does not need symbolic treatment but real effective medicine.

The Last Supper: Daniel Hisgen, c. 1785 (Evangelische Kirche in Oppenrod. Photo: Cherrubino).

The Lord’s Supper is “pharmakon athanasias,” the medicine of immortality. Since we have succumbed to the disease of eternal death, we do not need a symbolic Lord’s Supper; we need a Sacrament with real effective ingredients: the body and blood of Christ.

Why is that so important? When you are no longer strong enough to believe, then despite everything this “pharmakon athanasias” will help you. When you despair and are sad, then this “pharmakon athanasias” will help beyond all reason. It isn’t up to you to do everything in your power to believe before the salutary effect of the Sacrament unfolds in your life. No, it is Christ, in His sacrifice on the cross, who has done all that in your stead. God’s confirmation and seal is the resurrection of His Son.

The Lutheran belief in the real presence in Holy Communion—which we share with the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians all over the world—is a very tangible belief. To maintain the doctrine of the real presence, Martin Luther staunchly withstood princes and theologians. Because he faithfully confessed the doctrine of the real presence, the hymn writer Paul Gerhard was dismissed from his pastorate and lost his income, simply because he withstood the ruler’s contrary command in this matter. To defend the doctrine of the real presence, the mothers and fathers of Confessional Lutheran churches in Germany felt compelled to leave their home country; they emigrated to Australia and to North and South America. It was all about the hope of the resurrection that is confirmed in the Sacrament of the Altar.

The pandemic that we’re subjected to these days can leave us feeling disembodied: no touching, no hugging, no common meals, no visits, no big wedding celebrations… it’s enough to make a person cry! We do everything on-screen these days—and always there are little inserts with the latest figures of the virus. There is hardly anything with bodily reality!

But wherever in the world the Holy Supper is celebrated, the opposite is taking place: there you receive the true body and the true blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, so that you may have eternal life. Yes, this “pharmakon athanasias” brings forgiveness, consolation, and true Easter joy.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt is Bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch—Lutherische Kirche) and Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.

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