(adapted from Rev Trapp)
As we have been preparing for this day, our Lenten Midweek Services have used the prophet Jeremiah. And today, Easter, we reach our goal (if you will).
Our Text is: Jeremiah 31:15-20.
Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.
I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I slapped my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord .
1. At the loss of a loved one, there is often uncontrollable grief.
Our text begins: Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Rachel was the favored wife of Jacob. Because of that, she becomes the symbolic mother of God's chosen people. And she is very familiar with tears of grief.
- After years without children, she died giving birth to her second son-- Benjamin.
- Her descendants were carried off into exile with lamentation and bitter weeping.
And St Matthew tells us this verse was fulfilled in the grief and weeping at the death of the innocents. All the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under that Herod had put to death in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus (2:16).
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
2. Suffering is one sign-- or result-- of sin in the world. The faithfulness of God is met with the faith-LESS-ness from human beings. In sin, all have turned their back on God. All deserve His wrath-- but He holds it back!
Yet, the Lord is a loving Father. A Father who must discipline His children. I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God.
Ephraim was a son of Joseph-- Rachel's first son. That tribe was also scattered by exile. In the same way, we can say all people are scattered-- blindly looking for what was lost.
3. Yet, to us, the Lord says: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears... There is hope for your future.
Our lamentation and bitter weeping is over. The Lord loves us with an everlasting love. His faithfulness... endures forever (Psalm 117:2).
And He promises life will continue. God tells us that His heart yearns for us. He is calling you back to what was originally yours.
The death and resurrection of Jesus brings this about.
In His resurrection, Jesus (through the power of the Holy Spirit) calls each one of us to come to a renewed relationship with Him. To have a heart that is shaped and molded by His forgiving love. To have a heart plugged into His power and His presence.
And yet, many who celebrate Easter this day still are afraid that God does not have the power to really act.
But, where He looks weak-- the power of God is at work. He tells us: His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
Our Lord uses things that look foolish and weak to the world. And look what He has done! He implants new hearts in you and me. And through us, the Lord implants new hearts in others. Hearts that will keep pumping to all eternity.
He does it through foolish looking water. But it is not weak water. Holy Baptism is water combined with His strong Word. It has the power to unite you with all the blessings of Jesus' death and resurrection.
4. You and I live a life celebrating Jesus' resurrection as we come (with joy) into God's presence. The Psalm-writer says: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (122:1).
For you see, in the house of the Lord, God serves us with His good gifts.
- Here, we gather around His Word and Sacred Acts of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
- Here, the Lord tells us that He delights in us as His children.
- Here, the eternal wedding banquet breaks into time.
To keep and observe the resurrection rightly, we lay upon Jesus' heart the weight of our sin. Our:
- Pounding, and
- Lonely Hearts.
And He implants in each one of us a new and whole heart.
We have been made new in the power of the resurrection. Our real suffering is ended. In fact, it never reached us.
I mentioned before that the Lord holds back His wrath. He held it back until He let it out full force at the cross. What we deserve-- death and God's fury-- is what Jesus got. And what Jesus earned-- forgiveness and peace with God-- is what we get.
The death and resurrection of Jesus sets in motion the reestablishment of what was in the beginning. Once again, the Lord will look around His creation and say: It is very good (Gen 1:31).
As St Paul says: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:17). But, (Paul goes on), in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15:20).
Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! And as surely as He was raised from the dead and lives-- so certainly will you be raised to life-eternal. The tears of sorrow shall one day be turned into shouts of joy and laughter!
He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same;
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
"I know that my Redeemer lives" (LSB 461)!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!