Walther's Easter Sermon: A Festival of Joy

Easter Sunday has come and His Church rejoices in the beauty and wonder of the resurrection. Christ has defeated sin, death, and the devil himself, and the heavens and earth celebrate for weeks to come. The season of Easter is truly a time of rejoicing in Christ’s victory. Read C. F. W. Walther’s sermon on the true joy of Easter below from Gospel Sermons I .

The Easter festival is truly a festival of joy. Everyone knows that. However, few know what the real foundation, object, and content of true Easter joy is. I do not speak of those who even on Easter do not seek their joy in the house of the Lord, where the Resurrected is preached, but in the heathen temples of the world. For what can they who have a taste only for the joys of the flesh know of spiritual joys? No, I speak of those people who gladly wish to be Christians, who are versed in God’s Word, and who rejoice in it. They often know wherein the true Christmas joy consists, but they are still unclear as to the true Easter joy.

Why Christians Rejoice on Easter

It is usually supposed that Christendom rejoiced on Easter (1) that Christ after His disgrace and bitter suffering finally came into His day of honor and joy; (2) that by His resurrection, His innocence, divinity, and the truth of His words were incontestably confirmed before the whole world; and (3) that thereby the immortality of the human soul and the future resurrection of human bodies was fixed beyond a doubt. All these things are of course reasons for Easter joy. Even the Holy Scriptures praise these points as fruits of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It says concerning the first point, “[Christ] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:8–9). The Scriptures say of the second point, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16); and in another passage, “[Christ] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Finally, the Holy Scriptures say of the third point, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12).

As important as all this is, it does not contain the real complete comfort of Easter at all. For all these three points—the glorification of Christ, the confirmation of His doctrine, and the confirmation of the immortality of the human soul and the resurrection of the dead—Christ’s resurrection was not absolutely necessary.

The Real Comfort of Easter

First of all, God could have glorified Christ in another way. Second, as concerning His doctrine and divinity, both were already sufficiently confirmed by His glorious miracles; the immortality of man and the resurrection of the body was fixed beyond doubt long ago. 

The true object of the Christian’s Easter joy is an entirely different one. The points which were named are almost nothing more than the frame of the real picture, nothing more than extras to the real gift.

We can conclude this from the very fact that the Holy Scriptures present Christ’s resurrection as absolutely necessary for the work of redemption and the salvation of man. The apostle Paul says in the wonderful fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (15:14, 17–18). We must therefore conclude that the resurrection of Christ is not only an added stone in the structure of our salvation, but the cornerstone; the resurrection of Christ is not only a sparkling gem in the crown of our redemption, but the very crown itself; without the resurrection of Christ, the world still would not be redeemed.

And so it is. The resurrection of Christ makes it possible for one to rejoice in His birth, comfort himself in His suffering and death, and boast of His cross. 

Excerpt adapted from Gospel Sermons, Volume 1 copyright © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

To read more of Walther's sermons, order Gospel Sermons, Volume 1 below. 

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