1. He’s risen! He’s risen, indeed! Alleluia! The message from God’s Word for us this glorious day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is taken from Colossians 3:1–4. Here the Apostle Paul writes, “1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” The message is entitled, “The Christian Life—Death & Life in Jesus,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. Did you notice how two times St. Paul says we’re supposed to be heavenly minded? He says it right away, “… set your hearts on things above … Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Set your mind, set your heart … In other words, set your focus on heaven. Be heavenly minded.
3. Now in our day, the whole idea of heavenly mindedness is unappealing. Almost every phrase that we use in our modern language has to do with getting down to earth… To have your feet on the ground, to be a down-to-earth person … Everybody says, “That’s a good person, a down-to-earth person, feet on the ground.” But, what does it mean to have your feet on the ground? You’re in touch. You know about reality. You understand how things really work. What does it mean to be heavenly minded? Well, we don’t even use the term, but there is a phrase, “That group of people is so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” Have you not heard that?
4. So in our modern age we think of heavenly minded as people who are out of touch. People, who because their minds are, “set up in the clouds” really aren’t able to live life as it is. But that’s not true of what Paul is talking about. That’s not true of what he calls true heavenly mindedness. Not at all. No, for St. Paul our lives are caught up in Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. Because of this the Christian life is set towards the goal of heaven, since we have died and have been given new life in Christ!
5. If you were to read on in Colossians 3 from verse 5 and on, you will see that once he tells you to be heavenly minded in the way he describes here, “Then, you’ll be able to put off greed. You’ll be able to put off lying. You’ll be able to put off anxiety. You’ll be able to put off anger and bitterness. You’ll be able to put off worry about material things.” In other words, St. Paul says, “Those who are most heavenly minded, those who are most heavenly minded are the most earthly good.” They’re the people who are able to live life with the most freedom. They don’t get bitter even though things happen to them. They don’t get worried even though things happen to them. They move about in the world with freedom and power. Now, why do you suppose that is? Well, let’s look a little closer in our text from Colossians 3…
6. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that Jesus Christ died and rose again. Just suppose that on a given Sunday each of us substituted the word “I” for the name of Jesus. It would go like this: “I died and was buried. I rose again from the dead.” Sounds heretical, doesn’t it? And yet this is exactly what the apostle Paul is saying in our text. The Christ who was delivered to death for our sins was raised to life for our salvation (Rom 4:25).
7. On Good Friday we heard how God’s Son who had no sin became sin for us. We saw him on the tree of the cross, where he took our guilt and our punishment and died for our sins. We saw from a distance as he was buried. If that is all there is to the story, we have been taken in, our faith is useless, those believers who have died are lost, and we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor 15:12–39). But there’s more to the story, much more. On that first Sunday after Good Friday, our Savior Jesus defeated death and rose from his grave. The tomb was found empty. Jesus lives. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
8. This brings us great joy, for it means that God has accepted the atoning sacrifice of his Son. We’ve been forgiven. We’re all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:26). This brings us great joy for it means that Jesus has destroyed the power of death over us (see Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:21, 26, 55; 2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14; Rev 20:6).
9. History tells that when the battle of Waterloo was being fought, people in England were dependent on a system of signals to learn how the battle was going. One such signal was on the tower of a cathedral. Late in the day it flashed the signal “Wellington defeated!” Just at that moment fog obscured the rest of the signal. The news of disaster spread throughout the city, leaving despair. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the signal could be seen. The completed message read “Wellington defeated the enemy!” Sorrow was turned to joy. So it was on Easter when the gloom of Good Friday was turned to joy. Jesus had defeated the last great enemy, death (adapted from Herman Gockel, My Hand in His [St. Louis: Concordia, 1961] 20). This brings us great joy for it means we will be raised to live with Christ in glory forever, where we will at last be free of all burdens (see Jn 6:40; 10:28; 11:25–26; 14:1–3).
10. An elderly man with many burdens often walked in the park, stopping at a bench to rest. One day he found a piece of chalk and began to list his various burdens on the back of the bench. At last, he wrote: If there be any who have no burdens, would they please remove one of mine. Each day he returned to the park and the bench only to discover that his list of burdens was still complete. One day it began to rain and soon his list was washed away. Looking up he exclaimed, “That’s right; only in heaven will my burdens be removed.” That man learned that the Christian life is death and life in Jesus!
11. As children of God through faith in Christ, our lives are a daily dying and rising with Jesus. We’ve become so heavenly minded that we are of some earthly good. In the power of the Holy Spirit, working in our Baptism, we died to sin (the old nature) and came alive to Christ (the new nature; see Rom 6:3–4; Col 2:12).
12. This impacts our lives on a daily basis. As people who belong to the living Christ, we say a daily no to sin, which St. Paul refers to as earthly things in Col. 3:2. In Colossians 3:5-9 Paul writes, “5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” As people who belong to the living Christ, we say a daily yes to God’s will. And what does this new life in Christ look like where we are so heavenly minded that we are of earthly good? St. Paul says later in Col. 3, “12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Our motivation for such a life is the cross of Christ and His empty tomb and not a set of laws by which we hope to justify ourselves (Col 2:20–23).
13. Although our lives are now hidden with Christ in God, we shall fully enjoy our Lord’s glory when he comes again (vv 3–4). Within two weeks a family lost three of its four children from disease. Only a four-year-old was left. The third child had been buried two weeks before Easter. On Easter the parents and remaining child went to church. The mother told her Sunday school class about the resurrection of Christ. The father read the Easter story as he led devotions. People who knew of their loss wondered how they could do it. On the way home, a 16-year-old asked his father, “Dad, that couple must really believe everything about the Easter story, don’t they?” “Of course they believe it,” responded his father. “All Christians do.” “But not as they do,” said the boy (adapted from Donald Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations [San Jose: Resource Publications, 1992] 55). Easter means that we’re forgiven. Easter means the assurance of God’s love and the certainty of eternal life in heaven. Oh, the joy! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen.