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This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Christ is Risen!
2 Timothy 2:8
Paul wrote this second letter to Timothy as he was on death row in a Roman prison awaiting execution. If you were in that situation, what would you write to your friends and co-workers? Would you complain about the injustice you were suffering? Would you beg them to file all kinds of appeals to try to win at least a stay of execution? Would you ask them to try to help you escape? That’s not what we hear Paul saying to Timothy, is it?
Paul understood his situation. The Roman government had declared the Christian religion illegal. Some of the Roman Emperors saw Jesus as a rival because he was worshiped as King of kings and Lord of lords, a position they wanted to have for themselves. We don’t know the exact charge the Roman government leveled against Paul, but it had to do with his faith and his preaching of the Gospel. Paul understood that if he were to promise to stop preaching the gospel and to agree to accept the emperor as King of kings, he could likely escape execution. But, like Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego before him, he was not willing to deny his faith in order to save his life. In fact, he was doing what we all promise to do at our Confirmation, to remain faithful to the gospel even when threatened with death.
What was Paul’s message to Timothy as he awaited his execution? The same message that continued to give him hope and strength as he knew his days on earth were numbered. Remember. Keep on remembering, always remember, the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Keep on remembering. We all need that reminder because it’s so easy for us to forget. Jesus had told his disciples numerous times exactly what was going to happen when they went up to Jerusalem. He would be arrested, handed over to the Gentiles, be crucified, and on the third day he would rise again. But they didn’t remember, did they? The rapid succession of events on Thursday night and Friday hit them like a cyclone. Their heads were spinning. It seemed like they forgot everything Jesus had told them. When the angel appeared to the women at the empty tomb he told them, remember, remember what Jesus told you.
We understand their situation because we are the same way. Life gets busy. Murphy moves in to one of the bedrooms. An appliance needs to be replaced, the car needs a repair, the kids get in trouble at school, the company you work for gets bought out and you don’t know what the future holds, and that was just your Thursday and Friday! Your head is spinning. You can’t seem to think straight, and you forget. You forget that this world and its troubles won’t last forever. You forget about Jesus and the gospel promises he has made. We need to hear Paul telling us each day remember, keep on remembering.
What is it that we are to keep on remembering? Remember Jesus, a descendant of David. Do you remember why he was given the name Jesus?
When Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the promised messiah he reminded her of many of the promises that God had made, including that fact that he would have the throne of his father David. When he appeared to Joseph, he explained the reason they were to give him the name Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins.
Remember Jesus, the one who is the Son of the most high God, who was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit so that he is God and man. Remember that’s who he needed to be in order to be the savior of the world. No mere human being could save us because, as descendants of sinful Adam and Eve, mere humans are unable to keep God’s laws perfectly. And, if Jesus were only God pretending to be human, he would not be under the law, able to be tempted as we are, nor would he be able to suffer the punishment we deserve. Only because he is true God and true man in one person was he able to under the law and keep it for us; and to suffer and die, yet have his death be the payment for every sin.
Remember Jesus, the Son of the Most High, a descendant of David, true God and true man, exactly who he needed to be in order to live up to his name – Jesus, Savoir.
Remember Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Christ. The anointed one. The one foreshadowed by those who were anointed in the Old Testament, the prophets, priests and kings. He fills all three of those offices at once.
Remember that he was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power at his baptism as the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove.
He fulfilled his office as prophet by speaking only what the Father had given him to speak. He fulfilled his office as priest by willingly sacrificing himself on the cross. He fulfilled his office as king by battling Satan for us and defeating his every temptation. He established a kingdom that is not if this world, a kingdom that, unlike the kingdoms of this world, is free from all evil and lasts forever.
How do we know this is true? Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. As Paul told the Corinthians, if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. If Christ has not been raised, we are all wasting our time here today. If Christ has not been raised then Paul is a liar and so am I, because all who proclaim the Gospel are proclaiming that Jesus did rise from the dead. But, Paul says, Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Jesus not only appeared to the eleven disciples on successive Sundays, and to the women at the tomb, he appeared to over 500 people over the 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension. And, after his ascension, he also appeared to Paul.
On Easter morning there was an earthquake, the guards were frightened away and paid by the Jewish leaders to lie about what they saw. The governor’s seal on the tomb was broken. The stone was rolled away by an unseen hand. The tomb was empty. The grave clothes were left behind, and angel announced that Jesus had risen. The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming. His resurrection is proof that he his who he claimed to be, the Son of God, the savior, the Christ. His resurrection is proof that the Father accepted his life as the fulfillment of the law in our place. His resurrection is proof the that Father accepted his suffering, his blood shed on the cross, as payment in full for the sin of the world. His resurrection is proof that everything he said was true, his every promise is 100% trustworthy.
Jesus, risen and ascended, continues to serve as the Christ, our prophet who continues to give us his Holy Word, our priest who continues to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father, and our king who is ruling everything in the universe to make sure we are kept safe until he comes to take us to live in his perfect kingdom that never ends.
The old gospel song says, “because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone.” As he sat in prison on death row Paul was remembering Jesus Christ risen from the dead, a descendant of David. Whenever he was tempted to wonder if this gospel was worth dying for, he remembered that Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, his promise to be with him was true. Whenever the fear of death by execution crept into his heart, he remembered that Jesus rose from the dead, therefore he could say with confidence, The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever.
Paul wanted Timothy, and he wants us, to have that same kind of peace and confident hope, to be able to face each day’s problems and to overcome every fear. We may never sit on death row awaiting execution for our faith, but we experience the times Paul warned Timothy were coming. He told him, there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. He warned them that people would not put up with sound doctrine but would look for those who would tell them what their itching ears want to hear.
We live in these last days. We can expect that we will not only face the normal troubles of this life, things breaking down, murphy moving in, etc. In addition, we can expect hatred and persecution if, like Paul, we refuse to be silent about Jesus and continue to proclaim the gospel, the truth that Jesus Christ risen from the dead, a descendant of David, is the only way, truth and life. Each day we need the encouragement that Paul gave to his friend and co-worker Timothy whom he knew would face such troubles in life. We need what gave Paul peace and hope as he awaited execution. We need the only thing that will give us peace and hope, that enables us to face whatever tomorrow brings, that can remove our fears. Keep on remembering Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, a descendant of David. This is the gospel of your salvation, the proof that all God’s promises are true, that because he lives, you to will rise to live with him in glory forever.