You have heard the testimony of those to whom the Lord Jesus appeared after He had risen from the dead. And yet, it seems that you can hardly bring yourself to believe that it is true. Or perhaps it is more difficult for you to believe that it actually makes any difference for you and your life.
There are those times, to be sure, when the news of the Resurrection warms and gladdens your heart. But then there are those other times when your sinful heart is cold and hard, and you refuse to embrace the Gospel. Then you go on mourning and weeping, as though sin were not forgiven, as though death were not defeated, and as though there were no hope or help in all the world.
It is hard for you to believe, because there is nothing quite so contradictory as the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. It occurs in the midst of sin and death and unbelief, which seem so irrefutable. And you have nothing to hang on to but the Word of the Gospel, which offers exceedingly great and precious promises — but which also seem entirely too good to be true. After all, you still get sick and die. You struggle to cope and make ends meet. You wrestle with temptations and fall into sin.
Let’s face it, the honest fact of the matter is that your faith can be quite feeble and flickering at times. By God’s grace you believe — but God help your unbelief, because you cannot help or convince yourself. Your poor little Christian faith and life can be downright scary and precarious, actually; and then there is that Word of the Law, that he who does not believe shall be condemned.
How sobering is that, when Jesus has just reprimanded your unbelief and hardness of heart!
But in this way He calls you to repent. To despair of yourself, yes, but to believe in His Gospel. He turns everything around, and He makes all things new, including you, your faith and life. That is what He has accomplished by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead; and that is what He proclaims and gives to you by the preaching of His Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins.
Consider the evidence, and take to heart that the Lord Jesus is the Savior of sinners like yourself:
It is the sinful woman from whom He cast out seven demons to whom He first appears, and whom He sends to announce His Resurrection.
It is those first two disciples of Emmaus — who were so foolish and slow of heart to believe, who were so brokenhearted and sad — to whom He reveals Himself in the Breaking of the Bread.
It is the hard-hearted, unbelieving eleven disciples, who had deserted Him in His Passion, whom He sends out as His holy Apostles to preach the Gospel to all creation.
You see? He harbors no grudges. He does not despise, reject, or cast off His struggling followers.
Nor does He cast you away from His presence. Far from it! Instead, He calls you to Himself by preaching His Gospel to you. He forgives you all your sins, and He remembers them no more. He casts out all your demons, and He cleanses your body, soul, and spirit with the gift of His Holy Spirit. As He did in your Holy Baptism, so does He do again and again by His Holy Absolution. He raises you up from doubt and death to fear, love, and trust in Him, to live by faith in Him.
He reveals Himself to you here at His Table, where He feeds you with His life-giving Body and Blood. And because this same Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you and rose again, is with you and accompanies you on the way, there is nothing in heaven or on earth that shall be able to hurt you.
Despite the frailty and weakness of your mortal flesh, sickness, sin, and death will not have the last word concerning you. The Gospel has the last word concerning you, both body and soul. You, too, shall rise and live in perfect peace and health, forever and ever. This is most certainly true.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.