Sunday, April 12, 2020

This Is What We Waited For!

Isaiah 25:6-9
And the LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.  And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.  He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.  And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.  This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."

Sermon for Easter Sunday                                              4/12/20
This Is What We Waited For!

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Hallelujah!

The Old Testament is all about Easter – only it is about Easter coming, not Easter passed.  They were waiting for Easter since God told them that the Serpent would wound the Messiah, but not destroy Him, but that the Messiah would utterly crush the Serpent!  They were waiting for Easter since Job wrote, "I know that my Redeemer lives!  And He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth."  They were waiting for Easter since Moses wrote, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, And a scepter shall rise from Israel."  The whole Old Testament is about waiting for Easter, so, in a sense, this is what we waited for!  And that is our Easter theme!

The Old Testament re-enforces the understanding of the truth that our religion is something that is described as "already / not yet".  Already we know, but not yet do we perceive with our senses.  Already we possess, but not yet do we fully enjoy that possession.  There is nothing about our salvation which is unfinished, or which we do not possess already.  Nevertheless, there is much about it that is not yet for our experience.  We have resurrection already.  We have eternal life already.  We have life with God in His presence already.  The not yet part is our sense of these things.  We don't see it.  We don't feel it.  So it seems to us to be "not yet".

But it is!  He is Risen!

"In that day," says our text.  Well, today is that day.  The Lavish Banquet is prepared!  We have been invited.  We have to be, because we are the Mountain of the Lord.  This is where the banquet is to be served – where it was served in part last Sunday.  Remember, the Mountain of the Lord is the place where His glory dwells.  Well, we, the Church, are the place where the glory of God dwells among men.  He dwells in each one of us that believes.  He is present among us wherever two or three are gathered together in His name.  This is the place where God promised to prepare the Lavish Banquet – and He has prepared it.

Look at the language used to describe it.  "Aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine."  We all know about how the aged wine is the best!  And I still remember my Grandma grabbing the round bone from the steak and sucking the marrow out.  She would invariably say, "Ohh!  The marrow's the best part!"  I eat the marrow to this day because my Grandma said it was the best part – and I have never learned to relish it the way she did.  The image here is the finest and choicest and most absolutely magnificent banquet fare.  And what could be better than the banquet of the Lord's Supper?  It is there we receive Him in His body and blood and, with Him, everything He has won and everything the heavenly Father has given him.

This banquet is resurrection from the grave – for us, not just for Jesus!  It is life everlasting beyond sin and all of its effects – no more pain, no more sickness, no more sorrow, and no more dying ever!  This banquet is the one Jesus spoke of as "The Wedding Feast".  He included it in several parables.  We call it "the Wedding Feast of the Lamb to His Bride, the Church."  The banquet is eternal life and salvation, but we possess those things already, right now!  That is what Easter is about.  But we do not experience them – not yet.  Nevertheless, the Lavish Banquet is before us – for it begins in the Church!

One item on the menu of this banquet is the veil that covers the nations.  The veil is death, and while it is mentioned on the menu, it is not for us, but for God to swallow it up.  God will end death.

But that is why I say that the banquet has already begun!  God has swallowed up death.  He put an end to death by putting His Son to death on the cross in our place.  Death is all done with!  That is the celebration of Easter.  Jesus has destroyed death, God has swallowed up the covering which rests on all people everywhere.  Death is dead!  He was killed by the death of life, because life could not be destroyed by death and life rose from the grave on Easter morning, destroying death in its path.

Of course, this is already / not yet.  It is true, already, but not yet do we see it and enjoy it fully.  This what we waited for!  This is what the people of old waited for!  Our victory is won!  Our death has been destroyed!  When we do what people today call dying, we will discover that it is the door to everlasting life!

But we will die, at least in this world and from this flesh.  That is a certainty.  And it is always accompanied by tears and sorrow.  For those of us who understand and who believe, it is sorrow at being left behind, and sorrow at the separation, but not sorrow about the beloved.  None the less, there is sorrow and pain and grief.  Easter is about the end of all that.

Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we, too, shall rise!  His resurrection guarantees and demonstrates what our resurrection shall be.  That is why we cry out "Hallelujah!" on Easter.  We can see the joy, even on those days when we cannot feel it.  But the day is coming when we shall also rise.  That is also what Easter is all about.

We will rise from our graves.  We will have transformed bodies and will rise to eternal life and to a reunion that is joyful and delightful beyond all expression here and now.  That is the day when the promise of our text shall be accomplished, "And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces."  Sorrow will be a thing of the past.  It will be gone because all that causes sorrow will be ended, wiped away like covering of dust on the furniture.

Sin causes death, but it also causes sickness, and sorrow, and frustration, and anger, and fear, and impatience, and despair.  All of those fruits of sin will be gone as well.  God will remove all of the sources of sorrow and dismay, and will give us a clear understanding of the true joy of our circumstances – as if seeing those we have loved and lost again will not be enough.  We will be us, and they will be them and we will know one another and delight in one another in that day.  And that is the day that we will shout for joy, This is what we have waited for!

Isaiah says, "And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth."   That reproach is our sin, and our dying, because God created us for eternity with Him.  He created us for communion with Him.  He created us to live in His love and bask in His glory.  Our sins, however have made that impossible.  So God took sin out of the way.  He carried it to the cross Himself, and killed us in His own Son.  And now He makes us alive in Him.  And we are forgiven, and never to die – except that flesh part, and that only for a time.  Our reproach will be gone, and in its place, we who were created merely in His Image, shall become partakers of much more – having been claimed by God as family, as His own children.  We will be more than merely without sin, we shall be positively holy – and like Jesus, whatever that may be, for the Scripture says, 1st John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.

That is the day that we are still awaiting, when the treasures of our salvation are not hidden from sight, but fully experienced and fully sensed and fully realized!  That is the ultimate day of the Banquet, when we shall relish the feast as we should, as it deserves.  And on that day we shall see God, and know Him without reservation or doubt or uncertainty.  Then we shall shout for joy the words of our text,"Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."

This is what we have waited for.  And we know that it is so, For, as Isaiah tells us the LORD has spoken.  It is certain because it is the Word of God!  It is not merely pious and wishful thinking, but the promise of God and the very substance of our faith.  And it is important to remember that it is not just "pie in the sky by-and-by".  It is already true and real, even if not open to our immediate senses.  Jesus has accomplished it all, already.  But we do not possess it fully, not yet.  We wait to share in Easter with Jesus - in the resurrection.  But today, we celebrate it, for we have seen it.   Through the eyes of faith, and by the witness of the Apostles, we have seen it.

This is what Easter is all about.  This resurrection is the "free sample" in advance of the free Gift of God that we, too, shall rise.  So celebrate!  Shout for joy!  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!  Here in our text, we see Easter.  And in the Gospel, we see the Banquet beginning.  And we see Jesus.  And this is what we have waited for!

As we sing in the hymn:

I am content!  My Jesus liveth still,
In whom my heart is pleased.
He hath fulfilled the Law of God for me,
God's wrath he hath appeased.
Since He in death could perish never,
I also shall not die forever.
I am content!  I am Content!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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