He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Easter is a day of visceral gladness. On the day of the resurrection, all guilt and doubt are erased and replaced with righteousness and sure hope. While the Psalms speak and stand for themselves, they are also a vast reflection of the emotion and movement of Scripture as a whole. Christ Himself, in His great moment of suffering and death, reached out for the words of Psalm 22 and breathed them as He died, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me.” In light of Easter, we are pulled out of the depths of the grave and given life. Likewise, a new Psalm is given to us, the promise of life and salvation proclaimed in Psalm 118.
“I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” (Ps 118: 17).
Our total hope and only comfort is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The declaration “I shall live” is incredibly bold in a world utterly filled with death. For the smallest and most vulnerable to powerful giants, death looms. For the psalmist and each of us, the difference between life and death is neither personal action nor status. There is no lifestyle, medical procedure, or philosophy that can stave off our eventual end. Instead, our total hope and only comfort is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation we have is a pure gift. While that gift is totally free to you and I, for Christ it cost everything. The Son of God was rejected, beaten, made sin, and crucified. This we call the bitter suffering and death of our Lord.
Christ’s suffering was no accident. His cross was a purposeful sacrifice driven by love (John 3:16, Luke 9:22, Matthew 20:28). Yet the devastation of the cross is transformed into the exaltation of resurrection. To this end, resurrection, life, and salvation are called the destruction of sin and death (Heb. 2:14), a triumphant siege (2 Cor. 2:14), and victory (1 Cor. 15:57, 1 John 5:4). In the face of death, resurrection is not a mere reversal but a militant conquest with Christ leading the charge. Christ’s work is not only to suffer sin and death but to destroy them, claiming us who are slaves to sin and death and making us citizens of the Kingdom of God.
We live because Christ did not remain in the grave but rose to life.
As we celebrate the conquering resurrection of our Lord, we celebrate the defeat of our sinful flesh. Luther reminds us of this in his explanation of the Lord’s prayer, “When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh.” Sin drives us to rest firmly in our works and our accomplishments, that is, to constantly be striving and fighting for glory. However, apart from Christ, our fight for life will always end in death. While we run away from death, Christ marched towards it. Christ marched towards death with the sure faith and trust of God that He would be raised to life (John 2:19). That faith is imparted to us through the preaching of the Gospel, and with it, everything is gained (Rom. 1:17).
The resurrection of Christ comes from outside of us taking the hope we had in the works of our own hands and placing us into the nail-scarred hands of God. Belonging to God means we no longer have to fear the death we earned, but like the Psalmist, we rest firmly in the accomplishments of God, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.”(Ps 118:5). “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”(Ps 118:14) We were not righteousness, but now the righteousness of God is our righteousness (Rom. 3:22, 10:4, 5:17). We were dead to sin, but now Christ’s resurrection is our resurrection (Rom. 6:4).
Psalm 118 is also a song of thanksgiving, cutting to the heart of how faith in the work of God alone saves. Luther comments, “This is the joyful song of the righteous. It is sung by all the saints in their tabernacles, that is, where they gather and dwell.” The Easter resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this promise that all who believe and confess in Christ are joined to Him. We will not die our death of sin because we already died with Christ. We live because Christ did not remain in the grave but rose to life.
He is risen; we are risen! Alleluia!