Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”– because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Paul preached that Jesus rose from the dead. Right there in Athens, a culture of skeptics, thinkers, philosophers seeking truth among all the false idols of the society. A culture not that far removed from our culture today. Paul preached resurrection from the dead. Paul preached that God had been raised from the dead.
But we don’t seem to get the message. Sometimes we live is if he were still dead. We are pessimistic and worry and fret as if God were dead and we had no hope in this world. We lack vision for what we can do in the strength of the Lord and want to give up. So, even though we just celebrated Easter a few weeks ago, it seems appropriate that we have a funeral today.
But in order to have a funeral, we need a dead person. So, you ask, “Where is the dead person?” Just take a look around you. There are dead people sitting in the pews, in front of you, behind you, next to you. In fact, if you look hard enough, you will see a dead person sitting right in the spot where you are sitting. For each and every person is born dead in their sin. Not only were you born dead in sin, but you live and act as if you were still dead in your sin. Jealousy, selfishness, pointing fingers of blame at each other, talking behind people’s backs, bickering, pessimism. You moan and groan and complain as if you were dying and death was the only thing to look forward to.
You live as if God were dead and what you do doesn’t make any difference. You reason, “God does not see us, nor hear us so let’s do what we want. Let’s satisfy our own lusts, get what we can in any way we can, as if God were dead and could not see us.”
So today it’s time for a funeral. A funeral for ourselves for we are on the highway of death.
But what is the purpose of a funeral sermon? No, it’s not just a litany of pious platitudes to offer shallow comfort to the mourners. It is for the people sitting in the pews. Its purpose is to raise the spiritually dead back to life. As Paul says, “God has raised Jesus from the dead.” That is the greatest funeral sermon of all! The message of Jesus Christ is the power that raises people from the dead. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah. The proclamation of the resurrection is the word of God that restores all mankind and creation from death to life. It is the message that brings hope to a dying world, a world that cannot save itself. It is the message that makes all the difference in the universe.
Because God is a God of life, not of death. In the beginning he said, “Let the waters and the air and the land be filled with living creatures. And he blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with life!”
So when God came down to our world and walked the earth, everywhere he went the sick were healed, the lame walked, the leper was cleansed, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the demons were cast out and the dead were raised to life. It’s almost as if he had the Midas touch. Whatever Jesus touched came to life. Wherever God goes there is life; the dead are raised. Abundance of life just overflows from God into the world. God is all about life!
And he gives us life through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. For we were born dead in sin, but Jesus takes that sin from us and placed it on himself and crucified it on the cross. Through his innocent and bloody suffering, the righteous one who was made sin on our behalf removed our sin by his death on the cross. So that now your sins are forgiven. Now in baptism you are raised from the dead and given a new life. That is the message of the church to the world. Resurrection and life!
And so the resurrection of Jesus Christ is what drives the church. Resurrection and life is the mission of the church. He sends his disciples into all the world, to all nations, to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Pastors, missionaries, teachers, the elect of God, his chosen people, his baptized children, are sent out and wherever they go they proclaim resurrection; the dead are raised. This is how God shows his love to his creation. Paul preached the resurrection of Christ, first to the Jews, then to the gentiles. In Athens he couldn’t wait to tell them. He had the message of the resurrection of Jesus. The message of the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ that raises people dead in sin to eternal life.
So get ready. Watch out! Dead people will be brought to life this morning. Yes, that dead person sitting in the pew next to you just might come alive. Yes, that dead person sitting in your spot, just might pop up alive. And no, it’s not a midnight horror movie. It is the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus drives away false wisdom. The resurrection of Jesus is the absolution of God pronounced on you. Paul was in the Areopagus, where the Greek philosophers and thinkers met to debate and discuss new ideas. But their wisdom could not raise the dead. Their wisdom was powerless to give life. Theirs was the wisdom of the present evil age. Theirs was the wisdom of the old Adam, the man in the dark groping around for understanding, seeking for God but never finding him. Seeking life, but only finding death within.
But the wisdom of the resurrection is the wisdom that gives life. It is the wisdom of the cross, which is foolishness to the natural man. The cross is where sins are forgiven and you meet God who pours out his life and spills his blood onto you to give life to you.
Hence, the resurrection of Jesus drives you back into the arms of God. Paul preached to these men of Athens that God is not far from them, or from you. By his cross he has removed the sin that separated you from God. He has reconciled you to God. By his resurrection, he has restored life to the world and pours life out onto all who believe. For Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
The resurrection is the message of life. It is the message that drives the mission of the church. It is the resurrection that impels us to proclaim God’s life giving word to all nations. It is on account of the resurrection that Paul was sent to the Gentiles in Athens. It is on account of the resurrection that Emmanuel Lutheran Church was founded in Fourth and Jackson. It is on account of the resurrection that we preach the Word and receive the Sacraments. It is because of the resurrection that we have a radio ministry. It is on account of the resurrection that we send missionaries to proclaim life to all the world. It is on account of the resurrection that today we commission a missionary today who will go out to the nations to proclaim the gospel of life and to touch the lives of people with the love of Christ.
So die, let the old Adam die! Then rise up, beloved of the Father, to new life. Walk in the new life, proclaiming and assisting his sent ones to proclaim that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!