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Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monroe, Michigan Easter Sunday

New Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio Rev. Christopher D. White
April 24th, 2011 Leviticus 25:8-12a


We delight in celebrating anniversaries. Wedding anniversaries are celebrated every year, but it
is the 25th and 50th that mark true milestones in the institution of marriage. For people who have given
their lives in service to the Church of God, the 25th, 40th and especially 50th anniversaries of their entrance
into the public ministry of the gospel are monumental occasions. For congregations, the 25th, 50th, 100th,
150th and soon for us 175th anniversaries are truly special years of celebration where the children of God
take the time to ponder their history to realize just how brilliantly the Lord has blessed their existence
with his gospel of salvation.
It was a requirement among the children of Israel that they celebrate certain years, specifically
every 7th year and every 50th year. Every 7th year was a Sabbath year, set aside for the land to rest from
its labor (thus, the meaning of Sabbath) and for the people to come to the realization that, yes, the Lord
would continue to provide their daily bread even with the land lying fallow. After every 7th Sabbath,
every 50 years, there was a year of Jubilee, which was, yes, a year to celebrate the goodness and mercy of
God in providing for their daily needs. But it was much, much more than that.
Today on this blessed anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection, we will, one more time, go back in
history to view the glory of Christ in picture form, today in the Year of Jubilee, and what that anniversary
celebration meant in Israel – freedom. That Sabbath of Sabbaths pointed ahead in shadow to the
Messianic age fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Jesus; for by the Lord Jesus Christ mastering
death on the cross and bursting open the tomb on Easter morning, freedom was won for all people –
freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from hell’s fierce power. They saw his glory in the Year of
Jubilee, and now today, on this festival day, the highest of all festivals in the entire Christian Church
year, we see the glory of him who restored us to a harmonious relationship with our heavenly Father
through his death and resurrection, and gives us every reason to celebrate our freedom in his name on
this Easter Sunday.
The Year of Jubilee was so special, because it’s celebration was so infrequent. In one lifetime, an
Israelite could see possibly up to 3 Jubilee years, if they lived to be over 100 years old. Most Israelites
would celebrate it only once or twice in their entire lives. It was a celebration that had specific
commandments attached to it. 1) All debts were cancelled, so that no one Israelite was in a state of being
enslaved to another. And 2) All land returned to its original owner in the divine apportionment of the
land. So, if your land wasn’t producing the kind of crops it should have, and you had to sell part of it to
your neighbor just to stay alive and viable, and if you became so poor and destitute that you were actually
enslaved to someone else, where you became the property of another person, all of that debt and slavery
went away in the Jubilee year.
The Year of Jubilee was a time for new beginnings! Verses 8 through 12 tell us: “8 “ ‘Count off
seven sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbaths of years amount
to a period of forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day
of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It
shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his
own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you;”
Liberty! Freedom! Those things are not to be taken for granted, as we have come to know in
American history and realize when our sons and daughters fly overseas to protect the freedoms we have
as citizens of the United States. But with the liberty and freedom among God’s people, it wasn’t just a
social freedom. Remember that this group is a congregation and a nation all at the same time. The
freedom that God gave to them during the Year of Jubilee foreshadows the freedom that would come to all
people through the promise that they, the Israelites carried – the promise that Messiah would come to
pay the debt that enslaves us all, the debt of sin, so that all people are free from the sin’s shackles, and
free to live to God’s glory now on earth and forever in heaven.
That’s why this Year of Jubilee was so closely connected to the Day of Atonement. “9 Then have
the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of
Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.” The Day of Atonement, remember was the
one day a year when the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and offer the unblemished lamb to
atone for the sins of all the people Israel, to then return to the people, having offered the sacrifice, to give
to them the Lord’s blessing of peace, obviously pointing ahead to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin
of the world. Couple the Day of Atonement with the Year of Jubilee, and what they received was not only
freedom from debt and a new lease on life, but a tremendous testimony of the coming Christ and what he
would accomplish for every single person in this world, Jew and Gentile alike.
The Year of Jubilee, along with the Day of Atonement, were all about debt being cancelled and
receiving a new start, and a new life. Isn’t that what Good Friday and Easter Sunday are all about?
Experts say that the average credit card debt that people carry in their homes is near $20,000, and that
doesn’t include mortgages, cars and other loans that people might get. Credit card debt can be rather
enslaving. And it takes a really savvy and concerted effort on the part of debtors to work their way out of
The debt that we cannot work ourselves out of is sin. And every one of us, young and old alike
carries a sin-balance that is so great, that is so overwhelming, it is eternally enslaving. That’s why Jesus
came into the world. That’s why he took on human flesh and blood; so that he could pour out his blood
and offer his body over to death, even death on a cross to pay for our sins, all of them, not one excluded.
In the blood and gore of Good Friday, we view in all it’s terrible reality the paycheck that our sin
earns...all fallen on the Lamb who was slain and laid in the tomb.
But if he had not been raised from the dead, if his body were still in the tomb to this day, we would
have nothing to celebrate on this Easter Sunday, we would have no reason to be jubilant at all. Today
would just be bunnies and Cadbury crème eggs and jelly beans and would be quickly forgotten, because
it’s meaning would be so insignificant. Paul tells the Corinthians in the Resurrection chapter, 1
Corinthians 15:14, 17: “14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is
your faith. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
If...contrary to fact! Jesus has been raised. The angel at the tomb said so as he told the women
who came to anoint the dead body, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who
was crucified. He is not here. He has risen just as he said.” And because Jesus is risen, we know
that the payment that he offered to the throne of the Ancient of Days on the cross on Good Friday, his
holy and precious blood, was accepted by the Father as full payment for you and for me; and as a result
we now live in FREEDOM! We are free from sin’s shackles, because we can hear and believe the words of
God’s absolution and know that it applies to every one of us, “I forgive you all your sins!” We are free
from the fear of death, because Christ has mastered death and has crushed it by his resurrection,
guaranteeing that earthly death will be a transition to heavenly life for all who believe. And, we have
freedom from hell’s fierce power, for it lies beneath the one who crushed the serpent’s head by completing
the sacrifice on the cross, and proclaiming his victory.
In other words, just like the Year of Jubilee, but in greater terms and to a greater extent, the
death and resurrection of Jesus makes all things new! It restores us to harmonious communion with our
God. It restores God’s people to their rightful, God-ordained place – perfect fellowship with him! What a
reason to be jubilant this Easter Sunday; because today isn’t about bunnies and eggs and candy and
baskets....today is about our debt being cancelled through the acceptance of Christ’s payment for sin; it’s
about freedom so that we have absolutely nothing to fear in our days ahead – not even our dying day.
What a menagerie of Messianic pictures we have seen this Lenten season. Everything from the
theology of the land to the design of the high priest’s garments, we noticed how the God of grace showed
his people the glory of Christ in picture form in just about every aspect of their life. I pray that we all
have grown to appreciate just a bit more just how thoroughly and creatively the Lord revealed his glory to
his people so that they could see their Messiah before he came into the world.
But even more, I pray that we have an appreciation for the glory that the Holy Spirit has enabled
us to see in the realization of those pictures in the person and work of Christ Jesus our crucified and risen
Lord and Savior, as it has been clearly revealed to us in the gospel. Having gone to the Garden of
Gethsemane, to the trial, to the site of the crucifixion and finally to the empty tomb, I pray that we see, in
Christ, a reason to be jubilant today and every day, until our dying day, the day when we join the hosts of
heaven to sing in jubilation: “This is the feast of victory! Alleluia!” Amen.