Sermon for Easter
April 21, 2019
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! He who was dead, is alive. His heart that was stopped at the moment of death now pulses with rhythm and vigor. His lungs were deflated and flat after that loud cry with which He yielded up His Spirit, but now they expand with the perfumed, stale air of the tomb. His eyes were closed in death but now open and squint to take in the sites. His hands had been nailed but now they spread all ten living fingers open before picking the grave clothes and folding them. His feet had dragged lifelessly as His body was placed into the tomb but now they reach to the ground and plant ten living toes into the cool dirt. His stomach, which hasn’t eaten since Thursday, growls and suggests somewhat urgently that the Lenten fast is over. Behold, the man, Jesus, God and man, lives. He rises triumphantly from the dead and strolls out of the grave into His creation.
Christ’s victory and rising to life came as a surprise! Nobody expected that Jesus would come out of that tomb alive. The women came early that morning to complete the task of burial, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. It certainly wasn’t what they expected. St. Luke reveals to us that the women were perplexed. They were puzzled. This was a huge surprise.
Even more surprising was the message of the two strangers they encountered. The angels declared: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen”. Talk about surprising news! He’s not dead? He has risen? The women certainly did not expect this.
But it wasn’t only these women who were surprised on that Sunday morning. The apostles were surprised as well. “and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest” (v9). What was their response? Did they expect Jesus to rise from death? Did they receive this great good news with joy and exaltation? No, they received the women’s message as skeptics. Verses 10 and 11 reveal their reaction. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
The fact that Jesus rose from the dead took everyone by surprise. But the followers of Jesus shouldn’t have been surprised. Jesus had told them beforehand that this would happen. This is the point that the angels make when they address the astonished women. 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” You could say that even the angels are surprised. They are surprised at the surprise of the women. They’re surprised that the women didn’t see Jesus resurrection coming. The angels ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Jesus had predicted His death and He had predicted His resurrection. So there should be no surprise that He was alive.
But perhaps nowhere was the surprise of Christ victory over death greater than in the spiritual realm. It appeared as if Satan had won. When the Lord and giver of life was dead, it appeared that Satan’s reign of death was the victor. Stanza 2 of hymn 480 well expresses Satan’s apparent victory in these words of a hymn. “The foe was triumphant when on Calvary The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree. In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.”
It was not to be. The devil and his cronies had not won the victory. The victim is shown to be the victor. In the face of seeming defeat, God pulls off victory. He who was dead now is alive again! Listen to verse 3 of Walther’s hymn. “But short was their triumph; the Savior arose, And death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes. The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high; He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all – and the most wonderful – is the fact that God’s surprise victory is our victory too, through faith in Christ. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)
As St. Paul so clearly states in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus undid Adam’s deadly mistake. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 21-22 Christ Jesus is the antidote for the deadly venom of sin and death.
Jesus did all of that for you. He saw your deep need, that you were dead in your trespasses and sins. At times, we convince ourselves that we can make it on our own. We don’t need God interfering with our life plans. “I’ve got this,” way say. As Dr. Phil says, “How is that working for you?” The ultimate authority tells us why our plan doesn’t work. Proverbs 3 is a great road map for the joy-filled, Christ celebrating life .
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
Only Jesus kept the Law perfectly. He has made the length of our days and years of life eternal. He has brought true and lasting peace through the forgiveness of sins, won at Calvary’s cross and through His rising to life.
All that Jesus did and accomplished through His perfect life, His sacrificial and brutal suffering and death, and His glorious resurrection becomes McKinlee Rae’s today. Her sins are washed away. She becomes a child of God and heir of heaven. Her name is written in the Lamb’s book of life in heaven. She has been marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. She has also become a part of Christ’s body, the church. She is unified with and with Christ in His conquest over sin, Satan, and death. Because Jesus lives, we have been transported from slaves of death and the devil to heirs of heaven and eternal life. In Him, and through faith in Him, your sins are forgiven and you belong to Christ.
O, where is your sting death? We fear you no more; Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door. For all our transgressions His blood does atone. Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own. (LSB 480, st. 4)
While temporal death makes us sad, as we miss those dear to us who have died. We need no longer fear death. By His death Christ has defeated death, once and for all. New and eternal life are yours now through Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. Just as His lifeless body was raised to life on Easter, so your body will also be raised in glory to new and eternal life on the last day. Many still don’t know what Jesus has done for them. Like the women who came early to the tomb, it is our joy to now go forth tell the world the great news that is for them. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!