Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon comes from the Gospel, which was read earlier.
What a week this has been! This time a week ago, crowds were gathered as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They laid their cloaks upon the ground to make a path for Jesus to walk upon. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” While confused a bit and not fully understanding who this King was riding into Jerusalem, they shouted His praises. Unfortunately, this praise would be short lived.
Tuesday marks the beginning of the end with Judas Iscariot going to the chief priests and betraying his Master for the price of thirty pieces of silver. On Thursday, He instituted His Supper for the disciples and for us. But when Friday comes, it is a complete 180° from what we saw on Sunday. The kangaroo court trial which Jesus faced was nothing more than a mockery of justice. Peter, the right hand of Jesus, the steadfast disciple, denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. The people, when given a choice of having either Barabbas or Jesus released. Barabbas the prisoner, tried and guilty, or Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God who is guilty of nothing. What should have been a no-brainer turned into quite the opposite. The crowd shouted for Barabbas to be released. While Pilate tried to speak to their senses of having Jesus released, the response was “Let him be crucified!”
When Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, everything changes. There, we see how God has turned His back on His Son. You may think that it is a cruel and heartless thing for God to do. How could any father turn his back on his son, let alone God the Father turn His back on Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son? But this was necessary. It was necessary for you. It was necessary for me. It was necessary for your sins and mine. All of this was set in motion from the beginning, from the fall into sin; this plan of salvation was begun.
Following our Lord’s three day rest in the tomb, Jesus emerges from the tomb triumphant over sin and death. When the women arrive at the tomb, the tomb is empty. There were at least two things the women were expecting to find. First, the large stone to still be in place at the opening of the tomb. Now, that stone was rolled away. The second thing they expected to find was a dead Jesus in the tomb. When I say dead, I mean dead as a doornail dead, three-day flesh rotting Jesus dead. Instead, there is nothing there except the burial linens.
Today, we do not come here looking for a dead Jesus. The angels at the tomb tell the women and us that Jesus is not here and He is not dead. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
It’s been three days. Here we are standing at the mouth of the tomb and what do we see when we look into it? Nothing, for Christ is not there because He is risen from the dead. That is what this day is all about – resurrection. It is about how Christ is no longer dead, but has been raised from the dead.
When you and I die, we die eternally. We do not survive death – we are annihilated by it. When we die, we remain dead. That’s the way it is, unless God chooses to do something to dispute the power of death. But because Christ has been raised from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead. When this mortal life comes to an end, we need fear nothing, because we have received the gift of being raised to new life in Christ Jesus.
Here these words from St. John. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” These words are spoken by Jesus to Martha just after the death of Lazarus. Martha needed a reminder of what Jesus was all about. He had to remind her that though Lazarus was dead, he would not remain dead. You and I receive that reminder each and every Sunday when we come here to this place and hear about the great love that God has for us, in that He would send His one and only Son into this sin-filled world to give to us the greatest gift we could ever receive: Himself.
Who could blame the women for disbelieving? Angels, “in dazzling apparel”? The dead body of a Man coming back to life? They had seen Jesus raise other people from the dead 3 times: Jairus’ daughter, a young man from Nain, and Lazarus. But Jesus had died. Who could raise Him from the dead? God could and God did.
If we believe that Jesus is not risen, then He could not save us. If He was merely a man, then He would not be worth worshiping. But if you do believe He rose, then you know that Christ is more than a Man. He has conquered death. He has destroyed sin and crushed Satan. With His life, death, and resurrection, He has rescued you from the grave. Although your sins should have made you die, and stay dead, yet Christ broke death’s power, so that you will live and rise to eternal life.
Christ is risen from the dead. He is risen before His people know it. He is risen before His people believe it. He is risen to give them faith and life; and so He is risen for you. But this you can know for sure – of this you can be certain: Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. You haven’t seen Him face to face yet, but He tells you it is so in His Word. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing; and as the resurrected Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” That’s you!
Do not be afraid, for the joy of Easter Sunday is not just that Jesus died and Jesus rose, but that Jesus died for you and Jesus rose for you. He has borne your sin to the cross, and He has suffered for it there. He has died your death and been laid in the tomb, but now the tomb is empty. So will yours be, for Christ is risen to raise you, too. He declares that He no longer holds your sins against you, because they are gone. He has taken them away in death, and He has not brought them back with His resurrection. So where your sins would confuse you as to God’s attitude toward you, whether or not He loves you, do not be afraid and have no doubt. If God has paid such a price as to sacrifice His own Son to redeem you, He has nothing but grace and mercy, love and life for you now.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.