This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.
In the name of our risen Savior – dear Easter worshipers:
Life, as we know it, is full of fear. We find ourselves afraid quite often – afraid we said the wrong thing or acted the wrong way, afraid we will lose our jobs, afraid something bad will happen, afraid God is punishing us, afraid that God doesn’t care about us, afraid that we will die – the fears that swirl around in our heads and in our hearts are constant. We just can’t stop the fear. But the good news before us on this grand and glorious day is that Jesus puts an end to all fear. This is the day we remember the resurrection – the greatest event of all time! In his rising from the dead Jesus took all fear away. So we hear the message of the angels and the message of the risen Lord himself – Don’t be afraid!
Christian friends, don’t be afraid because your salvation is secure. Consider the amazing display of God’s power in this resurrection account: After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. This display of divine power announced the resurrection. This important event couldn’t go completely unnoticed. So God sent an angel to announce to the women and the disciples that Jesus had risen. He rolled the stone away to reveal to the world the great news that the tomb was empty – Jesus had risen from the dead! This demonstration of divine power overwhelmed the tough soldiers guarding the tomb. They were so afraid that they passed out. What a frightening sight this must have been to see the angel come and remove the stone and discovery that Jesus’ body was no longer there!
Of course the women coming to the tomb see the angel and are stunned, amazed, and fearful at such a sight. The angel said to the women, “Do not 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. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you. The angel immediately urges the women to set fear aside. Why? Because God’s rescue mission was now accomplished. Jesus did precisely what he came to do. Jesus did precisely what he said he would do. All the facts of this story prove it: the announcement, the empty tomb, and the terrified troops.
What does all this mean? What is the meaning of the resurrection? The message of the resurrection is that Scripture is truth. Not only did Jesus say, “My word is truth,” he proved it. He proved it by bursting forth from the rock tomb. He proved it by slipping out of the grip of death’s icy fingers. He proved it by doing what he promised – rising on the third day! The Word of Jesus is true – always has been, always will be! The Holy Scriptures are true, accurate, and reliable.
But that is still not enough to completely describe the meaning of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead declares to the world that sin is forgiven. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” The empty tomb marks our debt of sin to God Paid In Full! God has indeed accepted Jesus’ payment for the sins of everyone! So this morning hear the words loud and clear – in an unmistakably powerful way – YOU ARE FORGIVEN!
There is one more important thing about the resurrection. It is a simple connection but a treasured possession. Jesus’ resurrection gives us eternal life! Jesus testifies, “Because I live you also will live!” He plainly states: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” The Apostle Paul proclaims: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Just as Christ came out of his tomb, so believers in him will come out of their tombs at the end of time!
What joy is ours today! Fear is removed by Christ! The Word is absolutely true and trustworthy! Your sin is forgiven! You have eternal life! These are the important messages of Easter. It all adds up to demonstrate that your salvation is secure. So do not fear and fret about your eternity – it is absolutely secure in Christ! There are no what ifs when you are connected to Christ in his resurrection. Eternity is yours without a doubt. There are two things that testify to the certainty of your eternal life. One is this empty tomb that clearly shows that Christ has conquered death for us! The other is your baptism through which you were connected to Christ in his death and in his resurrection! You are a child of God! Heaven is yours!
An absolutely certain outlook for eternity is yours because Jesus has risen from the dead. Through faith in him you too will rise! That is not the only reason not to be afraid. This account also shows us that we need not fear because we have great news to share!
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Not only did they receive the instruction from the angel to tell the disciples, now the women saw Jesus and heard the same thing from him. What an amazing thing it must have been to see the risen Lord and to begin to comprehend the remarkable reality that he had risen from the dead! The main thrust of the message for the women was to tell the disciples. We may gloss over all this but it is worth noting that at this point of history women were not considered to be reliable witnesses in court. If the disciples were making this all up and trying to pull off a hoax, they would not have written the story this way. It is indeed a surprising selection of first witnesses to the resurrection. At the same time we know that this ladies were faithful followers of Christ and that their testimony is indeed true. In the post-resurrection world there is a role for all of God’s people to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal life he has secured for all.
Of course, when it comes to sharing the good news about Jesus there is always a bit of apprehension. That fact is so well summarized in this account when we are told about the women: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Isn’t that an accurate description of us all? Afraid yet joyful. We may be fearful to share the good news of Jesus with the people around us in life – at the same time we are joyful. We know that because Jesus lives we will too. We know that this gospel message will have an eternal impact on people. So even when we are fearful, let us constantly be filled with the joy of the resurrection – that is the certainty that eternal life is ours. This is the certainty that we want to share with the world.
We note that the women were encouraged by seeing Jesus. We get to see Jesus through Word and Sacrament each Sunday – let’s do that so our fears will subside and our joy will increase! Strengthened by our risen Lord let us tell the world this good news that the Scriptures are true, that our sins are forgiven, and that eternal life is ours!
Friends, not even death can separate us from the love of God that is ours in the risen Christ! So leave this sanctuary today filled with joy that knows no end – share this joy with the world! Amen.