By Paul Koch –
Today is the celebration of the pinnacle event in all human history. Today we rejoice in the great working of God who interceded at a specific moment in time to overturn the power of darkness and sin and death. This is the dawn of a new day and the promise of something better. In the beginning of human history, mankind rejected the Word of God and set out on their own journey in opposition to their Creator. They ate the fruit of the forbidden tree so that they might become like God knowing good and evil, and know it they did. And so, is seems, do we all. And with that knowledge came punishment and brokenness and selfishness and pride and anger and a whole host desires that pervert and destroy relationships. But today we confess a gift that comes through a different tree, the tree of the cross. There your Lord died, and he died for all that deserves death and punishment in this world. He dies so that there might be life, so that there might be hope for you.
History tells us that the one constant in life is death. That eventually everyone and everything will die. But this is why Easter morning is such a pinnacle event. This is why our celebration here today makes so much sense. For this is that moment when our God drew a line in the sand, when he said that he would no longer allow the old ways to continue. Death would not last, death would not get the last say. No, there is hope, there is life, there is resurrection. Things will not continue on like before, there is now a way to eternal life and that way is through our Lord Jesus Christ.
See, that line he drew in the sand when he would face, sin death and the devil, he did that for you. Yes, for you. For your sins, for your failure, for your hope and longing for new life. It turns out you cannot continue down the same old path, for what we celebrate today was done for you. Your life of fear and worry cannot continue in Christ. Your resurrected Lord has given to you this day something more something new. You may be the type of person that looks in the mirror and sees only your own faults. You see all times you have failed, the times you have hurt those you ought to have helped, the times you have done what you knew you should not do. Or perhaps you are the type that just gives up because you cannot seem to change what you most dislike about yourself. You dig deep but still come up short. Well today I have good news for you, for today there is hope, there is salvation, there is one who died and rose again to give you a new life.
The morning that Peter and John rush to find the empty tomb, the day that Mary weeps in the garden for she cannot find the body of her Lord is the same day that Isaiah prophesied about thousands of years earlier. And listen to how he describes this day. Isaiah writes,
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isaiah 25:5)
The image that he paints is one of a party. A splendid party stocked full of the best wine and food where God himself is the host. There is celebration and joy and fellowship in the presence of the Almighty.
This image is powerful because everyone else is prepared for a funeral. Prepared for the awkward moments where they sit in silent mourning trying to figure out what to do next because the grave has claimed another victim. You know those times where people say things like, “I’m sorry for your loss” because they don’t know what else to say. After all, what can you say when you face the finality of the grave? Peter and John being perplexed makes more sense. Mary crying in the garden seems reasonable. It is the way of the world. It is the strange way we all try to deal with death. But Jesus turns it upside down. His death cannot stay in mourning for he didn’t stay in the grave. And so, there is a party, a great feast to celebrate what God has done.
Today is April Fool’s Day, and it turns out that death itself is made the fool. All the world believes that death wins, but when death reached out its arm to take a hold of the Son of God, it reached too far: death itself is turned backwards. Isaiah says that on this mountain he “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:8) When the rest of the world mourns, the children of God celebrate. When the rest of mankind see only death, we have hope and joy and join in the party of our God. On Easter morning your Lord swallowed up death, he consumed it, he is Lord over it, he controls it. He then will wipe away the tears from your eyes. He will speak into your hearts this day the words of hope and life and salvation.
The effects of Easter reverberate throughout your life. He who rose from the dead will give to you gifts of life and victory so that you might endure until the end of all things. When he calls brothers and sisters to speak into your ears the words of forgiveness, they speak of one who has defeated death and the grave. When he washes you in the waters of Holy Baptism, he washes you into the death and resurrection of your Lord Jesus Christ. When he calls you to his altar, he invites you to eat and drink the very body and blood that was given and shed and rose from the dead to give to you forgiveness and life everlasting.
The tomb is empty, my friends! This changes everything. Today we celebrate the dawning of a new day, a day of hope and forgiveness and life in Christ alone. God drew a line in the sand and went to war for you. And it looked bleak, for about three days it looked really bad. But the tomb is empty. So, join in the celebration, eat the rich food and drink the well-aged wine, for the power of death is broken. You have been given life and set free. Free to speak those words to each other, to love and forgive and rejoice this day and every day as we await the return of our victorious Lord.
Today as we confess our faith, as we marvel at the actions of a God whose love for us poor sinners caused him to sacrifice his only Son, let us bind together to proclaim our joy from the rooftops. Let us declare with the angels and archangels, with the saints that have gone before us, with the church today and yesterday, with Peter, John and Mary, with Isaiah himself. Let us shout out, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!