March 27, 2016 — Easter Sunday
Sermon Text — Luke 24:1-12
Sermon Audio —
Come back later for the audio of this sermon.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Beloved in the Lord,
A cosmic war is being waged. No, it’s not the man of steel versus the dark knight, such things are distractions from the true war being fought over your souls. This war is a war between good and evil, life and death, the Lord God and the great usurper. You see the carnage on the news. Bombs exploding in airports. Snipers perched in balconies. Bodies strewn across the landscape. Politicians promising responses. Police raiding apartments. Men shouting the usurper’s praise, reveling in death; death of the infidels, death of the jihadis, death, death and more death. This is the usurpers weapon – death. This is his follower’s choice. This is the wages of sin and thus sinful mortals following the usurper’s commands have turned so inward on themselves that they war against one another and are made pawns in a fight to the death. And it seems death always wins. No one escapes death. Everyone fears dying. Death is the great weapon of mass condemnation. Who will save us from this body of death? Can anyone beat death? Can anyone cheat death? Can anyone avoid death?
Death has come to these women in our text. No one escapes death. Death always wins. Death even took Jesus. The women make their way to the tomb of Jesus. He was their friend. He was a good man, a righteous man and they killed Him. They crucified Him. Death came to Jesus, saw in Him a man like any other man, assumed His humiliation was weakness, sank its iron teeth into His flesh and swallowed Him whole, dragging the Son of Mary into the valley of deep darkness where it would have its way with Him. Yes, death came to these women just as death promises to come to each and every one us. No one escapes death. Death always wins?
Seeking the Living [things] among the Dead
These women seek after the living among the dead. This is the plight of fallen humanity, always looking for life in all the wrong places, always assuming that life, especially eternal life, is up to us, that we can shift the balance of power in the cosmic war for salvation, that we are the soldiers. The thinking often goes like this: If we disobey God, if we sin, then the balance shifts towards the Usurper. But, if we obey God, if we don’t sin, then the balance shifts towards God. So then everything depends on my obedience. Everything hangs on my shoulders. If I’m good enough I’ll win the war and gain heaven. If I’m not good enough then, well, I’ll lose. So, I better try with all my might to win the prize. I had better be good for goodness sakes. I had better be my better self. I had better live a more purposeful life. I can and I will have my best life now. I declare it’s time for me to break out of this spiritual funk I’ve gotten myself in. I need to pray more and read the bible more – say 30 minutes a day. Well maybe 30ish. No, let’s be sure – let’s do 45 minutes just to be safe.
But let’s be honest with one another – let’s be honest with God. No matter how hard we try, we’re just like these women in our text – looking for the living among the dead things. Because that’s what scripture says about our flesh. That’s what scripture says about our works. All of our efforts to win the war ourselves only amount to us looking like white washed tombs. We’re clean on the outside but full of rotten bones on the inside. And the fact of the matter is . . . we know it. We know we’re not what God wants us to be. We’re not perfect. We’re not holy. We’re not righteous. We’re not very good soldiers. Instead of fighting the good fight of faith we just fight with other people. And death still comes to us. The wages of sin is death and the soul that sins shall die. No one escapes death. I won’t and neither will you. It seems that Death always wins. Death even took Jesus.
He is Risen!
Yes, death took Jesus. And this is a good thing. What you cannot do, God did in the sending of His Son. What you cannot earn, God purchased with holy blood. What you cannot win, God won by losing. Yes, death took Jesus. Yes, death saw Jesus as just another man, just another sinner condemned for the wages of sin. But Jesus was not just another man. He was God in the flesh. Jesus was not just another sinner. He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus offered Himself to the righteous condemnation of the Law against all sinners. He made no execuses. He offered to justifications. When Pilate said “behold the man” he might as well had said, “behold the sinner” because that’s what Jesus became. And as the sinner He took the sinner’s place. As the sinner He suffered the sinner’s punishment. As the sinner He endured the sinner’s death and was laid in the sinner’s grave. But Jesus wasn’t a sinner, He was without sin. And death having taken the bait in the flesh of Christ was hooked. Like Jonah the Lord of Life was swallowed by death and held under the darkness for three days. But death went too far. Death swallowed too much. Death thought he won. The Usurper thought the heavens were his. But No! Along came the third day.
On the third day the stone was rolled away.
On the third day the Angels that barred humanity from Eden sheathe their flaming swords and proclaim God’s victory.
On the third day the women hear good news in the midst of death.
On the third day Jesus is risen! Death is destroyed. The grave is broken. Hell is trampled. The usurper is cast down. Humanity is redeemed. Jesus is risen. Death does not win. Death never wins for all who are in Christ Jesus. For the death He died He died to sin once and for all. The life He lives He lives to God. Death no longer has dominion over Him. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Seeking the Living where Christ Promises
Though this news may seem like idle tales, too good to be true, you are called to repent and believe it. Turn away from your sins and believe the gospel. You are not given to do anything but to believe everything. Nothing hangs on you but everything hangs on Jesus who is risen. Nothing depends on you but everything depends on Jesus who is risen. Because Jesus is risen, because He is the only one to have entered death and is risen from the dead, because Jesus is the only one who loved you and gave Himself up for you, because Jesus is the only God who is the way the truth and the life, because there is no way into heaven, no way to the Father, except by Jesus, then you who are called to believe are given to receive Him where He’s promised to be. IN other words, seek after the living where Jesus has promised to be – not in the dead things of this world, not in politics or economics, not in pilgimages or jihad, not in relics or lucky charms, not in the words of men or the babblings of philosphers – all these lead to death for all these make everything depend on you. You, beloved are given to depend on Jesus. His Word is true and His Word promises to be in the waters of baptism. Therefore, repent and be baptized everyone of you and receive the forgiveness of sins, for the promises is for you and your children! Yes, your children are included too. Jesus is for everyone, Baptism is for everyone.
And gather with His people. “For where two or more are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them,” He says. And “let us not give up meeting together as some are wont to do.” If Jesus promises to be here, if the One who conquered death and promises life and salvation to all who receive Him by faith is in this place giving out His gifts of life and salvation, then who would not want to come? Who would stay home? Who would continue looking for life in all the wrong places? Would you?
The Strife is O’er the Battle is Done
Beloved in the Lord, recent events on the news and in our lives remind us that there is a cosmic battle being fought right now for the heart and soul of our generation. It is a battle between good and evil, life and death, the Lord our God and the great Usurper. This battle shall continue and it will seem that there is no way to avoid death. It will seem that death always wins. But that is a lie! Death does not win! Bombs will go off. Wars will be fought. Planes will crash. Cars will collide. Illness will come. Cancer will spread. Hearts will stop. The body will waste away. But death does not win. Jesus is risen. And everybody that is baptized in Christ Jesus is baptized into His death. If we’ve been united with His death we will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection.
Let death do his thing. Jesus is risen.
Let the grave taunt us. Jesus is risen.
Let the Usurper try to frighten us, Jesus is risen.
Let the world know death does not win. Jesus is risen.
Let your neighbors hear of victory over the grave. Jesus is risen.
Bury your loved ones and rejoice, Jesus is risen.
Stand before their graves and sing, Jesus is risen.
Face death head on and laugh! Jesus is risen.
Mock the devil. Jesus is risen.
The Jihadis don’t win. Jesus is risen.
The Usurper doesn’t win. Jesus is risen.
Death does not win, not today, not tomorrow, not ever for those who are in Christ Jesus. The “Strife is O’er the battle is done now is the victor’s triumph won; Now be the songs of praise begun.”
Jesus is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hears and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!