The Unshadowed Victory
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
In a series, “The Shadow of the Cross” Luke 24:1-12 // Isaiah 65:17-25 // 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today we take a look at the only story in the history of the world that truly matters. Today we remember the center of our life together. Today, we worship the God who became man, the man who died our death, and the God who raised him from the dead. Today is Easter Sunday, and it doesn’t get any better than this.
Except when it does.
I remember way back about seven years ago, on June 18, back on a day when Laura and I were on a walk at Minnehaha Falls. We had been together for nine months and it seemed like it couldn’t get any better than that. We were staring into each other’s eyes. We were spending our days talking and laughing together. We walked hand in hand, we took a little pathway right up to the Falls, and I asked Laura to marry me.
And she said.... “Are you serious?” “Is this real?” and after a couple minutes of that, I took it for a yes. And life couldn’t get any better. Except that it did.
11 months later, we stared into each other’s eyes and spoke vows to love each other in every chapter of life, and I thought that life couldn’t get any better. Except that it did.
Two years later, we had our first very precious baby boy, Benjamin, and I thought that I couldn’t love more than I did right then, that life couldn’t get any better, except that it did.
Two years after that, we had our second very precious baby boy, Amos, and I’m realizing I’m a slow learner. That life doesn’t get any better than this, except when it does. Now, we’ve had our ups and downs, our days of smooth sailing, and our sleepless nights.
But the point is, and you know this by now, it doesn’t get any better, except when it does.
That’s what we see in our text for today. For the disciples and the women in our text, things couldn’t get any worse. They were looking for closure. They were looking to finish the burial process after Jesus was laid to rest. They were looking to get on with the next chapter of their lives.
Their perception was full of grief and fear. Grief of Jesus being gone and fear of a gruesome end. But things were not as they seemed. That may have been their perception, but the reality was full of life and hope. They were despairing over things not real. Have you ever done that? The angels bid them to rejoice in reality, the reality that Jesus proclaims.
Dear Christian friends, today of all days, in the light of the resurrection, I would urge you, don’t be governed by your grudges and your hurts. Let the love of Christ overwhelm you. Don’t be governed by your fears and insecurities. Let the hope of Jesus lead you. Today of all days lay down your sin and see your savior. Today of all days lay down your hurt and ask for forgiveness. Today of all days, let the past be the past. Acknowledge it. Know it. But today of all days, and let the future be as bright as the promises that God holds out in Jesus Christ.
The women encounter angels, which tell them what they’d known for a long time, from Jesus’s own mouth. That he would be crucified and on the third day rise. And they say, “Are you serious? Is this really real?”
They saw the empty tomb, they saw the grave cloths there. They ran back to the eleven and try to convince them that Jesus is risen, and the eleven say, “Are you serious? How could that be real?”
But Peter runs back to the tomb. He sees what the women had seen, and he stands there, just standing there, marveling.
Are you serious? Is this real? They couldn’t but marvel in disbelief. Are you serious? Is this real? Things that day couldn’t get any better....
Except that they did. The Jesus who died, died for their sins. The same Jesus was raised from the dead. The same Jesus taught them, after the resurrection, opening up the Scriptures to them. He gave them the Holy Spirit. He promised to come back and complete a reality far greater than we could imagine.
Or perhaps greater isn’t the right word. Usually for us, greater just means bigger, but that’s not quite right here. C.S. Lewis said it this way, in the final book of the Narnia series, the Last Battle, as their world ends and the characters are led into a new land, their refrain is “Further Up and Further In!” Heaven is new but not other. Eternal life is greater but not bigger. Forgiveness of sins is deeper and richer than we could imagine.
Dear friends in Christ, in the resurrection we see Jesus as the first fruits of the world to come. We see the meaning that he infuses into every one of our days, ever one of our interactions. We see the strength that he gives, the strength upon which the whole fate of the world turns. In Easter, we see the focal point, the lynchpin, the center of the Christian story come where all the threads of the Old Testament and all the workings of the New Testament come together.
Blessed is the one who hears the absolutions and believes, because what Jesus says about you matters more than what you believe about yourself. Blessed is the one who eats the bread which is his body and drinks the wine which is Christ’s blood, for when he eats and drinks, he will be given exactly what they say, forgiveness of sins. Blessed is the man who hears the invocation and remembers that the waters of holy Baptism wash over him like a flood.
Three thoughts in conclusion.
First, because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Or, to say it in a different way, in the resurrection, Jesus proves that no enemy is greater than he. There is nothing that he hasn’t overcome, and he overcame it for you.
Second, because he lives, all fear is gone. Or, to say it in a different way, in the resurrection, Jesus reshapes our reality. He redefines our love. He reorients our values. He says that wine and bread are his body and blood, and since he says, they forgive our sins. He says that his word is life and peace to us, and because he says it, so it is. He says that nothing in this life could ever hurt or destroy, and because the one who died and rose again said it, so it is.
Third, because he lives, life is worth the living. Or, to say it in a different way, in Jesus’s death and resurrection, every thought, word, and deed of the Christian is significant because of what the God of the universe can do as he works through you. Are you serious, Lord? How humbling and empowering that is!
The kingdom of heaven is like a man whose life is a constant shipwreck, for no reason of his own. Every time he rights his boat, something else in the sinful world knocks him down. And yet, though all around him in the sinful world seems nothing but a sea of pain, still he rests on the solid rock of his savior.
The kingdom of heaven is like a woman whose own mind calls her nasty names. Her own voice tells her she’s not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough. And yet, though even her whole self would say this, still she rests in the knowledge that Jesus’s words matter far more than her own, and through his blood he calls her precious, redeemed, valuable, sought after.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family who never can quite overcome the temptations to sin. They look good on the outside but inside, they feel the devil gaining a foothold on their souls. And yet, they know Jesus was tempted in every way for them. They know, in a place deeper than their mind, deeper than their heart, that the nasty old devil is like a dog on a chain. He can only go so far.
And the one who was raised from the dead is the one who will come back to make all things right. And it doesn’t get any better than that.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters