An Easter message for this and every age

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Sermon for the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord

1 Corinthians 5:6-8  +  Mark 16:1-8

In an age like ours, in which sin is thought of as no big deal, as something harmless, as something trivial, the message of Good Friday was a hard pill to swallow, the message that every human being who has ever been born deserves from God all the torment, suffering, and death that Christ Jesus received from God, the message that the cross represents what we ourselves should suffer for our sins, and not just physical suffering and death, but everlasting torment and death in hell. And yet, for those who will acknowledge their own sin and wretchedness, the word of the cross is pure comfort and joy, because that’s how much God loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

In an age like ours that’s filled with fake news and false reports, it’s easy to hear the women’s story of angels and an empty tomb on Easter morning and blow it off. But we believe them, that the stone was rolled away, that the tomb of Jesus was empty, that they saw and heard the angels, and that they saw and talked with the risen Lord Christ. There are too many eyewitness accounts to deny them all; too many people chose to die rather than to deny the fact of Christ’s resurrection. And more importantly, the Holy Scriptures foretold the resurrection of Christ, just as they foretold so many other things about His life and ministry. Of all the fake news and false reports that men have spread over the ages, God’s Holy Word has never once failed, nor did Jesus ever lie or mislead anyone. If He foretold both His crucifixion and His resurrection on the third day, we would be foolish not to believe that He kept His Word.

In an age like ours that denies the supernatural and claims to be purely science-oriented, it’s foolishness to preach that a man who was decidedly dead on Friday actually came back to life on Sunday, and not just back to life, but with a new and glorified body that will never die again. But we confess it; we believe it, that Jesus physically, bodily rose from the dead, never to die again.

In an age like ours, in which even religious people seem to think it’s enough to believe in “a” god and that all faiths are equal, the Christian Gospel commands all people everywhere to repent and believe in the one true God: the Father who gave His Son into death as the sacrifice for the world’s sins; the Son, Jesus Christ, who was willingly crucified and powerfully raised from the dead for our justification; the Holy Spirit, whom the risen Christ has sent into the world in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Sacraments, to work repentance and faith in those who hear. This is the Savior-God in whom we believe, in whom a person must believe in order to be eternally saved.

In an age like ours, with so much guilt, so much loneliness, so much hopelessness and despair, the resurrection of Christ shines in the darkness like a beacon, offering forgiveness to all who are buried with Christ through Baptism into death, offering an ever-present, ever-living God to the lonely, offering the hope of everlasting life to all who believe.

In an age like ours, where worldly success is everyone’s goal, faith in the resurrection of Christ places a different goal before our eyes, the goal of our own resurrection at the coming of Christ and of eternal life in the presence of God and of all the saints. And with that different goal come different priorities: entering and remaining in the Christian Church, arranging our lives around hearing God’s Word, receiving His Sacraments, love for one another, prayer, and living lives of obedience to God’s commandments.

In an age like ours, where it’s easier just to lay low and mind your own business, faith in the resurrection of Christ compels us to speak the Gospel, to talk and to live as Christians in the sight of the world, and to gladly bear whatever consequences there may be for it.

In an age like ours, where true joy is elusive and the fear of death is just as real as it has ever been, the news of Christ’s empty tomb on Easter Sunday remains God’s own solution to our lack of joy and to our fear of death. The one who loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross is not dead, but alive, and coming again to rescue us forever from this valley of the shadow of death.

And now, may He who conquered death grant you a firm and steadfast faith, with hope and love, peace and joy, and with the life-changing assurance that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.

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