Sermon for Easter Sunday
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 + Mark 16:1-8
Today is the Christian Passover, God’s New Testament replacement for the Old Testament type. The old Passover is gone. No more lambs, no more goats, no more blood, no more sacrifice. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. His one, perfect sacrifice of Himself, true God and true Man, has made satisfaction for all the sins of mankind. His blood, shed on the cross, is the redemption price, already paid, to rescue all men out of their slavery to sin, protecting all who believe in Him from condemnation and from death. All the Passover lambs that ever came before Jesus foreshadowed Him and His sacrifice as the true Passover. But while those lambs were all slaughtered, had their blood drained, and then remained dead, Christ, our Passover, was slaughtered, had His blood drained, and then came back to life.
But even this was foreshadowed in the Passover lamb.
God commanded Moses and the people of Israel that the Passover lamb was to be roasted and eaten, and any part that was leftover was to be burned in the fire, so that nothing was left to rot. There was to be no corpse, no remains of the Passover lamb to be thrown out or left decaying in the ground. It was all to be, either eaten up or burned up, so that its carcass should never be found or see decay, so that no one could go around saying, “Look! There’s the grave where the dead flesh and bones of the Passover lambs are rotting.”
Compare that with what the Psalm prophesied about the Christ: Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in the grave, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
The Passover lamb pointed to Christ, even in this. After Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed, no remains could be found. There was no grave where His dead flesh and bones were rotting away. Because His tomb was only occupied until the morning of the third day.
The women, who had followed Jesus and served Him during His ministry, who had watched Jesus die and who had watched His body being quickly wrapped up and rushed into Joseph’s tomb before sunset on Good Friday, rested on the Sabbath, even as Jesus’s flesh and bones rested in the tomb on that Holy Saturday. But they hurried to the tomb on Sunday morning. They went looking for Jesus’ body, to take proper care of His corpse. But they didn’t find it, did they? No one ever has, and no one ever will, not because it was burned up, but because Christ, our Passover, was raised from the dead, as He said beforehand. There was never any doubt. Jesus foretold His own resurrection, the Psalms foretold it, Isaiah foretold it. Even the Passover lamb pointed ahead to the resurrection of Christ, our Passover, whose body would never see decay.
Now, do you think it would change your life if you could see Jesus alive again after He was dead, as the first disciples saw Him? Do you think seeing Him would compel the world to believe in Him? I tell you, it wouldn’t. As Jesus Himself foretold, if people will not listen to Moses and the Prophets—to the Holy Scriptures—they will not believe, even if someone comes back from the dead. What changes a person’s life, what brings people to faith in Christ, our Passover, is not seeing Jesus. It’s hearing Jesus. Because, while you can’t see Him yet, you can most certainly hear Him. His voice can still be heard on earth: in the ministry of the Word, wherever the Gospel is purely taught. He assured His apostles, Lo! I am with you always, to the very end of the age. And, He who hears you, hears Me.
And even though you’ll never find the body of Christ in any grave—or roaming about on the earth—there is still a place where the body of Christ, our Passover, can be found: in the Holy Supper He left behind for His Church to celebrate, where the risen Lord Christ says of the bread, “This is My body, which is given for you;” where He says of the wine, “This is My blood of New Testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In Holy Communion, you’re as much in the presence of the risen Lord Jesus as were the first disciples who saw Him with their own eyes, alive.
Now the risen Christ calls out through this ministry of the Word, Repent and believe the Good News! Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins! For Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed, delivered up for our sins and raised again for our justification. He lives to bestow the forgiveness of sins He purchased with His blood. He lives to reconcile sinners with God through faith in His name. He lives to shield His people from sin, death, and the devil. He lives to raise up our bodies, after we die, and to give eternal life to all believers.
Since that is true, dear Christians, since Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed and then raised from the dead, you have nothing to fear from sin, death, or the devil, because God has united you to the death of Christ through Holy Baptism, and if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
And since that is true, how are you to live? You are to live with faith, hope, and love. You are to “keep the feast,” as Paul wrote to the Corinthians—the feast of Passover. Not the old Jewish feast, but the new Christian one. The feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. You are to keep it, not by celebrating Easter once a year, although we are certainly glad to do that, too. No, you are to keep it, as St. Paul writes, by purging out the old leaven. You are to keep it, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
If the Jews were to rid their homes of leaven for the week following the feast of Passover, how much more shouldn’t we Christians rid our homes and our lives of the leaven of malice and wickedness? And not just for a week, but for the rest of our lives. You truly are “unleavened,” says the Apostle. You Christians, through faith in Christ, are truly counted by God as sinless, righteous, holy people. So let us live that way, with the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Let us keep the feast, not once a year, but in the continual celebration of Easter. For Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us, once for all. But His crucified body was not left to decay. Christ, our Passover, was raised from the dead, once for all, and now lives continually. Let us, as His holy Church, celebrate His resurrection continually, by hearing His Word, by receiving His Sacraments, and by leading unleavened lives here below, until we are raised to eternal life with Him above. He is risen! Amen.