Sermon for Easter Sunday 2014
+ Mark 16:1-8 +
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
All the hope, all the faith of the Old Testament saints who waited and yearned for the Lord’s salvation is confirmed on this day.
All the fear of the faithful women who ministered to Jesus in life, who were there for Him when He died, and who rose early on that first day of the week to tend to His dead body in the tomb, all the fear of Jesus’ disciples who abandoned their Lord and then watched Him die on a cross, is vanquished and turned to joy on this day.
All the blood of all the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, all the preaching of Christian preachers, all the suffering of Christians for the name of Christ, is vindicated on this day.
All those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, whose company we no longer enjoy on this earth, whose bodies now decay in their coffins, rest securely on this day.
For on this day Christ Jesus arose, the firstborn from among the dead, the firstborn of many brothers—His brothers who have believed in Him, His brothers who have been baptized into His death, His brothers who will one day die, just as Jesus died, but who will also rise from the dead, just as Jesus rose from the dead, because today Jesus lives.
There was never any doubt, or there shouldn’t have been, because Jesus doesn’t lie. What did the angel say to the fearful women? Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you. How does Matthew record the angel’s words? He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. How does Luke record the angel’s words? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”
Jesus promised to be crucified, and He was. He was, indeed, delivered up for our trespasses, as the Apostle Paul says—delivered up and crucified for our trespasses, for our sins. He suffered what all of us should have suffered. He received the condemnation that all of us should have received. He shed the blood that was ours to shed and died the death that was ours to die.
But Jesus also promised to rise again, and He did. As St. Paul says, He was raised for our justification. We are not just; we are not righteous. But Jesus is just; Jesus is the Righteous One who has earned justification for us before God. This is the righteousness of faith of which the Scriptures speak, that we poor sinners cannot be righteous before God by doing good or by living well, but only by faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He was raised so that we could be justified by faith in Him, our victorious Savior, who conquered sin, who conquered death, and who conquered the devil for us.
So today we Christians defy sin’s power to condemn us, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Today we Christians defy death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we Christians defy the devil himself, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
All of these, our bitter enemies, can no longer harm us who believe in Jesus, who was crucified and now lives forever and ever. He lives to defend us, to intercede for us, to cover us with His righteousness always. He lives to comfort and strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, through His Word and Sacrament, and He lives to shepherd us safely through this valley of the shadow of death, to that heavenly inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Today the faithful rejoice together and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Today the Spirit comforts those who mourn as they look to a living Savior for mercy and forgiveness. Today the Spirit also calls out to those who still live in sin, who live in impenitence and unbelief, who have despised the Word and Sacraments of Christ. To them God holds out today yet another day of grace to turn from their sin and to receive grace from the risen Christ, before that other day comes when God will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained, whom He has raised from the dead.
On this day let us rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil—a victory that He shares with His Church. Let sin condemn! Let death come! Let the devil rage! Our Savior has conquered them all for us who believe, and they can no longer harm us. Because on this day, Jesus rose from the dead. And as He said to those who had believed in Him, Because I live, you also will live. Rejoice, O people of Christ, in the victory of this day! Amen.