Easter Sunday April 4, 2020
1 Peter 1:3-9
Worship Supplement 2000 - #726, 200, 191, 189
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ Christ Is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! +
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. (NKJV)
In the name of the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ, dear fellow redeemed;
Years ago when the Battle of Waterloo was being fought, all of England was waiting anxiously to learn of its outcome. In that day, people were dependent upon receiving news by signal lights that flashed from station to station. One of these stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral. Later in the day it received the signal, “Wellington defeated.” Just after these two words were transmitted, a thick fog rolled in preventing them from receiving any further message. When news of this defeat was circulated, the whole land was in gloom bordering on despair. But then the fog lifted allowing the message to be completed, “Wellington defeated the enemy.” With this news, sorrow turned into joy, and defeat into victory.
In the case of Jesus’ death on the cross, there was a somewhat similar situation. When the followers of Jesus received word of His death, they thought this meant Jesus had been defeated by the enemy. They were filled with great sadness. It was with sorrow that the women, who had been faithful followers of Christ, went to the tomb that Sunday morning to finish the embalming of Jesus’ body.
If Jesus’ death on the cross would have meant He had been defeated, there would have been good reason for us to be sad and even fall into despair. The outcome of Jesus’ battle on the cross would affect the eternal fate of everyone for all time. Had Jesus been defeated, we would have been condemned because of our sins, having no hope of salvation.
When the women arrived at the tomb that morning, they learned that Jesus had not been defeated, but that He was the victor, having defeated sin, death, and the devil. This glorious message of victory was learned as they received evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. When this message of victory was made known to the followers of Jesus, their sorrow was turned into joy and defeat into victory.
On Good Friday, the heavenly Father announced the death of His beloved Son by causing the whole land to shake with an earthquake. So also on Easter Sunday morning, God caused the earth to quake, announcing that His Son was alive again.
That there be no mystery as to what this sign in nature meant, God sent an angel to make know the glorious news. What truly blessed tidings angels were commissioned to bring to lowly sinners from the start to the end of Jesus’ life on earth. At Jesus’ birth, an angel announced to lowly shepherds that a Savior had been born. And now on Easter morning, as the angel makes known the resurrection, the good news carried with it is that Jesus has fulfilled His mission for the salvation of all mankind.
In Romans 4, the apostle Paul writes concerning Jesus, He “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.“ (v.25). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead attests to the comforting fact that we stand justified in the sight of God, that is, it shows that the heavenly Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as full payment for all our sins and therefore through Jesus God forgives us of all our transgressions and declares us free of any guilt.
One of the ways the angel made known the resurrection of Jesus was by breaking the seal of the tomb and rolling the great stone away from the entrance. He did this not to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to show it was empty. Neither death nor a sealed tomb or soldiers, who were to keep the grave secure, could contain Jesus. Jesus broke the bonds of death and came to life in a glorified body with which He simply passed through the walls of the grave.
Jesus’ resurrection greatly cheers us. Death now holds no terror for us, for since Jesus rose victoriously, death will not be a passage way to hell, but rather to heaven. In second Timothy, Paul testified that God has saved us from the dreaded fate of eternal death and that this “grace (which) was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (1 Timothy 1:9b,10)
Because Jesus was resurrected from the grave, we have the blessed assurance that our lifeless bodies will not remain forever in the grave, but will be raised to life and reunited with our souls to live eternally in heaven. Jesus has promised us saying, “Because I live, you will live also.” (John14:19). And in I Corinthians 15, we read concerning this wonderful future, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
In the message the angel gave to the women on Easter Sunday, he brought joy to their sorrowful hearts. He said to them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6) With heavy hearts the women had expected to find the lifeless body of Jesus in the grave. But instead, they received the joyous news that their Lord had been raised to life again. How this greatly uplifted their spirits!
In bringing this glad tiding to the women, the angel reminded them that with this glorious happening Jesus showed Himself faithful to His Word. Previously, Jesus had informed the women that He would have to suffer and die, and that on the third day after His death He would be raised back to life. Now the women received undeniable proof that Jesus is not only fully capable, but also faithful in carrying out His promises. What a comfort this is for us who place our reliance on God’s many promises.
The angel gave proof to the women of what he reported concerning Jesus by instructing them to go into the tomb and see for themselves. The gospel of John reveals that what was seen inside was “the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.” (John 20:6-7) The strips of cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ lifeless body were not cut up or disturbed, but were lying where Jesus’ lifeless body had been, only the body of Jesus was no longer enclosed by them. The napkin which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was folded up neatly and lying right next to the strips of cloth. All this clearly showed that when Jesus’ body returned to life in its glorified form, He simply passed through the grave clothes, leaving them undisturbed, and He neatly set aside the napkin which had been on His head.
The report of the angel and the scene in the empty tomb, which gave evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, were later verified for the women when Jesus appeared to them as they were making their way back to the city. What a glorious sight to behold—the glorified form of the risen Lord Jesus! This marvelous incident was most certainly not an illusion or a figment of their imagination. For when Jesus came to them, they not only saw Him with their eyes and heard Him speak with their ears, but they also touched Him with their hands. Jesus had in truth physically come back to life again.
The response of the women to the resurrection of Jesus was as it ought to be with any Christian whose heart is touched by the wonderful message of the resurrection. While the women experienced fear at the awesome heavenly sight of the angel, this feeling was overshadowed by the feeling of joy when they heard and believed the report of Jesus’ resurrection.
Oh, how important it is for us to accept in faith the bodily resurrection of Jesus, for this is the Lord’s proof to us that Jesus has successfully conquered sin, death, and the devil, and that through Jesus we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. When we believe this, our hearts are gladdened with inexpressible joy.
Another response of the women is that they fell down and worshiped the risen Lord. Such a response is the natural outflowing of Christian faith, love and thankfulness to our Savior God. As God’s humble servants we desire to pay homage to God, to show reverence for Him and to praise Him for His merciful gift of love, that is, the free gift of redemption through Jesus Christ. And since God’s love for us is so great and His blessings neverending, we should never grow tired of worshiping our Savior the whole year long, as well as through out our entire lives.
If ever we become weary of or negligent in drawing near to worship our Savior God, one likely reason for this is that we have lost sight of the great redeeming love of God and what that means to us both here in time and hereafter in eternity. May the Word of our Lord ever renew and refresh our spirits so that we do not stop speaking and singing the praises of our Savior.
Finally, one other response of the women that is noteworthy is their reaction to this word of instruction by the angel, “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 28:7) Since the message of Jesus’ resurrection was so important to the other followers, as well as all people, the women wasted no time in spreading the good news of what they had heard and seen.
This kind of response by the women is needed today just as it was on that first Easter Sunday. There are vast numbers in our day who do not know and believe in the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ. In this day of modern technology, world news is spread instantly across the globe. It is good to be able to be informed of what is going on in the world about us. But even more important than this, is the need for the worldwide spread of the gospel of life and salvation through the crucified and risen Savior. Unlike the temporal news of the day, the gospel has an eternal impact upon precious souls whom Jesus has purchased and won through the shedding of His holy blood.
Through the testimony of Holy Scripture we too have been enabled to come to the tomb and hear the angel’s glorious message, and to see the empty grave and to behold in spirit the appearance of the risen Lord. As God gives us faith to accept Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to us, our hearts are uplifted and our knees are bent in worship to our Lord and God. So also let us go and tell others of this good news of Jesus so that heaven will be filled with believers who will sing songs of praise to the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.