Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
St. John tells us that Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. This makes this scene of Easter extremely relatable because you have done the same thing. You have stood next to the grave of a loved one and wept, lamenting that Adam’s curse has taken its toll yet again. Even though you mourn as one who has hope in the resurrection, you still stand there in anger that death has, once again, used its icy grip.
Sadly, in addition to the feelings of grief, death often brings the platitudes, the kindly sentiments of those who are grasping for hope, but don’t have any. So many in our world are lacking the true hope of the resurrection of the dead. Which, again, makes this scene relatable. Peter and John walked away without hope. And in their grief, they couldn’t even help Mary! They simply walked away and left her to grieve alone. They had no hope, no confidence that death wasn’t the end.
But Jesus calls Mary by name, revealing that He is not the gardener, not someone who can give no hope, but He is the one who has met our enemy and won. Christ is risen and death is destroyed!
Jesus did not simply attack death. No, He entered it Himself. Just as Jonah was swallowed by the great fish, so did Jesus fully enter into death and was consumed by it. But Just as Jonah was released from that fish, so did Jesus force death to vomit Him out as He destroyed death from inside. It is now a powerless form, no matter how it rages and storms. Now every Christian grave is a taunt of death, because death is not the victor over those bodies, and it will not be the victor over you. The steely grip of death cannot hold those who are in Christ, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Now when death tries to take you, Jesus says to it, “Release My child! You have no right to him, for I have atoned for his sins. He is mine.” And, just like it was with the creative word in the beginning, so will it be when you die. The powerful Word of God does just what it says.
So, today the Church calls out the world over, Christ is risen, because this is our hope, our confidence. This life is full of graves, of sadness and pain, wars and fighting, of things that seem so consuming. But for Mary there was a word that pierced through the darkness, a word that brought joy and confidence. Jesus was risen, just as He promised. The voice she knew so well called her by name and her sorrow was replaced with confidence and joy. At His voice she was released from her prison of sadness and grief and was given a life of joy and hope, of confidence and peace.
It is the same for you as well. There is a voice and a word that pierces the darkness of sin that surrounds you, there is a voice that releases you from all that would try to hold you captive. The voice of Jesus raises you from sorrow and pain and gives you life again, making each day an Easter day. This voice calls you by name in the Absolution, recalling the day you were called by name in Holy Baptism. This voice speaks to you in the Supper, bidding you eat and drink the Body and Blood that release you from the famine and drought of sin and fill you with righteousness and life.
Though you live in a world that still has thorns and thistles of disease and death, where Jesus’ voice is heard those things are put to flight, and hope is given, a hope that looks to the Last Day, the Day of the new heaven and earth when the dead will be raised incorruptible, when you will know what Adam and Eve knew, of intimate communion with God in the garden in the cool of the day.
This is the change that is wrought by the resurrection of Jesus. From death to life, from despair to hope, from sadness to joy, from fear to confidence. That is the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection and His victory over sin, death, and the devil. While our hope certainly looks ahead to that great and glorious Day of the Lord, it also transforms how we live today. Whether today brings joy or sadness, we are safe in Jesus. Death did its worst to Him and lost! Now we can live in confidence that this world can do its worst to us and it will lose again.
Christ is risen, and one day His voice will call you by name just as He did for Mary. Your ears will hear His voice and you will follow from the grave. The nail-pierced hands of the Crucified will pull you forth and reunite your body with your waiting soul in heaven. In Christ, you have a hope that is unshakable, that will be rewarded with sight. Because Jesus is risen from the dead, so are you. Today, victory has been won.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
There is one simple thing that we are gathered to celebrate this morning: the fact that Christ is risen from the dead. These simple words are the backbone of Christianity. There is no forgiveness without these words, no salvation without these words, no eternal life without these words.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.