Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for Forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed death by enduring it. He destroyed hell when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.” (Chrysostom)
What we have witnessed in these last three days is that combat between Death and Life, between Satan and Jesus. The war in heaven which St. John witnessed in the Revelation spilled onto earth. Jewish and Roman leaders played their parts, they did the will of the devil, leading Jesus to death, even the death of the cross. But the Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal! What other source of joy exists for the Christian than that? Jesus died, but is alive again, and lives forevermore. But today we don’t merely celebrate that Jesus is alive. Yes, that is a source of joy, but we celebrate because He has defeated death.
In Christ, everything is now reversed. Yes, death may be our common lot, but it has no power. Yes, this flesh will give out, it will be reduced to the dust from whence it came. But Easter reminds us that death is not the end. Easter calls us to taunt Death, to mock him. That is exactly what St. Paul did when he wrote to the Church in Corinth: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55) St. Paul and every Christian laughs when we say those words. “Death, you thought you were so powerful, that you were the end, the victor. How could you be so wrong?”
Satan thinks he has us because of sin. He shows our sin to us, holds it in front of us, tells us it’s not forgivable, that God will surely turn away from us because of it, that we have sinned too many times for God to be able to forgive us. Do not believe his lies! Say with David, “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me!” (Ps. 51:3). You are not giving me new information! Instead turn the devil’s accusations back at him. “Yes, I know my sin, but I also know my Savior. I know the One who shed His Blood for me, who died for me, who rose for me. I am Baptized into Him and my sin is forgiven. You have no power over me, Satan. You were destroyed that first Easter morning. You lost your power; the victory remained with life; your reign is ended!”
Today hell is in an uproar because it is done away with. It is mocked, it is destroyed, it is annihilated, it is made captive. “Hell took a body and discovered God. It took earth and encountered heaven. It took what it saw and was overcome by what it did not see.” (Chrysostom) Today is the day that defines everything. For you, Easter is all that matters. That doesn’t mean life won’t be awful. Quite the contrary. We all know how miserable life can be on this side of eternity. Easter doesn’t pay the bills. Easter doesn’t mend broken homes. Easter doesn’t change the diagnosis. But Easter makes your living hell endurable. Easter takes all of the dirt and filth of this life, all of the devil’s greatest desires, and shows them to be temporary, to be things that cannot harm you eternally. You can face today, tomorrow, every day because Christ is risen and He has given that life to you. You can face job loss, bankruptcy, cancer, divorce, sadness, and all the rest knowing that one day they will be no more. The sadness that defines this life will be annihilated in heaven. You are Baptized into Christ, so His victory is yours. Today, be overcome by what is not seen, what the world cannot see—Jesus Christ, victorious, giving you His victory, His joy, His eternal bliss.
Feast this Easter Day on Christ, the Bread of Heaven. Feast on the One who is the Joy of all. Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes, the death which gives you life, the death which gives you forgiveness. Receive the risen Christ as He comes to you to give to you His victory over sin, death, and the devil. Feast, especially when this life would make you want to fast, to turn away from Christ, from the Church, to retreat into yourself, licking your wounds and plotting revenge. Feast on the One who can warm and light you, who calms your strife. Jesus, through simple bread and wine, is present with His Body and Blood to strengthen you for the journey, to give you a feast full of Easter triumph and Easter joy that alone destroy sin, that uplifts from the gloom of this life.
This Easter, every day, even in the worst of moments, rejoice. Why? “Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen and life reigns! Christ is risen and not one dead remains in a tomb!” Look on this and rejoice! The tomb will not hold you, it will not hold your loved ones who have died in Christ, just as it did not hold Christ. “Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” (Chrysostom)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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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.