The day of weeping is past. The day of rejoicing has come. Today, we put away the sackcloth and ashes of repentance and sing again the joyous Alleluia. The angel rolls the stone away, and sorrow turns suddenly to joy. The grave wrappings are empty – and tears turn to laughter. He who was dead is now alive. The one who was gave himself into death has been raised. The power of death is broken, and life rules forever and ever.
Today we rejoice with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. We join in the feast of victory for our God. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Sin has been swallowed up in the death of Christ, and now the power of death is no more. The chains which bound us in sin have been broken. The bars of hell have been burst. The gates of Satan’s domain have been torn from their hinges. All the armor in which he trusted has been taken, and his head has been crushed. We no longer dwell in a land of deep darkness for the light has come, and now shines upon us. For Christ, the Passover lamb has been sacrificed and raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father. The night of judgment has ended, the time of deliverance is at hand forevermore.
And this day of rejoicing is for all who would hear and believe the promise. Those who kept Lent with fasting, prayer, and almsgiving – rejoice! Those who did not, rejoice as well. For today the bridegroom has come, the wedding feast is at hand. Those who labored hard to prepare are rewarded with the time of celebration. Those who have lately come are invited to join for this is not a day of regret over what was, but a day of celebration for what is. Today the church joins the heavens in declaring the glory of God and the firmament in proclaiming his handiwork. All those who come are welcome to rejoice with us as we celebrate the end of death, the final destruction of the grave.
The women come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus properly. Too late. He is no longer there. That’s so far from how things work in this world, that they can not believe the report of the angel. They disbelieve their own ears. There eyes deceive them. Something else must have happened. What would you think, going to the tomb of a loved one and finding the dirt piled next to the grave, the casket opened and empty, and a man dressed in white says that they have been raised. “Who has taken the body?” You might wonder. But “Well, we better be going, so we can see them later” would not be the first thought in your head. So also the women. They don’t know what to think. Because this is so different than all that has come before. Jesus has broken death for all time. It can not hold those who have been joined to his death in the holy waters of Baptism and who fall asleep in faith. Today we hear news that over a hundred have been killed in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka as they joined to celebrate the resurrection. The throng of holy martyrs increases, and their souls call out from underneath the altar, “O Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” They have been given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Blessed be the name of the Lord, for the holy martyrs this day are joined to the throng that no one can count, from every tribe and people and language. They have finished the course in faith and have been given the crown of life, which no one will take from them.
Back in this world, we who are baptized and still struggle in the church militant have already died to this world. You live in a world that is strange, and foreign to your sinful flesh, but is more real than this world of sin and death and darkness and shadows. That is what this world is – a world of shadows and deep darkness. A world of sin and death. Jesus says whoever does evil hates the late and will not come into the light for fear his deeds will be exposed. That is how this world is. And we are used to living in that darkness, in the shadow world is sin.
But whoever lives by the truth comes to the light that his deeds may be seen to have been done in God. The shadows of this world flee before the light that comes out of that tomb. It says the women were afraid. They would soon be consoled. The demons flee in a terror that never ends; Jesus is the light. He shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome him. The darkness has been utterly destroyed by the light. And now, Jesus offers to you a real world. Not a world of shadows and darkness. But a world of consolation, of light and of peace. A world more real than this world – though we only see it now with the eyes of faith. Just as he offers food more real than any food of this world. He offers food that does not spoil. Food that feeds more than the belly, food that remains to eternal life. And yet we must receive this food as well with the eyes of faith. For all that our mortal eyes can see is bread and wine. But under that bread and wine are a reality more real than grain and grapes.
The world of the resurrection is the real world. This world is passing away as a shadow at the rise of the sun. The world which Jesus gives does not pass away. In this world moth and rust and fire destroy, thieves break in and steal, our health is a mere vapor. Our life a mere breath away from death. Put your faith in those things, and you are chasing after the wind. Trust in them and you are trusting in a god that can not save.
That’s the world our flesh wants to live in. Adam and Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and that it would make one wise. It broke the fellowship with God that he had given to humanity in the creation, he saw that everything he had created under the heavens was good, and he rested from all his labors on that seventh day. The fruit from the forbidden tree did not make them wise, and, as God had warned, they died – even that same day. Their bodies died some years later. And we still chase after such false gods of man’s devising. We have so much in this world in which we trust, we do not have much left for the things of God. We want to live in the shadow world – this world – according to this life. But such a life is not real. It appears so to our flesh. But it is an illusion of sin. You can live in the shadows of this world and distract yourself for a time. And you can live in this shadow world and try to have little bits of the real world of Jesus and the resurrection around you. But it will not work. The shadows will push out the reality of the resurrection. It does not fool God when we lie to ourselves. The hard reality of the resurrection world is too much for the things of this world to bear. It is a reality beyond the vapors of this life. A reality that will not end. This shadow world comes to a crashing halt at the gate of death. We see it in those who can not bear the world funeral, who refuse to even speak the word death. And call it a celebration of life. But that is a celebration of the life in this world only. It is a celebration of a life that is no more. The church boldly stands at the grave and calls it funeral, it stares death in the face and calls it by name. We do not celebrate a life that was but is not more. We rejoice in the life that goes on for those who have died in the faith. The body that we lay in the grave will be raised as surely as Christ was raised. Death can not end the hard reality of Jesus resurrection world. Those who live by faith in this world, not by sight, still bear the sinful flesh. It is not easy. It means that each day the old Adam – the shadow man – must be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires. And then the new man – the reality given in Christ – must arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. The resurrection world of Jesus changes everything. The disciples would willingly go into death for the sake of the name, and their blood would be witness to the hope that is in them. The holy martyrs of Sri Lanke of this Easter in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Nineteen join the thousands upon thousands and millions upon millions would have been killed for the faith. They sacrificed the life of this world – a life that is barely more than an illusion – for the life that Christ gives that will not end.
But more than just a willingness to die for Christ, those in Christ are willing to live to him as well. To no longer walk according to the pattern of this world. But to live according to the pattern of Christ and his work. To hear and learn the word, to come often to receive the body and blood. To live according to the love of God in Christ Jesus as they show love to all those around them, forgiving them as God in Christ has forgiven them, and living as a part of the holy church, the bride of Christ, who brings the message of salvation and life through the word preached, through the sacraments offered. That is the real life which Jesus gives. Not a life that is already passing away the moment of our birth, but a life that is only beginning in earnest at the moment of death.
This is a hard saying, few can accept it. But those whom God has called according to his purpose in Christ Jesus, hear the word, receive it and bear fruit – even in this world – with patience. Daily growing in the renewal of life given in Jesus death and resurrection. And the truth is that the resurrection must change everything. The old way of doing things disappears in the light of resurrection morning. The world’s pattern is shown to be shallow and insignificant. The firm ground of Christ Jesus and what he has done for you takes the pre-eminence in this resurrection world.
It isn’t an easy path. It is narrow and difficult and few find it. The path to destruction is wide and easy. But that narrow path is the path to salvation. It is illuminated by the Word of God. It is a path that leads to life. A life that is without end.
Before Christ appeared to the disciples, he descended to hell, where he announced his victory over Satan. He went into the enemy’s domain and made clear that the power of the enemy is finished. Hell thought it had conquered when it took Jesus into death. But it was not a body that the grave held. It was God. And God can not die. Death was vanquished once and for all. And this life is only prelude to the life of the world to come. Do you see how that changes things? To live according to the old pattern, to live for the things of this world, is to go through those broken gates of death, past the fallen bars of hell, to find the chains that once bound you, and to sit among them once again, saying, “I can not get out of this open cage, I am stuck in this insecure citadel, I am bound by these shattered chains.” It is to place yourself once again under the curse of death. We do it. Our flesh is weak and, like Israel of old, we want the security of those Egyptian meat pots and the safety of slavery and bondage again to sin. The shadow world is soft and we want to sink down in it and lose all thought. The reality of the resurrection world is a hard one. It is far harder and more real than this world. And our sinful shadowy flesh has trouble with the how real this new world is. Were it not for the gift of faith given by the Spirit, no one could believe.
That is why we continually give thanks to God for all he has done. We shout today Alleluia, Alleluia! We return often to be fed with real food at the altar, where the veil is torn, and we join the martyr throng in their Holy Holy Holy to the Lord the God of hosts. And we see the reality of the resurrection presented to us. We come so that this world that is passing away would not entangle or enthrall us.
The resurrection is the life Christ gives. It is the only life worth living. May God grant to us the strength to hear and receive this word, to behold the resurrection of Christ and in faith to turn away from this world of darkness, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the unchangeable truth of the Word of God, who was crucified for us, who has been raised to a new life, and who now reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.
He is Risen! He is risen Indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!