He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
And just like that, it’s over. The battle is finished. The victory has been won.
It doesn’t feel quite victorious today. There are people who should be here who are missing their first Easter in many years, confined to their homes. But then, every Easter there are people who should be here but are not. Their life in this world was ended by sin, they died to this world, now they are confined to their graves. We celebrate Easter without hearing their voices crying out in song. And we miss them. Grandparents, parents, spouse, children, dear friends. We are separated from them not by pandemic, but by the enemy only Christ could conquer – death.
And just as we will see our confined friends and family again when this is all over, so we will again see those who have fallen asleep in the faith. Death will lose its hold on them. They will be raised. We will meet them again.
In the Gospel reading, the women fled from the tomb, they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid. That makes sense. No one goes to the cemetery to tend the grave of a loved one, with the thought that they might have gotten up and gone home. We don’t go to the cemetery thinking “Golly, I wonder if they’ve been resurrected?” The women had no idea. And even after they heard the good news, they still hadn’t seen Jesus. They had only the word of the angel.
Today we hear that same word – He is risen. He is not here! But in addition we have the witness of the women – who eventually did see him. We have the witness of the twelve, who saw, touched, ate with Jesus after he was raised. We have the witness of many others. He was crucified, dead, and buried. He is no longer dead!
This is the day of victory – the Lord’s Day – the day of Resurrection. Today we rejoice and sing – and even if our singing is not quite as boisterous as it should be because of missing members, even if our celebration is muted as we go out because we shelter in our homes instead of getting together in large groups. This year we are reminded of a stark reality of life in this world – the celebration of the resurrection is never what it should be – what it will be some day. There are always saints missing. Taken from us and from this world –yet not dead. Even in death, they are alive in Christ. And one day, all of the faithful will gather together in one place, and raise one voice in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain and has been raised, who has won the victory over death, hell and the devil.
In Scripture there are many times when the forces of wickedness outnumber the righteous. And yet the righteous are victorious because God gives them the victory- God and no one else. He makes sure the odds are so stacked against his people; there is no way they could win without him. Pharaoh and all his chariots are overthrown in the tsunami of God’s wrath. Gideon and his 300 against the 100,000 Midianites who God confused so that they very helpfully slaughtered themselves. The impenetrable walls of Jericho that fell at the trumpet blast of God’s people. Daniel in the Lions den. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into the fire and yet were not consumed. And now, the grave itself – the last enemy – is overthrown by Jesus in his resurrection. He died, but is no longer dead. So also all those who believe in him will be raised.
About 400 years after Jesus was raised, a pastor preached a sermon that is still used in the church each Easter. His name was Chrysostom – it means “The golden tongue.” And today, as we celebrate the resurrection – perhaps a bit more quietly than usual – we turn to these ancient words – because they are words of comfort in the face of death, and defiance in the face of Satan and his efforts.
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
…rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!…
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now 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.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!