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Message for Easter Morning

Luke 24:1-12

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.”  They find the stone rolled away from the tomb.  And when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  Suddenly there were to angels.  And they said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”

This is either the greatest news humankind has ever heard or it is the greatest hoax ever.  Which is it?

Our claim and the central claim of Christianity is Jesus’ body was raised from the dead.  Next week, if you’re here, you’ll hear that Thomas actually puts his fingers in the places where the nails were in Jesus’ hands and into the place in Jesus’ side where the Roman soldier poked with a spear.  It was not just His soul that was raised.  Jesus was not just raised spiritually.  He’s not just alive in our hearts.  Jesus’ body was raised from the dead.  And if Jesus is alive, it means the grave no longer has the power we used to think it did.  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia.

When I think about today and the real meaning of the day, it gives me great comfort that one day, on the Last Day, Jesus will come back and all those who have been buried will be raised in a glorious resurrection of the dead.  All our loved ones, those for whom many of you bought lilies in memory, they will be raised.  We will see them again and live with them again in the new creation not in some ethereal disembodied existence up in the clouds somewhere.  A real new life with real people who have been raised like Jesus was, in a real new creation.  That’s the assurance we have today because of Easter morning.  That first Easter Jesus showed us the grave is not the end but rather the resting place for the bodies of all who fall asleep in Him.

We love to sing our Easter hymns so much we’ve forgotten to pay attention to the texts of those hymns.  When you sing hymn 490 today during communion, pay close attention to the first stanza.

Jesus lives!  The vict’ry’s won!

Death no longer can appall me;

Jesus lives!  Death’s reign is done!

From the grave will Christ recall me.

Brighter scenes will thence commence;

This shall be my confidence.  LSB 490:1

That’s the Message of Easter.  Death is defeated.  That’s the message of God to the world in Christ Jesus.  That’s the message we are given to share with the world.  That’s the Gospel.  THE Good News.  It changes everything.

But do we live as though that news matters?  Do we long to hear that Good News over and over again?  Has the Good News been drowned out by all the other news that constantly swirls around us?

Think of so much of the other news we hear.  I’m thinking mostly about the political and economic news that we hear daily.   Too often that’s this other news that drives how we feel and how we act.  We get agitated at the bad news and then we get complaining about it and fail to remember the Good News that does change everything.

Or maybe it’s not that the national news that bums us out but news that is more personal.  It looks like the job won’t last.  The IRS says you miscalculated and you owe more money.  Or worse, a friend, a teacher, a parent, a child has just been diagnosed.  That’s truly told terrible news.  That news can definitely drown out the Good News.  In the face of such pain, the Good News sounds too good to be true.  It’s whistling in the graveyard,” we say.

Part of the problem is that when things happen, when the pain of sickness and death threaten to swamp us, it becomes pretty clear that nowhere else is there any truly Good News.  The doctors can only make her comfortable.  The boss can only keep you on for a little while until you find something else.  Your friends can only seem to share platitudes like, “When God closes a door, He opens a window,” which by the way is not the Good News.  Nowhere else is saying this is all but temporary.  Nowhere do you hear, “I know it hurts.”  But Jesus came into the pain and suffered it for real to know exactly how we feel.  He knew the pain of losing friends and family to illness and injustice.  The cross was real pain for Jesus but there is Easter.  And because of Easter we know there is victory coming.  It is assured.  As certain as Easter morning happened, victory is coming.  It’s only in church where that message is spoken in the face of life’s pain and sorrow and death.

Head over to Walmart after church this morning and try shouting down the line of cashiers, “Alleluia!  Christ is risen!”  You let me know if you get a response other than looks that ask, “Is that guy nuts?”  But maybe the problem is Walmart.  Go over to IHOP instead and try it out.  Let me know if the hostess there doesn’t already have the hand on the phone and dialed 9-1…  Head just across the parking lot there and walk into Starbucks.  Try shouting that news.  If they actually look up from their laptops and their lattes, they’ll not be impressed.  No, this is really the only place where that Good News is proclaimed.  It’s not at Walmart or IHOP or Starbucks.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like my Starbucks and I go to the local place even more than the Starbucks here, but the Good News isn’t proclaimed there in its truth in purity.  The forgiveness of sins isn’t attached to a double shot cappuccino.  This is the only place where the Good News is proclaimed week in and week out in the face of all the other news we get.

May the problem is the news.  A guy in front of me at Lowe’s shared with me about the weather.  He didn’t shout about it but he talked both with me and with the cashier about what a fine day it was.  Not really news.  I was already out.  I’d already seen for myself what a fine day it was.

Instead of running into Walmart and shouting Christ is risen, but instead shouted that there was a lady out front handing out gold coins, I’m sure there would be more of a reaction.  As more and more people came back with their gold coin, I’m sure more and more would be out front, in line waiting to get theirs.  It has to be news like that, doesn’t it?  News that benefits every person that hears it.  Is that not what we are saying today?  Jesus is raised and is the firstfruits.  As He rose, so shall all who believe in Him.  That’s our witness today.  Jesus’ grave was empty, not because of grave robbers but because He had risen just as the angels said.

And I want to make a special plea to you today because so many of you are here.  If you value this Good News, that Jesus is truly raised, you might need to consider how you order your life.  After Peter preached this Good News at Pentecost and many were cut to the heart, they asked him, “What then shall we do?”  He said be baptized and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  All of you, I presume have done that.  But can I ask then, where you are when it’s not Easter?  If this is the place where the Good News is being announced, don’t you want to hear it?  Don’t you need to hear it?  Don’t you need a glimpse of what it will be like when He comes again and welcomes us to the eternal banquet table?  In the midst of all the bad news, some weeks, the Good News is the only thing that keeps me going.

So, today is not just a day for eggs and hats and new dresses.  It’s the day we are assured of new life.  It’s a day of Good News, the greatest news ever.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.”  They find the stone rolled away from the tomb.  And when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  Suddenly there were to angels.  And they said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”  Amen.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!  Amen.

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