Easter Sunday – ‘Repent’ Lenten Series
April 16, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.
“Repent: Turn to Jesus for Resurrection and Life”
1) If Jesus’ Resurrection is Not Real … We Have No Hope
2) Because Jesus Rose — We Have Forgiveness, Hope, Eternal Life
Dear redeemed disciples of our crucified but risen Savior, Jesus the Christ,
Going to work or coming home, we expect crowded roads. Walking into McDonalds, we expect to be able to order hamburgers. We expect spring to follow winter. In church today, we expect Easter lilies on the altar, some special music; we expect to hear a preacher focus on Jesus rising from death to life the third day. No surprises here.
Other times we are surprised. Traffic flows through one green light after another. We order a walleye dinner at Culver’s. Surprise! In a Sunday service, one single sentence in a sermon or one hymn phrase suddenly fills our eyes with tears or makes our heart heavy. Easter, so routine today, was (unfortunately) an unexpected turn of events. Yet it was; it is exactly what we need…exactly what our Savior promised! For a few moments, forget special hams baking at home, forget guests coming for dinner a little later; focus on the first Easter! Return to Jesus’ empty tomb! Repenting, turn to Jesus for Resurrection; for our Life!
Luke’s Easter morning account is expected, ‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took spices they had prepared & went to the tomb.” All is normal; unexceptional as dear friends approach a dreadful grave to deliver a little basic human dignity. Women – Jesus’ dear friends; some maybe mothers of his disciples — support Jesus’ ministry. Supplying food & clothes with their own money, they stand at the foot of Jesus’ cross where so many other souls desert him. Loyalty & love for Jesus they display in his life will also be demonstrated in his death.
Where are the faithful women going? To a dreadful grave! Does anyone actually like cemeteries? We do what we can — we notice pretty flower, green grass; beautiful memorial stones – but deep down, we know no pretty flowers or well-manicured lawns will ever erase death’s darkness & decay. Jesus’ tomb is brand-new — loaned by well-to-do Joseph of Arimathea. But Joseph’s Cadillac tomb cannot compensate for the fact Jesus’ battered, lifeless body lies inside on a cold stone slab. What a dreadful end Jesus endured. What a dreadful place for dear friends to see him one last time!
Faithful women make the best of it, going to his dreadful tomb to supply Jesus some basic human dignity. Remember, Jesus received a very quick burial Good Friday, before the Sabbath sunset. Saturday evening, as the Sabbath rest ends, women shop for burial spices. They intend to lovingly clean Jesus’ bloody body, gently sprinkle it with spices, snuggly wrap his corpse in clean linen, tenderly place a burial cloth on his face & let Jesus rest in peace. Then they will return to a life that will be dreadfully different without Jesus!
All this we expect. Nothing out of the ordinary! A dead man, a grave; a group of mourners wanting to say a final, fitting farewell! If Luke’s record ends here, we have no reason to celebrate Easter. Worship today would be a colossal waste of time. If Jesus’ record ends here, our dreams for heaven are dashed as we come face-to-face with the death of the Christian faith!
Thank God, something unexpected happens. ‘The women find the stone rolled away from the tomb.’ Returning to Jesus’ tomb at the crack of dawn, they look up; they see the stone rolled away from the entrance. Who could possibly have come earlier? Who would have opened the grave? What about Roman guards watching to make sure no disciples come in the middle of the night, cart off his corpse; then claim Jesus is alive. Where are these guards? Roman legionnaires, like bulldogs, would not run away from their duty, even if it meant death for them. What in the world is going on here!?
Stepping into the tomb, faithful women experience Easter. Entering his tomb, they do not find Jesus’ body. While they wonder, two men in clothes like lightning suddenly stand beside them. Angels ask frightened women bowing down with their faces to the ground, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified & on the third day be raised again.”’
Instead of linen grave clothes, they see men dressed in dazzling light! Instead of a cold cadaver, they see angelic messengers. A rocky slab where Jesus’ lifeless body lay becomes the first Easter pulpit. Instead of a silent tomb & stillness of death, they hear a short, sweet, pointed sermon literally changing the history of the world: ‘He is not here; he has risen!’ The beaten; battered, poked; prodded, whipped; crucified One lives again!
Did a dead man literally rise from the dead? Angels are God’s accurate messengers reiterating Jesus’ own words, ‘Remember how he told you!’ No skeptic questioning, no soul disbelieving God’s Word can change the fact of Jesus’ Easter morning resurrection. Turn away from doubt or disbelief the devil keeps trying to toss into our head to destroy our heart. Turn to Jesus, joyfully repenting. Turn to Jesus who is the resurrection; who is our life!
But what if – as Paul’s inspired words earlier led us to ask – what if Jesus did not rise from the dead? What if Roman guards were chickens, women were delusional; angels were mythical. What if Luke makes stuff up; writes fantasy instead of fact in the Scriptures? ‘If Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile; we are still in our sins.’ [1 COR 15] If Jesus did not rise from death to life, when Jesus said on the cross, ‘It is finished’ — he was not talking about our salvation. He would have simply been saying he was finished. A dead savior is undoubtedly a deception; a buried dream. If Jesus is still dead today, we have a big problem three letters long: S-I-N! Deep down inside, every single one of us knows, ‘the wages of sin is death.’ [ROM 6]
If Jesus is still dead, we have no real hope when we take our personal trip to the funeral home one day! ‘If the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised either. Those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” [1 COR 15] If Christ has not been raised, the funeral home is a hopeless dead end. There is also always a nagging knowledge found in my conscience & in Scripture — we sinners are heading for hell… If Christ is not raised, thoughts of eternity terrify!
Finally, if Christ is dead today, we have no real hope in life. ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless; so is your faith.’[1 COR 15] If Jesus is still in his grave, this sermon is silliness, your trust in Christ is childish; faith is foolish. If Jesus did not rise, you might as well go home & play a good game of Trivial Pursuit, which is all life would be…if our Savior is still dead.
But – be perfectly clear — Jesus has been raised from the dead — really, truly, physically raised from the dead! Christ crucified lives again! God stakes his entire reputation upon historical, unshakeable Easter facts! Luke is no liar. Women were not delusional — far from it. They were astonished! Angels are no myth. They are God Almighty’s messengers proclaiming the greatest truth of all time. God in his Word shouts Easter’s truth to us as a rock-solid foundation on which we live: Through Jesus, sin stands forgiven. Death to us is dead, in Christ! The devil has been defeated by Jesus! In Christ, our life lasts forever! Easter, what was not expected, is exactly what we needed!
Do we need God’s forgiveness? Desperately! Fortunately, Jesus died on the cross to pay sin’s shocking price tag. On the cross, Jesus said his work of saving us from our sins was finished. Easter is proof Jesus’ work really works for us! ‘Delivered over to death for our sins, Jesus was raised to life for our justification.”[ROM 4] Easter is God’s declaration sin is forgiven. Forgiveness? Repenting, turn to Jesus who died, but rose to forgive every sin; every sinner!
Do we need help facing death? In Christ, death is defeated. Funeral homes look dismal; gravesides feel final, but looks & feelings deceive. Death & the grave is not our grand finale. Because Jesus lives again, we are absolutely sure death is only a sleep. As alarm clocks wake me every morning, our living Lord will one day wake us up from our graves, as he awoke the third day. In Jesus — the resurrection; the life — we live even though we die. Need help facing death? Turn to Jesus whose resurrection ensures our resurrection!
Do we need hope in life? Wars drag on. Our economy rises & falls. Personal problems we pray about at night are still there in the morning. It can feel as if God is floating somewhere out past Pluto while problems are as close as the nose on our face. But hope for daily life; hope for our eternal life is not resting in a dead guy resting in a grave. No! Jesus is alive – risen, ascended; ruling! We have all kinds of hope to carry us through life for the living Lord Jesus will be with us every single second of this life until he takes us into eternal heavenly life. Looking for hope in life? Turn to Jesus! His life is our life!
What are we expecting from Easter? If forgiveness for our sins; if victory over death is not a big deal – if our Easter hopes end with a bunny, a bonnet, a ham & a nap – we waste our time worshipping. But if God’s doubt-dispersing truth, if God’s faith-working Word leads us to expect what was once unexpected at Easter – if Jesus Christ, after being crucified on our cross Good Friday, walked out of his tomb alive Easter Sunday — if Jesus is powerfully, bodily, truly alive forever — we have every reason to worship our risen Savior as often as we can! For if Jesus, ‘delivered over to death for our sins, was raised to life for our justification’[ROM 4] we are fully forgiven; our sin’s guilt is gone! Our hope of enjoying eternal life in heaven is certain because Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus defeating the devil & death – assures us our own soon-to-be-buried body will be raised & glorified as our Lord’s last trumpet sounds. Until that day, until our Savior returns in glory, may God who graciously gives us life – burying us with Christ; by baptism raising us to live in Christ – may God repeatedly turn us repenting souls to joyfully see Jesus, our resurrection & our life!