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LSB Resurrection of Our Lord A Sermon – Matthew 28:1-10

April 20, 2014

April 20, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.’”

IMG_1121“Do not be afraid.” That early Sunday morning was not the first time angels had spoken those words. You heard angels spoken them back when the church was decorated with pine branches and red bows: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John…. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus…. Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Each time, an angel spoke the command not to fear, followed with a message about a divine act taking place among men.

So it was with the angel who sits at the side of Jesus’ tomb. The angel appears, bringing a message for humanity about the divine work that had taken place: “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” But the divine work wasn’t rolling away the stone. The rolling away of the stone is the sign of the divine work that had been accomplished: Jesus’ tomb no longer was occupied because He had risen from death.

That great message is what the angel delivers to the women: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.” This is the good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. It is how the declaration about Jesus’ identity at His birth is fulfilled. This is how salvation is brought to the world. So the women follow the angel’s invitation to see this thing that had happened, which the LORD had made known to them. They see the empty tomb. They see the place where Jesus once lay, but where He was no longer. And they heeded the angel’s instruction to inform the others: “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.”

The women make known Jesus’ resurrection to His Jesus’ disciples. But it would not stay there. From that gravesite outside Jerusalem, the news of what the LORD had done was brought to the world. For the work that was performed was not for just one small group of people. No, it was meant for all creation to hear. That is why the Risen Jesus would commission His apostles, sending them out to make more disciples by baptizing them and teaching them what He had done. That commission drove Peter to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection to an Italian military household: “They put [Jesus] to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

The angelic and apostolic testimony about Jesus, the message of good news concerning His death and resurrection, is what you have received on this day. It is the culmination of the Three Days that some of you commemorated with us by gathering on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and last night’s Vigil of Easter: Jesus was betrayed, He was condemned, He was crucified, He was buried, but He has risen from death. And this morning, when all of you got to hear the narrative of Jesus’ resurrection, the great Easter Greeting was spoken: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

But what exactly is the good news of a great joy that you are meant to receive today? Certainly, it is to hear that Jesus’ tomb is empty because He has risen from death, just as He said. But why is that good news for you? What has this accomplished for you? What significance does this have for you? Some significance has been sung by the choir: “Christ has risen from the dead! He has crushed the serpent’s head. See there lies an empty tomb; no more sorrow, no more gloom. Now we live in certainty of a life eternally!” Some has also been sung by you: “He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there.”

But the good news of a great joy that is meant for you and all the people goes further. The point of Jesus’ resurrection isn’t that the death of loved ones will cause no grief. It isn’t that your days on earth will be free from pain or sorrow. It’s not even that your souls will go to heaven when you die. The significance is found in that what had been spoken of concerning Jesus has been fulfilled: He has brought salvation into the world by His death and resurrection. And that means His promises made to those who believe in Him have credence. Just as what Jesus spoke of His dying and rising has come to pass, so also what He says concerning your own death and resurrection shall take place. The good news of a great joy is that a resurrection awaits those who follow Jesus.

Jesus’ apostles carried that good news of a great joy into the world. Peter speaks of the Risen Jesus: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” But Peter also declares how a favorable judgment will be given by Jesus to you: “To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” The forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name grants everlasting life to people, so that they may participate in the resurrection that He brings.

Likewise, Paul writes about the Risen Jesus and the connection which His disciples have to Him: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” You have been buried and raised with Christ. That is what your being baptized into His death and resurrection has accomplished. This is what Paul notes: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” But that doesn’t simply mean that you will someday be up in heaven, floating on clouds. It doesn’t mean that only your souls are forgiven. No, there is the promise of your own resurrection: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” When this Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, you will be glorified, raised in body and soul to the fullness of everlasting life.

The good news of great joy is that the day will come when your tombs will be opened. The One who has already left behind His grave has made that promise to you. His promise gives true courage in the midst of death and decay in this world. Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And His gospel message is clear: “I have atoned for your sins. My death is the sacrifice for your guilt. It’s been finished. I’ve fulfilled the divine standard of righteousness for you. And I have purchased everlasting life for you through My work. You have a place in My eternal kingdom. For when I come to judge the living and the dead, I will raise you up and set you in your own place in the new heaven and new earth that I establish.”

You will sing about Jesus’ gospel message as you partake of the bread of life in the Eucharist: “Now no more can death appall, now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened paradise, and Your saints in You shall rise.” This is your declaration of no fear, just as the angel bids you not to be afraid. But this isn’t whistling while walking past the graveyard. No, it is the defiance of death itself—not because you are powerful over it, but because the Risen Jesus is. His empty tomb shows it. And the Risen Jesus promises that He will appear in glory for you: He will meet you in the graveyard, speak His greeting, raise you up, and let you take hold of Him and worship Him. The resurrection that Jesus experienced is what you will receive. And the angels of heaven will be able to point to your tomb and say: “He’s not here; she’s not here. See the place where they once lay. These disciples of Jesus have risen, just as He said.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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