Easter Sunday Sermon / Pastor Terry Defoe / Darkness Dispelled! / Matthew 28:5-7
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (N.I.V.)
Consider this: It’s a cold, rainy day, and the clouds are hanging low. Raindrops are falling against the window. But then, the clouds begin to part, and the sun breaks through. Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of a string of cloudy days, the gloom affects our mood. But, when you think about it, the sun never stops shining above the clouds. Sometimes, when we’re going through tough times, it may seem that we’re going to be stuck there forever. But Easter reminds us that God’s sun is brightly shining – eternally shining. I pray that God would bless our consideration of His Holy Word on this Easter Sunday!
When I think of the transformation from gloomy skies to brilliant sunshine, I think of Easter. Think back to the deep darkness that settled upon Jesus' disciples after his cruel death on a Roman cross. Consider the sense of despair that seized them. On Easter Sunday, those gray clouds were swept away and – in a moment of time – God's brilliant sunshine flooded into their hearts.
Easter has brought meaning to countless people whose lives were dark, and gray and gloomy. Easter reminds us, in a very powerful way, that our God is still there; His love and grace are sufficient. His concern for us is as strong as it's ever been. Easter is about victory and new life. It’s about the defeat of sin, and death, and the forces of evil. Here’s the new Easter reality: Death no longer rules the day. Christ has defeated death. Sin is no longer victorious. Christ has paid the price for it. We are now free from sin’s bondage. Evil no longer has us in its sway. God’s will has triumphed! His plan of salvation has been completed.
The Apostle Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, Greece what he says to us today:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:54-55, N.I.V.)
The resurrection is proof that God accepted Jesus’ death as full payment for our sins. The resurrection is God's seal of approval on all that Jesus accomplished. At the cross and empty tomb, God's justice has been satisfied. Sin has been paid for. The payment for sin that was demanded from us, has been made by a Substitute – none other than God’s own Son. At the cross, the punishment we deserve was borne by another. And now, in the waters of Holy Baptism, the benefits of the cross and the empty tomb are delivered to our address. In Holy Baptism, God declares us to be His beloved sons and daughters. At the cross of Good Friday, Jesus drank the full cup of wrath that was meant for us. This, dear friends, is the Christian Gospel. This is the good news that the church proclaims to all who have ears to hear.
The Gospel carries with it the power we need to respond favorably to God. As the Holy Spirit works, through God’s Word and the Sacraments, we turn from being mere hearers of God’s Word to being doers of the Word. When you think about it, Easter is the core and center of our Christian faith. Easter is what separates Christianity from all other world religions. Easter is the story of an empty tomb. It proclaims, in no uncertain terms, our Savior’s victory over sin, death, and the Devil. Jesus said:
“Because I live, you shall live also." (John 14:19, N.I.V.)
Because Jesus was raised from the dead, those who trust him will be raised from death – on the last day. Sometimes, we share a portion of Christ's suffering in this life, but, by faith, we also share His victory. Easter is a time of hope and renewal, a time for remembering what Jesus has accomplished for us – and not just for us, but for the whole world. Easter brings a fresh start for those whose faith is weak. It encourages those who are be burdened down by the cares of this world.
The God of the Christian faith is a loving God. He’s a God who cares. But He’s also a God who cannot countenance sin. He demands perfection in our keeping of His law. But reality teaches that no matter how hard we try, we can never keep God’s law perfectly. And we are strictly warned, in the New Testament book of James, that if we keep the whole law and yet fail just once, in other words, if we commit just one sin, everything is lost. God’s Word warns those who want to make themselves acceptable to God by earning His favor with their good works are in for a great disappointment.
Those who want to be saved by what they do for God are on a dead-end road. Those who want to be saved by what they do for God will find the doors of heaven closed to them. Our God-given faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the only way out of this dilemma. Jesus Christ has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. He has made a way where there was no way. His death and resurrection provide what we need but cannot accomplish on our own: the entire forgiveness of all our sins and entrance into the very presence of God.
The story of Easter is the story of new life. As the Holy Spirit works, through God’s proclaimed word and the administration of the Holy sacraments, we are moved to repentance over our sins; literally saying "I'm sorry" to God for our sinful lives. The power of God’s Word enables us to receive from God what He offers by His grace – rescue from the quicksand of sin, and the promise of eternal life. Until our sins are dealt with, they separate us from God and bar the door to fellowship with Him. Jesus Christ is the key to the door of heaven.
The Holy Scriptures teach that Jesus’ resurrection is something all believers will someday share. On the last day, all of God’s people will be raised bodily to a new life. Our soul, which, at death, has gone to be with the Lord, will be re-united with a newly glorified body.
The Easter lily has come to be associated with this day. The white blossom of the Easter lily is striking in its simplicity. That white blossom reminds me of a trumpet. To me, that trumpet heralds the good news of the Christian faith: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again! For those who trust Jesus Christ, His return will be a day to look forward to, not a day to fear. It will be a day when we hear God's "not guilty" verdict. On that day, God will stamp "Paid in Full" on the ledger of our sins. With joy, we will hear our Savior say:
"Well done, good and faithful servant - enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:23, N.I.V.)
In Holy Baptism, we die with Christ so that we can be raised up with Him. In Holy Baptism, we share Christ's life and death as well as His victory over death. In Holy Baptism, we are adopted into God’s family as his beloved children. And then, in the Lord's Supper, we remember what our Savior has done for us. In the Lord’s Supper, we remember how Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed to bring us new life and the forgiveness of all our sins.
The first Christian disciples were so convinced of the resurrection of Christ they were willing to be martyred, and banished in exile to far-flung islands. They were so convinced of the resurrection they were motivated to turn the world up-side-down with the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is a waste of time and our faith is vanity. If Christ has not been raised, our faith is worthless; we are still enslaved in our sins. If Christ has not been raised, those who have died are lost forever and Christians, of all people, are most to be pitied. Remove Easter from the Christian faith and you are left with nothing more than an empty shell.
Easter shows us Jesus – and reminds us that He is the only way to the Father. Easter brings light to lives darkened by sin. It brings hope to people paralyzed by despair. So when dark clouds invade your life – when raindrops of suffering or trouble dampen your soul, remember that the sun of God’s amazing grace is still shining above the clouds. When life’s challenges threaten to overwhelm you and your sins threaten to separate you from a Holy God, remember this: CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED! Amen.
Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father - We rejoice that, by your grace, we have a share in Jesus’ resurrection and in His eternal glory. Strengthen and renew our faith. Fan it into flame. In Jesus’ most holy and precious name we pray. AMEN.