April 20 2014 Easter Sermon

ESV Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

2 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.

3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

(Mat 28:1-10 ESV)

Sermon

3.

P: Christ is risen!

C: He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

 

The kettledrums roll their thunder—and ears perk. The bass booms and floors shake while snare drums vibrate and timbers resonate. News is to be announced; the crescendo is here—Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

When the bass boomed, God spoke to Moses on fiery Mount Zion, and the ground shook.

As the Lord spoke to Elijah on top of the mountain, the firmament trembled as creation waited for the silent whispered Word from Yahweh.

Alighting atop Zion, the angels announced the glorious news: “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” (Mt 28:5b–6).

When God spoke, “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs” (Ps 114:4).

Early on the eighth day, the crucified Lord rose from his rest in the tomb. United in body and soul, he preached to the captives in Hades, for the father of lies could not be trusted to announce his defeat to his tormented followers. The Lord Jesus descended into the abyss to proclaim—not to offer a second chance—to proclaim the news that Satan had been defeated through the shedding of holy blood, God’s blood. Sin was forgiven, death emptied of its power, Satan defanged, never more to torment souls, for their transgressions are hidden by the blood of the Lamb.

Early in the morning two women set out on their journey. Christ, our Mercy Seat, had poured out his blood. Sin had been atoned, mercy triumphed over Law. Between the cherubim we take “refuge; in the shadow of (his) wings . . . till the storms of destruction pass by” (Ps 57:1). “May we with willing feet Ever seek Thy mercy seat” (LSB 397:2).

The women approach the tomb, its perimeter sealed by temple guards. Pilate had responded to the priests and Pharisees: “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” (Mt 27:65). Smirks and smiles might spread across the guards’ faces as they spy the women carrying the spices for anointing. Elbows jab and knowing glances exchange as they envision having some fun at the expense of these two diminutive disciples.

Two Jewish women, approaching temple guards— what an affront to rabbinic Pharisaic culture! No man spoke to a woman not related by blood or marriage, as the disciples knew when our Lord conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:27). A clash of culture, of the sexes, and of biblical prophecy was in the making. A tense standoff was developing. Who would act first? Who would break the silence? Anyone?

The kettledrums rolled, the bass drum boomed, the floor shook, and “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs” (Ps 114:4). Yahweh “drew first” and broke the silence through his angel as a mountain yet again trembled, announcing that God was doing a new thing. A messenger of the Lord descended and rolled back the stone, and the temple guards dropped like dead men, which is the terminus of all unbelief.

You, my friends, are here this morning for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you are a “C and E” Christian, desiring only to keep the peace in the family. By the power of the Holy Spirit, allow Jesus to meet you where you are. All our Lord seeks from you is an empty hand to receive the forgiveness of your sins, and there is nothing to fear, only mercy to receive. Christ delights in serving sinners with gifts of forgiveness, truth, and his resurrected life.

2.

But how to proclaim this news? Certainly believable witnesses are needed. Women—now just wait a minute! In the Greco-Roman world, a woman’s word was not accepted in a court of law. And in rabbinic Judaism, women could not talk to men who were not related by blood or marriage. How’s that? To what end?

If the resurrection was some type of fraud, wouldn’t you want to bolster it with more believable, respectable witnesses than a couple of Jewish peasant women? Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were unlikely witnesses. This strengthens the evidence for the resurrection. If you’re going to perpetrate fraud, wouldn’t you assemble a host of credible witnesses?

Think of those delightful movies Oceans 11, 12, 13. These movies depict con jobs of gargantuan proportions, robbing casinos around the world. To pull off the jobs, they assemble the most credible witnesses possible. Adorned in costly attire, arriving in boats and airplanes, they ooze with wealth, credibility, and sophistication. The trap has been set for people to walk in blindly and take the bait. The con game of embezzlement and deception will succeed.

What we speak and witness to is no con job. It is the most cosmic-changing event the world will ever know, the resurrection of Jesus, because through his shed blood on Calvary, the sting of sin was taken away, death was defeated, Satan was dethroned.

The angel proclaims the empty tomb. Christ is alive! He is risen! He is risen indeed. Logic does not convert people, but it does silence naysayers. Let the silence be filled in with the glorious Good News: Christ is alive! But for a short bit let us turn to logic—evidence for the resurrection that would stand up in a court of law:

1.    The temple guards had a vested interest in not letting the disciples steal Christ’s lifeless body. They knew that if the grave were found empty, “this Jesus of Nazareth [would] destroy this place [the place of their employment] and [would] change the customs that Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:14b).

2.    Women were not considered viable witnesses in a Greco-Roman court or in first-century Judaism. Not the basis whereby you promote fraud, now is it? Ah, again, the foolishness of God is shaming the wise (1 Cor 1:25)!

3.    The myth of the resurrection could have been put to rest by exhuming the body of Jesus and depositing it in downtown Jerusalem for all to see and ridicule.

4.    Very few of us will die for the truth. Who among us, and among the disciples, would be willing to die for a lie? Anyone?

These four pieces of logic do not save anyone. But they do silence errant thinking so that you and I may hear what the women proclaimed: Jesus is alive! He is risen!

1.

These two women were members of the priesthood of all believers. By virtue of our Baptism, Jesus has placed us into this priestly office. As priests we are to offer up the sacrifice of our lives as we speak to a lost and dying world. Luther beautifully says this regarding priests:

Even though not everybody has the public office and calling, every Christian has the right and the duty to teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and rebuke his neighbor with the Word of God at every opportunity and whenever necessary. (AE 13:333)

This speaks of our vocation. Our “vocation” means our “calling,” where God has called us to serve our neighbor. From the Latin you can hear the root in the words “vocable” or “vocabulary.” In more familiar terms, our “vocation” is our place of employment.

But more than our place of employment, our vocation is where God has placed us to share the Gospel. If I, in my vocation as pastor, walked into the local insurance company or the headquarters of UPS and started preaching, they would rightly escort me to the door and if necessary summon law enforcement. I would be disruptive to the workforce. I do not belong there, for I have not been called there in my vocation.

However, Jesus has placed you, my dear friends, into your respective vocations to serve your neighbor in this earthly life. Some vocations might be that of a nurse, mom, accountant, carpenter, farmer, dad, wife, husband, and so on.

Jesus has placed you into your vocations so that, as you serve your neighbor in this earthly life, you have that entrée, or platform of credibility, to speak about Christ, the resurrection, the forgiveness of their sins—at the water cooler, over lunch, at the company picnic. But at this point, people get a little self-conscious about broaching the subject of religion. Along with sex and politics, it’s among the subjects that are off-limits in polite society.

My friends, the King of the universe is the one who sets the ground rules for polite society. Priests, you, the baptized, are authorized, not by the governor or the president, but you have been authorized by the risen Lord Jesus to speak, to share the Gospel—and without apology. Unlikely witnesses then and now confess the resurrection of Christ!

Listen to how Jesus says this through St. Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Pet 2:9–10)

I’m sure no one here asked for permission to share the glorious news of an engagement to their beloved or your favorite football team winning the Super Bowl. Unself-consciously, we tell all whom we meet. Or, who here asks for permission to tell others they’ve been healed from cancer? Do you? I think not. We may even at times blurt it out almost a little impetuously. But that’s okay, for you have received the good news of healing in your mortal frame.

Christ’s resurrection proves that sin was defeated on Good Friday. And with sin’s defeat you live with Christ for eternity. Once more, in the not-too-distant future, the mountains will skip like rams, the hills like lambs (Ps 114:4) when all the dead are raised. Then you, my friends, will receive a glorified, resurrected body, to continue living with Christ even when time ceases. And

Such News Is Entrusted to Whom?!!!? Amen.

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