Dear friends of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Hallelujah! Jesus Christ is arisen from the dead, he surely is arisen, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! He himself assures us: I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev 1:18 Watchword for Easter) and informed by the Holy Spirit we confess, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you [i.e. the one, holy Christian Church in Corinth and elsewhere] into his presence. (2Co 4:14 ESV) Therefore rejoice: This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psa 118:24) This is the joyful Easter gospel! This story is truly ground breaking, because this Easter happening changed the course of history for good. Yes, on Easter the Church celebrates that our Savior Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (2Ti 1:10) That is why the “Hallelujahs” dominate its Easter liturgy after the“Hallelujahs” had been silenced during the time of lent. Hallelujah – praise the Lord God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns now and forever: Hallelujah!
This joy of Easter took some time to make its way into the hearts of the people. At first day break, when Christ had already arisen and things had permanently changed for good, his people were still mourning in deep sorrow over the death of Jesus on the cross of Golgotha. The shock of Christ’s betrayal, his capture, interrogation, mocking, scourging, torture, flogging, crucifixion and final death had killed off any of their hopes. They were still dismayed, faithless and hopelessly disillusioned. As they are trying to return to a life without Jesus some decide to leave Jerusalem and return to Emmaus, others like Peter and Andrew were off fishing to resume their previous way of life before Jesus had called them into something new. The women of our story had some unfinished business to attend to still. They wanted to finish the job of embalming the tortured, battered, crucified and dead body of their beloved Lord and master, who was laid carefully into the new grave of the rich man Joseph of Arimathea on the day before the big Sabbath following the Passah festival and sealed off with a big stone and guarded by all the king’s men. That’s why they went to the grave early in the morning just as dawn was approaching.
Into this miserable, despondent and pitiful state of affairs – in this darkness and shadow of death – God comes and gives all a serious shake-up. An earthquake opens up the depths of the earth – the dark prisons of the underworld are split wide open – God frees the imprisoned from death and devil’s dark dungeons. The bolder guarding Christ’s tomb is rolled away – death no longer bars the way, access to life is given – Christ rises and the angel sits on the stone, wipes his hands and we can clap ours in glee: Mission accomplished! New life is accessible through Christ the firstborn of this new creation. Come and see, the grave is empty – look, where he –Jesus Christ- was laid! He’s no longer dead, but alive and you shall live too. Clothed in brightest white, the angel of the Lord comes and strikes terror into the hearts of his enemies. Those, who were trying to keep Jesus Christ locked away in death’s burial chamber, are now trembling with fear and are themselves like dead. But the women, who moments ago were left to their own devices, who were just coming to finish off the sad story of bidding farewell to the dead, are now encouraged: ““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. 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.” What a marvelous turn-around of the story. God enters our sick, dying and dead world and makes everything well – he brings healing, life and eternal salvation! Now go and tell the others, who don’t know yet. Tell those, who are still mourning like heathens. Tell those, who still have no hope and are without faith. Tell them the glorious story of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and of the new life with God in righteousness and holiness. And oh yes, the women believe, they are joyful and still they are fearful and left trembling. It’s with these mixed feelings that they rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others. On the way Jesus himself steps into their way. He appears to them and confirms their faith, that he is not dead, but alive. He greets them. They worship him. It’s what happens every Sunday – in every worship service – right here. The risen Christ in our midst, even if we don’t fall prostrate to the ground, we do kneel and acknowledge him to be the Lord – the King of Kings – the God of gods.
The women are the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection after the angel and after the sentries, but they are not the last. The cloud of witnesses is endless – first the women, then Peter, then John, the twelve, then 500 at once and more and more until we too heard and believed and started to spread the good news of Christ’s victorious resurrection: He lives and we shall live also! Hallelujah!
Jesus says three things: Firstly – greetings! Secondly – don’t be afraid! Thirdly – tell my friends and I will meet up with them! It’s gospel, good news all along – fulfillment of the promises of old. Just as he was true to his word, that the Son of man would have to go up to Jerusalem, suffer much and die and after 3 days rise again, so also after his resurrection: He did meet up with the disciples, first in couples, then in groups, then in crowds – convincing them of God’s wonderful conquest over hell, death and devil and his glorious victory over all. “Remember”, says Jesus: “All power and authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me and therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them everything I taught you. And I am with you always!” God has gracious words of healing, blessing and forgiveness. We don’t need to be afraid, but can be assured, he is there for us leading us into the new life with God in eternal bliss and salvation. That’s how after dark night and mournful sorrow, God’s people are again filled with joy and laughter through his miracle and wonder. Praise be to him now and forever. Amen.
Christ is arisen From the grave’s dark prison! So let us all be joyful; He is our Savior faithful. Alleluia! Had he not arisen We had been still in prison. But now He’s vanquished Hell and Death, We laud Him with our loudest breath! Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Come let us all be joyful; Christ is our Savior faithful. Alleluia! Tr. Martin Seltz 1909-67.