All the world rejoices and sings: “Christ is risen. He´s risen indeed!” That´s the Easter jubilee all along – ever since he rose victorious from the dead and appeared to his disciples like Mary, then to that couple from Emmaus, to St. James, St. Thomas – the confessor – together with nearly all twelve gathered in Jerusalem and then he appeared to that crowd of well over a five hundred of whom many were still living when finally he had even appeared to St. Paul – the last and somewhat late born apostle – there on the way to Damascus.
These were not some brave movers and shakers, but rather intimidated people – traumatized, suffering from the terrible scenes in Jerusalem around Good Friday. People shocked to the core + when they recovered somewhat, they tried to gather their wits about them and continue with life as before IX. So, when the Easter message got to them – like those women early at the grave (Mary of Magdala; Mary, mother of James and Salomé) – they did not run with it as good news but were terrified. That´s their response to the gospel. Nothing about self-realization and clever imagination. No idea of getting fake news spreading. Rather, bewilderment, afraid and at a loss.
Still, our living Lord does not just let them go. His messengers – the angels get the message through – and He Himself goes in search for the lost, gathers them in true faith, encouraging and uplifting, informing and instructing, preaching, teaching and telling them the truth: “Don´t be afraid! See, it is I – here the bloody wounds – for You and Your salvation. Remember now, it is finished. It is done. I live and reign for good!” Once he has appeared to them, convinced them – even if some doubted for some time still even at the ascension (cf Mt.28) – he mandated them: “Go therefore into all the world – make disciples of all nations…”
St. Paul writes about this mission to the Corinthians. Many in that big city thought that liberation and salvation was just a matter of the mind – ideological/ spiritual/ philosophical. Well, in the 15th chapter he goes out of his way to underline the very bodily i.e. physical and real resurrection of the flesh (sarx!). This is not just a figment of the desperate mind, but rather the doing of the living God. It is He, who initially created heaven and earth. It is He, who has started the 2nd creation in the firstborn IX – once and for all. Behold: I make everything new! The old is past. The new has now begun – sprouting life from the cross, the dead tree, the cut off stump (Isaiah) – bearing fruit a hundredfold and in all seasons. IX – the vine, we His branches… Read the apostles argument in this resurrection chapter.
The living God and savior of the World said to His exiled and banished apostle, evangelist and bishop St. John on Patmos: “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive—forever and ever—and I hold the keys of death and of Hades!” (Revelation 1,17-18)
This living Christ has returned us to the living trust in the triune God, who has conquered death for us, so that we might live with him in perfect peace and happiness ever after. It´s the perfect ending – just like in any fairy tale – the only, but crucial difference being, that this is true. He – the living God – himself vouchsafes it by standing in for this in person – living, ruling and reigning for good and always.
Ever since those spiritual authorities in Jerusalem spread those rumors, that Jesus´ corpse had been stolen by his followers, people have come up with novel explanations to try and get rid of this unwanted Christ again and again. Mohammed – on impulse of satanic inspiration? – suggests in the Koran, that he never died, but was relieved off the cross prematurely by his disciples. Paul L. Maier plays masterfully with the idea of him never getting out of the grave, but that there´s still a “skeleton in God´s closet” or that he gets out later – and leaves us with “more than a skeleton” to worry about. The struggle between truth and fake news is continual – and not just on Twitter.
Throughout the world Christians will commemorate this divine breakthrough in our world – and signal with their hymns of praise and thanksgiving, that even in such difficult times of shut-downs and -ins – Jesus Christ reigns supreme. St. John knew all about it on Patmos – as did Dr. Martin Luther on the Wartburg or later on the Coburg, where he referred so sprightly to his “most beloved Confitemini” – and we will repeat words of Psalm 118 in tomorrow´s Introit too.
Wasn´t it always to be a severe challenge facing death and dying? Even for the prophet Ezekiel it was, when God asked him on that field of bones, whether there is hope of resurrection, healing and life after death? The Old Testament reading from this great prophet of long ago speaks volumes for people living in times of exile and slavery, in times after Auschwitz and during Corona. So: Nota bene et tolle lege!
That´s why we continue to pray for the saving faith in His grace and goodness:
Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord´s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your live-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Collect for Easter
We confess with all the church in all adversity of this world:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.Explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostolic Creed
And in this only saving faith we stand and sing with the church father, the beloved pastor, president and teacher of the Missouri Synod even at the graves of our beloved ones – as the church traditionally does faithfully on Easter morning – obeying God´s commandments and trusting His sure promises:
1. He’s risen, he’s risen, Christ Jesus, the Lord;
He opened Death’s prison, The incarnate, Word.
Break forth, hosts of heaven, in jubilant song
While earth, sea, and mountain the paean prolong.
2. The foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.
3. But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
And death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes;
The conquering Lord lifts his banner on high.
He lives, yea, he lives, and will nevermore die.
4. Oh, where is your sting, death? We fear thee no more;
Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door.
For all our transgressions His blood does atone;
Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own.
5. Then sing your hosannas and raise your glad voice;
Proclaim the blest tidings that all may rejoice.
Laud, honor, and praise to the Lamb that was slain;
Who siteth in glory, and ever shall reign.
Dr. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811-1887)
In our chapel service we will follow the following order: