TEXT: MATTHEW 28:1-10/COLOSSIANS 3:1-4
THE GROUND OF ALL OUR HOPE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Jesus clearly taught that He must suffer and be crucified!  He taught just as clearly that on the third day He would rise again.  This proclamation was like a line drawn in the sand for Jesus’ opponents.  They had accomplished their main goal – His death.  Just one more mopping-up action remained. 

They needed to show His resurrection claim was an empty boast.   

The action to insure that seemed simple and clear!  Keep watch over the corpse in the tomb until the fourth day.  That would settle it once and for all.  This man Jesus would be shown to be a deluded imposter.  Surely, no real resurrection is possible, they thought, and no fabricated resurrection will happen on our watch.

TEXT: MATTHEW 28:1-10/COLOSSIANS 3:1-4
THE GROUND OF ALL OUR HOPE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Jesus clearly taught that He must suffer and be crucified!  He taught just as clearly that on the third day He would rise again.  This proclamation was like a line drawn in the sand for Jesus’ opponents.  They had accomplished their main goal – His death.  Just one more mopping-up action remained. 

They needed to show His resurrection claim was an empty boast.   

The action to insure that seemed simple and clear!  Keep watch over the corpse in the tomb until the fourth day.  That would settle it once and for all.  This man Jesus would be shown to be a deluded imposter.  Surely, no real resurrection is possible, they thought, and no fabricated resurrection will happen on our watch.

They asked the Governor for help!  Pilate agreed!  This was true teamwork between Church and State – between government and the religion of the land. The stone was set.  The seal was fixed.  The guard was posted.  The tomb which housed the body of Jesus was never left unattended!  It would not be possible for people to pretend and make up stories.  The purpose of the teamwork was simple – to keep one body in one grave one day beyond the third day.  


But unlike Lazarus, Jesus’ body would not remain in His tomb four days!  And unlike Lazarus, Jesus’ corpse would see no decay!  No, no, no!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!  Alleluia means “praise Yahweh” (praise the LORD).  We sing that word nearly every week in worship because weekly worship is a continuation of Easter!  What this day reveals is reason to praise Him with all our lives. 

On the morning of the third day – toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  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. 

We know some of the power of earthquakes.  Although seen through the media, the devastating effects of earthquakes in Haiti and Japan are enough to turn our insides out.  To see the force of the most recent quake and the engulfing wave of destruction that followed numbs our senses.  So much devastation!  So much death!  So much human hopelessness!

Was that earthquake an accident?  Are the destructive disasters and the suffering they bring just stuff that happens – perhaps an “oops” of an imaginary evolutionary chain that messed up a bit?  What utter nonsense!  What a hopeless perspective on this dying world where the statistics of death are 100%. 

No earthquake is an “oops” with no cause!  They are the result of God’s curse and the brokenness of creation – broken by humanity’s sin.  No death is an “oops” with no cause!  Death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23).  It is appointed for man to die once and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  It is already appointed for you to die once and your parents and your children to die once and for me and mine.  After that comes judgment.  And as Peter preached…”he (Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.  To him all prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

That brings us back to the earthquake in our Gospel!  Do we really think that He who created this world cannot cause an earthquake as He wills?  Do we really think that an earthquake is a bit much when God is shaking the very foundations of our fallen condition?  Do we really think an earthquake is out of place when the one through whom all things were created - who has come down among us as a true man in human flesh - takes His life back from death?  Dear Christians – wake up and breathe in Easter Air!  This earthquake trumpets life for you – even when death comes to you!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree
!  Amazingly from that tree – the tree of the cross – He cried out in victory!  “It is finished!”  That bloody, shameful scene is the center of human history!  That holy sacrifice is our life!  When God’s life is in the balance as payment over against your sin – “It is finished!”  Your sin and guilt fly upward as of no weight at all in comparison! Do you see the beautiful light that the open tomb throws on the sacrifice of Jesus?  The angel proclaims it to the Mary(s) and to us!  Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  God’s messenger from heaven used a present passive participle “crucified.”  This verb form means something done in the past which remains in effect in the present!  You seek Jesus who was crucified.  The angel clearly proclaims that Jesus’ crucifixion remains in force on Easter morning!  Indeed, it remains in force forever as all heaven praises the Lamb who was slain whose blood sets us free.  Heaven doesn’t want you to graduate from Good Friday – but to see that Jesus' death and resurrection are one event!  You see, it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24).  If Christ has not been raised our faith is futile and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  But it was impossible for His resurrection not to happen. 

The sacrificial Lamb of God was not exaggerating when he cried out in triumph from the cross – “It is finished!”  He made peace with God for us through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20)!  By His death He defeated Him who has the power of death – that is the devil (Hebrews 2:14).  His open tomb shows us how complete His conquest on the cross really is.  There is good reason for the earth to quake on Easter morning even as it did on Good Friday!  Dear Christians – wake up and breathe in Easter Air!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Did you notice how the angel referred to those who would soon see him again?  To the women he said, “Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead…”  His disciples???  The Greek word means those who follow after their master.  But just days before these men had done an about face.  They denied Him and deserted Him and ran away in fear.  Yet the messenger from God’s presence clearly calls them Jesus’ followers.

How completely undeserved that term is in describing these eleven men!  At that very moment they were hiding in fear behind locked doors!  What total Grace there is in that term used of them on Easter morning – His followers !  But there is more!

So they (the women) departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them and said “Greetings!”  And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 

Did you notice how much more there is?  Jesus doesn’t call them His disciples as the angel did, but His brothers!  Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee.  They had utterly failed Him!  Yet He calls them “brothers”!  What wondrous love there is in that term!  What total Grace is afoot that beautiful early morning!

There is a new beginning in that word!  There is holy absolution in that word “brothers”.  It anticipates Jesus’ first words to His disciples behind locked doors – “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).  They didn’t feel like His brothers just then.  They didn’t feel at peace with Him just yet!  But their feelings were wrong as our feelings are often wrong!  The crucified and risen Jesus was at perfect peace with them.  It is the very reason He went to the cross.

When the risen Jesus met the Mary(s), they came and took hold of his feet and worshipped Him.  They could take hold of His feet because Jesus rose bodily from the grave.  He was with them in the flesh.  As Luke said, God raised him on the third day and made him appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as eyewitnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (Acts 10:39-41).

The crucified and risen Jesus is not some kind of spirit or phantom.  He is a man with flesh and bones (Luke 24:38).  He eats and drinks.  We worship Him now not by taking hold of His feet but by hearing the Word He speaks in our midst and eating and drinking the forgiveness-food of His holy body and His holy blood.  As the risen Christ sent the women to tell the disciples where He would be found then (Galilee), so He sent out the disciples to proclaim where He is found today (in His Word and Sacrament).    You see, God’s message to His Church in worship is a bit different than it was to the women at the tomb that first Easter.  To them it was said, He is not here, for he has risen.  To you God’s message is “He is here – for He has risen.”  He is here to serve you!

That truth is closely related to what St. Paul wrote to the Colossians.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  The word “raised” here is the identical verb and form Paul used earlier in describing the Baptism of the Colossians.  He said they had been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:12). 

You see, seeking “things above” does not mean spatially gazing into heaven.  “Things above” are those things that have to do with eternal salvation. “Things above” means the gracious presence of God in the gifts of Christ (John 8:23) on earth.  Today the “things above” are right here in our midst because the one who has all the authority of God’s right hand is in our midst.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.   He has put His death and His life into you! 

Pursuing ultimate meaning on earth will always come up empty.  Our hearts are such that they can make an idol out of a good job or a healthy marriage or a sense of accomplishment or the feeling of security.  Most of all our hearts can idolize our own reason and strength!  But if the things of this earth are the be-all and the end-all for us, then they will be the end of us!  They seem solid and tangible and real but they can be lost in an instant!  They can be shaken away or swept away or simply fade away.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  After speaking of this hidden dimension of our lives, the Holy Spirit does not lead St. Paul to go on to speak about the unseen spiritual realm.  Quite the contrary!  In the rest of his letter to the Colossians he maintains that since we have this heavenly point of reference, we can now deal rightly with our earthly problems.  He notes some of them such as lust and anger and a runaway tongue and impatience with one another and coveting a bigger pile of things and more.  His teaching about being heavenly minded is full of earthly benefit.  The mystery of our hidden life in the risen Christ is truly down to earth.

The truth is that we are travelling the same road as the Mary(s).  They were on the way to the grave and so are we.  Their mistake was heading that way thinking Jesus was dead.  But Jesus opponents could not keep His body in the tomb!  He brushed aside the seal and the stone and the guard as He brushed aside death itself!  The women left with God’s greatest joy defeating their greatest fear!   

The risen Christ comes to you now with the same gifts – Himself – His forgiveness – His grace – His death-defeating resurrection!  He frees you from the prison house of sin and death!  You are not hoping for too much in Him!  He desires to carry you on by the wings of hope all the days of your life.  For you have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4).  You are His brothers!  You are His sisters!  Those titles aren’t deserved by you but they are His gifts to you!  He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead…everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Whatever troubles beset you - whatever worries dog you – whenever you’re tempted to despair – between that and you stands the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen!  He has clothed you with Himself (Galatians 3:27).  Your life is hidden with Christ in God!  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a