For the 40 days of Lent we have fasted, whether from food, or from singing out our “alleluias” in our church services. We have kept the days in subdued worship. We have not sat in sackcloth and ashes, but our hearts have adorned a broken spirit, a heart contrite over our many sins against God. We have pondered the wounds we have inflicted upon our Lord, and we have repented. We have journeyed with our Lord to the cross, and centered our thoughts on His passion, suffering and death.
Today, the fast has come to an end, and we keep the feast! For today as we celebrate the victory of our Lord, our voices again resound with “Alleluias!” For hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. Death’s prison is burst open! We are free! O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?
May we then, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, keep this feast in spirit and in truth. Let us praise our victorious King with our festival verse, hymn number 348. Please rise.
Grace to you, and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away– for it was very large.
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
7 “But go, tell His disciples– and Peter– that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
In the Midweek Lenten services we have been talking about Confession and Absolution. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, there would be no word of Absolution for you. You would remain under the hopeless situation of being captive under sins bondage and the law’s condemnation.
Think of Mary Magdalene, who came to the tomb early that Sunday morning after the Sabbath had come to an end. She went to the tomb with burial ointments to serve the Lord the only way she now could. How she loved Him. She had been possessed by seven demons, and Jesus cast them out of her. Jesus freed her from the devil’s bondage, and this means freeing her also from her sins. For as long as sin remains with us, the devil has claim on us. But when sin is forgiven, the devil has nothing. His accusations fall short.
But she saw her Lord die. That Sunday morning she fully expected Him to remain lying lifeless in the tomb. She deals with the sadness of the Lord’s death. But there is also the crisis of what His death means. What does it mean? Is she delivered from the devil? Is her sin forgiven? Can she have peace with God? Does she have hope in this life and hope for the life to come? All of this was now in doubt!
But what joy! The angel announces! He is not here! Christ is risen! Alleluia! Her Lord lives! His death then means that her sins are indeed forgiven and that she is truly delivered from the devil! His resurrection means that she too shall rise unto eternal life.
And this is the confidence that you are given, because Jesus arose from the grave after suffering and dying for your forgiveness and salvation! Christ’s resurrection means that you are forgiven, you are delivered from the power of the devil, and that though you die, yet you shall live eternally, and that your bodies, though, one day will be rotting in the grave will one day rise a glorious body, to live forever in eternal bliss.
And in confession and absolution, we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection, and receive the benefits of His death and resurrection. This is because each time we confess our sins before God and receive the pronouncement of His forgiveness through faith, we are living in our baptism. This is just as Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
In confession and absolution, there is a definite dying and rising. We see that Old Adam in us, that sinful flesh that is full of pride and selfishness, that seeks its own way, that does not love God nor loves the preaching of His Word. We know these sins. These are the sins we commit each week. And in hatred of these sins and our sinful flesh, we put them to death by repentance. We don’t want to continue in these sins. We run to God for help, to save us from these sins, to take them away from us, and to keep us from continuing in these damnable sins. We fight against them, but know that our victory, our salvation from these sins is the forgiveness of Christ that the called servant of the Word pronounces to you. In this way, you are living in your baptism.
Consider the life of the martyr, St. Christopher. He was apparently a very tall and strong man. He wanted to serve the Lord, and he did this by helping people cross dangerous rivers. Keep in mind, this was long ago when bridges were few and far between, and many would die attempting to cross. And so he would strap people to himself, and then bring them into the waters and safely through to the other side.
So also, in baptism, we are strapped to Christ. We are joined to Him in the water, and as He enters the water we die with Him, but then we also rise with Him safely on the other side. His death is our death. His death was the payment price for our sins, so we are then free of our sins. And His resurrection from the dead means that we shall rise with Him, too, in newness of life.
This newness of life is the life you now live with your every sin forgiven. The word of absolution spoken to you through the called servant is confirmed by the resurrection of Christ! You are forgiven! And since Christ is risen, consider the words spoken through the mouth of the pastor as Christ’s very own voice pronouncing your sins perfectly forgiven.
This newness of life that you now live is a life given you by the Holy Spirit, in which He leads you to turn from your sins and live rather in righteousness and holiness after the image of Christ, who has redeemed you and made you His brothers and sisters through faith.
This newness of life that you now live is a life without end. For Christ is the firstfruit of all who has risen from the dead, and you shall also follow Him in the triumphant procession from our graves to join Him in the new creation, in which all things will have become new, and you shall live in His presence forever in glorified bodies, with sin, death, suffering, and sadness no longer plaguing our existence.
Oh you sinners, who confess your sins before the Lord, Christ is risen. Therefore, the word of Absolution is confirmed! You are forgiven. The devil and death are defeated. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.