Sermon for Easter Sunday based on Matthew 28:1-10
Dear victors over death: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The women who went to the tomb hadn’t really thought things through. Early on Sunday morning while it was still dark, they headed to the tomb where they had seen Jesus’ lifeless body laid with their own eyes. They went with spices to prepare Jesus’ body for permanent burial.
These women had some impediments to accomplishing their task, however. There was a great stone in front of the entrance of the tomb. That great stone was sealed so that it would not be moved. Further, Pilate had given the Jews a guard of soldiers to keep the tomb as secure as possible. The greatest impediment of all, of course, was the fact that Jesus was not in the tomb and He was no longer dead.
The great stone was guarding an empty tomb. The seal, still secure in its place, gave no evidence of the fact that Jesus was no longer there. The guards were securing nothing more than grave cloths in an otherwise vacant grave.
The great stone, the seal, and the guards were no impediment for Jesus to rise from the dead. The angel makes a show of this, mocking such pathetic attempts to keep Jesus in the grave.
The angel caused a great earthquake. Why? He could have moved the stone without an earthquake. The angel’s appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. Why? Oftentimes, angels would appear looking like regular men. He made the guards become like dead men, like they were nothing. Why? They were no threat to him. He sat on the stone he had rolled away. Why? He wasn’t tired. He didn’t need to sit down to rest. He sat on the stone for the same reason he did all the other spectacular things. He did it to mock these insignificant, pathetic attempts to keep Jesus in the grave. This tiny little rock is going to keep Jesus in the tomb? This joke of a seal is supposed to do something? Those soldiers that are like dead men are supposed to secure something? That’s laughable!
Even more, the angel mocks death. Is that all you got? Is that your best shot? O grave, where is your victory? You swallowed up the Son of God, the one who laid the earth’s foundations. You took the life of the one on whom all the sins of the world were laid. Is that your victory?
No, that is no victory. As the angel shows, the grave is empty. The grave could not hold its prey.
Because Jesus had all of our sins on Him, and because He died for us and in our place, and because He rose from the dead, the grave will have no victory when we die either. Death has lost its strength and power.
Death can threaten all it likes. It can try to intimidate with illness and disease, with accidents and catastrophes, but death is impotent. Death can threaten as our bodies fail, as we grow weak and tired, and as we suffer loneliness and depression.
But the angel mocks you, o death. The angel makes a spectacle of how powerless and pathetic you are.
We join the angel. We mock you, o death. Is that all you got? Is that your best shot? O grave, where is your victory? Where is your sting? You are powerless and pathetic.
We will die, but that is no victory for the grave. No great stones or seals or guards of soldiers will keep us in the grave any more than they kept Jesus in the grave.
Our sins will not keep us in the grave. Our sins were put on Jesus, Jesus died for them, and He rose from the dead. Our sins have been removed from us. They’ve been taken away by the Lamb of God and they are no longer ours.
Our tombs will be empty, like Jesus’ tomb is empty. Then we will have a real spectacle as all who died in Christ are raised to eternal life. We will see all the sights and sounds of heaven in their spectacular glory, and be with our risen Lord for eternity.
Christ has taken away all the impediments that would stand in the way of our eternal life. He has given us His Word of truth which keeps us from following the lies of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. He has called us as His own through the waters of Holy Baptism, and thus separated us from the hosts of unbelievers. He gives us His resurrected body and blood to eat and drink so that we will live forever as He lives forever.
So, yes, we mock death. Death is now for us nothing more than a slumber from which Christ will awaken us on the Last Day. When we die, then we will really be alive with Jesus, while our bodies sleep, waiting for the day of resurrection. We go through death only to follow Jesus out of death, victorious because Jesus has given us victory over death. Jesus’ death has swallowed up death. Death has lost its sting forever. So, it doesn’t matter what or who is guarding our tombs on the day of resurrection, because we won’t be there. Our graves will be empty because Jesus grave is empty. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.