Christ is Risen! (He is risen indeed. Alelluia!)
A blessed and joyous Easter Sunday to you, as we celebrate and remember the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is the high holy day of the Christian church. It is our day of victory. It is the return of the Alelluias. For Christ has crushed the head of the serpent. He has danced on the grave of death. He lives, never to die again, forever and ever amen!
I remember Easter Sundays as a child. Mom made you get all dressed up. That was the bad part. We went to church, of course. And then when we got home – the egg hunt, the candy, the chocolate, and hopefully a hollow bunny so you could break off its ears.
Maybe you'll be making some easter memories today. But it is good to be here, in God's house, to remember what Easter is truly about. For just as Christmas has a “reason for the season” and that reason is Christ.... so also Easter is about remembering Christ, who rose from the dead. Easter is a day to remember. So, our theme today, “Remember Easter”
The women came to the tomb of Jesus. They meant to finish up after his rushed burial on Friday. Saturday was the Sabbath – a day of rest in which no work was to be done. It also served as a day for Christ to rest in the tomb. They came to the place they saw him buried, and saw the large stone that sealed his grave had been rolled away. And while standing there perplexed by this, and wondering where Jesus' body was, the angels appeared and announced his resurrection. The whole event must have been one they remembered their whole lives. And since Luke has it recorded in his Gospel, we too, can remember the details of this first Easter.
The original Greek is also helpful here in upacking the meaning. The word for tomb is “mneme” from which we get the English, “monument”. And a monument is place of remembrance. We have the Washington Monument, or the Lincoln Memorial Monument to remember our founding fathers. The Old Testament people like Abraham and Jacob set up monuments in various places, to remember God's good works of deliverance.
And fitting, isn't it, that a grave or a tomb is a place of remembrance. Peter mentions, in Acts, that David's tomb was still there in those days. It was a way they remembered him. We go to the cemetery, even today, to visit, and remember our loved ones long gone. We may see fancy monuments, set up in memory of this or that person, and I always wonder how much the family spent on this statue or that tall headstone – to be sure the person would be remembered.
But that's the problem with death. It is the great leveler. It wipes out your life, and leaves behind only fading memories. The wages of our sin, what we all deserve, to be sure. A problem we all share. Somewhere, out there in the future, is a monument or a headstone with your name on it. Somewhere, lurking ahead of you, is death. And when death comes, you will be only a memory.
That is, without Easter. The whole point of Easter is that Jesus takes the sting out of death for us. He conquers the grave, draws the poison out of death, and makes it, for us, merely the gate to eternal life.
So, the Resurrection of Jesus. That's what we are remembering today. That Jesus actually died, and actually rose, and truly lives even today and will never die again. It is the greatest miracle of history.
It's what the angel at the tomb told the women to do, too. Remember. Remember what Jesus told you!?
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words...
Jesus rising from the dead – great as it is – is even more amazing when you remember that he spoke plainly about it ahead of time. Take Mark 8, for instance:
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.
They came, in part, to remember a dear loved one who had died. It is only when faced with the shock of his resurrection and the awe of angelic messengers that they finally begin to remember what Jesus had spoken about so plainly. The words were all there. They heard them loud and clear. But they didn't appreciate them. Or they didn't regard them. Or they didn't believe them.
What words of Jesus do you remember? Do you remember only those words that are convenient for you at the time, like, “judge not lest ye be judged”? The words that make you feel good about yourself? The words that perhaps set you at ease, like “I am with you always”, or “Love one another”. But maybe you don't like to remember some other words of Jesus, like, “take up your cross and follow me”, or “Repent! The kingdom of heaven is near” or “The last will be first and the first, last”. In fact Jesus said so many things that it's hard to remember what he said if we are not diligent in study and worship, eagerly hearing again and again what he said. For we tend to remember what we hear and see again and again – and we tend to forget what we don't.
The words of the angel at Easter are worth remembering this day. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is risen. He is not here.” These words are worthy of being inscribed in stone, and made into a monument. They are words to remember, even words to live by. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alelluia!
They are words to remember especially in the hour of grief. When life's troubles come crashing down on you like a stone . When the sorrow of death and loss bring tears to your eyes. When you are perplexed by the nonsense and insanity of life in this fallen world. Remember. Remember that Christ is risen! Remember that Jesus lived and died and lives again. And because he lives, you live. Because he reigns, you reign. Because he has gone to His Father, your destiny there is also secure.
So don't seek the living among the dead. Jesus isn't a footnote of history, lost to the grave like all the other men we build monuments to remember. He is alive! And in his living word, even today, he is present and active. We do much more than remember him when we remember his words. We receive him. And so we gather, every Sunday. Every Sunday is a “little Easter” in which the church gathers to remember Jesus, what he did, what he said. But not just in the historical, past-tense sense. But also for our very present blessing.
And for his part – what does he, Jesus, remember? Isaiah hints at it:
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.”
The Resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the new creation – the new and restored world order – and the death knell of the old. The former things – wars, disasters, griefs and troubles of all kind – violence and discord, terror and fear – thorns and thistles, pains of labor, disease, death, decay – all the former things that have to do with sin and death and destruction – all will melt away, pass away, give way to the new creation that Christ ushers in beginning with this, his resurrection. That it happens on a Sunday has even led some to consider Easter the 8th day of creation – the day of the New Creation in Christ.
And the old things will be remembered no more. Not by God, and not by us. He will not hold the sins of our past against us. He simply doesn't remember them. They died with Christ on the cross. And now, in the glory of the resurrection, they aren't even a distant memory.
And remember this: that Christ's resurrection means you, too, get a resurrection. That we are buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with him to new life. But more than just spiritually or figuratively. For Christ is the firstborn of the dead, and that means his brothers and sisters will follow. Jesus Christ conquers death, not only for himself, but for you. So that at the last trumpet call of God, the dead in Christ will rise, and we shall see him as he is, for we shall be like him. We'll see him, in our new, resurrected bodies, with our own two eyes. Remember what Job once wrote, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he shall stand upon the earth. And though my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”
Jesus even promises a place for us, and to come back and take us to be with him in his Father's house. And when Jesus makes a promise, he always remembers.
So I wish you a blessed and memorable Easter. I hope you enjoy family and friends, and celebrate with joy. But above all, remember Easter. Remember Christ, who suffered and died, now lives. Remember everything that he said. And know that in Christ, God remembers your sin no more. But he will always remember his promises to you – including a resurrection of your own. Remember Easter. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alelluia. Amen.