He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, our Risen Lord and Savior! In His name, dear friends in Christ,
Do you live with uncertainty? If we are uncertain about a fact of some sort, we can research it or study and become fairly certain. But there’s one uncertainty of life that haunts every single human being, you and me included, and its this: We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Will we get in an accident, will our health suddenly decline, will a family member or friend suddenly get sick, even die? What does the future hold? And experience tells us things can happen in an instant. And living in this uncertain world can have an effect on us. It can cause us to become pessimistic, always expecting the bad news to come, can cause us to be scared about what might happen to us or our loved ones. Uncertainty can lead to all sorts of things: cautiousness, fear, worry, uneasiness, nervousness, anxiety.
And perhaps in that respect we can relate to these ladies who headed out to the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning. Wow, how things had suddenly changed in their lives the past week! Their friend who had joyously rode into Jerusalem in a fanfare a week ago, now had died on a cross, like the worst criminal, and was buried in a borrowed tomb without even a proper burial! What do you think was going through their minds on Saturday? Saturday was the Sabbath and no one was to work on the Sabbath, so there would have been plenty of time for these ladies to sit around and think. I’m thinking one subject kept coming back into their minds: Jesus was dead.
And if Jesus was dead that means all their hopes about Jesus were dead too. If Jesus is dead, then He can’t set up a nice wonderful kingdom on earth free from the Romans. If Jesus is dead, then so much for His claims to being the Messiah. If Jesus is dead, then so much for His claims of being the very Son of God. If Jesus is dead, then our world put to death the greatest and most innocent person who’s ever lived, what does that mean for the future? If Jesus is dead, what are we going to do with the rest of our lives? Is all lost? So much uncertainty. And now they’re going to the tomb to finish burying their dead Messiah. Can you imagine anything more helpless and hopeless than this scene?
But need it have been? What had Jesus told His followers again and again? Hadn’t He told them what was going to happen? How it was necessary for Him to be betrayed, to suffer, to die, and then on the third day rise again. Now, if they had taken to heart Jesus’ words, they’d have been sitting on the edge of their seats all Saturday anxiously waiting for Sunday morning to roll around so they could come running to the tomb bursting with joy and excitement.
“This is the day!!” But…they lost sight of Jesus’ promise and so were heading out the tomb helplessly, hopelessly, full of uncertainty to finish burying their dead Messiah.
Well, we can see ourselves in these ladies, too, can’t we? When is it that our lives become full of uncertainty? When do we begin to complain, “Oh dear, what good does the future hold?” When is it that we are in despair and gloom? When is it that we are full of worry about the things of our lives? Isn’t it when we’ve taken our sight off of God and His promises and focused on ourselves and what WE think we can do about a situation? You see, when we take our eyes off of the promises of God we can only be left with fear and uncertainty in life and in death.
But God’s promises change everything. Think about what God’s promised us. God has promised to always be with us – If God, the all-powerful and all-capable one is with us, need we really fear anything? God has promised to work out ALL things in our lives for our good –if God works ALL things for our good, is there really anything in our life past, present, future that can be considered ‘bad’? God has promised to take us to heaven when we die – If God will take us to heaven when we die, is there really anything all that important in life? Peace, certainty, joy in life come from focusing on the promises of God.
And that’s exactly what the angel does here in our text. “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen; just as he said. Come see the place where he lay.” Did you notice what the angel did? Why did the women have no reason to be afraid? Because Jesus has risen, just as he said! Just like he promised! Just like He told them all along!
And if Jesus could keep that promise – to rise from the dead! Well, then, what about all the other promises He’s made to us? Then He can and will keep ALL of them too! Then, God’s Word is absolutely reliable and 100% true! And that’s hugely important for us. Because God connects Jesus’ resurrection to the proof that our sins ARE forgiven. Easter Sunday is kind of like God’s way of saying, ‘Amen’ to Good Friday. God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sins. Think about it this way: If two people went off into battle to fight it out until death and they went somewhere where no one could see them, and neither returned, you’d never know who won. But if one of them returned carrying the weapons of the other, you’d know he won. Well Jesus went into battle with our chief enemies: sin, death, devil, hell, and for this battle died and was buried. Had He remained in the grave we would always have to wonder whether He had been overcome by our enemies or not. But now, since He ripped Himself free from these enemies, defeated them, and broke through the gates of death itself, He clearly has proven that He HAS won the victory for us!
And what does that mean for the rest of His promises to us? It means they are true too! Jesus has promised to always be with us- can we count on that? Certainly! Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead! God has promised to make all things work out for our good. Can we count on that? Certainly! Because Jesus rose from the dead! God has promised that in His Father’s house are many rooms and that He’s going there to prepare a place for us. Can we count on that? Certainly! God’s promised that as soon as we die we’ll be with him in glory. He’s promised that one day He will raise our bodies and give us an amazing, glorious, glorified body. Can we count on those promises? Certainly! Why? Because Jesus physically, bodily, really, historically, as He promised, rose from the dead!
But what about tomorrow or the next day? Can we count on it then? As these women were hurrying away from the tomb we’re told that they’re filled with joy, but still afraid. Can we relate? We, too, look at the world in which we live and sometimes it’s difficult to believe that God is really keeping those promises He’s made to us. Is God really working all things for the good when we see our loved one struggle with disease or difficulties or a disability? Is God keeping that promise? We look at our own lives and the world we live in and ask, “Is God really ruling all things for the good of His people, for my good?” Is God keeping that promise?
So what does Jesus do? In remarkable grace, Jesus Himself came to those women, appeared to them, further assured them that He is indeed alive and they have no reason to be afraid. And so Jesus keeps coming to you and me. Not physically and visually, but He comes to us in His Word and in His sacraments again and again to show us His cross and His empty tomb, show us that we really are forgiven. Again and again Jesus comes to us, “I kept my promise, I rose from the dead, I keep all my promises.” He calms our troubled hearts, stills our fears, refocuses us on the certainty of His resurrection.
Every question in life, every uncertainty in life and in death, every reason to be afraid, nervous, scared, or worry is put to rest with this: Jesus lives! And because Jesus lives, you live to! Jesus lives! That means God keeps every one of His promises to you! That means your sins really are forgiven! That means that heaven has already been won for you! That means that when God takes you out of this life he will bring you into glory with Him forever! That means, come what may, life’s hurts, problems, cares, troubles, uncertainties, none of those things can shake your certainty in life: God loves you! Your sins are forgiven! Heaven is your home! God proved it by raising Jesus from the dead! Live with that ultimate certainty today and for the rest of your life! He’s risen! He’s risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.