Let us pray: Dear Savior, human words cannot describe the eternal joy over Your resurrection from the grave! Yes, because You live all our fears, all our worries, all our apprehension over the future is shown to be nothing. Nothing can harm our souls. Nothing can separate us from Your love and compassion. Nothing can dim the joy we have over knowing that we are the recipients of eternal mercy and peace. So, today we give You our humble and hearty thanks—again, and again, and again. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GLORIOUS RESURRECTED SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: Matthew 28: 1-10
Fellow Redeemed Children of God:
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Listen anew to the glorious message of our text and be filled with pure joy:
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 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 and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee: there they will see me.”
My friends, as we gather to honor Christ and ponder His message, let us key in on this singular truth:
BEHOLD THE HIDDEN GLORY OF CHRIST’S EASTER TRIUMPH!
What day could be more glorious than Easter? How about the first day of creation when God spoke and created time and space and matter out of nothing? Or, what about the 4th day of creation when through His powerful word He created the sun, moon, and stars? Those days were certainly glorious, but God’s work done then, will someday be swept away at the great judgment. Well, what about that day of great judgment? On that day Christ will re-appear, raise all from the dead, and take all the saints, His believers, into heaven while His voice will also thunder: “Depart from me, you cursed, to that place of dread prepared for the devil and all his angels.” Ah, even that awesome day has nothing on Easter! For on Easter God took back the life that He had laid down on the cross to save our souls. Our God, Who in the Person of Christ died, did the seemingly impossible, He rose from the dead!
You and I have and will experience many memorable days in our lives. Your wedding day, the birth of your first child, the day you were born, even our entrance into glory someday. But without Easter none of those days has lasting meaning, lasting joy, or lasting glory. No, Easter was and is the pinnacle of all time.
Throughout this Lenten season we have examined Christ’s glory and how it was hidden. Even today we see aspects of His hidden glory. Did you catch some of them in St. Matthew’s report? Who appears glorious in that lesson? It isn’t Christ. It’s the angel. The angel descends from heaven, knocks open the grave, and sits on the stone that covered its opening. Where is Jesus? Well, He has already done some great and glorious works, works hidden from human sight on that first Easter. He has already taken back His human body and arisen from the tomb. As Peter reports, He had already descended into hell to proclaim His victory over the forces of evil—amid the shrieks and rage of the demons. All this is hidden from human view. Even when Christ walked out of the grave, His entrance back into this world was hidden. The only player in this eternal drama who appears glorious is the angel. His face is light lightning. His clothing pulses with energy. Those visible effects of glory stunned the soldiers who were used to staring death in the face. We’re told that they were so stunned that they fell to the ground like dead men.
When the women arrive at the tomb, the soldiers have fled to report all this to their bosses—the chief priests. But the angel’s glory is still obvious. He speaks to the women, who had come expecting to anoint the body for proper burial. To their amazement, the stone is rolled away and this angel sits upon it! But as glorious as his appearance, far more glorious was his message: “Go and look. See, he is not here in the house of the dead. He has arisen, just as he said he would. Go and tell the disciples. He will see them in Galilee, just as he said he would!”
On a human level, this is not what you’d expect on Easter Sunday. We’d expect that Christ would openly and immediately reveal Himself in pulsing radiance, surrounded by a heavenly army with a voice of thunder. We want to see Him like that, too. We want and expect the image of Christ that St. John saw and describes in Revelation, chapter 1: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” So, why don’t we see that image, that glory, of Christ right here?
Well, in a sense we do. We see His hidden glory. We see it in the way He appears to the women as they are leaving the tomb. Jesus appears to them and the first words out of His mouth are: “Greetings, do not be afraid.” He doesn’t want to scare them to death. He wants to comfort them. And so He appears rather humbly with calming words. Truly wealthy people don’t feel the need to show their wealth by being ostentatious. So, too, with Christ when it comes to His glory. He’ll reserve that image for judgment day.
So, even on that first Easter, Jesus hid His glory from the women. And at His humble appearance that they quickly recognize, they don’t quake with fear or run away, they listen to His words. And in those words He sums up the whole glory of Lent and Easter when He tells them: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
“Don’t be afraid!” Why? Because Jesus has given His life for you on a cross to pay for your sins and thereby make you right with God. Because Jesus has tasted death for you so that you won’t have to taste its bitterness eternally. Because He has arisen from your grave thereby proving that His peace won on the cross is a living peace which can never be taken away. Yes, don’t be afraid.
If your conscience still whispers condemnation in your ear, if you don’t think He really means such glory should be your own, listen well to the second sentence He utters. “Go and tell my brothers.” What an astonishing thing to say! He calls His disciples His brothers. Those sinful men who fell asleep in Gethsemane, who ran away when the soldiers came, who denied Him—Christ calls them His brothers. They didn’t deserve that lofty title. They surely didn’t earn it. But that is exactly the point. That’s the point of Lent and Easter.—Christ made us His brothers and sisters through humble faith in His suffering and death. Like them, our sins are covered by His blood. Like them, Jesus’ victory is our victory! Yes, Easter was and is the day we were adopted into God’s eternal family. Yes, He is Risen, indeed!
Jesus is just as gentle and loving with us today as He was with the women and the disciples. And like then, He still hides His glory so as not to scare us to death. He hides it in His Word. Note how He refers the women back to what He had said before—that the disciples would see Him in Galilee. And note that while He doesn’t immediately appear to the disciples, He directs the women to “Go and tell” them. To use His Word, repeated by the women, to announce His glory. Later on, just before Christ ascended into heaven, again He directs His people to both cling to and use His Word until the very end of time when He says: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
That command directs us find Christ’s glory and to use that glory in both His Word and His sacraments, or His visible Word. And today we’re doing exactly that. On this Easter Sunday 2007 we’re letting His Word instruct, comfort, and uplift us. We’re letting His voice of absolution take away our sins, and the fear they breed. We’re remembering our baptism and looking forward to our next communion. In all those vehicles Christ’s glory is hidden, yet O so very real. The other night, on Maundy Thursday, I told many of you that the Baby lying in the manger, the Savior hung on the cross, and the resurrected Lord who appeared to the women is just as real as the One we receive in communion, or Who holds us in baptism, or Who speaks to our souls in the absolution. For Christ is the Word made flesh. So, although His glory is hidden in each of those means of grace, the reality of His glory is the same as that of Easter morning, the creation of the world, or even judgment day. Do you want to grasp His feet and hold onto His immortal body? Do you want to hear His sweet voice in your ear? Well, then, behold the hidden glory of His Easter triumph! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen