In this life, in the world, there is suffering and finally death; and so there is the pain and sorrow leading up to death, surrounding it and following it. There is disappointment and loss. The best laid plans go awry, and sometimes backfire.
You labor in vain. You bear children for calamity. You plant, but do not reap or eat of it. You build houses, but you do not dwell or live in them.
As a Christian, you hope in God, and you look to Him for good and better things. You rightly pray to Him, and cry out to Him for mercy.
But you wonder if you are heard, and whether your prayers will be answered. For even Christians die, and their children die. They also suffer loss and disappointment. Whereas, often as not, those who are not Christians seem to prosper.
Now, then, hear the proclamation of Easter, and remember the Word and promise of the Lord Jesus. For your God and Father in heaven has already answered your prayer, before you ever thought to pray, and He has already acted to help you, to rescue and deliver you from death and the grave, and to give you life forever.
Both the prayer and the answer, along with everything else, depend on Jesus. Everything in heaven and on earth, all of creation, hinges on Him, on His crucified and risen Body. For in His Body, in His Flesh, God has created new heavens and a new earth, and He has recreated Man in His own Image and Likeness. In the crucified and risen Christ, all things are made brand new. In Him, also, God has established New Jerusalem, His holy Church, in heaven and on earth.
Where, then, do you find and receive the Body of the Lord Jesus, and these good things that are in Him? How and where do you enter into and abide within the glorious New Creation of His Resurrection?
It is by the way of His Cross, within His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Not in the empty tombs of this old earth, but in the Church, which is the Body of Christ because it is where His Body is given and received.
Certainly, the empty tomb of Jesus, of which we hear this morning, is a testimony of His Resurrection. In this sign we greatly rejoice, and for it we give thanks and sing. But for all of that, it is still a tomb. And it is still empty. And you shall not find the Living One, nor life, there in the place of the dead.
Do not be deceived, perplexed or dumbfounded. What the world calls life is really death. And what the world perceives to be death — in the Cross and Passion of Christ — is really life indeed.
This Word may appear to you as nonsense, but if you would find Jesus and His Body and His Life, then hear and heed the testimony of His two men, His messengers, clothed in dazzling garments. They are dressed in the Glory of Jesus’ Resurrection; as you also have been dressed in Holy Baptism, whereby you enter the tomb and return from it into life.
This is the appearance of the heavenly life, which the Church on earth confesses before the world, even though it is yet hidden under the Cross.
Hear this Word of Christ in His Church, in the midst of His New Jerusalem, and receive His crucified and risen Body here from the hand of His servants.
Why should this appearance of heaven on earth terrify or frighten you?
Or why should it cause you to flee and go away?
It is because of your sin that you are so afraid in the face of the Resurrection and the life everlasting. For your sinful heart would deceive you and beguile you, and it turns you away from life with God — to sin, death, the devil and hell. And you settle for that judgment and demise, because you know that you deserve it; because your heart and your conscience and the devil accuse you and condemn you with the Law. As you are then blinded by the dazzling light of Christ, you know that you are not worthy. It is too beautiful and wonderful and high for you.
But now rejoice, Christian, and do not be afraid.
All of your sins are forgiven.
God has raised Jesus from the dead. He is the first fruits of all those who sleep. In Him, therefore, all the sons and daughters of Adam are raised.
This Son of Man, the dear Lord Jesus, was delivered into the hands of sinful men, and He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, for this very purpose: that sinful men be redeemed from death, and the third day rise again in Him. For His Cross is the Atonement of the world, and His Resurrection is the Absolution of the same.
As surely as Christ Jesus is risen from the dead — who died bearing your sins and the sins of the world — so sure and certain is the forgiveness of all your sins.
Rejoice, therefore, in what the Lord your God creates. For He recreates you in Christ Jesus by the proclamation of this Gospel, by the free and full forgiveness of your sins, and by the gift of the Body and Blood of the same Lord Jesus Christ.
He freely gives you such good gifts and manifold blessings, because He rejoices over you! God celebrates Easter, also, because He rejoices in your Salvation! As the Father rejoices in the Son He loves.
Here is His Body, given for you, the first fruits of the Resurrection and of the New Creation. It is given to you, not for this life only, but for the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.
As Jesus your Savior gives Himself to you here and now, His Body into yours, so are you also crowned with His Glory and Honor, and presented to His God and Father in Peace.
The last enemy to be abolished is death, which remains for a time in the world, but it is already defeated, and there is no doubt that it is put under the feet of Christ. Just as He is risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of God, so are you raised from death to life, and so shall you live forever with Him in His Kingdom.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.