Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We spend a lot of time thinking about death. When it comes for a loved one, we call family members and friends to share the sad news. We call the funeral home and arrange a meeting with the funeral director to set a date, arrange the obituary, to choose a casket and liner. We talk to the pastor to choose the hymns and readings, to ask for a meal in the church basement, to share stories of the life of the deceased and receive whatever meager comfort we will allow him to give. We call the florist. We sort through pictures of the deceased and remember the events and stories. We go through life expecting death. This is how we deal with it. It’s how we deal with the reality that a loved one’s body has ceased to function. When death happens, we mourn. We get angry and bitter. But we know it’s there, and we know we have to suffer it and put up with it.
Things haven’t changed very much. Like us, the Mary brigade and Salome went to the tomb the day after the Sabbath. They’d wept as they had prepared the spices to anoint His body. The only detail they couldn’t control was the big stone that had been set to block the entrance to the tomb. But when they arrived, they found the stone already rolled aside; the tomb was vacant. What would you do if the grave you went to put flowers on had been moved with no explanation? But the empty tomb does have an explanation. Christ is risen! That’s what the angel told them. And what’s more, it’s what Jesus said would happen long before.
Death is not something Jesus tolerates. We saw a foretaste of it when Jesus raised Lazarus. But when Jesus rose, death was overwhelmed. Christ is risen! So what do the women do? The leave in fear! They know how to deal with death, of course. But who knows how to deal with resurrection? Eventually it all comes out. Death is undone. Jesus appears to the disciples and the faithful. The resurrection of Jesus is that first little pull on the string that causes the whole ball of yarn to unravel. It begins with Jesus, and it continues to the Last Day when He comes again, when the trumpet sounds, when every one of you will rise from your graves to eternal life. Death will be completely unraveled! The death of Jesus robs death of its power. It is no longer permanent. His resurrection shows that He really did conquer sin, death, and the Devil. Sin leads to death. But Jesus being alive means death has been defeated; sin has been buried, left in the tomb. Your sin is forgiven. Your death will be undone; it is merely the gate to eternal life with God.
Baptism, absolution, the preaching of Christ crucified and risen, and the Supper of His body and blood—those are the ways in which Christ gives the Church to handle death. Through the victory of Christ, those are the ways in which we mock death, ridicule it, taunt it that it has no power. As the apostle tells us, Baptism means we have already died and risen with Christ. The body and blood of Jesus gives us life, and He will raise us on the Last Day. Christ is alive; His tomb is empty. And just like that, your grave is going to be empty on the Last Day. You will be alive to live forever.
For now, we face death. We decorate the graves of loved ones as those who mock death. Even in mourning, we taunt death—Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? It has no more sting. It has no more victory. It is only temporary. It is not life that is fleeting and short; it is death that will not last. We already know this, for the saints who have gone before join with us at Christ’s altar, and we feast with them on the food of everlasting life, the flesh and blood of the Savior. Christ has made all the arrangements necessary to deal with death. He has conquered it; it has no more power over you. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.