The Resurrection of Our Lord, Festival Divine Service
“God Promises and Delivers”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Mark 16.1-8
04 April 2021
+ In the Name of Jesus +
You’ve been inundated with promises this past year. Give us two weeks to flatten the curve said all the politicians and health officials. This turned into months and for many a year or more depending upon what state and county one lives in. Just wait until you get that vaccine. Then maybe you will get back to “normal” and leave covid-19 behind. And just wait until you get the big stimulus check or two from Uncle Sam, then you’ll feel better with money to spend. Lots of sometimes empty promises and lots of uncertainty this past year has become the new normal.
This Easter Day is much different than last year. You are here. You were not allowed to be here last Easter. We celebrated Easter Divine Service with me, the vicar, the kantor, a small choir, and my cell phone taking it all in for Facebook Live stream. It was a bittersweet Easter Day. We wept. You were not here. Not many of you came for private Easter communion services offered the next week. The fear was palpable. What should have been bright days were cloudy ones.
Yet – we heard that day and hear this day words that should be the source of great joy no matter what circumstances surround us, words that should fix our hearts to expect God’s goodness and mercy for today and for tomorrow: I know that my redeemer liveth, and at the last, he shall stand upon the earth. My eyes shall see him and not another. This is the day the Lord has made – that Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed – so let us rejoice and be glad in it – celebrate the day with the new leaven of sincerity and truth. Why do you look for the living amongst the dead? Don’t you know that it was necessary for the Son of Man to be crucified and on the third day rise again, just as He promised?
Well, afflicted and confused by sin and its effects, we don’t always know or remember, do we? The women who went to the tomb, and the disciples locked away in fear in the upper room on this morning so long ago, had heard the promise from the Lord that He would die at the hands of sinful men but be raised on the third day. They even knew and expected a general resurrection of the dead from the promises of the whole of the Old Testament. They knew Job’s outlandish hope. They knew that God spared Isaac and returned him to his father Abraham, giving the ram in his place on the third day of their sacrificial trip to Mount Moriah. They knew Joseph was restored to Jacob and his brothers, after his brothers deceived their father into thinking Joseph had been killed. They knew the prophet Elijah raising to life the widow’s son at Zarepheth. They knew the prophet Jonah spent three days and nights dead in the belly of the great fish, and was then spit out alive to go and preach repentance to Nineveh – they heard Jesus Himself say His own resurrection on the third day would be the sign of Jonah.
But the clouds of fear and sadness and confusion were too dark for them. The women still go and seek the Living One in the cemetery, expecting to find the dead body of Jesus. The disciples fear their own brutal death at the hands of the Jews and the Romans – the disciple is not above his master, after all. It’s always the dark places where our sinful flesh leads our hearts and minds – to expect the worst, even in the face of contrary promises. It’s how we’ve been taught by the tempter and adversary of us all ever since the fall into sin of our first parents.
The fears and anxieties of this last year are what the devil has wrought in people’s hearts and minds. The fear of an unseen virus, the social and societal unrest and rioting in our own country, the divisive political battle that has no end in sight, these are all symptoms of a major problem all sinners are vexed with. What god should we put our trust in? Do we repent and trust the true and living God who speaks to us through His prophetic and apostolic scriptures with words of goodness and true hope; or do we continue to choose the idol gods of this life – money and material wealth, always seeking the good of the self at the expense of loving God and neighbor.
It is all too easy to go to the dark places that Satan leads us to, to look out for one’s self and forget the saving works of God throughout history, including the seminal event of all world history in the salvific death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and forget that God has promised and delivered for His believers a life beyond the grave that far surpasses what we have here.
Anno Domini 2020 was not the worst year ever. Easter did come, and another year of the Lord’s rich blessings in His Church. Many children were baptized, many are being catechized, God brought along new faces to our fellowship, God brought home a few saints into His safe keeping to await the Resurrection at the Last Day. God blessed and preserved His storm and pandemic tossed little flock here. For you saints of God, this Easter Sunday and every Sunday of every Church Year is the new dawn of a joyous new day when all of God’s promises are made good. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation!
“He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16.6–7) All promises of God have been kept! The Lord Jesus arose from the chains of death, proclaimed His victory over death and hell, and directed His angels to decree this glorious Gospel to the women who would arrive, and eventually, to His blessed disciples. Jesus has burst the fetters of death and hell! He has vanquished the grave! He has kept His Word! He has brought light out of darkness, in Him, life has triumphed over death! Where are doubts? Where are fears? Who frets? Who worries? Who sorrows as others do who have no hope? Let these things not be said about you Christians.
These glad tidings dispel the darkness and extinguish all doubts and fears, starting with sin and its consequences. Your sins have been atoned for. For all the doubting of God and His Word, for all the times you’ve feared and fretted and worried instead of trusting God’s promises, for all the times you’ve made and broken promises to God and to each other, for your every sin of thought, word and deed, and for your conscience that smarts from the sins of the past.
God’s Son bore these sins in His innocent and holy body on the cross, and they were buried with Him in the grave, and they are gone forever in God’s sight. Be of good cheer! Your sins stand forgiven for the sake of the crucified one, who has risen, whose empty grave is the Father’s final and public verdict on the matter. God accounts you forgiven, righteous in His sight, for Jesus’ sake.
After the initial confusion of the disciples and other followers of Jesus on Easter Day, the resurrected Lord Jesus sought out all of His disciples who had doubted and forgotten His promises. St. Peter who denied the Lord first, the two on the way to Emmaus, and at last in the evening the Lord appeared to those gathered behind locked doors. Their doubts were overcome. Thomas eventually touched the wounds for himself. The Lord in His glorious, resurrected, eternal body talked with them and even ate food before them. The incredible and ancient promises of God had become a fulfilled reality, and their sadness, doubt, and every fear was turned to jubilation, confidence, and peace.
These disciples of Jesus were eye-witnesses to His resurrection. They endured the accusation that they had made up the tale. They faced persecution, beatings, crucifixions, stoning, and other cruel ways to die all for the sake of the truth that all the promises of God find their yes in their risen Lord. They could not be silenced. They could not but speak of what they had seen and heard. For they had seen the risen Lord Jesus, they had His Word that He would not leave them nor forsake them as they went out preaching the Gospel to every nation. And thanks to the Lord’s wonderful work through these men and their preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected, you sit here today, a holy and much loved people who call upon the Lord and expect this and every day to be one to rejoice in and give thanks for no matter what the circumstances are that swirl around you – living in hope and expectation of God’s goodness because He alone makes real promises and delivers on all of them.
Here’s another Easter promise to hold onto today: every Lord’s Day Jesus gives you His crucified and risen body and blood, the one, sure medicine of immortality, with eternal protection that vaccinates you to be “bullet proof” not just from some temporal virus, but which causes death and hell itself to pass over you. The Lord’s Supper is the new Passover meal. This meal from this altar is God delivering His promised blessing to you of forgiveness, life, and salvation in the crucified and risen Christ.
Brothers and sisters, God grant His Holy Spirit to you, to purge out the old and evil leaven of sin, doubt, worry, sorrow, and fear from your lives. It’s well past time to walk forward with the risen Savior in faith, and to quit looking back at the past while worrying about the future. Believe today God’s glad tidings that He has made good on His every promise to you and every believer in giving you His only-begotten Son for your salvation. Believe that God is gracious, merciful, and is abounding in steadfast love for you, and that He alone can be depended upon and trusted today, and tomorrow, and for all eternity.
It is glad Easter Day! Dear Christians, let the high praises of God be in our mouths, evermore saying:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
R: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
+ In the Name of the Father, and of + the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +