“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” That was quite a problem the women faced on that first Easter morning. Even bigger than the stone was the problem of the Lord’s death. They thought Jesus was gone forever. All that talk about Jesus being the Messiah was cold and dead in their hearts, a distant memory. Now they went to do what they could to honor Him in death, bringing spices to anoint His body. If Jesus could not live, at least He should be buried with respect as a great teacher.
We all fight this battle – against despair, hopelessness and death. Sometimes the battle goes well, and we even get time off from the front. Times of happiness when life is going well, we have our health, our kids and grandkids are doing fine, tax season is almost over, and even the Cardinals are going strong. God is gracious, all is right with our world, and there is much to smile about. Until those times return when things are going awful everywhere. It seems that Death and Devil are winning. A sickness will not go away. A loved one dies. The economy and election, conflict in the home and shootings at schools. Sometimes the fight gets long and the battle strains us hard. The sufferings feel like they will never end – or if they do get resolved, then bigger problems will come along to take their place. It can look like there is no reason to hope for the future, for things to ever get better.
Find courage and strength in that other Christians have also faced this battle with Satan and sin and Death, and they survived because Christ pulled them through it to life on the other side. St. Paul writes this morning’s words to the Corinthians to remind them of the Gospel he had already preached to them. They needed to hear again that Christ died for our sins, just as the Old Testament had said, and that He was buried and raised on the third day. They could be certain this is how it happened because there were over 500 witnesses who had seen Jesus alive after Good Friday. They could go to Peter or the other apostles, or James, or any of them and asked them about the facts of Christ’s life – and the testimonies would all agree.
After our Epistle ends, St. Paul lets us know why he needed to remind them of this basic fact of Christian faith. Some people in the Corinthian congregation were not certain if the dead would be resurrected. They thought that you lived and died, and that was the end of it. So Paul answers that concern, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
How often have you been miserable because you forget the most basic heart and core of Christianity? How often have you lived as if the dead body of Jesus was still decaying in a tomb somewhere – or as if He never had a body, or as if He never existed? When we allow the dark trials of life to shut us down and make us blind to the Light of the living God, it is as if we are with those women asking their question on the way to the tomb. “Who will roll away the stone for us?”
Do not get me wrong – I am not saying we should be happy all the time, just have a positive outlook on life and things will get better. Our Lord Jesus knows personally how hard this life gets. We do suffer things – real pain that can feel like it will not end.
However, Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
And for poor, weak, dying sinners like you and me, that is the greatest news ever. Momentarily we will hear Arlen sing those faithful words of Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” If anyone had reason to complain and let the darkness defeat him, it was Job. His livelihood was destroyed, his health and wealth all gone, his children were dead, and his family wanted nothing to do with him in case his curse might affect them. His very life was barely hanging on. Yet despite all of that, Job was able to confess, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
Job points us to this great, beautiful reality. No matter what happens, no matter what evil, sin, Satan, death and the world throw at you, Jesus is risen from His grave. Even though everything else may be taken away from you, even life itself, you can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Death has lost its sting because Jesus is risen.
Your sins cannot drag you down to Hell, because Jesus is risen.
You have a future that is bright and clear because Jesus is risen.
All that is messed up and broken today will be fixed and restored because Jesus is risen.
You are not doomed to Hell’s prison. You will be free in Heaven because Jesus is risen.
Christ’s blood now marks you as belonging to Him, because Jesus is risen.
Rejoice this morning and be glad. The things of life that weigh you down will pass. God is at peace with you, so you do not need to be afraid of anything forever. Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer, lives, and that is all that really matters in life. Believe it for Christ’s sake. Amen.