EASTER, C – March 31, 2013

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 65:17-25; 1 Cor. 15:12-26; Luke 24; 1-12 

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand shatters the enemy! Ex. 15:6 

Easter brings many images to our minds. It is little girls in frilly white dresses, hats, and gloves. It is children running, baskets in hand, to find colored eggs. It is beautiful flowers in full bloom, surrounding the altar at church.

How about this picture: a powerful man, standing and holding a banner on a staff. His right foot is on the chest of a skeleton, crushing its ribs and causing the skeleton’s eyes to bulge (it has eyes!) and its tongue (!) to hang out. His left foot is upon the neck of a hideous-looking beast, and he is shoving the banner’s staff into the beast’s mouth. The beast is gasping and its eyes are bulging as it futilely grasps the banner’s pole. This painting of the risen Jesus stands over the altar of the City Church of Saints’ Peter and Paul in Weimar, Germany. Jesus, the risen One, youthful and powerful, stands on death and the devil and crushes them!

“Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand shatters the enemy!” This is what Easter is all about. We are celebrating a day of power. Our enemies have not only been beaten. They have been crushed; shattered; utterly and completely destroyed!! No mercy has been shown them; and in this we rejoice.

What enemies? Don’t be deceived. We have many enemies, great and powerful foes who are very present, and cause great suffering, destruction, and sorrow.

There are many evil people in this world. Especially evil are those who oppose Christ and His people, who reject our faith and seek its decline and destruction. Open your eyes! There are many such people.

  • Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., said recently: "Religious persecution is the gravest human rights crisis of our day. Christians are as a group the most persecuted, out of sheer numbers, across the world. This means they are being killed, tortured, imprisoned and eradicated... sent into exile for their beliefs." In Iraq, 70 Christian churches have been blown up, and its Christian population all but driven out; in Nigeria, churches are attacked on a regular basis; in Sudan, Christians are being taken and sold into slavery. The last Christian church in Afghanistan closed in 2010. It joins Saudi Arabia as the only countries with no Christian churches.
  • And then, there’s Egypt. Shaul Gabbay, a professor of international studies at the University of Denver, says that “now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power persecution of Christians will only get worse.” Sheikh Ahmed Saber, a well-known Imam and official in Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments, agrees. “All Egyptians in general are oppressed,” he said recently, “but Christians are particularly oppressed, because they suffer double of what others suffer.”

Why do I bring this up? So that you might know and might pray for your brothers and sisters in the faith who are suffering because of Christ. Also, that you might pray for their enemies, Christ’s enemies, that they might come to know Christ and so be our friends. These persecutions are the last gasps of the satanic beast’s opposition to the reign of Christ. Even if our enemies kill us, Christ raises us to life forever and at the end will forever destroy them! The victory is Christ’s, and ours in Him!

Most of us do not face such enemies as do Christians who live in Islamic and Communist countries. But, there is an enemy we all battle daily. It’s the 2nd law of thermodynamics! Basically, this law says that all things move toward increasing disorder; in other words, toward their end. The universe is winding down, and not improving; the earth is aging; and we all die. Death and disorder rule!

What can you do about this? You can ignore it; you can protest and scream about it; you can exercise and fight against it. Do what you want! The point is, nothing will change this. “In Adam all die.” Death is a powerful enemy that will claim us all.

But, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” His foot is upon the chest of death, and it is crushed beneath Him! What does this mean for us? Well, take to heart especially these two words: firstfruits and asleep. They are our hope; they are our victory in the face of death and its certain destruction.

Asleep. This means that when we who hold onto Jesus in true faith die, we are not forever gone. In Christ we sleep, and after a while He will awaken us. But, where do we sleep? How do we sleep? Now you must focus upon the other word: firstfruits. Jesus is the firstfruits. He is the fruit, and we are the seed within Him that grows as we are nourished by Him. As we hear His words and take them to heart, as we receive Him in the Sacrament of His body and blood and rejoice in Him, His life is given to us. We are joined to Him and made like Him. Now, think of what happened to Jesus when He died. His last words before He died on the cross were, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” He then died, and His spirit left His body. His body was laid in the grave, while His spirit rested in the bosom of His Father. It will be the same for us, for “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Our great enemy death, however, will not enjoy such sleep. “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand shatters the enemy!” Death lies under Christ’s foot, crushed and broken, never to rise again! When Christ awakens us from our sleep, death will never again confront us or worry us.

There is one other enemy that confronts us and afflicts us now. It is seen in the women who went to the tomb and were perplexed because they did not find Jesus’ body. It is seen in the apostles, who, when the women told them what the angels had said to them, considered their words “an idle tale.” Disbelief of God’s Word; distrust of God’s Word; ignorance of what He says – such things are a great enemy. They are an enemy that is within us as well as without.

I’ll bet you all have Bibles in your homes. Only you can decide to read them. I can tell what you God has said and done in Christ, but I cannot make you believe it. If you do not know about your God and are confused about Him, it is your fault. Come to seek Him and learn! If you doubt what He says and consider what He says to be “idle tales,” then weakness in faith and confusion in life will be of your own doing, and will be your undoing when your enemies confront you.

“Remember how He told you,” the angel says. Take Christ’s words to heart and let them fill your minds! Then, His crushing victory over His enemies will be yours. “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand shatters the enemy!” This will be your song, your faith, your confidence when you face your enemies in this life; to the praise of our mighty Lord and Savior. He is “our strength and our song, and He has become our salvation!” Let us “sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” He has shattered our enemies!