EASTER, A – April 16, 2017

SCRIPTURES: Ex. 14:10 – 15:2; Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 28:1-10

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today... The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exod. 14)

 

This morning, on this glorious Easter Sunday, I am going to focus on the lesser to teach about the greater. We are going to learn about the blessings for us of Christ’s victory over death by focusing upon Israel’s victory over death at the Red Sea.

 Oh, how happy the people of Israel were after God, by His mighty hand, set them free from their years of bitter slavery in Egypt! They marched out of Egypt with great joy and set out for the new land to which God would lead them. They didn’t know, however, that Pharaoh would pursue them. He sent his army after them, and they caught up to them at the Red Sea. The people of Israel were trapped, and cried out to Moses, “What have you done to us? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”

 How blessed we are – eternally blessed! – because God’s Son took our sins upon Himself, died for them upon the cross, and rose from the dead. With Christ there is forgiveness for our every sin – their judgment has been paid! – and we can live in God’s favor! And yet, it often seems as if God is frowning upon us.

 Why do terrible things confront us if Jesus has saved from being condemned for our sins; if God loves us so much? Where’s the benefit of Christ’s resurrection? When your back is to the wall you can wonder. Even if your journey through life is an easy one, you will come up against the “Red Sea” barrier of death. Who can fight for you then and bring you through it? No doctor can forever keep you from dying, and no medicine can cure it “What have you done to us?” we are tempted to cry with Israel.

Ø  Here I think of my mother. The end of her life is near. She who used to walk several miles a day hasn’t walked for months. She cannot hold the phone. She cannot even hold herself up, but slumps over in her chair. It’s tempting to ask, where is her risen Savior for her? This is unfair!

 

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord,” Moses cries. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Trials in your life, and especially the approach of death, are opportunities to trust in God and not yourself – and you are always better off when you do this. The Lord is not just strong; He is strong for you! Jesus died and rose for you, and not Himself. Trust in Him!

Ø  My mother has done so all of her life, and she knows that her life now is not what it will be. This blessed hope and confidence makes bearable the present and will part the threatening waters of death. Her Savior will bring her through and raise her in glory!

This is our sure and certain hope in Christ. Stand firm, and hold onto this!

 Also know and hold onto this: your Lord stands with you, especially when you are in need, just as He stood with Israel at the Red Sea. When Pharaoh’s army came “the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of [the] cloud [of God’s presence] moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel.” God brought light and hope to His people, and the darkness of fear and doubt to their enemies.

 You have the light of Christ and not the darkness of uncertainty and doubt and ignorance, in which live so many in our world. Many doubt that there is a god; and of those who believe He exists, many wonder whether He cares about them and will help them. You need not have such doubts!

 It is sinful to doubt; and sin causes doubts. How sinful it was for Israel to cry out against God and accuse Him after He had just rescued them from Egypt! Well, our doubts are no surprise, I suppose, for each of us has plenty of sins. But, see the difference Christ’s resurrection makes. When He rises and greets the women, He says to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” “My brothers” – this is what He calls the disciples who had run away, and even denied knowing Him, after He had been arrested. Jesus does not turn away from them. He does not even mention their sin, for by His death He paid the price for them! As God and His holy Angel stood with Israel at the Red Sea so that they did not face Pharaoh’s army alone, Christ stands with you. You are never alone!

 In fact, your God stands around you as a wall. How vividly that was seen by the people of Israel! “They went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” That path through the parted waters of the Red Sea, which stood as a wall of water on each side, was their salvation, for after they passed through it the waters flowed back and drowned Pharaoh’s army. Israel saw them no more.

 God has surrounded you with a wall of saving water: the water of your Baptism. It is your protection from every enemy as you walk toward the life to come with God in heaven. This is how God speaks of Baptism. 1 Cor. 10:1-4 looks back to the Red Sea event and says: “Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea… they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” It was Christ who was with the people of Israel, who brought them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea and to the Promised Land. The Red Sea was their baptism of salvation!

 Your baptism is your salvation, for by it you were joined to Jesus. Rom. 6:3-4 says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” As you walk through your life, see your baptism as a wall of water surrounding and protecting you, as Israel was surrounded and protected by a wall of water.

 Of course, we are very much unlike Israel in this. We don’t see any protecting wall of water. In fact, most of us don’t even remember our baptism. And, your baptism was certainly a much less dramatic event than was the Red Sea crossing! But here you must open your eyes to what the Scriptures say.

1)    Jesus commanded Baptism for you, and did so after He died and rose. It was the culmination of His ministry. Your life with Him was the focus of His final words!

2)    You were baptized into the Triune God, and His name was put upon you. If a person with an important name comes to town – Pres. Trump, for instance – don’t people stand up and take notice? Well, stand up and take notice: the name of the Holy Trinity is upon you!

3)    Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, “your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3) – as Israel was hidden in God in the Red Sea!

You don’t see the honor and glory you received in your baptism. Nor do others. But, when your enemies the devils look upon you, they see it. They see Christ crucified and risen! They see their defeat. They see God, their eternal Judge. They cower and flee!

 Most importantly of all, God sees you. He sees you in His Son, eternally alive and utterly holy. He sees you raised from sin and death. He surrounds you, then, with His love and mercy. Your baptism into Christ is a saving wall of water that brings all of this.

 One day you will celebrate your last Easter, as my mother is doing now. Death and the grave will yawn open before you and threaten you with their fury.

 Remember the Red Sea. Remember Jesus, crucified and risen for you! Remember your baptism into Him. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord! The Lord will fight for you.” In Him you will triumph, and in Him you will sing: “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation!”