Death Swallowed Up – Easter 2008


Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Kenosha, Wisconsin
The Resurrection of Our Lord (March 23, 2008)
John 20:1-18
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE

TITLE: “Death Swallowed Up”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. The Lord is Risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb Early that first Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body. They did have time to do it right on Friday. Things were crazy. The betrayal, the trials, the scourging, the horrible crucifix, the makeshift tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, these things just piled one upon the other. It was horrible, and it went so fast. Passover one day and the Sabbath the next all meant that nothing was going as it should. Nobody expected Jesus to die, even though He had predicted it many times.

We never really expect death to catch up with us though, do we? Even with the severely ill or aged, where death might seem a release from pain and suffering, even with them death is a shock. You can know it is coming, have everything planned out just right, and you are still numb when it hits you. Death is final. Death doesn’t wait for anyone. Death is no respecter of persons, but consumes us all. Death is still and always the great enemy. We have no power over it at the end of the day. We can’t fight it. We can’t avoid it or defeat it. We cannot do a thing to death, because of our wretched sinfulness. As we just sang in our hymn:

No sun of man could conquer death,
Such ruin sin had wrought us.
No innocence was found on earth,
And therefore death had brought us
Into bondage from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And held us as its captive. Alleluia! (LSB 458:2)

The disciples knew no different. It was all they had ever known. Abraham had died, the prophets, all of their forefathers had died. Why should things be any different for Jesus?

But it was different. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, but it was empty. She ran back and told Peter and the other disciples, and they rushed back to the tomb. When they stooped into the tomb, they saw the linen clothes, and the facecloth lying by itself apart. It was folded and placed there. This was no grave-robber’s work. This was something else entirely.

But they still didn’t get it. The disciples went back home, and Mary remained behind, weeping. It’s one thing to see the tomb empty; it’s another thing entirely to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead! She was so distraught and upset that Jesus Himself came up to her and spoke and didn’t even recognize Him! Eventually He called her by name and she knew Him by His Word.

Our dead God is alive again forevermore! In the flesh, body and soul, He has come back from the dead. Isaiah proclaimed it when He prophesied:

He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 6:8)

He wiped away Mary’s tears, and He wipes away yours this day. For Jesus as Jesus rose from the dead, in the same way you and all of those who have died in the faith will rise again from the dead. Our hope in Him never disappoints, no matter what the trials and pains this life may bring to us. Jesus has risen from the dead, and everything is new.

Our Lord continues to come to you now just as He did with Mary Magdalene that first Easter morning. He hides Himself in bread and wine, the very feast of Heaven. We only know Him by His Word. But what a great and mighty Word it is! This is my body; this is my blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins. With these words the feast of Easter is sealed, you are no longer in your sins, and death has no more part of you. Luther said it best in the hymn:

Then let us feast this Easter Day
On Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace has purged away
The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!

Come and feast forever more on Him who died and rose again so that you might live. The Lord 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 human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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