Easter Festival Worship

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Watch the livestream beginning at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Lesson: Job 19:23-27 (NIV)
Second Lesson:  1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (NIV)

Gospel: Luke 24:1-12  (NIV)


  • Hymn: CW 471 “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds”
  • Hymn: CW 441 “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”
  • Hymn: CW 510 “In Christ Alone”
  • Hymn: CW 511 “Crown Him With Many Crowns”

Yr C, Easter              March 31, 2024
Luke 24:1-12             Pastor Ryan Wolfe

Death is not the end!”

Most of us already know how we got here today. I’m not talking about driving in cars to this building – I mean how we ended up looking for Jesus together with the women at the tomb. These women who came looking for Jesus’ body 200 years ago weren’t stupid or confused. They went to the place any reasonable person would to find Jesus. The last place they had seen him: the tomb where his lifeless body had been laid to rest after his death on the cross. After the Romans had confirmed he was truly dead with a spear to his side. When the angel questions why the women were looking for Jesus there the natural answer would have been, “Where else would he be?”

These women had gotten up early in the morning because in love they didn’t want to leave Jesus’ body in the tomb without the proper burial preparations. Remember, Jesus had been buried quickly so that a dead body wouldn’t be left out during the Sabbath in the Passover Festival. In those days people took care of burial preparation themselves, but there hadn’t been time to do it properly on Friday. They were going to finish the sad job on this Sunday morning. Along the way the women talked about the practical problem of getting into a tomb that was sealed by a large boulder. I imagine they worried how they would convince the Roman guards to unseal the tomb and let them in.

But when they arrived nothing was the way they thought it would be. The guards Pilate had posted were gone. The stone was rolled away, and inside they found grave clothes scattered on the ground and a cloth neatly folded where Jesus’ head had been—but no body. That’s when two angels in shining robes appeared and said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Those words carry a bit of a rebuke, don’t they? The angel speaks as though these women should have known better than to come to the tomb looking for a dead Jesus. They should’ve known he would be alive on Easter morning. Jesus had prepared them for this moment as well as anyone could have. Again and again, going all the way back to Galilee, Jesus had told his disciples he was going to die and then rise. But they never understood it. What he was saying was impossible so they thought it was a parable or some kind of spiritual lesson.

You and I might be more sympathetic to these women. Angels are holy. They see God at work all the time. But we’re sinners and we see God only through the eyes of faith, at least for now. We can easily understand why Jesus’ disciples never grasped the truth of what Jesus had said. We struggle believing God’s promises too. He says he’s in control of all things. Really? He says believers are more blessed than anyone else. True, but… He says his Church is strong and will never fail. It doesn’t always look like that.

We should know better though. And they should have too. Just weeks before this Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. These women knew that Jesus had power over death, but sometimes we all need someone to remind us of what God says. That’s exactly what the angel did. He said, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” They should have remembered and trusted Jesus’ words and come to the tomb in hope. Instead sin and doubt ruled their minds and they reached the tomb thinking Jesus was dead.

It’s not so very different from our own weak faith that doesn’t always trust God to take care of our problems. All too often, when our faith is weak, when we’re dissatisfied, when we feel guilty and foolish and unproductive, we look for Jesus in all the wrong places. We want to find him in our own hearts. We look for him in our feelings. We plead with him for outward signs. We think we’ll find him if we do better, work harder, act more like a Christian. But when the women came to the tomb that morning weak in faith, worried and afraid, the angels didn’t direct them to any of those things. They told them to remember what Jesus had said to them. To remember the gospel promises of their Savior. That he would die, and rise, for them. For us.

One of the ironies of Easter is that we find Jesus not at all where people think he should be, but exactly where he said he would be. Not in our dead hearts, not in our dead works, but alive with the words and promises he gave to every believer. The angels directed the women to find their hope in Jesus’ words and promises. That’s where we find it too. We find Jesus in the Word that’s preached and taught here at church. We find him in our Bibles at home. We find him in our baptisms, where our sins were washed away. In the Lord’s Supper, where God reminds us of Jesus’ promises and gives us the actual body and blood of the Lord.

If the women and the disciples had remembered Jesus’ words about his death and resurrection, the suffering and death in the days before might have been easier for them to bear. Jesus died not because he was losing the battle with sin; he died because in doing it he would win the whole war. Death was NOT his end. Not even close.

We need to remember that on this Easter morning. Jesus came into this world to die! He came to die because the wages of sin is death. Because if there was ever going to be a way to save the sinners of the world it had to come from him and not us. I say it every year: Easter is glorious because Good Friday was victorious. Jesus’ resurrection is a giant banner from God proclaiming to the world, “My Son Jesus did what he came to do!” Jesus’ resurrection proves death is defeated, and with death so also sin and Satan. It’s God’s promise that our debt to him is paid. Our record before him is clean. Jesus died once for all. The perfect for the perfectly sinful.

And because Jesus paid our debt fully and proved it with his rising, we have full confidence that our future is the same as his. Yes, death will make an attempt at us. None of us will escape physical death unless Jesus returns in glory first. But just like Jesus who died and rose in victory, we who are connected to him in faith will rise from death as well. Death could not hold him and it cannot hold us. Death was not his end, and it is not our end either. On that day when Jesus returns to this world in glory, God will finally throw death itself into its cage and we will live with him forever in heaven.

That’s why we celebrate Easter with such fanfare. Not just because Jesus rose – but because his victory is our victory. Today, we celebrate the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty, that God rolled the stone away, that the women heard the greatest proclamation of all time: “He is not here. He has risen just as he said he would.” Jesus kept his promise. We won’t find him among the dead. We don’t have to tend to his grave or look after his remains. He is alive. He is risen. And so are we. Rejoice in the new life you have through Christ and through faith live that life now. We are alive because our Savior is alive. Sing, rejoice, be faithful, and have hope. The Lord of life is our risen Savior. He is risen. He is risen indeed. Amen.

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