Easter 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
April 4, 2021
Isaiah 25:6-9. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Matthew 28:1-10

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Little Justin was the epitome of cuteness wrapped in the body of a four-year-old boy. The problem was, he was just too cute.  It wasn’t so much the day-to-day living, as it was special functions.  Like church.

            Come Sunday morning, all the older ladies of the church would just carry on about Justin’s cuteness, and before he could get away from them, they would grab his cheek between the index finger and the thumb, and give it a pinch. Sometimes they would add a little shaking motion, like a pit bull latched on to a chew toy. It left his cheeks rosy and numb. The pinching was especially bad at weddings. There are even more older women at weddings than there are at church on Sunday.  As each one pinched his little cheeks, they’d say “You’re next!”

Well, Justin finally discovered a way to get them to leave his cheeks alone.  Whenever he’d go to a funeral, he’d seek out the older women. He’d run up to them, grab their cheeks, and pinch them with a solid twist, look them right in the eye, smile and say, “You’re next!”

The old ladies never bothered Justin after that.

            Are you next?  Or is it me? Or someone else?

            There is a dark cloud that has been hanging over you from the moment of your birth. It is a cloud that brings deep darkness of impending doom.  It is the cloud of death that hangs over all people.  You live in the valley of the shadow of death.

            The fear of death is said to be the prime motivation for human behavior.  Politicians, advertisers, journalists all use the fear of death to motivate people to do what they want them to do.  “If we can save just one life…it will be worth it.” 

            Saving lives is a powerful motivation for action and trillions of dollars have been spent and yet you still live in the valley of the shadow of death.

            The Bible speaks about the snares of death, the waves of death, the cords of death, the shadow of death.  In Isaiah 25 death is spoken of as a… Isaiah 25:7 (ESV) 

7 … covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  

            Jesus understands death first hand.  God in flesh dies on that awful Friday. He is wrapped up in linen with spices and laid in a tomb sealed by a large stone.  Jesus lies motionless and silent in the darkness of death.  

Jesus destroys death by rising from the dead.  This is the feast of victory for our God.  The wet blanket of the fear of death is taken away.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            But death could not hold him.  Acts 2:24 (ESV) 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  Death could not hold Jesus.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            In Christ Jesus, God swallows up death forever.  Isaiah 25:7–8 (ESV) 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 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.  

Jesus destroys death by rising from the dead.  This is the feast of victory for our God.  The wet blanket of the fear of death is taken away.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Instead of living in terror of the grave, you live in confidence that even though death will come for you one day it is not the end for you. You too will be raised from the dead. Jesus has conquered death; for Himself, for you, for all humanity.  The great feast, the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, is for all people.  All are invited.  All are welcome.  Jesus has conquered death for all.  Jesus has conquered death for you.

Just before raising her brother from the dead Jesus tells Lazarus’s sister Martha, John 11:25–26 (ESV) 25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  Jesus is the light that drives out the darkness.  Jesus is the life that destroys death.  Jesus is the resurrection that conquers the grave.

            Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! Because Christ has risen from the dead you will rise from the dead and knowing this, you can face death not as an ending, but as a transition to eternal life.  I have presided over many funerals here at Immanuel; I believe well over a hundred.  When we are at the cemetery for the committal, what is the last thing I say before the final benediction?  What are the words of greatest comfort when you are burying a loved one?  Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  Let us go forth in peace, in the name of the Lord.  Amen.

            We can find peace even in death because Jesus has gone through it already and He promises to bring you through it as well.  Jesus brings life; eternal life, and that changes everything. 

            Jesus’ resurrection is a historical fact.  We have eyewitness testimony from people who saw Jesus put to death on the cross on Friday by the Romans, buried in the tomb, and raised from the dead on Sunday morning.  The eleven remaining disciples spent the rest of their lives proclaiming the Good News that Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! We know it is true because they kept on proclaiming this truth even though they were being beaten and executed because of it.  They knew the truth and they were compelled to be Jesus’… Acts 1:8 (ESV) 8 … witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  

            The historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the most important truth of Christianity.  As Paul tells us in the Epistle reading,  1 Corinthians 15:3–7 (ESV) 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 

Every Sunday we gather to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead to conquer death. This is the feast of victory. Each Sunday Jesus gives you a foretaste of the feast to come in His Body and His Blood to forgive your sins and to strengthen and preserve you in true faith unto life everlasting. 

            Indeed you live in the valley of the shadow of death. But you have Jesus who is the light and the life.  So Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you fear no evil.  The pangs of death have been undone.  The fear of death no longer rules over you.  Jesus has swallowed up death forever. 

            So who is next?  We don’t know.  We wouldn’t want to know if we could.  Death is coming for each one of us, but you don’t need to fear because it is not the end, it is only a new beginning, because Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! Amen.

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