Death Is Dead

Text: Mark 16:1-8

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The women who came to the tomb of Jesus that Sunday morning long ago, left with a combination of emotions.  They were trembling; that is to say, physically shaking with fear and amazement.  In other words, they were trembling in ecstasy and their mind was thrown out of its normal state.  Their whole disposition was one of being alarmed and in terror, so much that they fled the tomb with a combination of reverence and awe.   

Now, this may strike us as a bit odd, but if you and I put ourselves in their shoes, it makes sense. 

You see, two days earlier the women had just witnessed death devour and chew upon Jesus Christ in a most horrific way.  He was flogged.  He was beaten.  The sky turned black.  He was crucified.  He was pierced.  The earth shook.  And then after all of the events of Good Friday, Jesus was put into a peaceful tomb.  That is, until they came that Easter morning.  When they came to the tomb, the large stone had been rolled back.  And they encountered an Angel of the Lord with the news that Jesus had risen.  Then in that instant, they were faced with the reality that all the harshness of death was undone.  The nails, the flogging, the cross, the crown of thorns, the beatings – all of these tools of death were undone and rendered useless, for Jesus was raised from the dead.  The news of the resurrection along with the angel and the empty tomb and the reality of death’s undoing were such an extreme change and such a great adjustment to their eyes and minds that it drove them to an overwhelming terror mixed with amazement and awe.

We must keep in mind this day that overcoming death is no small matter.  Death is a big deal.  Death devours people in this world one by one and enjoys the fear that it produces.  Death bites into children, men, women, grandmas, grandpas, healthy and unhealthy people alike.  Death shows no mercy; it shows no favoritism.  And when it bites down, it does not let go.  It tears into mankind; laughing while it destroys and smiling at the grief that it causes. 

Death is a sure thing in this life.  We all know what happens when it strikes.  There is finality.  There is an end.  Death is the great period of life.  There is no surviving death.  There is no escape from death.  There is no reversing death in this life under the sun.   

BUT!  Things are different with Jesus Christ and that is what the women were confronted with when they came to the tomb that Easter Sunday long ago.  In other words, as we heard on Good Friday when death bit into Jesus, it thought that Jesus was just like anyone else; however, little did death know that Jesus was sent into the world to destroy death.  Yes, Jesus was sent to undo the power of death – to change everything forever.  

So how did Jesus change death forever?  He changed everything forever by offering Himself up to death.  He gave up His spirit.  He gave Himself into the jaws of death.  And so, death took Jesus.  Death chomped down hard on Christ.  However, never had death bitten down on such a deadly person though.  You see, Jesus was no ordinary man.  He was not just some ordinary religious teacher, but He was the God-Man.  That means that death bit down on not just a mere mortal, but death bit down on the God-Man Jesus Christ and then it tried to swallow and digest the God-Man Jesus.

Sometime on Saturday night, though, death began to feel unsettled.  This Jesus whom death devoured was different.  He did not sit quite right in the belly of death.  Indeed, things were certainly not right.  The gut pains increased for death.  The aches and grumbling in death’s stomach got worse and worse until death grabbed its stomach and yelled out in pain, for there in death’s stomach ruptured a large hole.  Yes, death’s stomach ruptured; it ripped open. And from that hole in death’s stomach, Jesus Christ came forth – alive, victorious, and as the victor! 

Dear friends, today we hear that the stone was rolled away and that the tomb was empty.  We hear with the women of that Easter Sunday long ago that Jesus is not in the stomach of death!  Jesus is not dead.  Jesus rose.  Jesus defeated death.  Jesus is alive.  Death does not have the final word.  Life is the final word! 

There has never been a better announcement in the history of the world than this news: Jesus Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!  He is not dead, but alive!   

Take a moment and consider this news. 

Let this news come into your ears and consider what it means. 

Hear this news that Jesus has been raised from the dead – hear it with the women who heard it that Easter Sunday for the first time long ago.

Do not just let it slide over your mind… but pause… and consider the ramifications of this news.  Jesus died on the cross, but death could not keep Him.  Death was powerless to keep Jesus. 

Dear friends, because your Jesus is risen, your death is undone! 

Because your Jesus is risen, death has a huge hole in its stomach. 

Because your Jesus is risen, death’s jaws are fractured. 

Because your Jesus is risen, you and I can confess with boldness today:

Death has been swallowed up in victory![1] 

Oh, and it gets better!  We can also taunt death!  Yes, we can taunt and mock death.  No, we must taunt and mock death this Easter Sunday! Because Jesus is risen we can ask of death:

“O death, where is your victory; death, where is your sting?”[2] Christ is risen and you are abolished, where is your power now!  Christ is risen and the demons are cast down, where are your fans O death?  Christ is risen and the angels rejoice.  Christ is risen, and life is freed, what are you going to do about that O pathetic death?    

We can even laugh at death! Yes, we can laugh at death!  Because Jesus is risen, we can laugh at death saying: 

O Death, "I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall also be!”[3]  You’ve got nothin’ on me, for I am baptized into Christ!

Blessed Baptized Saints, because Jesus is risen, we do not have to be afraid of death anymore.  Even though we return to ashes when we die, we know that because of Jesus, we have the sure and certain hope that we will be resurrected to eternal life.  The Lord Jesus Christ “will change our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body!”[4]  You and I can count on that!    

And so this day, we rejoice that our Lord Jesus is risen.  We rejoice that the tomb is empty.  We rejoice that Jesus has defeated death and we even mock and laugh at death this day. 

All of this is the sure confidence of a Christian – this is your sure confidence!  Because our Jesus is risen, we know that nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic; nothing today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s steadfast and sure love.  

Blessed Baptized Saints, Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! 

[1] The Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Martin Luther quote.

[4] Pastoral Care Companion (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), 134.

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