O foolish and faithless disciples! He is not dead but arisen! The Word made flesh, the Lord of life, cannot be held in a stony tomb. Did you really think that death could keep him down? Did you really mourn for Him and whisper sad stories about poor old Jesus as you gathered the spices and walked to the tomb? Did you really sit in a locked room and feel sorry for yourselves and Jesus too? Did you really forget that he said so clearly that he would rise? Is this why you were afraid?
Or is your fear something more sinister? Are you afraid that it is true? Are you afraid that Jesus is up from the dead and that he is coming to pay back your Thursday cowardice, your Friday faithlessness, and your Saturday despair?
And you, beloved, you are afraid too, aren't you? You have cause to be. The experience of the Mary's and Salome and the disciples is not so far from your own. Their sins are yours too. As they forgot and ignored the Lord's Words so have you. As they feared men more than God, so have you. How else can you explain the times you have broken your conscience and done or said what you knew to be wrong just so that your friends would not make fun of you? How else can you explain the ease with which you tell a lie to make yourself look better? How else can you explain your skill is forgiving yourself and in holding grudges against others?
Repent. You have much to be afraid of – but turn away from those fears and the sins which cause them. For behold: all fears, all sins, even death itself is left in the grave and Jesus is arisen! He is arisen not for judgment but for life. He put your fears and sins to death in himself, in his body, on the cross. He gave himself over to death and hell as payment for your sins – and death and hell got more than they bargained for. For they took his bloodied body but found God was there. Jesus has killed death by dying. He has defeated Hell by giving in to it and enduring it. He has satisfied the wrath of God with the blood of God.
All is now new, all is remade. So repent beloved and do not be afraid: “[M]ake [your]self with holy mourning black, / And red with blushing, as [you are] with sin; [And] wash [now] in Christ's blood, which [has] this might / That being red, it dyes red souls to white.”
Yes, beloved, do not be afraid, for his red blood can dye any soul white as light itself. So this day let all souls rejoice. The holier-than-thou hypocrite and the Sunday-sleeper-in whohasn't darkened a church door for years: come together to your Risen Lord and receive Life. You who have toiled since the first hour and you have been called at the eleventh: line up to receive your equal reward from the nailed pierced hand which bought it for you. You strong in the faith and you doubtful who hold on by a thread: Be strengthened by the Body which bore your iniquities.
All is forgiven. For how could it not be? Jesus himself said it was finished. He, the sacrificial Lamb, has been slain and there is no sin that is not covered by his blood. So rejoice beloved! And cling to your Lord: for just as there is no more death in him since he is risen from the dead; so also there is no life outside of him, since he is the only one who has arisen from the dead to glory. It is Jesus and Life or anything else and death. So let nothing separate you from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Do not cut yourself off from his gifts – but receive what he gives you in his holy church and nowhere else. And behold what gifts he gives you! For he gives you himself! It was not enough for him to suffer on the cross once for all for all your sins – his love is so great that he sees to it that his saving death and resurrection are applied to you again and again.
For in Holy Baptism you have been buried and raised with Christ. Jesus himself has washed you clean and made you reborn. To you, personally, Christ, in Holy Baptism has said, “You are mine.”
But this was not enough for Jesus! Still he wishes to converse with you and strengthen you in your baptismal life. Still he wishes to restore you when you stumble and fall. So he invites you to hear his voice in Holy Absolution as he says to you, “You are loved.”
And still this was not enough for Jesus – he goes on promising! For he wants the fruits of his cross and the empty tomb to be yours as well. He wants his sacrifice to cover you individually and personally. He is the great Bridegroom of his Bride the Church, and so, like any husband, he gives to you all he has, even his own Body. For in the Holy Supper he says to you, “I am yours.”
So who will not rejoice? The Lord Jesus is raised from the dead and death is defeated. And this Great Victor gives the victory to the likes of us, and even bestows on us himself. He promises that his resurrection will be our resurrection. He promises that filled with his Life, we can never truly die. Beloved, this is the Great Day which the Lord has made: Let us rejoice and be glad in it!