Jesus is out. The tomb is empty. He’s loose.
And He’s after you.
Like a lion escaped from the zoo, and you might be right to run, to be a bit afraid, because people, normal people, when you put them in the grave, are supposed to stay there. But Jesus is no normal man. He is God in the flesh, God in your humanity, God become your brother, and now, having suffered the things you deserved, God your Savior.
Your sin, your death, your cross, your suffering the wrath of God, your grave, all of these things Jesus takes for Himself. “He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. … He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities.” All of this cross and suffering and grave should be yours, or better, you should belong to them.
You are, after all, a sinner, born a slave to sin. You are dying. You are deserving of God’s anger, His wrath.
There’s some danger in passing over this too quickly. We’ve got to get this point, or none of this cross and resurrection will make any real sense. Paul describes us like this, we “were, by nature, children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:3), which means that we were born sinners, despicable to God, offensive to His holiness, and fit for hell. That we don’t know this, or at least feel it, and are tempted to think of ourselves that we are “pretty good people” shows us only how deep the sickness goes, like the person who feels pretty good right before they have a heart attack. They felt healthy, but they were sick.
No matter how you feel, you are a sinner.
But that is the business of the cross, what Jesus was taking care of in His suffering and death. Your sin was piled on Him, and the suffering you deserved was piled upon Him. Your death and hell were heaped on His shoulders, and there it was finished.
But now He’s loose. Death was not strong enough to hold Him. He burst through the iron bars of death, broke apart the bonds of the grave, tore loose from the grip of the devil, and He is out. He is risen. He is alive. He is resurrected.
And He is after you.
What do you do with a man who won’t stay dead? Perhaps the better question is: What does a man who can’t stay dead do with us? This, dear friends, is the questions that will define our life and death. And the answer is: this Man loves you. He forgives you. He befriends you, and speaks kindly to you.
Because this Jesus who is dead and raised, this Jesus who is after you is after you with His resurrection. Pursuing you with His life. Chasing you down with His forgiveness. Coming to you with His truth, tearing away the delusions and the lies and comforting you with His love and promises, giving you His life.
This Jesus is after you with the gifts of the cross, seeking you like a Good Shepherd who leaves His flock to find the wandering sheep, and finding it lifts it, lifts you, on His shoulders and carries you to safety. Seeking you to save you, to deliver you, to rescue you, to bring you to His eternal dwelling where the angels are rejoicing without end.
Now, it is also true that the devil is after you, tempting and troubling you. But dear saints, what of it? Jesus has stomped the devil under His feet. He descended into hell and preached a sermon to the devil, a sermon of victory. He is risen, broken free from the devil’s grasp, and made a public spectacle of the devil in His cross and tomb. Jesus is the stronger One, who has taken the cords that the devil used to tie you up, that is, the fear of death, and unwrapped you and bound up the devil, and looted His house, the grave.
The devil is after you, but he has already lost. Jesus is risen, He is alive.
It is true again that death is after you. But what of it? Jesus, your Jesus, has triumphed over the grave, punched death and the mouth and knocked out its teeth, made a way straight through the grave so that we will come out the other side.
Remember the picture: we are all standing in a line, and this line leads to a curtain, and you can see some shadowy figures there behind it. And as you get closer you can make out what is happening. There is some sort of wicked strong man with a mallet, and as each person steps through the curtain this mallet is brought down on their head, and they collapse in a heap and are dragged away. This is frightful, and it gets more and more frightful as the line gets shorter, as you get closer to the curtain.
But then someone cuts up in front. This man walks thought the curtain, and like all the others, the mallet is dropped on His head, and He collapse in a heap, but then, before they could drag Him away, He stands back up, and grabs the mallet from death, and turns and smashes him over the head! And Jesus tosses the mallet on the crumpled heap of death. Now, through the veil, you see the shadow of your Jesus, arms stretched out, and the line can’t move fast enough.
Oh grave, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but praise be to God who gives us the victory in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Death is after you. So what? Jesus is risen.
The tomb is open. Jesus is out. And He is after you. This is your comfort.
And, dear saints, you should know that every time you open your Bible, Jesus is after you. Every time the veil is lifted from these element on the altar, Jesus is after you. Every time you come to church, you hear the Gospel, the One who came out of the grave is coming for you, and this is good news, the best!
Christ is risen. He is alive. He has come for you, and found you, and forgiven you and called you His friend. And so, for you, on the last day, your grave will be as empty as His, and your life will be as eternal is His, and your joy will be as full as His, because He will be your life and your joy and your resurrection, forever and ever. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller | Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO