Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Sermon on the Great Vigil of Easter

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Tonight we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from death and grave to eternal life.

But, for many people, Easter means so much more.

As I was watching television earlier today, I saw an ad for a Golden Easter Bunny made of chocolate. The tag line was something about the Magic of Easter. It occurs to me that for most people, that is what Easter is all about.

There are colored eggs, and Easter egg hunts. There are the chocolate bunnies, but there are the little fuzzy ones, too.

I remember Easter Sundays as a child. I remember how all the ladies wore there finest new dresses, the men wore their finest suits, and they dressed the children in there bright new clothes and then raced each other through the yard to snag those precious eggs, sometimes trampling each other in the process!

As a young man, I never really appreciated the significance of Easter. All of the baby chickens and bunnies are a distraction. They are vestiges of the pagan fertility festival. The name Easter comes from a word that mean the Dawn, that is when the sun rises in the East.

There is some evidence that the early Germanic people believed in a goddess named Easter, but that is not certain. While any type of Spring fertility festival has been replaced by the Paschal Feast of the Resurrection, those darn chickens and bunnies are still around, thanks mainly to the fact that most stores make money selling them.

I think that even today, for most people, the holiday is a time for family, and celebration, and for eating. Of course, in my mind, anytime is good for eating!

Just like our other big commercial holiday, Christmas, we need reminding what it’s all about. Jesus is the reason for the season, right?

We are here because of Jesus. The celebrating, and the eating, are nice, but it’s not the main thing.

We are celebrating the resurrection of our Savior who was judged, brutalized, and crucified by men who were afraid of him! They were afraid because he upset their nice peaceful and lucrative eco-system. He upset the tables of the money changers. He smashed the cages of the sacrificial lambs and let them go. He threatened their power and their positions. He called them hypocrites for Pete’s sake! What did he think was going to happen?!

Do you think he knew what was going to happen? Did he know that they would be shouting “crucify him?” How could the one we call the Prince of Peace bring about such a brutal end?

Now, remember we are talking about God the Son, the Word made flesh, so you have to figure he knew what would happen, right?

I believe that he did. First off, there is a lot of prophecy about about the messiah in the Old Testament. Some of the best came from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote of the suffering servant.

This is from chapter 53 of the prophecy:

4  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

No one would go willingly through all of that brutality unless it were for a greater good.

His death was necessary to atone for the sins of the world. In the rituals outlined in the Old Testament, there had to be a yearly sacrifice for sins. Many lambs were sacrificed on the altar of the temple to pay for the sins of the people.

With the death of Jesus, that payment was made for the world, for all of creation.

The letter to the Hebrews makes reference to the sacrifice involving the blood offering for sin. In chapter 13, he writes, “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”

A hymn by Robert Lowry published in 1876 puts it this way:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Because of the resurrection, Jesus is alive. Because of the resurrection, Jesus is alive in me. Because of the resurrection, Jesus is alive in you. And because Jesus is alive in you and me, we can live a life led by the Spirit of Jesus, a life free from condemnation for our sins, and free from the eternal death that awaits those who do not repent of their sins.

Easter may be magic to some people, and I don’t think we will ever be free of baby chickens and bunnies at Easter, but at least we can try to keep all of that in perspective.

We are here celebrating the fact Jesus defeated death forever, and we don’t have to live under that threat. Live your lives with an awareness that the Spirit of Christ lives in you, and seek to do his will, serving him in this world, and having hope of the resurrection to life at the Last Day.


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