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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Easter Sunday
March 27, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

GOOD ADVICE FROM THE EASTER ANGEL
Matthew 28:5-7

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. The text that we will consider today comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 28, beginning with verse five, as follows:

The angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead." Thus far the holy Word.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, because of Whose resurrection death is now swallowed up in victory, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

It was Philip Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield, who once famously said, "Advice is seldom welcome; and those who need it the most always like it the least." And that's true, isn't it? Most people enjoy flattery and approval. But people don't generally like to listen to advice, particularly if it tends to point up their own faults or failings. The worse the failing, the less happy they are to hear advice about it.

It's human nature, and it's true of all of us. Good advice - advice you really need, because of shortcomings in yourself - is hard to listen to and even harder to put into practice. But on this glorious Easter morning, our text presents us with a wonderful exception to that rule. In this passage we're given some advice. It's advice in which we can have the utmost confidence, because it's brought to us by an angel sent directly from God. And unlike most good advice, his words are not only easy to hear, they form the very foundation of our Christian joy and our Christian life. Lend an ear, then, and listen to some

GOOD ADVICE FROM THE EASTER ANGEL

I. "Don't be afraid."
II. "Look at the evidence."
III. "Go forth with the message."

It was early Sunday morning. The Sabbath was over. And it had been a Sabbath of unutterable sorrow for the women who were devoted to Jesus. Their Master had been captured and cruelly put to death. And now they were preparing to carry out the only kindness left for them to do - to embalm the body of their Lord with fragrant spices. By the way, did you notice how men don't come out looking very good in the Passion accounts? Peter, James and John couldn't keep awake in the Garden. All the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. Peter denied even knowing Him. At the cross, only John was there to see the end. But all the women were there: Mary, Jesus' mother, of course; but also Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Johanna and Salome. They saw the Lord die. They marked the place where He was laid. And now, with the sun just rising, they were on their way to the tomb with heavy hearts, to fulfill these last good offices.

A greater picture of sorrow and gloom could hardly be imagined. But -as so often in the Christian life - things were not as they seemed. The Lord was working. Great changes were afoot! Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

Just as an earthquake tolled the bell for Jesus' death, now an earthquake rang the peal again to mark His joyous resurrection! An angel, a messenger from God, came down. At the sight of him, the soldiers guarding the tomb shook and became as dead men. Then the angel rolled back the great stone. Not to let Jesus out - but to demonstrate to humans that He was already out. And what the angel had to say was significant -for those women at the tomb, and for us who, 2000 years later, have also come to worship our Savior at His open tomb.

Today we're presented with some very GOOD ADVICE FROM THE EASTER ANGEL. And the first thing he said will sound familiar to you, because every time an angel appears to someone in the Bible, this is the first thing out of the angel's mouth: "Don't be afraid." The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said."

Don't be afraid. Why do they always say that? Why do they need to say that? It's because whenever sinful human beings are suddenly confronted with divine, the first reaction is always the same - stark terror! And for good reason. God is pure righteousness, a burning and all-consuming holiness. Nothing unholy or unrighteous can stand for a second in his presence. And we sinners immediately sense our own deep unholiness and unrighteousness. We feel all too keenly the filthy thoughts that pass through our minds, the corrupt words, the hurtful words that have passed our lips, the dark and unclean deeds that our hands have done. But nevertheless, the angel said to the Marys, and says to us, Don't be afraid.

My friends, you will never get any advice that's easier to hear than that! "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." Jesus is alive! He was alive then and He is alive right now. Do you understand what that means? It means you are justified! It means that his suffering and death on the cross has been accepted by God the father as the complete atonement for all your sins. The book of Romans says, Jesus our Lord…was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. --Romans 4:25. -Raised to let us stand in the presence of God justified, holy and righteous in His eyes!

What a wonderful word from the Easter Angel! Do not fear! The payment for your sins has been made, and accepted. You shall not die eternally! On the contrary, the open tomb, if it means anything, surely means that, like Him, you too will rise to everlasting life one day! "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus said "he who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live!" Or as Peter said, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" --1 Peter 1:3-4.

Fear? There's no room for it anymore in our lives. And by the way, it's interesting to note that the Greek tense used in this passage implies that the angel is not only saying, "You needn't fear NOW," but "You needn't be afraid EVER AGAIN!" Martin Luther put it this way: "Do not fear! This is as much as to say, what foolish and simple little people you are that you should be terrified and fear. For Christ lives, and is risen from the dead. Therefore, the proper thing for you to do is be glad and never worry about anything. For that Christ lives He lives for your good, that you should enjoy Him, and by Him be protected and preserved from all misery. He means to tell us that the resurrection of Christ is to comfort us against the devil, sin and hell. For if these foes could continue to do damage, it would be impossible for us not to fear. This is the first command, not only to the women, but to all baptized and believing Christians who know and believe that Christ is risen, namely that they are not to fear."

"Don't be afraid." It's good advice. But how do we know the resurrection really happened? How do we know it isn't what so many modern skeptics say it is - a myth, a self-serving legend that grew up among Jesus' followers? And that brings us to the second piece of GOOD ADVICE FROM THE EASTER ANGEL. He says the same thing to us that he said to the women at the tomb: "Look at the evidence." He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

By the time the angel appeared, the resurrection had already happened. Silently, unseen by human eyes. "Come and see for yourself," the angel said. Look at the evidence! You'll see the stone rolled away. You'll see the place where he lay. You'll even see the grave clothes lying neatly folded to one side. You'll see everything. There's only one thing you won't see - the body of Jesus, for it is not here!

The absence of Jesus body from the tomb was and remains the most compelling evidence of all for the resurrection. Think about it - the enemies of Christ could easily have disproved his resurrection. All they had to do was simply produce the dead body! But they couldn't do it then, and they can't do it now, because there is no dead body. Jesus is alive!

Other evidence abounds in Scripture. Did you know that over 300 verses in the Bible are directly concerned with Jesus resurrection? For one thing, it was predicted. In the Old Testament in Psalm 16 and elsewhere. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently predicted his own death and his resurrection in the most explicit terms. Then there were the eyewitnesses. The apostle Paul says, I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present. --1 Corinthians 15:3-6. And on the other side? How many witnesses claimed to have seen Jesus' dead body after Easter Sunday? Not one.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of all, is the evidence in the lives of believers down through the centuries. Beginning with the apostles who based their entire life and work on the truth of the resurrection. And in the lives of every believer in every century since then. In your own life, God has worked the miracle of faith in your heart so that you believe in your resurrected Lord Jesus, and trust in Him for forgiveness and everlasting life. Paul says, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.--Romans 8:16-17. And you've seen that miraculous power at work in the hearts of others. Lives turned around. People who you thought would be the last ever come to faith in Jesus, but who are now believers in the power of His resurrection.

So you've taken the Easter angel's advice so far. You've seen that the message of the empty tomb leaves no room for fear. You've examined the evidence for the resurrection in the Bible and your own life. But it's not just about your life, is it? The Easter Gospel is for everyone. And that means you've got work to do. GOOD ADVICE FROM THE EASTER ANGEL: "Go forth with the message." The angel said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead."

The angel told them what to do. And if you read between the lines, he really told them what not to do also, didn't he? The resurrection wasn't a secret. They were not to keep it to themselves, to simply go home and sit and ponder it in private. Rather, they were to be active, to get the news out! They were to carry that wonderful message to others, first the disciples and then to all people. "Go forth with the message of the resurrection," the angel said. And so our risen Lord Himself says to us: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." --Matthew 28:18-20. We are not to be static. To be a Christian implies activity, busy-ness, being at work for the Lord every day of our lives. No matter what your career or calling, your first job is as a missionary, an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ others. So do the good work! Carry to others the joyous news of an open tomb, of sins forgiven in heaven attained! Your work will not be in vain. As the apostle Paul says in the great resurrection chapter, First Corinthians 15: "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - - First Corinthians 15:57-58.

Christ's resurrection is the center of our lives. It is in fact the central truth in the history of humanity. It will remain so to the end of time, and no human opposition can ever change it. Many have tried. George Sweeting tells of an anti-Christian rally held by the Communists in the city of Kiev in the early 1920s. The party had sent noted communist leader Nikolai Bukharin to address the massive rally. For over an hour he harangued them, criticizing the Christian faith and pointing up its supposed contradictions and errors. He finally concluded, thinking he had convinced the crowd once and for all of the folly of Christianity. He asked for questions. Near the front of the hall an aged orthodox priest stood up, and for a silent moment surveyed the crowd. Then, in a clear voice he said in Russian, "Khristos voskrese!" "Christ is risen!" And immediately the massive crowd, with one voice, thundered forth the familiar response, "Voistinu voskrese!" "He is risen indeed!" Bukharin's logic could not stand against the power of the resurrection, nor will be enemies of Christ prevail in our day. "The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it." Including the word of the Angel. For today we have received GOOD ADVICE FROM THAT EASTER ANGEL: don't be afraid, look at the evidence, go forth with the message. Will we profit by this good advice? If by "profit" you mean find justification, forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life, then the answer is a resounding "yes!" As we sing with the hymnist:

He is arisen! Glorious word! Now reconciled is God, my Lord; The gates of heaven are open. My Jesus did triumphant die, And Satan's arrows broken lie, Destroyed hell's direst weapon. Oh, hear, what cheer! Christ victorious riseth glorious, life He giveth-- He was dead, but see, He liveth! (TLH 189:1). AMEN.