“What does this mean? What did this mean for our future, that Jesus is risen? After all, none of us believed Him when He told us He would rise again. What’s He going to do to us? What’s He going to have us do? Do we really have to go to Galilee right now? What’s going on? Did we really just see that? Was it all just a big day-dream? Have we been getting enough sleep? Are we awake or asleep and dreaming? Did we really just see an angel? Christ is risen?”
That’s what the women were thinking. That’s why they were trembling in amazement and fright. Think of something that really shook you up, and put yourself in their shoes. I suspect most people don’t when they read the end of today’s Gospel and think we should omit that verse because it’s such a downer. So why do we read it? Verse 8 is answered by today’s Liturgy. It was already answered when we read the Gospel. The answer’s in the Epistle. Let us keep the festival, for Christ our Passover is sacrificed!
When the Israelites got to the Promised Land, they began to celebrate the Passover every year. They remembered what happened at this time when Moses led their ancestors out of Egypt. God had sent 10 plagues to mock Egypt’s idols and force wicked Pharaoh to free them from their bitter slavery. The tenth was not without fanfare. The angel of death came to end the lives of all Egypt’s firstborn. But Israel was spared. Why?
God commanded them to kill a yearling male lamb without blemish or defect. They had to roast it and paint its blood on their doorframes and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, ready to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice. The angel passed over them. He spared their lives. But Egypt was not spared. Pharaoh finally let them go. They crossed the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s armies drowned behind them. 40 years later they finally reached the Promised Land.
But it should not have taken them 40 years. It’s not that far from Egypt to Israel. It took that long because they did not want to keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The Lord searched them and knew them, knew their ups and downs and everything about them and saw them full of badness and wickedness. Though they had seen His wonders, they were not converted. They boasted in themselves and complained about God’s leadership through Moses and Aaron. They themselves worshiped idols at the very place God told them to have no other gods but Him. They were so stubborn and hard-hearted that even Moses fell into sin. They ate the Passover’s unleavened bread but let themselves be filled with the leaven of evil.
We are all by nature filled with the leaven of badness and wickedness. Sincerity and truth cannot be found in us. We are all evil, Paul says. We are all filled with the venom of the serpent and thoughts of sinning against all God’s commands. Sin makes us slaves of the great Pharaoh Satan, who enslaved our father Adam. It has thoroughly corrupted us so we can truly do nothing good in God’s sight. Our sinful minds cannot have good desires. They prefer boasting to humility. If God searches and knows us, if He knows all our ups and downs, He finds all our wickedness, wickedness that makes what we think is good look bad! Sin within us certainly wants to feast all the time, but not with God! So the angel of death is coming our way. He has every right to take us. Our lives must end because of our sins. Eternal punishment should follow.
Who can rescue us? Only Christ, our Passover Lamb. He bitterly suffered hell for us as He hung upon The Cross. He was punished horribly for all the bad we’ve done and are and all the good we have not done or been. The tomb had to spit Him out. Therefore God says your sins are all forgiven. Your death sentence is commuted. Your sins are sealed up in the pit of hell. Your death is now escape from sin. You shall rise on the last day.
So keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth! How can you do this? The leaven has been purged from you. You are baptized into Christ. The Spirit has washed you clean of sin and given you new life. This new life walks in His ways and commands. It does what God desires. It gives you good desires, heavenly desires. It causes you to thirst not for evil, but for The Fountain of Life, Jesus Himself. It renews you, for Holy Baptism has raised you up from the death of the soul.
So keep the feast! The Israelites kept the feast every year to celebrate their rescue from Egypt. Christ calls on you to celebrate His Resurrection as often as you eat His Body and drink His Blood at this Altar. That means He wants you to remember what He did for you all the time. So the minister stands at The Altar every week to offer The Faithful Christ’s Body and Blood. This is the feast of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. This is the feast of The Lamb.
Yes, this is the feast Christ calls on us to keep. Here we proclaim Christ’s Death until He comes. This proclamation of His Death is not just, “Oh, Jesus died once upon a time.” It’s this: “He suffered for our sins and death upon The Cross, but death could not hold Him. He rose again! Therefore your sins are forgiven and you too, you who believe in Him, though you die, you shall rise to life again and be like He is.”
This feast proclaims all this. The words are spoken to bless the bread and wine. These words tell us Christ offered Himself upon The Cross in order to win forgiveness for our sins. When we eat and drink that Sacrifice, we get exactly what He wants to give us. That’s His last will and testament. He wills that by His Death we receive forgiveness and life eternal; because He died, that will had to go into effect. Because He rose, He personally executes His wishes. He wishes to do it at this place, and He wants all those who belong to Him to receive His Body and Blood.
So keep the feast. Keep it whenever it’s offered. The Risen Christ Himself calls to you. The angels call you to come see Him and meet with Him in Galilee. Where’s that? Right here. This is where Christ appears to you, where He gives you His Body and Blood. So be here, because this is where He comes to you. Don’t be the like the Israelites in Sinai and stray from Him. Here He continues to purge out of you the leaven of sin and make you unleavened, for only what is unleavened can enter heaven. Here He fills you with the sincerity and truth of God’s Word through preaching and The Sacrament and casts out of you the wickedness of the devil and this sinful world and drowns again your sinful flesh.
So now, Marys, your questions are answered. Your fears are assuaged. What does it mean that Christ is risen? What does it mean that The Crucified One now lives and reigns unto all eternity? It means your sins are forgiven and eternal life is yours. It means sin no longer is to rule you, but you are to follow Jesus wherever He leads you, along the paths of righteousness unto eternal life. It means this message is to go out throughout all the earth. Why? So that many more may come to this Altar to eat His Body and drink His Blood and receive the remission of sins and life everlasting. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!