I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done (Psalm 118:17).
For me, Easter is very personal. For me, it is a matter of life or death. I realize that millions of people celebrate that day, and, over time, there have been billions of them that did so. I admit that I do not personally know any of the people who have a role in the Easter story. Surely, none of the angels.
But I do know the one who rose from the dead on that day. Frankly, I’m glad I was not there on Easter morning. For the followers of Jesus, the day dawned dreadful. They had spent the last two days in shock and confusion. A week ago, they were filled with excitement and hope. But then, the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible, happened. Jesus was arrested. Jesus was sentenced. Jesus was dead.
What now? Where did that leave them? They had placed their hopes upon him as the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. They trusted him. They believed in him. What now? They had been moved by his words. “No man has spoken like this!” they said. But history has recorded powerful words of others who now lie in their graves. He did work miracles, did he not? Or were they fake? Or were the Pharisees right? Did he work miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the Prince of the Devils?
Was this all fraud? Were his promises empty? He had said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” But he did not stay alive. He died in weakness, just as billions of people before him. The famous Apostle put it plainly: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (I Corinthians 15:17).
For me, Easter is a matter of life or death.
I’m glad I was not in Jerusalem on that day. I fear I would have been distraught. I might have been tempted to think maybe Judas had the right idea. Why live if hope has been dashed? If faith has been lost? But I have an advantage over the Disciples and the others. I have the whole story before me. It begins with earth formless and empty, with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters.
It ends with the Spirit of God quoting Jesus, the risen Son of God, telling us, “Behold! I am coming soon!” He rose from the dead, and he will return to take his people home with him. The Easter sun evaporated doubt and confusion as the day progressed. More reports came from the empty tomb. Angels have been seen. Witnesses repeated their words to others: “He is not here! He is risen!”
He began to appear to some people: a weeping Mary Magdalene and a confused Peter. Towards evening, two disciples returned from Emmaus excitedly reporting that Jesus had walked with them on the road.
Then suddenly, there he was in the room with them, though the doors were locked. So, it is true! He does live. He has conquered death. Job was right when he had declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end, he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). So was the psalmist right who looked forward in time to see the meaning of Easter:” I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” So am I when I tell you, “I may die, but I shall live!” But I shall live. And you can, too.
We pray: Risen Savior, you offered your life to pay for our crimes against everything holy. With your resurrection, your Father marked our debt, “Paid in Full!” Because you live, we shall live. We shall live with you forever. Don’t let us forget that. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer
WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military