Easter: The First Day of Eternal Life

Reading Time: 5 mins

Sometimes loss is gain. Sometimes defeat is victory. Sometimes weakness is strength. Sometimes death is life. Sometimes, that is, when Christ is at the center, on his cross and not in his tomb.

Christ is risen, and death is buried. Christ is risen, and our sins are dead. Christ is risen, and hope rolls away sadness. Christ is risen, and the cross now stands a trophy. Christ is risen, and hell is afraid. Christ is risen, and fear is cast into hell. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

“Early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,” the Son rose, making all things new, the firstfruits of a new creation, of a better Sabbath, of an eternal rest.

“Who will roll away the stone for us?” the women wonder. If only they knew? The One who does all he does for us had already taken care of that for them. The stone was rolled away, not so Jesus could get out. He who could rise from the dead could surely find his way through stone, just as he would walk through the locked door to appear to his frightened disciples later. No, the stone was rolled away for us, for the women, that we might look in and see hope and life eternal.

They saw the angel “sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe.”

Angels do a lot of things in Scripture. They wage war. They minister to the weary. They sing in the heavens. They announce God’s mighty acts. Angels do a lot of things in Scripture, but this is the first time we find an angel just sitting. But why shouldn’t he sit? The war was won. The devil was vanquished. Death was swallowed up in life. The crucified was glorified. There was nothing else to do at the moment but sit. And so he sits on the right side, the side of the sheep, of the saints, the side of Father’s power, to which Christ would ascend, and he waits for the women to arrive.

“Do not be alarmed.”

Easier said than done. Dead people stay dead. Isn’t that kinda sorta like a rule or something? Their dead Master is gone. “Do not be alarmed.” Was he kidding?

Jesus’ words are money in the bank, so invest in them.

But he had his reasons. “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” The very reason they should not be alarmed was the very reason they were alarmed. Jesus wasn’t there. The place where they laid him was empty. But no one had stolen the body. He had risen. He was surely crucified. He was really dead. They all had known this, and the angel reassures them there was no trickery. Dead as a nail they had laid him here, but alive as the One who forever wears the nail marks as medals he had walked out.

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter.”

How merciful our Lord is! As Peter had especially disappointed Jesus in his hour of need, as Peter had especially denied him, so now Jesus makes sure that the good news of new hope, the good news of new life, the resurrection of forgiveness is announced to all the disciples, and especially, especially to Peter. The tomb springs with second chances. The tomb, like the font, stands as a constant call to renewed repentance and fresh grace. And so Peter will run to the tomb, even as we are to run to it, to run back to our baptism, when we have fallen, to receive anew with reinvigorated vigor what we had foolishly taken for granted.

“There you will see him, just as he told you.”

The Father told you so in the very beginning. Abraham told you so. Moses told you so. Joshua told you so. Job told you so. David told you so, perhaps more than anyone else, and you sang his telling you so over and over again in the Psalms. Isaiah told you so. Countless others told you so. And Jesus told you so. He couldn’t have been clearer. He would be crucified and rise again. Nothing here is a surprise, even if it is surprising. None of this should come as a shock, even if it is shocking. He told you so, and he doesn’t lie, and there is nothing that can stand between him and his promises. Jesus’ words are money in the bank, so invest in them. Jesus’ words are good as done, so never be done with them.

Clovis was the King of the Franks during the fifth and sixth centuries AD, who, at that time, were still considered barbarians. He and his warriors were known for their brutal effectiveness. They turned rivers red and ancient cities into ruins. The story goes that, when Clovis, a pagan at the time, was first told of the story of the crucifixion of Christ, he clutched his battleaxe, rose in shock and anger, and said, flush with emotion, “If I had been there with my Franks, I would have avenged his wrongs!”

And it is easy to feel that way. It is easy to assume Christ was some helpless victim. But he wasn’t. He was an innocent victim. But he was not helpless. No one took his life from him. He laid it down of his own accord. Had he wanted, he could have summoned legions of angels to his side. Christ was not vanquished. No, he was the Vanquisher sent to set the vanquished free, and so the very tree from which it would seem he had been hung in humiliation is now the sign, not of the conquered, but of the Conqueror.

It is interesting that one of the reasons why Clovis had at first been reluctant to convert to Christianity was that, when, as a pagan, he allowed his wife, who was already a Christian to baptize their son, the child died eight days later. What God would want or even merely let those baptized into his name die in such a way? Yet, as Clovis sulked and raged, his wife, Clotilda, rejoiced that God had allowed her to give birth to a son who would so quickly see the joys of heaven.

While we may not get any good ideas for names from this account, we do have a wonderful Easter lesson. Sometimes loss is gain. Sometimes defeat is victory. Sometimes weakness is strength. Sometimes death is life. Sometimes, that is, when Christ is at the center, on his cross and not in his tomb. Isn’t that why we call what seemed to be the worst Friday in history, Good Friday? Isn’t that why we sing of death at Christian Baptisms and life at Christian funerals? Isn’t that why we don’t cringe at the wounds of our crucified King, but, rather, take refuge in them? Isn’t that why we commemorate the martyred saints, not on the day they were born, but on the day they were savagely murdered? Isn’t that why we put crosses in cemeteries full of tombs that will one day be emptied?

Sometimes loss is gain. Sometimes defeat is victory. Sometimes weakness is strength. Sometimes death is life. Sometimes, that is, when Christ is at the center, on his cross and not in his tomb.

When Clovis was going to be baptized, he entered the church with the local bishop as the Psalms were being chanted. Clovis turned to the bishop and asked if they had entered already the kingdom of heaven. The bishop replied, “No, but it is the beginning of the way to it.”

This is the beginning of the way to heaven. By the cross, “It is finished.” The angel sits casually, the war being won. By the empty tomb, “It is begun.” The angel announces new life and a new start for those who had abandoned Jesus. By your baptism these events have become your events. You too have died to sin. It is finished. You too have risen, dripping with Christ’s victory. It is begun. And Christ has well-equipped you for the way. He has given you food for the journey, his own body and blood, the very sacrifice that opened the pearly gates of your eternal home. It is begun, even as it is finished.

This is your new day. By Christ’s resurrection, it is the first day of eternal life. Have you come to the tomb early? Rejoice! Have you come late? Rejoice! Have you come to remember the dead? Rejoice! Have you come seeking the living? Rejoice! Have you come to escape your sin? Rejoice! Have you come to find your forgiveness? Rejoice! Have you come in faith? Rejoice! Have you come looking for something to believe? Rejoice! No matter how you have come, rejoice, for your Jesus lives! He lives, and he lives for you!