Old Testament: Exodus 14:10-15:1/Jeremiah 31:1-6 (Easter Sunday: Series A)
Jesus is both “the way” and “the way out” of the nightmare called death AND He has secured it for you in His resurrection which you are connected to in the waters of your baptism.
Exodus 14:10-15:1 contains the Gospel in the Old Testament, which is gospel for the New Testament as well because the Gospel is: “the Lord saved... from” (14:30). The Old Testament frames this Gospel as the LORD saved Israel from the enemy of Egypt, whereas the New Testament frames this Gospel as the LORD Jesus saved us from the enemies of sin, death, and the Devil. In both accounts, the Gospel moves from fear to faith, from slavery to freedom, from death to life. The Exodus text is an appropriate reading for Easter, especially considering the segment known as “at the morning watch” (verse 24; also compare with 12:42), which is celebrated in the Lutheran Service Book hymn #487, “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain.” Traditionally, Exodus 15:1b–13, 17–18 is also included in this reading, but Jeremiah 31:1-6 also carries the same line of thought, which is the other reading for Easter in this series of the lectionary.
The movement from fear to faith is ironic. The Israelites panic when they see the Egyptian troops pursuing them. They complain to Moses: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness” (14:11)? Previously, Israel was “going out boldly” (verse 8), even “prepared for battle” (13:18). Now, courage has turned to fear at the very moment of salvation! Even while they feared the grave, God was saving them (Romans 5:8)! In fear, they would rather turn back to slavery than risk freedom: “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (14:12). Fear of death has stifled their yearning for freedom (2:23). As it always is with God’s people, they must be dragged, kicking and screaming into God’s saving grace (Romans 5:8). What is interesting about this account is the focus is on Israel being saved from Pharaoh. He is like a “boogieman” who keeps coming after them. Pharoah is ruthless and relentless as the grave in his pursuit of God’s people. The violence of our text is almost as uncomfortable as the violence on Good Friday. The defeat of evil, though, is not achieved by peaceful diplomacy but through warfare. “God is the warrior, and God’s people are the passive recipients of His work (Exodus 14:14; also see 15:3). God fights against Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers” (14:17, 18, 23, 26, 28 - five times). In the end, the corpses of “the entire army of Pharaoh” (14:28) that litter the seashore” are the proof God is the “death of death” which would also pursue us as a vigilant enemy.
Unfortunately, Christians often ignore this text on Easter Sunday. But in both Old Testament lessons (Exodus 14:10-15:1 and Jeremiah 31:1-6), God has conquered the power of evil which comes in the form of death. Exodus 14:10-15:1 ends with Miriam’s company of women rejoicing with tambourines, singing and dancing, the deepest expression of Israel’s faith and of Easter joy which is the most explicit reference to Jeremiah 31:1–6. Here is why this homiletical help is written for both texts because they are both treating the same theme. God saved them from their enemies, they are brought from death to life and His people praise Him for it.
God saved them from their enemies, they are brought from death to life and His people praise Him for it.
Since our text(s) move from trouble to solution, the sermon structure which best serves the preaching of our pericope(s) from the themes present in the text is the Four Pages Structure. This arrangement organizes the sermon on the basis of two experiences that God’s Word creates in the lives of the hearers: God’s rescue of His people and defeat of our enemy death in the work of Christ by the power of His resurrection.
“This structure has similarities to the problem-solution structure (of the thematic designs) and the Lowry-loop structure (of the dynamic designs) and it has recently been popularized by Paul Scott Wilson in The Four Pages of the Sermon. In this work, Wilson speaks of four rhetorical units in the sermon, two of them based upon law and two based upon the gospel: (1) Trouble in the world, (2) trouble in the text, (3) grace in the text, and (4) grace in the world. During the course of the sermon, the preacher will take his hearers through these four experiences. As Wilson notes, the preacher can vary the way in which he orders the references to these four rhetorical units in order to create some variety with this design.”
For our purposes, I would suggest a comprehensive movement from trouble to grace.
“Here, the sermon begins by presenting trouble in the world and trouble in the text and then proclaims grace in the text and grace in the world. This structure works well when a particular sin is widely known and experienced in a congregation and the preacher desires to help the congregation see how they, in this way, are very similar to people in the biblical text. Preserving the placement of grace in the text at the major turn of the sermon allows the preacher to highlight God’s gracious intervention as recorded in Scripture as the source of our present trust and hope.”
Here is a possible outline for a sermon based off this structure and text for Easter Sunday. Of course, it will need further development by the preacher to ground it in the life of their people. This only serves as a homiletical help to see how text and structure can hold together with an appropriate illustration of participation.
Theme: The Lord saved Israel from their enemy Pharaoh. Jesus saved us from death by destroying the power of death in His resurrection.
(1) Trouble in the world - I hate horror movies. How about you? It is not just the violence and carnage but really one scene in particular, the one where they are being chased. I just cannot stand that. I feel like I am the one being chased. It is so awful. Sometimes in life, we get the feeling something is chasing after us. You can call it time. You can call it inevitability. You can call it anything you want, but it always looks horrifyingly similar to the grave in the end.
(2) Trouble in the text – Israel knew that feeling as well. Look at our reading. There was something chasing them through the water. It was Pharoah and his armies. God’s people were freshly saved from slavery in Egypt and making their way through the water to the Promised Land, but Pharoah still would not give up his relentless pursuit of them. What a nightmare! It is like one of those scenes out of a horror movie. He is as relentless as the grave.
(3) Grace in the text – Israel cried out: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness” (14:11)? God answered as He sent the sea crashing down on Egypt’s army preventing their enemy from getting at them forever. God’s reply to their question was to shut the doors of that watery grave forever with His people standing safe and alive on the other side. Because, to quote Johnny Cash, “There ain’t no grave that can hold this body down!” God’s answer was: “No enemy can get at you through this way, through this water.” God has made a way AND He has secured it for His people. The Lord saved them from their enemy.
(4) Grace in the world – In our honest moments, we might ask a similarly horrifying question of life sometimes: “Was this life only a slow (horror movie-esque) march through the mud towards a grave?” Jesus’ answer was to show you there was no grave that could hold His body down. He, as the prophet greater than Moses (Hebrews 3-4), has led this host, the Church, once captive to every enemy of sin, death, and the power of the Devil, safely to the other side of our baptisms (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Here, no enemy can get at us and “there ain’t no grave that can hold your body down” either. Jesus is both “the way” and “the way out” of the nightmare called death AND He has secured it for you in His resurrection which you are connected to in the waters of your baptism (Romans 6:1-11). No enemy can get at you; not your sin, not anything in the world (Romans 8:38-39), not even Satan. Jesus has triumphed gloriously (Exodus 15:1). The Lord has saved you today from your every enemy! Therefore, we say: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Jesus has triumphed gloriously. The Lord has saved you today from your every enemy!
A fun closing illustration which will illustrate the need for the full message of the Gospel today from both the Old Testament and the New Testament is given in this great historical event dealing with the Battle of Waterloo:
“History buffs, especially of naval battles, will recall that one of the most decisive battles of the Napoleonic Wars, Waterloo, was fought in a small area on the main road leading south from Brussels. It was the first clash of the Titans, Napoleon Bonaparte versus the Duke of Wellington. It was a win-all/lose-all scenario.
As the battle played out, the British forces, aided by the Prussians, were successful in driving back and defeating Napoleon’s forces.
As can be imagined, England anxiously awaited word of the outcome of the war. One story tells of a sailor on a sailing ship crossing the English Channel and approaching England’s southern coast picking up his semaphore flags and sending a message “WELLINGTON DEFEATED.”
Suddenly, dense fog swirled across the deck, engulfing the ship. The sad, heart-wrenching news of the incomplete message was sent to London and swept the nation with gloom and despair. But after long hours of waiting, the thick fog lifted.
Again, the sailor on deck picked up the semaphore flags and signaled. He then began spelling out the complete message of the battle: “WELLINGTON DEFEATED THE ENEMY.” British hearts were lifted with joy.”
Jesus’ death and resurrection is the true historical event which was the decisive battle to shape your salvation and eternal life in Christ. Jesus fought this battle for you on a small area off the main road leading to Jerusalem called Calvary. It was the clash between God and our sins, which the Devil would use to hold us captive in death and judgment forever. All would be lost if we only had half of the story: Jesus died. If we leave a fog between the Old Testament and the New Testament, we will stay at Calvary and not hear the rest of the good news today. But when the sun/Son rose on the third day, the fog of grief from the disciples was lifted as they learned the rest of the Easter message. Jesus is alive! The message will and must always be that Jesus died and rose again. This is the full good news we need.
Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Jeremiah 31:1-6.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Exodus 14:10-15:1 or Jeremiah 31:1-6.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Exodus 14:10-15:1 or Jeremiah 31:1-6.
 Thomas W. Mann, “Exegetical Perspective on Exodus 14:10–31; 15:20–21” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 2 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 329–333.
 The Telegram (St. John's) (30 Mar 2013), by Major David Braye https://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-telegram-st-johns/20130330/282553015696594