Easter Vigil

Pastor Peter K. Lange, KS District President

April 15, 2017

Sermon Texts: Genesis 1,7-9 ⁃ Exodus 14-15 ⁃ Deuteronomy 3 ⁃ Mark 16

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the grave. And that means that death cannot hold you!

Two weeks from today, one of our LCMS congregations in Wichita will host a day-long seminar at which our own Pastor Kerns will be guest preacher. The keynote presenter at that conference will speak on the theme:
“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”
… a wonderful question that reminds us that the Old Testament people of God were saved by faith in the same Christ whose death and resurrection we celebrate this weekend.

Three thousand, seven hundred, and seventy-seven.

That’s how many words from the Old Testament we’ve heard this evening, in five longer-than-usual readings. Three thousand, seven hundred, and seventy-seven words. And Christ was present throughout!

He was present as God “spoke” the creation into being, day by day, element by element.“And God said”… and there was evening, and there was morning”… six successive days of creating Word. “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God” St. John says in chapter one of his Gospel. “All things were made through Him [i.e. through the Word who was with God the Father]. And without Him was not anything made that was made.”
And so we prayed at the end of that first reading: “Almighty God, through Your Word [and Spirit] You most wonderfully created all things.”

“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”

He was present at the time of Noah—prefigured by the ark of gopher wood which carried God’s elect safely through the storm and tempest, saving the gathered people of God by means of the very water that put to death sin and evil, yet delivered God’s people safely in the ark.
And so we prayed: “O Lord… You saved faithful Noah and his family in the ark. Keep us in safety in the ark of Christ’s body, the Church.”

“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”

He was present for Abraham and his son, his only son Isaac whom he loved… present as the angel of the Lord who called to Abraham, and stayed his knife-clutching hand… prefigured in the ram whom God Himself provided as a substitute for the required offering.
And so we prayed: “You provided a substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac. In the fullness of time, You sent Your Son, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, to lay down His life that we might live.”

“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”

He was present with Moses and the people of Israel as they fled the Egyptians… present again as the angel of God “who was going before the host of Israel”… and prefigured by the pillar of cloud and fire that led them… and by Moses himself who served as intermediary between God and the people.
And so we prayed: “O God, You once… led [Your people] by a pillar of cloud and fire through the sea to safety. Grant that we may so follow Christ that through the waters of Baptism we may daily die and rise with Him and walk in safety through the wilderness of this life.”

“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”

And lastly, he was present in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “walking in the midst of the fire” as the fourth man, and appearing “like a son of the gods.”
And so we prayed: “O God, Your Son protected faithful Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace of the king. Grant us protection… knowing that we are safe in Your Son, Jesus Christ.”

“Where ISN’T Christ in the Old Testament?”

Where ISN’T Jesus TODAY, when His mighty, saving acts are needed in your life?

Where ISN’T Jesus TODAY, when the guilt and shame of your worst, sinful thoughts, words, and deeds leave you flushed, and sleepless, tortured in conscience, and fearful of meeting your Maker?

Where ISN’T Jesus TODAY, when you live life in view of an all-but-certain end to your earthly existence… hopefully after the normal course of life?

Where ISN’T Jesus TODAY?

He is not in the grave! “He is risen! He is not here!” the angel said to the women on that first Easter morning. And that is the Easter Gospel!

The Christ who was present throughout the Old Testament…
The Christ who is the eternal Son of God, “begotten of the Father before all eternity”… …who was born, in time, of the Virgin Mary so He could rescue you, and me, and the whole world from the greatest calamity of our otherwise-hopeless bondage to sin…

This Jesus who died for you on the accursed tree is all-powerful over the very death He submitted to! He is stronger than the grave! He is Lord of heaven and earth, and death and hell! And He has blown the lid off of that vault that held him! “He is risen! He is not here!”

But He IS in the Feast of Victory over sin, death, and hell that we share when we gather with Him. He IS in the sweet Supper that fills us with His holy and redeeming body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins… His body and blood that incorporates us into His own body which has already burst the bonds of Satan, and sits at the right hand of the Father.

Easter is the glad story of where Jesus ISN’T, and what that means for your future.

And our baptismal incorporation into His body, the Church—which we have remembered again in this Vigil—is the glad story of where Jesus IS, and what that means for every day of your life!