Grave now where is your victory? Death where now is your sting? Allelujah, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.

Inspired by the example of St. Peter, I say to you:

Congregation: listen to this. Jesus was accredited to the people of Israel by miracles, signs and wonders. He healed the sick and cast out demons. He multiplied the loaves and the fishes, he confounded the cynical minds of the religious experts with truth from the throne of heaven, he called oppressors and prostitutes into the way of righteousness and they followed him.

This man was handed over to the crowds of Jerusalem according to God’s deliberate plan, according to his sovereign will, known before the foundations of the world were laid. These crowds were quick to welcome Jesus as their King when he came riding as prophesied upon a colt and a donkey. These crowds were just as quick to turn on him and with the help of wicked priests and soldiers and tyrants to put him to death by nailing him to a wooden cross.

Do not be so quick as to blame the crowds and absolve yourself of responsibility. For it is in truth people like you and me who eagerly welcomed him and eagerly called for his blood. How quickly after celebrating this Easter service will we blaspheme, or curse, or steal glory from God in our pride, or pollute his creation by our greed or lust, or scatter his people by our resentment or contempt. Every day, every hour, our sin labours behind the hand that hammered our saviour to that tree.

Hear me then you sinners like me. Even after we had done our worst, God raised this Jesus from the dead. God raised Jesus from the agony of death because it was impossible for death to contain him. You heard me right, it was impossible for death to contain this Jesus.

King David once sang these prophetic words: Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because my Lord will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Ps. 16:9-11)

Friends, I can tell you confidently that King David died and was buried, and in Jesus’s day they knew where it was, on a narrow ridge near the spring of Gihon. But God promised David by oath that a greater son of his would one day come as King to Jerusalem. Knowing the promise, and seeing what was to come David sang of the resurrection of this promised King, that he would not be abandoned to decay. God has raised this Jesus to life and compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses to this good news.

This risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene and the women early in the morning in the garden(Matthew 28, Mark 16). In the Upper Room both without and with St Thomas he came and pronounced peace to those who abandoned him (John 20) This risen Jesus appeared to the apostles upon a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28). Our King walked with others along the road to Emmaus and broke bread with them (Luke 24). He appeared to some on the outskirts of Bethany (Luke 24). This victorious Christ cooked fish for Peter, Nathaniel and the sons of Zebedee on the seashore. He ministered in various ways among them, one who was slain, wounds in his hands and side, yet more alive than any man they had ever seen. For forty days he was with them. And then a days walk north of Jerusalem before a great crowd he ascended into heaven. I say again this is a public story, recorded in various traditions with various sources. This man had died, and yet he lived, for death could not contain him.

These stories are collected and offered to us  that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing we may have life in his name. This was done for the beloved of God that they may have certainty in what they are taught.

God has raised this Jesus, the firstborn of the dead, to new life. Exalted to the right hand of the Father he has poured out his Spirit upon the Earth. In the age of the Apostles this Spirit in them proclaimed the good news of Jesus throughout the world. Since then until now this Jesus whom humanity disdained, abandoned, humiliated and discarded raises up for himself those to praise him from ever tribe and language and people an nation.

His death is the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice of the sins of the whole world. He alone was without sin, he was the same Word that spoke the world into being, and the payment of his blood was enough to ransom every one of his people who has ever has lived or will live in him. You who can believe are gathered up in his resurrected life and adopted as sons and daughters for no other reason than that he lives and that he loves his adopted children. He loves some so much that he gives them faith, that by faith they may cling to him.

This is the bad news: that you are a frail fallen mess that cannot do the good you want to do and cannot cease from working evil.
This is the good news: the same power that made you, the power of angel armies, has taken on flesh and by his grace working in you sometimes you will able to do good works pleasing to God. The very breathe of God has been poured out into the faithful, working in you ,this Spirit will make a new heart in you, turning you more and more from evil deeds and more and more to the work for which you were made.
This is the good news: one day you will cease sinning completely and that is the day that you die.
This is the good news: that the grave for you is no longer a place of mourning, but a bed of hope, for those who are found in Christ will not be abandoned to death for ever. Although we will decay, the one who did not will teach us the path of life, he will fill us now and forever with the joy of his presence.

What then should you do? Be assured that this Jesus is your King and your God. Repent, everyone of you, and be baptised into a church community or return to a community bound by the promises of baptism. For you will receive forgiveness for your sins. For you will receive the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, of eternal life. For you you will be fed there with bread and wine to make you strong on this long pilgrimage, you will hear the Apostles’ witness and teaching, you will encourage others and perhaps in God’s mercy you will be encouraged in this our long vigil waiting for life after death. This promise is for you and for your children and for all whom the Lord our God will call.

Grave now where is your victory? Death where now is your sting? Allelujah, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.