Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Except no one acts like he is, do they? You read through the events of that first Easter. How do the people, who dedicated three years of their life listening to Jesus and taking his words to heart, act? They mourn! They mope! They tremble in fright! Right?
Why else do you think Mary Magdalene dashes to the tomb Sunday morning? She expects to find a body! When she arrives and discovers the tomb empty, she panics. She cries— even when angels are sitting right there! Peter and John sprint to the tomb, find no body, and hurry back to their hiding spot. Two disciples sulk along the road to Emmaus. Their faces are downcast; their hopes dashed! The death of Jesus means the death of their misguided dreams for earthly power! Then the eleven remaining disciples huddle together in a locked room. They fear that if they are identified as Jesus-followers, then they might suffer the same fate as Jesus. The very moment Jesus appears to the Eleven, what are their first reactions? Fear! Doubt! They think Jesus is a ghost! Would you ever guess these are the emotional and physical responses to the very first Easter? Panic and tears and fears and doubt?
How could it not be? If Jesus is missing from life, that’s all there is— panic and tears and fears and doubt. You would have no reason to Sing & Shout!
Why? Well, God so clearly says: Rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish (Isaiah 1:28).
He made this known to the Israelites so long ago. These are people God himself rescued from slavery and carried into a brand new country. These are people who gather around a mountain called “Sinai.” There, they receive God’s Ten Commandments; there, they learn what kind of life is pleasing to God. These are people who carry the promise of Jesus and the promise of eternal life in heaven!
And— Israel? They take all these words, all these promises, all these proofs and reject every single one. No longer does this nation seek God in his Word. Rather, they run off to fortune tellers and psychics, hoping to get answers for their future (2:6). Factories pump out idols— little objects of stone and wood and metal. People trust these non-existent deities over a God who used fire and cloud to reveal his presence (2:8). Humanity thumps its chest, boasting about human strength and refusing any use for God (2:7). Oh, yes, they still worshiped in God’s temple— but not because they wanted to. They went because they thought God only wanted people there (and not their hearts). Instead of offering their finest, they dumped off sick, diseased, and dying animals. Religious holidays morphed into empty-minded traditions (1:12-14). Jesus is found nowhere in their life; they have no spiritual relationship with their Savior!
If you think God does not care about their actions or that he is like an earthly parent who overlooks wrong, then you are wrong. God makes it oh-so-clear: “They have rejected … the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people (Isaiah 5:24-25). God doesn’t simply say these words; he enforces them. He allows a powerful enemy to march right up to the city gates and crush the nation. Israelite homes are burned, leaders dragged away, and life extinguished. And not just physical life, but spiritual life forever in heaven!
This is what rebellion deserves. Rebellion against a Holy God places you squarely under his anger. That, my friends, sucks out any reason to Sing & Shout in life. Because if we are honest with ourselves, we know that God could easily substitute out the name “Israel” and plug in our names. Yes, you may not actually fist-pump and boast about your willpower. Rather, when nuclear talks heat up, do you immediately “Call upon God in the day of trouble” (Psalm 50:15), or do you run for comfort in the might of your human military-strength? I am sure you are not worshiping little wooden statues at home. No, it is more enjoyable to worship the blessings of money, status, and power, instead of worshiping the Giver of these blessings! Yes, we are here this morning gathered in worship, and still, maybe you found that on the way here your heart pumped out excuses to avoid worship.
And yes, you can grow so accustomed to these behaviors that you no longer realize where your heart finds its comfort. You can make excuses why you can trust humanity first and God as a last resort. You can try to defend your love for stuff. You can try to justify staying away from worship. Yet, at heart of it all, is that these are really nothing more than excuses— attempts to do what you want instead of living the life God expects. The threats God makes, not only applies to Israel, but to everyone who turns their back and heart away from their God!
That is why the Lord’s anger burns. He does not tolerate a prideful creation thumbing their nose at him. As a just God he will not let sin go unpunished. So, he pours out his fiery anger. He allows enemies to strip away every comfort from his Holy One. He watches as the life of his Son flickers out. The Father turns away from Jesus, leaving him alone to suffer his fiery anger—until the life of Jesus cancels out every last rebellious act.
That is why you can Sing & Shout today. Listen to our reading: “In that day you will say: ‘I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.’” Who turns God’s angry wrath away? You did not turn God’s anger away. Your offerings are not counted as repayment for your guilt. You did not make a promise to God: “God, I will behave better if only you forgive me.” What makes Easter day the day of Singing & Shouting is that the Lord, compelled by his mercy, chose to turn his anger away from you.
If Jesus is missing from your life, then all there is, is panic and tears and fears and doubt. You would know how to escape death. Yet, the joy we celebrate this morning is that God is [your] salvation! [T]rust in him and do not be afraid! Look to the tomb and rejoice that it stands empty. This stands as a sign that you owe nothing to make yourself right with God! A sign that Jesus has left no sin unpaid! The Lord, the Lord, is [your] strength and [your] song; he has become [your] salvation.
What a reason for Mary’s fear, panic, and dread to melt away! Her Jesus is not dead, but alive! He does not appear to condemn, but proclaim himself as your salvation, your ticket out of death. Sing & Shout! Because God’s anger has turned away! And you get to make known what he has done.
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. “Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” “Calling on God’s name” is another way of saying: Praising God. On a day like today, it’s easy to do. You sit in beautiful sanctuary with your hearts and minds set on Jesus. The sight of Easter lilies proclaim new life. Songs of resurrection from death, from sin, and from the power of the devil burst out of you. Whether this is your first Easter or your umpteenth Easter, you Sing & Shout hymns and prayers to the Risen Lord!
Make God’s saving love known in your life. You have the opportunity to gather in public worship and be refreshed with the things God has worked for you. Recommit yourself to reading the Bible and to worship. Listen to the words as they really are: the Words of God, your Father. Make known what God has done by growing in your knowledge of God’s saving love.
Even on a day much like those early hours of Easter morning, when the disciples visited a cemetery, make known to yourself what God has done. Recently I read an article about a 4-year-old child who died after a brave fight with cancer. If you ever have watched your little child get sick, let alone die, you would gladly take his place so that you could spare his suffering. It hurts to see that little life with so much potential, flicker out before you. It hurts to know most of all, that sin has brought this horrible thing we call “death” into our life. It can even leave a little bitter taste in your mouth— because, no matter what memories you still have— you would rather have the person standing beside you.
Easter allows you to make known what God has done. When you face the heartache of death, you have a greater joy than simply that the life of your loved one rests in your memories. Your joy is in the fact that Jesus stepped into your world to break death forever. When you stand in the cemetery beside that headstone, know that will one day Jesus will be standing in that same place. He will open the door of that casket. You, and your loved ones, will open your eyes and see his radiating face. You will see him with your own eyes, in your own flesh— you and not another! (Job 19:25-27). Make known to yourself what God has done! Revisit this resurrection promise again and again. And Sing & Shout!
In his mercy, God has turned his anger away from you. You have a Savior who endured God’s wrath so that you can gather on this Easter Sunday— not in panic and tears and fears and doubt. You can gather with the deep, satisfying joy that Jesus has spared your life from eternal anger. God’s anger has turned away.
Make known what he has done in your life. Leave confident that you, too, will rise from the dead. Be refocused to run to God in every crisis and joy. Wake up tomorrow (and each day), remembering that your Jesus has made all things well! Sing & Shout! God’s anger has turned away and make known what he has done.
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