Easter Vigil 2006

Easter Vigil
Matthew 28:1-7

Transcribed by Ms. Heidi Mueller

Dearly Beloved,

We should speak well of the dead. There is no joy for us in the death of our enemies. For the Lord taketh no pleasure in the death of a sinner, and we have no enemies in the family of Jesus Christ.

But even in the case of the most vile of men, even if we are talking Hitler and Stalin and Timothy McVeigh, we should strive to speak with respect. No matter how badly we have been treated or abused, no matter what they have done to us or to those that we love, we should still remember they are but men like us. Those who die apart from Christ go to a place where there is no joy, and where the punishment is both just and eternal. How can we take glee or pleasure in that? How could we be glad when we know that it is unnecessary, that Jesus loved them also until the end, that He longed to gather them to Himself in perfect grace? Christ our Lord has not called us to vengeance in any case, no matter how vile or despicable the criminal or the terrorist, the rapist, whatever. He has called us to compassion, to mercy. He has called us to love our enemies.

Triumphalism has no place in the Church of Jesus Christ. So no matter if it is a good man who dies or a bad man who dies, it is a man. It is one of us. And at some level we are all brothers and sisters, related through Noah and through Adam, and even when evil men meet their end we should then respond in humility and in fear, and speak as well as we might of them. For barring the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will all die the common death of man, and all men are to some degree victims. In any case, the sorrow and demise of our enemies cannot bring us joy or gladness; only repentance and faith can do that. And our desire is never that anyone would be damned. Rather our desire is the same as the desire of Jesus Christ: that all men would turn and receive His benediction and be saved.

But there is one exception. There is one for whom we hold no respect. We renounce the Devil, his works and his ways. Yesterday the lamb was slain. We do not mourn for Him either. He is not dead. Jesus lives. The doorposts of our hearts have been sprinkled with His blood, poured down our throats, and the destroying angel, with his sacrificial knife, fearful and terrifying, has passed over us. We are safe. We are protected by the precious blood of our living Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us. And so it is that tonight hell mourns its firstborn, while we dance on the Devil´s grave. Our piety has no sympathy, no compassion for that worst of all tyrants who held us for so long in bondage, who deceived our mother Eve, who has tormented us through the years with lies and temptations, who is responsible for all the evil that is known to man. We have no respect, no humility, no fear, no sorrow at his destruction. We rejoice that the devil is dead and his held in hell, and we are free.

Let us hoist the crushed head of the serpent up on a stick and place it at the city´s gate. Let all of hell´s demons and death know that they have lost, they are done, they can harm us none. Our Redeemer lives, and we are marked with His blood. Hell has no power, nothing left to threaten us with. The stronger Man has routed the last enemy. He has absorbed death´s sting. He has stolen the grave´s victory. He made us men again as men were meant to be: in fellowship with Him, beloved by Him, belonging to Him. And the devil has lost everything. Jesus has overcome and won the day. He has restored creation and trounced Satan. He has broken all the devil´s lying teeth and the devil´s fury is spent.

There is no fury left for you, not one drop.  The accusations against you have all been silenced. You are clean. You are free. You are innocent in heaven. Your sins are all forgotten. They were no match for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. It was His and His Father´s will to save you from the beginning, and now it is finished. Death is done. It has met its end. Jesus lives.

This is really quite a simple defeat in the end: the serpent destroyed himself. He sought to satisfy his own hunger and malice. He could not resist. He succumbed to temptation. He crawled on his belly to the cross and swallowed the dust of Mary´s Son. That Dust filled his mouth until there was no room for us. He spit us out and then that Dust took away the devil´s breath. It removed his might and armor, and while the serpent put the Dust of our dust in Mary´s Son to death, and Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross and breathed His last, the Dust crushed the serpent´s head in the act, and now it is death who is dead. Death has no claim on us, no room or place for us. It is finished and Jesus still lives. The serpent has met his end. His skull is crushed. He cannot get up. He will not rise. He is as dead as death, and we are free and alive in Christ Jesus, and our joy is before us, for Jesus lives.

His tomb is empty. His soul returned from heaven to the Dust of Eve, and then took that Body up into heaven to prepare a place for you. This is the very purpose for which our Lord joined Himself in the virgin´s womb to our dust, to our death, to our demise. He came to be our substitute, to take our place, to stop the devil´s mouth, and to do what Adam should have done but did not.  You are His Eve, and He will not let the Devil tempt you any more. He will not let him have you. He will not let him win. Someone had to die for the sins of Eve and for yours, so Jesus died to make you free, to satisfy justice and to open up heaven for you. He is Dust of our dust, Bone of our bones, Ashes of our ashes.

So what does it mean for us, “dust to dust, ashes to ashes’? It means for us now that we go to Jesus, that our dust goes where His Dust has preceded, that our ashes follow Him to His Father´s side, there to worship with all of the saints forevermore. Returning to dust and resting in the womb of the earth is simply passing through death to Jesus. It is how we are joined to Him, dust to Dust, at last and forever with Jesus, when the good work He has begun in you is complete. By His death and resurrection He has paved your way into paradise. He has ascended to His Father to bring you there. He has joined Himself to you in Mary´s Dust in order to join you to His Divinity. He is risen. And soon you shall be risen as well.

Waste no sympathy on the Devil. The ancient darkness has been banished. Sin, death, and the Devil are no more, and we are finally free. All wickedness is put to flight. Man is reconciled to God in Christ. Immortality and life are bestowed on the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, the Devil has lost, Jesus has won. God be praised He is risen. Let the dancing and the trumpets begin.

In +Jesus´ name.
Pastor David Petersen

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