Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
I have been thinking about life’s journey. We can think about Jesus’s journey. We can think about our own journeys. We can think about the beginning and the end of our journeys.
Four months ago we were in this place singing, reading, praying, celebrating Jesus’s birth. That was the celebration of the beginning of His journey on earth. He was conceived and born. All of us have had this beginning.
When we follow Jesus’s journey through Holy Week, we may be inclined to think that His journey ended when His dead body was laid in the tomb. We commemorated this event two days ago on Good Friday. Isn’t that where all journeys end for us humans, with death?
But then a question breaks into our world. This question broke the silence early on that First day of the week, the Third Day of which Jesus had spoken, when the angels asked the women: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
Are the angels crazy? Are they for real? Are they mocking our pain? Are the angels so dense as to not realize that death is final?
But how could angels be crazy and dense like that, especially since they are sent by God the Father? Still, the women could have been thinking: “Where else would we be seeking the dead body of Jesus than here at the tomb? We saw Him die on that cross. We saw them lay His body here in this tomb. Don’t play games with us.” According to all common, human experience, they could have been thinking that Jesus’s journey ended when He died.
But God does not play games with us.
So we are glad to be able to say today in all seriousness and joy that Jesus’s death was not the end of His journey. There is a different ending to this story, to His journey. His journey did not end when He died. Today we celebrate the fact, the great wonderful, glorious fact, that Jesus’s journey ended when His now living body vacated the tomb and left it empty.
Let’s say that again, because it is so much fun to say. Jesus’s journey ended when His now living body vacated the tomb and left it empty; vacated the tomb and left it empty.
Death is left empty. Life is full and lives in its glorious fulness.
But now you could say, “Pastor. That is not really an end, but a new beginning.”
And I would say, “I’m so glad you said so. I would agree, entirely.”
The end of Jesus’s journey that we celebrate today is not an end, but a new beginning. Jesus lives. Death no longer has any power over Him. The end of Jesus’s journey is to live again, in indestructible life. And this end is not an end, but a new beginning.
But what then is Jesus’s new journey? This new journey involves more than just Himself. It involves His church, those gathered in His Name. It involves you and me. It is the calling of us to participate in His resurrection life.
Christ lives, and He lives to be our life. He lives to be the strength and power of our faith in God. He lives to be the reality and power of our hope in God. He lives to live in us and through us. “I no longer live,” says the Apostle Paul, “but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
And so now we can speak of our journeys. Like Christ’s, our journeys started when we are conceived and born. And then our journeys went on through the twists and turns of life, the growth, the ups and downs, the triumphs and failures, the joys and heartbreaks, up till now. And Jesus is with us through it all. His new journey is living with us in our journeys, every step of the way.
He lives to give us new birth and claim us as His own in Baptism. He lives to correct us, teach us, and sometimes rebuke us with the truth. He lives to love us always, to forgive us through His word, and to give us the strength of faith and hope. He lives to feed our faith mysteriously with His true body and blood, the true body and blood that atoned for us and reconciled us to God and is now risen from the dead.
He lives to hear us, as we call upon Him. He lives to carry us by His almighty loving power when we feel like we cannot go on, when life seems to lose its meaning and hope, when we are suffering great loss.
And then we must also go down to our graves—unless He returns before then. Is going to our graves the end of our journeys?
We do not belittle the pain and heartache involved in death. It takes our breath away. We feel the fear it can bring, the pain of the loss. Christ is with us there.
But we also embrace a reality today as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The end of our journeys is not our deaths. Our journeys end in the presence of the Father in everlasting life. Our journeys end when the risen Jesus returns and calls forth our dead bodies from the grave in indestructible, resurrection life. This will happen to you and me in our journeys, just as it happened to Jesus in His journey. Our journeys end in everlasting life and resurrection because that is where Jesus’s journey ended.
Am I crazy to say such things? Are we crazy to believe such things, to sing about such things? No more than the angels were that day.
Again, we do not make light of the pain. We mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. But today we get to embrace a reality that gives hope to our mourning and substance to our rejoicing. God calls us in His love to embrace this unfailing promise: The end of all of our journeys, as we put our hope and trust in Christ, is not death, but resurrection life. We embrace this promise because resurrection life was the journey’s end for Jesus.
But now you could say, “Pastor, that does not sound like an end, but a new beginning.” And I would be so glad to hear you say it. I would agree, entirely.
The end our journeys in resurrection life will not be the end, but a new beginning. Our end will be a new beginning that never ends in the everlasting joy of the Father. Death will no longer have anything to say or to do with us, because it no longer has anything to say or to do with Jesus.
We are a people whose journeys end in life. We are people always with the hope and promise of life and of new beginning. This is all because we can say this morning in truth and faith,
Jesus is risen.
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!