Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter Vigil April 7, 2012

April 7, 2012
Destroying the Enemy
Psalm 118; Exodus 14

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for tonight is the story of the exodus and crossing of the Red Sea as recorded in the Book of Exodus, chapter 14, as well as Psalm 118.

We gather here tonight to keep vigil, or watch, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. What makes this night different from any other night? We asked this on Holy Thursday, but we must ask the question again tonight. Why should we gather here and hope and trust that our Lord has risen from the grave? Why should we, modern day people, care two hoots about an event that happened close to two thousand years ago?

We keep vigil tonight because Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead is the defining event in the history of the world. We see the world through His death and resurrection. If you look at the world any other way, it simply is not reality. Tonight is the night of nights, where we rejoice in the steadfast love of God, who would not leave us to wallow in our sins or suffer death and separation from Him forever.

But sitting here at night, remembering with the women and the disciples that our Lord has laid dead in the tomb, the fears of death and the grave can be overwhelming.

The people of Israel were faced with these fears almost 3,500 years ago. Relentless Pharaoh pursued them. He had it in for them. He sought to kill the whole lot of them. Their very lives, their very existence as the people of God was in jeopardy. The armies of Pharaoh were on one side, the Red Sea on the other. What would they do? Would God deliver them? Would they even survive?

This is your lot as children of death. We are lost and hopeless. We, like them so many years ago, are in darkness and left with fear because of our sins. We are surrounded by our enemies like a swarm of bees from the nest (Psalm 118:12). Our enemies, sin, death and the devil himself, seem to press in upon every side. Will God deliver us? Will God see us through this life and into the life to come?

We know the rest of the story of Israel, of course. God opened a path for them right through the middle of the sea, so that they were safe on dry ground. The water that once spelled their death now was their salvation. God saved them through the water, by protecting them and by destroying their enemies.

My dear friends in Christ, tonight we learn what this story is really about. This great story in the history of Israel was but a picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and the life that is now yours through Holy Baptism.

When Jesus died on the cross, He was laid to rest in the tomb. For three days He rested in the grave. But after three days, He burst forth from the tomb. God had exalted Him, He had lifted Him up out of the grave and death. As Paul said, “Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:9).

Jesus rose triumphant from the grave! Just as the people of Israel passed through the sea of death to life everlasting, Jesus passed through death to life. Pharaoh is Satan, that old evil foe who seeks your life. But you are loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke! Because you are baptized into His name, that journey is now your journey. You have passed from death to life through the holy waters of Baptism. You have traveled with Israel through the Red Sea and death, and have come out dry and safe on the other side. Satan is left at the bottom of the sea with your sins.

This is the song of all creation. His death is your death, and His life is your life. The women brought incense and spices to Jesus’ tomb to bury Him. These spices and incense were used to cover up the smell of death. But the smell that was meant to cover up death is now for us a reminder of life, eternal life in Him.

With Jesus’ resurrection from death the power of Satan is undone, the power of death is finished, the power of hell is gone forever. So rejoice in your risen Savior! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24). Pray and watch this night, for we rise in the morning to greet Him with the dawn of a new day, the Lord’s Day, the day of the Resurrection of the Dead.

In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

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