The old saying is true, “You can’t keep a good man down.” They tried to shut him up. They yelled with their shrill cries, “crucify him.” The holy and gentle Son of God was dressed in a purple robe. They mocked him and whipped him with shards of glass. They pressed a crown of thorns upon his innocent head. He carried your sins up that blood stained mountain. They tore his flesh with nails and pounded a spike through his feet. They lifted him up with his arms stretched out to embrace the whole world in love. He said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Then, in victory, He cried out, “It is finished.” He bowed his head and gave up His spirit.
They tried to keep a good man down but how could they? Death came into the world through one man – and now he who knew no sin became sin for us. And because he was truly innocent – guiltless, and without sin, what claim did death and the devil hold upon him? Nothing! No, death and hell could not hold him.
He burst forth from the grave. The angels rolled aside the stone from the entrance of the tomb and just like our Easter liles – Jesus was alive, in full bloom, fresh and risen the grave. He walked out. The earth shook, the graves trembled, the power of death cracked under His feet.
All the Scriptures bear witness to this moment. You can’t keep a good man down. So when Mary Magdalene showed up at the grave this morning she found not the dead body of Jesus but angels announcing that He has risen.
You can’t keep a good man down and so God became a man to get the job done. To bear the curse of fallen humanity, to die for us all, and be raised up again – to unbar the gates of paradise for all who believe. All through the forgiveness of sins – purchased and won through his death and glorious resurrection.
Mary and the disciples would soon see Jesus that day, alive, still bearing the marks of the nails in his feet and hands. But now he uses those feet to go to his disciples to announce this good news Himself. He uses his pierced hands now to bless – and declare his undying love for sinners, telling them to go to the ends of the world, teaching everything that he has commanded, preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This morning dear Christians we are not celebrating some great event that happened a long time ago. No. The history of mankind revolves around this day. He said, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” This is my true body given for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
The same Christ, risen from the grave and victorious, who lives and reigns to all eternity, is present on our altar this morning.
He is here at St. Paul Lutheran church in Wittenberg. Offering the gifts won from the cross and empty tomb. Offering Himself - His life-giving body and blood. Gifts which Christians have long called the andidote to death and the medicine of immortality.
You can’t keep a good man down. You can’t keep a Christian down either. Sure we suffer down here. Our loved ones die, children rebel, wander, and are sometimes even taken away. Our sins haunt us. Work is difficult and sometimes even dangerous for our health. Everything breaks down.
Maybe your Easter ham today will be overcooked and won’t receive any compliments. Perhaps your Easter dress didn’t look as good as you had hoped. But know this - every trouble in life, whether it be bitter loss, death itself, or even minor inconveniences – like ham and clothing all have the same answer, and the answer is this: He is risen.
If you really want to take the day in properly – take a walk through the cemetery and consider that this short life of labor is not the sum and substance of life. Jesus is, and pretty soon now the trumpets will blast and he will come again.
He will descend from the clouds with the mighty blast of a trumpet, with all the armies of his blessed angels, and all people whether Christian, atheist, or uninterested, will be woken up to eternal punishment or eternal joy. He will separate the sheep from the goats, the faithful from the unfaithful, the chaff from the wheat, believers from unbelievers, because there is a distinction between life and death – a difference between the children of this evil age and the children of God.
You can’t keep a good man down and neither will a Christian stay down in the grave but will awake to glorious splendor – lifted up in the Resurrection of the body to eternal life.
So what is most important to you? Because now is the hour of your salvation. What do you hope in? Where is your trust and confidence? Whom, above all things, do you love the very most? What is your greatest joy and delight of your soul?
Let it be the Lord God and His Son – who freely offers salvation to us all. The stone is rolled away to prove that we are no longer in the prison house of death and hell. With Mary and the disciples peer into the empty tomb and sing out with St. Paul: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” They are gone. Jesus lives.
You can’t keep a good man down. The grave is empty and so shall the graves of all the saints of Christ become empty on the greater and eternal Easter of His return. In the name of Jesus. Amen.