Early in the Morning

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“And in the morning watch Yahweh in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the camp of the Egyptians and confused the camp of the Egyptians, changing the path of their chariots so that they drove heavily. And Egypt said, ‘Let us flee from before the face of Israel, because Yahweh fights for them against Egypt’” (Exodus 14:24-25). Early in the morning, God completes the Exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Early in the morning, God changes the path of Israel’s enemies so that they are swallowed up by the Sea. Early in the morning, Israel’s enemies try to flee, but God fights for Israel and so they are consumed, both chariot and rider. And Moses sings: “I will sing to Yahweh, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (15:1).

“Come you faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness! God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness, loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters, led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters” (LSB 487:1). Very early on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Mary Magdalene and the others go to the tomb, and they see that the stone is moved and the tomb is empty. Early in the morning, God completes the Exodus of His Son from death to life. Early in the morning, God turns the path of death, so that it becomes the way to life. Early in the morning, death and hell and the devil try to flee, but God fights for His Son, and they are all defeated. And so we sing: our God has triumphed gloriously! When the sun dawns, we see our enemies—sin, death, and the devil—dead on the shore. Yahweh is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation! Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is His Name. But He fights this war in a strange way. He puts on flesh in the womb of a virgin. He lives in obscurity for thirty years. He is accused, but He does not defend Himself. He suffers in silence. He is defeated and dies in weakness and shame and helplessness, pinned to a cross. His victory is in taking the death that the Law promises to you and me. Because in taking that death, He opens the way of life and salvation for His people. Your right hand, O Yahweh, glorious in power, your right hand, O Yahweh, shatters the enemy. Jesus is the new and greater Moses, opening a way for the people of God to walk on dry ground, in the midst of water which has become our salvation. As the great baptismal prayer of Luther says, “You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet led your people Israel through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism” (LSB 268).

The resurrection of Jesus and the life of His holy ones are inseparable. No resurrection of Jesus, no life. No resurrection means no Baptism, no forgiveness, no living Word of God, no Supper, no point to any of this. But according to the Scripture, He must rise from the dead (John 20:10). The tomb must be empty, Peter and John must see folded cloths that once wrapped Jesus’ corpse, Mary must tell the disciples what Jesus has said. And all the enemies of God, which have become the enemies of those who have been given the Holy Spirit, must let God’s chosen ones pass through death unharmed. It was prophesied by Moses in his song: “Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O Yahweh, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased” (Exodus 15:16). The soldiers who fell down like dead men are a picture of death and the devil, who cower in fear while God’s Israel passes on to the Land of Promise. As one early Christian put it:

All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Saviour, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. … Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered’ by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Saviour on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, ” O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor. 15. 55) [Athanasius, On the Incarnation, V:27]

Death cannot be victorious if we are joined to the Jesus who is risen and cannot die any more. The grave cannot hold us if it could not hold our Lord. “Behold, the tyrants, one and all, before our mighty Savior fall!” (LSB 484:5). And: “Where the paschal blood is poured, death’s dread angel sheathes the sword; Israel’s hosts triumphant go through the wave that drowns the foe. Alleluia!” (LSB 633:3) Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/1/15

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