And the angel answered and said unto the woman, "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, and see the place where the Lord lay." Matthew 28:5-6
When I was in the parish, it was customary to conduct children's sermons.
Experience taught me a number of things:
1. The adults listened to the children's message better than they did their lengthier version.
2. The message seldom, if ever, ended up where I had intended it to go.
3. No matter how many possible answers from the children I had tried to anticipate, they always managed to fool me.
One case in point was when, on a particular Resurrection Sunday, I spoke to the youngsters about the guards and the great stone and the sealed tomb guarding Jesus' grave. I told them about the women starting out in the darkness prepared to go to a funeral. Then, with the women approaching the tomb, I began to ask questions. "And do you know," I said, "what the angel said to the women who had come to say 'goodbye' to Jesus?"
A number of hands went up; a number of young voices eagerly called out, "I know! Pastor, I know." (Between you and me all the hands should have been up and all the voices should have been calling out. Not more than two minutes before we had read the resurrection narrative to them.) Although I had never seen her before, I pointed to one girl who had been listening most attentively.
She said, "The angels told the ladies, 'He is not here. He is in prison.'"
Certain I must have heard her wrongly, I asked the young lady to repeat her answer. She did: "He is not here. He is in prison." The reiteration of her answer gave me the time to figure out she had misheard the Gospel reading, and her mind had substituted the word "prison" for "risen." It was an honest mistake, but it made her response completely wrong.
Thankfully, the next few minutes managed to get things straightened out for her -- and for her parents, too. After their daughter's obvious mistake, they decided they had been remiss in their spiritual responsibilities for her, and they became faithful members of our congregation.
That Sunday's children's message was a microcosm of our world this, and every, Resurrection Sunday.
God's saved people are giving thanks that Jesus isn't in prison, and He isn't in an undiscovered grave. For us, Jesus' resurrection is visible, tangible proof that His work of saving us has been completed. Now, by His grace and the Holy Spirit's power, all who are brought to faith in the Christ are assured they, too, shall someday rise from the grave.
Yes, today the Christian world does what it has done for almost 2,000 years.
Once again our celebration tells a despondent and doubting world that the Light of Life is shining in the darkness. Our Resurrection Sunday greeting, "'He is risen," is the church's shout of victory, which proclaims the Savior's blood-bought triumph over the prison of death.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, today there are many religions, doubters, and political leaders who would prefer You stayed in prison or in Your grave. Indeed, their denial of the resurrection reality is just giving voice to Satan's desire to push You back into that borrowed sepulcher. May we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, repeat to everyone the words of the angel: "He is not here. He is risen!" This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries