As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:5,6)
A blaring alarm causes irritation at best, and panic at worst. Those who have endured safety drills know the relief that comes when that noise finally goes quiet. Those who have heard the words “This is not a drill!” know how this makes hearts race.
Alarms are good because they can warn us of danger. They prepare us to take defensive action. However, a false alarm is counter-productive. Too many false alarms can lead us to ignore the real thing. An unnecessary alarm is in a class by itself. Maybe there was a time when that alarm was vital to our survival. But with the danger over, it may keep us in an unnecessary state of stress.
While the Christian needs alarms to dangers in life, because of Easter, we can turn off the alarm warning about death. The thought of death can be alarming. The sight of death, even more so. Those who sing: “I walk in danger all the way…” may not always feel that danger. But some who place themselves in harm’s way to protect others may sometimes live day and night with that feeling. They may also find difficulty in determining what is dangerous, and what is not. Is that soda can on the side of the road dangerous? Is that woman in a burka dangerous? What about that empty car?
Alarms go off in our heads when we see hints of possible danger. And they should. But for us, there is no danger in death. It is not merely like a poisonous snake with its fangs pulled out. It is like that snake with its head crushed. Jesus of Nazareth has crushed the power of sin, death, and the devil. It’s not empty bravado that causes us to sing: “Satan, I defy thee; death I now decry thee; Fear, I bid thee cease.”
Why, then, does the thought of death sometimes still alarm us? The answer is simple. We tend to forget about Easter. We overlook the words of the Lord of life and death who proclaimed to us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25) Satan is an expert at producing false news. He projects for us a mental video that shows everything we love, gone. Everything beautiful, ruined. All joy faded, and all hope killed. Only a gravestone marks that we once were alive.
For a true picture, look into the Easter tomb. See there, death defeated. See there, life triumphant. See there your own grave, vacant. One day angels can point to where your body was placed, and say about you and your Christian loved ones, “They not there. They have risen!” God’s promise is clear—and he does not lie: “Because he lives, we will live also.” For heaven’s sake, when it comes to dying, Turn off the alarm!
We pray: Lord Jesus, who died so that we may live forever, keep pointing us to your empty tomb. Keep repeating the words of the angel who tells us to turn off the alarm that the thought of death might trigger. Allow us to live in the peace and joy of Easter. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida. Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military
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