“The Party’s Not Over”
The first Easter began much more subtly and somberly then it does now that we have the entire picture. It began graveside and with the tears of Mary Magdalene. Easter began with heavy hearts and heavy steps. We know about death and burial. We have been there.
This morning we’ve come with happy hearts and light steps because we know that Christ is risen! You’ve likely made some preparations for this day. Easter is day of feasting. The 40 days of Lent are over and now we celebrate Christ’s resurrection with food and drink. What’s on your banquet table today when you arrive home: ham and turkey, sweet potatoes and pies?
I hope I haven’t distracted you by considering the tasty morsels that await you, because really the greatest table is spread for you at this moment and the best is yet to come. In our Old Testament lesson Isaiah invites us to the feast of Zion. This is the feast of Yahweh’s Easter victory!
The women went to the tomb thinking they would meet mortality. They thought they’d be faced with death. We would think the same. Death in this world is so final. We submit ourselves to the fact that we all will die sometime.
What did the women meet at the grave instead? An empty sepulcher and the Divine message sent from angels, “He who you seek who was once dead is not here.” The grand discovery is Christ is not dead. He is risen! That fearful truth is only trumped by one greater truth spoken from the lips of our Lord, “Because I live, you will live also!” Has it occurred to yet as you are still waking up this Easter morning that the same thing that happened to Jesus will happen to you? Your body will leave behind an empty grave too!
Break out the champagne! Bring out the finest wine and food! Isaiah provides this feasting for us today. Yahweh God, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit will gather all his one Holy Christian Church to the Mt. Zion of the new heavens and new earth. He has a rich feast waiting, greater than any Easter before. Though I’m sure there will be real food and real drink in heaven of the kind never matched here on earth what Isaiah is really getting at are the spiritual blessings. Christ is risen, his death on the cross where he bore your sins is now vindicated. He has victory over death and that victory becomes yours too!
You see in that day the Lord is going to remove the veil that covers all people. The veil Isaiah speaks of is the kind of veil people would use to cover their face in shame. Think of newscasts where cameras will show an accused convict trying to cover his face with his jacket as he runs to a car. The T.V. audience spread across the country rarely feels sorry for the poor bugger. They want to see his face! What we forget is that we may not have anything on our conscience that is so publicly shaming that we should hide from our fellowman, but before God we ought to be like Adam in the garden; hiding the moment he hears God’s footsteps. We have all sinned and have been seen. In our most honest moments we are well aware of that veil of self-justifications and happy faces that we put up so that we can’t really be known in our weaknesses by others. We are known by God though. He knows how our sin has covered us in a veil of death; a death we deserve for our sins.
We either repent and confess our sins or we hide behind the veil. We will even try to make God a part of this veil, thinking that that we’re really not that bad off and God will reward good intentions even if there is no follow through. Likewise we’ve replaced the Creator with Darwin so we can excuse any animalistic tendency in ourselves. If we see it in nature we think it must be approved for man and give no more thought to our moral worth and what it means to have been created in the image of the Divinity. Without God we enter a spiritual and cultural vacuum where honesty and fairness are seen very little. We become convinced that any means can justify an end of our choosing. Greed and our desire to fulfill our most base pleasures win the day.
Can anything or anyone change this or is the party over? Isaiah in our chapter prior writes of the judgment of God against the nations. It can be summed up this way, “The party’s over!” “The mirth of tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those that drink it.” If we were left to our sin and God’s condemnation we would have no reason to feast, no reason to celebrate. There would be no reason to sing.
Yahweh could rightly chastise and judge us severely. Instead, he does Easter—God’s gracious doing through Christ. Once crucified and dead—bearing all our sins upon the cross—Jesus carries away the shameful veil of death from our faces. He forgives your sins, my sins, and the sin of the whole world and makes you whole and clean. He is risen! He is your victor and guarantor that you can look God and your fellow man in the eye knowing you are clean in the sight of God.
Isaiah’s announcement today is that the party’s not over! We are welcomed to the feast where death is swallowed up forever. In that day when we rise from our graves death will be no more. God has swallowed up what swallowed us—the graves will be empty—food, wine, and song will abound. We think of death as the end, but Easter tells us that death has an end—the Resurrection of Jesus! Death’s power is futile—it is conquered!
So God through Isaiah gives us a song to sing. A future song, “Behold, this our God, we have waited for him, that he might save us! This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!” It’s a future song, but Isaiah gives it to us that we might start practicing now. That’s what Church is all about—receiving the salvation of the Savior. He gives your rich food and rich wine to drink. His body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine or true food and true drink for the forgiveness of all your sins.
The world thinks it knows about “feasting.” Our commercials invite us to dine at the ritziest restaurants and taste the most succulent food of our own creation. But such feasting ends. Easter morning is an eternal feast, an eternal victory and never ending celebration. The feast is spread for you today. Jesus has defeated sin, death, and Satan himself, making salvation and life with God ours. What better picture of this life than the enduring feast of victory with God, who blesses us with his finest as a gift! With the veil removed and the covering swallowed, let the feasting begin and never end in him!
SDG—Rev. Eric M. Estes