1. Illustration - little village in Austria - about to be taken by Napoleon’s army. It was Easter morning. At dawn bells pealed out across countryside, celebrating that Christ was risen. Napoleon though bells were celebrating arrival of Austrian army and so he retreated. Instead of Napoleon, peace reigned in the Austrian countryside. They won a victory without even fighting a battle.
2. Today bells are ringing again, celebrating that Christ has risen. We do not have Napoleon’s army threatening us. Our struggle is with sin, death, and life itself. Struggles from without and struggles within. Struggles that often make us feel defeated.
1. That would make us feel like women on that first Easter morning. They came to place spices on their Lord’s body. But when they came, His body was not there. And the angels said to them "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen." In other words - "Why do you feel defeated - when Christ has won the victory?. Have you not heard the victory bells of Easter?"
2. This morning I ask you - Are you celebrating the victory? Not just today - but each day of your life? Are you celebrating the victory that Christ won for us? Or are you living a defeated life?
3. This victory is unlike any other victory we experience on earth. These victories are short-lived. A nation’s army may be victorious and win control over some land. But within years, or maybe not till centuries later, that victory is overturned as a stronger army takes over - history is full of this happening. Or today, in North America - we celebrate a World Championship victory. We are on top of the world! But within a year there is a new champion and we again feel like losers and are defeated.
4. But the victory that Christ won for us is forever. Not one can take it away from us or from Him. As the angel said to Mary before Christ’s birth.
Luke 1:33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.
5. As we see this morning, we share in that victory. The Heidel berg Catechism (No. 45) tells us how we are victorious. First we have victory over death.
"by His resurrection, he has overcome death, so that He might make us share in the righteousness he won for us by His death"
6. Death is something we have experienced much in the past few years. In the short time I have been your pastor we have had 12 deaths in our church. 12 funerals. Some might say we are a dying church. That we are being defeated. But I say we are a victorious church. For we have had 12 people experience victory over death. Why - because Christ defeated death when He rose from the cross.
7. The cause or the sting of death is sin.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because of our sin, we are subject to death. The justice and holiness of God cannot allow sin to go unpunished. And so Christ bore our sin on the cross.
Isa 53:4-5 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
8. Christ defeated the power of sin, the power of Satan by which we were subjected to sin. And so we can say with Paul:
1 Cor 15:54-5 "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
9. We have the victory! Christ paid the price for our sins! We do not need to fear death.
Heb 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
10. And the proof that Christ’s death was sufficient to overcome death, is seen in His resurrection. If He had not been raised, it would seem that the victory belonged to death. But it belongs to Christ and now belongs to us as well. Praise be to God. Paul says in Rom 6:9-11:
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.