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Easter Vindication

Built on a Rock
Pastor Andrew Palmquist, Bethany Lutheran Church, Luverne

In the news an Illinois man was released from prison after serving nearly 30 years for murder. A fresh examination of DNA evidence proved he wasn’t the killer.

 “I feel vindicated,” he said. To be vindicated is to be cleared of guilt or to be proven right.

At Easter who needed to be vindicated? Our Lord. On Good Friday it sure looked like Jesus was wrong. He was put on trial by Jewish leaders and declared guilty of blasphemy. Pontius Pilate handed down the sentence: death by crucifixion. A horrific, most disgraceful way to die.

As bleeding Jesus hung in agony on the cross, he looked weak, powerless. If he was so good, wouldn’t God rescue him? If he were true God as he claimed, couldn’t he escape? But nothing happened.

The women followers watched as he breathed his last. When it was over, they witnessed Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ lifeless body and bury it in his own new tomb. So much had happened so quickly.

As the sun set, there was silence, and the women were left alone with their thoughts. The long night hours were filled with a bitter mix of sadness, confusion, doubt and fear.

You and I can relate. Someone you cared about and loved deeply has died. The funeral is over, and your friends and family are on their way home. As darkness settles, it’s too quiet, and you feel very alone.

At times we think of our own death lurking ahead. We sense that time is running out and our bodies are failing. For younger ones there is anxiety about making the right choices — good friends, true love, etc.

Against the backdrop of this brief life, our sinful choices appear like enlarged shadows, every mistake magnified. How often we have let down our Savior!

On Easter morning, Mark 16:1-8 tells us that the women went at break of dawn to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body — one final, beautiful act of love for their Teacher. But when they got there, they saw the large stone rolled away and an angel in a white robe.

“‘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.’”

What did this mean? Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection several times, but it was too much to process. If the women had expected Jesus to be alive, they wouldn’t have gone to his tomb to anoint his body!

“Trembling and perplexed, the women went out and hurried away from the tomb.”

But soon it would all sink in. Later that day, Jesus would appear to them — and to Peter and the Emmaus disciples and those behind locked doors. And later to many others. Yes, the early reports were corroborated again and again. The good news was true: “Victory!” was the headline. Vindication!

Vindication. Jesus didn’t come down from the cross to prove that he was the Son of God. He couldn’t, because he loved you too much. He wouldn’t do it because his work was not complete.

No, he did something even better: On the third day He rose triumphant from the dead! On Easter Jesus was proved right. He is the powerful, living God-man!

Sin has been forgiven. Death is defeated. Jesus lives! The verdict is: Vindication. This Easter joy is yours! Alleluia!

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