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St. Matthew’s account of the Easter story

What gracious, wondrous love is this, my soul?
The tomb that held the body of our Lord
Was open, empty, that first Easter morn.
Is this a trick, illusion, devil's brew?
A fable, fabrication, forgery?
Have we, as Christians, perpetrated lies? 
If so, says Paul, of all men we are duped
And to be pitied far above the rest. 1)

Or is, in fact, the tale we have to tell
A 'burden' to be witnessed far and wide
Across this sin-and-death-filled world of ours?
Oh, mark it well, dear Christian friends, there is
No 'faith' that men have dreamt or conjured up
(From 'wisdom,' reason, ingenuity)
That can compare. The Bible, Word of God,
Is there for us--for all--to ponder, read.
If Christ has not been raised, we preach in vain; 
Our faith is futile; sin, death, hell remain.
But now indeed is Christ, who died, alive!
He's risen from the dead, no more to die;
He's but the firstfruits of all those who sleep! 2)

This Passion Season we again reviewed
The wondrous love of God so on display
Each step along the way to Calvary --
In upper room the new command to love;
The institution of the Sacrament;
Gethsemane, the bloody sweat and prayers
(Not My will, Father, Yours alone be done);
Poor Judas' sad betrayal with a kiss;
Before the Sanhedrin, and Caiaphas,
And Pilate too. "Behold the Man!" said he;
Yet "Crucify Him!" was the people's cry;
The mockings, scorn, the ridicule and spit;
And basis for it all? All trumped-up lies;
Then crucifixion of the sinless One
Who took our place when we deserved to die.
When dying, "It is finished!" came the cry.
(The mission done, accomplished--sin atoned;
The world of sinners reconciled, redeemed!)
Once dead, the burial in Joseph's tomb.

The end of story? Hardly! Check it out. 
Each Gospel record in the Word of God 
Contains the details, evidence galore,
Of Jesus' resurrection from the dead!
The record tells of eyewitness accounts.
This is not, friends, the stuff of fable, myth!
Let's hear again how Matthew tells the facts:

That Sabbath dawn two Marys were the first
To view the tomb. An angel of the Lord
Came down from heaven, rolling back the stone.
Like lightning he appeared; his clothes were white
As snow--as were the guards for fear and dread
(They shook and were like dead men lying there).
The angel told the women: Do not fear,
I know that you are looking here for Christ,
The crucified; He is not here, you see!
He's risen from the dead, just as He said!
Come, see the place where once His body lay.
Then quickly go and His disciples tell:
'He's risen from the dead and goes ahead
Of you to Galilee. You'll see Him there.'
Now I have told you what you need to know. 3)

See how the facts back up the prophecies.
Said Christ: Destroy this earthly temple and 
In three days I will raise it up again. 4)
As Jonah was three days and nights entombed
In belly of a fish, so long will He
Who is the Son of Man be in the earth. 5)
No man can take my life, I lay it down
That I may take it back again myself! 6)
Except a grain of wheat falls in the ground,
It is alone; but dying, bears its fruit. 7)
Because I live, so also you will live! 8)
I am the Resurrection and the Life,
He who believes in Me, though dead, will live;
And he who lives in Me will never die. 9)
Behold my hands, the nail prints, and my side;
Because you see me, will you now believe? 
Oh, bless'd are they who, seeing not, believe! 10)

There's more of Matthew's gospel news to tell.
The women hurried, full of fearful joy,
To bring disciples word! And suddenly
The Savior met, and greeted them! They came,
Fell down and worshiped Him, and heard the word:
Fear not. But go and tell my brothers all
To go to Galilee; they'll see Me there. 11)

What wondrous love--when taking back His life!
Under that theme we close our ponderings. 
The Savior's "Go and tell" is for us too.
This doubting, dying world needs to be told
The Gospel of this wondrous love of God.
He that believes, is baptized, shall be saved. 12)
Authority is mine in heav'n and earth;
Lo, I am with you always as you go
To all the world to baptize and to preach. 13)
Dear Christian friends, let's witness far and wide.
Sin, death, and hell are conquered, overcome. 
The sting of death, its 'victory,' is gone. 14)
Mortality is swallowed up by Life!
Embrace in humble faith this truth of God.
Come one and all and join us in our song:
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing, I'll sing . . .
I'll sing His love for me through all eternity! 15)
Thanks be to God!

 1) 1 Corinthians 15:19
 2) 1 Corinthians 15:17,20       
 3) Matthew 28:1-7
 4) John 2:19
 5) Matthew 12:40
 6) John 10:18
 7) John 12:24
 8) John 14:19
 9) John 11:25
10) John 20:29
11) Matthew 28:8-10
12) Mark 16:16
13) Matthew 18:19-20
14) 1 Corinthians 54-55
15) Hymn: What Wondrous Love Is This

–This blank verse reading was used as the sermon on Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000, at Grace Ev. Lutheran Church, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Paul Fleischer is pastor.