Resurrection of Our Lord
April 20, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And when they went out, they fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment seized them. And they said nothing to no one, for they were afraid (v 8). It always seems curious to me that last word of Gospel for Easter Sunday is fear. Today is a day of joy—bright and cheerful; exultation! Today is an exclamation point on the entire life and ministry of Jesus.
But the women shake with fear and trembling.
And when the Sabbath had passed, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices in order to go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, they came upon the tomb, before the rising of the sun. And they said to each other, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” And looking ahead, began to see that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And going into the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe; and they were amazed. (vv 1-5).
As the faithful women approach the tomb of Jesus, and find the stone rolled back, they are unknowingly entering something much bigger than each of themselves individually. As they stoop into the empty tomb, they become the first human witnesses of the cosmic battle that had taken place when the Son of God died. They set foot on that sacred battlefield and tremble at what it means.
It was a strange and dreadful strife with Life and Death contended. The victory of Jesus isn’t the stuff of Hallmark cards and Precious Moments. The bitter enemies of all that is good, all that is of God, were undone by their own malice, by their own violence.
The first herald of victory is an angel—he appears as a young man dressed in white. And whenever an angel comes to deliver a message from God, it’s always a fearful encounter no matter how he’s dressed.
It is an amazing, dreadful encounter in that empty tomb. And the message is similarly astonishing. And he said to them, “Stop being amazed. You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified. He is risen; He is not here. Look at the place where they laid Him” (v 6).
There is no way for them to comprehend the emptiness of that tomb and the absence of Jesus. And the word of the angel cuts through the astonishment. He is risen. He is not here. Look at the place where they laid Him. How can this be? Not three days earlier these same women had seen nails run through Jesus’ hands and feet, they had seen Him lifted up from the earth, they had seen Him suffer and agonize—not only from the physical pain, but from the emotional and spiritual burden of bearing the sins of the world.
It was a strange and dreadful strife when Life and Death contended. The victory remained with Life, the reign of death was ended. Yes, indeed, the women seek Jesus, the Crucified One, the One who offered Himself up to Death. He is still the Crucified, the angel says. The holes from the nails remain; the spear’s incision lingers. But the Crucified One is also the Risen One. He is not in the tomb; tombs are for dead mean.
The angel’s message doesn’t end there. “But start going out, and say to His disciples and to Peter that He is going before you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He said to you” (v 7). The message of the angel isn’t supposed to remain in a cave. Go out and tell, the angel says.
The ironic thing about the first Easter is that the angel tells the women, one: don’t be afraid; and, two: go and tell the disciples. And after they left the tomb and the angel, they did precisely the opposite. The fled in fear and said nothing to no one.
But the message of the resurrection must go out from the empty tomb. Mary finally finds Peter and John and brings them back to the tomb. Peter and John go and tell the other disciples. But even then, they are all slow to believe. The flesh of man—and woman—isn’t tuned to the message of the resurrection. In fact, to believe such an astounding, outlandish claim takes divine intervention.
The disciples are slow to believe and full of doubt until the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that proceeded from the Son’s dying lips, the Spirit that resuscitated His dead body on the third day, that Spirit is also the One who creates faith in the message of the young man dressed in white.
The Spirit still bears that message through the witness of Holy Scripture, which plainly saith that Death is swallowed up by Death; His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!. Today comes to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory
Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?
Jesus, the Crucified One, Is Risen
Then let us feast this Easter Day
On Christ, the Bread of heaven;
The Word of Grace hath purged away
The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed,
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other. Alleluia!
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.