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Sermon Holy Easter Day 2013 Mark 16:1-8


empty tomb iconHoly Easter Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Mark 16:1-8

March 31, 2013

Jesu juva.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Dear Christians: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I was a child being raised in the Lutheran Church I felt like I was close to God.  Maybe some of you had the same experience.  It’s not that I was innocent.  But I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.  I believed that He rose from the dead.  It was not an effort to believe this.  I just did.  And I had peace, even though not everything in my life was perfect.

It seemed impossible that I would ever doubt that Jesus was my Savior and that He had risen from the dead.  When I was a child, falling away from Jesus was not something I thought about because it seemed utterly impossible.  I just could not imagine my faith in Christ failing.

I imagine at one time it must have seemed impossible, unthinkable, that there would come a day when nearly everyone in America didn’t put on a spring dress or a suit and go with the family to church on Easter.  It was hard to imagine Christianity (or at least cultural Christianity) being anything other than a success in the United States.

When I got older the certainty of my childhood no longer seemed desirable and no longer seemed possible.  I doubted things that I never thought that I would.  I no longer was a child, and it seemed like Christianity was easy answers for people who would accept easy answers.  I dabbled with other religions and other philosophies.  And this was intoxicating because it meant that I was the judge.  I would determine on my own what was true.  A side benefit of this was not having to observe all the moral requirements of Christianity—not having to be humble, or forgiving, or chaste.

But then the day came when I needed to be rescued from myself.  Actually that is every day.  But a day came when I really knew that I needed to be saved from myself.  And then I found myself helpless, hanging on the edge of the cliff of hopelessness by my fingernails.  What I never doubted as a child, I couldn’t stop doubting.  Really, God turned the entire Nile River into blood?  Really, when Jesus died dead people came out of the tombs and showed themselves to people?  Really, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven?

My faith, my conscience, and my life were bruised and torn and broken.  When I stopped doubting what the Scripture said happened in history, I started doubting whether the promises of God applied to me.  Whether I was forgiven my sins and would not be cast out by Jesus on the last day.

I did not have a victorious faith.  I was like the body of Jesus that Joseph buried—torn, humiliated, past hope.

My inner life was like that.  Outwardly I didn’t have a mark on my body.  I was like the young man in St. Mark’s account of the passion.  When Jesus was arrested they tried to arrest this man too, but the young man left everything behind to save his own life.  When they grabbed his garment he left it behind and ran away naked.  His body had no scars or bruises, but it was covered with shame and sin.

On the day after the Sabbath where the Passover was prepared, the women who would have been the equivalent of the Ladies’ Aid or the Altar Guild among Jesus’ followers went out to finish embalming His body.

Surely they were just as depressed and in shock as the apostles.  But what were they going to do?  There was a job to do.  The Lord still needed a proper burial.  So they went out to do their job with the spices of myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia in their noses.  Sweet smells that were meant to cover the stench of death that they expected to meet.  They were not talking about spiritual things, just practicalities.  “Who will roll away the stone?”  Who will help us just get through this?  Isn’t that how we talk, often, about our lives, about the Church?

They had high hopes for Jesus.  It had seemed impossible that He could fail, that the world would reject Him.  That one so mighty and so able to save others from raging storms and raging demons and ravaging diseases could die.  But that was all shattered when He was brought out with the crown of thorns, sentenced to death, nails driven into his body, the cross lifted up and He, hanging to die, mocked by his enemies, forsaken by God.

They expected to find a crumpled body, raw with wounds.  Scarred with the evil of men.  Purple and lifeless behind the stone.

Instead they found the tomb open, and instead of a dead body, a young man clothed in a white robe.  There was a young man in glistening clothing where the beaten body should have been.

You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He is not here.  He is risen.  Look at the place where they laid Him.  There, empty grave clothes.

When we are stripped of false hopes of glory and laid in the dust, we think it is the end.  When we feel some of the weight of our sins.  When we grow old and start to look death in the eye more frequently.  When we lose hope in ourselves and our false dreams die.  We think everything is lost, but don’t realize that it is God’s work, just as it was God’s work that laid the cross on Jesus.  Not only the blood and injury, but the wrath of God against sinners.

It was God’s work to crush Him for our sins.

But now the dead, torn body is gone.  It has been replaced with a young man in shining white clothes with a message: He is risen.  He is not here.  You saw Him put in here in your image.  Dead, battered.  Almost not looking human.  Ruined by sin.  Destroyed by God’s wrath.

But He is not here.  He is not here decaying, waiting for you to cover up the stench.  He is risen.  He left your image behind, along with your death and helplessness.  They are balled up in the corner with the grave clothes.

Because He is gone, the decay, and corruption, death and sin you feel at work in you, which appear to be swallowing you and the church and even the Lord Jesus up is actually swallowed up.  It is swallowed up in Jesus’ risen flesh.  Your corruption is in the past; the future is Jesus’ risen body, which you cannot see.

Christ Jesus, God’s own son came down

His people to deliver. 

Destroying sin, He took the crown

From death’s pale brow forever.

Stripped of power, no more it reigns

An empty form alone remains. 

Its sting is lost forever.  Alleluia!

 

Death is a powerless form, howeer it rave and story.  The old has gone.  The new has come.  Christ died bearing your helplessness, your hopeless unbelief, all of your death.  It was on Him on the cross—the destruction of the flesh, visible in stripes and a head crusted in blood, torn flesh, ragged nail holes.  That was your death.  But the invisible, spiritual punishment was on Him too.  God’s burning wrath.  His judgment.

When they buried Him they buried all in you that is hopeless.  When they went to the tomb and found his corpse missing, it meant that in Him there is nothing but hope and new life.

Don’t be afraid, says the angel.  That’s His message to you also.  We are afraid that God is not going to save us.  There is still so much rottenness in us.  How can He forgive us?

No, He is not gone from the tomb to sneak up on you later.  He is gone from the tomb along with God’s anger against you, along with your weakness and death.

He is going before you to Galilee, like He said He would.  Well how can we deal with that?  We’re still getting used to His dying like He said.  Now He’s going to send us?  We’ll never be able to do that!  We just got finished denying him and running away, saving our skin!  How can we go to Galilee?  We are so weak!

Forget about that, now.  See, the place where they laid Him.  He is not here.  He is risen.

Let us keep the festival to which the Lord invites us.  Let us cling forever to Christ our Savior true.    What you really are is an unleavened loaf.  Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed, and the word of His grace has cleansed out the old yeast of malice and wickedness.  So let us keep the feast and believe the angel’s strange words.  He is not here.  See where they laid Him.  That is where the malice and evil in you was purged away.  That is where death and decay was engulfed by life.  Amen.

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