Home > Easter > Holy Easter 2014 + St. Mark 16:1-8 + “The Very Flame of the Lord”

Holy Easter 2014 + St. Mark 16:1-8 + “The Very Flame of the Lord”


resurrected-christHoly Easter Day + St. Peter Lutheran Church Joliet, Illinois + St. Mark 16: 1-8 + April 20, 2014

“The Very Flame of the Lord”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  (etc)

 

First we consider the history of our Lord’s glorious resurrection from the dead, and second, the meaning of His resurrection for us.

 

First of all it is necessary to emphasize that this is the history of the resurrection of Jesus that St. Mark presents to us.  It is clear that he understands what he is writing to be fact rather than fiction.  He presents us with historical, public figures interwoven into the story, men that people knew and could possibly talk to at the time the Gospel was published.  None of these men tried to deny that Jesus was crucified and was buried.  People in Jerusalem could show you the place of the skull where he was crucified and knew the place where the guards stood watch.

 

Why is it important that this is presented to us as history, as the accounts of witnesses?  Because the Gospel of Jesus has no meaning if He didn’t really rise from the dead.

 

Jesus’ resurrection is either a fact that makes claims on everyone who lives in the real world where people die, or it is a lie that would be laughable if it had not had so much influence on the world’s history.  It really can’t be something in between.

 

Too often not only non-believers but also Christians act as if this belief in the resurrection of Jesus is a non-threatening, domesticated belief that can safely be brought around unbelievers and taken for a walk in polite society.  Such a Christianity doesn’t make any claims on people.  It says, “Jesus lives in my heart” without at the same time insisting that He also lives outside of our hearts at the Father’s right hand.

 

No, if Jesus rose from the dead, it means nothing in the world can remain the same.

 

It meant in the days of the early Church that it was wrong to worship Caesar as a god.  In fact, it upset the status quo by claiming that all of the old gods worshipped by the Romans and all the other nations of the earth were idols.  And the Jews, who had the Scriptures from the true God, had nevertheless not known their God.  They had actually called for His crucifixion when He visited them.

 

The preaching of the resurrection of Jesus was an announcement that all the people of the earth, especially the wise and noble ones, had not known God.  And now they were to repent.

 

Now they were to turn and worship the true God, who was a Galilean who had died the scandalous death of the cross.

 

To both Jews and Greeks this was blasphemy.  To say that God would allow Himself to be spit on, put to shame, torn by whips, cursed and suspended naked from a gallows by nails pounded through his hands and feet was like saying that God was not God at all.  That’s why the early Christians who died as martyrs were condemned for being “atheists.”  They said everyone else’s gods were not gods.  Then they proposed as the one true God a man who had come from a miserable town in Galilee and was crucified.

 

The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus is no less earth-shattering today.  If Jesus rose from the dead, the idols of our time are exposed for what they are.

 

Islam is shown to be a false religion that not only brutally oppresses women and adherents of other religions, but also leads people to worship a false god and be damned.

 

The worship of reason, knowledge, earthly prosperity and pleasure—which is the dominant religion in the West—is shown to be foolish idolatry if Jesus is risen.  Because if God was crucified, prosperity and pleasure can’t be the highest good.  If this crucified man is God, that means human reason is not the final authority about where human beings came from and where we are going.  Human reason would never have looked for the eternal God in a man nailed up to die naked, suspended above a public place of execution.

 

Jesus rose from the dead.  He will return to judge the living and the dead.  This message is an attack on politeness and tolerance as our age defines it, claiming that all religions are equal.  It means God is calling the world to repent, because the world in all the great things it has done has not known God and has been giving His worship to idols.

 

The history of Jesus’ passion and resurrection as Mark has written it does not put the disciples of Jesus in a favorable light either, though.  It tells us that the three women, as they went to the tomb of Jesus to finish embalming him, were worrying aloud about who would move the stone that sealed the tomb shut.  The disciples had abandoned Jesus and weren’t even around to ensure that He got a decent burial after His death, and now they seem to have been too afraid to go out with the women to help them open the door of the tomb.

 

As the three women walked by the place of Jesus’ execution to the nearby garden where He had been buried, they saw, unexpectedly, that the stone had already been rolled away.  And when they came to the tomb, they were startled to find no mangled corpse of a man who had been crucified, but instead a young man in white clothes sitting where Jesus’ body had been.

 

Imagine the terror you would likely have felt if you were there.  What is a young man doing sitting in Jesus’ grave?  As though he had been waiting for you to come?

 

And the young man said, “Don’t be alarmed.

 

You’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the crucified.

 

He isn’t here.  He is risen.

 

Behold the place where they laid Him.”

 

And there the women could look and see—no Jesus.  Only the cloths in which He had been buried lying there, unoccupied.

 

“But go and tell his disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee.  There you will see Him, just as He told you.”

 

And the women fled from the tomb.  They were trembling and in a trance-like state.  And they were afraid, and said nothing to anyone until later.

 

The women were expecting what the disciples expected, and what human reason expects today.  They were expecting to find the body of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, lying cold in the grave.

 

But Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, was no longer there.  And the young man who met the women said, “He is risen and going ahead of you to Galilee.  He is not only alive, but He is ahead of you.”

 

Now regarding the significance of this for us.

 

Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, is no longer in the tomb.

 

He is now no longer suffering and put to shame, but has been raised from the dead.

 

He really and truly died.  His life in the flesh ended.  But He has been given a new life in the flesh.  And this life is not the same as the one before, where He was subject to weakness and humiliation, shame, and death.  In short, subject to sin.

 

He is now free from sin and death and all the suffering that comes with them.

 

Instead He is glorified.  He lives forever.  The nature and life of God is not hidden any longer but radiates from His body.

 

And why is this significant for us?  Because the life of God that raised Him and that is manifested in His human body is communicated to us.  He shares the life and glory in His flesh with our flesh.

 

When God wanted Moses to hear Him He had Moses see a bush that burned and was not consumed.

 

That is the nature of God.  He is a fire that does not burn out; He burns forever.  God is love.  The Song of Solomon says, “Love is stronger than death; jealousy is fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  [Song of Solomon 8:6-7]

 

God is love.  God is the fountain of life.  He burns with love and life and never burns out.  And He does not consume those who are in His fire.

 

That fire of the divine nature always burned in Jesus, the man from Nazareth, but it was not clearly visible.

 

And it was not yet visible to the women, because they did not see Jesus yet.  They only heard the report of Him—just as you and I do not yet see the glory of Christ face to face, but only hear the report of Him in preaching and the Scripture.

 

But because Jesus had truly died for sins that were not His own but ours, now that He is risen, the divine fire that Moses saw now burns in Jesus without being concealed.

 

And it burns in Him, this immortal life of God, so that every human being might also burn with this fire of God’s life.

 

This happens not because we choose it but because Christ has done it.  He has laid our old nature in the tomb and raised a new man who is united to God and shares His nature.

 

Moses looked at the fire of God from outside.  The resurrection of Jesus means that the fire of divine life that never burns out is inside everyone who hears the word of Jesus’ death and resurrection and believes that his sins are forgiven on account of it.

 

What does this mean for you?  It means you are reborn in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

 

He lived our life under the law, bearing our sin.  He died under the penalty for our sin.  And after His life poured out in water and blood from His heart, and He was buried, God raised Him up, not to live the old life under sin, but the new life, in which He lives and reigns forever, true God and true man, the unquenchable fire of the divine nature burning in full glory and strength and brilliance in Him forever.

 

From His risen body He pours the divine flame into us in the Word of Him—when it flows over us in the water of Baptism, when it enters our ears in preaching, when we eat and drink the word with the bread and wine.  You could say we eat fire at the altar—the body and blood of Jesus, and the unquenchable fire that is God’s life and passionate love.  Like Isaiah, whose sinful lips were touched with a coal from the heavenly altar when He saw the Lord on His throne and heard the seraphim singing the Sanctus—Holy, Holy, Holy…

 

That fire does consume our sinful nature.  But it does not destroy us.  Because when our life in the flesh is over He will raise us up and we will have not just a little gospel light burning in the darkness of our sinful bodies in the great gloom of a sinful and dying world.

 

We will be flames in the blazing fire of God’s love and life.  That fire will illuminate our bodies forever, but not consume them.

 

What does this mean?

 

It means if you do not believe that Christ has been raised from the dead you are cut off from the God of life.  You bear your own sins, and the fire of God burns against you instead of for you.

 

But if you do believe that He rose from the dead, you must also know that He was raised for you, for your justification, your being counted righteous, just as He was handed over for your sins.

 

He is the righteous one with whom God is pleased.  He stands before the Father in human flesh not simply for Himself but as your advocate.  Because He is before the Father as the righteous one who was crucified for our sins, the Father no longer counts your sins against you.

 

Yet just as the women were terrified when they heard about Jesus’ resurrection, so it is often with us. 

 

We are afraid.  How can it all be finished, without my choosing, or willing, or changing?

 

Don’t despair because of your doubt and fear and because you feel how your flesh doesn’t believe, how it wants to go on living as though Christ were still in the grave.

 

He is risen.  His new life is ours.  His righteousness is counted to us.  We will have this life in its fullness in the resurrection.

 

So as we experience weakness and draw closer to death we are really drawing near to the day when these mortal bodies are consumed completely and we put on bodies that are glorious not with earthly splendor but with the glory of God.

 

That fire does not burn out.  It burns in you now, but then it will burn from within you like the sun.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

SDG

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