Monday, April 13, 2009

Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon -- Mark 16:1-8 (LSB Easter B)

April 12, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

[The angel] said to [the women]: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.”

The appearance of the angel at the tomb is an alarming sight. It defies what is expected. In fact, nearly everything that took place at that Garden Tomb was unexpected. Certainly the women did not anticipate finding the tomb standing open, since “they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’” Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome expected to find Jesus’ body present, since they “bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him.” But the angel states: “He has risen; He is not here.”

So the women see the unexpected. “Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe.” Looking around, they see no corpse, no Lord to anoint in death. Rather, the tomb is now the former place of the Living One Jesus. They seek Him who was crucified, but now has risen.

But should this have been unexpected and unanticipated? Perhaps the appearance of the angel should have been surprising. However, the finding of an empty tomb should not have been so to those who had followed Jesus during the past several years. Note what the angel tells the women as they view the place where Jesus had been laid: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” That last phrase deserves great emphasis: “Just as He told you.” For much is included in these words.

The rising of Jesus had been foretold. Jesus had made it very clear in the last portion of His ministry that it would be so. Numerous times He had made the statement: “The Son of Man must go to Jerusalem, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be beaten and killed, and the third day rise again.” Jesus had spoken this clearly. He had also spoken it in mysterious ways. He had even made the point in parables. Those who had followed Him could not miss it.

But not only had Jesus made such bold predictions about His fate to His disciples, it had also been prophesied long ago in the Old Testament. St. Paul makes this point to the Corinthian believers: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” Note the phrase that Paul repeats: “in accordance with the Scriptures.” He is saying that the events which transpired in Jerusalem had been revealed by the prophets long before their actual occurrence, so that those who knew the Scriptures should have known what would take place to the Christ: both death and resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus should have amazed, but not surprised. The events surrounding His death, burial, and rising should have been awe-inspiring, but not unexpected. What took place in Jerusalem to Jesus had been spelled out in words: the Lord God’s words, the prophets’ words, Jesus’ own words. Though it is quite unusual to have the dead brought to life, it had been foretold. That the One who Himself had restored life to Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son at Nain, and to Lazarus would also be raised was a given. It was always destined to be.

So the angel tells the women: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” The women are sent with the message: what Jesus had said has taken place; what the prophets had foretold has come to pass; what the Lord God had promised has been delivered. Words have been fulfilled, including the word that the Christ would return to life and be the source of life for those who believe His statements about His identity and work. Jesus’ disciples are told to go to Him, to witness their Redeemer who has risen from the dead as proof of their own salvation.

The emphasis on what has been said and fulfilled is very important for you, as well. For what you celebrate on this day is the fulfillment of promises made to you sinners by your merciful Lord. The Lord God has given you a great promise of everlasting life. That has been evident for those who have gathered for worship the past several weeks. For they have heard Jesus’ promises: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” and “Whoever loves his life will lose it; whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also.” These are just two of the promises that Jesus makes about eternal life for His disciples.

But had Christ not risen from the dead, these promises would have been worthless. How could Jesus give eternal life, if He Himself was still victim to death? How could His promises have worth, if they were not even true for Him? Jesus had promised that His servants would be where He is, but if it is the grave in Judea where Jesus is found, then such a promise is hardly worthwhile or deserving of hope.

However, you celebrate on this day the rising of Jesus. He is not bound by death and the grave, but has emerged victorious from them. It was so “in accordance with the Scriptures,” according to the words which had prophesied the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. So you see promises about Jesus fulfilled and the potential for the promises made by Jesus to be fulfilled for you. That is what is included in those important phrases of this day—“just as He told you” and “in accordance with the Scriptures.” That is why the angel sends the women to tell the Twelve the news of the resurrection. That is why Paul is careful to deliver the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection to the Corinthians “as of first importance.”

So, too, the fulfilled words are meant for you to hear and to trust. The historical events of the resurrection are the basis for great hope. They are the foundation for your own life, the rationale for promises made to you, just as Jesus said and in accordance with the Scriptures. Such trust in the Lord God and His words is why the Psalmist writes: “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is meant for you, just as the Lord God has promised.

The future of everlasting life depicted in Isaiah’s prophecy is also based on the effects of Jesus’ resurrection. So Isaiah prophesies that the Lord God’s people will be gathered and joyfully share in salvation. Why is it so? Because promises will be fulfilled: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” This He has spoken to you who have been called to believe what He delivers through the death and resurrection of His Son and your participation in it.

Promises have been made and promises have been kept by your Lord Jesus Christ. The women sought Him at the tomb. But He was not there. Not because His corpse was stolen. Not because the women went to the wrong tomb. But because He has risen and “He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” Now it is meant for you to receive what He has promised as your own: forgiveness, life, salvation, a place with Him in the everlasting kingdom with His Father. So it is yours because what Jesus said about His own death and resurrection has been fulfilled.

So on this day, “I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” This Jesus has done, fulfilling the words about Him. And so He shall fulfill His words about you. For at the Last Day, “you will see Him, just as He told you,” and so you will have a place in His kingdom forever—just as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true, just as He has told you and in accordance with the Scriptures.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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