Easter – 2019

Sermon – Mark 16.1-8

Festival exordium

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

You that have kept the Lenten fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Dear members of the Feast, let sing our praises to our Risen Savior, with the exordium hymn, hymn number 348. Please rise.

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away– for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples– and Peter– that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Path of Life

These are Your Words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Thursday and Friday and Saturday of holy week was a dreadful time for Jesus’ followers, after all that went down on those days. But wouldn’t you think that on that Sunday morning, instead of just a few women going to the tomb, all of Jesus followers would have gone. And instead of carrying spices and ointments, they would bring some clean clothes for Jesus to wear. After all, Jesus said to them very clearly in at different times that He would rise from the dead on the third day! And the Old Testament foretold of His rising. You would think that they would  gather in the garden where the tomb was, excited and anxious, waiting for the tomb to burst opening, so that they could embrace their beloved Teacher and Lord, and probably looking forward to seeing the confused look on the faces of the soldiers guarding the tomb.

But of course, this did not happen.

Jesus’ followers were filled with utter sorrow.

Think of Mary Magdalene. Jesus rescued her from 7 demons that possessed her. And now that Jesus is dead, who will rescue her from the devil and his wicked works?

Think of Peter, and the awful guilt he carried. He rejected his friend and Lord three times, claiming no knowledge of Him, and there he is left with that guilt, and the hope of his forgiveness was lying there dead in the tomb.

Think of the rest of the disciples who all scattered and abandoned their Lord, when He was being imprisoned, judged, beaten and mocked.

Christ was their hope, their teacher, their leader. And now He was dead. Where will Mary find rescue from Satan? Where will Peter find a peaceful conscience? Where will the others find of forgiveness and salvation from death?

It appeared as though death had won the day, as though sin claimed its power over them. It seemed as though they were on their own to deal with Satan, guilt, and death. But we know that they were powerless before these troubles.

But these same things plague our lives. It may appear sometimes as though sin, death and the devil win the day.

What did the women do in the midst of their sorrow? They brought spices and ointment to anoint Jesus’ dead body. They did this out of love and respect for Jesus, but they were misguided. They thought that that was it. He’s dead. Make the best of it.

In the same way, we are misguided in the way we face fear, sorrow, Satan, sin, and death.

In the face of fear, doubt and uncertainty, we try to embalm those feelings with the illusion that we are in control of our lives, and that we can stand independent of God, that we’re not lost sheep, but that we’re strong giants in our own right. But when it comes down to it, we must admit that we are not in control, and putting our trust in ourselves is downright foolish, because we know that we make for some lousy gods.

In the face of sorrow, we try to look on the bright side of things, rationalizing our pain, our heartache and sadness. Sure this is a way to cope, but it doesn’t get rid of the fact that everything is not okay. We may try to put on a smiley face to cover the sorrow, but we know that it is a show. This earth is a vale of tears.

In the face of sin, we try to put ointment and spices on our sins trying to cover the stench of their filth. We ignore them, rationalize them, close our ears to parts of God’s Law so that we will not feel the guilt and shame. Or maybe, for some of you, you are very well aware of your guilt and it weighs heavily on you, but it seems as though there is no relief or forgiveness for you. Whatever camp you’re in, sins are real, they are an offense to the One to whom we are held accountable, and He says in the book of Exodus, “I will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).

In the face of death, we tend to grasp on to youth, to fill our lives with adventure or significance, some sort of lasting legacy. But the end does come and puts an end to it all. And the worse death that comes after death is eternal death in hell, which is the right judgment for our sins.

And plus, Satan goes around as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. We like to think we can withstand him, but we are sinners. We are already victims of the devil, and we are vulnerable.

Is this it? Is this all that we’re left with? Fear, sorrow, sin, Satan, and death? However we may try to cover the path of death with spices and ointments, it remains the path of death.

And sometimes, like the followers of Jesus, we live and think as though we forgotten the promises of God’s Word, and as though fear, sorrow, sin and death have won the day.

But these things are all turned upside down by the amazing discovery of the women! The tomb is empty! The prophecy of the Psalmist is true! “You will not abandon My soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption.” The angel declared its fulfillment: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here! See for yourselves the place where they laid Him!”

Jesus lives! The good news is not just that Jesus lives! Certainly they were happy to see and be with their beloved Teacher and Friend again! But the greater news is that His perfect life, and His suffering and death on Good Friday had truly accomplished their salvation!

For Peter, the One who holds and gives the word of forgiveness lives, that his conscience may be at peace.

For Mary, the One who delivered her from the oppression of demons lives, that she may, in Him, have continual protection from the evil one.

For all the followers of Jesus who mourned His death, He lives that they may know that in Him, death is conquered.

What joy there is this day! The Psalmist speaks of it: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Christ is our path of life, and in Him, we have an answer to all our fears, our sorrows, our sins, and to death! The tears of sadness they bring to us turn into tears of joy in Christ.

Jesus is the answer to our needs. He did not rise for His own sake, but for Peter’s sake, Mary’s sake, for our sake. Our Savior lives. Our Lord has conquered death for us, He has become for us the way of life and guards and keeps us in Himself and His victory with His holy Gospel in Word and Sacraments.

You having fears, know that your living Lord, with His pierced hands, holds your lives in His tender care.

You who are heartbroken, hurting and in sorrow, know that you are baptized into the man of sorrows, Jesus Christ, who though being without sin, became acquainted the griefs of sin and all its ugly consequences for your sake. He lives, sympathizes with you, and for your sorrow gives peace and joy for your soul.

You afflicted by the devil with temptations to despair, through faith, you belong to Christ who has caused the devil’s might to become unraveled. Christ is risen, and therefore you have the certain hope that you have life in Him.

You sinners, Jesus lives and is the answer to your sins. So confess them before God that they may be covered under the blood of Christ, gone forever! You who are burdened by the weight of your guilt, Christ has taken the load of your guilt and suffered for your sins on the cross of Good Friday! He lives, that the forgiveness He won for the world may be freely given to you. He lives that He may be present with you each week in Divine Service, giving you through His Word, Absolution, and Supper the forgiveness He won for you! The finished work of His redemption is guaranteed by His resurrection, and thus you may have a clean conscience before God. And through faith in His salvation, you are also given the gift of the newness of life, that you may live each day as children of God.

Jesus is the answer to the death that looms over us. Death still looks ugly, and a great enemy, but in reality, through Christ, death is destroyed. Death was the power of Satan, our great enemy. But in His death, Jesus crushed the ancient serpent’s skull! Jesus rises from the tomb, showing that death is nothing more than a nap for those who are in Him. Through His Word received in faith, Christ gives you His victory that your foot too stands over the devil’s skull, that in death, you may pass safely from this the land of the dying into heaven, the land of the living. As He is risen from the grave, so too, one day, you and all those who died in the faith shall rise, too, that we whole, and complete, body and soul, may enjoy eternity with our gracious Triune God!

Jesus lives! He is our path of life! Though the realities of life in a fallen world and in our fallen flesh are ever so vivid, we know that the Holy Spirit through Baptism has brought us into the path of life, where we know we live each day in our living Christ, in His forgiveness, in His life. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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