Sermon – Mark 16:1-8 (Easter – 2020)

This is hard. Christianity is not about painting a rosy picture and denying the difficulty of life in a fallen world. We’re honest about life, and this is hard. But it always has been this way. Christians have suffered persecution, sometimes very severe, as it is in some parts of the world right now. We suffer the loss of loved ones, and all sorts sadness. We suffer loneliness and anxiety. We suffer illness and pain. Today we are dealing with the coronavirus, and all the difficulties that we’re facing because of it. And one of the most difficult things about it is not being able to gather together in the Father’s house. And this is a place of refuge for us always, especially in difficult times. We come to His house to be enveloped by His grace and salvation which He gives through His Word and Sacrament. And we are not able to come together on Easter, this very holy day of the Church Year. We are doing what we can, but it’s not the same. Like seeing loved ones through Skype is not the same as embracing them in your arms. It’s not the same. This, with everything else going on account of the virus, and whatever other troubles we face in this fallen world, these things are hard. And we don’t just put on a smiley face and pretend that all is fine.

No, we admit the difficulties, but here’s the thing, we have an answer to them. Christ who was crucified for us is risen! He who gave His life as a sacrifice to deliver us from the devil, from the world, and the condemnation for our sins, so that we may be His own, and live as His people, now and forevermore, He lives. He is our living Savior, our Lord, whose love and presence is with us in the midst of all these trials. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And so while we endure this hardship, we rejoice in this truth, in this reality, Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia! So let us rejoice with the festival hymn, hymn number 348, He Is Arisen, Glorious Word!

Grace to you, and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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.

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

Dear fellow redeemed,

The women were planning on seeing Jesus today, just not a living one. After Jesus had been buried on Good Friday, they left to go prepare their own spices and ointments to anoint Him. On the Sabbath day they rested and did not work, but then early on the first day of the week, they were going to the tomb. They didn’t seem to be too concerned about the soldiers stationed there. But the one thing on their minds was how were they going to roll the stone from the opening of the tomb. They couldn’t do it. They needed some muscle to roll away that large stone.

But they didn’t expect that it would be an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone! And they didn’t expect that the opening of the tomb would reveal that Christ was not there!

The women were the ones watching Jesus from a distance on Good Friday. They witnessed all the supernatural events surrounding Jesus suffering and death. They saw the soldier pierce Jesus’ side. They saw Jesus lifeless body taken down from the cross, and they followed Joseph and Nicodemus as they brought Jesus to the tomb and laid Him there.

But now He is not there. The angel proclaims to them the good news! Christ is risen! He is alive.

This isn’t just another event to go down in the annals of history. His death and resurrection, is the central event in human history, and it has the utmost significance to us. And since we have been going over the Lord’s Prayer during Lent and Holy Week, I’m going to sum up the significance of His resurrection for us using the outline of the doxology in the Lord’s Prayer.

While Jesus was under trial before Pilate, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He has a kingdom. This is the kingdom we pray comes to us in the Lord’s Prayer. But there is no kingdom if the king is dead. But the King is risen! He lives! And His kingdom is eternal, as the Psalm says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Ps 45:6,7).

It is not only an eternal kingdom, but a kingdom of righteousness, for the King hates wickedness and loves righteousness, as the Psalm says. So you wish to enter this kingdom? You wish to be right with God, live in His kingdom and not be condemned forever? You cannot do it on account of your own works. You will never enter. You are sinners. How can you enter this kingdom of righteousness? You know your sins, your barbs that you speak that prick your loved ones, your resentment and impatience toward others, your desire for your own glory rather than the glory of God. And yet there are even more secret sins that we are not even aware of. One sin makes you guilty of the whole law.

But look to the King, the Son of God, and His strange actions. He becomes flesh, lives according to all the demands of the Law, and willingly goes to His Passion and death to make satisfaction for all your sins. This He does for you, that you may be citizens of His kingdom! He is the Way. He is the Door through which the sheep enter. He is your righteousness to be received and accounted to you through faith in Him.

His resurrection is proof that He has opened heaven to you, that He has accomplished all that was necessary for you to become members of His heavenly kingdom. He said on the cross, “It is finished.” The justice required for your sins is fully paid by His suffering, blood, and death. And the Father accepts it, and raises Him from the dead, as an “Amen” to Jesus words, “It is finished.”

And so you can have full confidence that the King who paid for your righteousness and eternal life by His death, now lives and reigns over you believers and all His Church for all eternity!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead also displays His power. Jesus laid down His life willingly. He also said that He has the authority to raise it up again. Who can say that? Which one of us can make such claims! It is ridiculous! But this isn’t just a man from Nazareth saying these words, but this is God made flesh. And He raises His own body from death proving that He is indeed the true Son of God as He said He was.

In His resurrection He shows His victory, that He has power over sin, death, and the devil. He took the burden of sin’s curse. The punishment price of sin surely would do Him in. But no, in power, He rises, with sin paid for and done with. Death swallowed Him up, and He was placed into the belly of the earth. Death could not hold Jesus. The Psalm foretold it: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy One see corruption” (Ps 16:10). Jesus’ flesh would not remain in the tomb to rot, He will not remain in death, but He will very soon rise, and surely, on the third day He rises bodily from the grave with the belly of death burst wide open. Satan, who has the power of death, believed to have bettered his foe. But Jesus rises and stands with Satan’s head crushed below His feet.

He exerts His divine power over these things, not just for His own sake, but for us. In love, He gains the victory for us, that we, in Him, are saved and guarded from sin, death, and the devil. He is our Victor, our Lord. And we are His people under the shadow of His wings.

Finally, He has received all glory. Before His crucifixion, Jesus said that He was about to be glorified. And the Father spoke from heaven saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” (Jn 12). Jesus is glorified by His death and resurrection! He is glorified  because of His great sacrificial love for us, and also because of His victory for us over our enemies. He is worthy of all worship and praise.

And we, as His redeemed people, called by the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel now live our lives to His glory. And we live in the certain hope that because of our Lord’s resurrection, the day of Resurrection will come when our bodies that are still encumbered by sin and trouble and death, will arise glorious like Christ’s glorious body, perfect and holy, without any blemish or weakness. And for eternity, we shall join with the angels and all the hosts of heaven, giving glory God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb who was slain, and singing “Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.

Rejoice today, dear believers, your Lord, who was crucified for you, now lives for you. Rejoice, you who have trouble in this world, for He has overcome the world. He loves you, and He is with you, and He shares with you His forgiveness, salvation and victory. Rejoice, for His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. 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.

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