The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ
April 1, 2018 A+D
St. Mark 16:1-8
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
No one dies with dignity. It is always ugly, humiliating, shameful. It often includes an unpleasant emptying of the bowels. And however bad the pain and suffering might have been that preceded it, at least there was life. Then it is gone. Dead. Final. Cold. Still. Creepy and disturbing. And nothing mortal men can do can undo it or make it go away.
That is why we must go to the tomb. We must enter with the women. We must see what death has done. We must know that Jesus died without dignity. That He cried in pain, that He sobbed in fear, that He was beaten and broken, dirty and defiled. He had no beauty, nobility, or pleasantness that we should look upon Him. We esteemed Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted, without dignity or strength or honor.
We must go in to the tomb and see what death has done.
It is not pleasant or comfortable. You have to crouch. It is dark and damp. It stinks. It is hard to get into without rubbing up against the dirt and grime. It is crowded. There is dust and mildew and decay. Maybe there are rats. There are definitely creepy things. Your scalp feels itchy. There is something disgusting is in your hair.
And what do you see there in death’s domain? Maybe it is a hospital bed or a broken windshield with blood on it. Maybe there is tiny coffin or a chemo patient’s wig. Maybe there is huge bill from attorneys and doctors or a sleazy funeral director or a relative who betrayed and cheated you.
We might all see different things, but we need to see them. We need to face the reality that death is real. We need to see what we have brought upon ourselves and those whom we love by our sins.
All this ought to give some sympathy for the women on Easter morning. They crouched down and went into that disgusting place and there they found an angel. He told them, “Do not be alarmed,” but they were alarmed. It was an alarming place. It was dark and dank. It stunk. He told them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” But it was too terrible to behold and they did not want to look.
They were in survival mode, trying to protect themselves. They wanted to be strong. They wanted to handle things well. They didn’t want to be a spectacle. The angel was ripping away bandages too fast. He was shining the light in dark places where they were afraid to look. He was saying things that they were afraid to hear.
So they ran away and they did not tell the disciples what they had seen.
But what of us? What is in that grave? What are we afraid to leave behind? Is there a secret sin we fear will be exposed? Do we fear that if we trust God He will disappoint us once again? Do we not want to look like fools?
Maybe all of it, but can we repent as the women did? Can we regroup and catch our breath and learn to sing Hallelujah even though we’re sad? Jesus lives. He was crucified, but He is risen. Death is not the last word. It can be undone. It is already undone. It is still being undone and no one who believes in Jesus actually dies. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, but He is not dead. He lives.
So let us walk with the women. Let us see death’s debris, the hospital bed, the broken windshield, the little coffin, and leave it there in the tomb where it belongs. Leave it with our sins. Jesus lives. Jesus is coming back. We mourn, but we have hope. We suffer this world’s indignities, we are no strangers to pain, but Jesus lives. And so will we. And so will those whom we love who have departed with the sign of faith. Jesus lives.
We have had our days of lament, of crying out to God that our birth was evil, that this life is not worth the living, that death itself would be a relief. That is why we so love Job. Now let us repent. We’ve gone too far. We’ve said too much. We’ve not trusted God. So also we’ve cried for justice, for revenge, and for an end to all that is wrong in this world and our inability to fix it. We’ve railed against disease and divorce and death. Now let us leave behind that as well. Place it all into God’s hands. Our Redeemer lives just as He said. And He has gone before us.
There is a time to lament, a time to mourn, a time to cry for help. Soon that will end. Jesus goes before us into and out of death. He did not die with dignity, but He did die with purpose, as one of us for us. He did not die until it was finished. Only after Hell had been satisfied, the wrath of His Father quenched, and no sin left that had not been paid for, only then did He die. He did not suffer physical death, the separation of body and soul, to save us in the sense that there was more to do or something left undone. We were saved by His suffering of eternal death on the cross. He finished that when He said it was finished. There was no more to do in that regard. But there was more that He wanted for us. So He died.
He died, suffered physical death, to pave the way for us through death and to sanctify our graves. He died to bury death and its debris. And He rose to open heaven to all believers.
What was finished on the cross, was brought to fulfillment on Easter. Death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. He was delivered for our offenses. He was raised for our justification. He has brought life and immorality to light and paved the way not only through death, but also out of death. Our Redeemer lives. He is risen. He has inaugurated the Resurrection and we live in the last days.
The women came to know this. They learned to sing “Hallelujah. Jesus lives.” And they learned to wait with hope in the midst of sadness, to wait for the time when they too would walk out of their own graves and follow Jesus, and never suffer another loved one to die.
We are their students, still learning. We sing Hallelujah this morning and we mean it. Jesus lives. We rejoice. But we also weep. Our faith is not yet complete. There are still good works for us to do, still things to be overcome. We must repent even as we believe. We must leave it all in God’s hands and in His empty tomb.
You have not come this morning to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom. You have not come to the cross or the stone that has been rolled away. All that is past, completed in Jesus for you. You have come to Easter’s Holy Communion. It is Mount Zion, the city of the living God built without hands, the heavenly Jerusalem. In coming to the Supper, you come to Jesus Himself. And here, with Jesus, there are innumerable angels in festal gathering. Here is the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. Here is God, the judge of all, who pronounced Jesus guilty on the cross but vindicated Him in the Resurrection. Jesus is the Living God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Redeemer that Job waited for, the Suffering Servant caught in the thicket who was slain but who lives, a King after the order of Melchizedek who sits on David’s throne and reigns over Jacob forever, a High Priest who is no Levite or son of Aaron, but who does all that Adam should have done and did not, the Son of the Father, the Son of Israel, the Lion of Judah. He lives. He is not Moses leading us out of slavery with a new law. He is Joshua leading us into the promised land with a promise. You have come to Him. And here with Him, in communion with Him, always with Him, are the spirits of the righteous made perfect. Here, at the center, is Jesus who was crucified, alive in Body and Soul, God in our Flesh, the first of many brothers, and the Mediator of the new Testament. He is here in His sprinkled, risen, living blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel and which does that which the blood of bulls and goats could never do: it forgives sins. It strengthens faith. It makes saints out of sinners and undoes death. So also it teaches us to sing “Hallelujah” and praise the Lord with a new song. You come to Jesus today. He is alive in the Sacrament. There you find peace and courage. There He takes you by the hand and guides you out of the tomb. He, who lives, calls you by name.
He has paved the way for you, through death, and into life. You can face it. You can carry on. You can face life and you can face death. You can mourn. You can lament. You can cry for justice. And you must. But you can and you must also sing His praise and wait on His mercy and trust His Word. Jesus lives. Hallelujah. Jesus lives.
Alleluia. Christ is risen . . .
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.