April 4, 2021 A+D
St. Mark 16:1-20
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The whole point of “He is risen” and the empty tomb is that He was dead. Angels don’t show up to announce that Jesus was sick and is now feeling better. His burial was not a mistake. He was dead, but now He lives. The angels show up to announce that the battle is done. Jesus has won.
It almost seems as though the angels at the tomb are unaware that the death and resurrection of Jesus has rescued humanity from damnation. They’re focused on His victory, not His reward or what it means for us. They do know about us and our restoration to their family. They know that God has become a Man in Christ and that this is His glory. Jesus tells us that they rejoice over one of us who repents and that they watch over us and represent us to the Father.
But at the tomb, it seems “He is risen,” is nearly all they can say. They aren’t focused on the same things that we are. For us, in the first place, “He is risen” means that the Father has accepted the Sacrifice of the Son as payment in full and that Jesus’ words are true. We are saved. Jesus was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification.
That is absolutely true and at the individual level, for each of us, in some sense, this is what matters most: Jesus has made Himself an offering for our sins, laid down His life to save us, and has appeased His Father’s wrath. He has made Himself our Substitute and in Him our sins are forgiven, our debt is paid, and we are made the children of God.
But the angels see the big picture. They see that the battle for us and for the rest of creation was against Satan. Satan plunged what God had called good and very good into wickedness, selfishness, and death. There were no cats playing with mice or dolphins herding tuna to their deaths or mama right whales mourning for the death of their calves before Satan showed up. Our succumbing to and cooperation with Satan’s temptation corrupted the entire cosmos and placed it into Satan’s hands. Cars rust and dogs die and rivers get polluted because of our sin. This is the reign of Satan whom Jesus calls “the prince of this world.” Before the resurrection, Satan seemed to have gotten at least some of what the wanted. He laid claim to everything created except the holy angels who resisted him during his rebellion. The rest of it was his.
His motive might have been jealousy. He might not have liked the fact that Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth and made in God’s image and not him. But we don’t know. We only know that He has been a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Perhaps his vanity led him to believe that he could get away with it, that God would turn His back on creation or just destroy it and start over. Either way, God would be shown to have given us free will without actually loving us. It would expose that He was foolish in His creation. But, of course, that is not what happened. The entire Old Testament, the history of Israel, the words of the prophets and the Psalms, along with the Incarnation, the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all the Apostolic writings prove instead that God is good, that God is love, that He is Life, living and life-giving. This culminates in the self-giving of the Son and the Resurrection on the third day. This proves His Law and Justice were not without compassion or mercy, that He is faithful and true. “He is risen” is a victory cry that proclaims above all that good has won and evil has lost, that death is dead and life lives.
Satan, that great enemy of our race and Judas to the holy angels, has been stopped and destroyed. Thus does St. Paul write that Christ, by His death, destroyed “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release(d) those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV) Death, the devil, and Hell are vanquished and destroyed. We are delivered from bondage.
In Acts 2 St. Peter argues from Psalm 16 that the Resurrection was necessary and inevitable. He says that the men of Israel took Christ by violence and put Him to death by crucifixion, but that God raised (Him) up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24, NKJV) Peter qualifies all of that by saying that the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah was “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23).
And if Jesus the Messiah is a Man and death could not hold Him and His Father was determined to raise Him up from death, then neither can death hold us and the Father has ever been determined to raise us up also. What the devil stole is restored to dominion over the earth and even elevated to the right hand of God. We are the spoils of war, promised to the Son, and the resurrection, as much as the ascension, elevates human nature. The devil cannot have us.
St. Paul writes of the Resurrection as victory also. Famously saying
“When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, NKJV)
And again he writes:
“Our Lord . . . has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:9-10, NKJV)
With this sort of thought process, aware of the cosmic significance of the resurrection and what has been done for all of creation, the angel is surely surprised by the women’s fear and uncertainty. He couldn’t be more clear if he had the devil’s head on a stick, as escalator to heaven laden with luxuries, and an entourage of lions and lambs, asps and babies playing together. Everything is complete. God is good. His mercy endures. The future is assured. Jesus, who was crucified, is not here in this grave. He is risen!
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.