T The Resurrection of our Lord – April 24th, 2011 T
Text: Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:11-18
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”
But for poor Mary, on that first Easter, nothing could seem further from the truth. When the Marys came to the tomb toward dawn that first day of the week (– the 8th day by others’ reckoning –) there was no song of victory, no glorious triumph, not yet – the Hosannas of Palm Sunday were muted by the darkness of Good Friday; the Alleluias were drown out by the sting of fearful tears. They were on their way to the tomb, the same road we travel. It’s the same old story. All that was left to do was weep out their grief at the tomb and devotedly anoint Jesus’ body with spices, one last act of love for the One who had loved them unto death.
Everything’d happened so fast. The arrest. The trial. The beatings. The jeering. The whip. The death march. The spikes. The crucifixion. What horror. What agony.
It appeared that Death – the last enemy - had won the battle; the Pharaoh of Hell had finally shackled his prize slave. Maybe the crowds were right that Friday afternoon – “he saved others but He can’t save Himself.”
Is there anything more real than a cold, miserable cemetery? What is there to be more sure of than the grave? Nothing like looking at a headstone to put the fear of God into you. Nothing more bleak and cheerless. But they thought Jesus was different. He healed the blind, cured the lame, raised the dead, loved the outcast. And now Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. So there was a body to prepare not a feast to celebrate – not yet. What sort of Messiah dies? Where was God in all of that? And what’re we gonna do about that stone?
But all the questions, concerns, doubts, fears, worries, tears – are interrupted. An angel appears.
A jolting earthquake. A flash of light…Is it the end of the world? No, actually the beginning. Let there be light. Let there be resurrection. Let there be life. “Do not be afraid.” The angel rolls the stone away. But there are no dead men in this tomb. The only ones dead were the guards, well, not quite dead yet, but stunned. Wouldn’t you?! That’s why an angel’s first words are almost always, “Do not be afraid!”
“Do not be afraid. I know that you seek Jesus, the Crucified One. He is not here. He is risen, just as He said.” The angel knows what Mary is just beginning to realize. The strife is over. The horse and his rider are thrown into the abyss. Jesus has won. Come, see the place where He lay.
Strange as it may sound the God who died is now alive. Suffering – then glory. Good Friday battle - Resurrection feast and victory. You can’t have one without the other.
“It was a strange and dreadful fight when Life and Death contended. “Strange alright…Only in Jesus’ playbook is death victory. The religions of the world require you to ascend, attain and climb up to God; but this God descends for you. The gods of this world demand your sacrifice in any hopes of raising anything from the ashes; but this God sacrifices Himself to raise you from the dust of Adam. The gods of this world are still lying dead in their tombs – mythical or real – it matters not, for this God dies and lives to tell about it. This God walks out of His tomb as easily as you walk to the fridge for a snack. This is the God of flesh and blood and history.
In Jesus, Life prevails. Death has lost. Call it the greatest comeback ever. A magnificent foolishness thought of only by God Himself. You can call it divine madness or simply a joyous catastrophe of death and life, heavenly hysteria. God conquers death by death itself. Death devoured this Paschal Lamb, Jesus. But sunk its teeth in too deep, bit off more than he could chew. Death choked on the Lamb. And now Death has lost its grip on Jesus forever. The Last Enemy is destroyed For Jesus died and rose for you. Christ’s victory over Death is Mary’s victory, your victory over death.
What is more certain than grave? Jesus’ victory over it! Is there anything more sure than death? Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously, Death and his rider are thrown into chains forever. Where is God in all of that? He is not in His tomb. He is risen. Today, all things rest under Jesus’ feet. He has settled the score once and for all. Once again He leads His children through water into the promised Land. A New Exodus through death into life. Jesus’ hands and feet have shattered the bitter yolk of your slavery. Satan’s captivity is over. You are free. You are redeemed.
Jesus’ victory has cosmic proportions. God has gone down into hell and cut down the nets. The game is over. The rafters of heaven shake with Alleluias; the angelic roar is deafening. The foundations of hell are cracked – everywhere the enemy is in retreat. Christ has pillaged hell. Satan is bound and gagged. Sin is ambushed. Death is conquered. Christ shouts into the empty tomb – where is your victory?...is that the best you’ve got? There is no echo in reponse…Nothing but deathly silence.
This morning we join Mary and the disciples – not looking into the empty tomb, but out of it. We hear their song of glorious triumph: We saw Him, touched Him, we ate with Him. We heard His voice. He is risen from the dead.
For the sign of Easter is not the empty tomb, or the folded burial clothes or an empty cross – but a body, Jesus’ body – a seed sown in the earth for three days, now sprouts with new life… Jesus steps forth from the tomb wounded, but undefeated, forever scarred by, but alive! Jesus lives and so do you.
It’s not until Mary runs and falls worshipping those eternal scars on Jesus’ feet that she truly believes. Fear. Doubt. Sin. Death. The former things are gone. Leave your sins, your fear, your doubt – leave it all behind with Jesus in His tomb. Your sins are paid for. Your pain has been endured. You fear and death have been swallowed up forever. So, go quickly with Mary to worship at Jesus’ feet. What else could you do?
It’s the beginning of every knee and every tongue confessing, holding on for dear life to Jesus’ feet. The feet that plunged into Jordan’s Baptismal streams for you; the feet that journeyed the wilderness for you; the feet that walked trembling to Calvary to be pierced for you; the feet that walked out of the grave for you. How beautiful are the feet that bear Good News, for Mary, for the disciples, for you. There, at the feet of Jesus, Mary finally understood.
And this Easter day, we run with Mary and the disciples – not to the empty tomb; He’s not here; He is risen – don’t walk, run to the place where Jesus now stands alive and well for you: to the waters of Baptism, where Satan’s chariots lie in ruins and Jesus splashes His resurrection on your forehead. To His Word, where His resurrection is preached, sung, shouted into your ears. To His Altar, Where the Lamb Slain and Risen comes and spreads His Easter victory feast.
For the night of mourning is muted with shouts of joy. Our fearful, grieving tears are drown in Alleluias. A shameful morning walk that once began in the cool of the Garden now ends with the dawn of the first day of the week – the never-ending day. Mary, who sat doubtful and afraid, now worships Jesus and can’t help but tell the Good News. Weep not, o sinner – today is no day for sorrowful tears. For the Marys found no body to anoint with spices, no cold flesh to warm with their tears. The tomb was swept clean, ready for occupancy, but not for our God. The grave could not hold Jesus and neither will it hold you. Come quickly. Christ is risen, He is here, just as He promised.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.