Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord based on Mark 16:1-8
Dear people who will rise from the dead: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We know death. We see signs of it in every illness, every injury, even in every paper cut. We’ve seen it drawing nearer and nearer in hospitals and nursing homes. We’ve seen it come surprisingly and unexpectedly. We’ve seen it take the young and the old, the healthy and the sick. Death is all around us.
Death seems so permanent to us. Year after year, more bodies are buried in cemeteries and the number of tombstones only increases. We don’t see people come out of graves, they go into them and that’s the last we have seen of them.
This is exactly what the women going to the tomb on Easter morning knew. They knew death. They had seen the mean, bloody, gruesome, torturous death of Jesus at the hands of a wicked, cruel mob. They had followed and witnessed Joseph lay Jesus’ breathless, lifeless corpse in the tomb.
The women made their way to the tomb early in the morning in order to put spices and ointments on the dead body to prepare it for permanent burial. Their hearts were filled with love for Jesus who had done nothing but good to them and for them and everyone else. They could not forget Him now that He was dead. Their biggest concern was how to move the large stone away from the entrance of the tomb so that they could gain access to Jesus’ body. They were completely unprepared for what they found once they arrived at the tomb.
The great stone had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was not there. John records that Mary was weeping at the tomb, and the angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responded with saying, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” In other words, she said, “What are these wicked men trying to do? Why do they afflict and torment us poor, miserable people? Haven’t they done enough to poor Christ our dear Master and Lord? They’ve put Him to a cruel death and now will not even allow His body a resting place in the earth now that He is dead!” (adapted from Spangenberg)
An angel said to the women, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”
Just as He told you. This wasn’t something new that the women were hearing. Jesus had been telling His disciples many times that He would suffer and die in fulfilment of Scripture and that He would rise from the dead on the third day. It was necessary that He die to save us from our sin. It was necessary that He pay the price of our sins so that we do not have to pay the price. It was necessary that He rise from the dead, defeating death.
It was too much for the women to handle. Mark writes, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
They were in shock. They trembled. They were afraid. Their world had been turned upside down by Jesus’ death. Now it just seemed to be spinning and they were trying to come to grips with what they had been told by the angel.
When the women calmed down enough to talk, they went and told the apostles what the angel had told them and what they had witnessed. Luke says that the apostles did not believe the women and their words seemed like an idle tale. Then Jesus appeared to the apostles when Thomas was not with them, and Thomas would not believe that Jesus was alive even though all the apostles told him that they had seen Him.
This is how wrapped up we are in death, that is is difficult for us to understand life. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead burst the bars of death for us. Death was defeated.
When Christ returns, every single grave will give up its dead. Those who died rejecting Christ will be raised and sent to eternal punishment in hell, and those who died with faith in Christ will be raised to eternal life in heaven. The grave will keep no one.
The good news for us is that getting into heaven is not about what we have to do or not do. You don’t go to heaven because you’ve done more good than bad in your life. You don’t go to heaven because you lived a life of virtue and avoided scandal. You don’t go to heaven because you’ve been to church on more Sundays than you’ve missed. You go to heaven because Christ Jesus died on the cross for your sins and has earned you eternal life. You go to heaven because Jesus paid the price of your sins and suffered hell for you so that you do not have to suffer in hell. You go to heaven because Christ Jesus gives you forgiveness through the waters of holy Baptism, through the word of Absolution, and in His body and blood, given and shed for you.
We are surrounded by death, and we see death all around us. But Christ has defeated death, and death is now our door to Paradise. Our graves are beds in which our bodies rest even as our souls go to be with Jesus until He returns and raises our bodies as He is raised.
Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death has lost its sting. Jesus lives and we will live with Him. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.