Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Sermon

Easter Sunday – April 4th, 2010 – John 20:1-18

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) +
My dear friends in our risen Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, today, this Sunday, we hear once again the reason for our hope, the reason for our joy, the reason why we know that we can face with confidence anything that we see in this life. Our Lord Christ Jesus rose from the dead. Do you see, do you understand how this shapes the way we approach everything, everything in life? There is nothing in this life, in this world that we as Christians do not see and understand differently than the rest of the world does because of the truth of our Lord’s resurrection. Everything is changed, everything is different, everything is turned for the better.

Consider the start of our text. Mary Magdalene approaches a tomb – and what does she expect? A dead body. That’s understandable. We all know death, we all know it well enough to dislike it. And as Mary goes, she’s expecting to see a body because in this fallen world dead is dead. Just how it goes. According to the thinking of this world – that’s all there is and nothing more. End of story. Yet when she arrives, there is no dead body there. Now, something is different, something is going on. Mary doesn’t know what to make of it, yet – she’s still thinking in worldly terms. There must be a reasonable explanation for this, so she runs to Peter and John and jumps to the following conclusion, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” This is actually a pretty lousy conclusion. Roman soldiers had been stationed by the tomb – who would this “they” be? Who would have the power to overcome the Roman Guards? But that’s all that she can think of. Someone must have taken Him, because the tomb is empty.

Peter and John don’t know what to make of this either – so they go running to the tomb – and it’s empty, and they know that something is going on – but they don’t know what. “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.” They are left at a loss – and so there is nothing left for them but to go back to their homes in wonderment. Because they don’t know, because they don’t understand the resurrection – nothing makes sense. This, dear friends, is the state of the world. Without the resurrection of Christ, in the world pain and suffering and confusion will dominate, and people will go to stranger and stranger lengths to try and force some fleeting joy and happiness into their lives, until things all fall apart, until they all just. . . stop. That’s all the world can hope for, all the world can expect.

Mary doesn’t go home. She stays at the tomb all distraught. Weeping. She is so upset that when two Angels suddenly appear in the empty tomb and start talking to her, when two angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping”, it doesn’t stand out to here that there are two angels there who weren’t there a moment ago. It doesn’t register – her grief is that great. In fact, next we hear, “She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” She is so overwhelmed, that she doesn’t even recognize Christ, standing there in front of her – and then, Jesus speaks to her – “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Um, who exactly are you looking for – cause I’m standing right here. And she still is distraught and nothing makes sense and she starts rambling at Jesus, thinking He’s the gardener – “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Which makes a lot of sense because as we all know, gardeners like. . . to steal bodies? When my wife told me that she like gardening – I didn’t think it meant she was a grave robber. But this is just where Mary’s mind is at right now.
And then Jesus says something very simple. He says, “Mary”. He calls her by name. I know you, Mary, and you know Me, and behold, I am alive. And at that moment, at hearing her Lord speak her name, everything is different. What had been a morning of fear and pain and upset becomes a day of utter joy and wonder and rejoicing. Christ Jesus lives – and suddenly, that empty tomb makes sense! Jesus is risen – and suddenly those angels there talking to her make sense. Horror and grief take flight, chased away by the risen Lord. And so our Lord tells her to go, tell the disciples that He has risen, to share the joyous and wonderful news, to let them know as well that everything in this world is different, is changed now, because Christ has risen.

Now dear friends, consider your own life. In your life here in this world, you will see sorrows and hardships. For some, sorrows of the past stand out, for some it’s the hardships of the present. Probably both, to be honest . In this world we come across pain, we come across toil, we come across grief and loss. And the best the world can offer us is distraction – if you have enough stuff, if you eat, drink, and be merry you maybe can ignore all these things for a time. But that’s all the world can offer – and it doesn’t really change anything. The world doesn’t provide hope – the hope the world offers falls flat in the face of reality. The world doesn’t offer real change – because here the more things change, the more they stay the same. Still the same problems and pains now that there were then. In fact, they seem to be getting worse. No, the world has no permanent solutions.

God, however, does not ignore the problems of the fallen world, He doesn’t just try to distract us away from them, He doesn’t give us some song and dance number to put a smile on our face. He fixes the problem. The problem is sin and death – and Christ Jesus comes and He defeats sin upon the Cross and He conquers death on Easter when He rises from the tomb. That is what happened that Easter day – that is what Mary saw – that all those problems and pains and hardships she felt that morning were done away with when Christ Jesus rose – and more than that – it meant that every problem, every trouble, every thing in this life that always ends up in death – no, it doesn’t anymore. Now, once again, there is life.

You do realize, dear friends, that this same thing has happened in your life, do you not? You do realize that now, as a Christian, where the world sees only pain and death, you see the hope of the resurrection and life everlasting. And why? Our Risen Lord, Christ Jesus, took water, and then He called you by Name at Baptism, just as assuredly as He called Mary by name, and He not only washed away your sin but taught you the Truth, God’s Truth, God’s Hope, God’s solution. And that is a Truth that towers over anything we see in life. Is there pain – Christ brings healing, for He can heal even death. Is there sorrow – Christ brings joy beyond all sorrow. Is there weeping – Christ wipes away every tear from our eyes. Is there anger – Christ brings with Him peace, peace that surpasses all of our understanding. Is there death – Christ brings with Himself the resurrection. And because we are in Christ, baptized into Christ, we see the whole world through Christ – we see that these sorrows and pains and trials and even death all pass away, all fade away – and that we have newness of life in Christ. This is what we have as Christians – that everything in our life we see and understand in light of Christ’s resurrection, knowing that He is our Lord who loves us and will not only see us through the problems of the moment, but bring us unto the joys of heaven and life everlasting upon the last day. And nothing, nothing in this world can take this way from us, nothing can change the fact that Christ has risen – it is true, it is wondrous, and we have the victory.
But Satan, our old foe, tries his hardest to make us forget this truth, to not remember it, to not let it be how we see and approach everything. Satan likes to stir up trouble and rub our face in it, he loves to stir up doubt – as we’ll hear about in detail next week. Our Lord knew and anticipated this – He Himself has a body like ours, He Himself was tempted as we are tempted, and so, just before His Crucifixion, He instituted His Supper, so that in receiving His own Body and Blood for forgiveness, for the strengthening of our faith, we might learn to live like He lives – that always, over and against Satan, our eyes might be focused upon Christ, that we might know once again that we are already part of the Body of Christ, and so our resurrection and victory is ensured. This is what this Supper is for – it’s so that we might know that every Sunday is Easter Sunday – every Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s victory for us over Satan – indeed, that this victory is ours every day – and that being in Christ, being united to Him, learning from Him, receiving His Supper we might see this truth at all times every day.
My dear Christian friends – Christ our Lord has risen and with His resurrection there is no enemy that can destroy us, no foe that can oppose us, no hardship that can defeat us – for Christ Jesus is our Life and our Savior, and just as He lives and reigns to all eternity, so too shall we live to all eternity and delight in His kingdom forever more. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

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