Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sermon

Easter Day – March 31st, 2013 – John 20:1-18

Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia + Amen
          We often think of how long, how agonizing Good Friday was.  I think we neglect to think how quick and rushed the end of it would have been.  Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and the Friday before a High, Festival Sabbath, and so He had to be taken off the cross and buried quickly.  And Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus do so, they had put the cloths and the spices on His Body and hurriedly laid Him in a near by tomb, because there was no time to do more.  And so, that Sunday morning, actually, we wouldn’t even think of it as the morning yet, it was well before the Sun was up, what my uncle would call “O’Dark Hundred”, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women head to the tomb to do things right.  You need to do things right, show the proper respect, make things nice and neat and respectful… and they hadn’t been able to, things were too rushed.  But now, after many long hours, they could put things right.

          And the stone is gone.  The tomb is open.  Broken into.  Defiled.  Robbed.  Desecrated!  And so Mary Magdalene does what she thinks is best – “So she rant and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”  She reports a robbery.  A break in.  And so, Peter and John go to check it out – John heads first, sees that the tomb is open, Peter barges in, sees the cloths lying there in a strange fashion.  They look, and they see, but they do not understand, for as John himself admits, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.”  And then, Peter and John, big help that they are, go home.  Yep, Mary, there’s something strange afoot… and they’ve been killing people, we’re headed back home.  Let’s just wait and see how this all sorts out.

          That’s when Mary decides to check things out.  Oh, she’s an emotional wreck, weeping like made.  And when she enters the tomb, there are angels there, and they ask her, “’Woman, why are you weeping?’  She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’”  Every year, this verse gets me – Mary is so distraught that she doesn’t think anything strange of two guys hanging out in the tomb – two guys that Peter and John hadn’t seen in there.  Something strange is going on – but Mary cannot see it, she is so caught up in fear and anger and sorrow that she is blind.  The full weight of just how lousy life is in this stinking, sinful, fallen, rotting world has come crashing down on her, and she’s overwhelmed.  So overwhelmed, that even when Jesus Christ Himself shows up to talk to her, when He asks her why she is weeping, when He asks Whom she is seeking – she still doesn’t get it.  “Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’”  And that right there is her best hope – maybe it wasn’t a break in, maybe it wasn’t a robbery, maybe this isn’t Jesus’ opponents come to desecrate Him and His tomb.  Maybe it’s just the cemetery caretaker who pulled a Body out of a tomb that it wasn’t supposed to be in, maybe Jesus’ Body is just being transferred.

          And then Jesus calls her by name, and she sees, and then there is nothing but joy.

          What commentary is there to give upon that?  In that moment, as Jesus calls her by her name, Mary sees that every wrong and ill in the world is undone, that things are all made right again.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  Death itself is undone.  Sin has been totally forgiven.  Life has returned.  It’s all good once again.

          It’s interesting, because when Mary saw the open tomb at first, she thought the grave had been robbed.  And in many ways, she was right.  The grave has been robbed – since Adam and Eve the grave, Sheol, knew that it has as its right and bounty every last single human being.  We live, we die, we are buried and put in the grave.  Until Christ.  Until Easter day, when the Father raises Christ from death and the grave, and says, “No more, you will not have my people, O grave – you will not get to keep them, O death.  Behold, Jesus Christ is risen today.”  This resurrection which we celebrate today – this is your resurrection, I mean that literally.  Because of this day, no grave will hold you in, no vault will keep you sealed, because Christ Jesus has risen, and so shall you.  She thought that the tomb had been broken into, and again, she was sort of right.  Christ Jesus just broke into every tomb in existence and paved the way for every one of them to be broken open the Last Day.  Mary was worried about desecration and defilement – well Satan’s power, Satan’s domain, the fear that Satan had over us – Christ desecrated and defiled that – pulled the sting out of death, pulled the teeth out of the dogs of war, showed Satan just how weak and powerless he is compared to God Almighty – our Redeemer lives, and He stands upon the Earth, and so shall we and we shall see Him face to face – and there’s not a thing Satan can do to stop it.

          And Mary gets it when Christ calls her by Name.  And guess what – He has called you by your name.  That’s your baptism, your Christening, you “in-Christ-ing” to use an old term for it, where you received your “Christian Name”.  You have been called by name out of this world of darkness unto Christ Himself and His kingdom.  If you die before He returns, He’ll call you by name out of your tomb.  He has won you the victory, and there is nothing that sin, death, the devil can do to stop Him.  You are forgiven and you have life in His Name.  You are united to Him, joined to Him – He has given Himself to you, He gives you even His own lifegiving Body – take and eat, take and drink – here, receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Receive a reminder that you belong to Christ, receive a foretaste of the feast to come for all eternity.  That same risen Lord comes to you, proclaims forgiveness to you in His Word, comes to you in Supper, declares that you are forgiven and shall rise – and this is the great reality of your life.

          My dear friends in Christ Jesus, indeed, my brothers and sisters in Christ – the grave is broken, death is undone and will not last, and Christ Jesus lives.  He has won.  Your sin is done away with, atoned for, forgiven – and Christ lives and gives you everything, now and for eternity.  This is most certainly true.  Amen. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia.  Amen

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