Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sermon

Easter Day – April 8th, 2012 – John 20:1-18

Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia – Amen
As Mary trudged to the tomb that Easter morning, she was miserable. Her Lord, her friend was dead. Finished. Caput, that’s all she wrote. The best she could hope for was to mourn – the best. Maybe she could treat the remains with some care, but it had been quite some time since He died, and He was sorely abused as He was put to death. Do you see what this means? As she approached the tomb that Sunday morning, the most she was hoping for was a dreary and disgusting one-sided farewell. She was miserable. And then, she gets to the tomb, and confusion is added to her misery. The tomb has been unsealed. Has it been robbed, has it been vandalized, have those who hated Jesus in life hated him so vigorously that they would desecrate Him in death? What is going on? And so she runs to Peter, to John, tells them what has happened – maybe they will help. They run, John runs faster and looks, Peter runs slower and charges in – and they are left in wonder. The tomb is empty, the burial cloths are simply laying there, the head cloth folded neatly. And what do they do? Do they help and comfort poor Mary? Nope. In their confusion, they head back home… and simply leave Mary there. The friends she had run to for help have no answer, and off they go, and there stands Mary in misery and sorrow and confusion and despair.

This is the morning that Mary is having. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to 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.’” Is it any wonder, with the morning that Mary has had that she would be so distraught, so upset, so hopeless that she wouldn’t even recognize or understand two angels talking to her? Not at all. And so in utter despair and despondency, she cries out her lament and then she turns to trudge out of the tomb. “Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ 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.’” So wounded, so hurt, so torn that the best she can hope for that morning is to drag a corpse around by herself – that’s all that she thinks is left to her, that is the best she thinks she can look for.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means teacher).” And this is where it all changes for Mary. What had been a morning of nothing but death and sorrow and sadness and doom and despair is swept away and in its place is nothing but joy and peace and love and gentleness and goodness. And why? Because Christ Jesus, risen from the tomb, risen victorious over sin and death and the power of the Devil, stands before her, and He calls her by Name. Mary had been right to weep that morning – when one sees the cruelty of life in this sinful, fallen world, one is right to weep. And if one assumes that Jesus is gone, dead, destroyed, what would left be but weeping? But behold, there stands Christ Jesus her Lord, and He knows Mary, and He loves Mary, and He calls out to her with His own voice. Do you see what this means? It doesn’t mean that the horrors of Good Friday never happened, it doesn’t mean that the sorrows Mary faced weren’t real – oh no, they were real, and they were strong and they were horrible, too strong and horrible for Mary to bear. But they were not too strong for Christ, for He strides victoriously from the tomb, He strides victorious over sin, over death, over hatred and chaos. They were strong foes, but Christ Jesus is the Stronger Man, and He is the Victor. And His victory was not just for Himself – it was for Mary. See, He is risen, and He calls her by name – and she knows at that moment, as He calls her by name, that even in the midst of a world full of sorrows and terrors and fears, His victory is her victory, and at the last when this world has done it’s worst, she too will stride forth from her tomb. Jesus is Risen and calls her by name.

Now, dear fiends, understand the ploy that Satan uses. He used it on Mary; he uses it upon us today. He tries to make the sin and ruin and vileness of this world that we see all around us overwhelm us, tries to use this to rob us of hope and joy. But over and against the assaults of Satan, one thing remains true. Christ Jesus is Risen, and this Risen Jesus has called you by Name out of the kingdom of Satan in unto His own family. You are forgiven by your Risen Lord, and Satan can harm you none, he’s judged, the deed is done – but Christ’s Kingdom remains your forever.

Does Satan show you misery in this world? He probably does, but this does not change the fact that Christ is risen, and He has called you by name. Does Satan show you suffering in this world? He probably does, but Christ is still risen, and He has called you by name, and so you will rise past suffering. Does Satan try to terrify you? So be it, Christ is still risen, and He has called you by name, and there is no fear that is stronger than Him. Does Satan try to make you overwhelmed with guilt and despair? He probably does, but Christ is risen, and He has declared you to be forgiven, and He still calls you by your Name to His church precisely to forgive those sins that weigh heavy on your mind.. Does Satan try to rob you of hope? I’m sure he does, but Christ is risen, and He has called you by name, and there is nothing Satan can do to rob you of Christ and the hope of life everlasting that He has said is yours. Does Satan throw anything and everything he can at you? Of course, for he was a liar and a murderer from the beginning, but Christ is Risen, and He has called you by name and He has said, see, although Satan has bruised my heel, I have crushed his head and freed you from him. Over and against any sorrow or pain or wretchedness we may encounter in our days in this fallen world, this truth stands out. Christ is risen, and He has called you by name.

What we are gathered here this morning to celebrate and rejoice in is the most important event in the history of the world, the point at which everything changes. Christ has risen from the dead, and the power of Satan is snapped, is destroyed. Death has lost its sting, it has no more victory. Death could not hold Christ – and because of Christ it cannot and will not hold you. Sin rears up its ugly head in your life – your risen Lord Christ Jesus says, Enough of that, I am your risen Head, and in Me you have forgiveness and life and salvation. I have called you by Name in the waters of Holy Baptism, and because of Me you are clean and forgiven and have true life, life that sin and this world cannot destroy. The world tries to beat and break you down, to whittle you away – your Risen Lord Christ Jesus says, “Enough of that – all that I have is yours for you are Mine, and I give you My strength, My life, My love – here, take and eat, this is My Body, take and drink, this is My blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.” Although the world will try to cloud your vision, to encumber you with pain and sorrow so that you forget this, Christ Jesus calls out to you once again this morning, He says to you, “I have risen for you, and you shall live now in this life and you shall rise and you shall be with me for all eternity, and there is nothing that Satan can do about it.” This is His love for you, a love stronger than death and the grave, a love stronger than sin and Satan, a love that is steadfast and sure. He is risen, and He is risen for you.

My dear Christian friends, indeed, more than mere friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom I will in Christ’s presence share the joys of everlasting life both now in part and in the life of the world to come, what more needs to be said? Christ Jesus is Risen from the Grave, and He has called you by Name. His life is now your life, His resurrection is now your resurrection, His victory is now your victory, and so it shall ever be. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Amen. +

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