Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Resurrection of Our Lord + April 1, 2018
Text: Mark 16:1-8
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The two Mary’s saw the corpse taken down from the cross. They watched as their dead Lord was hastily wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in the tomb. “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.” They saw the stone rolled against the entrance to the tomb.
They had rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment, but now the Sabbath was past. It was time to give Jesus a proper burial with spices. They even brought Salome along, who had also seen Jesus die. These three eyewitnesses went to the tomb, because all of them were sure that Jesus was dead and everything was just as they had seen it left.
All the disciples were positive that Jesus was dead. This was their reality. They had seen amazing things, but evil men had taken Jesus away and destroyed Him. They were so sure of this fact, that the women bought spices, the apostles locked themselves away for fear of the Jews, and the disciples walked to Emmaus disillusioned.
They were so firm in their belief that Jesus was dead, that they did not believe any other report. Mary, Mary, and Salome came to the tomb, and much to their alarm, they found it opened and empty. They heard the words of the angel, “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. 7 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.” The tomb is open and empty because Jesus lives. But they ran away, trembling and astonished. Not only did they not believe the news, they were afraid of what it meant.
If Jesus was still dead, they could put this tragedy behind them and move on. After grieving, they could get back to normal life, and Jesus would live on in their memories. “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” the Emmaus disciples admitted. But I guess that wasn’t what God had in mind. Just another let-down, another loss to be shouldered, as we move through this futile life. Time will heal our wounds, and maybe one day the real Messiah and Savior will come.
The disciples on Easter weren’t the last ones to insist that Jesus was dead. It’s been an ongoing quest that began when the chief priests and Pharisees who sealed the tomb and set a guard of Roman soldiers. Today’s atheists insist that believing in the resurrection of a man nearly 2,000 years ago is foolish. That’s because they base truth on what they observe, and they personally haven’t seen anyone rise from the dead. Therefore it must never have happened. Liberal theologians are no better, because for them it doesn’t matter if Jesus lives or not, as long as the hope is real in people’s hearts. A myth can still be good, if it makes a difference in people’s hearts.
But in truth, there’s doubt in our hearts that Jesus lives also. We’re disheartened by what we see—a reality that’s full of evil—pain, grief, and loved ones who never come back. We’re told day in and day out that the universe just works by natural forces—we must save the planet and save ourselves from extinction. Medical advances make it so we live longer, but no one has cured death. Maybe all of them are right, and that as Carl Sagan said, we’re nothing but an “insignificant blue speck” in the cosmos.
More than that, we’re afraid that our faith has been in vain, and that God has lied to us. Jesus’ disciples had put all their hope in Him, but it looked like He wasn’t any good at keeping His Word. We’re afraid that God will let us be put to shame in our hope. That’s why we pray so little. If we don’t ask, we never have to be disappointed that God doesn’t answer. This is also why we hide our faith from our friends and family. It’s not that we’re afraid of looking like a “Jesus freak”; it’s that we’re afraid Jesus isn’t who our Sunday School and pastors told us He was. So, we don’t tell others Happy Easter! Christ is risen! We tuck our cross necklace into our shirt and stay home from church if people are visiting.
And then again, what if Jesus has come back from the dead? That was the other fear on the minds of the disciples. Sure Jesus might be alive, but what if He’s angry that we all abandoned Him and stood far off, saving our own skin? He’s probably fuming mad that, not only did we abandon Him, but we always misunderstood what He was saying. If Jesus is alive, we’re in trouble.
If Jesus is alive after being dead, that means He really is the Last Day Judge. That means He remembers all those times I slept in rather than go to church, or those times I was too chicken to stand up for what God’s Word teaches. He must know all my sins that added to His suffering. Jesus lives, but we’re afraid He might live for vengeance.
But that’s where—thanks be to God—we are totally wrong. The moment that the two Mary’s and Salome were alarmed, the angel replied, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” Do not be afraid because Jesus is risen from the dead. Or do you not understand? He shed His blood and died for your sins. He was not just some tragic victim who fell because of your neglect. Remember what has been written by the Prophet Isaiah, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” This is God’s will: to put your sins on His Son, and count you as righteous before Him. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, lives because God has accepted His sacrifice. The Lord has put away your sin.
Mary Magdalene came to understand this when Jesus appeared to her while she was weeping. He appeared to her, bringing the peace of His cross. There was no condemnation for her or any of the disciples, because He had paid the wages of their sin. She was the first eyewitness and messenger of peace. But when she brought that report to the mournful disciples, “they would not believe it.”
They were still so set in their belief in a dead Savior. They refused to believe the eyewitness testimony. It isn’t much different than people today who hear the Gospels written by eyewitnesses, but refuse to believe their testimony. If you believe that Jesus is still dead, you really don’t believe that His death paid for your sins. It took Jesus appearing to the Eleven themselves for them to believe. But even to these “foolish ones, slow of heart to believe,” the first words out of His mouth are reconciliation: “Peace to you!” This is not the Jesus they were afraid they’d meet. He willingly suffered and died so that He could rise and say, “Peace” to the Eleven…and “Peace to you” here today.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleulia) Amen.
 Mark 15:47
 Luke 24:21
 Matthew 27:62-66
 Opening monologue from Cosmos (1980)
 Isaiah 53:10
 2 Samuel 12:13
 John 20:11-18
 Luke 24:25
 Luke 24:36, John 20:19