Jesu Juva

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord

A.D. 2019

Text: Mark 16:1–8

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

            What sorrow filled the hearts of the women as they walked to the tomb that first day of the week?

            “We thought you were different,” they probably said to themselves. Everyone else is making promises all the time and breaking them. How many men had let Mary Magdalene down in the past? How many had used her and left her so broken that not one, but seven demons plagued her until Jesus came and cast them out?

            “You said you would take us with you. You said that no one could ever snatch us out of your hand, but we saw your limp limbs laid on the cold, hard stone. Nothing was left to them but the wounds left by the nails. It is as though your arms held open by the nails let us fall out.”

            “You said death would not be the end for us, but then You died. You said you were the Stronger One who could bind the Strong Man Satan and set us free. Free from what? For You have died and left us, and now death waits for us.”

            It is so hard to believe in Jesus in the face of death. Death seems so final. Indeed we must confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” The women walked in sorrow because they walked by their own reason and strength. But the Holy Spirit working through the words of the angel was about to draw them back to the words and promises of Christ.

            St. Paul tells us that all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus. And so the women are directed back to Jesus’ promise. For it is true that He told them He would take them with Him, that no one could snatch them from His hand, that He would bind the Strong Man and plunder his house. But He also told them: “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Mark 14:27-28 ESV)

            As the women stand in the empty tomb, the evangelist angel tells them that Jesus is not here. The Crucified One has risen. His promise has been kept. He suffered and died to crush the serpent. The accuser is bound and can accuse no more, for Christ has answered every accusation. The empty tomb shows that Christ is free. Death cannot hold Him. Death has no dominion over Him, and death has no more dominion over you because Christ has died your death and lives to give you life. He is your redeemer who again stands upon the earth, and not in some spiritual sentimental manner, but in His flesh. He goes before you to Galilee. There your eyes shall see for yourselves, O women, your eyes shall behold, and not another, that Christ has kept His Word.

            And you, O Christian, receive no less a promise today from the angel. For Jesus is not in the tomb. The Crucified One has risen for you as well. St. Mark cleverly does not call the evangelist of the sepulcher an angel. He does not deny that is who speaks to the women, but Mark calls him a young man sitting dressed in a white robe. By doing so Mark merges the heavenly and earthly aspects of this scene. The empty tomb is not so different from a church at this point. For both are the place where Christ’s word, Christ’s promise, is placed into the ear and heart of those who cannot believe, yet by the Spirit do believe.

            Fear and amazement fill the women when they hear the message, but this is not so different from us. This is what is foretold in the Psalms:

22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.[b]
23 This is the Lord's doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.  (Psalm 118 ESV)

            You are gathered here this morning with a heart warmed by the joy of the resurrection, but also with the cares of this life. For although we know that Christ is victorious for us, though we know that our redeemer lives and we will behold Him with our own eyes, we wait with longing. How my heart faints within me.

            Illness, death, grief, worries about today and worries about tomorrow remain. Yet these we are called to cast upon our Lord because he cares for us. Yet the empty tomb can leave us wondering, how long, O Lord, until we see you? And so our eyes need to be directed back to the promise. Christ will meet you as He said. Yes, Jesus will come again and you will see Him stand upon the earth. Though your skin has been destroyed, you will be raised and in your flesh you will see God.

            To sustain you in the meantime Jesus does not leave you, He does not forget His promises. When your heart breaks and you yearn to meet Your Savior, His promise draws you to His body and blood. His body and blood given into death for You, yet risen and living. His heavenly, yet human, flesh and blood. The blood of the covenant, the bread of life. Here He meets You as He has promised.

            Be amazed, be filled with fear and trembling, ponder nothing earthly minded, for far beyond our reason and senses Jesus fulfills His promise never to leave you or forsake you. Here in this place the stone of doubt is rolled away. Do not think that Jesus has left you to stagger on alone, but He comes along beside you and sustains you. He picks up the down trodden, He strengthens the weak. He gives faith to the unbelieving and understanding to the foolish.

            Here the Crucified One lives, not in some sentimental, spiritual, far off sense, but as the One who descended and has ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. He lives as the creator and sustainer of all life. He lives as the one whom death cannot defeat. He lives as the one who was rejected, yet whom God has exalted.          

This is the Lord's doing;
    it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
    O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
    up to the horns of the altar!

28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118)

 

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria