Sermon for Easter Sunday, AD 2022

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

It is amazing how everyone in the gospel accounts of the resurrection seems completely floored that Jesus actually rose from the dead. They heard his promise many times, he openly told them in three days he would rise, and still when he actually does it they are filled with fear and wonder. Maybe they weren’t sure what to believe. The three women come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they assume he is still dead, they saw him dead Friday evening. Then halfway there they realize it would be impossible for them to access the tomb! Do they expect him to be dead or alive? Is something stronger pulling them there to the tomb?

The women come to the tomb, and it is open! How fortunate, they can get to Jesus’ body! But when they enter into the tomb, there is a young man, clothed in white, who says, “Jesus is risen, he is not here.” He says that Jesus has gone before them to Galilee, just like he said. This causes them great fear and wonder. Jesus has really risen? He has really done everything that he said he would?

Yes, Jesus Christ always keeps his appointments. For most people being dead would stop them from being able to keep their promises, but not Jesus. Why? Well, Jesus said, he is the Son of God. Death does not have power over him, he has power over death. So when the Son of God becomes man and death tries to get Christ in its jaws, it is death who gets the worst of it. Jesus breaks out of death and the tomb, for he does exactly as he has promised. He rose after three days and went ahead to Galilee.

Surely the women should have seen this before they arrived at the tomb. For what does the gospel say? “Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” Do you hear that? Do you hear the proof right there? The sun had risen! And no, I’m not trying to do play-on words here. The sun, Sol, the big ball of light which governs the sky had risen. You might say, so what? The sun rises every day. Of course the sun rose, nothing can stop the sun from rising.

Yes, nothing can stop the sun from rising, but even more sure is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If the sun had risen, then the Son of God must have risen. Listen to the words of Jeremiah the prophet:

This is what the Lord says, the Lord who gives the sun for light by day, who regulates the moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, whose name is Lord of Armies: Only if these ordinances could vanish from my sight, only then could the seed of Israel cease to be a nation before me, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:35-36)

This seed of Israel is Jesus. Jesus is all of Israel rolled into one. He accomplished what Israel could not by being perfectly obedient to the father and dying for the sins of the whole world. Jeremiah is saying if the sun and moon and stars still exist, then God’s promises will not go away. How could Jesus remain dead if the sun had risen? That would mean God’s promises were false, which could never be.

Often it seems like the rhythm of the natural world is more sure to even Christians than the promises of God. You know that spring follows winter and day follows night. Do you as truly believe that resurrection follows death for those who believe? Both exist by the promise of God. Hear the words of the prophet Hosea:

Let us acknowledge the Lord. Let us pursue knowledge of the Lord. As surely as the sun rises, the Lord will appear. He will come to us like a heavy rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

The Lord has promised that springtime and harvest, day and night, will not cease until the return of Jesus. So when you see these things, know that the same One who rules the sun and brings the rain raised Jesus from the dead, and will keep all his promises to you. Nothing can stop Jesus Christ from keeping his appointments.

Not even a large stone on his tomb can keep Jesus down. The women coming to the tomb worry about the stone, but quickly see that it is rolled back. This is another sign where they should have known Jesus had risen. What other explanation could there be for the stone being rolled away? The women had seen Jesus laid there on Friday night. Jesus’ enemies made sure the stone was secure and posted guards so no one would steal the body. They had no motivation to take it. Certainly the disciples were in no position to fight off Roman guards to take the body. This could only be the work of God. It must be Christ keeping his promise to rise again.

If the rock is moved, then the tomb is empty. If the tomb is empty, Christ must have risen from the dead. Some may say the empty cross is a symbol of the resurrection. This can be one symbol, but the thieves next to Jesus had empty crosses too after they were taken down. They remain dead. Only Jesus has an empty tomb.

The empty tomb means a risen Jesus, one who truly defeated death and appeared to many people. St. Paul writes, “Christ…appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one one, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:4b-6). St. Paul is claiming that many saw the resurrected Jesus, that in his time you could even still go talk to these witnesses, ask them what they saw. The resurrection which you trust in is not a fable or story. It’s not just something inspirational. It is a true event, recorded in history, attested by many people, with lasting and continuous effect.

Little history that you know, especially of 2000 years ago, is more surely testified to than the account of Jesus’ resurrection. Ever since the women saw the tomb roll away, Jesus has left significant evidence for keeping his promise of rising again. If Jesus’ past promise is sure, then you also know your future is sure.

When the women entered the tomb, they were told Jesus’ plans by the young man in white. Jesus’ itinerary was to go ahead to Galilee, just as he said. Jesus keeps his appointments. Jesus isn’t just waiting around after his resurrection; He is going on ahead. If Christ is risen from the dead then he has gone before you to Galilee, that is to say, if Christ is risen, then he is on his victory march. To meet him there is your future.

The Psalm today says, “Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” It is a victory songs of God’s people in the pavilions of his army. Christ has fought for you valiantly. He has taken your guilt and shame and punishment on the cross, going through agony and suffering. He was swallowed up by death, sent down into the grave. Yet as a mighty warrior he has overcome death. He burst forth from the tomb, striking down death with his mighty right arm. He crushed the ancient serpent, the devil, with his foot.

See, as he promised, he goes before you to Galilee. Then he goes before you to the Father. Even though you were bound in Satan’s chains by sin, living in fear of coming death, he has trampled down these enemies and leads you to his everlasting promised land. Trusting in him, you follow him on his victory march. He is the firstborn of the resurrection, and in your baptism you join that resurrection band. Whatever toil and turmoil comes in this life, your hope in the resurrection is sure, because Jesus’ resurrection is sure. You can say with the prophet Job,

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Though the earth pass away, though all history be erased, though you decay and die, Christ’s resurrection will always be sure. Every day you see that these things have not yet passed away, you can know Christ’s resurrection is sure. Satan is defeated. Death is swallowed up. The son of righteousness has risen with healing in his wings. See he goes before you. You will see him, just as he told you. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

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