St. John 20:1-18
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Beloved in the Lord,
We must all face death. Death is everywhere about us and we must all face it in our loved ones and eventually in ourselves. But unless we face death in Christ we shall forever be afraid, we shall forever despair. Death is everywhere and seemingly consumes everyone is comes upon. We see it, we see it right before our very eyes – the entire world is being snatched away one person at a time. Emperors and kings, great and small, young and old, rich and poor, the healthy, wealthy and wise all succumb. One is devoured by cancer, another killed in a car accident. One’s heart gives out in the prime of life, another’s ceases in old age. One lives only a few hours born long enough to be born again. Another is murdered, gunned down while sitting on her front porch. Poor health, violence, war, abortion, murder, old age, you name it and it has touched you and will touch you again. You’ve seen death, faced it in others. The day is coming when you must face it in yourself.
Mary Magdalene has seen death. She’s seen it in the eyes of her “suitors” as they live and move and have their whole being in sin. She’s felt it. She’s done it and she’s lived it. The wages of sin is death. When we live in sin we live in death. Death is everywhere because sin is everywhere. And Mary has seen it in all its gruesome details hanging on the tree. Mary was there with the other women at the cross. She was there when they crucified my Lord. She heard the hammers. She witnessed the blows. The savior thirsted for her repentance. He was given gall and vinegar to drink. She saw man’s cruelty to man, man’s cruelty to God. She faced death but she faced death without faith. She faced death on the cross, but she did not face death in Jesus.
We must all face death and we must all understand its sting. The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law. However, like so many these day we prefer to ignore them. We are people that don’t like to think on things too deeply. We have become shallow, vulgar and cheap. Thus we would rather be entertained, amused, distracted. To think on the cause of death is boring. To worry about the consequence of sin is over our heads, beyond our pay grade. We are, in every respect to our humanity and our mortality, surface dwellers. We fawn after appearances. We prefer to live not in the depths of what is truly wrong, but on the surface where nothing is right or wrong and nothing really matters.
Living on the surface of life, not going very deep, we like the idea of being “spiritual” but not “religious.” Spiritual people don’t have to worry about getting up on Sunday mornings because “spiritual” people can be just as “spiritual” at home. “Spiritual” people don’t have to pay attention to preachers, because “spiritual” people can be their own guru, or pastor, or “spiritual authority” or whatever it is they want to call it. “Spiritual” people can keep their charity, ignore their neighbor, serve themselves all under the illusion of being this wonderfully “spiritual” person who is in tune with things apart from this material world.
The problem is “spiritual” people will need to face up to death. And all of the world’s spirituality will not have a single truthful answer. Your gurus will direct you inward. Your self-help books will tell you to search your heart and give you 12 steps to a better you. Your surface dwelling, appearance fawning people will distract you with “chicken soup for the soul” nice stories that make you feel good for a moment, but don’t really give you any eternal hope. So rather than face death you embrace a world about nothing, without meaning or purpose and begin to suppose death as just another natural phenomena, something that just happens to everyone. In other words: you lie to yourself so you can continue in your way of life, so you can remain in your sin.
Beloved, repent! Repent of your spirituality, your superficial distractions, your deceit, your lies, your sin, and whatever it is that keeps you away from Christ and His Church. Turn from your sin and live! This is God’s will for you. This is God’s purpose and desire for you. For the Lord does not desire the death of the wicked but that they turn, that you turn and repent and live! Today is the day of salvation. Christ is risen! The tomb it empty. This is life changing news, good news, news that calls for faith in your hearts. That’s why Peter and John rush to the tomb. That’s why John wins the race peeks in and believes. That’s why Peter rushes in and beholds the empty grave! This is good news! This is not shallow, vulgar or cheap.
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Christ is risen. He was dead. He was crucified. He bore the sins of the world, yours and mine and everybody’s. He suffered for sin. He shed his blood for sin. He died for sin. He was dead and He was buried, but now He lives!
Now He’s risen.
Now sin is destroyed.
Death is impotent.
The grave is burst open. ‘O death where is your sting? O grave where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Co 15:56-57 NKJ)
Whoever can picture this victory in his heart by faith is already saved. But whoever has no Good Friday and Easter Day, has no good day in the year. The reason we constantly move from distraction to distraction, from one guru to another, from person to person, sin to sin, one shallow relationship to another cheap one is that we’re searching for meaning, for purpose, for depth and for life. Never finding it in this broken world we despair and we sorrow and when death comes upon us we faint and grow weary of the burden, the sight, the inevitable.
Yet, Christ calls us to Himself. Just as He called Mary Magdalene so also He calls you. And He calls you by name. He knows you. He loves you. He wishes to forgive your sins and pledge within you the resurrection of your bodies. Oh beloved, how He longs to give depth to your heart and life to your souls by giving Himself to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Baptism is no shallow water. Baptism is not cheap and it is not vulgar. Baptism is God’s water with God’s Word purchased and won by the blood of Jesus. In this water sinners drown. We are immersed into Jesus, immersed over our heads, held under the water, crucified with Christ, dead and buried. In Baptism we are raised up with Christ and if raised with Christ we have all that is Christ’s. We are with Christ and He is with us. The world is different. We are new. We are regenerated, washed, made clean, forgiven. Faith is born from above and the Spirit floods the heart with the passion of Jesus.
In baptism we face death in the death of Jesus. His death covers over my death. In Jesus I have died already. With St. Paul I can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me and the life I now in the flesh live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Beloved in the Lord, do not let this words fall on deaf ears. Think on these things! Rush to the tomb with John and believe. Race with Peter and see the grave’s void. Listen with Mary as the Savior calls each by name. Listen, as He calls you. Repent and believe. Turn from your sin and face death in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Cast aside your distractions. Focus your heart and mind. Go deeper into the scriptures. Apply this word. Ask questions. Grow. Learn. Mature. And don’t focus on being “spiritual”. Focus on Christ and what He offers you through His Word and Sacraments. Believe! Trust! Cling to Christ!
And when the day comes upon you do not fear death! Do not fear. For Jesus leads His people out of death and the grave of sin to resurrection and life.
He is risen! And all is new, and alive, and free to those who believe the scripture. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!