Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 24th chapter (Luke 24:1-12).
Beloved in the Lord,
Christ is risen, but the women in our text do not know. Christ is risen, but the men in the upper room do not believe. Christ is risen but the powers of appearance have overcome them. The death of Jesus has swallowed them. Only the tales of idols remains as Jesus was crucified. Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite and the whole host of mount Olympus press on with their storied legends. Christ is risen but the tales of idols persist even as they have been undone.
Mary Magdalene, Johanna and Mary the mother of James, early on the first day of the week, make their way to the tomb. The powers of appearance cannot be denied for their eyes, along with eyes of many others beheld the passion of our Lord. These ladies did not miss Good Friday as so many do these days. They were there when they crucified my Lord. They were there when He spoke His seven words from the cross. They were there and would not be denied the opportunity to stand in the shadows of the cross. Surely blood and water cover over their sins as the 7 Words from the cross echo in their hearts. But the power of appearance cannot be denied.
Jesus is dead.
They saw it!
They saw Him, bloody, beaten, crowned, pierced: dead! Dead dead, not mostly dead, not swooning dead, but lifeless dead.
They saw Him, crucified, dead, and they saw Him buried. In Jesus’ death, God died. With God dead, hell rejoices and humanity wallows in vanity. For without God humanity is dead, not mostly dead, not swooning dead, but dead dead, lifeless dead, dead in sins and tresspasses.
We, like these women, are also given to the powers of appearance. Though we are dead in our sins and trespasses we refuse to take our death seriously. We prefer to play. We prefer to joke. We prefer fun. Pondering our condition is not fun. It’s a major downer, a buzz kill. It’s self-esteem suicide. But humanity, without God, dead in sins and trespasses is like a man with a hollow chest. Lacking is a heart that beats; a heart of flesh, a heart of love capable of great virtue and sacrifice for others. Instead, we make every attempt to stuff the hollowness with pleasure. Happiness becomes the end of our life. And the great enemy is no longer death but anyone who stands in our way of self fulfillment.
This is our world, our culture, our days, ourselves. And we are not happy. We are depressed. We are perverse. We are selfish. We are despairing. We are confused. We have become shallow, cheap and vulgar all because we have allowed the power of appearance to deceive us. Like Adam in the garden we have bitten the wrong fruit and fallen prey to the serpent’s ghastly simplicity. “
If it looks good we should want it and we should take it. If it feels good we should desire it and we should fulfill it. If it sounds good we should love it and we should follow it.”
Yes, beloved, Satan can be quite the pied piper whistling his warped way into the hearts and minds of so many, even you and me if we’re not careful.
The women in our text were greatly perplexed. They saw God die. They saw Him buried. And when they arrived at the tomb, they saw that He was not there. His body was gone. A dead God or an absent God make little difference to fallen humanity, little difference when it comes to the enemies of our self-esteem. Both keep God out of our hearts and out of our lives permitting us to retain our idols. But with the Lord God out we are damned. We are still in our sins and death, our mortal enemy, still reigns. Tales of idols are permitted to survive as the human heart covets any and every form of “spirituality”, any and every promise of paradise, any and every idea that we humans can achieve our own happiness without the Lord God.
It’s for this reason the women do not find a silent tomb. The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. But the tomb is not silent. There is a Word for these women. There is a Word for humanity. There is a Word for you. He’s not here. He’s risen. Remember what He told you. Beloved, remember what He told you. “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” The women get a good word. No longer is God dead and no longer is God absent. That means the world’s idols have been crushed. The world’s enemy has been made Jesus’ footstool, and my endless and fruitless pursuit of happiness can finally rest. What once filled my heart and my life has been taken away. Jesus has come as the Lamb. And as the Lamb of God He takes away the sins of the world. All that I could stuff into my hollow chest hoping to find fulfillment was only sin and death. Jesus has taken this away. Jesus has emptied Himself of His righteousness, that my emptiness may be filled up with Him.
His death is the outpouring of the Love of God for me and you and the world. His cross is the victory over sin, death and devil. The serpent has been crushed by the heel of the Son of God. His forked tongue has been snipped. His whistling is forever off key and in the light of the cross he is seen for who he is. Reality is thus viewed rightly from beneath the tree with the Words of the Angel in your ears. What you see is not the whole picture but must be interpreted by the message, “He’s not here. He’s risen!” The power of appearances shatters when the voice of the angel rings through their ears. The repulsion of the outward show melts away as they remembered His Words. The cross, the means of death and judgment, now is seen as the tool of God’s salvation. The tomb, once a portal to the ferocious jaws of death and Hades, now has become a resting place to be feared no more than one fears his pillow. Cemeteries have become dormitories. Jesus is risen. Our great enemy has been defeated, defanged, and destroyed.
This victory and these words come to you and me in the water and the Word as a gift that creates and works wonders within us. Those who hear and believe – their hollow chests are filled up with living water. Hearts of stone, hearts once chasing after tales of idols now are exchanged for beating hearts; hearts of flesh, hearts of love with the capacity for
great virtue instead of vice,
great sacrifice instead of selfishness,
great service instead of self-satisfaction.
Remembering the Words of His resurrection we remember who we are and what He has done. We take seriously our condition and repenting of our sins we are turned by the Holy Spirit to Christ Jesus our Lord. For He has taken upon Himself our sins. And He has suffered our death. And death is our greatest enemy. And our greatest enemy has been defeated once and for all. The death He died He died once and for all, once and for you. And the life He lives He lives to God. Thus hollow chests have been exchanged for the fullness of life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His Holy Word.
Beloved in the Lord, this gift of eternal life is for all people. It is for the lost, despairing, perverse, sinful, shallow, cheap and vulgar among us and around us. It is for the perplexed women in our text and the cowering men. These Words are not idle tales, nor are they tales of some idol. These Words are the sure and certain promises of our God to us today. With these words in their ears and their hearts the women rushed out to tell. They were the first evangelists so to speak, the first to tell of the resurrection. What great honor the Lord of all bestowed upon these women, and how shameful it is that the men refused to believe. If you would be saved from the perils of your sins you must hear the message of the Resurrection with faith. To deny the resurrection is to close up your ears and deny Christ Himself in order that you continue clinging to your false tales. Do not be like these men! Repent! Open your ears! Listen! The one who was crucified for the sins of the world, was crucified for your sins. He is not angry with you. He loves you! He loves you and wishes to give you eternal life! He forgives you and longs for you to draw near to Him by faith. His delight is your presence at His side. His gift is your life for eternity. Only repent and believe the gospel! These words are not idle tales! This is the gospel truth for you and me and the world! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!