Easter Vigil — April 4, 2015
Sermon Text: Mark 16:1-8
Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Beloved in the Lord,
The Sabbath is past. The Sun is set. The third day is begun. The women take courage while the men cower in the upper room. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome buy spices and early in the morning make their way to the tomb. Love for Jesus compels the women to pay homage one last time. Love for self confines the men in the upper room. But neither can get to Jesus. The tomb has been sealed. A stone blocks the women’s entrance. The doors have been locked. Fear prevents the men’s exit. Either way – neither the men nor the women can get to Jesus. Such is the depravity of man. Despair hides and our efforts fail. There is no bringing our offerings. There is no coming to Jesus. Not the way want nor the way we think. The stone is in our way and the doors are locked. The world we live in is under a curse. The wages of sin is death. Jesus died. Jesus died on a tree. Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree. Jesus’ death is a cursed death. That’s what the women saw and the men heard. That’s what history records. That’s what the evangelists report. So why go? Because the Sabbath has ended and it’s the third day. Whether they know it or not, whether they believe or not, it is the third day and God has promised great and glorious things on this day.
Rolling away the Stone?
Who will roll away the stone? The women go to the tomb as though the stone were already rolled away. They acknowledge its presence but press on anyway. It is Jesus they long to see. The stone is not going to deter them. Only faith, however small and weak, could empower the women in this way. Only faith can press on in the face such obstacles. We should give pause and examine the faith of our hearts. Do we live as though the stone is not rolled away? Beloved if the stone is not rolled away then Jesus is still dead. If Jesus is still dead we are still in our sins. Are we living in our sins? Are we living as though Jesus were still dead? Do we live as though sin has dominion over us? The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak and too many of us have embraced the weakness and indulged the flesh. We live as though death were still a tyrant and we the object of its wrath.
We’re not bold like these faithful women! We’re timid. We’re frightened. We’re afraid to be numbered with a crucified Jesus. We’re ashamed to be called by His Name. We’re worried what people will think about us? We’re afraid to be labeled as bigots, homophobes, haters, anti-science, anti-progress, anti-choice, anti-sex. We care more about what others think than what Jesus thinks. We worry more about being on the prevailing side of history rather than the right side of eschatology! No matter what the reason, each prevents us from getting to Jesus because each one is a stone rolled in front of our hearts or a bolt locking the doors of our minds.
He’s not Here
Stones need to be rolled away. Doors need to be unlocked. Obstacles need to be overcome. Look at these women. They press on towards the tomb, their love for Jesus compelling them to go against all reason and every earthly hope. They press on and they find that He’s not there. The stone is moved and the tomb is empty. The world is changed and the women are even more afraid. What does this mean? “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.” You seek the one who was put to death for sin. You still think sin has teeth and death has power, but take heed. Christ was crucified. He took on the savage beast and allowed it to wrestle Him in the tomb. He turned the other cheek. He gave His beard to be plucked, His brow to be pierced, His back to be striped. He gave His life into death so that death would be destroyed by His death. The Law stung Him. Death swallowed Him. And Jesus hooked the serpent with His flesh. Like Jonah He entered the belly of the earth, and like Jonah He was given back as conqueror. Jesus is not here! He’s risen!
Behold the Place where He lay
The tomb is empty. The grave is powerless. Sin is put down. Death is vanquished. Hell is plundered. Satan is defeated. There is nothing to stand between you and your creator. Behold the stone is rolled away. And though Jesus is not amongst the dead things of this world there is place to find him. The women and all disciples are directed to the place of His promises. In our text that place is Galilee as Jesus goes before them. But here for us, that place is the altar, the font, and the scriptures.
Behold the place where He lay. He is there in bread and wine with body and blood to deliver His victory into your hearts.
Look to the font! The Savior who once walked on water promises to trample underfoot the great Leviathan and deliver His children from the perils of their sins. Lend your ears to the Divine Word in Absolution. Where Jesus’ forgiveness is given out it is a sure and certain word – a very present help in trouble, a key to unlock the doors of the despairing. Through these the Savior gives, strengthens, and increases faith while at the same time stilling our anxieties, straightening weak knees, encouraging timid hearts, quickening smoldering wicks for service in His kingdom.
Go and Tell
Receiving these gifts we are sent with the women to tell the good news, to tell the deniers and the betrayers, the sinners and the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the sodomites. Sin no longer has dominion! The righteous One has prevailed. Death has no teeth! Let him dare sink his teeth into us! We have a God who is risen from the Dead! The grave has no sting. Rather we have a God who soothes our wounds with Divine Words and Holy Food. The Law has no power! A Word greater than that of our accuser has been spoken! The doors are unlocked! The stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty! The world is changed. Life is new. Go beloved, go and tell! Go and make the good confession. Go and fight the good fight. Go and press on towards the goal. Go! And do not be afraid! Do not be anxious. Do not be timid! But believe that every day is the third day! And God works great and glorious things on the third day! 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!