Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Seeing is Believing?

The Resurrection of our Lord
Sermon Text: John 20:1-18
Audio:

 

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

Beloved in the Lord,

SermonGraphic_300x200We all want to be Thomas instead of Mary Magdalene.  We want to see with our eyes the print of the nails and touch with our hands the place of the spear.  We want a reason to believe, a sign, proof, evidence that we can look upon, examine, feel with our hands and fingers, even our heart, and then decide for ourselves what is true and what is real.  We all want to be Thomas instead of Mary Magdalen.

But our text this morning makes no mention of Thomas.  Thomas doesn’t go to the tomb.  Thomas stays home, sleeps in, has life his way, because his is a way that is seen before it is believed.  Mary on the other hand – she goes to the tomb.  And the text tells us much about what she sees.  She goes in the dark but she’s not lost. She knows where she’s going.  She’s been there before.  She was there on Friday.  On Friday Mary saw with her eyes the death of Jesus.  She saw what they did to Him, the blood He spilled, the reaction of the crowds, the other criminals, the soldiers.  She saw the earth tremble – felt it under her own feet.  She saw the blood and the water from His side.  She saw Jesus die.  She saw Him dead.  And she followed to this place, the place where He was buried.  She saw it all, she felt its weight in her own heart and she went home – because where else would you go with a dead Jesus.

This morning is a bit different.  Mary gets up early, before the sun had risen and she goes to the tomb.  She sees the stone rolled away.  She sees the empty tomb.  She sees the young man and she sees the resurrected Jesus.  She sees but she doesn’t know.  Her heart remains darkened with unbelief.  And so she weeps.  What else would you do with a dead Jesus?

We see/feel our Sin

As fallen creatures all we can do is see and feel the weight and consequence of sin, our sin.  The brokenness of this world and our own hearts imposes itself upon our lives.  And because of this we try to see and feel our way out from under its curse.  The wages of sin is death.  We see death all around us.  We even see it in us.  We see it in illness, disease and cancer.  We feel it in broken bones, aching joints, and weak knees.  But this is merely the brokenness of the outside.  What’s worse is the brokenness on the inside.  Broken bodies are merely the symptoms of a broken heart.  A broken heart loves wrong and loves wrongly.  We want to live by sight.  We want to feel alive so we look upon others as a means to our pleasure.  We covet. We lust.  We get excited.  We hook up. We shack up.  We break up.  The pattern continues as move from one sin to another exchanging one experience for another, never quite satisfied, never quite happy, never really understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing, ever wondering what we need to do to get it right, to feel good, and truly live the sort of life that lives forever.  That’s not just Mary Magdalene’s life.   That’s the life of everyone walking by sight and living by their feelings.  That’s life with a dead Jesus.  And it’s really no life at all.  There needs to be a change, a change in life.  We need to repent.  We need to be more like Mary and less like Thomas.

Called by Name

Why Mary, because Mary goes to the tomb.  Despite everything she sees and feels Mary goes to the place where she last saw Jesus.  And while at the tomb Mary is given, not see, but to listen.  She sees the stone rolled away. She sees the angel in white.  She even sees with her eyes the resurrected Jesus – Mary doesn’t perceive.  Mary doesn’t believe.  And so Mary weeps.  While weeping she hears the voice of her savior.  He calls her by name.  “Mary!”  And Mary’s heart is quickened with faith.  She hears and is given to believe.  Believing she sees.  She sees because she believes.  She believes because Jesus has called her by name.  Jesus has presented Himself to her as a gracious savior, one who is concerned about her heart, one who wishes to wipe away her tears, and bring health and healing to her whole person.

It is as though Mary is baptized right there in the garden.  Hearing the voice of Jesus Mary is awakened unto life, new life, life that is lived in Christ not apart from Him, life that is full of joy and hope and peace and mercy and love and the sure and certain word of her own resurrection on the last day.  Mary is given to believe because she hears.

So too are you.  The Word of Christ’s resurrection is for you this morning.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day that your creator extends His loving and gracious heart to you in His Word.  And He wishes to fill your life with His own.

The call to repentance is the call away from sin and death and to Christ Himself in the waters of baptism.   In Baptism Jesus calls you by Name.  If you are baptized remember His calling and press on toward the goal in faithfulness. Deny sin’s dominion with your life and hold fast your resurrected Lord as given you in His Word and Sacrament.  If you are not baptized then repent!  Be baptized and wash away your sins.  For His baptism is a baptism of the Spirit, a washing of regeneration, the pledging of a good conscience before God, and the promise of new life today, tomorrow, and forevermore, the life that lasts unto eternity.

Sins beneath His Feet

Christ was raised for your justification.  If Christ is still dead, the world is still dead, you are still dead for you are still in your sins. But Christ is raised from the dead so that you do not remain in sin.  Those who remain in Sin are not in Christ.  Those who remain in sin will receive sin’s wages.  Christ has come to take away sin, to take you out of sin, and to destroy the power of sin for you.

Therefore beloved you must look upon Christ with the eyes of faith and behold Him in the depths of your heart as the One who takes away your sins, the One who’s death on the cross crushed the head of Satan, you mortal enemy, and now, risen from the dead, stands before you offering Himself as an eternal blessing.

What has happened to your sin?  Behold beloved!  It is dead, trampled under His feet.  Christ has been crucified to take away your sin.  Christ shed His blood to cover over your sin.  The nails the spear, the fangs of death, the steely rage of the law, the mockery of the world, all of these He suffered in your place.  All of these He bore, hanging between you and the punishment we all deserve because of our sin.  Having suffered it to the fullest, even entering death’s domain, Jesus has proved His eternal love for you by rolling away the stone, stepping out of the grave and speaking His Word to you.  Christ has taken away the serpent’s venom and now offers His blood as the antidote. Christ has endured the accusation of God’s Law and now is ready to speak forgiveness to you.  Christ has broken the teeth of death and burst the shackles of the tomb and now desires to cleanse you with Water and the Word.  He who believes this Word receives what is offered.  The blessings and benefits of Christ’s resurrection come as a gift not a reward, as a self-donation of divine love to save sinners.  Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works.

Hearing is Believing!

          Even though Christ speaks His Word to us this morning our old nature still prefers to be like Thomas instead of Mary Magdalen.  We want to see and we want to feel.  And what we do see and what we do feel look and feel exactly the same as they did before Christ’s resurrection.  The world hasn’t seemed to change, in fact it seems to have gotten whole lot worse.  Each of us still feels sin in us.  We still see death around us and we know its coming for us.  Sin and death still torment us and sting our conscience.

Beloved, seeing, feeling, and faith are very different things.  It is the nature of faith to believe the Word despite what is seen and felt.  “Therefore we must disregard our feelings and believe the Word, write it into our heart and cling to it, even though it seems as if my sins were not taken away from me, and even though I still feel them within me.  Our feelings must not be considered, but we must constantly insist that death, sin and hell have been conquered by Christ Jesus, despite feeling the contrary.”[1]  He who follows His feelings will perish, but the one who clings to the Word with His heart will be saved.

One cannot cling to the Word if you are not where the Word is preached.  Christians will be where Christ and His Word are happening.  This is good for faith and interprets what it is we see and feel in the world and in us.  Faith follows the Word.  Faith goes where the Word is preached.  Faith listens for the voice of Christ and rejoices to hear Him call.

Therefore beloved, living by faith in Christ is not like Thomas but Mary.  Faith in Christ doesn’t’ stay home.  Those who stay home and neglect to hear the Word of Jesus live as though Jesus were dead and unless they repent they will receive a dead man’s wage.

Jesus is not dead.  Jesus is risen!  This changes everything!  We are to live by faith in Jesus.  Faith in Jesus gets us up on Sunday mornings because Jesus has promised to meet us here in this place.  Faith worships Jesus with other Christians because we need each other.  Mary didn’t stay at the tomb.  Mary went and told others.  She told Peter and John and the rest of the apostles because they needed to know.  They needed to hear.  They needed faith.   The apostles didn’t let Thomas wander about Jerusalem living as though Jesus were still dead.   They went to him. They told Him. They impressed upon him the need to hear and believe.  Faith isn’t idle but is constantly receiving Jesus, keeping the Sabbath so to speak, and then going about, working itself out in the world for others, all the while with ears attentive to the savior’s voice.

For the day is coming when the Savior will call us once more, call us to His side, call us to see what we now can only know by faith.  On that day we will finally and forever be freed from sin and death.  On that day the fruits of Christ’s resurrection will be manifested in all who believe and His victory will be brought to completion.  God grant us to prepare for that day with open ears and redeemed hearts today.  AMEN!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

 

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

[1] Luther’s Church Postil, Easter Sunday  pg. 244


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