He Is Risen For You
April 16, 2017 at 9am
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written: When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Thus far the text.
Let us pray: Gracious heavenly Father, the women were fully prepared to give Jesus a proper and traditional burial. However, they were not prepared for the resurrection that awaited them at the empy tomb. O Lord, we want to be ready, grant us a faith in Your only-begotten Son, that we live with you now, even as we await the resurrection of our own bodies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior. Amen.
The women had a plan to prepare Jesus for burial with one exception. They did not know how they would roll away the stone in front of Jesus' tomb.
They were so well prepared they even had all the spices arranged and packed in order to leave "very early in the morning" while the sun was just breaking the horizon. While they were walking to the tomb, they discussed the problem of the stone.
This sets the stage for the resurrection in terms of what do you need to do to prepare for the resurrection. False teachers have arisen throughout the centuries who have come up with clever answers that are contrary to the Gospel.
For example, you need to do this or that to make up for your short-comings; your sins. Or, you need to suffer more. Or, you need to believe more or make a decision for Jesus.
It is natural for people to want to make up for their short-comings; to make up for their sins.
Luther said, "There is not one thing you can do to make up for the smallest sin. Yet at the same time, God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ forgives us both our smallest and largest sins."
So the women thought they were prepared but they really didn't know what they were about to face.
And this is an important thing. These women were about to walk into a real and empty tomb.
It is important because we live in an age of reason. We live in an age where knowledge is power. And really smart people like modern theologians and most mainline clergy, have thought through the account of the resurrection and simply don't believe it. The Christian faith has been trained out of them. It is like the issue of creation and science. No matter how complex life on earth is, no one is allowed to say Divine Design. You will be run out as a fool. Not smart. Backwards.
The same is true in theology. Never admit that events recorded in Holy Scripture actually happened. You may use as many God words as you like, but never say the earth is about 6,000 years old. Never say, the prophet Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. Never admit that the Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, suffered and died, descended into hell and three days later....rose from the dead. Use as many spiritual words as you like but don't admit these events are facts or no one will take you seriously.
Are you looking for a good theology professor or a good pastor?
Here are two question you should ask him and both answer should be yes before you place yourself in his care:
The first question:
Do you believe in the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus the Christ? The question has to be this specific. Give no wiggle room. You don't want to hear about an Easter faith that rose in the disciples. You don't want to hear about the myth of Jesus rising out of history. You don't want to hear about a spiritual rising.
What you want to hear is, "Yes, I believe Jesus physically, bodily rose from the dead." Or you are talking to a false teacher.
The second question: Do you believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus Christ?
You want to hear, "Yes." Or you are talking to a false teacher no matter how kind or witty they may be.
And, if the pastor you ask is a woman and not a man? You are already speaking to a false teacher who does not hold to the testimony of the Holy Spirit as written in Holy Scripture.
But the women at the tomb, they were prepared to do the right thing to Jesus' body, the traditional thing for His body. So, what are they to do when they find the tomb stone rolled away and the body gone? They were not prepared for that.
The first thought might be a grave robber. It is a thing.
The second thing, though, is the women saw a young man, a young angel, sitting there. And? That did not help. The women were now afraid.
The third thing that happens is amazing and unexpected. The angel said, "Do not be afraid, because..." and then gives a reason why the women should not be afraid. How tender is that. The angel knows they are afraid and gives them reasons not to fear. He says, "You seek Jesus of Nazareth who is crucified. That Jesus is not here. That Jesus is risen from the dead. Even now, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Jesus just as He told you.
Wow. We live in a rationalistic age. We crave reasons for why things happen. How fitting is this teaching of the resurrection for you and me today.
Why should you not be afraid of Christ's resurrection when people might think you a fool?
The reason is because the forgiveness of sins will come to those who believe this Gospel. Forgiveness comes not to the perfect. Forgiveness comes to those who are afraid of their sins.
This is so poetic.
Slowly but surely Jesus taught His disciples. They saw His miracles:
Little girl, arise!
Lazarus, come out of the tomb!
Jesus stopped a funeral procession outside the town of Nain. Jesus put His hand on the boy's coffin and said, "Wake up."
This is why Jesus had such a powerful following when He entered Jerusalem.
But even with all that knowledge and experience, the disciples were not prepared for the horrific persecution, torture, and death of Jesus.
But this next thing is important, the disciples needed to be completely devastated to be lifted up by the hope and the promises of the Gospel. Or, they would trust Jesus. There would be too many reasons for unbelief.
The same is true for you and me. No matter how long or little you have been in Christ's church. No matter how much knowledge you receive from a Bible study or a seminary. No matter how long you have been a pastor or head of your household. A crisis will come and you will not be prepared. There will be reasons to deny Christ's resurrection.
You cannot be fully prepared for the shock.
The idea of preparing for church.
Change the baby's diaper so you can leave on time – but still be late.
The idea of preparing for Easter.
Buy new clothes so you look good even if the spring dress does not match the weather outside.
The idea of preparing for Holy Communion.
Get yourself into a good mood – only to get cut off in traffic
The empty tomb shows us that it is God who does the work. We don't give anything to God at His service that is owed to Him to make Him happy.
Completely the opposite. You come here to receive good gifts from God. It is His Divine Service.
Christianity is the only religion in the world in which a god does not take something from you but rather gives. So the only thing we can offer to Him that is not a deed of the body or a work of the will or a decision of the mind which are completely lacking in merit – is the faith that the Gospel promises to produce in our hearts.
This faith is Jesus doing what God commands and doing so while being in complete agreement and harmony with our Father in His works and His Words and His Holy Spirit witnessing to this in the Written Word.
The angel at the resurrection said, "Go and tell the disciples."
Jesus before His ascension said, "Go, baptized and teach all nations."
This Resurrection Sunday you are invited return to your baptism in which you die and rise in Christ daily. This Sunday you are invited to return to Jesus' teaching which you have received from childhood. That's what is available for you here every week – the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus rose from the dead so that you may be baptized into Christ's death and receive His ongoing and eternal life. Thanks be to God in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.