EASTER, B – April 1, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

[The women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Mark 16:8

 

I must confess that, of the four Gospels in the Bible, Mark’s Gospel has long been my least favorite. His account of the events of Easter is a big reason. “[The women] went out and fled from the tomb, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” What a way to tell the story of Christ’s resurrection!

But, just this week, I realized something that has really changed my opinion of Mark. Those women who went to the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome – they were Lutheran women! My kind of women!! How do I know this? Well:

Ø  They dutifully go to finish the job that the men – Nicodemus and Joseph of Arithamea, who took Jesus’ body down from the cross and prepared it for burial – had not done well. Even though they are deeply sad and I’m sure didn’t feel like doing it, the women know what needs to be done to properly prepare Jesus’ body, and they go to do it. That’s Lutheran!

Ø  But, especially Lutheran is their response to the empty tomb and the angel. “Trembling and astonishment (ekstasis (ecstasy) is the Greek word) had seized them,” we are told; but, they quickly bring their ecstasy under control and submerge it, and “they said nothing to anyone.” Now, that’s really Lutheran!

Wow. Three Lutheran women were the first ones at the empty tomb! Who knew?

Ah, I’m so judgmental, aren’t I, not only judging those women but us? Well, this is but one of my sins. I have many more! And so do you.

Is foolish hope one of them? You know, I wonder about those women, for they themselves wondered, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" There was no way they could move that very large stone. And besides, they knew that the tomb was being guarded to make sure Jesus’ body wasn’t stolen. Who would “roll away” the guards? I wonder: why did they even go to the tomb?

But, the stone wasn’t the only barrier. They were also dealing with an emotional and spiritual barrier. Their grief was very great; beyond what is usually felt. Oh, you and I know the deep sense of loss that the death of a loved one brings. For those women, added to that was the shattering of their hopes and beliefs. They had believed that Jesus was their promised Messiah who would bring God’s blessings to Israel! Now He was dead! And, they were probably also dealing with guilt for not having done more to protect Jesus and keep Him from being arrested and crucified. Peter and the other apostles certainly felt this, and very deeply. Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. The others had all, except John, run away and abandoned Him after His arrest. It’s no surprise that they didn’t go with the women to the tomb. They didn’t deserve to be there!

You know these feelings. Crushed hopes: is there any more crushing disappointment than when God, who can do anything, allows you, or a loved one, to be sick and suffer, or to fail? And guilt: it can make you stay away from church, or even stop praying. God knows your sins, after all! If, when you were a kid, you thought that your mom had eyes behind her back; well, God’s eyes are everywhere! He misses nothing… and you know this, don’t you? Our sin and guilt is real, is justified; and it is a huge stone. Sometimes it stands as a barrier between you and someone else, even someone close; and sometimes it stands between you and God. "Who will roll away the stone for us?" Well, if you want to see Jesus and receive God’s blessing, it had better be rolled away!

“Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back” – and the tomb was empty! There was no dead Jesus there. Instead, a young man – an angel of God – was there with good news: “He is risen! He is not here.”

Mark’s Gospel is so real. Doing what you have to do, even though your heart is not in it. Quickly going from great grief to great joy, and then to great confusion. Saying nothing, even though you should speak, because you’re confused and just don’t know what to say. This is real life!

Mark holds before us very real people because we have a very real Savior. He is the eternal Son of God, but He came down from heaven to live among us as a human being, just like us. He came to be one with us in all that we face and feel. He entered into our sins – into the confusion and sorrow and guilt they bring, and finally into the death they bring. They seemed to have overcome Him, for they killed Him. We – our sins, our denials – killed Him. But He has triumphed! He overcame our sin and death by His glorious resurrection! Jesus comes forth from the grave to be one with us and carry us through this life, with every suffering and sorrow and sin it brings, and to a new hope and a new life with God.

Easter isn’t just about Jesus rising from the dead and triumphing over death for Himself. It is about you triumphing over death in Him. In Jesus’ resurrection the Lord God has “swallowed up the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death forever!” – for you! Easter is also about Jesus triumphing over sin and guilt; but not for Himself, for He had no sin or guilt. He was unjustly crucified. He triumphed over them for you. “He will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Is. 25) The great stone of your sin and its reproach, your guilt, has been rolled away! And so, to women who went to the tomb with good intentions, but by doing so showed their own sin and guilt – for Jesus had told them that on the third day He would rise from the dead. Why were they expecting Him to be dead and lying in the grave? – God sent His angel with good news: “Do not be alarmed!” Jesus had risen and would appear to them and to His disciples! The angel spoke to them words of comfort and forgiveness because Jesus had died for their sin, and for every sin, and by His death had forgiven them.

This is the good news of Jesus, of His death and resurrection. With those three Lutheran women, let us be ecstatic! For Christ is risen, and our sin and guilt are no more! Christ is risen, and death has been defeated! Christ is risen, the firstfruits of those that fall asleep, and not one is left in the grave! Christ is risen, and hell and its demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and all the hosts of heaven rejoice! “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” The stone has been rolled away. Jesus lives, and we live in Him!

In the name and to the praise of our great God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!