Sermon – April 16, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mark 16:1-8 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back– it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And 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. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And 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.

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

So what? What is it all about? What does it really mean? Three women show us their love for the Lord. They couldn’t wait to anoint his dead body with the appropriate spices. Their eagerness and earnestness to perform this duty in honor and out of respect for a dead one demonstrates the love we ought to have for the Lord. They could not wait to fulfill their role. Nor should we be able to wait to love our neighbor and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to everyone and anyone who will listen, for that is Jesus’ will, his desire, his command to us. In our apathy, our slowness to run to the help our neighbor in need, we show only our lack of love for Jesus, our weakness of faith, our pitiable disregard for the one who suffered and died for us.

But these women couldn’t wait to perform their duty to Jesus. They spent all Saturday night in vigil, watching, waiting, foregoing sleep. While we grumble and complain if we have to get up two hours early for a Sunrise service.

Then, finally, the sun appeared on the horizon. The time had come. Excitedly they gathered the spices and ran down the path to the tomb to anoint the Lord’s body.

But, somewhere along the way they remembered the stone placed in front of the tomb, closing it shut. They remembered the cohort of Roman soldiers guarding the tome to make sure grave robbers, especially the disciples of Jesus, didn’t steal the body and claim that he had risen from the dead as he himself had predicted. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” they ask one another. Like us today, they doubted. They doubted that there was any way to overcome this obstacle. They were facing a mountain, a huge stone weighing several tons, that they couldn’t get past. Who will move the mountain for us? They doubted the words of Jesus himself, who said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mat 17:20). But, their faith, like ours, is much less than the size of a mustard seed. At least the women continued on to the tomb. We, on the other hand, once we see an obstacle the size of a mountain, just give up and turn away, never even attempting to find a way to move that mountain. Never even factoring in God who can do all things. Never even asking him to move it for us.

The example of these women shows us the weakness of our faith. They had to see first, then they would believe. Like Thomas, “Unless I see the wounds in his hands and feet and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Human reason wants to see the proof, the evidence. We are by nature skeptics, doubters, unbelievers.

Then they looked up and behold, the stone was rolled away. The soldiers were gone. No one was there except a young man sitting in the tomb. They did not see the risen Jesus. They saw only a young man and the place where Jesus had been laid. He gave them this message, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” As if to say, “believe my words. I tell you he has risen. I do not show you Jesus, it is sufficient for you to believe my words. For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” You too have the word. Your faith is not from seeing the risen Jesus, for you have never seen him. But it is believing the word spoken to you by the Apostles and witnesses of the resurrection. Believe, then, this angel. Believe the words of God that he is not here, but has risen.

And if you believe that he is not there, but that he is risen, then believe that your sins are forgiven. By the very act of the resurrection, the Father declared that the sins of the whole world are fully expiated or atoned for, and that all mankind is now regarded as righteous before his divine tribunal. As St. Paul says, “He was raised for our justification.” (Rom 4:25). The resurrection is the actual absolution pronounced upon all sinners. As God punished our sins in Christ, upon whom he laid them and to whom he imputed them, so he also, by the very act of raising him from the dead, absolved him from our sins imputed to him, and so he absolved us in him.

This then is saving faith, that we believe that our sins are atoned for, and it will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son. When Christ died, God became reconciled. It is an accomplished fact. And this reconciliation does not refer to any change that occurs in man, but describes an occurrence in the heart of God, “for in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (II Cor 5:19). It was God who laid aside his anger on account of the ransom bought by Christ. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, means that God does not count our trespasses against us.

Our entire salvation is based upon this historical accomplished fact of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. Therefore, you must cling to this, laying aside all doubt, that God no longer looks on your sin with wrath, and before his tribunal he does not count you sins against you.

It was God’s action that produced this change in God. For in the Garden of Eden he sent Adam out of his presence in wrath, and punished him with death and so death spread to all mankind, now, on the cross, God has set aside his anger and from the empty tomb he declares you free from sin.

If God is reconciled with men, then he regards them as righteous for Christ’s sake. And this message is brought to us by the Gospel. The same Gospel the angel spoke to the women: He is not here, he has risen.

Then, the angel told the women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.” God intends for his absolution to be heard by all mankind. Those who have heard and believe are thus sent out, commanded to go tell the world. It is our duty, yeah, greater than a duty, our privilege and joy to spread that word to all people. As a believer in Christ, that is your vocation, your duty, your honor. Wear that message like a crown on your head. Pray every day, “Oh, Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall declare your praise.” Go into the highways and by-ways and tell everyone you see, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But how shall they hear if no one tells them? And if they do not hear, how shall they believe? And if they do not believe, then how shall they be saved, for there is salvation in none other than in Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Your sins are absolved. God is reconciled to us. He has laid aside his anger and wrath. Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.