Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Resurrection of Our Lord

The Resurrection of Our Lord (B)
April 12, 2009
Text: Mark 16:1-8

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

The tomb is empty! Christ Jesus, bound in the cords of death on Good Friday for our sins and offenses, has burst forth from the tomb. Gone is the dark cloud that hung over His cross. Gone is the darkness of night. Light has dawned. It is the Light of our Risen Lord Jesus. The grave could not hold Him. Death is dead. Christ is living. Gone now is the sadness of death. Gone now is the gloom of sin. The devil and hell are defeated. Fulfilled is the Word of the Lord through the Prophet Isaiah: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is. 25:8; ESV). The Father has not abandoned Christ into death. He has not let His Holy One see corruption (Ps. 16:10). And since this is true, neither will He abandon us into death. Since Christ is risen, He will raise us. For His victory over death is for us. This is why God became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He became a man so that He could stand in for us, so that He could win the victory for us, so that He could endure the punishment for sin on behalf of all mankind in His innocent suffering and death on the cross, so that in our flesh He could trample Satan under His feet and put death to death forever.

Everything has changed now that the tomb is empty. The women come seeking a dead Jesus, but they do not find Him. He has risen. He is not in the tomb. Behold the place where they laid Him, the place prepared for the eternal rest of decomposing flesh. But there is no body there! The body that had been laid there on Friday evening and taken its Sabbath rest on Holy Saturday is now enlivened, a living, breathing body, still bearing the mortal wounds of crucifixion, but alive!

All of human history hinges on this resurrection. If the tomb had not been empty when the women arrived, if they had found the cold, dead body of Jesus as they expected, you, beloved, would still be in your sins, and your faith would be in vain. If Christ is not risen, then the only advice I could give you is to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And if Christ is not risen, that death is final. If Christ is not risen, that death is worse than annihilation, for that death is an eternal death of suffering in hell. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). And on this you can build all your assurance. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s absolution of the whole world. It is His seal of approval over the sin-atoning work our Lord accomplished on our behalf. It is God’s declaration that sin is ended, that all is forgiven on account of Christ, that we have peace with God our heavenly Father, that heaven and the resurrection await us. Christ has won the victory and He gives the spoils to us.

This is why it is so important that we understand that Christ rose bodily from the grave. He really died on the cross. He was brain dead. His heart no longer pumped. His blood no longer flowed. He no longer inhaled or exhaled. When they put Him in the grave, His soul was no longer in His body. They sealed a corpse into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It was a dead body that rested on the Sabbath, the dead body of our Lord Jesus Christ. But sometime between sundown Saturday and the dawn of Easter Sunday, He who was dead became alive again, bodily alive. It must be so if your bodies are to live again on the Last Day when Jesus comes to raise you from the dead. Jesus did not just rise spiritually. It was no phantom that came forth from the grave. Remember, the body is gone. He is not here. He is risen, just as He said. Nor can it be that Jesus only rose in the disciples’ hearts, and not bodily. Some liberal Christians actually believe this is the case, some who even call themselves Lutherans. Their reason cannot accept a literal, bodily resurrection, and so they say that Jesus lives and is risen in our hearts. But remember what I said, what St. Paul says about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Christ is not risen, bodily risen from the dead, you are still in your sins and your faith is in vain. But Christ has indeed been raised. And the historical evidence for this reality is indisputable.

There were witnesses. St. Paul describes it in our Epistle lesson. He appeared to Cephas, that is, Simon Peter, and then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time! Remember that biblically speaking, two or three witnesses establish the truth of a matter. The same holds true in a court of law. How many more than that witnessed the resurrected Jesus! Finally, He appeared to James and the rest of the apostles, and last of all, even Paul, he who had formerly persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ, was given to see the risen Lord Jesus and so become a witness of His resurrection. No less than 27 documents in the New Testament alone, written by several different authors, bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And then there is the fact that so many disciples, including almost all of the apostles, died martyr’s deaths simply for confessing their risen Lord Jesus Christ. They were tortured and put to death for confessing Christ’s resurrection, that Christ is Lord and God who has conquered sin and death. All they would have had to do to avoid the suffering and dying is deny that resurrection, deny their Lord Jesus. But they didn’t. Why would they die for something they were unsure of, or knew to be a lie? They wouldn’t, of course. And my point is that the evidence is well-attested. Jesus is no longer in the grave. He is risen. If it were not so, the Jews and Romans who held all the power in Judea and possessed all the resources, could easily have proven it. They simply needed to produce the body. But there is no body, not a dead one anyway. Christ is risen.

But all this evidence aside, we have something even more sure. We have the very Word of God. In the account of the resurrection from the Gospel according to St. Mark, the women never see the risen Jesus. They are to take the angel’s word for it. They are to take God’s Word for it. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). And that’s all they get. The Word is enough for them. They are to believe on account of the Word. They are to go and tell that Word to Peter and the disciples. This is greatly comforting for us who have not seen the risen Jesus with our eyes. We only see Him by faith. But the Word is enough for us. We believe on account of the Word. And we go and tell that Word to others. We go and tell them that the tomb is empty. We go and tell them that sin is ended, that the devil has been conquered and death is dead. We go and tell them that Christ has burst the bonds of death, that Christ is risen. That is the good news for us today, and it is sufficient. Death could not hold our Lord Jesus, and it will not hold us either. Christ is risen, and He will raise us.

Beloved, you are baptized into this reality. For all of you who are baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ. You are baptized into His death and resurrection. You died with Him, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God, ready to be revealed on the Last Day. What a marvelous comfort as you live your life in the midst of death every day in this fallen world. Death is not the end of the story. Good Friday has its culmination in Easter. And you are part of this because you are baptized into your risen Lord Jesus Christ. And as if all this were not enough, your risen Lord Jesus gives you yet more assurance of this. He is among you, wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, with His gifts, and this day He serves you with His crucified and risen body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. The crucified and risen body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are placed into your mouth to strengthen and sustain you in this fallen world, in your fallen bodies, for the day of your own bodily resurrection.

On the Last Day, your tomb will be empty. For when Christ Jesus broke apart the cords of death and burst forth from the tomb, He left the way open for you on that Day when He calls you forth from the dead. You need not fear anymore. The darkness is dispelled. Satan is conquered, sin is forgiven, and death is dead. You can rejoice this day. For “Christ is arisen From the grave’s dark prison. So let our joy be full and free; Christ our comfort true will be. Alleluia!” (LSB 459:1).

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

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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