The Resurrection of Our Lord
April 8, 2012
Text: Mark 16:1-8
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
This is a Word of hope for the hopeless. This is a Word of hope for those who have to stare death in the face. This is a Word of hope for you. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. He is no longer in the tomb. Go ahead and look. You won’t find Him there. He is risen, just as He said. That was the angel’s word to the women when they had come to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, wondering who would roll the stone away for them. They came to find the stone had already been rolled away, and there was no body for them to anoint. Just a strange man dressed in white, an angel of the Lord sent to proclaim to them a strange and wonderful Word of the Lord, that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.
As the women came to the tomb in the early hours of that Sunday morning, they were hopeless. Their Lord had been crucified. They saw it with their own eyes. The nails, the crown of thorns, the sign above His sacred head proclaiming Him King of the Jews, the two criminals crucified on either side of Him, His beaten and bruised body suffering with every futile gasp for air, His giving up the ghost, the water and the blood flowing from His pierced side. They watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid Him to rest and sealed the tomb with the giant stone. Buried. It’s over, they thought. So much for our hopes that He would save Israel, that He would be the Messiah sent from heaven. They beheld all of this, our Lord’s suffering and death for sinners, but they didn’t understand it. They were hopeless. And now, early in the morning, they were coming to stare death in the face, to anoint the dead body of their Teacher, to face up to their own death, from which they expected no deliverance.
We keep up a good appearance, you and I. We deceive others and delude ourselves into believing that all is well for us, that we’re living life to the fullest, seizing the day, and all that. We’d like others, we’d like ourselves, to believe that we have it all together. And when it becomes evident that we don’t have it all together, when our lives fall apart through tragedy or sickness or whatever, we spin the situation so that we appear to be the noble martyr. The plain truth is, we don’t have it together. Our lives have all fallen apart. Because we’re sinners. Sin alienates us from God. The wages of sin is death. The punishment for sin is eternal death in hell. It’s a problem we don’t want to face, because it’s hopeless. And the reminders of our hopelessness are relentless. “A loved one dies. There’s a sickness that just won’t go away. The economy. Jobs. School. Divorce. Fighting at home.” On the face of it, it seems as though death and Satan are winning. This is a fallen world. Our flesh is fallen flesh. Hopeless. If we’re really honest, we stare our own death in the face every day.
And that is why the empty tomb changes everything. Because there is One who has passed through the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side alive! It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And He now has the power and authority to guide us through that valley and bring us out on the other side alive. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the end of hopelessness. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the end of despair. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s answer to your sin and death and to all that afflicts you in this earthly life as a result. It is true that beholding your Lord Jesus Christ bloody and crucified upon the cross, you stare your own death in the face. But even so it is true that beholding the empty tomb and hearing the Word of the Lord that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, you behold your own resurrection, a resurrection that has taken place spiritually already in your Baptism into Christ, a resurrection that will take place in your body on the Last Day.
Sickness? It cannot finally harm you. You will be raised from the dead. The economy? Depression? Broken relationships? These things hurt now, to be sure. Commend them all to Christ. He will make all things right again in the end. So you can live as though they are right again now. For you will be raised from the dead. You see, it changes everything that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. This is not just optimism. This is not just some pious attempt to make lemonade out of life handing you lemons. This is a sure and certain hope based on a historic fact. The tomb is empty. Christ is risen. There are eyewitnesses who saw Him alive. St. Paul points them out in our Epistle lesson (1 Cor. 15:1-11): Peter, the Twelve, more than five hundred brothers at one time who could verify the truth of what Paul had written, then James, the Lord’s brother, and finally Paul himself who saw our risen Lord on the Damascus road. That’s a lot of eyewitnesses. And these eyewitnesses died martyr’s deaths for their confession of the resurrection. In other words, they weren’t lying. Who would die for a lie? As a matter of fact, with the wealth of evidence in primary and secondary literature, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is as verifiable as any other event in history. But all of that aside, the point is this: Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and this is a Word of hope for you from God Himself. Sin is dead. Death has been defeated. Hell is vanquished. You will be raised from the dead.
The women fled from the tomb with trembling and astonishment when they heard this news. There is something startling about all this. A resurrection like this has never happened before. It goes against all our experience in this fallen world, staring death in the face. Perhaps you tremble with astonishment, too, when you ponder this great miracle. At the same time, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the end of fear. St. Paul writes later in 1st Corinthians 15 (vv. 54-57): “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV). Do you want to know why you can dare to hope when hopeless things are going on all around you? Because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. And He gives you His victory over all things, including death itself, right here in His Church as Sunday after Sunday and every time we come together your risen Lord Himself comes to you, in the flesh, to nourish you with His Word and Supper. The forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, hope, all given to you right here and now by Jesus Christ Himself. He can do that, because He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The theme and many of the points made in this year’s Lenten/Easter series are from God’s Gift of Forgiveness (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011).
 Sample sermon from God's Gift of Forgiveness.