Lessons: Job 19:23-27, 1 Cor. 15:51-57, Mark 16:1-8
Hymns: LSB 457, 488, 458, 461, 467, 478
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
On Good Friday, God the Son died. Jesus shed His innocent Blood on our behalf. It was the payment of justice God required for sin. As the Suffering Servant, Jesus earned salvation for all people.
His life was not intended to end in death. The Old Testament prophesied His resurrection. Jesus also prophesied His resurrection as He told His disciples several times that He would rise from the dead.
And Jesus did just that. No sealed-up tombstone, no power of darkness, no Devil, no death, no Hell could keep Jesus in the grave. As the angel announced to the women, He is no longer dead and He is not in the tomb, but He is risen, just as He promised.
When we go out to the cemetery to bury our loved ones, it seems so final. Our last act of love is to accompany the body to the grave. When a person is baptized, his body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. He is marked as God’s, created by God, and given new life in Christ. But due to the wages of sin, death still lingers over us. When we die, our souls separate from our bodies and our souls go to be with the Lord. We place in the grave that temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of those whom Jesus redeemed. During the Committal, the pastor declares, “May God the Father who created this body; may God the Son, who by His blood redeemed this body; may God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be His temple, keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” The souls of our loved ones who have gone before us in Christ are living. They are with our Triune God in Heaven. They are in bliss.
The women, very early in the morning, went to the tomb to anoint the Body of Jesus with spices. Everything happened so quickly on Friday. Jesus was found guilty of death (even though He was innocent). He was mocked, insulted, spit upon, whipped to a pulp, nailed to a cross, and crucified. There had been darkness over the land. And because the Sabbath rest began at sundown, there was no time to properly bury Jesus. He was quickly taken down from the cross and carefully placed in a brand-new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus brought spices and they wrapped Jesus in linen strips, as was the custom of the Jews. The women watched where Jesus was laid so that, once the Sabbath rest ended, they could finish giving their loved One a proper burial. It was the least they could do for a Man whom they loved so much.
So now, on Sunday morning with the Sabbath rest over, they are wondering who will roll the sealed-up tombstone away, for it was not only large, but also secured to prevent anyone from breaking in and stealing the Body of Jesus who might stage a resurrection.
Yet, when the women arrive, they find the tombstone had already been rolled away. They enter the tomb and do not find Jesus, but an angel who announces to them a most startling message, “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” (Mark 16:6).
On Easter evening, the men whom Jesus was raising up as Apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews. If they were willing to crucify Jesus, what would the Jews do to the followers of Jesus? Perhaps the women had some concerns about the Jews too. Of course, they were extremely grieved as they helplessly watched Jesus endure death on the cross. Now, their grief turns to astonishment. And any fear of the Jews they may have had suddenly turns into trembling and fear of what they had just seen. It was all too surreal. Could it be so? How can they unsee what they witnessed on Good Friday? Is He really risen?
It’s no surprise that they didn’t tell anyone at first. In fact, Mary Magdalene missed out on the announcement by the angels. When she saw the tomb rolled away, she left the other women and ran back to tell Peter and John, who came to see. The first person to see Jesus upon His resurrection is Mary Magdalene, when she returned to the tomb. By this point, the other women, Peter, and John had all left. After this, Jesus appears before the Emmaus disciples, the Apostles, the women, to over 500 disciples at once, and even to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. For Jesus did not just rise spiritually; He rose bodily.
You see, the Lord of life extols life. He loves life. He created all life. Living is what God intends. Jesus lives, and so shall we. In the Bible’s great resurrection chapter (that is, 1 Corinthians 15) we hear that even we shall be raised from the dead—that is, with our bodies. You heard just a small part of that chapter in today’s Epistle. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52). It is, as we confess in the Creed, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” For we believe in the resurrection of the body. And when the body and the soul are joined back together on the Day of Resurrection, they will experience the fullness of the bliss of Heaven. Again, God extols life. He created us not for death, but for life.
That’s why, when we go out to the cemetery, we not only lovingly accompany the bodies of our loved ones to their resting places, but we also confidently confess the Resurrection. In a sense, we mock death and the grave as the pastor speaks of the land of the living from Psalm 27 and reads the verses of today’s Epistle: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘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” (1 Cor 15:53-57).
We may weep at the cemetery. Death hurts. But we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18). For our Redeemer lives. This means that our loved ones live. Their bodies will be raised on Judgment Day when Jesus returns. For those who fall asleep in Christ, confidently believing in Jesus, they will be acquitted on the Last Day. Jesus will judge them innocent. For Jesus, on Good Friday, atoned for their sin when He died in their place on the cross. He answered for every last sin. No sin is left unaccounted for. When Jesus paid for the sins of the world, He truly paid for all of them. With this forgiveness, Jesus will declare us righteous—that is, not guilty—on Judgment Day. He will receive us into His eternal kingdom.
Jesus has even paid for a sin that has become very common in our age. And that is the sin of believing that death serves as the solution. When young women are faced with an unexpected pregnancy, our society would have them believe that killing their babies will provide them with the solution they need. When couples are facing difficulties in their marriages, the world teaches that they should kill off their marriage, rather than work things out. When people suffer bodily, they figure that if they could only die then that would end their misery. When children are coveting the possessions of their parents, they sometimes hope for their deaths so they can obtain their inheritance.
How foolish we are when we think death serves as the solution to our troubles. How pitiable we become when we think death solves things. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God created life and extols life. Because Christ is risen, death is swallowed up in victory. In fact, death is dead, and life lives.
Let us not continue in life pleading for death or defending death. Let us work to protect the lives of all people, from those still in the womb to the elderly. For these lives are God’s creation, people whose sins Jesus redeemed on the cross, the apple of our Lord’s eye, whose very hairs God has numbered.
Instead of seeking death as the solution, we seek Christ Jesus as the solution. We turn to Him in prayer. We trust in His promises. We glory in His death and resurrection. We receive His victory. We are shepherded by Him—ultimately to the green pastures and still waters of Paradise.
On the Last Day, Jesus will return. Which day that will be, we do not know; God does. In fact, many will not be expecting His return when it happens. But He will come anyway, and He will raise our bodies. They will be imperishable and immortal. Our bodies will be glorious and incorruptible. We will be perfect in every way. We will live forever, and we will be set free from all pain, suffering, sin, and death. Satan will be bound in Hell and he will not be able to corrupt God’s creation again. We will be fashioned as perfect humans, with our body and soul joined together, and we will dwell with God and all the saints on the recreated, perfect Earth. For God will make all things new. Everything will be good. It will be Heaven, for God will dwell among us.
We can be confident that these wondrous blessings will happen, for Jesus truly kept His promise. He rose from the dead.
Jesus lives! The victory is won! Hallelujah! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen