Lessons: Job 19:23-27, 1 Cor. 5:6-8, Mark 16:1-8
Hymns: LSB 457, 488, 459, 458, 461, 467, 483, 490
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!
The events leading up to today would have seemed all too surreal. Jesus received a report that Lazarus was sick in Bethany, and yet Jesus continued to preach beyond the Jordan for two days. He then travels to Bethany and is told Lazarus died four days ago. Jesus tells Lazarus’s sister, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus weeps. And then Jesus said, “Take away the stone” and they took the stone away that closed the entrance to the grave where Lazarus had been laid. Jesus declared, “Lazarus, come out” and Lazarus rose from the dead. His cold, decaying body was suddenly warm and complete. The tears of sorrow were now turned to tears of joy.
News of this amazing miracle spread like wildfire. Jesus then entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey to much joy and celebration. The people were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9) By saying these words, they were acknowledging Jesus to be the true Messiah—their Savior—who would redeem them from their sin.
Yet not all were pleased. Even though many believed in Jesus, others were seeking His death. They arranged with Judas, one the Twelve, to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus was then arrested on Maundy Thursday, quickly put on trial, declared guilty, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Killing Him wasn’t enough for these angry, blood-thirsty men. They riled up people against Him, mocked Him, and beat Him. Then Jesus died, and there was a great earthquake, tearing the Temple curtain in two.
The body of our Lord was placed in a new, unused tomb. It was wrapped in linen cloths with myrrh and aloes, according to the burial custom of the Jews (John 19:38-42). Some women who came with Jesus from Galilee saw the tomb and how His body was laid. They returned and prepared spices and ointments. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment (Luke 23:54-56).
When the Sabbath on Saturday had passed, the women were prepared to anoint Jesus, giving Him a proper burial. It was the least they could do for their Lord who loved them so much. And so they arose early in the morning on Sunday to serve Jesus in love. They had seen His gory death. They saw how badly He had been beaten. They witnessed the nails piercing His hands and feet as He was lifted up on the cross for crucifixion. They witnessed the three hours of darkness over the land on Friday afternoon. They saw what Jesus endured.
These women rightly knew Jesus had died. Blood and water poured out of His side when it was pierced by the soldier. There’s no way a body bloodied and mangled that badly could live.
Yet Jesus had spoken words which they knew. Early in His ministry, Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said it took 46 years to build the Temple. How can He raise it in 3 days? But Jesus was talking about the Temple of His Body (John 2:18-22). He will die, then rise the third day.
It is written in Mark 8:31, Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 9:31-32, “‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” And in Mark 10:33-34, Jesus said to His disciples, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
From this, we know the women had heard Jesus would rise. But they had a hard time figuring out how that could be possible. If we were in their shoes, we would do the same.
They wondered who will roll the tomb away so they could do what they wanted to do in love for Jesus. But when they arrived early Sunday morning, they saw it had already been rolled away. Mary Magdalene ran back to tell Peter and John. The other women entered the tomb, and they saw a young man dressed in a white robe. They were very alarmed. The angel spoke to them, saying, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth who is crucified. He has been raised; He is not here. Look around for yourselves and go tell the disciples—especially Peter—that Jesus is alive, and you will see Him on the way to Galilee, as He told you.” The women fled the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:5-8).
These are surreal events indeed. And even more so, these are true events. Jesus raised a man from the dead. Jesus was praised by many, yet others called for His death. He was beaten, crucified, and buried. And now He Himself rose from the dead? It is no surprise that the women fled in fear. They probably met Peter and John who were now running to see the tomb upon the report of Mary Magdalene. But the women who are the first to hear that Jesus is risen don’t say a word to Peter and John; fear had seized them.
They didn’t know what to think. They knew what they had seen. But now, could it be so? Did He really overcome this most gruesome death? Did He really swallow up death in victory? Did He really turn the grave into a powerless place to rest?
The answer? Yes! Just as He said! He does not lie. He cannot lie. He only says the truth. He never does anything wrong. Therefore, Jesus really did rise from the dead!
And there were eyewitnesses. First, Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ. Jesus made Himself known to the two Emmaus disciples through the breaking of bread. Jesus visited with Peter alone. Jesus appeared the Apostles behind locked doors on the evening of Easter Sunday. He showed His wounded hands and side to the Apostle Thomas. He appeared to seven disciples on the Sea of Tiberias, bringing them a miraculous catch of fish. He appeared to over 500 disciples at once, to James, and to Paul on the road to Damascus.
I read an account this past week of two prominent English writers who, many years ago, set to disprove the resurrection of Jesus and the conversion of St. Paul. They wanted to find the accounts to be hoaxes. But after studying the eyewitness testimony of the resurrection, and the unity of Scripture, they could not disprove our Lord’s resurrection. The only way someone could deny these historic events is to simply reject what is written. But that still does not disprove a thing. It only makes the one rejecting the Word of God out to be a fool, for, it is written, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Unfortunately, there are many armchair “experts” who claim to know everything concerning the existence of God through their brief perusal on the Internet. Perhaps just as surreal is the fact that they are given credence. They have not studied the facts. After all, it is written, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 14:21).
Death no longer has power over us. The grave is temporary. We will live eternally through Christ the Lamb who was slain but now lives. Our sin is taken away because Jesus paid for all sin on the cross. Satan is defeated, and Jesus declared His victory when He descended into Hell after He was made alive in His grave. Satan is trapped in the torments of Hell, but Jesus was not trapped there. Our God, who is the author of all life, lives.
Our Lord’s resurrection is important for many reasons. First, it proves Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. We are sinners, and need to be reconciled to God. Jesus—the Son of God—did just that.
Second, the Word of Jesus is proven to be true. He did as He said. His nature is that of truth, and He has not gone against His nature. He is reliable, and our confidence is in Him.
Third, our Lord’s resurrection demonstrates that God the Father accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the reconciliation of the world. Had Jesus done something amiss, He would not have risen. Had He failed to accomplish our Father’s will in redeeming the world, Jesus would have remained in the grave. But since He is risen, He has paid for the sins of the world, and eternal life has been granted for us.
And finally, our Lord’s resurrection means all believers in Christ will rise to eternal life. Just as Jesus’ body rested in death for three days until His resurrection, so also our bodies will rest in death until Jesus returns on the Last Day and raises our bodies. He lives, and so shall we. On the Last Day, our resurrected bodies will be reunited to our souls and we will live with God in completeness forever. In Christ, we have hope. In Christ, we have confidence. In Christ, we have a future. Our lives have meaning. We are granted everlasting salvation.
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