Lessons: Job 19:23-27, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Mark 16:1-8
Hymns: LSB 457, 488, 459, 458, 461, 467, 483, 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!
Some things seem impossible, but with God nothing is impossible (Matt. 19:26). The women had watched where the body of Jesus was lain that Friday. They prepared spices and fragrant oils before the Sabbath rest began that night. They watched with sorrow the malicious attack on the Sinless One—the hatred and the vitriol. They heard those chilling words, “Crucify Him! His Blood be on us and on our children!” They saw His bloodied body. They saw Him go limp on the cross after proclaiming, “It is finished!” They saw the soldier pierce His side, and blood and water flowed forth.
They also heard Jesus speak before His crucifixion, saying, “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” (Mark 10:33-34).
But the women saw what they saw. How could a body that mangled live? Their eyes could not unsee the horrific things that happened to Jesus. They knew Jesus was dead that Sunday morning.
In a way, we are like those women. We hear one thing, witness something, and draw our own conclusions. How often have we heard what God’s Word says and then figure something else must be true based on life’s experiences? We may reason, “I know God’s Word says I must go to church, but Sundays are the day I need to get other things done” or “I know the Scriptures describe lots of miracles, but how could they really happen when they don’t seem to be happening today?”
Jonah serves as an excellent example. God raised up Jonah to be a prophet. God told him to go to Nineveh and call on them to repent and turn from their wicked ways. Jonah didn’t say, “OK, at your word, Lord, I’ll go.” Instead, he hopped on a ship to flee as far away as possible. He didn’t want those foreigners to be converted and he didn’t want to be an instrument for their conversion.
Do you ever avoid the Word because you do not want God to have His way with you? Do you want to keep on doing what you think is best for yourself, instead of what God knows you need? That is, my friends, the path to ensuring storms will arise in your lives. The world may make its peace with you, but avoiding life in Christ’s kingdom means losing peace with God.
When a storm came up, threatening the lives of all on board, Jonah told the captain of the ship to throw himself overboard to make the storm cease. Being responsible for everyone onboard, the captain didn’t want to do this. But when the storm got worse, he threw Jonah overboard and prayed, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you” (Jonah 1:14). The storm calmed, and the prophet God raised up was swallowed by a great fish. Then Jonah was spit up on dry ground three days later. Jonah, realizing he can’t hide from God or get out of the job God gave him, goes to Nineveh, and calls on them to repent. And they repented!
This account is one of the most disputed and doubted miraculous accounts in the Bible. Many who consider themselves Christian do not think these events could have possibly happened.
While it seems impossible, with God nothing is impossible.
In fact, Jesus Himself confirms the account of Jonah. Matthew 12:38-41 reports, “Some of the scribes and Pharisees [said,] ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.’”
Jesus not only confirms the account of Jonah, but uses the account as an opportunity to preach of His own upcoming crucifixion and resurrection!
I must admit, I am always bewildered by how people can reject some Biblical narratives, like Jonah or the parting of the Red Sea, and then they say they can accept the Son of God becoming man, taking on our sin, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead. His incarnation is a profound mystery. In His crucifixion, Jesus bears the sins of the entire world and suffers the wrath of God. He sheds His innocent blood as the all-sufficient payment for the sins of the entire world. And, in His resurrection, the Father accepts His sacrificial payment and Jesus proves death has no power over Him.
At Christmas, we love singing, “God and sinners reconciled.” Jesus came to do just that. And now, through His loving sacrifice and glorious resurrection, Jesus did just that.
Back to the women who wanted to give Jesus a proper burial after the Sabbath rest was over. Here they are, early in the morning, on their way to the place where Jesus is buried, and they wonder: Who will roll the stone away? The stone was big, locked into place, and sealed shut as good as anyone knew how. Those who hated Jesus wanted to make sure no one would steal the body of Jesus and stage a resurrection. They even set a guard out to ensure no one would even attempt to pick away at the entrance to the tomb to gain access to the body.
A large stone was placed there, not to mark the grave of a great man, but to keep everyone out. Today, we mark with stones where the bodies of our loved ones are placed who await the glorious resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day. Stones last. And they have served as markers for many centuries.
When the people of Israel crossed over the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, God caused the river to stop flowing so they could cross on dry ground. They used twelve stones to mark the occasion. Joshua told the Israelites, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:20-24). God delivered His people in those days. And through Christ’s death and resurrection, God brings deliverance to all people.
Ezekiel spoke of this deliverance. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Our faith comes about by hearing the Word of God. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God declared, “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
God turns our stone-cold hearts into warm hearts of faith!
Not everyone believes, though, and so not everyone is saved. A year before His crucifixion, Jesus faithfully preached the Word of God in the Temple, saying, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Some did not believe in Him. After Jesus told these scoffers their father is the devil—the father of lies—they picked up stones to throw at Him. They wanted to kill Him with stones! But Jesus hid Himself and passed through the midst of them and escaped from the Temple. While lambs were sacrificed at the Temple, it was not the place or the time for the Lamb of God to be sacrificed.
The right time came, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He did not hide Himself. The Bible says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
The large stone that was supposed to contain Jesus forever had no power over God our Creator. When the women looked up as the approached the burial site, they found the stone had already been rolled away. It may have seemed impossible, with God nothing is impossible. The angel told them the good news. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who is crucified. He has been raised. Take a look around. You will not find Him here!”
What a joyous message! Our God is not dead, but lives. He is triumphant. His resurrection means we, too, shall live eternally. And so, we abide in hope as we walk through this fallen world, knowing that with God all things are possible. Amen.
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