THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Mark 16:1-8 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “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. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
April fools! Sadly, that’s what many folks think this day is … one big joke … but as we see with the women this morning it was no laughing matter. If it was a big joke … Mark the evangelist has got something to learn about punch lines. And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Not exactly the best set-up for a hoax. Joy? Yes, that would be a much better way to leave things … that the women were overcome with joy and ran back to tell the disciples what the angel had told them. But no. All that Mark leaves us with this morning is fear. He tells us that trembling and astonishment had seized the women. The actual greek that Mark uses carries the meaning of traumatically trembling and being beside yourself or out of your mind with fear which He underlines by saying that they didn’t say anything to anyone because they were overcome with it.
Mark doesn’t give some rosy scene for the gullible to believe. He doesn’t leave us with some fairy tale ending for smile pasted upon their faces Christians. He gives us a hard core reality report of what happened and it is not a pretty picture. Anyone who has known such fear can tell you that. After what I endured last summer - I can tell you that. Only if you’ve been truly terrified, or seen someone in that state, can you understand what Mark relates today about the women. The women’s minds were reeling, their bodies were shaking and they were too scared to speak.
Next to doubt, fear is one of the major themes that flows through the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. There is joy, without question, great joy, but it doesn’t come easily. Jesus’ followers are anything but gullible. They want proof - some even demanding it. They are slow of heart to believe, troubled, and as we see this morning, terrified. Joke? No, doesn’t look anything like a joke or a hoax. It’s the worst one ever attempted if it is, certainly not one with enough inertia to last two thousand years, or to capture some of the brightest minds in human history.
St Paul, who himself started out trying to do everything within his power to nip the Christian faith in the bud, relates to us this morning how the risen Lord Jesus appeared to Peter, and then the twelve, and then 500 brothers at one time, and then to James and all the apostles. Finally, Paul adds himself, a self confessed persecutor of the Church of God, to the witness list. Beloved, the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the best documented events in human history. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Far more is accepted as “gospel truth” based on the testimony of far fewer and far more biased witnesses with far less evidence.
There is only one who really wants you to believe that today’s feast is best celebrated on the first day of April. I have no doubt that he’s having a good laugh at the coincidence this year (if that’s what it is), as undoubtedly are all those who have bought into his carefully crafted deception, who having “freed” themselves from the Church’s truth, have enslaved themselves to the lie and the liar. The last thing the devil wants you to believe, beloved, is that Jesus really rose from the dead because he knows that if you do, like the women, you will tremble far more before the awesome power of Christ, then you will before the things that the devil can throw at you.
But the joke is on him because Almighty God is the one who in His wisdom has placed Easter day on April fool’s day this year. The moon and her cycles after all are in God’s hands. And it is the moon that puts our feast on this day which has allowed us to ponder and think about the truth of what some would call a joke - a truth that we all need to hear and be reminded of … because like the first disciples we too are often slow of heart to believe … we too like them can wrestle with questions and doubt - which is why they can be such a great comfort to us.
Which brings us back to the women and their fear. No, Jesus’ resurrection was no laughing matter for the women. It was anything but that as it won’t be on the last day when He returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. I can guarantee you that no one will be laughing when every knee is made to bow before Him and acknowledge Him as Lord. No one will be smirking on that day. No one will be rolling their eyes at those gullible Christians. No one will be thinking that they were fools.
With that day in mind, the Lord invites you to come with the women to His tomb this morning. He calls you to draw near to it, pondering with them the very large sealed stone at its entrance, only to raise your eyes to see it rolled away. He urges you to go forward with them in hushed wonder through the door, your hearts heavy with theirs at what was laid to rest in that dark silent grave. He encourages you to enter with them, expecting to find His lifeless body wrapped in a linen shroud, lying where they saw Joseph and Nicodemus lay it.
Then He invites you into their alarm. When instead, you see a young man sitting on the right side in a white robe. And He calls on you to hear him tell you with them, “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.” And most importantly, beloved, in the depths of your heart and mind He urges you to join them in their fear over what they see and hear … a fear that flows from the truth set before you, that the Lord Jesus has conquered sin, death and hell. In one fell swoop He has overcome them all.
The Lord is at work through His Word to plant this fear deep within you, beloved, fear at His almighty power, that has so completely overwhelmed every power of your enemy, that has overcome all sin, that has gutted death, burst open the grave and harrowed hell. And so when that enemy comes calling, when He wants to beat you with your sins and failures, or terrify you with the thought of death, or threaten you with horrors of hell, looking to Christ and His resurrection, you might resist him firm in all that Christ is and all that He has done for you.
To affirm each of you all the more in that truth He sets it before you today in the almighty body and eternal blood that He gives to you today - the body and blood that cannot be found in any sealed up tomb because the stone was rolled back and it was empty. In His risen flesh and blood He proclaims to you,“I have ransomed you from the power of the grave. I have redeemed you from death. I am death’s plague. I am hell’s destruction. I am the resurrection and the life. I have destroyed all your foes. And behold in this place my strong arm and outstretched hand are here to save you.”
And yes, that is an awesome, terrifying thing, if you really think about it. May almighty God by His Holy Spirit grant us to know and live in such a holy fear of Jesus’ resurrection, that we might guarded from every assault of the devil - content to be Easter fools in the eyes of the world, because we know that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men! Amen.