Mark 16:1-8; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Job 19:23-27
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The traditional Gospel lesson appointed for the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, St. Mark 16:1-8, has been read aloud in Christian congregations since at least the seventh century. However, it may seem an unusual selection as it records no appearance of our resurrected Lord and it ends on the rather down and uncertain note that the women who heard the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Therefore, let us see today if we can unpack the wisdom of the Church in selecting the lessons you have heard today on this most joyous and festive of days in the Church’s Year of Grace.
First, you must note that the Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were not going to the tomb because of their belief in Jesus’ Word that He would rise again on the third day, but they were going to finish the preparations for His burial that they left incomplete when the sun set on Friday beginning the Sabbath. They were going to embalm a lifeless body. They had no expectation that they would not find it in the tomb, let alone that their Lord had risen from the dead.
Additionally, they were concerned about something else: the very large and extremely heavy stone that blocked the way in and out of the tomb. However, as they approached the tomb, fully immersed in their anxiety over the stone, looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back. Wholly apart from their faith or fear, or anything at all, their problem had been solved.
While that was a real stone, rolled away from a real tomb, in which Jesus’ dead body really laid, in which His really alive body laid no longer, that stone holds a symbolic meaning for you as well. It symbolizes your doubts and fears, your sins and idols, anything that keeps you in the tomb of unbelief, sin, and death. As for the fretting women that first Lord’s Day, your stone has been rolled away too. Wholly apart from your faith or fear, or anything at all, your problem has been solved.
Likewise, St. Paul exhorts you to “cleanse out the old leaven” in your hearts, the “leaven of malice and evil”, that you may be a new lump. That is to say, whatever it is that gets in between you and God, cut it out, cast it out, purge it out, for even a little leaven leavens the whole lump. What stone keeps you from truly living resurrected lives? What leaven keeps you anxious and fearful so that you do not fully believe in the Words of Jesus and the fact that He is risen, just as He said?
You have the confession of Job as an example of the kind of confidence and life that can be yours through faith in the Word of God, that He keeps His promise. In the midst of horrific suffering and loss, over 1,500 years before the birth of Jesus, Job confessed His unwavering faith in the Word of the Lord saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.” Job confessed his faith in the Word of the Lord and counted it as an accomplished fact that his Redeemer already lived, resurrected from the dead, and that, on the Last Day, his own destroyed flesh would be raised and he would behold his God with his own eyes.
Now that’s faith, to be sure! However, it was not faith unique to Job, for the same faith was shared by Abraham and Mary, the mother of our Lord, and many others. However, both the Marys and Salome that first Lord’s Day struggled to believe. Though their Lord had truly risen, just as He had said, they were still in their tombs, though the stone of sin and death had been rolled away for them too.
The faith of Abraham, Job, and Mary is available for you as well, for the stone of unbelief, sin, and death has been rolled away from your tombs. Jesus has called you to life and faith just as He called Lazarus from his tomb by the power of His life-giving Word. You are risen! You are risen indeed! Alleluia! You have been raised from death to new life, to live free and without fear, anxiety, doubt, and unbelief – to live resurrected lives even now, here in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, until your Good Shepherd leads you at last through death into life that never ends in His Father’s house and kingdom. You can confess with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth,” even as you face darkness, suffering, and even death. You can confess, you can speak and not remain silent in fear, even as did your Lord’s disciples by the end of that day, when they could not help but speak and testify of His resurrection, though it brought them ridicule, persecution, and ultimately death. For, this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. It is the eternal day upon which the sun will never set, for Son of God has risen, the firstfruits of those who fall asleep in Him. The stone has been rolled away. Let us never succumb to the devil’s lie that it remains. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Let us go forth in peace.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.