Sunday, April 20, 2014
Homily for The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord - Easter Sunday
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.
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women got up to work. There was unfinished work to do because of the haste of Friday before the Great Sabbath. They made their way to the tomb to finish the work of preparing Jesus’ body for burial. He was dead. There would be time for mourning later on. Now there was work to be done. From their perspective, nothing had changed, except that the Rabbi they loved was dead. People die all the time. Eventually, someone you love will die. Now was the time to work, to do what was necessary. Life would never be the same, but it would go on. There was work to be done, bread to bake and clothes to make, the Law to keep and sacrifices to offer for failure to keep it. Tomorrow would be like today, and today there was work to do.
The first work to do would be to roll away the stone. You see, they fully expected it to be there. That would be a daunting task for two women. Imagine their surprise, even horror, when they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. Still, they entered the tomb. They still had work to do. That’s when they saw a young man sitting where Jesus’ body had been laid, dressed in a white robe. They were alarmed, as you might expect. The young man 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.”
This young man, whom we understand to be one of God’s holy angels, is the first Evangelist. He proclaimed the Good News to the frightened women that Jesus had died and had risen just as He had said He would. And, if that were not enough, he invited them to see and believe. I imagine that you have thought at times, “If only I could have seen and heard what Jesus’ disciples and the crowds saw and heard. I would have believed.” And yet, seeing and hearing, they did not believe. They didn’t understand. They simply couldn’t comprehend. The young man told them “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” But, they went out and fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Seeing is believing, or so they say. But the women saw, and they did not believe. In fact, Jesus’ disciples, and even His opponents, saw and heard many amazing things and did not believe. Truly it was, and it is, as Jesus taught: They have God’s Word. If they will not hear God’s Word, neither will they believe even if someone were to be raised from the dead.
Later that same day Jesus appeared to His disciples gathered together in fear behind closed doors. They believed when they saw Jesus’ hands and side, but only after He ate some bread and fish were they certain He wasn’t a ghost. But, as you will hear more fully next week, Thomas was not there. When they told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas said that he would never believe unless he could see and touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side himself. The next Sunday, Jesus again appeared amongst His disciples. This time Thomas was there. Jesus invited Thomas to touch Him and believe. However, now that Thomas could see for himself, he no longer demanded to touch, and he believed. Jesus said to him, “ You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
But, what about Job? Job lived between 1800 – 2000 years before Jesus’ birth, and yet he famously confessed, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Job had never seen the Lord. Job had never heard the Lord. But, Job had heard of God’s promise to our First Parents in the Garden, and likely of His covenant with Abraham to bless all nations through an heir from his own decent. There is simply no comparing what Job heard and saw to what the Apostles heard and saw, not to mention the extreme affliction God permitted Job to suffer, and yet Job’s faith and confession are as rock solid and certain as no other in the entire Scriptures. “I know,” Job confessed, not “ I think” or “I hope.” “I know that my Redeemer lives, and though my body will surely die and dissolve in the earth, I know that I will see God in my own flesh and blood body, with my own eyes.”
Whence comes Job’s faith and confession? Whence comes the Apostle’s, Thomas’, the women at the tomb, and your faith and confession? This faith and confession is created in you by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the LORD. This shouldn’t be surprising, for that’s how it was in the Creation. God spoke His Word and there was light, heavens and earth, seas, land, trees, plants, and animals of every kind. And, the day of Jesus’ resurrection is the first day of God’s New Creation. “Behold, I make all things new.” God continues to create anew through the proclamation of the Gospel, removing the stones of sin and guilt and raising the spiritually dead to new and everlasting life.
Jesus’ death on Good Friday was for all, no exceptions, no exclusions. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” Likewise Jesus’ resurrection is for all and available to all. The Holy Spirit is blowing through the Word and Sacraments throughout the hills and valleys, fields, forests, deserts, and plains of this earth raising to life those who do not refuse and reject Him. Our justification, faith, resurrection, and life are His work, and it is glorious in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day that the LORD has made. It is a new day, not like Friday. The women were wrong. They didn’t understand at the time. But they did later. How? By the Word. They heard the Word of the angel in Jesus’ tomb. They heard the Word that Mary Magdalene spoke to Peter. Thomas also was wrong, but He believed later because he heard the Word of the Lord proclaimed by his fellow apostles. Though it may seem that seeing is believing, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. Still, faith is created only by the Holy Spirit where and when it pleases Him, and the Spirit can be resisted.
But the women were also wrong about the days following being just like the days before. No, after Jesus’ resurrection, everything is changed, all things are new. No longer need we strive to make ourselves right with God. Jesus has done that for us. It is finished. The Law is fulfilled. Now we are free to serve Him without fear all the days of our everlasting lives. We live today in the freedom and joy of Christ’s resurrection. And we look forward to the day when we, with Job, Thomas, Peter and the Apostles, the Marys, and all the faithful, will see God with our own eyes, in our own resurrected and glorified bodies, face to face. Until that day keep us dear Father in Jesus Christ.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.