Saturday, April 3, 2021

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.

The Day of Rest had ended. The sun had risen. It was time to get back to work. There was bread to bake, there were fish to catch, there were linens to weave, and there were a multitude of other trades and vocations to be attended to so that there would be food on the table, clothing on the back, and a roof over the heads of the people Jesus died to save. The marketplace was astir about the events that took place on Friday. The Jewish religious leaders were trying to spin the events of that day in their favor. Pilate and the Roman authorities were simply trying to maintain order and stability. And, a group of women, friends and disciples of Jesus, went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His dead body. They all believed Him dead. Thus, for them, today was really no different than any other day: birth, work, death, with no hope for anything more, unless they deluded themselves believing that they could work their way into God’s favor, or extend their life by their labor, or merit His grace by their prayers, sacrifices, and good deeds.

The weight of life can seem unbearable at times. When the economy is bad, when jobs are scarce, when nobody’s getting a raise, and yet food, and fuel, and the necessities of life keep rising in cost, each and every day is a struggle. Like Sisyphus, just when you seem to be getting ahead and have almost reached the sunlight at the top of the mountain, something gives, and that stone comes rolling back down to the bottom, and you have to start all over again.

That’s life. But what about eternal life? What about your relationship with your Creator; your relationship with God? You think paying your taxes and putting gas in the car is a heavy burden? What about your sin? Sin you were born with; sin you were conceived with; sin you add to daily and nurse like some grotesque infant, in thought, in word, and in deed? The wages of sin is death, and your sin is like an enormous stone, a boulder, that seals you in your grave. As long as that stone of sin is in place, you’re not getting out alive – not a single one of you. But, who can remove the stone?

That was the question being discussed by the women as they went to Jesus’ tomb early on the first day of the week. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” They were still looking for a helper, a redeemer, a savior, and a king, but they did not believe that Jesus was Him. Or, if they did believe on Thursday, that belief was shattered on Friday, and after a day of rest on the Sabbath, they only believed Him to be dead. What a tragedy, they thought. Or, as the Emmaus disciples would lament later that day, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

Do the dark days of your life tempt you to despair in hopelessness? Do you wonder if it is possible that anything or anyone can relieve your suffering and improve your situation? Do you feel like you are all alone, with no one to help, with no one who cares? Are you tempted to disbelieve; to formulate a humanist philosophy to understand your pain and suffering and the meaning of life; are you tempted to just curse God and die? That’s what Job was tempted to do.

Job had it all, family and friends, health and wealth, all as a rich blessing from God. However, God permitted Job to lose it all. His family were killed; his wealth and health were taken away; and, his friends, even his own wife, tempted him to just curse God and die. But, he wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t because of what his eyes saw; it wasn’t because of what his flesh felt; it wasn’t because of the empty ache and sorrow within his soul; but, it was because of his faith and trust in the Word of God, Job would not curse God and die, but He 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. My heart faints within me!” Job made that confession of faith in His Redeemer and in His resurrection over 2000 years before Jesus’ birth!

When the women arrived at the tomb, they were astounded to see that the stone had already been rolled away. Surely they expected to find some strong men nearby to explain this unexpected turn of events. But, going inside the tomb, they found, not a few strong men, but a young man dressed in a white robe. He told the women, “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.” Though Jesus had clearly predicted His crucifixion, death, and resurrection on the third day at least three times, the women did not believe, the disciples did not believe, indeed, no one believed until their eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit and they were caused to remember what He had said to them while He was with them. Though the angel instructed the women to “go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee,” and that “there you will see Him, just as He told you,” 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.

How does fear and astonishment concerning what is going on in your life, in your world, keep you from living in the Gospel promise of life in Christ? Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is most certainly true. Yet, you often live your life as if this life is all there is. Therefore, you fret and you worry, you horde and you covet to feed the flesh and to satisfy its desires and passions, so inwardly focused upon yourself, your fears, your needs, and your desires, that you ignore your hungry neighbor, you despise your needy brother, and you wouldn’t think to tell anyone about the hope that you have, because hope is the farthest thing from your mind and heart. Do you not see that all of that has died with Jesus? All of your fears, all your concerns, all your covetousness, anger, and selfish desires were crucified with Him, dead, and buried. But, Jesus has risen, just as He said, and He has left all that dross dead in the grave. You are free! These cannot keep you in bondage and slavery any longer…, unless you permit them to.

This festival day is not just a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but it is a celebration of your resurrection. You are a new creation in Jesus Christ, born again from the watery womb of the Church in Holy Baptism. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has made you a new lump, having removed the old leaven of sin. You are clean. You are pure. You are holy. You are free. Thus, do not leaven yourself once again in the ways of the old flesh, but let us feast this Easter Day on Christ, the bread of heaven; the Word of grace has purged away the old and evil leaven. Christ alone our souls will feed; He is our meat and drink indeed; faith lives upon no other! Alleluia! The stone has been rolled away and the Holy Spirit cries to you, “Lazarus, come out!” You are free, free to live without fear, holy and righteous in His sight, all the days of your life.

This day, and every Lord’s Day, which is a Little Easter, your Lord is present with you here, behind closed doors, with His Word and with His Wounds, true, life-giving meat and drink for you to eat and to drink that you may be de-leavened anew, forgiven, and strengthened in faith. He is present with you, and for you, that He might live in you, and you in Him, that you might truly live, and truly give His life to others. The stone of sin and death has been removed. There is nothing to keep you in your grave. Rise and live. Your Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ, has set your free.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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