Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sermon for April 11-12

The Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord
April 11-12, 2009
Text: Mark 16:1-8

Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the dangers of something being familiar is that we lose sight of its extraordinary nature. Yeh, Jesus rose from the dead. That’s nice. Now what were we doing? We sometimes we wonder at the women. Didn’t they know He was supposed to rise from the dead? Why were they so shook up? We’ve lived with the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection for so long that it no long phases us. But consider this. Very few people have been raised from the dead. And each of those case there was someone, a prophet, an apostle, or Christ Himself who raised them from the dead. There are passages that suggest that there were others who were raised from the dead, whose names are not recorded in Scripture. But even so we have seven recorded people raised from the dead, one each by Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Paul, and three by Christ. Even if that were tripled, we are still talking about twenty or so. That’s like an average of one every three centuries. It’s doesn’t happen very often. And no one has ever raised themselves from the dead. Dead people just don’t get up and walk away. This is not Dark Shadows or Frankenstein here. This is the real world. Dead people are dead and they stay dead.

The women came to the tomb on Easter morning. They knew this of course. They knew that dead people stay dead. They still trusted that Jesus had come from God. They knew He was, at the very least, a great prophet. Now remember that no one has ever raised themselves from the dead. No one has ever laid down their life and taken it up again. They were concerned about the matters at hand. Could they get into the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus? Could they find someone to roll back the stone for them. The stone was very large, Mark tells us. If it followed the pattern of the time that we see in the archeological evidence, this stone would be set in a track or channel that ran downhill to the closed position. It was no easy matter to open it. You had to roll the stone up hill. Then they come to the tomb and find it already open. They must have been puzzled indeed. Going into the tomb they were met by something even more extraordinary. The body was gone and there was an angel. The angel 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.” These women are confronted with an angel and told them that something has just happened that has never happened before in the whole history of world. And I would add has not happened since, either. This was a totally unique event. There was no precedent. They had no filter through which they could understand this. This would have been harder for the women to comprehend than if one day we saw little green men from Mars walking through down town Rice Lake or Frederic. They didn’t know what to think, what to believe. They were terrified.

How long would it take them to fit the pieces together? One week. Ironically, it was Thomas who put it all together, when he falls at Jesus’ feet and declares, my Yaweh, my Elohiem. You see here too we have a hard time grasping these events. Of course Jesus is God! Yes, we know that because it was drilled into us by our parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers and the like. But these people were confronting this reality for the first time. This was not a prophet. This was not teacher. This was God the Son standing before them. They had the puzzle in front of them and they had to put the pieces together. They were being confront with the impossible, but it was real. It is no wonder that they were terrified.

Easter is the pinnacle of the Christian year. It was the first great festival ever celebrated by the Church. At some times and places, Easter is marked by a service that literally lasts all night, ending with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper right after Easter dawn. In some churches, gold paraments are used on Easter to mark it as the highest day of the year. But this does not just mark a great miracle. It does not even mark that Jesus is finally and undisputedly revealed to be God. For there is more to this than Jesus just taking up His life again. He rises as the victorious Lord of life. He rises as the One who has conquered death. It is significant that Christ appears to His disciples with wounds. Wounds that are still open. Wounds that they can put their fingers into. Wounds that paid the price of our sins. Christ’s resurrection, in Holy Baptism, becomes our resurrection to life. We are not just celebrating that Christ is alive. We are celebrating that we rise with Christ to new life. This is why we must never let ourselves think of Easter as common place or familiar. We must never let Easter become just another day for us. It is a unique event - a unique day. It is the day we went from sinner to saint. It is the day that Satan’s power was broken. It is the day we rose to life eternal. And we must never forget it.

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