Posted by David Hartung @ 8:41
I am not one who generally posts sermons on-line. My thoughts are that these are written for a specific congregation, for a specific time. However, since this is the season of Easter, I thought I would post this past Sunday’s sermon. Comments are very welcome.
For those of you who do not attend a liturgical church, or one which follows the liturgical calendar, the season of Easter lasts for seven weeks. We have a three year schedule of readings that we follow, and that are read during the service. The usual pattern is to read three lessons, one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. Currently we are in year “B” of the three year cycle, and this year our Gospel readings come from Mark and John. This Sermon is on the Easter Sunday Gospel reading.
Mark 16:1-8 Easter Sunday
HE IS RISEN!
Grace mercy and peace be unto you, from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16:1)
These ladies were bound and determined to give the body of their Lord and teacher the proper Jewish burial treatment. This had not been possible on Friday afternoon as the Sabbath was about to start. At that time, the goal was to get Jesus’ body off the cross and into a tomb before the start of the Sabbath. Now it is Sunday morning, and these three faithful followers of Jesus were doing what needed to be done, in order that he might have a “proper” burial.
For three years, Jesus had traveled Galilee and Judea, teaching and healing, proclaiming to people the Kingdom of Heaven. For the last six months, Jesus had spoken more and more of what was going to happen in Jerusalem. Never in all this time did Jesus hide from his students the fact that he was going to die, and then rise again. This being the case, why do you suppose that these ladies were going to the tomb to anoint his body, to give him a proper burial?
If Jesus was going to come back to life after three days, what need would his body have for the traditional Jewish burial treatments?
The answer is simple, and obvious. These ladies, along with everyone else, expected that on Sunday morning, Jesus’ body would still be in the tomb. Mary, Mary and Salome along with the Disciples had been at Golgotha, they had seen the results of the scourging, a punishment which had left Jesus so weak that he had been unable to carry his own cross. These ladies had seen the nails driven into Jesus’ body, they had seen the cross raised up, and they had seen him die. Everything in their experience had told them that their teacher was dead, dead, dead.
Yes, Jesus had spoken of raising from death back to life, but everything in their lives up to this point told them that this man was dead. Thus all that remained was for them to treat the body with the respect that their customs called for. So on the first day of the week, these three faithful ladies went to the tomb to perform this one last service for their friend and teacher.
Put yourself in the place of Mary, Mary and Salome, as they walked along the road to the tomb. Consider how you would feel. You are on you way to pay your last respects to a beloved friend and teacher, to give his body the treatment called for by custom. What’s on your mind?
Perhaps you are talking among yourselves of the memories you have of your time with him. Perhaps you are wondering what the future holds. One thing is certain however. When you arrive at the tomb, you are expecting to find just that, a tomb, with a stone still sealing the entrance, and the body within.
Imagine your concern when you arrive at the tomb, to find that not only has the boulder been rolled away from the entrance, but the body itself is gone! What is going on! Has someone, in a final act of desecration, stolen the body of your friend?
As you enter the tomb, imagine your shock as you see the young man sitting there. Imagine how you would feel as he tells you that the man you had expected to find lying dead in this tomb was actually on his way to Galilee, and that he expects to see you there!
Mary, Mary and Salome fled. They simply did not know what else to do. The entire sequence of events was more than they could handle. They were frightened and confused, and just wanted to get away.
As we observed earlier, Jesus had been very clear about what was going to happen in Jerusalem. Why had these ladies and the rest of the Disciples not been expecting this? Why weren’t they expecting a resurrection? Why hadn’t they gathered at the tomb to welcome their Lord back? Why this lack of faith in the teachings of Jesus?
The simple answer is that like everyone else, the hearts of Jesus’ friends and students were blinded by the corruption of sin. Even though Jesus had plainly told them what was going to happen, and even though these people had faithfully followed Jesus for up to three years, The stain of their, of our sinful nature prevented them from seeing the entire picture. It took the empty tomb to begin the process of actually understanding what Jesus had been teaching.
It took an angel in the tomb telling the ladies that Jesus was alive, to actually get Jesus’ followers to begin to comprehend all that they had been taught.
THE LORD LIVES!
The three ladies who visited the tomb had the benefit of an Angel announcing to them that their Lord was alive, and even then, their response was to flee in fear. How about you today?
The twenty first century Church has had the benefit of two thousand years of teaching, exposition, revelation and instruction about our risen Lord, and the gift of salvation his death and resurrection accomplished for us.
Is your ability to see the truth of our Lord any better than what it was for Jesus’ friends and students on that first Easter?
Here at St Luke, we are blessed to have a church family that is, if nothing else, faithful. Believe it or not, this is much more rare than it should be. As wonderful and as blessed as this is, how many times have you, in your lives, just not seen the teachings of our Lord?
You see, the challenge for us us somewhat different than it was for the three ladies in our Gospel lesson. We don’t have to worry about whether we are going to go into a tomb and see the body of a man, or an angel announcing the resurrection of the Lord. That has already happened.
Our challenge is to remain faithful believers in a world which is becoming increasingly secular. It seems hat every time we turn around, we are being told that the Bible is not true, that our God is just one way to “fulfillment”, or even that people who are mentally healthy do not need any god. That “God” is just a crutch that was created by man to explain that which science now explains.
How do we, how do you remain faithful in this environment?
Once again, the answer is simple and sounds trite. All you have to do is to trust God. Your salvation and your faith is an unearned gift to you from God, and it is a gift that he pours out upon you again and again. God pours this gift out upon you in many ways, in the private reading of his word, in the public reading and proclamation of that word, in the regular gathering of his people for worship, in the waters of your Baptism and in the celebration of his Supper. God wants to strengthen you, all you have to do is to let him do what he already wants to do.
The bottom line? This resurrection we celebrate today, despite the fear it caused in those who first learned of it, is the victory which makes possible our salvation, and our eternal life. It is this which enables us to live lives of faith in today’s world.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
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