Sermon for Easter, April 8, 2012

Mark 16:1-8 (The Resurrection of Our Lord—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

April 8, 2012

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Our text is the Easter Gospel recorded in Mark 16:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he 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.” And 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.

Fear is often described as immobilizing or crippling.  Fear can control our actions and our emotions.  In the Star Wars saga, Jedi Master Yoda said that it is fear which leads one to the “dark side.”  Remember, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.”  Surely fear should not be a topic for Easter morning.  Not one of you came to church to celebrate Easter with fear, did you?  Yet, St. Mark’s Easter account is full of fear.

Fear is the background to Easter.  Jesus was crucified.  He was dead.  Joseph of Arimathea bought a linen shroud, and taking Jesus’ corpse down from the cross, wrapped Him in the linen shroud and laid Him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.  And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where He was laid.” (Mark 15:46-47)   All the hopes and dreams that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel were gone.  His pierced and bloody body lay wrapped in a stone cold tomb.  What would happen next?  Would the chief priests come after the followers of Jesus?  Filled with fear, Jesus’ followers were in hiding.  They were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. (John 20:19)

But despite the risk, Mary Magdalene and the other women felt compelled to buy spices and to go and anoint Jesus’ dead body.  And since in the climate of Jerusalem deterioration would occur rapidly, the visit of the women to the tomb after two nights and a day must be viewed as an expression of intense devotion.  So they set out very early on the first day of the week at sunrise.  But fear creeps in again.

This time, however, it is fear in the sense of concern or worry.  “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?”  Had they know that there was a guard posted and the tomb was sealed, that would have added a whole other dimension of fear.  The guards would certainly not break that seal to let a couple women anoint a dead body, lest it be a diversion for Jesus’ disciples to come and steal the body and, in the words of the chief priests and the Pharisees, “tell the people ‘He has risen from the dead,’ making the last deception worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:64)

As we consider these women, the disciples, and the apostles of Jesus, do we not see ourselves?  Fear is very much a part of our lives too.  We know so very well the fear of worry and concern.  We are troubled about a great many things.  You and I are concerned about making ends meet during a time when the economy really isn’t that great.  So many people have lost their jobs or have endured salary cuts.  That promotes a real concern for the well-being of the family.  “How can we make ends meet?”  Add to this worry and fear over various health problems that we and our family and friends face.  Add to this troubling political and societal concerns.  Add to this fear of crime and terrorism, and fear of natural disasters like the devastating tornados outside of Dallas, Texas this past week.

But wait, there’s more.  There is another cause of fear in our lives and it comes from being in the presence of God.  You see, God knows you.  I mean, He knows you.  There isn’t a single thing that you can hide from Him.  God knows how you spoke to your parents the other day, refusing to do what they asked you to do.  God knows how you lied to your boss.  God knows the multiple times you misused His holy name, the times you used His name to curse someone.  God knows the lust in your heart, the greed, the covetousness, the hatred, the anger.  God knows your sin and mine.  And that means that you and I don’t want to be in God’s presence because He is holy and has to punish sinners.  It means that we must act in fear before God, to literally be afraid of Him because of His justice against our sins.  We want to hide with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  We want to hide because we are “naked” before God, not in regards to clothing, but in that all our thoughts, desires, words, and actions are fully known to Him.  We are fully exposed to God as the sinners we are.  And we rightly are afraid of God’s wrath and punishment that we completely deserve.

So imagine the fear of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning.  The stone was already rolled away so that they could go right in.  And when they did, they saw a young man dressed in white sitting on the right side.  We know from Matthew and Luke that this wasn’t simply a young man in a nice white robe, but rather an angel from God Himself whose appearance was like lightening and his clothing white as snow.  The angel reflected the very glory of God Himself.  Being confronted with a messenger from God, the women were terrified!  They were in the presence of God’s holy angel.  Had he come to bring them to punishment for their lack of faith in Jesus, for their sins?  It was a moment of terror!

But look what breaks through the fear—the Gospel from God Himself regarding His Son, Jesus the Nazarene.  Through His holy angel, God speaks a word of Good News, “Stop being alarmed!  Stop being afraid!  You don’t need to fear anything because Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, is risen!  See, the place where they laid Him!”

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means that you and I do not need to be afraid.  We do not need to fear being in God’s presence.  Why?  Because our sins are no longer charged against us.  On Good Friday, Jesus died on the cross to pay for every single sin of thought, desire, word, and action.  Jesus shed His holy, precious blood to make us clean from sin so that we can stand before God white as snow.  David wrote in Psalm 103, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”  (Psalms 103:10-12)  And to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God the Father, Christ is raised from the dead.  He lives!  The victory’s won!  Our sins are forgiven.  We have eternal life.  Even death has been conquered!  So why be afraid?  There is nothing to fear, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

If God has cast out fear from our spiritual lives through the forgiveness of sins and eternal life won by Jesus’ death and resurrection, does He not also throw away our need to fear things in this world?  You bet He does!  You are God’s forgiven child.   Your are His beloved son or daughter.  God will take care of you in body and soul.  Remember what the Lord Jesus preached at the Sermon on the Mount.  He said to check out the birds and the flowers and the grass.  God takes care of them, but you, His children, are of so much more value to Him.  He will most assuredly take care of you.  And to prove His love for you, He sent you Jesus to be your Savior.  Therefore, God is always for you and never against you.  That’s why the Risen Christ has promised, “I will be with you always.”

The God who won your complete forgiveness and everlasting life is also the God who provides for your needs in this life so that you don’t have to be afraid.  He gives you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children.  He richly and daily provides all that you need to support this body and life.  In addition the Lord defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil.  This is most certainly true because Jesus is alive.  He is raised from the dead.  There is no cause for fear because God is for you, therefore no one and nothing can be against you!

And yet, the women leave the tomb, literally with trauma and bewilderment.  They end up saying nothing to anyone because they continued to be afraid.  How many others will come to the end of this Easter day still living in fear?  They will continue in fear because they don’t know Jesus is alive.  They don’t know that His death has destroyed death and sin.  They don’t know that His resurrection guarantees our new resurrected life with the God who loves us.  But you know.  You know that Jesus’ death and resurrection overcomes all your fears.  So today I give you an Easter season challenge.  Between now and Pentecost, during these 50 days of Easter, share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with one person you know who is still living in fear because they don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Don’t leave this church on Easter day the way the women left the empty tomb.  Jesus is alive and there is no reason for people to be afraid.  Say something to that person you know so that they can hear about Jesus the Risen Savior, believe in Him, and no longer be afraid.

The Good News of Easter, then, is that the perfect love of God for us in the Risen Christ drives away all fear.  Be filled with this message of joy today and carry it with you always.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  You are free from the power of sin, Satan, and death.  Do not be afraid!  Amen.


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