O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Leaving a Tomb with Great Joy
Leaving a Tomb with Great Joy
Based on Matt. 28:1-10
Preached on April 16, 2017
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Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed – Alleluia!
Fellow baptized saints, why do you go to a grave? I know it sounds like an easy question, but this morning we need this answer to be obvious. Why do you go to a grave? Well, you don’t go to visit the grave guards – as nice as they might be. You don’t go to hear preaching from angels. You don’t go to meet the living. You go to a grave to bury a body – or in this case, you go to tidy up from a hasty burial after a horrendous death on Friday that nobody knew was coming at the beginning of the week.
It is Sunday at dawn. And these two mourning Marys go to the tomb in sorrow to give Jesus’ body the proper respect it wasn’t afforded on that chaotic Friday when all hell broke loose. They are expecting it to be a very difficult experience, and they had to rest the whole Sabbath Saturday thinking about it – knowing it was waiting for them at dawn on Sunday. It is going to be awful – and they approach in dread and despair.
But just as they are about to greet the grave guards – their dread turns to utter fear. The earth begins to shake. Lightning seems to strike them all – as an angel rolls back the gravestone and has a seat. Terror falls on all present at his very sight. The guards actually faint. But just as the women are about to lose consciousness he speaks.
“Do not be afraid.” He has made the tombstone his pulpit. He has a message to deliver from God – and it begins with these words that seem impossible in the circumstances. Do not be afraid.
God sends a messenger to these women. An angel. He intentionally and specifically wants to come to them in their dread and despair. “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.” He knows they’re coming. And he comes to them with a special message from God. Beloved, God has intentionally and specifically sent His messengers to you this morning – your pastors – teaching and preaching to you this very same message.
He is not here, the angel says. Not in the tomb – not held by death – not wrapped in cloths – not cold and breathless – not held by stone – He is not here.
For He has risen – He has left death – He is alive and lives forevermore – victorious over the grave and its hold – just as He said. He promised, didn’t He? He told you ahead of time. And though grass withers and flowers fade – the Word of the Lord endures forever. His Word is certain and true. And He speaks it for you. Now – Come and see.
Look at the place where He lay. It is empty. Vacant. Void. Come over here and look at the place where you yourselves saw His body lain. Where it used to lie lifeless and hard. He lies there no more. That is in the past. Behind us. That was before. Now - He is risen.
These poor women – can you imagine the emotional rollercoaster? It can be pretty emotional for us today – but can you imagine what it would have been like for the two Marys? But the angel isn’t finished.
Now I know this must be a little much for you – all very mysterious and all – but I have a task for you – the Father in heaven sent me to tell you ladies first – and He wants you to go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead. Beloved, God has intentionally and specifically preached this Good News to you this morning – and regardless of how important you feel in this whole story – you have an important role to play – you too are given this message of peace and life – and this morning you get to speak it to God’s people – Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! You get to speak this to one another. You get to build each other up in the resurrection of Jesus and the sure and certain hope we have of His eternal victory over death. David and Naina – God bless them – are going to confess this truth this morning, just like these two Marys did. They are going to profess this truth and join us in the joyful reality of our Risen Lord’s Victory.
But there’s more – the angel has more to say. For behold, the Risen One is going before you to Galilee. He wants to meet you. And you will see Him there. This is not just a resurrection where we say – Yeah, Jesus is alive – No - He rises to meet us – to be with us. To comfort and assure and remind us that He lives now for all eternity so that He can always be with us – so that He can bring us to be with Him also. Go to Galilee- you’re going to see Him.
Now, when you go to a grave – when you go to a tomb – you know what to expect – you know you won’t be leaving feeling happy – we know this – they knew this – everyone knows this. Nobody ever leaves the grave of their loved one feeling happy. Never before - has anyone ever left a graveyard filled with inexpressible joy – one that makes you run – one that drives you to leap out and sprint to tell others – but here they go. These two women who came in sorrow are now running in fear and great joy. They don’t what to do with themselves. The magnificent truth of Christ’s resurrection propels them forward in ways they didn’t know they had in them.
And if all of this were not enough – something happens. Suddenly, He’s there. Jesus meets them. Perhaps they thought they were hallucinating – that happens to me when I’m running sometimes. He speaks. “Greetings.” And they know His voice. It’s Jesus. It’s really Him. And these two emotionally exhausted ladies dive at His feet. They throw themselves down before Him and grab Him – hearts driving from their chests to this Lord they love. (quiet) Their hope was gone, but its back. He’s back. He’s alive. As surely as theirs hands feel His feet. But their trust – their confidence and faith in Him – it is all they have amidst all this turmoil and emotion and fearful stuff. There He is – just hold on. He is all they need.
Jesus knows their hearts. He knows their trouble. This is why He meets them. “Don’t be afraid.” Yes, I know this is a lot. But do not fear. I am here. I am with you. And nothing can ever change that again. “Go, and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” We have important work to do – there are lots of people that need to hear they are forgiven – that death is defeated and eternal life is theirs– that there is nothing for them to fear - people in Jerusalem, people in Judea, yes, people in Winnipeg. Go tell my brothers – let’s get this thing started.
Christ rose from the dead for you. He lives as proof - that His death on the cross has made you right with God. You are forgiven of all your sins. The devil has no power over you. Death – yes, your death – cannot hold you, because Christ has punched a God-sized hole in it for you. That first Easter was His promise of the Final Easter – the Resurrection on the Last Day. When though this life may bring you great sorrow – though from this day until the day you die, it is a difficult experience - you will leave your grave – and you will leave it in great joy – that will never end. You will go running to Him with fear and great joy, ready to throw yourself at His feet and never let go. He did this for you. He is your hope. He is your peace. He is the Lamb who once was slain, but now lives – for you – forevermore. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr