O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
He Is Risen! The Wound of Death Is Vanquished
He Is Risen! The Wound of Death Is Vanquished
Based on John 20:1-18
Preached on March 31, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, it does not matter how many times you encounter it, it never feels natural, never feels right. Death always feels wrong. Something inside does not accept that we will not hear that voice, see that face, touch that hand, experience that laughter ever again. The grief counselors can talk till they are blue in the face about how death is simply a part of life and how we must accept it as inevitable and natural. But we never do.
We never will.
Mary did not accept death. Oh, she had no doubt that her Lord, her Teacher, was dead. She had witnessed the horror of it. Standing beside His mother, she had seen the light die in His eyes as He hung gruesomely upon the cross. She had seen them take His limp body from the wood, heard the horrid sound as they pulled nails. He was dead. She had no doubt of that.
But it was not right. She knew it was not right. And she simply had to touch Him again. It was imperative for her to see His body again. But His body was gone. She had run to tell Peter and John-big help they were. They checked it out and told her she was right: His body was gone. Then they left her, but she remained. She did not know what to do, where to go, who to turn to. So she just crumpled to the ground and started to cry.
Not the easy, gentle tears of the merely sad, - Mary wept the gutwrenching, full-voiced sobs of grieving. Death. It wounds not only those it takes from us, but it also wounds those who are left. And sometimes it wounds us so badly we think it will kill us then and there. Mary knew something of that as she sobbed and looked into the tomb.
But something was different now. The tomb was not empty after all. There were angels there, clothed in white. One was sitting where the Lord's head had been, one where His feet had been. And though Mary's sorrow could never shake or destroy their joy, they are concerned for her. "Woman," they ask, "why are you weeping?" Jesus' death was such a given that she did not say, "Because my Lord is dead." Instead, her answer was, "They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Not knowing where His body was - was tearing her up. Death was horrible enough, but for the body to be missing? She had to know where Jesus was, to touch His body once more. How else could she face tomorrow? How else could she face the rest of her life?
Mary's grief is so great that a conversation with angels does not faze her. She straightens up and almost runs into the One who had never been far from her, the One who stood right beside her in her grief-though she knew it not. He gently asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Hope rises in Mary's heart. Is it the gardener? Perhaps he is the one who moved her Master's body. "Sir," she cries, "if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."
Was it her tears that blinded Mary's eyes that morning? Was it the grief of her heart that made all the world seem to move in slow motion-unreal and phantomlike? Whatever it was, it all changed when He said one word. He called her name: "Mary." "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27). Although she had not recognized Him before, at the sound of her name, Mary's heart pounded, her breath ceased, and she moved the hair from her face and stared in awe, in terror, in joy rising like a flood.
"Rabboni!" she cried. "My teacher!" And she lunged for Jesus and held His feet. Beyond hope, beyond her wildest dreams, He stood there. Not a ghost. Not a spirit. Not an illusion or some wishful thinking. Her Jesus-flesh and blood, the wounds still visible, but transfigured, shining in glory. Her Jesus.
And the tears came again, but this time of another sort. These were not the sobs of despair, but the tears that brim from a cup that runs over with joy. They were together again. And it was a tender moment, but the joys were only beginning. Jesus had work for Mary to do, an embassy for her to carry out. He sent her to His apostles to give them the message that He lives and that He is preparing to ascend to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Death was not the end of Him, and so it will not be the end of Mary or of the disciples.
Nor will death be the end of you. Jesus has changed forever how we live, how we grieve, and how we die. Oh, we still feel in our bones how wrong death is, how unnatural, and we hate it with a passion. But Jesus has made it something we never have to fear-not ever again. For by His death and resurrection, Jesus has wounded death itself, dealt it a mortal blow from which it will never recover. He came out of its stinking gullet alive again, never to die again, and His promise to Mary, to His apostles, and to all His baptized children is that He will bring each and every one of us through the hole He punched in death into the home He has prepared for us with His Father.
And in order to strengthen your faith in His resurrection victory, to keep you strong and focused on this eternal peace, while the world rages around you, Jesus continues to give you what you need. Into your dying body He puts His body that was on the tree, atoning for all your sin; His body that was in the tomb, sanctifying your grave; and the same body that Mary held in the garden that first Easter Day. He pours down your throat the blood that He shed to wipe out the sin of the world, and He reminds you that it is all for you. He whispers to each of you, "As death could not hold Me, so it will not hold you, My child. Baptized into My undying life, I will bring you out of death just as I came out of it-alive, never to die again. And then the celebration will really begin!"
Alleluia! Alleuia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Rev. Cameron Schnarr