Easter April 24, 2011
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
733 [alt. 202], 200, 210, 732 [alt.188]
But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
In the name of Jesus, the Risen One, dear fellow Christians:
What are your Easter expectations? Do you think of sunshine, laughter, peals of trumpets, majestic organ chords, and singing which raises the church rafters? What about tears? They seem completely out of place, don’t they? We left them behind on Friday. Yet, on that first Easter morning Mary was at the tomb with her eyes brimming over with tears. She told the angels why: “Because they have taken my Lord away.” She had witnessed Jesus suffer the most agonizing death in the history of the world. There was no question that He was dead when His battered body was taken off the cross and gently placed in Joseph’s tomb. Mary had come back to mourn, and now His body was gone. “They took Him away.” In Mary’s mind, forces beyond Jesus’ control had taken over and if her Lord whom she had trusted was overcome and gone, what hope was left for her? The future looked like a great, black, bottomless pit into which she was about to fall.
Have you ever had tears for Easter? Were there tears of sickness or disappointment or grief over the death of a loved one? Even if they have never come on Easter, there have been countless tears throughout our lifetimes. It’s the common human experience. The psalmist speaks of drenching his couch with tears, tears being his food day and night, and rivers of tears flowing from his eyes (cf. Psalm 6). Sin has that effect. It robs us of joy and hope, and leaves us with nothing but death looming. We have been completely overcome by it, and if Jesus was too, then our Easter celebration is nothing but a momentary distraction to take our minds off our ultimate doom. We could eat a big dinner, hunt for eggs and baskets, and look forward to spring weather, but we would still be staring at that bottomless pit waiting for us. We would have good cause for tears.
But for Mary everything changed with one word. The man whom she assumed was the gardener said, “Mary!” With that her tears were forgotten! She recognized the voice of Jesus. He had not been taken away. He was alive and standing there with her. He had died, but He had broken free from death. He had won! With her living Lord beside her, Mary’s heart was filled with the sunshine of joy.
The living Lord asks us, “Why are you crying?” We might offer all kinds of reasons: “I have so many problems…I hurt so terribly…I’m so sad…I’m so sorry…I’m so scared…You seem so far away.” But then Jesus calls your name. He knows each of us on a first name basis. He has made us His own in baptism. He assures us, “I was dead, but now I’m alive forevermore.” He dries all our tears. When our guilt brings tears of sadness and fear, Jesus is there to remind us that He took our sins to the cross and left them behind in the grave.
If He could set us free from sin and its curse, we can count on Him to take care of every obstacle and hurdle in life. We do not have just a fond memory of someone, we have a living Lord. When troubles come, remember the Lord lives. We have someone to go to for help, someone who will always care and know what to do.
Even when death faces us, the Lord is there to dry our tears. His resurrection from the grave is a preview of that coming “Easter” day when all who die in faith will rise from the grave to never-ending life in Heaven where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Because we are still living in a sinful world for a time, tears will come. But then look to the empty tomb. The Lord is not dead and gone. He is alive and risen! He transforms tears of despair into tears of joy. The Lord lives, and by His saving work we do too.
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:13-20, 51-57). Amen.
He’s risen, He’s risen, Christ Jesus, the Lord;
He opened Death’s prison, the Incarnate Word.
Break forth, hosts of heaven, in jubilant song,
And, earth, sea, and mountain, the paean prolong.
The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.
But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
And Death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes.
The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high.
He lives, yea, He lives, and will nevermore die.
Oh, where is thy sting, Death? We fear thee no more;
Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door.
For all our transgressions His blood does atone;
Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own.
Then sing your hosannas and raise your glad voice;
Proclaim the blest tidings that al may rejoice.
Laud, honor, and praise to the Lamb that was slain,
Who sitteth in glory and ever shall reign.
Jesus Christ, my sure Defense
And my Savior, ever liveth;
Knowing this, my confidence
Rests upon the hope it giveth
Though the night of death be fraught
Still with many an anxious thought.
Jesus, my Redeemer, lives;
I, too, unto life shall waken.
Endless joy my Savior gives;
Shall my courage, then, be shaken?
Shall I fear, or could the Head
Rise and leave His members dead?
Nay, too closely am I bound
Unto Him by hope forever;
Faith’s strong hand the Rock hath found,
Grasped it, and will leave it never;
Even death now cannot part
From its Lord the trusting heart.
I am flesh and must return
Unto dust, whence I am taken;
But by faith I now discern
That from death I shall awaken
With my Savior to abide
In His glory, at His side.
Glorified, I shall anew
With this flesh then be enshrouded;
In this body I shall view
God, my Lord, with eyes unclouded;
In this flesh I then shall see
Jesus Christ eternally.
Then these eyes my Lord shall know,
My Redeemer and my Brother;
In His love my soul shall glow,—
I myself, and not another!
Then the weakness I feel here
Shall forever disappear.
They who sorrow here and moan
There in gladness shall be reigning;
Earthly here the seed is sown,
There immortal life attaining.
Here our sinful bodies die,
Glorified to dwell on high.
Then take comfort and rejoice,
For His members Christ will cherish.
Fear not, they will hear His voice;
Dying, they shall never perish;
For the very grave is stirred
When the trumpet’s blast is heard.
Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave
And at death no longer tremble;
He, the Lord, who came to save
Will at last His own assemble.
They will go their Lord to meet,
Treading death beneath their feet.
Oh, then, draw away your hearts
Now from pleasures base and hollow.
There to share what He imparts,
Here His footsteps ye must follow.
Fix your hearts beyond the skies,
Whether ye yourselves would rise.
I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all-glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.
He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.
He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
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