Easter Sunday April 12, 2020
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
193, 200, 206, 203
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
The mother rushes to her baby’s side as he cries from his crib in the middle of the night. She holds him close, whispering in his little ear: “Hush, Mamma’s here … It’s okay!”
The gunman is disarmed by a courageous police officer. The officer turns to the frightened store clerk. “Don’t worry. He can’t hurt you now … It’s okay!”
Husband and wife nervously check their text messages for the tenth time. Previously they had received news that their soldier son had been wounded in battle. They know nothing more than that. But then they finally hear from him. The text reads: “It’s just scratch. Be home soon … It’s okay!”
It’s okay! Some of the simplest, but at the same time, some of the most comforting words in the English language.
But what about when things aren’t so good? Are those words still comforting? Isn’t it true that the words “it’s okay” often sound all too meaningless? Don’t people often say those words because they can’t think of anything else to say?
For Magdalene, devoted friend and disciple of the now dead Jesus, “it’s okay” could only ring empty and hollow, as she set out that early Sunday morning to tend to the body of her crucified master.
There was a time when things were different. Not many years before she had been a woman possessed by seven demons. But Jesus had driven them all away, forgiven her sins, led her to faith in Him. He had given her a new reason to live. But that was yesterday, and today it was all wrong. Her best friend was dead!
As she trudges on toward Jesus’ tomb it was still dark, but not as dark as in her mind and heart. All that is left for her to do is her duty. Although her soul is racked by pain, she will do what she must. She will finish the job of anointing Jesus’ corpse.
Sometimes we walk the same path as Mary. We do what we must to get through the day. We do our duty. We may even smile but inside there is little joy. Job pressures, family problems, personal disappointments, struggles with our guilty conscience, all this and more, can make our road joyless and dark. “It’s okay” doesn’t seem to mean much when we’re just trying to get through another day.
And then, suddenly, things get … WORSE! When Mary finally arrives at the tomb her deep sadness quickly changes to wild terror! She is horrified by the thought that Jesus’ body has been taken and possibly desecrated. This is the last straw! She can’t take anymore!
Present day comparisons to Mary are easy to find. We think of the patient who is told the tests are positive and he’s only given a few months to live. Or the parents whose newborn child has died. Or the conscience constantly plagued by the memory of some terrible sin. Or … you fill in the blank. For these people “it’s okay” sounds not only meaningless, but absurd.
What do you do when sadness turns to despair? When the big “tragedies” strike? When you just don’t have the energy to go through the motions anymore? Maybe you run for help! That’s what Mary did. She ran to Peter and John, the two most prominent of Jesus’ disciples. If anyone could make it better, maybe they could! “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she screams, “and we don’t know where they have put him!” Translation: “I’m at the end of my rope! You have to help me!” But alas, for poor Mary, they have no words of comfort, for they are just as distraught as she.
Where do you run for help? Like Mary, I’m afraid that sometimes we turn to people or things that don’t give us the help we really need. Or maybe we’re too proud to even turn elsewhere for help and end up just trusting ourselves. But when life turns up the heat, how often do we remember that we have someone Who can help us infinitely more than anyone or anything else?
Can anyone or anything else fix our problems better than God? God created and designed us. God knows us better that we know ourselves. Can anyone or anything begin to match God’s power to help us? Can anyone or anything give us guidance and advice better than God’s own perfect and powerful Word?
The root cause of Mary’s and the rest of the disciples’ fear and worry is that they had neglected God’s Word. They forgot to read their Bibles. God’s Word had revealed that Jesus’ death would not be the end of all things, but the very beginning of all things wonderful and amazing.
If only they had sought out God’s promises. If only they had listened to Jesus—the embodiment of the Word— when He had told them that after He died He would rise.
As we look back to our account we see that Mary has returned to the tomb. Those to whom she turned for help could not help her. She is alone and empty. The world is crashing down upon her. As she glances into the grave, the rising sun shows her tear-stained face. Two angels in white are seated where Jesus’ body and been. “Woman, why are you weeping?” they ask. “Because,” she cries, “they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.”
Turning away, she discovers that someone else is there as well. A stranger, the gardener of that place, she supposes. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping.” And then adds: “Whom are you seeking?” Confused and dizzy with grief, she wonders, if perhaps, He has taken the Lord’s body. “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Who is this Man? She knows Him. You know Him, too. Her tears at first blind her to His identity. But then with a voice she knows so well, He gently speaks her name. “Mary” He says. Yes, it is Jesus in the flesh, alive, resurrected, no longer dead! And in that wonderful, unforgettable moment everything becomes better than OKAY! The anguish of the past three days vanishes away and is replaced by unspeakable joy!
That’s what Easter does. That’s what a risen, breathing Savior makes happen. He makes everything all right! You see, the two words “it’s okay” are always meaningful when you add the three words “He is risen!” In fact, if Jesus is not risen then nothing can ever really be right! As fallen and sin-corrupted descendants of Adam we could never in a million years rise above the sin and death and hell which plagues our lives in so many ways, and would destroy us forever if not for Easter morning.
But Christ has risen! So today God invites you to put yourself in Mary’s place. To stand with Jesus beside His vacant tomb, and make her unforgettable moment, your life long joy, your never ending joy! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! So now it’s okay. It really is!
Oh, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying you’ll never have problems in his life. You will. Jesus tells His followers plainly: “In the world you will have trouble!” (John 16:33) But with the risen and living God at your side, you can face whatever you must face with certain confidence, real hope, and lasting joy!
IT’S OKAY! Why? Because when Jesus rose He left all your sins behind in the grave. He buried them! No matter how many times you’ve messed up, no matter how often you’ve fallen back into your pet sins, no matter how terrible your thoughts and words, your sins have been removed from God’s sight forever. The scars in Jesus’ risen hands, feet and side, are living and lasting proof to give peace to your guilty conscience. The Word of the Risen Savior declares: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
IT’S OKAY! Why? Because when Jesus rose it was the ultimate proof that good had overcome evil! Now nothing in the life of the Christ-believer can work against you. Big problems, small problems, all problems must bow before you and serve you. They must serve for your ultimate and eternal good. Nothing can defeat those who belong to the God Who is stronger than even death. The Word of the Risen Savior declares: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
IT’S OKAY! Why? Because when Jesus left the tomb death was forced to take a permanent vacation! Nothing can keep your body, dear Christian, from being raised on the Last Day and clothed with immortality and glory! Nothing can keep you out of that land in which there is no pain, sorrow, tears, or death. The Word of the Risen Savior declares: “Our Savior Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10)
I know what some of you are going through in your life right now. Others of you that are here, I don’t know what pain or hardship you’re currently facing. But I can tell all of you this: If you place your trust in the Risen and Living Christ, it will be okay! How do I know! Because God’s Word says so!
Morning breaks upon the tomb;
Jesus scatters all its gloom.
Day of triumph through the skies;
See the glorious Savior rise.
Christians, dry your flowing tears
Chase your unbelieving fears;
Look on His deserted grave,
Doubt no more His power to save. Amen
[Hymn #203 of the Lutheran Hymnal]
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.