Easter Sunday April 17, 2022
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
199, Worship Supplement 2000 #733 (TLH alt. 192), 200, 210
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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 into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (NKJV)
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
A momentous event will sometimes be seen to signal the end of an era. It may be the death of a leader who helped bring about significant changes in the life of a nation. A war may signal the end of an era. We have seen examples of that in our history as a country. Things that had to be done to fight a war changed our country not only during the war but well into the period following it. The current COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to our country that will likely remain long after the actual danger has passed.
The end of an era inevitably means the beginning of another one. The old era passes away; a new one begins. And eventually the new era becomes the old one; it too passes away.
Today we celebrate an event in history that ended an old era and inaugurated a new one. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brought to a close the old order in which death reigned. It opened a new era of life. And, unlike the eras of this world that always pass away and are succeeded by another, this new era of life that Christ has inaugurated with His resurrection has no end. It signals a fundamental and permanent change in the relationship between God and man. By faith in the risen and living Christ we are partakers of this new era and all of its blessings of forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation.
In our text the evangelist Mark relates the events of that day when Christ rose from the dead. What the women found who went to His tomb early on that Sunday morning proclaimed the beginning of a new era. Looking back at that great event we can say with great joy, CHRIST IS RISEN! A NEW ERA HAS BEGUN.”
Jesus Christ is the inaugurator of the new era of life. Yet in this account of the morning of His resurrection Christ Himself does not yet even make an appearance. That is not what we might have expected. We might have expected that when the women arrived at His tomb on the morning of His resurrection that Jesus Himself would have been there to meet them. And soon enough He would meet them and show Himself alive; but it appears that before they could see the risen, living Jesus they needed to see that Jesus, as they were expecting to find Him, wasn’t there. What were the women expecting to find when they arrived at the tomb that morning? They were expecting to find His lifeless body still lying in Joseph’s tomb. They were expecting to find it wrapped in strips of cloth with spices. We see that this is what they were expecting to find because of what they brought with them. They brought items to be used to further prepare Jesus’ body for burial. They came to “anoint Him” with “spices,” which were aromatic oils. Nicodemus had provided a large quantity of spices for the burial, but these women also wanted to do something for Jesus.
Since they were expecting to find Jesus’ body when they came to His tomb, the first thing that they needed to see when they arrived was that His body wasn’t there. The lifeless body that they had seen laid in the tomb on Good Friday was gone. So Jesus arranged the entire scene at the tomb to highlight that great fact. The first thing they noticed as they approached the tomb was that the stone had been rolled away from the door. It was a sight that amazed them. They had just been talking about that stone as they walked. They had been so intent on getting to the tomb early, so intent on anointing Jesus’ body that they hadn’t even thought about the stone. It was very large; they would need help moving it so that they could get into the tomb. But there it was, already rolled away and the tomb open.
The women went into the tomb through the open door, surely still expecting to find the lifeless body of Jesus. Again, they didn’t find what they were looking for. Instead of a corpse wrapped in cloth with burial spices they saw a young man, very much alive and sitting there. To see someone alive in the tomb would have been surprising enough. But this wasn’t just any young man; he was clothed in a long robe, a stately garment and pure white. This was a heavenly angel in human form, made visible so that the women could see him and receive the message he had for them.
The mere presence of an angel from heaven in a tomb was a powerful message. A tomb is ordinarily a place of death, of decay and corruption. It is a testimony to what sin has brought on the human race: people die and are buried; their bodies decay and return to dust. But in this tomb where Jesus’ body had lain there was no longer any sign of death, no longer any reminder of sin. Instead, there was an angel, a heavenly being, his holiness evident in the unearthly whiteness of his robe. He appeared in the form of a young man, not that of an old man with a face and hair marked by signs of aging and decline. This angel’s appearance in place of Jesus’ body proclaimed that a new era had begun. The old era characterized by sin and death was at an end. The new era would be characterized by holiness and life.
The appearance of the angel is most meaningful, but he is only the messenger. The one who brought this new era into being is Jesus. He did it by doing away with sin. He did away with sin when He gave His life for us all on the cross. Before He died He announced, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) And to that the Father pronounced His amen by raising Him from the dead. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father proclaimed that sin had been removed and that death had been conquered.
And though Jesus doesn’t yet appear in our text the angel points us to Him as the inaugurator of the new era of life. “Do not be alarmed,” he says to the women. This is a most precious word coming from a heavenly angel. Behind it there is all the grace that the risen Savior has brought us. There is no longer any reason for alarm for those who believe in Jesus as their Savior. He has taken away sin and destroyed the power of death. Notice how the angel teaches this in the way that he proclaims the resurrection. He is careful to say that the one who has risen from the dead is the very Jesus whose body they were looking for. He is “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” The one who died for us, who gave His life for us—He is the one who has risen and now lives forever.
The women fled from the tomb trembling and amazed. The reality they found at the tomb was so far from what they had expected. And the result for them was likewise so far different. If the day had gone as they had planned, these women would have had nothing more to do for Jesus after they had finished preparing His body for burial. But now that He had risen from the dead, they had important work to do; their lives had meaning and purpose. The angel sent them to bring word of His resurrection to His disciples. He would be meeting them in Galilee just as He had told them before His passion and death. And they were to see to it that Peter got the message. He should be assured that though he had denied Jesus he was forgiven and welcome at the great gathering in Galilee.
The future of these women was changed completely by the resurrection. So is ours. Christ is risen! A new era has begun. It is an era that has no end, but which stretches on into eternity. Jesus our Savior lives. And because He lives we have a future—now and for the rest of our life here and then forever with Him in heaven. Like the women at the tomb on the morning of His resurrection we have important work to do spreading the resurrection gospel. Our lives too have meaning and purpose.
We are living in a time of great fear and uncertainty. In Ukraine, a war has been going on, and though it is far away from us, we are feeling its reverberations. There are fears of rising prices and shortages. We continue to witness the ongoing moral decline in our country. But we are still able to hear and rejoice in the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection. It is the one true antidote to fear and uncertainty. Christ has taken away our sins and reconciled us to God. In Him we have eternal life. Nothing that happens in this world can take that away from us.
We have a Savior who lives. What that means, the difference that makes, is expressed so well in the Easter hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”
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 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. Amen.
(TLH #200:1 & 7)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.