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There’s a big difference between our celebration of Easter here and that of those who experienced Easter for the first time at the tomb.
• We’ve come here this morning fully expecting that we will NOT find things still shrouded in the darkness of death as they were when we left here on Good Friday.
• But the three women who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning were fully expecting to find nothing else but the body of Jesus right still shrouded in Joseph’s linen, right where they had seen Him laid.
• We have come here with our all four chambers of our heart, fully loaded, just waiting for the signal so we can fire off that response we’ve been waiting for the last 40 days with – “He is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”
• But when the women heard the angel say “He is risen” “they fled for trembling and astonishment and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” What kind of response to the good news of Easter is that?
We shouldn’t judge them too harshly though. If there’s one thing that St. Mark wants to make a point of in his gospel, it’s that whenever anyone stumbles upon God’s MIRACULOUS UNEXPECTED, it always causes MORE FEAR THAN JOY.
• When Jesus calmed the stormy sea, we would have EXPECTED that the disciples would have responded with a ‘praise the Lord.’ But instead, Mark tells us, “they were filled with great fear.” (4:41).
• When Jesus exorcized the legion of demons from the man and sent them into the heard of pigs, rather than thanking Him the people who witnessed it were afraid of Him. (5:15).
• When Jesus walked on the water to His disciples on the stormy sea, instead of greeting Him with a, “great to see you,” “they all saw him and were terrified.” (6:50).
Had the women found Jesus’ body right where it had been laid out the day before, they wouldn’t have been a bit surprised, filled with great fear, terrified, or astonished and trembling.
BUT NOW One has appeared who has shaken everything up, AND THAT SHAKES US UP TOO. He’s done the UNEXPECTED THING and now we’re not sure just what to expect anymore. AND THAT SCARES US.
We thought we had it all figured out. There are two things in this world that never change – death and taxes. But now we’re not so sure about death.
We used to tell ourselves that we live then we die and that’s that. It’s the LAW OF NATURE that God wrote large and billboarded in the Garden of Eden – “the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And we have all eaten of it.
And so long as we’re still alive, we might as well eat, drink and be merry, because we all know that we will all die and that’s that.
BUT NOW there comes One WHO DIED BUT IS NOW ALIVE AGAIN.
• We thought there was no way to get out of your grave once you’re buried in it. But He was crucified, died and buried and NOW HE LIVES.
• We thought that the laws of nature were fixed and unchangeable. But He has proved to us that there is yet another law at work, A DEEPER LAW, a law that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined…” (1 Cor. 2:9).
• But there is another law. A law that He Himself embedded into His creation from the beginning that overrides the ‘law of nature.’ It says that whenever death takes the life of a person WHO HAS NO SIN, death will have no hold on him and it will have to let go of Him, and he will rise from the dead, never to die again.
God Himself has entered into His own Creation to demonstrate before our very eyes that this deep and hidden law of life IS TRUE.
• “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined” such a Law because there has never been a ‘sinless one,’ let alone a ‘sinless one’ who has died.
• UNTIL JESUS.
• Death could not hold onto Jesus Christ because He is the SINLESS Son of God.
• “Neither could the gates of death, nor the tomb’s dark portal, nor the watchers, nor the seal, hold Him as a mortal” (LSB #487:4)
And now we confronted by the fact that old theories and explanations about life and death just don’t hold water any more.
• God has done His NEW THING.
• On Easter Sunday, God has revealed what had been hidden and made known a great mystery.
• And now, everything is changed. Nothing is as it used to be. “The old has passed away and the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
• New paradigms for living are needed because Easter has made the old paradigms obsolete.
• “To eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow we may die” has become as ridiculous a way of navigating ones life as sailing a ship with maps that are based on the earth being flat.
God has done His UNEXPECTED THING in Jesus Christ.
And for some, this creates more FEAR THAN JOY. Just like the women at the tomb, “they flee for trembling and astonishment, and say nothing to anyone for fear.”
And some FLEE FOR TREMBLING AND ASTONISHMENT. It’s not what they expected. Not what they planned for. Easter means that there’s SOMETHING they missed, SOMETHING they had figured on. And that SOMETHING changes everything.
But they can’t believe it. Or they don’t want to believe it. They would rather stick with the old paradigms and take their chances that the earth really is flat.
And others FLEE FOR TREMBLING AND ASTONISHMENT, not because they DON’T BELIEVE it, BUT BECAUSE THEY DO.
“I believe that it is as the Scriptures say – that the sinless Son of God died and rose from the dead because death had no hold on Him because He had no sin. But I sure do. And not just a little either. If the deep law of God is that death cannot keep a sinless man down, then ‘woe is me.’ And ‘woe is you’ too. And I don’t see why you’re all so excited. Unless you’re so blind that you actually think you’re sinless.”
In either case, it is as though there is a VERY LARGE STONE that has been rolled over the heart and the mind that blocks us from understanding this deep truth of God.
So, an important part of our celebration of Easter lies in that little, easily overlooked detail that “the stone had been rolled back.” The stone was NOT rolled back so that Jesus could get out of the tomb. Later on Easter day He would walk through closed doors to be with His brothers and sisters.
No, the “stone was rolled back” for the sake of the women so they could see that He really was NOT THERE. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. SEE THE PLACE WHERE THEY LAID HIM.”
On Easter, God rolled back the stone that concealed His ‘deep law of life’ so that we may see it and believe it. “The mystery hidden for ages in God” has been revealed, made known, never to be hidden again. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead – IT IS TRUE and it is FOR YOU.
Just as the angel announced the truth to the women, the Holy Spirit proclaims the truth to us through His Apostles.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Cor. 15:3-5).
Did you hear that? “Christ died for OUR SINS.” Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has no sin. ‘God made Him to be sin WHO KNEW NO SIN,’ declares Paul. The sins that killed Him were OUR SINS.
Paul says that this is “in accordance with the Scriptures.” For a long time there have been rumblings, tremors, warnings, that along with the ‘deep law’ that death shall have no hold on a sinless one, there is another ‘deep law’ THAT IF A SINLESS ONE LOVES A SINFUL ONE, He may atone for the sins of the sinful one by claiming those sins as His own and paying the full price for them. And the price is always death.
This is what Jesus Christ, the only sinless One, has done. Because He loves you, He has taken your sins upon Himself and atoned for them by paying the full price for sin – He died.
• He paid the ultimate price and the full price. And now, your sins can no longer be counted against YOU because they have already been counted against Him.
• All of your sin has been removed from you as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heaven is above the earth.
• In Him and through faith in Him, YOU ARE SINLESS. And death has no hold on you because it has no hold on Jesus and you are in Jesus and Jesus is in you.
This is why we celebrate Easter. Not because we are so blind as to think we are sinless, but the Spirit has rolled away the stone and we see believe that His ‘deep law’ is TRUE.
• The sinless One became sin FOR US,
• And died FOR US,
• and swallowed up death FOR US,
• and conquered hell FOR US,
• and made all things new FOR US.
This is Easter. No doubt, far more than the angel at the tomb could have preached to the three women on that first Easter morning. But it’s just the kind of good news we’ve come to this place to hear today. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9).