Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! What a joyous statement of faith and truth those words are! The story doesn’t end with our Lord Jesus in the tomb. The story continues with his triumphant victory over death and the grave. If a Disney writer was creating the story of Jesus’ life, it wouldn’t have ended nearly this well. Jesus’ story has an even better ending than a classic Disney fairytale ending. In your classic Disney fairytale ending, the prince rescues the princess, the villain is overthrown, and the hero lives happily-ever-after. But that, of course, comes with a catch. The happily-ever-after doesn’t last forever. Eventually time catches up with everyone. All must die, even if the Disney writers would rather forget that fact. There is no such thing as true fairytale endings in this world because all human stories end in death. They all end in death, that is, until Jesus came along. As we see on this day, Jesus’ death was not the end of his story. Jesus’ death is the kind of death which causes the story to continue—beyond the fairytale ending.
2. And so, in our text for today we see that when the Sabbath had past, the women who had been with Jesus decided to go to his tomb to finish the burial process that they had not had enough time to complete before sundown on Friday. They bought spices and went to the tomb as soon as it was light enough to see where they were going. They timed it so that they would be arriving at the tomb just as the sun was rising. That way they would waste no time or daylight and be able to anoint the body of their Lord before it decayed to the point where they were unable to handle it. They had meticulously planned the details of purchasing the spices and the travel time to the tomb so that everything would work out just right. But they forgot one major detail—how were they going to move the stone? It was a massive stone—way too large for them to move, even working together. They should have had one or more of the men accompany them, but they didn’t even think of it. And so, they continued on, hoping against hope that they would be able to somehow move the stone themselves. But to their surprise, they looked up to see that the stone was moved away from the entrance to the tomb already! What had happened? So they rushed into the tomb, and there sat a young man to the right of the entrance. And we’re told in a very matter-of-fact manner: “and they were alarmed” (Mark 16:5). I don’t know about you, but if that were me, I would have been more than alarmed. I would have been utterly terrified. What has this man done with the Lord’s body? How will the women be able to bring closure for their own sake and for the sake of their Lord? This was not going as these women had hoped or intended. The death of their Lord was tragic enough in its own right. But now it seems that a cruel trick is being played on them so that they can’t even give the story of Jesus’ life a proper ending.
3. But as the young man who was sitting in the tomb opens his mouth, he informs them that there is no trick. The story continues: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has 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 to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7). Notice how this young man refers to Jesus. He is the crucified one. The important piece of information that he provides to the woman is about the resurrection of their Lord: “He has risen; he is not here.” But even in this glorious announcement of the young man to the women, the resurrection of Jesus is preceded by his status as “the crucified one.” The young man isn’t using this description of Jesus to refer to a past event so the women know he is talking about the same Jesus they are. The young man is not saying, “The Jesus who died on Friday is risen.” No, the young man wants these women to know that Jesus is and ever remains the crucified one, yet he is risen. It is on this account that the women must go and announce the resurrection of their Lord to the disciples, not because the resurrection has un-done the effects of the crucifixion, but because the resurrection has confirmed the effects of the crucifixion.
4. To say it differently, the resurrection places the cross in power. That is to say, as a result of the resurrection of Jesus, the cross and all that has been accomplished through it not only has divine “approval,” but it also is blessed with divine authority. What happened at Calvary can and must be confessed to be the authoritative working of God himself in the person of Jesus. Even on this most holy of days, the cross is very much in view, and is even the focus. The crucifixion of Jesus is not an unfortunate ending to the story, it is the decisive moment of victory. This is the moment to which God the Father would have us look in all times of need. This is why Saint Paul says things like: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14a) or “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is why Saint John goes to great lengths in his Gospel, which we will discuss next week, to point out that the resurrected Jesus still bears the marks of the crucifixion in his hands and feet. Our Lord Jesus is both the crucified and risen one. His death paid the penalty for our sin so that we might be forgiven. His new life in the resurrection is, in a very real sense, the necessary consequence of his death. If his death accomplished what it was meant to accomplish, then he had to rise from the dead.
5. But notice how our Gospel text ends. We’re told: And [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). What a way to end the text! And if you follow the most ancient Christian traditions, which do not include Mark 16:9-16 as a part of Mark’s Gospel, what a way to end the story! The women are given one task by the young man—go tell the disciples that the crucified Jesus is risen. But they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. This abrupt ending to the story is challenging, to say the least. It raises questions like, why didn’t the women go tell the disciples? If they truly believed the young man, how could they have kept quiet? The short answer is, we don’t know. And honestly, that’s really not the point. I have said this of a number of other Biblical texts, so you might have heard this before, but when a Biblical text ends abruptly like this, it is inviting you into the story. It really doesn’t matter what the women did after this. What matters is what you will do.
6. It’s probably fair to say that given the circumstances, you probably would have been afraid and fled from the tomb just as the women did. But even setting that aside, what now? You have exactly what they had—the Word—the Word, the promise of Jesus—“just as he told you.” The crucified one is risen. Just as it was for the women, so too for you—this promise is all you need. The story continues with you. Sure, it can feel uncomfortable to discuss our Lord. Sure, we find ourselves afraid at times to speak our mind and share our faith. But this is the joy of Christians. We get to share the good news that through Jesus’ death on the cross, the God the Father has worked our forgiveness and salvation. And through his resurrection from the dead, he has promised us new life. We must share this news because this is how the story continues. It continues in our spreading of the message, and it continues in our lives, both here in this life, and in the life to come, as we live in the resurrected life of our crucified Lord Jesus. The crucified one is risen! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.