Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.
As St. Mark begins our text for today, he writes, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” Maybe we should ask a few questions before we begin. Why were the women going back to the tomb? Why were they bringing spices? What was the point of anointing Jesus’ body? Why do these women have such urgency in doing this?
Jesus died Friday at 3:00 pm. The amount of time it takes to take the body off the cross and begin to wrap the body and begin to anoint takes time, plus getting to the tomb and securing the stone – all of this takes time and the Sabbath was drawing nigh. The disciples of Jesus simply ran out of time to properly prepare His body for burial. We can understand this. When our loved one dies and the time comes for them to be buried, we want proper care taken. The women wanted the same thing for Jesus. In order to finish the anointing process, they had to wait until Sunday morning – as soon as the Sabbath was ended.
The spices brought by the women were liquids because they wanted to anoint the body with them. Nicodemus had brought no less than a hundred pounds of dry, powdered spices which were strewn between the wrappings. But the body of Jesus itself had not been treated with perfume-like essences before being wrapped with linen strips. The women wanted to make this deficiency right. To anoint the body for its burial in this way was part of the honor bestowed upon it by loving friends.
As they were making their way to the tomb, there was one small issue they had not resolved: “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” These women had thought of every detail, except this one. We might ask ourselves, why didn’t they think this through? But when great tragedy happens in your life, we are not thinking with great clarity. All of the details after death for us in our culture today can take days or even weeks. We need to get our family together, we need to make all of the proper funeral arrangements, get everything in order. But with Jesus, beginning with His betrayal, mock trial, crucifixion – this all happened in just a few short hours! They had watched Jesus being tortured, beaten, flogged, and die a horrible death. It is no wonder that the women don’t have an answer as to who will roll the stone away – they just aren’t mentally there yet.
When they arrive, they find that the stone had been rolled back already. This stone was massive, what would take several large men to move it. To see that the stone was rolled back would have caused the women great fear, as it should have. Did someone rob the grave of Jesus, taking the body of Jesus?
Upon entering the tomb, they were not greeted by the dead body of Jesus, or any body of Jesus for that matter. Instead, “they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.” How could they not be alarmed? They were on their way to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body, only to realize that there was no one there to dislodge the stone that sealed the tomb.
From his shining garment, they knew that he was an angel, a messenger from God. His message? “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” And then, so that they might fully believe, they were given a special message to deliver to the disciples and especially to Peter. They were to remind the disciples of an appointment Jesus had made with them as they were leaving the upper room to go out to Gethsemane: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” And so the angel tells them, “There you will see him, just as he told you.” It was too marvelous to believe and the angel’s presence was too awesome. They fled from the tomb. Fear filled their hearts, and as a result they didn’t race into town shouting, “He’s risen! He’s risen!” This shows the reality of the event. Anyone who comes back from the dead – that is a scary and astonishing moment.
For you this morning, there is no reason why you should be filled with fear. You can run into the streets shouting that Christ is risen and you should! Jesus’ resurrection not only defeats our death in the grave but Jesus’ resurrection defeats the power of the devil and hell.
What we celebrate today is your salvation. You have a written guarantee of the resurrection of your body from your grave. You will not simply die and be gone. Some – many – will wish that it were so, for they have forsaken God and rejected His gifts and chosen death and hell, like the leaders of the Jewish Church in the days of the first Easter. But those who believe the Gospel have a resurrection to life and joy and glory, not pain and sorrow and corruption without end. How are you going to respond? What does it mean that you will rise to eternal life? The question is not about defining terms, but how this truth transforms your life. What difference does it make? Does it mean anything to how you face and approach death? It should. It should change your fears to confidence. It should change your sorrows to comfort. He is risen – and we too shall rise. You shall rise again because Jesus has risen.
Listen to what St. Paul says: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Now we know that our sins have been fully paid for and forgiven. That means, of course, that God loves us, now. The cause for the enmity between God and man has been removed. Now we have no reason to fear anything, because the Lord God Almighty is on our side. He considers us to be holy with the righteousness of His only-begotten Son, who He declared to be “well-pleasing” to Him.
St. Peter calls this the living hope that we have obtained through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As Christ prevailed victoriously, so shall we. As Christ lived, so we live. Because Christ is awakened from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, so now nothing can divide us from the love of God: neither death nor life, neither angels nor kingdoms, nor strengths, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in the crucified and risen Lord.
This is your inheritance, not because of anything you have done. No one is worthy of these awesome, infinite gifts of Christ, for all are sinners, from youngest to oldest. But all is given freely by Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, the Crucified One who lives and can nevermore die. He has given you everything. Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.