“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”” With these simple verses, Easter morning begins. It’s not the start that we would have thought of, not the start that we would prefer. We want to see Jesus, but He is not here. Instead, we have an empty tomb. Do you really want to see Jesus? Of course you don’t! That’s right, you don’t want to see Jesus, at least, not right now. The tomb is empty because Jesus said that it would be empty because after three days time, He would rise from the dead.
Why would we expect to find Jesus in the tomb? Is it because we feel comforted knowing that Christ still lay in the tomb? Is it our unbelief that expects Jesus to be in the tomb? What is that Mary Magdalene expected to find? A stone still lodged in the mouth of the tomb? A dead and hastily wrapped Jesus on the other side of the stone? If that’s what Mary Magdalene is expecting to find, then poor, poor Mary Magdalene. Clearly she didn’t understand. But she wasn’t the only one to not understand. As John continues his account, we hear of Simon Peter and John reaching the tomb. It isn’t until they look into the tomb that they believed; “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
What are you expecting to find this morning? A sealed tomb? Jesus lying in peaceful repose on the other side of the stone? For your sake, I hope not. We don’t expect to find Jesus lying in the tomb. We expect, we want, we need to find the tomb burst open and Jesus nowhere to be found, for that is what He spent three years teaching. That’s why Jesus is here – not to die and lie in a tomb for all eternity, but to die and burst forth from the tomb in all splendor and honor and glory, with death trampled underfoot. We want to be able to shout, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death has no victory and the sting of death has been plucked.
But that’s not the realization of all. For some, Jesus is still dead. And why wouldn’t He be dead because He was just a man. And what a sad realization that is because there is no resurrection hope for you; not just in Jesus but for you as well.
The focus for us is the empty tomb, but at the same time, it is not. We gaze upon the empty tomb and we rejoice in the fact that is empty. It means that Christ has done what He said He would do – die and rise again. He has accomplished for us all that is necessary for our salvation. But just as we acknowledge the empty tomb and give thanks for it, there are those that see the empty tomb and are disappointed. The tomb is empty. Jesus is out of sight, out of mind. The fact that He isn’t there means that the resurrection is a failure.
Jesus is right here, right now. He is present in our lives every day. He is present in the world in which we live in. We know that because as Luther writes regarding the First Article of the Creed, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” We know that He is present in our lives because of today! By His death on Good Friday, by His resurrection from the dead today, we know that He is present in our lives because He died for you and He rose from the dead for you.
Satan had done his worst and his worst was a failure. Jesus isn’t still dead. He is risen as He said He would. Throughout all of this, Satan had worked through the religious leaders, Judas, through the events leading up to the crucifixion; it might have appeared that Satan had won. Jesus died. Satan wins. Or so it would seem. Jesus was doing what God said He would do – crushing the head of the serpent, once and for all.
What we don’t see in our Easter Gospel is an all-important event – Christ’s descent into hell. He goes to hell, not in order to suffer, but to proclaim victory over sin, death, and the devil. He declares that He has won and Satan has lost. Christ has proven that Satan’s hold on creation is temporary. Sin and death are not the final result for God’s creation. Life wins; Jesus wins.
On that first Easter morning, out of a tomb walks one who suffered the deadliest of wounds. With several fatal wounds, Jesus should have stayed dead. No man would be able to endure the scourging that He endured. To add to that the carrying of His cross and finally His crucifixion, not just any man, but every man should have died and stayed dead. But Jesus is not just any man. He is both the Son of God and Son of Man; He is true God and true Man. Because He is the very Son of God, He would not stay dead. He came out of the tomb. He came out of the tomb to be back in the world where we need Him most.
Easter is not just a then-and-there event. Easter is not just an event in history that happened 2000 years ago. Easter is an event in which we celebrate each and every day, because this day marks the day in which you and I received the forgiveness of all of our sins. It is the day in which you and I have been made children of God, once for all. No matter what Satan will do, Jesus Christ has proven to be the Victor. Jesus’ resurrection is here for us now. We look to Him and remember all the wounds He suffered. They cut into His body with nails and scourges and thorns. He was cut off from His closest friends. He was cut off even from God the Father, who forsook Him on the cross. No matter how bad those wounds were, here Jesus is standing outside the tomb amongst His followers again. He has overcome! He came back into the world to be alive with us here and now. Jesus overcame all His wounds so that He may bring forgiveness and life to each and every one of us.
Because Christ has risen from the dead, we are able to echo the words of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.