The Resurrection of our Lord
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
March 31, 2002
(No one likes funerals! They most certainly are not events that we look forward to nor are they events which we would attend because we wish to. There is little that is comforting about cemeteries and head stones. Such things only bring to mind the pain of personal loss, of loved ones gone, and the pain of separation. The grave of Jesus Christ was no different for those who believed they had lost Him. The end had been less than pleasant. The injustice was cruel, the beatings undeserved, the crown of thorns and cruelty of the nails pounded in by Roman solders who could have cared less who Jesus was only added to the excruciating pain loved ones feel when someone dies. Crucifixion has been described as one of the most sadistic forms of execution ever devised by man. And for loved one to stand watching the struggle must have been horrible! Neither was Jesus a man of property and so it took the kindness of a friend to provide a tomb in which to lay this man whose touch had healed so many. And now, three women make their way to a tomb after the Sabbath in the cool of a spring morning to provide the customary kindness shown to the dead. Spices had to be applied and it wasn’t a pleasant task either.
MANY OF US HAVE KNOWN THE SORROW OF THESE WOMEN AT THE GRAVE.
We share their sense of helplessness at the grave of our loved ones.
Death seems like the one enemy against which we are powerless.
We try to make ourselves more comfortable by assuring one another that death is some sort of good thing, but we don’t believe it even as we say it.
We try to console ourselves, if death came quickly, we conclude that quick is better than long and drawn out.
If the process of dying was hard and long, we rationalize that we can feel better because the suffering is over.
But as we gather at the graveside we know that death has won and life has lost.
At least that’s the way it seems.
But things are not always what they seem to be.
Before the grave, we shed tears of sorrow.
Since the first death of humans at the dawn of human history, we have shed tears of sadness.
That is what is happening in our Gospel lesson this morning. (v. 10-11)
Now alone during her second trip to the tomb, she mourns that not only has she lost her Lord to death, now even the body seemed to be missing.
ILLUS: Today, as we gather, there are still families in New York who cannot bury their dead and some will never be able to. The lost of even the remains of a loved one is sorrow upon sorrow.
However, Mary is about to discover that there is a joyous reason she cannot apply the spices to her love one.
Today, we too have more than one reason to mourn.
We mourn not only over death and its seemingly unavoidable reality, but we also mourn that our lives have not been what they should have been.
ILLUS: Some of us foolishly look back on our lives and conclude that we regret nothing and wouldn’t change a thing! What arrogance!
I freely confess to you that I would dearly love to change the selfishness that my life has all too frequently exhibited.
I regret words that came from my mouth and wounded others.
I deeply regret acts of sinful selfishness that put my wants before the needs of others.
I regret the inactions I did not do that I should have done.
What’s more if I could go back and do it all again, there are probably a thousand things I would have done differently, or at least there should be.
Please forgive my presumption, but I believe you too would need to reach the very same conclusion!
God’s Word teaches us that we are all sinful and unclean and have failed to keep God’s Laws, and in so doing, we have chosen to visit a grave…our very own grave. (Rom. 6:23)
Indeed it was humanities rebellion against God and His perfect will that is the very reason we must visit cemeteries and mourn the death of others and they ours.
When created by God, man was never intended to die.
But as we read His Word, we find a humanly self-inflicted death sentence. (I Cor. 15:22)
WHILE CHRIST HAD BEEN ALIVE, HIS FOLLOWERS HAD BELIEVED THAT HE WAS THE MESSIAH, LONG PROMISED TO REMOVE THE CURSE OF DEATH AND SIN.
His teaching was unlike anything anyone had heard before.
He didn’t just talk about God, He spoke with the authority of God Himself.
He repeatedly ascribed to Himself a unique oneness with our Heavenly Father. (John 14:8-9)
He repeatedly told others that He alone was the way to salvation. (Jn. 8:12; Jn. 14:6)
He didn’t just talk about God, but brought healing to the diseases that came about through the fall into sin. (Jn. 21:25)
Jesus had come to conquer death and gave clear evidence of that intent.
Jairus’ daughter had died, but death would not have the last word in the presence of the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Lk. 8:40-42; 51-55)
Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus, had been dead four days in the tomb, but again the grave clothes had to be removed when he too was called to life by the Prince of Life!
OUR TEARS AT DEATH TURN TO JOY WITH THOSE OF MARY BECAUSE HE IS NOT DEAD…HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Surely, it must have been painfully puzzling to watch Jesus die, who had brought life and healing to so very many.
To remove His body from the cross and take the corps to a tomb must have been the very last thing they expected to do.
This One who had never done anything wrong had been unjustly condemned.
This One who was always in control of every event, now was gone.
This One who had promised life was dead!
No wonder Mary was crying in the garden!
But then she heard a voice!
Through her tears she hears a man ask her a question, “Woman, why are you crying?”
Without turning, she answers, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put Him.”
Then two more questions, “Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?”
ILLUS: I wonder what expression Jesus had on His face while Mary was not looking at Him during this dialog? I’m willing to bet He had the biggest smile on His face you can imagine because He was about to tell her the best news she or the world would ever hear.
He speaks her name, and she turns toward Him at last recognizing her Living Lord, throwing her arms around Him until He must tell her to let go.
At last the grave is not the end of life! Here is One who has conquered death and overcome the grave. HE IS RISEN!
CONCLUSION: Cemeteries look a lot different now! Because Christ has paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, and fulfilled the unrelenting demands of the Law on our behalf, not only can the grave not hold Him, it cannot hold those whose faith and trust reside in Him either! In Christ our grave is a portal to heaven, not a “Dead End”. In Christ we too are risen! Praise God for His mercy, for His suffering and death for us! Praise God for His victory over sin, death and the grave! Praise God because HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! And so too shall we rise! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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