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LSB Resurrection of Our Lord B Sermon – Mark 16:1-8

April 5, 2015

April 5, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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.” 

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” That summarizes the desire of the women who go to where Jesus was buried: “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” They go to the tomb, making the trip that so many women have made before. The women go to show their devotion to Jesus by their mourning and their attempts to show honor to Jesus’ body. They had cared for Jesus during His life; the Gospels note that they had provided for Him out of their means. And now they are going to do so again, even in His death.

But what do the women find at the tomb? Once again on this Easter morning, you have heard the description of the scene: “And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.” The women find Jesus’ tomb. But they don’t find Jesus in it. Instead, the tomb is occupied by another.

The young man knows what the women desire to do. He knows that they are looking for Jesus’ body, so that they can anoint it. But the women’s desire cannot be completed: “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.” This is the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus was crucified. He had died. He was buried. That is just as the women had seen. But Jesus has risen and cannot be found in the tomb. The women had the correct desire to show devotion to Jesus, but they have not come to where it could be carried out.

A different way of showing devotion is established by Jesus’ resurrection. It won’t be shown by remembering a deceased leader. It can’t be shown by caring for a dead body. It isn’t shown by placing flowers at a tombstone or paying for the upkeep of a gravesite. But the young man at the tomb begins to reveal how the women’s devotion to Jesus can be shown: “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.” Devotion to Jesus will be shown by believing what He has said.

Jesus had revealed what would take place to Him. You have heard that multiple times already in the Lenten Gospel Readings, just as His first disciples had. Jesus had given the passion prediction: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.”  On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus declared to His disciples: “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Devotion to Jesus is shown by believing what He has said. Jesus had foretold His death. And He had foretold His resurrection. Jesus desires His followers to know this well. For this is how He fulfills His work as the Messiah. Peter had once rejected this, but Jesus set his mind on the things of God. James and John had wanted places of power, but Jesus spoke to them about giving His life as a ransom for many. The crowds wanted a Messiah who would overthrow a government, but Jesus reveals that He will accomplish their salvation by being lifted up in crucifixion. And this is how Jesus accomplishes the salvation of Peter, James, John, the Twelve, the women who came to His tomb, the patriarchs and the prophets, the crowds in Jerusalem, even the entire world including you.

That is why the young man instructs the women: “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.” That is why Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 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.” This is the heart of the Christian faith. It is a devotion based in what Jesus has said and what He has done according to His words.

Note again what Paul wrote: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you….” That preaching of that gospel began with the statement that the young man made to the women: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.” That testimony has been declared by the apostles and spoken again for you to hear: “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.” 

You are Jesus’ followers, just like the women who went to the tomb. But you don’t show devotion to Jesus by remembering Him as a deceased leader or an important historical figure. You don’t go to Jerusalem to care for His dead body. You don’t send donations to pay for the upkeep of His gravesite. But you do show devotion to Jesus by gathering here because of you believe what He has said: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again…. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life…. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many…. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” You show devotion by believing in Jesus’ acts that fulfilled the statements He made: His dying and rising again.

That devotion to Jesus is why you are here. You have come to hear what Jesus has said and what He has done. You have come to be where Jesus says that He is present with all the gifts and benefits that His death and resurrection are freely given to you. Your devotion to Jesus is shown in part by the Easter hymns that you have already sung, by the offerings that you will place in the collection plates, by gathering with your fellow disciples and praying with them. But the true devotion is shown by being present here, believing that Jesus has died and risen from death and expecting to receive from the crucified and risen Jesus the salvation that He has achieved for you by His dying and rising again.

What are the benefits that come from Jesus’ atoning death and His triumphant resurrection for you? It is everlasting life that is given to you who believe in the death of Jesus for your sins and His resurrection that both took place according to the Scriptures. The promised benefit that comes from this divine act is revealed to you: “And [the LORD] will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” 

The LORD has spoken this. And the LORD has acted to accomplish it. It has been done by Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified but has risen. That is the gospel which has been preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved. You seek Him here, where He is present in His preaching, His baptism, His absolution, and His meal—just as He said. Believing in Jesus’ words, the acts that fulfilled them, and the promises rooted in them, you now live, die, and rise again.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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