Sermon for Easter Sunday, 2018 - Mark 16
Easter is, in one way or the other, one of the biggest April Fools jokes ever. Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is supposed to be this day that we are to remember that we are dust, and yet God came to us to rescue us from that. It is supposed to be a day in which we see death as a conquered enemy, a vanquished foe, in which we have been given freedom from all our attempts to destroy God and make ourselves the deity of our choosing, and what do we often do with it? He is risen. April Fools. The tomb is empty. April Fools. Your sins are forgiven. April Fools.
In our world at large, in our world it is regularly just a Sunday. Just a day. A special day, but only in so far as we fill the day with Easter baskets, bunny rabbits, chocolate, ham, grandma’s house, nice dresses and pastel colors. We live so often as though the resurrection has never occurred and yet here it is. Again. Easter.
But I think I can work with that. I think I can do something for you in that reality this morning. Because we are the women in our Gospel reading. Nothing is different for us. We are pre-Jesus as it were. Pre-resurrection. The women are on the way to the tomb after the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day was a day of rest. It was a day, and still is, in which the Jewish people abstained from labor, went to worship, prayed, had fellowship. It was one day in 7 given back to God since God has given 7 days to us as a gift we never asked for.
The Sabbath day plays a role in the story of Jesus’ death in fact. The trial happens quickly because the religious leaders don’t want to deal with it on the Sabbath. We want to be clean for the Sabbath so lets kill him quickly. That’s the thinking. The death on the cross happens quickly as this inauguration of the true Sabbath rest that was to come to us in Jesus because the leaders don’t want the bodies hanging on the Sabbath. How nice of them. But the Sabbath is a reminder of your mortality only to have here in this work of Christ a breaking of your mortality. Reminding you that you are dust. You need rest. But even more importantly, rest in God.
So here the women have had their day of rest and now it is back to the normal. The everyday. There are dead bodies to attend to. Death still exists. So they go to the tomb of Christ. Expecting him to be there. He’s dead after all. They bring spices because he would stink now. Decay would have set in. He would be really dead. That’s why the three days. Just to make sure he is dead.
On their way to the tomb they wonder to themselves – There is a stone, a big stone in front of the tomb. Who will move it for us? Sort of lack, Mary, did you bring the shovel? Who is going to dig him up? Salome? You have great forearms, my sciatica is acting up again, and the other Mary has a bad hip. Why don’t you do it?
This is important. They are on there way to the cemetery with the proper expectation. He’s dead. It’s a place for the dead. He should be where we left him. As though, we buried him next to Aunt Mildred. They have no anticipation otherwise. Nothing should be different.
But then, the stone. The empty tomb and the preacher. The stone has been moved. The grave has been opened. A grave that was secured. Closed. Left dark and dank, and with a body. But now, open. The veil of death, the spectre of abandonment and loss has been removed. That’s the stone.
There is no body. You go to Jerusalem today and you have a church built around the place where the cross stood, where his body was wrapped, where the tomb is that history says was where this Jesus lay until Easter morning and now he is not there. And God has sent a preacher to these women to let them know what has happened. He is not here. He is risen just as he said. Because if say you have made your way to the cemetery and find the grave empty where you buried grandma, the place where you left dear ole’ Nan is now vacant, you need someone to tell you why.
Jesus said it would happen. Mark chapter 10 - “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” But just like us, the women forgot. The disciples forgot. We forget. So we hear these words again. We need to hear them. Hear them at least once a year to tell you the truth about this Jesus in whom you believe. By whom you have been captured, purchased away from sin and death.
As Paul says to you this morning in 1 Corinthians 15 – He was crucified for our sins according to the Scriptures. The crucifixion and salvation from sin, not as some behavioral modification, but a continuation of Christmas. In Christmas God comes to us in Jesus. He had to because we run from him all the time. That is our sin. Behavior or morality is something different. The sin, our nature in us that is our sin, the main sin for which Christ dies is this attempt to be God. The attempt to get rid of him. That was what we did in his death. Crucified and buried our God so we could be God, only to have that plot blow up in our faces.
Our attempts at Godlessness are an image of our own mortality. The fact that we don’t want to be reminded of the immortal. Of the endless. Of eternity because we know that we are not. Otherwise we could hold onto our human endeavor. Our attempts to be more awesome each day. But we can’t raise the dead. He can. And if he can fix our struggle between life and death, what does that mean for our struggle against God? What does that mean for this war we have with our sin?
That is what I think is the reason for the fear, the trembling, the bewilderment of the women. They are us. A perfect example for us. We hear this account of God’s working for us and we leave puzzled because we still see death. We see age come. Time win. Bodies crumble. Yet, Paul again reminds us that Christ was buried, and raised according to the Scriptures. That it happened. That the resurrection is not just some Sunday. It is everyday. It is essential.
In the work of Christ I am reminded that all the things I make into my god, making myself into god, chasing away all of the divine from my life, all this is for not. All of it is for nothing because of him. Before the cross happened. Before the betrayal of Judas, his own friend and disciple. Before his disciples run and flea and leave him to be killed. Before Peter, one of his closest disciples denies him. Before you came into this place to hear this word this morning. Before you were born. He tells you he will die, but death cannot hold him. That he will rise, and go ahead of you, knowing that in the course of your life this word will land in your soul pulling you away from any idol you have and bring you to that tomb to see that he rose to forgive your sin and grant you life everlasting. Before you have done anything good or bad to gain or lose this salvation from death and sin, Christ died and rose for you.
It is in this that we cling. In this that we hope. In this that we place our trust because all other things will eventually fail us. The medicine stops working. The heart shuts down. People sin against you. You betray someone in your life. Your anger gets the best of you or your judgement against someone destroys a relationship. Even in all this, Christ died, no…was killed to kill your sin. Buried to destroy it. Leave it in the grave. And then rose to tell you that you will too. Thanks be to God. Amen