The Resurrection of Our Lord
To Rise and To Reign
April 12, 2020
The day of Jesus’ resurrection was a normal day. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early while it was still dark. She was doing her normal thing – taking care of the dead body of Jesus since it was rushed into the tomb. However, when she get’s there something was not normal. The body of Jesus was gone. This naturally would have left her scared and confused. The logical, normal thing that could have happened was that someone would have taken Jesus’ body out of the tomb because dead people don’t get up and walk.
All who have experienced a loved one passing, or have been to a wake, know how lifeless a dead body is. The person that we knew is gone, yet their body remains cold and lifeless. Death is something that we have gotten used to. It is hard to imagine a world that does not include death. Common phrases have arisen emphasizing death’s certainty. With April being the normal month for taxes to be due, it brings to mind the two things that are certain in life. Death and taxes. We tend to think that death is the end, and such thinking leads to despair. Even today, we do our best to avoid it. Certainly, we do not seek death out, but we as a society try to avoid death like the plague.
But since we know what death is, we can stand equally amazed in disbelief with Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus. The empty tomb is the forensic evidence of our faith. It’s evidence that we do not see with our own eyes, and we doubt the reality of dead men returning to life.
This doubt and disbelief are what send Simon Peter and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, running to the tomb. And do not forget that John beat Peter there. When John arrived at the tomb and saw it empty he remained at the entrance of the tomb. After all, it is always better to leave a crime scene untouched until proper authorities arrive. That proper authority is Peter as he is the first of the disciples, meaning that he is the leader of the disciples now in Jesus’ absence. Both Peter and John were in that inner circle of Jesus that gave them respect among the other disciples. After all, when groups of people are suffering from crisis, when things are abnormal it is always better to keep some kind of normalcy so that the group can remain confident and not go into chaos and utter despair.
We certainly see this today in our current pandemic crisis. Leaders of groups are taking charge and holding things together. Probably the closest these leaders get to our lives is in our very households. Fathers and mothers, even elder siblings, are taking charge in these days around the house and among the family to keep things from falling apart. Parents are discovering that they aren’t as good of teachers as they once thought. Older siblings are often taking charge and helping their younger brothers and sisters with not only school work, but even the other miniscule of tasks of the house. Still parents are navigating the difficult financial waters to make ends meet during this time and putting food on the table while also spending extra hours up at night completing their normal jobs from home. All the while everyone is just trying to hold it together.
This is the thing about leadership: you never know if you’re doing it right, but you do it anyway. And somehow, and in some way, you exit the crisis of which you were leading and realize, “You know, that wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t normal, but we made it through.” Leadership is always necessary in times of crisis and Peter with the support of John was fulfilling such a role as our holy mother, which is the church, is going through labor, as she is about to give birth to many children. John was the first to believe, as he believed in that very moment of entering the tomb. Even though he did not see Jesus yet, he believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. But none of this was normal.
The first person to see Jesus risen from the dead was Mary. Mary was standing outside with Jesus, but she supposed Him to be the gardener. It wasn’t until Jesus called her by name that she recognized who He was. What an utter joy such an occasion would be to see a loved one who was dead, alive and well, call you by name.
What great joy you have already experienced this in part. For at the waters of your baptism, Jesus calls you by name, as your mother – the church – gives birth to you as God’s beloved child. As a beloved child of God you cling to Jesus, seeking to be where He is. And as we have discussed on Thursday, where Jesus is, is in the Lord’s Supper. He is in His word. He is present where two or three are gathered in His name. For where two or three are gathered in His name where His word is being properly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered is where the bridegroom is with his bride. The church, the community of believers, is where people go to, to cling to Jesus.
But at the time that Mary see’s Jesus, the time of the church was not yet. One thing remained. “JESUS SAID TO HER, “DO NOT CLING TO ME, FOR I HAVE NOT YET ASCENDED TO THE FATHER; BUT GO TO MY BROTHERS AND SAY TO THEM, ‘I AM ASCENDING TO MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER, TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD.’” The mission is not complete yet, but it is coming to a rapid end. We tend to think that the church year ends here on Easter Sunday, but rather another great feast is yet to come. The ascension of Jesus into heaven is what gives His church it’s purpose. As one commentator once said, “To bear witness to the risen Lord is to testify that His mission has been completed, and that He has returned to the Father who sent Him.”
In Christ’s return to the Father, Jesus gives us a place as heirs to the heavenly kingdom. For Jesus says, “I AM ASCENDING TO MY FATHER AND YOUR, FATHER, TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD.” This is the message that Mary is to bring to Jesus’ disciples, which He now calls as brothers, for they are heirs with Him. As are all who are baptized in Christ’s church. We are all brothers and sisters together as one family because we have one Father who we have been reconciled to through Christ.
Christ is the firstborn over all creation. He has the rightful place at sitting at the right hand of God where He lives and reigns over heaven and earth and bestows His heavenly gifts to His bride the church.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS IS NOT A RETURN TO NORMAL, BUT RATHER A BEGINNING OF A DIFFERENT ERA WHERE HE REIGNS FOREVER.
Therefore, in this life we need not fear death, for “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and given to us by faith.
Amen, and amen.
The peace that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther