Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sermon on John 20:1-18

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The sermon text for this Easter Sunday is the Gospel reading.

Dark was that first Easter morn when Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb. A chill of fear and disillusionment hung over the hearts of Mary and the disciples. Tears tried to express what words could not, as they struggled to understand how God could take away the One whom they had loved so much. How could God take Him away when Jesus was in the flower of youth? He still had so much to accomplish, so many to teach. What now were they to think of Jesus’ promises of giving eternal life by faith in Him? It was in this despair and uncertainty that Mary and the others came to the tomb that Easter morning.

But when Peter and John had gone away, and Mary was left weeping by the tomb, two angels appeared within the tomb and said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She answered, “They have taking my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” She, as well as the disciples, was looking for a dead body. She was crying because she wanted to care for His dead body. And then, “she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, (alive!) but did not realize that it was Jesus. ‘Woman’ he said, ‘Why are you crying? Who do you seek?’ Thinking He was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will take Him up.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward Him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).”

The question that rings in my ears is Jesus’ question, “Who do you seek?” Mary and the disciples were believers in Jesus, but they did not yet understand whom they were seeking. They were looking among the dead, for the Living One. They were looking for a corpse, for they didn’t yet understand from the Scripture that it was necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead. You believers gathered here today, “Who do you seek?” We, thankfully, have the benefit of 2,000 years of hindsight, so we should have a clear idea of whom we seek. We do not seek a dead Jesus, but a living One! We are here this Easter Sunday because we seek the One Man who can give US a resurrection because He did it first and for us. But there are probably some of us here, who don’t even know whom they seek, or why. You may not have even come seeking anything. But Jesus knows. In fact, it was Jesus who sought each one of us.

Mary was seeking Jesus, but she didn’t know what she was looking for. But Jesus knew. When He asked her, “Who do you seek?” It wasn’t because He didn’t know. It was because He was seeking her. And with one Word, He called her by name, ‘Mary.’ He sought her, and found her, and suddenly her eyes were open, and the fear and doubt was shattered. Joy filled her heart and all she could say was ‘Rabboni! Teacher!’ Her eyes were opened and she saw her Lord for who He truly was, the Risen Son of God. And so also it is with each of us. He sought us. He came looking for each one of us, and called us by name—Joshua, (fill in a few names from congregation). And for those who weren’t seeking anything, or don’t know what or who they seek, Jesus is here calling. Calling your name, because He is always seeking lost sheep to bring into His kingdom. Seeking us all, because He knows our needs and well provides them.

How often do we find ourselves living in uncertainty and fear, like the disciples? How often do we live or act as if we don’t know where Jesus has gone? Jesus had told His disciples over and over, that He must die and in three days be raised again. But they didn’t listen or understand. The reason they were so worried and fearful was because they didn’t believe His promises. And they weren’t looking for Him where He promised to be found. They should have known where to find Him, 3 days after His death. Not in His tomb, but as He said, “After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matt. 26:32). But they forgot His words and lived in fear as if they didn’t know where Jesus had gone.

Isn’t that the way it is today? We fall so easily into fear and self-pity and doubt, wondering where Jesus has gone, as if He has abandoned us. Sometimes we live as if we don’t know where He has gone. As if we didn’t hear or believe His promise, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” We easily forget to look for Him where He has promised to be found. He has promised to be with us through His Word and His Spirit who teaches His Word. He has promised to be bodily present for us and for our forgiveness of sins in His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He has promised to claim each baptized child or adult as God’s own child, washed clean by baptism into the name of the Trinity. But all to often that’s not where we look. It’s not that we’re looking for a dead Jesus, but what sort of Jesus is it that we are looking for, and where? Here He is in our midst, in His church, where He promised to be. And where are we looking? If we look where He promised to be, we will find Him. Because He has found us and called us.

When Mary answered Jesus, she said the most remarkable words. She said, “Tell me where you have put Him, and I will take Him up.” Mary showed remarkable love, in that she thought she was going to take up His dead body and care for it. She spoke in love, but in misunderstanding. She thought she would take up His body and care for it. But what she did not realize was that HE would be the One to take her up and out one day, from her tomb, and care for her. But in a radically different way than what she had in mind. It was our sin, and her sin that put Jesus into that tomb, because it was for our sin that He suffered and died on the cross. And it’s our sin that will put us in our tombs one day. But Jesus will take us up and out to heavenly places, and care for us eternally by giving us eternal life! Mary wanted to care for Him in death, but He wants to care for her and for all of us in eternal life! The empty tomb is OUR FUTURE! Our future is to have an empty tomb as well, because in our Baptism we have been united with Jesus’ death and resurrection!

But as Christians, we aren’t in denial about death, as some might claim. Rather, Mary and the disciples experienced very real sorrow over the death of Jesus. It was painfully real to see their dearest loved one die. Some of them even watched the nails being hammered into His hands and feet, and watched Him hang on the cross, suffering the anguish of our sin. They were there for the deathwatch of their Lord and Savior. How could anyone think that they were in denial about death? Neither do we deny death today. Or at least we shouldn’t. Among our own congregation we know of people close to us who are dying or have died recently, and we do not hide from death or deny it, but we suffer and mourn and pray with the dying. But the reality is that it’s not just those who are visibly dying, but in fact all of us are dying. We cannot be in denial about our true condition. Every one of us from the day we are conceived till our last breath, are terminally ill with the cancer of sin. But we are here today, and we gather as Christians every week, because we are gathered around the Cure. We know who to seek for our Cure, because Jesus is the Great Physician who came and sought us before we even knew Him.

As Martin Luther said, “Christians do not deny death; they defy death!” And that is why we are here to celebrate this Easter Sunday, it’s our Lord Jesus’ Resurrection! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Though death is a painful reality of this sin-filled life, we do not deny it, we defy it! We boldly face our death with confidence, because we know that death is a conquered foe. It has no sting, it has no victory over us, because Christ has conquered death, hell, and Satan! Because Christ is for us, who can be against us?! Death is now but a passing into life eternal for Christians. Our future is an empty tomb! With that knowledge we can confidently face death whenever it comes. We know whom we seek, and that is Jesus Christ, the Living One, who first sought us. And He sought us and He bought us by His precious blood, and He rose from the dead to unite us in His death and resurrection by baptism, so that we will be united to His Life. He will take us up one day from our tombs and gather us to our Heavenly Father’s side. Alleluia, He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Amen.

2 comments:

Mutti said...

Refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Good write up saab v4