Monday, April 09, 2012

Sermon on Mark 16:1-8, for Easter Sunday, "The Morning News!"

It was early on a Sunday morning, if you can imagine it—a familiar routine unfolded. An average Joe, or let’s say a Peter, rolled out of bed, rubbed his eyes, and headed for the kitchen, still yawning from a Saturday night slumber. As his hands and feet mechanically go through their morning rituals—brew the coffee, toast the bread, open the front door and pick up the morning paper—he’s oblivious to what events are astir. Drowsy with sleep, he pages through the headlines in the morning paper: “Stock market falls for third consecutive dayCongressional deadline looms as gridlock seizes the Capitol…” pages rustle, business, politics, same old, same old, local news, sports, religion: “The tomb was empty: Reports that Jesus is alive!” But the pages keep turning as the half-interested, half-bored man concludes that none of the articles are of interest, and drops the folded paper at the side of his couch. The TV flips on to the morning news, and more routine headlines follow… “Police detain two suspects in armed robbery case…Annual surf competition begins…Jesus Christ is Risen Today!”…but with eyes already glazed over, and mind still numb, our Peter begins channel surfing.
Is this little scenario possible? Does it seem incredible to you, that the news of Jesus’ death and Resurrection could somehow get lost in the routine headlines and news of daily life? That the astonishing news of the Resurrection could be so casually passed over? Of course it’s not delivered to us in the same way—through headlines or news broadcasts, but through the preaching of God’s Word and hearing His Gospel, the good news. And of course we ought not to treat this good news so lightly! This is a news report that ought never to grow dull or uninteresting. Millions of headlines cross our daily papers, news broadcasts, websites, and airwaves, and truly most of them are not all that unique. There is a lot of recycling, of repetition, of old hat and familiar stories that might be relevant across the nation for a month, or within a tiny community for a few days. But the good news of Easter—that Jesus’ tomb is empty and that He is alive—this is an unparalleled news story that has universal and lasting relevance. Here, and in every place and culture, and over the course of nearly two thousand Easter’s that have been celebrated, and the news is still not old! “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” God in Christ has defeated sin and death for us.
There would be no Easter without Good Friday. And Good Friday would not be Good if not for Easter! Jesus’ death on the cross on this Friday past is remembered and called ‘good’ because of Jesus’ rising from the grave on this day. The message of Easter is not one of springtime and flowers and a generic message of the annual renewal of creation—although those themes have certainly surrounded the celebration of Easter as earthly echoes. But the message is of the God-man Jesus Christ, physically killed on the cross, buried, closed within His tomb, and then on the third day physically rising from His grave in a body that was no longer subject to death or decay.
Not a tattered and bruised body, but a glorified, renewed body—yet with the tell-tale marks of the nails and spear wounds in His hands and feet—declaring that this was no imposter or body double, but the same Jesus Christ whose hands and feet were pinned to the cross, and whose side was pierced with a spear so that blood and water ran out. He was the same man they had seen lifeless, still, hanging on the cross. All His life, His vitality, drained and gone. The compassionate man they knew, the words of truth that flowed from His lips, the healings that occurred at the touch of His hand or the firm words of His voice. Now stilled, now gone. Only the body left to be honored in what small ways they could, as they wrapped Him in linens and placed Him in that cold rock tomb. Hopes and joys vanished as Mary and the others saw the stone rolled shut and they went wearily home.
Did any of them manage to worship on that Sabbath? Could any of them form words of praise to God on their lips, that Saturday when Christ lay resting in the tomb? Did they wail the despairing cries of the Psalmist, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also?” (Ps 31:9) Or did any words choke like a knot in the throat, with hearts that felt like lead?
It was to women and men, defeated and discouraged like this, that the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb came. The news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead jolted them like a joyous trumpet blast ringing through their darkened and gloomy spirits! Fear and trembling broke over them as their ears were shocked with the unbelievable news. Mary Magdalene and the others had traced the same steps back to that foreboding tomb where they had seen the place where Jesus was laid. In their sorrow they had not even given thought to who would move the stone until they arrived at the tomb. To their amazement the tomb stood open with an angel standing there! The angel said to them, “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.” What? Can it be true? How is it possible? What could this mean?? Where is my Lord that I might see Him!?! Questions like these must have raced through their minds as alternating waves of trembling fear and disbelief and then ecstatic joy washed over them as they tried to grasp what this all meant.
Meanwhile, Peter and the disciples were hiding for fear of the Jews. He had been fingered as one of Jesus’ disciples by the servant girl and the bystanders in the courtyard outside where Jesus’ trial had happened. “Oh cowardly day! A thousand times already I’ve relived those moments before the rooster crowed, and wished that I could have done it over. That I could have lived up to my promise to Jesus that night, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ If only I had the courage to stand by Him! If only I had not denied my Lord! Three times! If only, if only....” A knock at the door.... “Who can that be? Mary Magdalene? She began to recount to us what they’d seen at the empty tomb, and how they heard these words of the angel... ‘You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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.’
Can you imagine the thoughts that filled my heart as I heard those words? It’s not possible—could it be? My mind raced to grasp it. ‘He is not here; see the place where they laid Him’—I must go see for myself! ‘Go tell his disciples, and Peter....AND PETER!!!’ Am I still to be counted among the disciples? After my denials? My cowardice? Would Jesus still receive me back? ...AND PETER!!! I will not fail Him now! ‘John! Let’s run to the tomb; QUICKLY!!!’ You wouldn’t believe how these legs found their strength and ran to that empty grave. The words of Mary, the angel’s message still ringing in my ears... ‘He is going before you to Galilee...there you will see Him just as He told you.’
The words of Jesus came rushing sweetly back to my ears as line by line of once mysterious words suddenly fell into place and Jesus’ teachings began to reveal the puzzle picture that was only now clear...only a sentence before He told me I would deny Him, He had said these words: ‘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.’ RAISED UP....GALILEE!”  Of course! He was talking about His death and resurrection!” As Peter and John ran to the empty tomb with thoughts like these unfolding the miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they saw with their own eyes the empty tomb and the grave clothes. They believed the Lord, and their fear and gloom gave way to joy and confident faith, confirmed in glorious truth when they met the Lord Jesus in person, as He came among the company of the disciples for 40 days after His resurrection. And Peter was once again back in the company of the disciples, restored, forgiven, claimed again by Jesus who prayed for him, who died for him.
If you were Peter, hearing this news on Easter Sunday morning, you couldn’t possibly sit back and sip your morning coffee dully and ignore the incredible news! Neither can we! The news of Jesus’ rising from the dead may well be delivered to your ears every Easter—even each Sunday! But this news is just too great to be passed over. My sins, your sins, my cowardice and fear, all the “if onlys” and regrets of sins committed and doubts expressed. Since they are all forgiven and covered by Jesus’ suffering and death for you, for me—then there’s hope and there’s joy enough to shake you free from whatever fear and gloom has a hold on your life!
“Go tell the disciples, and will see Him, just as He told you” becomes: “Go tell all the disciples, and Joshua and ___ and ___ and ____ and ____; you will see Him, just as He told you!” You! Forgiven, redeemed sinners. Ones for whom Christ died! He is not ashamed to call you His disciples again! Your Lord has gone before you to His grave, and His empty tomb now stands as a witness that death has no power over Him! And if in baptism we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His!” (Rom. 6:4-5).
May God grant that whether we’ve heard the news for the first time, or a thousand times, that it would ring with the same freshness and joy, for knowing that life and death are forever transformed by Jesus’ defeat of sin and death. Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 2,000 years may separate us from those first events and the recipients of that news, but the Risen Lord Jesus is just as truly present among us and near to us today as He promised: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them” (Matt. 18:20). “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Jesus is here, in His Word, in His Sacrament—the sacred last will and testament that He gave in remembrance of His sacrifice for us. That by celebrating this Supper continually, we “proclaim His death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). We wait for His return with newfound joy. Then we will see Him, just as He told us, with our own eyes. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).  With good news of forgiveness, of conquered death, and of everlasting life we wait for our faith to become sight on that great day of Jesus’ return. This news will never grow old or fade from the pages of history, but is living and powerful news, and is even now, this day, this year, creating and making lives new in Jesus. The news is this: “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1.      Read Mark 16:1-8, the account of the women’s arrival at Jesus’ tomb. How did the women react to this unprecedented morning news? What makes for the enduring relevance and universal importance of this particular news of Jesus’ death and resurrection? How is this news “delivered” around the world?

2.      In what ways do we become dulled to the significance of this message? How do we overlook its importance for our lives?

3.      Why are Good Friday and Easter inseparably linked together? Why must we remember both together? What does Good Friday mean for us and our salvation? Easter? Romans 5:10; Heb. 9:11-28; 1 Cor. 15

4.      How must the sorrow of Good Friday affected the disciples of Jesus? How might such sorrow have affected their worship that Sabbath day? Has there been a time in your life where sorrow quenched your worship of God? How do the Psalms give answer to this grief? Read Psalm 42, especially vs. 4-5, 11. God also desires to hear our sorrows and griefs.

5.      How did the Resurrection of Jesus pull them out of the depths of their sorrows? Describe a time when your sorrow was transformed to joy. How must Peter have felt to know that he had been singled out for mention by the angel, to receive the good news? Mark 16:7. Why was this especially significant? Mark 14:66-72

6.      What does it mean for us that Jesus still desires to call us His disciples, and to bring the good news to us, despite our sins and failings? How are we promised to see Jesus also? Rom. 6:4-5; Matt. 5:8; Acts 1:11; Job 19:25-27. How can we keep from letting this news grow old?

No comments: