Sunday, April 12, 2009

Just as He Told You

The Resurrection of Our Lord
Easter Day
April 12, 2009
Mark 16:1-8

It was an emotional day for Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome. But we are emotional beings. Events like those that occurred to them affect us emotionally. When it comes to our interacting with God, every person is a slave to their emotions.

The three women who went to the tomb evidence this. The most striking thing that shows us this is how the Resurrection account ends: they go away from the Good News spoken by the angel and away from the empty tomb fleeing because they were seized with trembling and astonishment! They leave and say nothing to anyone because they’re afraid!

The Good News of Easter is that fear is conquered. But these women are so emotionally wrapped up in themselves that they’re in fear rather than joy.

It’s important for us to know that this is not the difference between emotion and reason. Their reason was getting them no farther than their feelings. It made sense that Jesus’ lifeless body would be in the tomb—He had died.

It’s also important to know that emotions and reason aren’t bad. They’re not wrong. They’re even good and useful. God gave them both to us and we should make use of them and even enjoy them. But what occurred at the tomb shows us that we can’t rely on them. What Jesus has told us is what we must rely on. It’s emotion and reason versus fact. It’s what makes sense or seems to be the case against what Jesus has said to us.

We don’t hear much about these women in the Gospel accounts. But we know that they were with Jesus through a lot of His Ministry. They and the disciples had been through a lot emotionally in the previous week as well as the three years of Ministry of Christ. This event on Sunday morning was kind of the topper. No wonder they were afraid. They didn’t know what was going on. The disciples were hiding out, that’s how afraid they were. All of them were overwhelmed.

We can empathize with them considering what all they had gone through, can’t we? But this response is exactly the sort of emotional response they had. The Resurrection account contrasts our emotional, and even logical, response to who Jesus is and what He did with the fact of who He is and what He did. We identify with the women and the disciples and empathize with them. But in our emotion, and even logic, we end up excusing them. We, after all, probably would have reacted in the same way.

How about Jesus? What had He gone through? If anyone had gone through an emotional whirlwind it was Jesus. What He had experienced with His agony and suffering was enough to bring Him to despair. In the Garden of Gethsemane He was distressed to the point of death. But His response and actions were never emotionally or rationally driven. They were always humbly and obediently driven. Thy will be done was His prayer to His Heavenly Father. What His Father said would happen would be what would happen, and Jesus was content to accept that.

When the women got to the tomb they didn’t find Jesus. The angel who was there spoke to them of what Jesus Himself had said. He had told His disciples on a number of occasions what would happen. Now the message at the empty tomb was that of a reminder that every one of those things had indeed happened.

We know this. The women should have known it. The disciples should have known it. But they didn’t know it. Rather, they didn’t believe it. They were wrapped up in their emotional fear, in their rational acceptance of what they saw. The simple alternative was what Jesus had told them.

When the women got to the tomb on that Sunday morning they saw that things weren’t the way they expected them to be. Instead of having to find someone to help move the stone, the stone was already moved. When they went into the tomb they were alarmed at this other-worldly being sitting there. No Jesus. What was going on? Why wasn’t Jesus there? Could their first thought be, Wait, He’s not here, He told us He wouldn’t be, He’s alive!? No, it couldn’t be because that would depart from what their emotions and reason told them. It couldn’t be because that would have meant that they had actually believed the word of Jesus. It couldn’t be because they were afraid.

What is the antidote to fear? The Word of Christ. In this instance the word of Christ was spoken by His representative, the angel. Do not be afraid, he said. I know why you’re here. You’re here because you didn’t believe what He had said. You’re here because you saw that He was buried here and you don’t believe that His death on the cross was not the end but the beginning.

Their emotions and reason got them nowhere when it came to salvation. Emotion and reason brought them to the tomb, again, expecting Jesus’ lifeless body to be there. They fled from the tomb in the same way, emotionally in a whirl about all that had happened and what the angel had now said to them.

So the question for you today is this: What does it mean what Jesus has said? Will you go away from here today relying on your feelings and what seems logical? Or will you go away believing the impossible? Will you walk away from here not caving in to what the world says and what your emotions and reason tell you to listen to? Will you wonder about God’s love and care for you when you’re struggling?

When the world scoffs at you because you believe that you are hopeless without Christ’s forgiveness for you, will you listen to the world and wrap yourself in the security blanket of good feelings about yourself; that you don’t need Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, and the forgiveness of all of your sins? If you suddenly find yourself facing mortality earlier than you expected because they’ve found a tumor on your lung, will you resist comfort from God’s perfect healing in heaven because you want to cling to life on this earth with all your might?

You will find yourself in life, daily even, going through all kinds of emotions as those women did two thousand years ago at the empty tomb. You may go through the challenges in life in fear as they did. But remember that your emotions aren’t going to bring you peace or lasting comfort. They won’t take away your sins and they can’t save you. Your intellect and reason and all the evidence in the world won’t solve all of your problems. What you do have is what those women had. What you have been given is exactly what they were given moments after the event that changed the world and that can change your life: the Word of Christ. What He has told you is what you have, no matter what you’re going through.

I won’t try to prove to you today that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s the very last thing I will attempt to do. What I will do is what the angel did. What Jesus Himself did. What I will do is what the apostle Paul in the epistle reading for today did: state the Resurrection as fact. You don’t need to go around and prove that Jesus rose from the dead anymore than you need to go seeking proof for it. Reason, and certainly your emotions, will tell you the opposite! Simply listen to what your Lord has told you. Simply tell others who He is and what He did. That He died and that He rose. He did this for them even as He has done it for you. People will have strong emotional and rational reactions. But you? You know it’s true—just as He told you. Amen.


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