This quiet morning. It is the third day after all the commotion. Jerusalem had been in an uproar over the arrest and hasty trial of the Galilean teacher. A price had been paid to one of His disciples to betray Him into Jewish leaders’ hands. They had been adamant in their assessment that He was deserving of death. The Roman governor, Pilate - responsible for giving the order - not really seeing it. But the insistence of the crowd that Jesus be crucified had been so vicious, the threat of a riot so imminent, that that ruler had felt compelled to give them what they wanted. Meanwhile, the prisoner had been so brutalized in the custody of the soldiers, that when they made Him carry His cross to the crucifixion site, He had buckled under its burden midway there.
On this quiet morning, women are walking along the road toward the tomb. These are the women St. Mark says were looking on from a distance (15:40) on that day. They’d seen also, Joseph of Arimathea taking charge of Jesus’ body and placing it into a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. He had rolled a stone against the entrance. More needed to be done to Jesus’ body according to Jewish customs. The Sabbath had hastily approached following His crucifixion. It had been impossible to do much more than deposit the body there (though Joseph and Nicodemus had applied some spices). That’s why the women are walking there this morning. They want to do right by their Lord’s body.
Put yourself in their place. Imagine what you would be thinking and feeling. Imagine the hopelessness of it all. What would have to happen to replace fear with rejoicing? What message would you need to hear?
Follow the women along that road to the tomb where Jesus has been laid. Ponder with them the significance of this quiet morning. It is the highest festival of the Christian Church Year for good reason.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
Remember how he told you; that’s what the angels say to the perplexed, frightened women who appear at Jesus’ tomb with their spices. It’s a good message for us on this Resurrection morning: Remember how he told you. It’s a good message because what Jesus has told us is what replaces our fear with rejoicing. He has told us what sustains us in this joy throughout the rest of our lives.
The angels say to the women, remember, because, evidently, something has been forgotten (and something very important!). After all, they’re are at the tomb on this third day since Jesus’ death, bearing spices to anoint a dead man. They remember seeing the horrifying sight from those days before. They remember seeing for themselves what had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “[The Christ] pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, assigned a grave with the wicked” (Isaiah 53:5,9).
Those things they remember. They have expected to find in that tomb, the body of the Lord. What hopelessness in that expectation!
They might not even be realizing how hopeless it is that they expect Jesus to remain dead.
On this Resurrection morning, it’s important for us to bear in mind how the devil delights in hopelessness among us, in our remembering what makes us feel hopeless. Rather than what Christ has told you, you might be remembering right now, what you’ve heard about how dangerous is it to be gathering like this during a pandemic. Rather than to the joy of the Resurrection, the devil would have you clinging to that thought this morning. And there are so many things like this, aren’t there; so many things that make us feel hopeless in this world? We remember the uncertainties in our nation and in our world. We remember the disharmony that can be the case in our relationships, and in our health, and in our work.
Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. Everything is lost; that’s what the devil wants you focusing on this morning.
He is even more delighted if your hopelessness stems directly from doubt of your place with God. He wants you here on Resurrection morning wondering whether God will forgive your sins. He wants you to remember them good, to remember how earnestly you sought to sin in a certain way, even though you were thinking at the time, this is wrong. He wants you to be remembering those certain traps that you’ve fallen into time after time; that you’ve repented of the sin sincerely, but then you’ve gone right back to it. How could you think in that circumstance, that He could have mercy on you? -That’s what the devil wants you to be remembering as you sit in church on this Resurrection morning.
No doubt, the women are thinking something like this as they approach Jesus’ tomb on this morning. We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21). -That’s what two disciples will say later in the same day as they walk the road to Emmaus. When we remember our guilt before God that carries the penalty of hell, there must be a true Savior to Whom we can cling if we’re to feel anything but hopelessness. Theirs is dead as far as they know. He lies in a tomb. Now, what?
But the women go on this morning, and they find the stone rolled away. And when they go in…no body. Again, perplexed is how St. Luke describes them at this sight. They’re perplexed as in,
huh, we can’t do what we’ve come to do if we can’t find the body; we must find Jesus’ body so we can anoint it with these spices we have brought.
St. John includes in his account, that they even say to the one they think is the gardener (it’s really Jesus Himself), “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).
St. Paul wanted the Christians in Corinth to remember the most important things about what Jesus had done for them. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, he said (1 Cor. 15:3). In other words, all of it happened just like the Old Testament Scriptures said it would. Then, he told them, He was buried (15:2). So, He really was dead (the punishment for the world’s sins really was carried out). And then, he said, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Some of those Scriptures are these:
Psalm 16:10 “…nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
Isaiah 53:11 “After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life.”
What a thing for these women not to be remembering on this day! The angels remind them that Jesus had said the same before His death. He had said that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” What Jesus has told us is what replaces our fear with rejoicing. He has told us what sustains us in this joy throughout the rest of our lives.
Is it possible that you and I could find ourselves clinging to hopelessness rather than joy? It is. Hopelessness is to be found the further away we get from what He told us.
One of the things these women have experienced in the past several days is many voices shouting, Crucify Him! They have heard mocking of the One upon Whom they’ve pinned their hope for salvation (they’ve heard this mocking even from the religious leaders)! They’ve heard a case made in a legal proceeding, that this man is a fraud and a deceiver. No doubt they’ve been ridiculed for following Him (maybe even threatened). That stuff wears on a person. When we hear that kind of thing from the world today on television shows, and in news broadcasts, and in some kinds of classes, it wears on us, doesn’t it? Don’t you find yourself thinking sometimes, Wow, I’m really alone here. And maybe it even leads to, could I be wrong about all this?
The solution is the angels’ words in our text: remember what He told you. He had said it to His disciples for a third time recently: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Luke 18:31-33). Apparently these women have heard the message too, because the angel says to them, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
You have heard this message too. You’ve heard it here, in the preaching of God’s Word. You students of Christ Lutheran School have heard it regularly in your classes, and in daily chapel, here in this room. Jesus is the One Whom God sent to be your Savior from sin and death. He wasn’t crucified by accident; it was God’s eternal plan to save us. When Jesus was telling the disciples about this ahead of time, He wasn’t telling them so that they could be prepared to defend Him, and prevent His death (In fact, He rebuked one of His disciples who tried to defend Him when He was being arrested). His plan was to lay down His life for your sins. His plan was to present Himself as the perfect sacrifice, Whose innocent blood pays the price for sinners. His plan was to buy your forgiveness in this way.
But none of it could be the case if the grave could hold Him. The grave can’t hold the One Who is qualified to bear the burden of sinners. That has to be done by God Himself. Had the grave held Jesus, it would have been evident He wasn’t God, wasn’t qualified to bear sin’s burden, wasn’t the real Savior. That's what St. Paul meant when He said, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:17). That’s why expecting Jesus to remain dead was a truly hopeless thing. It was to know the Savior, but to ignore what He had told them.
What the Lord tells us, He tell us in His Word. Now, we remember something about ourselves, don’t we? Now, we remember that His Word hasn’t always been our first priority. You and I have become distant from Him at times by becoming distant from His Word. In those times, hopelessness has crept in. The world’s attacks have felt a lot more like a defeat in those times. Maybe this is one of those times for you. It is also for this neglect and for this forgetting of what Jesus has told you, that He put Himself in your place for punishment and death. He won forgiveness for this sin too. He Who never neglected or forgot God’s Word atones for you having done so.
And instead of abandoning you as one who has had your chance and blown it, He waits for you like his angels waited for the women on Easter morning. He gently reminds you, all is not lost. Remember how I told you, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Remember how I told you: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18). Remember how I told you: “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. Take, drink; this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins.”
On this Resurrection morning, remember those things. And remember one more thing from St. Paul:
We were buried with [Christ] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
This is the message that you have needed to hear to replace fear with rejoicing. There is no doubt of your place with God. He has forgiven your sins - Christ’s Resurrection proves it! Hopelessness is to be found the further away we get from what He told us. But you are here, remembering it. Cling to what God has given in order for you to continue to remember, to His Word of Truth. In Christ, you will rise to live eternally.
HE IS RISEN! (HE IS RISEN INDEED!) ALLELUIA! Amen.
Other Lessons for the Day:
The Glory of the Risen Lord
Behold, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at Him—His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness—so will He sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of Him. For that which they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
1 Corinthians 5:6–8
Christ, Our Passover
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may have a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.