Summary: An Easter sermon that uplifts God’s victory over the finality of death.
The Resurrection of our Lord April 16, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, on this day we recall how you raised Jesus, your beloved Son, from death. And through his resurrection, we have come to realize your tremendous gift of grace, which we receive through his sacrificial death on the cross for our redemption. The victory belongs to you, the triumph belongs to you and to the willingness of your Son, our redeemer, who in faith, placed his life into your hands, trusting that you would fulfill your promise to redeem all who come to faith in him. We pray that you might strengthen our faith, accept our praise, and lead us to follow our risen Lord as his true disciples. Amen
According to Scripture, Jesus was nailed to the cross about nine o’clock in the morning, on what we have come to call Good Friday. This occurred after enduring a sleepless night in which insults had been hurled at him as if they were stones. And after his flesh had been torn open with whips, he had to carry his cross to the garbage dump in which his execution occurred.
By this time, Peter had denied him three times, and his disciples, with the exception of John, had fled into hiding in fear for their own lives. Thus, we might wonder what hurt Jesus the most – the abandonment of those whom he loved, or the pain of the nails piercing his wrists and feet, and the jolt to his body that occurred when the cross was dropped into the hole in the ground to support it.
Six hours later, according to the Gospels, Jesus was dead. Even though the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus out lived him, they had their legs broken to hasten their death, so that they might all be buried before sunset. For according to Jewish tradition at that time, a Jew had to be buried within twenty-four hours of their death, but burial could not take place on the Sabbath.
But just to make sure that Jesus was dead, a soldier ran his spear through his chest, in which this Roman soldier testified that blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side, the mark of his having drowned in his own body fluid. There is little doubt that Jesus was dead.
And so Pilate gave permission to Joseph of Arimathea to remove Jesus body from his cross, that he might give him a proper burial. That would not have been an easy task. The hands and feet of Jesus would have to be pried over the heads of the nails, as his limp body was supported by a long cloth, hung over the cross.
Yet Joseph, along with Nicodemus, two of our Lord’s secret disciples, completed their task. In an act of love, they took Jesus body, hastily wrapped it in a linen shroud, and carried it to the tomb that Joseph had purchased for his burial. There, they entombed him, as their last act of devotion to the one whom they believed brought the kingdom of God into their life. And so they retired for the night, along with all the others who had come to believe that Jesus was the Christ – only to have their hopes buried with the corpse they placed to rest in that tomb.
And I’m sure, that their celebration of the Sabbath that day they buried Jesus, was difficult for them, and for all who had come to love Jesus. They had no time to grieve. After all, it is still difficult for us to bury a loved one – a parent, a spouse, a child – and come to worship that same week, even though, we happen to know the Easter message.
And so, following the Sabbath, on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in which the dead body of Jesus had been buried. Like so many of us who visit the tombs of our loved ones, she came to remember, to give thanks for the influence Jesus had on her life, and to grieve his absence in her life.
But when Mary came to the garden in which Jesus was buried, she discovered that his grave had been opened. The huge stone that had sealed it, had been moved. And so she assumed what any one of us might assume – that someone had desecrated her Lord’s tomb. And so she runs and tells Peter, and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
They race to the tomb, and find it as Mary had told them. They even go into the tomb, and see the linen shroud that had wrapped Jesus corpse lying there, with the napkin placed on Jesus’ head rolled up and placed apart from the shroud. But Jesus’ body was gone. It was not there.