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Easter Sunrise: April 8, 2007 – “Christ Is Risen”

08 Apr

Text: John 20:1-18

Christ Is Risen

    Christ is
risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The
text for this morning comes from the Gospel reading, which was read earlier.

    It’s been
an agonizing week. First, Jesus rides
into Jerusalem where He hears the cries of the people: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the
Lord, even the King of Israel!” On Thursday, Jesus met with His disciples for
the last time and instituted His Supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Friday brought with it a day of shear
hell. Jesus was brought before his
enemies and was beaten and scourged. Starting at 6am, Jesus was brought before the elders, the scribes, and
the whole Council. At the third hour,
9am, they crucified Him, but death didn’t come quickly. Starting from the sixth hour until the ninth
hour, from noon until 3pm, darkness covered the entire land. Then the shout of Jesus rang across the land:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?”
and Jesus died. There He hung
until evening had come, 6pm, until Joseph of Arimathea went before them to
remove the body of Jesus.

    For three
days, Christ laid dead in a tomb. On
that Sunday morning which we call Easter, something happened. “Now on
the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was
still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”
After the last week’s events, it brings us to
this morning. Early hasten to the
tomb/Where they laid His breathless clay;/All is solitude and gloom./Who has
taken Him away?/Christ is ris’n! He
meets our eyes./Savior, teach us so to rise.

    This hymn
doesn’t end with the empty tomb. It
doesn’t end with a missing Jesus. It
ends with a risen Jesus and our plea for our Savior to teach us to rise. The focus wasn’t on the fact that the tomb
was empty; the focus was on why the
tomb was empty: because Christ rose from the dead to give us everlasting
life. It is because Christ defeated
death by His death and resurrection for you and for me.

    And when
Mary Magdalene found that the stone was rolled away, she was troubled, just as
anyone would be if we went to the cemetery and found that our loved one was
missing from their gravesite. Mary of
Magdalene and her companions could see the stone was gone. What could they assume but the worst? After all, they were coming for a dead Jesus,
not a living Savior. The stone away from
the tomb, out of its groove, suggested violence. Mary Magdalene’s focus: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb.” She still refers to Jesus as “the Lord.” Although Mary Magdalene cannot see the body
of Jesus, she cannot do otherwise than still call Him “the Lord.”

    When Peter
and the other disciple arrive at the tomb, they find it just as Mary Magdalene
had described: the stone was rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they found the lines they had wrapped Jesus
in. The sight riveted John to the spot
as he hesitated at the entrance and peered in. Peter didn’t stop but went right inside and studied the scene
intently. Both must have had an awe-struck
expression on their faces when they arrived. A large stone, only moveable by several strong men, has been moved. The body of Jesus, a mere man to some, the
Son of God to others, has been taken. They
must have been dumbfounded by the scene, because John says that “for as yet they did not understand the
Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

    After the
last three years, being with Jesus, seeing all that Jesus had done, hearing all
that Jesus had spoken, how could they not understand that He had to rise from
the dead? Even for us at times, we fail
to understand that He had to rise from the dead. “By His dying He has destroyed death, and by
His rising again He has restored to us everlasting life.” The Scriptures point us to His
resurrection. They spell out the meaning
of Christ’s resurrection for us, as well as the event. It provided a forceful demonstration of
Christ’s deity. It announced our
justification. We know that we shall
follow Jesus in rising from the dead. Our faith is sure since we have a living Savior.

    After
finding the tomb empty, Peter and John left and returned home. As far as our text for today reads, that’s
the last we see of Peter and John until later that evening. Our text continues with Mary Magdalene, who
never left the tomb. Mary Magdalene
couldn’t bring herself to leave the tomb. If ever there was a time for Christ to be present, now would be it. She was in a state of mourning because her
Savior had been killed. Sitting outside
of the tomb where He laid would help to bring comfort to her, knowing that He
was inside. But now seeing the stone
rolled away, the empty tomb brought only fear and uncertainty.

    It is so
unfortunate in our lives that we too, like Peter and John, abandon the empty
tomb. Jesus is no longer present, so we
leave and forget all about Him. We tend
to do things on our own. In our society
today, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” If Jesus isn’t right here, right now, then we overlook Him. However, that is not the way it should
be. Jesus is right here, right now. He
is present in our lives every day. He is
present in the world in which we live in. We know that because as Luther writes regarding the First Article of the
Creed, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home,
wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that
I need to support this body and life.” We know that He is present in our lives because of today! By His death on Good Friday, by His
resurrection from the dead today, we know that He is present in our lives
because He died for you and He rose
from the dead for you.

    Dear, sweet
Mary had physically seen Jesus on a day-to-day basis. She had witnessed His many miracles of
healing, feeding, and raising the dead. Yet even in her more enlightened status as one very close to our Lord, he
sinful human nature blinded her from seeing her Lord. It was when her gracious Shepherd called her
by name that she recognized Him in His glorified body. It was the voice of her Lord that called her
forth from the tomb of despair and doubt.

    Remember
this little hymn you learned as a child? “I am Jesus’ little lamb/Ever glad at heart I am;/For my Shepherd gently
guides me,/Knows my need and well provides me,/Loves me ev’ry day the
same,/Even calls me by my name.” We too have been called by name by our
Shepherd. Our Risen Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, called us by name to Him at the font, when we were baptized into
His name, made a part of His family for all eternity. You have been made alive again this morning,
for your resurrected Lord has called you from the death of sin to the
life-giving and certain proclamation of your adoption by grace.

    Christ’s
words to Mary Magdalene, “I am ascending
to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”
tell us that His
relationship to us will be different. He
is no longer here performing miracles and healing the sick. He is no longer teaching the people. Instead, He has sacrificed Himself for us
all, “to prepare a place for you,” so
that He will come again and will take you to Himself, that where He is you may
be also.

    Where is
Jesus? He is no longer dead. He is no longer in the tomb. He has risen, just as Scripture has foretold
of long ago. He descended into hell,
just as the Creed says, where He showed His pierced hands and feet to Satan and
told him that he no longer had any hold over God’s creation. More importantly, He ascended into heaven,
where He reigns with God forever, waiting for the time where all of His
brothers and sisters in the faith are joined with Him for all eternity.

    He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Amen.

    Now the
peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus until the day of resurrection. Amen.

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