Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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, which was read earlier.
As we sang in our opening hymn, with great haste did they go to the tomb of Jesus. John records for us that it was still dark, yet Mary Magdalene, the first on the scene, was able to see that the stone had been rolled away. Without even going in to inspect the scene, she immediately runs to Simon Peter and John to tell them what she had discovered.
The scene must have been riveting. The stone rolled in front of the tomb was massive. It would not have been easily moved, yet there it was, dislodged from the mouth of the tomb. John the Evangelist tells us that, at first, on the day of the resurrection, there was a lot of confusion – a lot of concern about what had happened. All four Gospel accounts tell us that, at first, Jesus was nowhere to be found. According to John the Evangelist, He, Peter, and Mary were looking and seeking all over the place. Mary saw the stone taken away from the tomb, but no Jesus. John looked at the burial cloths from outside of the tomb, but saw no Jesus. Simon Peter went charging into the tomb and saw the linen burial cloths, but no Jesus. Then John went in and examined the linen burial cloths and saw the head wrapping, but still no Jesus. Ultimately, they didn’t know what else to do. Peter and John went home. Mary stuck around.
Mary remained at the tomb in mourning. She looked into the tomb again and saw two angels, but still did not see Jesus. She had a few brief words with the angels and then looked away. It was then that she looked right at Jesus, but did not see Him. Instead, she thought she saw a stranger and thought He was the gardener. We can look at Jesus’ ministry before His crucifixion as well and say that even then His followers did not really see Him. He regularly and plainly told them that He would be handed over to the ruling authorities in Jerusalem, suffer, die, and then rise from the dead. All four of the Gospel writers record words of this sort coming from the mouth of Jesus on a variety of occasions. All four of the Gospel accounts tell us about confusion and protest every time Jesus said these things. His followers believed He was the Christ, but they did not understand that the Christ must be crucified and then rise from the dead. Today’s Gospel says the same thing about Peter and John: for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.
We can never see Jesus unless God Himself decides to show Him to us and that is what happened. God sent Jesus into the world to rescue us from the mess we have made. God the Father sent His only begotten Son into our flesh to live with us and to experience the brokenness of this sinful world with us. As He experienced all these things, He did something that we cannot do. He lived a life of total perfection. He never sinned. Not only did He never sin, but He took our sin onto Himself. He bore our sin for a lifetime – from the womb of Mary all the way to the cross. There on the cross He experienced all the wrath of God against our sin. With His sacrifice on the cross, He paid for our sin – He exchanged our sin for His righteousness.
Now, today, we celebrate the anniversary of the event that assures us that His sacrifice was enough for all people in all places in all times. We know that His payment is enough because He rose from the dead. His resurrection assures us that Jesus defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil. It assures us that He has paid for our sin and we now have His righteousness. The resurrection assures us that God now sees us through His Son Jesus Christ. God no longer sees our sin. When God looks at us, He sees the perfect, holy righteousness of His beloved son, Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers how He would distribute this salvation to His church. In the great Good Shepherd chapter of the Bible, Jesus compared His church to a flock of sheep with Himself as the shepherd. He said that the Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. We see this in today’s Gospel as Jesus spoke with Mary and said to her, “Mary.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd called Mary by name. The clouds lifted from her mind. The light shone in. All sorrow melted away. Triumph replaced tragedy. Tears of joy replaced tears of despair. Mary’s confession only needed one word, “Rabboni!”
The Good Shepherd continues to call us by name. He calls us by His Word as we hear it and read, mark, learn, and take it to heart. He calls us as He joins His word to the water of Holy Baptism and adopts us into His family. He calls us as He joins His word to bread and wine and gives us His true crucified and risen body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.
What does it mean that Jesus calls us by name? It means that all the blessings of Christ’s resurrection belong to us. It means that the righteousness He earned with His holy life is ours. The punishment for our sins has been paid on the cross. When Christ calls us by name, He promises to remain with us not only in this life, but even through our time of death. When that day of death comes He will call us by name to live forever with Him.
We know all this is certain for Jesus keeps His promises. He promised a savior to Adam and Eve and to all those who waited through the time of the Old Testament. He kept that promise with His glorious victory on the cross. He certified that promise when He rose from the dead. Now we have His promise: “Because I live, you also will live.” He has promised that a day will come when our graves will be as empty as his tomb for our bodies will be like His and we shall see Him as He is. This is a promise we can believe for Christ has risen! He has risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.