Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Easter Sunday, 4/17/2022. Due to ongoing technical difficulties, the service was not broadcast. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Easter Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Resurrection of Our Lord, click here.
Christ is Risen!
When the Sabbath was past, when it was the first day of the week, when the sun had risen indeed, the women asked one another,
Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?
It sounds sensible enough to consider how they’ll get in, but on another level, we know that this is also awkward small talk. It’s the kind of conversation some people have on the way to a funeral. “Do you think there will be traffic?” “Where will we have lunch?”
It’s not because they’re heartless; they love their Lord. It’s just that awkward small talk about logistics is easier than talking about Jesus; how they had hoped that He would anoint them, and not the other way around.
Though the women’s question may be awkward small talk, it is still remarkably perceptive. Because if this story is to continue, the stone must be rolled away.
It doesn’t need to be rolled away for Jesus, of course. As the Easter accounts unfold, we’ll see that in His risen and glorified body, things like stones and walls and gravity don’t really matter anymore.
No, the stone doesn’t need to be rolled away for Jesus, but for them. The open tomb is, for these women, an invitation. It is a summons to something new and hopeful and worth investigating. But not to everyone.
To the world an open tomb is foreboding. It is hopeless, thoughtless, loveless, lifeless, and endless. To the world an open tomb is a summons to despair, and a reminder to abandon all hope. The world can see a way in, but no way out.
To Jesus’ disciples, however, the open tomb is an invitation into the mystery of Christ’s death. There, in the depths of the grave, the angelic messenger says to the frightened and alarmed,
Don’t be alarmed.
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
He has risen;
He’s not here.
See the place where they laid Him.
Stare into the grave! Waltz into it as if it were your own bed! And don’t be alarmed. Christ is risen!
This Word, this most glorious and exalted sentence, this truth that transcends every other truth – it changes everything.
Suddenly, graves don’t just have entrances. They have exits!
This angelic proclamation is more than information. As the open tomb beckoned them to enter into Christ’s death, this Gospel Word casts them face-first into His resurrection. This Gospel Word will not let them stay in the grave; but sends them out into the world thrown open before them.
Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He’s going before you to Galilee. There you’ll see Him just as He told you.
Go, tell them that Christ is risen! Go, tell them that their graves all have exits! Go, tell them to meet Christ where He has promised to be for them!
You can imagine that all of this would be shocking and even a little scary. But that’s not really what Mark writes.
All at once they have learned that death has died; that graves have exits; that wrongs are made right; that everything sad and broken is coming untrue and undone, and is fading away like a dream.
Who wouldn’t be trembling with excitement? Who wouldn’t be astonished? Actually, the word Mark uses is ἔκστασις, “ecstasy.” One sympathizes.
Today, little Penelope gets her Easter. Today, she enters into Christ’s death – there, to be met by His Word of forgiveness, promise, and life. Today, that Word sends her out of a watery grave, and into Christ’s resurrection. The assurance that, one day, she’ll walk out of her grave’s clearly marked exit. Today the stone is rolled away for her.
Between now and then, and Earth and Eden, there is the Good News to tell. And it’s a part of this story that always gets some friction.
The fear the women experience at the resurrection is not like the fear that normally accompanies angelic messages. Their fear was a fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of Wisdom. Fear of the Lord caused them not to blurt out the news to anyone, but to do exactly as the angel said; namely to tell Jesus’ disciples what had happened and what to do next, which Matthew and Luke say they did.
There will, of course be some fear in your life. And even if it is your run-of-the-mill, off-the-shelf, Wal-Mart brand fear, it can still be unsettling and upsetting. But you have something more sure than your fears.
The Word of the angel has found its way to you. You were baptized into Christ’s death, and there in the depths of it was the Word of God, which launched you headlong into Christ’s Resurrection.
So, go and meet Jesus where He said He would be. You need not travel to Galilee. He has promised to meet you in the fellowship of His Church; in the proclamation of His Word; and in the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood. Meet him there with trembling, with astonishment, with ecstasy.
Tell His disciples! Tell anyone. There’s no more need for the awkward small talk; not on the way to anyone’s funeral, and not on the way to yours. The Sabbath is past. The Sun is risen. The stone is rolled away for you.
Christ is Risen!