Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
So what? Did you ask yourself that question this morning? As you cleaned up, got dressed, hopped in the car, and drove here, was there a part of you wondering what makes this one day so special?
Come & See! the empty tomb of the risen Savior and then discover your newfound life in the risen Savior.
What do you think Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were up at the crack of dawn looking for? Look at the first verse of our reading: After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week [they] went to look at the tomb. They are on their way to tuck fine-smelling spices into the linens wrapping the body (Luke 24:1). If you are carrying burial spices to a tomb, then you expect to find a dead body. If you expect to find a dead body, then you expect the dead body to remain dead. If you expect a dead body to remain dead, then you expect this body will be forever out of your life.
So here it is: The women are not expecting to lead Jesus home, eat Easter brunch with him, sit around the table, and hear him teach. They expect to find the dead body of Jesus Christ, to finish burial customs, and then leave it behind in the cemetery as they walk home. Really, that is no different from what we expect to experience in cemeteries.
On their journey there, There was a violent earthquake, [because] an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. When the women arrived, they saw the angel and the angel [immediately] said to the[m], “Do not be afraid.” What reason to be afraid! The women had seen what happened to Jesus. He is crucified! The noontime sky turns pitch-black. Earthquakes split stones and rip buildings in two! Jesus shouts out: “My God, why have you forsaken me!” They had witnessed just how serious God is over sin!
May I confess something to you? I have never gone hunting. I have never sat in a deer blind, huddled next to the heater, with rifle in hand, looking and aiming for deer. I have never hunted. Yet, I think I know what the point of hunting is: to shoot the deer. Right? To aim a rifle at (or near the heart), pull the trigger, and make sure the bullet strikes home.
So, does it matter if you miss? What if you find a 10-point buck, aim, fire, and miss? The big buck scampers off into the woods. Is it a big deal? Of course it is! The point of hunting is hit the mark, to strike the bull’s-eye. Missing the mark is to fail. Or, as the Bible teaches, missing the mark is to “sin.”
That’s what “sin” means: to “miss the mark” of being as perfect as God. If it is a big deal to miss shooting your 10-pointer, then be sure it is a big deal missing God’s standard of perfection.
God is not laughing when you pick just the right word to destroy the ego of your boss. He does not look past the fact that global tensions send you running for help in your government, rather than placing trust in his Word: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). When you think you are sitting alone with the bottle or online or any other substances, your God sits right beside you. He declares: The soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4).
Yes, you can try to ignore the wrongs you have done. You can point to others who struggle with the same addictions (as you) and shrug off your consequences. You can try to create your own rules and believe that God must love you— in spite of your behavior. Yet, nothing you say or think can change what God, the Lord of death and life has to say about sin: the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That is why the fiercest fighters of the day— the seasoned Roman soldiers wrapped in armor and armed with the finest of deadly daggers, were so afraid of [this holy angel] that they shook and became like dead men. That is why these women running to the tomb trembled before this heavenly messenger. That is why, my friends, sin is a big deal. It misses the mark of God’s perfection and earns eternal death.
But that is why the events of Easter change life as you know it. God knows the fear that can plague our minds and so he sends his angel with a message for you: “Do not be afraid!” That means right now. This is not a suggestion, it is a command! “Do not be afraid,” because Jesus was crucified— once, in the past. He was crucified to die the death you (and I) deserve.
Our words “missed the mark” of being perfect words to encourage, but Jesus suffers our consequences. Our trust misses God and fixates other objects, and yet the life of Jesus is cut dead. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus uses his life to pay for the consequences of our sins (Romans 6:23).
This is what makes Easter change life. The women expect to find only another dead body, thinking that Jesus is just like everyone else. He is not. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. His heart beats. His brain functions. Breath rushes into his lungs. Blood courses through his veins. Muscles contract. He opens his eyes, sits up, swings his feet over the side of the stone slab, stands up, and leaves the tomb! He lives! And he lives to declare to you and me that the wages of sin have been paid in full. Where there is nothing more to pay for guilt, there is nothing more owed to God. It means you will not die forever, but rather you will rise to eternal life!
If you wonder if this is really true, then Come & See the empty tomb of the risen Savior. The stone rolls away like a coin on its edge, spins, and falls down. You can see inside the tomb. What is in there? Nothing! No more sins holding Jesus down in death. Our wrongs have been removed as far as the east is from the west!
Seeing the empty tomb of the risen Savior means that he has fixed death. Since death is no longer a fearful consequence, you can discover your newfound life in the risen Savior!
The women hurried away from the tomb… because they have new news to share! The dead in Christ come back to life! Yet, they still run out of the cemetery afraid yet filled with joy.
Then suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. What a message! Just think about it. These are women who heard he would rise again on the third day, but still carry burial spices in their hands because they doubted Jesus would actually come back to life. These are women who wailed in utter despair because they feared he was still dead. These are women who think Jesus failed his mission to bring them to God. Out of all the things Jesus could have said regarding the fear of the women, out of all the reasons he could be angry with them women, he sends greetings of peace.
Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” You— you do not need to be afraid! Jesus is not against you; he is for you! He does not afflict you with cancer because you were not the best parent. He does not call your loved one to heaven because you fight with your family. Your accident is not the result of making God angry. Jesus has restored a right relationship between you and God!
So you can “Stop being afraid!” Stop probing the very recesses of your heart, hoping to figure out a way to rise up into the presence of God! Stop searching for comfort in human advice or to manmade remedies. Stop thinking your Jesus is dead, lifeless, and unable to help you—because he is not dead. He has risen, risen indeed to proclaim you at peace with God!
In case you still worry that Jesus meant something else, then listen on. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Go and tell… who? “My brothers.” Jesus is not speaking about going to his literal family (—his mom and dad, brothers and sisters). Rather, these are Jesus’ disciples— his followers who completely failed him at the end of Holy Week. One disciple gets caught in this mob— and he wants to escape so much that he wiggles out of his clothes and runs away naked! Peter promises to cling to Jesus, but denies knowing him three times. Every single disciple abandons him, not standing by his side, offering refreshment, or working to free him! If there were ever a time for Jesus to make life a living hell, this would be it. Instead, he calls them: “My brothers.” People who will live in his house, share the same view towards life, and share the same Father in heaven.
It means your relationship with God has changed entirely! Come & See your newness of life in the risen Savior. The empty tomb reveals a Savior who conquers death— literally. He does not leave his body behind and live on in our hearts (as some disembodied spirit). He rises— body and soul united— and Jesus is your brother, your family member.
Because of the events of Easter you have a right relationship with God. You can bring every worry, anxiety, fear to him in prayer and know that he is listening. You can face challenges and illness, confident that this is not a punishment for a specific action. You know God will stand beside you to strengthen and heal. You can even walk into a cemetery and trust that you will rise to eternal life. This is not some unfounded hope or wish. Rather this is a certain truth (1) demonstrated in the empty tomb of Jesus and (2) promised by Jesus himself. Come & See the newness of life you have in the risen Savior.
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! So what? Do you have a concrete, specific answer now? Easter changes life as you know it. Because Jesus lives, it means you also will live in heaven forever! Because Jesus lives, it means you can approach God as your Father—and approach him without fear or trembling.
You stand in a right relationship with God. Not because you are trying to make up new methods. Not because you are trying to convince yourself this is true. But because Jesus tells you so and because Jesus shows you so.
Come & See! the empty tomb of the risen Savior and live your newfound life in the risen Savior.