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A New Reality

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Easter Services 1

Mark 16:1-8

March 31, 2024

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience when we were surprised by the ending of a movie that caused us to say, “I didn’t see that coming, but how did I miss it?”  Several years ago Kevin Costner starred in a movie titled, “No Way Out,” in which he portrayed a Navy officer working within the CIA.  His college roommate in the movie works as the top assistant for the Secretary of Defense and helps get him an important position within the agency.  He starts dating a young woman who was also having an affair with the Secretary of Defense.  No one within the CIA knows the Defense Secretary is having an affair, but when the woman is found dead Kevin Costner’s character is tasked with leading the investigation into this woman’s death since the leaders of the CIA think the woman was having an affair with a Russian spy who has infiltrated the CIA.  Meanwhile, Kevin Costner’s character doesn’t want anyone to think he killed her since he had also been dating her.  As the movie progresses, the Defense Secretary looks guilty since he is trying to cover up the affair, so he blames the woman’s death on Costner.  The movie ends with the Defense Secretary’s assistant, Costner’s college roommate, killing himself since he was the one who actually killed the woman, and the Defense Secretary declares that his assistant was the Russian spy.  But at the very end you see Kevin Costner’s character in civilian clothes speaking Russian with a group of people and all of a sudden you realize that Kevin Costner’s character was the Russian spy.  I didn’t see that coming.  The CIA was right, she was having an affair with a Russian spy and he was right there in front of us, but no one expected Costner’s character to be the Russian spy, because we were focused on finding the woman’s killer.

In our Gospel lesson this Easter morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome did something similar as the people who saw the movie, “No Way Out.”  They were so focused on finding one thing – a dead body – that they didn’t see the one thing right in front of them that really mattered: Jesus wasn’t there, because He was alive.

These women had seen the way Jesus’ body had been prepared for burial a few days ago and may have felt that it deserved a better wrapping along with additional spices since He was buried rather quickly.  So they got up early on Easter morning and went to the place where Jesus was buried, fully expecting to see Jesus’ dead body in a grave.  But there was one thing the women forgot to do and that was to figure out how to move the stone away from the entrance to the tomb.  These ancient tombs were carved out of huge rocks and in front of the cave or tomb a huge stone would be put in place so no one could get in.  To move this stone would take several people, more than just 3, but amazingly this reality did not stop them.

So imagine how you would feel if you had gone to a cemetery expecting to see this huge stone in front of a tomb, but when you arrive the stone had been rolled away and there is no one around.  Something wouldn’t seem quite right.  As the women enter the tomb, looking for Jesus’ body they suddenly see a young man inside dressed in a white robe and they were alarmed.  The Gospel of Luke tells us that the women fell to the ground in absolute terror. Then the young man, who was an angel, tells them in verse 6, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen, he is not here.  See the place where they laid him.”

What a change of events.  On Friday, life seemed to be over.  Here they were going to experience darkness, death, and depression as they gave their dead King one last burial right.  But now, early on Sunday morning, they were instead faced with a sense of hope.  The tomb which was empty, was not empty because someone had taken Jesus’ body, but because Jesus rose from the dead.  But how would they know this was true?  After all, the angel’s words did not completely convince them.  Verse 8 of our Gospel lesson tells us that “they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  So consider for a moment, what would cause you more confusion and fear – to learn that someone close to you had just died, or to learn that a loved one has just come back to life?  What would be more confusing – to hear about a death or a resurrection?

These women were so consumed with their grief at Jesus’ death, and they were so set on finding a dead body that they didn’t see the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection that was right in front of them.  And the same kind of thing can happen to us, as well.  When we don’t get the job we wanted, have an argument with a loved one, get a flat tire on the way to work, or experience some serious health issues, any one of these things can get us frustrated or angry to the point that we don’t see the many blessings from God that we still have each day.  Life’s challenges and hardships are not evidence of the absence of God’s love, His love and presence are still there, we just need to look in a different way to see them.

So how did the women finally believe that Jesus was alive?  After all, when the women left the tomb it seems like they were almost in a state of shock.  They just couldn’t believe what they had heard.  It was too good to be true.  The angel told them in verse 7, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.”  Instead of burying their Savior, they were now supposed to leave the tomb and not look back.

Notice the special concern the angel had for Peter, who had so adamantly denied that He knew Jesus at His trial.  He especially needed to know that Jesus was alive and He would see Him again.  The women had a new mission: Go and spread the good news that not only was Jesus alive, but He was also going to appear to them in Galilee, just as He had said.  Underneath their fear, I would guess that they were overjoyed, because the Bible tells us they remembered Jesus’ words – what He predicted.  This whole day had been planned by Jesus.  They knew He had been raised, because Jesus said it would happen.  Jesus’ words matched with the miraculous sights.  The women believed not with their eyes, but with their ears.  And that’s the best way for us to keep seeing Jesus – with our ears as we listen to His voice and believe the promises that He has given to us in His Word.

Easter gives us a renewed sense of hope and life.  Since Jesus was raised from the dead, it means that God is not dead.  It means that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice.  It means that we are declared not guilty and eternal life in heaven is ours, as Jesus’ victory over death is also our victory.  This is the message that God gives to us to tell those who are still living and acting as if God were dead.  It’s for those fellow Christians who are living in despair.  It’s for those unbelievers who don’t believe there is a God.  It’s for those who see no hope in this world.  It’s for those who only expect the worst from God.  God wants you and all people to know the truth.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  That is our message.  It’s a message of forgiveness, a message of hope, and a message of life.  And our mission is for us to go and spread this message.  Why would we ever keep this message to ourselves when there are so many potential disciples of Jesus who are sitting at home this morning or finding other things to do other than worship – thinking that there is no God.

We worship a living God, the same God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped.  We worship the same Jesus who rose from the dead almost 2000 years ago.  And He promises that whoever lives and believes in Him will never die.  Through faith in the living Jesus we have the promise of eternal life in heaven for our souls and a resurrection from the dead for our bodies.  We need to tell people where to find Jesus – in His Word and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, so they can experience the truth for themselves.  With your words and actions be a witness to Jesus’ saving death and His victorious resurrection for all of those who are curious or doubting or hurting.  The living Lord will change their lives from despair to hope, even when they don’t see it coming, because that’s the reality of what the message of Easter does.

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