The women stood at the cross and watched their beloved Lord die, and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. He’s dead! Now what? They loved Jesus! They learned from him! They saw him perform miracles!
But this time there was no miracle. Their dear friend, Jesus, was killed. Their lives would go on, but now without Him. They helped quickly prepare Jesus’ body for burial; a rush job because the Sabbath was fast approaching — Passover Sabbath.
They rested on the Sabbath, as God commanded. Then Sunday came. The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for proper burial. They were still grieving their Lord and expected to see His body lying in the tomb. What they saw was an open, empty tomb, and an angel seated there. What the angel said terrified them. “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.” Mark 16:6.
They then “fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them. … They were afraid.” Mark 16:8. No doubt they were afraid, for dead people are not normally brought back to life. But the Lord had raised Lazarus. “O ye of little faith,” we could arrogantly say to them. Jesus says of His life in John 10: “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” John 10:18
The Lord had foretold of His death and resurrection, but the women in their grief could not see past their tears of sorrow.
When we’re beset with emotions, things that are not as we think they should be can really mess with our minds. Nothing makes sense, and we become afraid. There’s nothing more powerful in messing us up than death. Death takes a firm grip of our thinking and wages war with our heads. I think of the families of those whose funerals I’ve conducted over the course of my ministry, and I think of those who have gone on without them, especially as they have come upon their first Easter without their loved ones.
We’ve all lost loved ones on or near occasions that hold special places in our lives. Death wrecks everything for us, leaving huge holes in our lives, voids we would give almost anything to have filled. Until then, we’re filled with doubt, and that doubt turns into fear — fear of the unknown, fear of not knowing how we will get by or move on without them. We’re left with memories but what we really want is our loved ones back. We fear and tremble; we mourn and weep.
We want to know what God is thinking. We want to know what will happen to us. We don’t want to live in fear. We don’t want to be afraid. There are many other things that cause us to be afraid. Whatever the reason for our fears, it causes us to focus on ourselves and away from the risen Christ. We replace His certainty and victory with our uncertainty and doubt, which can lead us into unbelief, just as it did to St. Thomas.
Yet, while we lie in fear and in a world full of fear, we need not be afraid. We don’t have a God of uncertainty and doubt but One of certainty and iron-clad promises. We have a God who has risen from the dead, as He promised. The message the angel gave the women came from God: “He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
The message I give you comes from God: Christ has risen! Behold the cross; it’s empty. Christ is no longer there, for He has bled and died to win the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Behold the tomb; it’s empty, for our Lord is no longer there. He isn’t there, for He has risen from the dead. By His death He has destroyed death, and by His resurrection, He has opened to us the way of everlasting life. Do not be afraid, fellow redeemed, for Christ is risen!
Does this mean our lives will be perfect? Not on this side of heaven. We still face sin and struggle with life. But our risen Lord makes our pilgrimage here on earth more bearable. He says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about our body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Mathew 6:25, 33
In the Old Testament, Job lost everything, yet he said: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” Job 19:25-27
Until then, our Lord gives us strength for the journey through His word and sacraments. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen! A blessed Easter to all.
Mark Schlamann is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Tooele.