The women wasted no time. They watched Joseph and Nicodemus bury Jesus. They knew exactly where the tomb was and exactly how He was lying. They saw the spices and the linen cloths. Then they went home for Sabbath’s rest, and the second shops opened at the end of Sabbath, on Saturday night, they went on an Easter shopping spree to buy what they needed to complete the burial. They went to bed and were up before bright and early to take off for the grave as soon as they could see the way. They knew where they were going. They didn’t make a mistake. Well, one – they forgot about the stone.
Make that two. They weren’t listening when Jesus told them not to go to the trouble. 50 days ago, as we were about to enter Lent, we heard Him tell them He would rise on the third day. But they didn’t believe Him or understand what He was talking about. They were shocked and surprised by the angel’s words. Mary Magdalene even ran off when she saw the stone was rolled away and came back later to talk to the angel and then not recognize Jesus.
The guards were caught by surprise too. They’d been taken from their regular duty of guarding the temple of God to guard the Temple of God as He lay in His tomb. He once told them, “Tear down this Temple and I will build it back up on the third day.” He was talking about Himself, not the temple his ancestor Zerubbabel built and Herod the Great began to renovate. When they felt the earth quake, saw the holy angel, and saw the tomb empty, the tomb they’d just sealed less than 24 hours before, a tomb they knew had a Body in it, they quaked and played dead. Only when they woke up and realized they were divinely fired did they go get paid off by their bosses to start spreading lies that have been told to this very day.
The women did not fall over dead, but they were quaking. The Body was gone. That would shake anybody up. And there was this angel there too. He was sitting on the stone he’d rolled away. He’s showing God has overcome death rather easily and is now mocking it and laughing it to scorn. He looked like lightning and seemed to be wearing sunshiny snow. That’s enough to scare anybody; after all, we don’t see angels – ever! and they didn’t either!
But before they fell over like dead men too, the angel spoke words that calmed and comforted them: “Fear not you!” They had every reason to be afraid. Sinners in the hands of an angry God should be scared to death. Since the holy angels represent Him, you’d be scared of them too. But he tells them not to be afraid, and they shouldn’t be afraid, because they’re seeking Jesus The Crucified. But He’s not there anymore. He’s risen from the dead. Come, see! Go tell!
You should be afraid of Him. After all, sin fixes your mind not on heavenly things, but on the things of this earth. How easy it is for us to think about Easter dinner when we should be listening to the sermon. How easy it is for us to wish Easter vacation was longer when we should be singing Easter hymns. How easy it is to dream about candy when we should be looking forward to our Easter communion. How easy it is for us to focus on a certain character when we should remember chiefly at this time that we are baptized into Christ. This is what sin does to us, and it should cause us to tremble in fear, because The Apostle wasn’t kidding. God wants us to focus on what is meet, right, and salutary!
So seek Him Who was crucified. Seek Him and see the tomb is empty. The Altar does not hold a corpse. But it is set to hold His Body and Blood. The fair linen is His burial cloth; the veil is His burial napkin. The consecrated bread is His sacrificed Body and the consecrated wine is His shed Blood. He is risen from the dead. The grave could not hold Him. The devil could not defeat Him. Death could not swallow Him whole. He burst it to pieces. It had to spit Him out alive again. For He did not deserve to die. He died in your place. Since He came back alive, death must let you escape your grave too.
Why? Because you are baptized into Him. You went down into the waters of the font with Him in His Death. You came out of it with Him in His Resurrection. His Spirit claimed you for Him by branding you with The Name of The Holy Trinity. He led you to turn your back on Satan and all his works and ways of sin and death and turn to confess God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. You are given new life in body and soul. You will rise on the last day. Even in this life you are able to do what pleases Him. The Holy Ghost has placed your mind on things above, where Christ Risen and Ascended reigns over all things.
So He calls on you to please Him like a dear child pleases its dear daddy. Love Him above all things and your neighbor as yourself, just as Dr. Luther teaches us in the Catechism. His Spirit gives you all the benefits of being God’s own dear child. All that belongs to Jesus belongs to you. He won for you forgiveness of sins. He won for you eternal life. He has promised to save you from this wicked world of sin. He promised you these things when He baptized you. He will not let you down. He keeps His pledge that He renews every week at this Altar.
Your response is twofold: First, go tell. You confess your faith here. Coming here tells others you believe in Him. So come often, yes, even every time Service is held, to show the world you belong to Him and believe in Him. Let your light shine through your offerings here or the church’s missions that the glory of His Resurrection may shine in all lands and homes. Let it be seen in all you say and do, at home, online, at work and play. Let it be obvious you belong to our risen Lord.
Let it be obvious you belong to Him, and come see Him. He went ahead of them to Galilee, yet they saw Him that very night in Jerusalem. You can’t go to Galilee, and you can’t see Him with your physical eyes – though you will once He returns to judge the quick and the dead. But the eyes of faith see Him. Where? Wherever He is present.
He wants you to see Him wherever He is present. See Him come to you in His Word, The Sacred Scriptures. There He teaches you to believe in Him and live as He desires. See Him come to you in this place in His preached Word and His Sacrament. He comes to convict you to death of your sins with His Law and then raise you to life with His Gospel. He comes to physically forgive your sins. He physically saved you with His Body, so He plans to save your body.
That’s your future. You must follow Him on His path since you belong to Him. You must die because He died, but death for you is no longer punishment for sin; instead it is release from sin. He’s going to plant you in the ground so you will bloom as the most beautiful Easter lilies ever when He returns. Your sins, sorrows, and sicknesses will all be gone forever. They will be replaced with divine perfection and health forever. You shall shine as the holy angels. You shall appear with Him in glory that day.
So prepare for that day. Seek Him. And He shall crown you with glory and honor and give you dominion over the works of His hands – not now, but when He returns to judge the quick and the dead and give you the crown of eternal life. “Behold, I have told you.”