April 24, 2011: The Women and Their Witness to Glory Beyond Compare

Let us pray: Dear Risen Savior, without You we can do nothing because without You we are nothing. But in Your dying in our place and in Your glorious resurrection from our graves, You alone have given us eternal worth. You alone have made us priceless in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Armed with that knowledge, turn each of us into energetic witnesses of Your truth which sets souls free. For it is only in confessing You and thereby making alive dead souls that our lives will take on an eternal purpose and worth. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR RISEN LORD WHO HAS TURNED US FROM SINNERS INTO SAINTS!

TEXTS: Matthew 27:55, Luke 23: 55,56; Matthew 28: 1-10; Luke 24: 1-11

Dear Beloved By Our Risen and Now Living Lord Christ:

“He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Do you know who the first people were who ever spoke that age-old Easter greeting? It was the women at the tomb. What an honor they received! They were the first people to bear direct witness to the cosmic event of God’s Son triumphing over death in place of human beings like us.
If you’ve missed part of the past 6 weeks of Lent, let’s briefly catch up. We’ve been studying: People of the Passion, this Lenten season. So far, we haven’t really touched on any of the women who played such a vital role. But today, we’ll play catch up and more! Today is their day to shine, to reflect the light of Christ’s glory to us. So, on this Easter Sunday, we’ll focus on:

THE WOMEN AND THEIR WITNESS TO GLORY BEYOND COMPARE

I

To be sure, their first Easter started out cloaked in sadness. The grief of Good Friday weighed upon their souls. The sadness of Christ’s death left ugly scars on their hearts. They had watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took down Christ’s body from the cross. They had shed tears when those two formerly secret disciples prepared Jesus’ body for burial. When that large stone had banged into place over the tomb’s entrance, we can only wonder at the tears they must have shed.

But now the Sabbath is over. Now they can come into direct contact with His dead body without being labeled: unclean before God by their Jewish laws.—As if lovingly handling the body of God’s Son could ever be labeled: unclean! In any event, their night had been listless with emotions whirl-pooling within. Before daybreak they get up. At daybreak they are carrying more grave spices, oil, and linens to the tomb. They must, they must give their Savior and Friend this last honor in His death. And as they approach, they start to worry about that large stone. “How can we ever move it to get inside?” The soldiers on guard there?—I’m sure they thought about how those men would mock and abuse them for their allegiance to Christ. And yet, they still came.

We know the name of but a handful of them. Mary Magdalene—not a prostitute as many think, but a woman who had been freed of an evil spirit by Christ. Then there was Mary, the wife of Clopas. This Mary was a sister of Christ’s mother Mary. She was His aunt and Clopas was His uncle. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, the mother of James and John. She was the mistress of the Jerusalem house containing the upper room. And then there was Joanna, the wife of Cuza. She had been cured of a grievous disease by Christ. Her husband, who was the chief steward of Herod’s household, was also a disciple of Christ. So onward this little band of women goes.

II

When they arrive at the tomb, they are shocked and amazed! No soldiers. And more importantly, no big rock over the entrance. They went inside. An even more amazing discovery—No body was present! Just then two angels appeared, “gleaming like lightening.” It was then that they first heard that ancient Christian greeting from the angel’s lips: “He has risen!” Those three little words changed their lives forever. They have changed ours forever, too.

The angel orders them: “Go quickly and tell his disciples.” They obeyed. A bit of fear invaded their minds, too. “What does it all mean? How could this occur?” Then, too, joy must have infected their hearts.—”Jesus is alive!” They ran away trembling. They didn’t get far when suddenly Christ appears and greets them. This is His first post-resurrection appearance. The women are tentative. They cannot believe their eyes. Then we’re told: “They clasped his feet and worshiped him.” Jesus now repeats the angels’ greeting and directive: “Don’t be afraid, go and tell my brothers.”

Soon they found the 11, His spiritual brothers, and other followers, too. They excitedly announce: “Jesus is alive!” “He is not in the tomb. He has risen from the dead.” They confessed what their eyes had seen and their ears had heard. They confessed angelic truth and Godly truth. They had the facts and they wanted the others to know.—They wanted to heal their souls from sadness, grief, and the fear of death, as well. You’d expect the disciples to eagerly drink all of this in. But, no. They looked at these women who they knew, loved, and respected like they were crazy. Most dismissed their confession as nonsense.

That was the reaction to these women’s witness by fellow Christians! You’d expect it to be so from unbelievers. But, believers? Maybe it was just too good to be true for them—not to mention impossible….But, “with God all things are possible”….

Can we really fault the disciples for the skepticism? Would you or I have reacted any differently? But the women’s voices could not be stilled. While others ignored them, Peter and John ran to the tomb to check it out. Yes, it was empty. They left astonished. Mary Magdalene returned to the grave soon after Peter and John left. She had not stayed long enough with the other women to hear the angel’s message and to see Christ. She was just plain overcome with bitterness and pain. That’s when Jesus appeared to her. He dried her tears as He dries our tears. Her grief became unspeakable joy. She ran off to tell the others: “I have seen the Lord!” This witness of all the women spread throughout Jerusalem. And yes, the body was missing. Had Jesus really arisen from the dead, as these women kept insisting?

III

You recall the rest of the story, don’t you? That afternoon, two disciples, members of the 70 who were faithful followers, Luke and Cleopas (a different man, not Christ’s uncle); these two fellows were traipsing to Emmaus. They were talking about the resurrection rumors circulating in Jerusalem. Suddenly they met a new fellow traveler. As they walked along, this man opened their minds to the meaning of the Old Testament, especially its prophecies concerning the Messiah. When they reached the journey’s end they begged their new friend to eat with them. As that Friend said the table prayer, their eyes were opened and they also beheld the risen Christ! And then He vanished from their sight. Quickly they ran back the 12 miles to Jerusalem to tell the disciples locked in the upper room.

Once there they discovered that Jesus had already appeared to Peter. Then that evening, Christ miraculously entered that locked room and said: “Peace be with you.” Everyone’s fears vanished. They now knew the truth. And since that truth set them free from all fear, it also prepared them to set the world free by preaching: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations.”

Gradually, more and more came to trust in the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection. As they listened to the impassioned accounts by these obviously sane women and men, the Holy Spirit worked on their hearts, for remember what St. Paul says about the Gospel: “It is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” And so, here we are today confessing as they did: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

I have a few questions for you to ponder as we wind down our service. Is Christ’s tomb still empty? Have His words of comfort: “Don’t be afraid” been uttered in your hearing this day? Have you heard the women’s witness and the disciples’ follow-up on the events of Easter morning? Yes, Yes, and Yes! So, obviously, these women of that first witness and the follow-up from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th witnesses has born a mighty fruit—as we sit here over 2000 years later. Learn from them and keep that witness alive. Then, someday in heaven, you, too, will meet fellow saints yet unborn who will thank you for spreading that glorious truth: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Amen