Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we sit in awe at Your power over death and the love for us that prompted You to climb out of the darkness of the grave. Your Easter victory is our ultimate blessing. Your Easter victory means love and life, eternal life, belong to us. Your Easter victory means we don’t have to “hope” or “guess” or simply wish for Your favor. No, Easter means it all belongs to us through simple, humble faith. Lord, thank You again for taking all doubt and fear over the future from our lives. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST—THE VICTORIOUS SAVIOR!
Text: John 20: 1,2,11-18
Dearly Beloved By Our Risen Lord!
The Lord is Risen! He is risen, indeed! No Christian will ever tire of hearing those words and triumphantly exclaiming those words—especially on Easter Sunday! How could we? After all, they mean the totality of God’s goodness and eternal gifts are open to us and handed to us in Jesus Christ! So I say again: The Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!
I was up this morning before sunrise. Our dog, Tori, has a penchant for awakening before the morning light comes. The murky darkness was all-enveloping, almost like fog. A few streetlights glinted through the murk. The occasional “schuss” of a distant car whispered through the air. And I could easily imagine that first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb “while it was still dark” as our text says. You and I have the benefit of hindsight and the Christian reality of 2000 years to know what Easter morning brings. Mary did not. However, she soon learned. Yes, she learned an amazing Name of Wondrous Love for Her Savior—The Light!
During this past year we’ve lost both the mothers in my family to death. My mother died just about one year ago and my mother-in-law died earlier this month. Neither death was unexpected. That was a blessing. Neither death came like a bolt out of thin air. We had time to prepare our hearts and our emotions. Mary wasn’t given such a gift. Loss, despair, and grief flooded her heart. She remembered the time in her life when she was possessed by 7 demons. O how they had tormented her. Then Christ came and hurled them out of her! She had passed from darkness to light! Her devotion to the Lord after that miracle is legendary. But on Good Friday darkness had again descended upon her. Not only was the world darkened when He hung on that cross from noon til 3, her life was turned pitch black emotionally. She watched Him die. She heard Him breathe His final breath. Her life was turned upside down. Then some of the men hurriedly buried Christ’s body before it was fully and lovingly made ready. When that huge stone was jammed into place, Mary knew she would have to return, come back and complete the task after the Sabbath. For the next 30 odd hours she agonized over this. Yes, darkness weighed heavily upon her. Mary was in a tunnel without light, without an exit. Now you can begin to understand the tears she shed when she stood before the opened tomb in the murkiness of that early Easter morn. She thought someone had taken, stolen, her Lord’s body. Now she would be denied her final labor of love. Her soul was darkened by it all.
Do you ever shed tears when you visit the grave of a loved one? Do you ever feel the crushing weight of helplessness and hopelessness when unexpected bills come due, when bad news comes from the doctor’s lips, or your inability to cope with pain overwhelms you? Have you ever felt like you’re trudging through darkness with no light in sight thinking: “What’s the use?” Well, listen and learn as we follow Mary Magdalene from the dark night into the gray dawn.
Darkness must yield to light. God decreed it to be so at creation when He said: “Let there be light!” Every day it happens. Every Easter it occurs. And Mary found out that on Easter it doesn’t just yield to visible light, but to the Eternal Light!
When the first glimmer appeared Mary could see the stone was rolled back. She should have known the disciples would never steal Christ’s body. They would have nothing to gain from spreading lies about His risen body.—Who would ever believe such a ridiculous story? Also, she knew they were paralyzed by fear, hiding out in locked rooms. None of them possessed the courage to take on the soldiers and to violate the Roman seal which meant certain death.
The dawn was beginning. Easter light was starting to shine into darkened souls. Several women claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, though few believed their emotionally-charged ravings. They reported seeing angels at the tomb, shining in glorious light and telling them Christ was risen. Soon Peter and the Emmaus disciples would breathlessly confirm this unbelievable report. Exit from the dark Lenten tunnel was in sight. Easter light was beginning to shine.
Like them we’ve come through the dark tunnel of this past Lenten season and this murky stormy winter, too. Have I ever told you of Pastor Fox’s first Law of Lent? It is: “Watch out for grumpy people by Lent’s end as they are usually frazzled and emotionally frayed and problems will erupt then that normally won’t occur otherwise.” After the tree damage to the roof, the storms, hard personal issues for members and the like, this Law of Lent, this darkness has shown itself in our lives, hasn’t it? So, let’s now listen and learn from Mary’s experience as the gray dawn turns into glorious light.
Dawn doesn’t last long. It’s really only a few minutes before the sun peeks over the horizon and bathes us in its warming rays. Well, the Son of righteousness now appears to do just that to Mary! Early on, Mary left the tomb with teary eyes. Then she heard the other reports of Christ’s resurrection. She didn’t believe it. It was too good to be true. So, she returns to the graveyard during the daylight and senses a man standing behind her. Her tear-rimmed eyes did not recognize him. But when he spoke and said: “Mary” her heart leapt for joy! It was Jesus. Note her amazed response: “Master.” She had helped lay His body in the grave dead and broken and now here He was alive and strong! Tears dried. Heaviness of heart ceased. No more tunnel, no more darkness, just the bright light of Easter victory! What a day it was.
I’ll always recall the late night prayer with my Mother over the phone before she lapsed into death. I’ll never forget the poignant picture of my lovely wife standing over her dying mother reading her the psalms as she breathed her last. For most people those would be dark moments, tunnel moments of anguish and despair. But not for either of those mothers and not for me and not for you, either. Why? Because “The Lord is risen!” He is risen, indeed!
St. John records these words of Jesus in chapter 8: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Every saint, every Christian loved one, indeed, every one of you can not only live those words, but die in those words and then live again, eternally, all because Christ has risen from your grave. He confirmed it to Mary. He confirmed it to countless other disciples. And today He once again confirms it to you! Amen