1When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to 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. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8And 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. Mark 16:1–8 (ESV)
Isaiah 25:6–9 (OT Reading)
6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (Epistle Reading)
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
With certain expectation did the women approach the tomb of our Lord on that first day of the week. They came prepared, bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1). But what they found, and what they didn’t find, they were least expecting. Though the Lord Jesus had told beforehand what would be, the believed Him not. And though He had clearly spoken, His words they did had not remembered. Therefore did the women approach the tomb, expecting a body to be present, the body of Jesus, laying there in the tomb.
The thoughts of the women were on what they expected, anointing the body of Jesus with spices, and that the stone at the entrance of the tomb would still be there. These were on their mind as they approached the tomb of our Lord. Jesus had been Numbered with the transgressors on the cross, and His grave was with the wicked, but with the rich at His death (Isaiah 53:12, 9).
What the women expected to be was not. What they had not expected at all, that is what was. Truly it is God who works this way, surpassing human expectation, and fulfilling that which is according to His Holy Word. This Jesus did that day, on that first day of the week, the day after the Saturday Sabbath, early in the morning when the women had come to the tomb.
As the angel had declared, so it was, You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.
But who believes such an account today? Who believes that Christ is physically, bodily, and corporeally risen from the dead? No man can come back to life of himself after being dead three days.
But it is truly Jesus who in St. John’s Gospel is recorded as saying, The Father loves me, because I lay down my life, in order that I might take it up again. No one takes it from me, but a I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (John 10:17-18, my translation).
Who believes such an account today? You do, but not because you have seen it with your own two eyes, but because God’s Spirit testifies that it is so by means of Christ’s Holy Word. And His testimony is sufficient.
Eyes, senses, and reason will all speak differently than the Lord does on this matter. Like the women of our text, we too have certain expectations of what is and of what will be. According to what we know from human experience, man remains dead after death. Corpses remain corpses. Bodies decay. But not so with Christ. His body saw no decay. Nor did God’s Holy One see corruption (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31).
Neither will you remain in the grave into eternity. As Christ resurrected, so shall we when our Lord returns, for Jesus says, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25-26)
Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29).
Pilate did not have authority of himself to put Jesus to death. Rather was that authority to put Jesus to death given to him. And on that cross of crucifixion, Jesus bore the sins of all and truly died. Yet none, not even the devil and death, had power to keep Jesus dead and in the tomb.
On this day of days, we celebrate, we rejoice greatly in the resurrection of our Lord. The crucified One is no longer in the grave. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Death and grave have lost their hold, for Christ has conquered death and the grave has lost its power. Sin no more has dominion (Romans 6:14). Jesus reigns victorious over sin, death, and the grave, now and forevermore.
But in all honesty, it doesn’t appear this way. We still contend with our own sin and the sin of others. And in this life, we still must face the reality of our own mortality and death, whether we like it or not, and whether we deny it or not. Death comes to all of us, unless Christ comes before that time. Yet for this reason did Christ die, in order to save you from your sin, from your sin that leads you to eternal death.
Jesus had not died on Good Friday on account of any transgression of His own. On the cross, He died your death, yours and mine, and there crucified and put to death all your sin before our Holy God. And now, because of Christ, your sin no longer belongs to you, for Christ has taken it away. Now, because of Christ, you have His goodness, righteousness, and the Father’s everlasting kindness. And Jesus rose again on the third day to demonstrate His power and authority over sin and death.
Therefore Christ is your life. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him. In Christ, you have new life and even eternal life, where sin, death, and sorrow will be no more.
Now is Christ’s victory your victory, through faith. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5).
All your sin, your doubt, your faithlessness, and your despair has been swallowed up by His death, and the joy of His resurrection is now your own.
Today, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord! In the confession of this faith, we declare to one another and to the world this Christ, crucified and now risen. But not only this day do we celebrate on this day. Each day is lived in the resurrection of our Lord. Each Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. And in every Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes, receiving into our very mouths the very body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins, confessing too that the same Jesus Christ is no longer dead but risen, risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.