Rev. Paul J Cain
Remembered. Told. Believed?
The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day, March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
About the Cover: The grave is an odd place to look for God. But that’s where the body of Jesus was left, so that’s where the women went with their spices at early dawn. At His empty tomb, they met angels announcing that the Risen One could not be found among the dead. He had risen, as He said. Remembering His words, the women became the first witnesses of His resurrection. Christ is risen! Alleluia!
“They” in our text means “the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee,” according to the previous chapter of Luke.
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
They remembered the words of the angel. They were faithful and told them to the eleven and all the rest. Were they believed? No, they were not. They doubted. Peter ran to the tomb as John also taught us this morning. He believed that the tomb was empty. Did he believe the resurrection yet?
Doubt in the Resurrection is as old as the Resurrection of our Lord. We may bemoan the annual attacks on Christmas or Easter, but do we do anything about them? For all of its storytelling and cinematic strengths, the new TV Bible miniseries ignores the primary sin of the city of Sodom, puts words in Jesus’ mouth He did not speak, and does not have Him say, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Watch with caution, thanking the Lord for an opportunity for more people to be exposed to the Bible. I pray the Lord will gather those viewers to Himself at congregations like this where they can hear the whole Word of God in context, with Law and Gospel properly distinguished, and tied to the life-giving Sacraments of Jesus. Nothing can compare to the actual Biblical text. How many times have you said, “I saw the movie, but the book was better!”
When we as Christians give an inaccurate or incomplete witness, we only have ourselves to blame. When Scripture shares God’s Truth, faith says, “Amen.” We can show love and concern for one another by gently correcting untruth. Parents and pastors do it all the time. Life flows from doctrine. As we believe, so we live. When our life of thought, words, and deeds departs from the Word, I pray we love one another enough to care to act, not out of spite, superiority, or hypocrisy, but out of a loving motivation and in a loving way.
Doubt of God’s Word has led to change outside the Church. Christians today are upset at the amazing changes in American culture, unthinkable just a generation ago. Attacks on marriage and our fundamental freedoms under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights may be backdoor ways to infringe on our free exercise of religion. “You shall have no other gods,” the Lord declares. We should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. We should fear and love God so that we may not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but give them honor, serve them, obey them, and hold them in love and esteem. At the same time, we recognize that “We must obey God rather than men,” when we are confronted with a choice. Government may allow what God does not. Government may also forbid what God commands. Just ask the persecuted Christians under Rome. Jesus gave us no promise that his disciples would be popular. We are not responsible for the results of our faithful witness. We are simply given to be faithful and bold.
Stanza 2 of a thousand year old Easter song (LSB 460) tells the story of the Gospel text:
[“Speak, Mary, declaring/ What you saw when wayfaring.” And what did she see? What did Mary declare? “The tomb of Christ, who is living, The glory of Jesus’ resurrection; Bright angels attesting, The shroud and napkin resting. My Lord, my hope, is arisen; To Galilee He goes before you.”]
That is our message of Easter joy. Our enduring Easter hope is the Resurrection of Jesus applied to every one of us: In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise up me and all the dead and will give eternal life to me and to all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.