9. April 2023
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Three women go to Jesus’ tomb on the third day after his death, fully expecting to find a dead body. But when they get there, the tomb is empty, and a young man dressed in white tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead. And how do they react? They flee from the tomb, trembling and bewildered. That is not exactly the reaction you might expect from people who just discovered their beloved leader had risen from the dead.
Who were these women? Mark only gives us a few details, but we know they were Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. And what were they doing at the tomb? They were bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body. (And Mary had practice having already done that with the costly oil and her hair before His betrayal.) Jesus was dead. They would mourn, grieve, and do what they couldn’t the previous day due to the Sabbath. But they didn’t know yet that there was nothing left to mourn. And that’s a pretty bleak place to be, even if it’s exactly what you’d expect.
But let’s think about it. These women had been following Jesus for a while. They had seen him perform miracles, heard him preach, and watched him die on the cross. And now, they were doing what they thought was the final act of mourning, bringing spices to anoint his body. They were mentally prepared, expecting the worst possible and final act—anointing and wrapping the body of their already corrupting LORD.
And when reality didn’t match up, they couldn’t handle it. Can you blame them? Think about all the times when you’ve expected something to happen, only to have reality come crashing down. Imagine all the times you expected the worst and then were unexpectedly surprised. The future is always unnerving, scary, and confusing, leaving you feeling like you don’t know what to do because you cannot guarantee its result. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to go through it alone. Jesus has his angel give a message to comfort, console, and direct them. The angel gives them a better future that is known and real.
The young man in white, an angel messenger, tells the women to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. Good news! And what happens? The women ran away, scared and bewildered to process what they had just heard. It’s too good to be true. Not even in their wildest imaginations did they expect that! But eventually, they do tell the disciples. And what do the disciples do? They don’t believe them either. They think it’s an idle tale, a myth, or a fable meant to distract from reality. They think the women speak in euphemism, like, “He’s gone to a better place.” Or “You’ll see Him again someday.”
And why is that? Well, it’s because they were afraid. Fear kills hope and faith. Another Evangelist says they “disbelieved for joy.” They had followed Jesus for so long, and now he was gone. From the women, they hear that He had risen from the dead, just as He said He would. Despite this most astounding good news, they didn’t know what to do or where to go. It seems to set them on a different path, a new Way. They were lost, and the idea of a resurrected Messiah was too much for them to handle.
But Jesus had promised to be with them always, even to the end of the age. And Jesus repeatedly promised that He would rise on the third day. And even though they didn’t understand what was happening and were scared and confused, Jesus was still there.
Sometimes our expectations don’t match up with reality. We can plan, prepare, and hope for the best, but sometimes, things don’t go how we want them to. We can swallow the black pill, expect the worst, and then be shocked when God gives us better than we expected. Facing the future is scary and confusing. But what if what Jesus promises and gives is even better than anything we could imagine? What if the future is known and Jesus is with us, even when we don’t understand what’s happening?
Faith is more than having all the answers or knowing exactly what will happen next. Faith hopes in that which is beyond reason or experience. Faith is about trusting that God is there, even when we can’t see Him. It’s about believing that there is a good future, even in the darkest moments. Jesus gives more and greater than we could ever hope for. He gives hope against despair, light shining in the darkness, and even life in the midst of death.
This is why Jesus sends His angel messengers to comfort you in your anxiety, despair, worry, and fear. His angels say to you, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen!” And now, He has ascended into heaven and breathed His promised Spirit upon the church. By His Word and Spirit, He is with you and closer to you than ever before. For today, He speaks to you His Word of forgiveness. His Baptism washes you clean, absolved in His blood. And He gives you to eat and drink with Him—receiving life, forgiveness, and eternal salvation in His body and blood.
That’s the culmination of what those women experienced on Easter morning, at least, for now. Christ Jesus, the Resurrected LORD, remains with you in His Word and gifts. His presence for you in Divine Service is no less real than His appearing to the women. His Word and gifts give you confidence that overcomes fear and gives you hope for the future. His promises to you today tell you that there is nothing today, tomorrow, or forever that can separate you from Him again. Not even death, hell, or the devil can do that, for they are overcome!
So, friends, when life doesn’t go how you expect it to, when fear and confusion threaten to overwhelm you, remember that you are not alone. Jesus is with you, and He has overcome the world. And even today, He gives you to taste and see the goodness to come. he shows you a future that nothing and no one can rob from you. You are forgiven. You are washed clean. Your conscience is set free. And you are fed and nourished for the rest of your days, even eternity.
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin