Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 23, 2011 - Easter Vigil - St. John 20:1-18

Easter morning was something of a mess! Mary doesn't know where they've taken Jesus. Peter and John run to the tomb and they believe and yet still don't know the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Jesus speaks to Mary and it is only that which opens her eyes to recognize that it is Him. The other Gospels tell us about the angels announcing He is risen and the disciples on the road to Emmaus who don't believe what has happened. Then, of course, there's Thomas, too. Everything seems to confused and up in the air. But what straightens it all out is the Word. The Word that Jesus speaks. The Word of the Scriptures that He has fulfilled. Easter is more than just about the fact of the resurrection, though that's the big part of it. The fact of Jesus being alive the third day and the tomb being empty can only matter if the Word declares it. After all, you and I weren't there. We can only hear and believe from the Word. And so it is the Word that tells us that Jesus was going to rise. It is Jesus' own words that tell His disciples He's going to rise. And it is the Word that the apostles, who were eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus wrote, it is that Word which tells us Christ has indeed risen.

This is also why Jesus tells Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.” Now, after the resurrection, we aren't to find Jesus by hanging on to Him outside the garden tomb. Now, He will ascend to the Father and will go all over the world through the preaching of His death and resurrection, that is, by His Word. Jesus tells Mary not to cling to Him but to go to where the disciples are. Where the church is gathered. There is where you'll find Jesus. Now, after His resurrection, Jesus is alive and until He comes back, He lives and reigns in His holy church, where His Word is given. Here we are forbidden to find Jesus anywhere else than where His Word is. To look for Jesus in some other place like our feelings or some physical location like the tomb in Jerusalem (and which one is it?) is to seek Him where He hasn't promised to be found. To try to have God apart from His Word is what our Easter repentance confesses.

So what about that Word? It's there in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament which foretold all that Jesus would do, including His resurrection. In the New Testament in which the eyewitness testimony of His life and words and suffering, death and resurrection are told and expounded. In the preaching of that Word today by which Jesus Himself is among us. In the speaking of that Word with the water that washes us and makes us children of God. In the speaking of that Word which declares our sins are forgiven. Where that Word is that delivers Christ's Body and Blood with the bread and wine in the Supper. Our whole life as Christians, worshiping a crucified and risen Lord is all about His Word. It is that Word by which the Father shows us His Son, by which the Son reveals Himself and dwells among us, and by which the Spirit calls and preserves us in the holy Christian church. Without the Word, we perish, we wither and die. And with that Word that brings us Jesus, the Jesus who died for our sins and rose again, that Word brings us life now and life everlasting. The Scriptures told it. We shouldn't be surprised. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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