Sermon ~ He is not Here

MYRRBEARLast Sunday we came face to face with the person of St. Thomas and an act of faith that changed him from one filled with uncertainty to one of great faith.  Today we come face to face with the women who came to the tomb of Jesus to prepare His sacred body for burial.

The crucifixion took place very close to the Sabbath and so there was no time for the burial ritual to take place.  Joseph of Arimathea came and took the body down and placed the body of Jesus in his own tomb.  They did this rather quickly to prepare for the Sabbath with the idea that they would come back the next day to finish the ritual of burial.  Boy were they in for a surprise.

So the women set out on Sunday morning to go and prepare His body.  They were carrying the spices and other such things that would be needed for the task at hand.  I can only imagine the conversation along the road as they walked, if there was a conversation at all.  They were still trying to make sense of what they had witnessed.  The man they had been following for all of these years, who they believed was the Son of God, was dead and they did not know what was next.

But as they walked they asked a very down to earth question, who will roll away the stone for us?  After placing the body of Jesus in the tomb, a very large stone was rolled in front of the opening and sealed up the tomb.  They did not know how this was going to be moved so they could go about the ritual they were there to perform.  But they continued on.  Perhaps they thought they would find someone there that could help, who knows, but they continued on.

Much to their surprise, when they arrived the stone had, in fact, been rolled away and the tomb was open.  This was not done so Jesus could exit, he did not need any opening for that purpose, but this was done so the women, and us by the way, could looking into the empty tomb and see that Jesus was no longer there.  Now when they did this they were filled with anxiety.  Who could have taken the body?  Where did they put him?  They went deeper into the tomb, venturing very slowly, tears streaming down their faces at the very thought that the body had been stolen, and there they found a young man sitting inside the tomb.

Now if this was me, I think I would quickly turn around and leave!  Imagine walking into a tomb, expecting to find the dead body of Jesus, but rather you find a young man sitting there in a long white robe.  Scripture tells us, “they were alarmed” ya, no kidding!

He reassures them and tells them that Jesus has risen.  He tells them to go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that Jesus will meet them in Galilee.  Mark’s Gospel tells us that they left and were afraid and trembling and said nothing, but the others have the story of them going and telling the Apostles what they witnessed and Peter running back to see for himself.

The Angel tells the women to go and tell His Disciples, and Peter, about what has happened.  I find this an interesting phrase, and Peter.  Was Peter not one of the Disciples?  Why did the Angel single out Peter by name?

Some biblical commentators say this is because of the denial of Peter.  Because Peter denied Christ, he would have felt that he was no longer able to call himself a disciple of Christ.  He was guilt ridden for what he had done.  At the time when Christ needed him the most, Peter denied Him to others.  He looked them in the eye and said it was not him he was not there with Jesus and did not know who He was.  To Peter this was the ultimate betrayal, perhaps even more than what Judas had done.  This was the way that Jesus used to redeem Peter and to forgive him for what he had done.  This is the act of unconditional love that God has for all of us, Jesus forgave Peter, his closest friend, for denying Him.  If Jesus can forgive Peter, He surely can forgive us for what we have done!  Peter is redeemed and goes on to be one of the greatest of the Apostles.

But the other interesting part comes in the verses that follow what we read today.  In the next part Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.  Scripture tell us she is the one that Jesus cast out seven demons from.  Mary goes and tells the others, she is the first Evangelist!  Notice, He did not appear first to the Apostles, who by the way fled when He was arrested, no, He appeared to the women, and not just any woman, but a woman who had been possessed by demons!  The first Evangelist of the Christian Church, the first one to being the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was not a man, but a woman!

Remember, it was the men who fled from Jesus, it was a man the betrayed Him, it was a man who denied Him, but it was a woman who He appeared to first, and it was a woman who preached the first Easter Sermon on that first Easter!  In fact the Church has given Mary the title of the Apostle to the Apostles.

In this action we see the redemption of Peter and the commission to spread the Good news of the Resurrection, not just the men, but all of us we all have the responsibility to proclaim the good news in word and in action.  No one is to sit on the sidelines here, just as Mary did, we all have to preach when we have the opportunity too and not look back and not be afraid.  We have a divine commission to do this it is not just left to the so called professionals, but by Jesus making His appearance first to Mary, he opened the Gospel to everyone and He gave the command to everyone to preach the risen Lord.

Just a little side note here, notice we do not sing “Christ HAS Risen” but we sing “Christ IS Risen!”  This is not some historical event that took place two thousand years ago, this is a daily event that takes place with each of us each day, Christ IS Risen! And He is alive and working in each of us and that is the message that is the good news that we must bring to the world!

Christ is Risen!

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