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All is Solitude and Gloom - An Easter Sermon

Written by Paul Warneke. Posted in PastorPage

          Intro: maybe you were with us on Good Friday when we sang the hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane”. That hymn is one of the staples of the Lenten season. It’s got a sort of haunting melody. And it tells about the tragic events of Jesus suffering and death: His fervent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His arraignment in the judgment hall, Calvary's mournful mountain climb, where he died, on the cross.

                        And believe it or not, the last verse of that song is about what we are celebrating today, the resurrection of Jesus. But it continues to convey that melancholy tone:

 

            “Early hasten to the tomb where they laid his breathless clay            

            All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken him away?”

 

That’s where Mary Magdalene was at in our text, in solitude and gloom. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she said to Peter and John, “and we do not know where they have laid him.”

            And then verse 11 of our text: “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into that tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where are the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her woman why are you weeping? She said to them they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”
            And then later on when she said to Jesus himself, supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
            It was bad enough that her Lord had been arrested, tried, and turned over to the Romans to be tortured and executed. But to add insult to injury, somebody had taken the dead body away. “All is solitude and gloom”, it would seem. 
            What was true for Mary Magdalene in the 1st century is true for many today in the 21st century. “All is solitude and gloom.” And just like Mary, our solitude and gloom so often has to do with death. 
            Who in this room has not been touched somehow by death? Personally, in just a few days it will be the one year anniversary of my mother's death. 
            That was a year ago. How many others have died since then? How many of your loved ones have died since? Or before? Let's not forget about the solitude and gloom of those who have been touched by death in the years previous. 
            And how about the circumstances of these deaths? For some, the circumstances are tragic... Absolutely horrific.
 
            Traffic accidents. Suicide. Disease. All is solitude and gloom when these terrible events in our lives. 
            Even the death of the elderly is a tragic event that brings about for us solitude and gloom. We try to console ourselves with the notion that they lived a good long life. But that does not negate the fact that that life is over. Our loved one is no longer with us. They’re dead! 
            And why is that? Why are they dead? Why are they dead of old age, or disease, or suicide, or traffic accidents, or whatever other cause Satan may have devised.
            The key to the question I just asked is… Satan. Dear friends in Christ Jesus: You need to be aware of the fact that you have a terrible enemy, Satan, who only has in mind for you your destruction. Martin Luther called him “the old evil foe” and he is no myth. He is real! And he is the cause of every tragedy I've described here this morning, and more. 
            Thanks to him we are cursed! It began already in the book of Genesis, in the Garden of Eden. “You won't surely die he told Eve when she told him they weren't supposed to eat the forbidden fruit. What a liar!

            Jesus said he was a liar from the beginning. And here is proof. God says you’ll die if you sin. Satan says, no you won’t. Adam and Eve sin. And now the world is cursed with death.

            But, is that what this day is about? Death? No, this day isn’t about death. It’s about resurrection from the dead. This day is about life! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

            So what does this mean for you? And what does it mean for me? It means we don’t have to fear death. It means we don’t have to be afraid to face our own mortality, whether it takes place 80 years from now, or 20 years from now, or 1 year from now.

            Jesus has taken the sting out of death. He has taken the victory away from death. He has won the victory himself! And he gives that victory to us.

            That victory, of course, began with the death of Jesus; His atoning sacrifice for our sins. As Paul said in 1 Cor 15, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”

            It was all part of God’s plan of salvation. When the Chief priests and Pharisees planned to have Jesus killed way back in John chapter 11, it was already part of God’s plan.

            When Judas decided to betray Jesus, it was already part of God’s plan. When the Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans, it was already part of God’s plan. When Pilate gave the order to have Jesus crucified, it was already part of God’s plan.

            If we were going to be saved from our sin, the price for our sin had to be paid. And it had to be paid by someone who could take it. And so it was Jesus who was anointed to make that payment. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, suffered and died on the cross, to make atonement for our sin.

            And St. Paul continues in 1 Cor, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” And his resurrection was witnessed by hundreds, as he appeared to them, risen from the dead.

            What joy there was for Mary Magdelene when she heard Jesus’ voice call her by name, “Mary.”

            “Rabboni” with great joy, knowing now that All is not solitude and gloom now. No one had taken him away. Christ is risen! She now knows!

            And throughout the day, and during the next several days, Jesus will continue to make himself known as Risne from the dead.

            He appeared to Peter. And to the 12. And to more than 500 brothers at one time; to James; to all the apostles… and then finally, to Paul himself. Remember? On the road to Damascus.

            There’s no doubt about it. Jesus was dead. And now he’s alive. What joy must have filled the hearts of those disciples, who mourned Jesus’ death… but now realized he’s alive!

            But there’s more to it than simply the fact that someone was dead, and now is alive. You see, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead also means something very special for us. It means that we shall rise from the dead as well.

            As Paul says later on in 1 Cor, “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them who have fallen asleep.”

            Well, if it’s true that Jesus is the firstfruits of them that have fallen asleep, doesn’t it make sense that there would be second fruits, and third fruits, and fourth fruits, and fifth fruits… all the way down to the point that all the dead in Christ will rise from the dead, to live before God in righteousness and purity forever?

            Our celebration of the Resurrection today certainly centers around Jesus. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! But we’re not only celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

            We’re also celebrating OUR resurrections from the dead. We’re celebrating the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too shall live a new life.

            And it’s not just a new life that’s going to happen some time in the future. It’s a new life that God gives us to enjoy even now. Easter Sunday is the Church’s rejoicing and exaltation in the fact that, in Holy Baptism, we have already been raised from the dead, and are now already living eternally.

            So how are you enjoying your life… the eternal life you now live by virtue of your baptism? The baptized life you now live is marked by certain characteristics, isn’t it? It’s marked by love for God, and love for your neighbor. It’s marked by service to God… by service to your neighbor. It’s marked by loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength… and by loving your neighbor as yourself.

            Uh oh. Why did I have to go and ruin everything? We were doing so good there, weren’t we? Talking about Jesus bringing forgiveness to us by his suffering and death on the cross, and with his resurrection, assuring us of our own resurrection, and by virtue of our baptisms, enabling us to live a new life… even now.

            But then I had to bring up that business about loving God, and loving my neighbor. And that puts us right back in the Garden of Eden, with bits and pieces of the forbidden fruit still stuck in our teeth, as we realize that we don’t love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.

            It’s true, isn’t it? You’ve had other Gods before the true God. You misuse his name and you often forget the Sabbath day. You’ve dishonored the authorities God has placed over you; you’ve hurt your neighbor in his body, you’ve lusted, stolen, lied, and coveted.

            Dear friends in Christ Jesus, it’s true! You’re guilty of one, or more, or all of the things that I just said. So don’t hide it. Admit it. Confess it. Be honest with God about your sin! And lay that sin then at the foot of the cross, and know that Jesus died to take that sin away.

            Return to your baptism in contrition and repentance and die to that sin. Be buried with Christ into his death. Receive the forgiveness of your sins that Jesus won for you on the cross. And be raised with him… to live a new life… now… and forever. Amen.