April 4, 2021

RISEN CHRIST DISPELS THE DARKNESS OF OUR FEARS

Passage: Mark 16: 1-8
Service Type:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Truly, this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! (Repeat three times).

Why are you rejoicing my friend? Because, hope breaks into human history today!

Last time I spoke to you from pulpit, it was on Good Friday, I shared with you that our sin put Jesus on the cross. Christ bled and died for our sake. Today, the word of God announces ‘good’ news for us. Our Saviour lives! God raised Jesus from death. The tomb is empty! Thanks Joseph of Arimathea for loaning your tomb for three days, Jesus does not need it any longer!

The pandemic stricken world of our searches for news all the time. Some may be good news reports the others are so not good news.

But today, we come to listen to this fresh off the news report from Simon Peter, read from the book of Acts:

And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (Acts 10: 39-41).

 That was Peter’s eye witness report to Cornelius. If that wasn’t enough, listen to yet another eye witness report from Apostle Paul. Speaking to Corinthian Christians he said:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all…he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15: 3b-8)

 It doesn’t matter who was reporting, the message remains the same: Jesus rose from the dead and he is in fellowship with His people! So, how could we not celebrate and rejoice at this marvelous news today? Yes, even in pandemic stricken, mask-wearing, world of ours, which lives through times of sorrow, panic, and fear, we ought to celebrate the joyous news in faith. Since pandemic started, the reports we heard were terrible news indeed. According to latest statistics (as of 03/04/2021), the world has had over 130 million COVID cases, of which 2.84 million people died, where as 73.7 million recovered. As we can imagine, even today, millions of people live in fear, and in isolation, and without hope. To this world, Easter Sunday, shares the good news, even death has been conquered! Christ is risen! Do not fear, your Saviour Jesus lives!

Please join me as we pray:

Gracious Father, thank you for calling us from death to life in your beloved Son Jesus. Be with us today as we meditate on this good news, may the words of my mouth and the mediation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight our rock and redeemer. Amen.

Friends, I once heard an Easter story which goes like this: a father once took his three year old daughter to shopping. As they were shopping for shoes, out of nowhere the daughter said to her dad, ‘I can’t wait for Easter, Daddy!’ Now, the father was surprised why the daughter said that, as Easter was long away they were only in September. Wanting to know what his daughter meant, he asked her, ‘do you know what Easter means, honey?’ the girl responded, ‘Yes Dad.’ So, father asked her again, ‘tell me, what does Easter mean?’ In her own cute little way, the daughter responded, ‘Surprise!’ The message of Easter is truly the biggest surprise for this world caught in sickness and fear of death. Surprise Sin! Surprise sickness! Surprise death! Surprise all fears that hold people down, God turned things around by raising Christ to life.

The news of Jesus resurrection reminds me of an old Mexican proverb which says, ‘they thought they buried us but didn’t realize we were seeds.’ In similar fashion, Easter emphatically declares: ‘they thought they killed Jesus and buried him, but they did not realize through Christ, God brings salvation to us all!

 The impact of God’s surprise was so strong that, even Jesus’ own did not expect it. As we heard in the Gospel of Mark 16: 1-8, three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome), came to the tomb seeking to attend to a corpse. If you remember crucifixion story, Jesus died with only a short time remaining for Sabbath. So, Joseph of Arimathea had to organise a rushed burial for Jesus before Jewish Sabbath commenced. For Jews, Sabbath begins after night fall and by the time he acquired permission from Pilate, he probably had very little time to properly go through burial process. So, we hear concerned ladies rushed to the tomb after the Sabbath, to anoint Jesus body with spices. In fact they rushed so much so that, they forgot to think things through properly. On the way, one of them suddenly realised, “righto girls, have you thought who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

With all their questions, they approached the tomb. In fear they looked up, and were in shock of what they saw. For the large stone had been rolled back! The grave is open! So, they wondered, how could this be? Jesus died, he couldn’t have possibly done this?

God is not playing hide and seek here, Jesus died on the cross. On Good Friday, they put Jesus on the cross, and few hours later confirmed the news to the Pilate that Jesus died. Jesus death was confirmed with all certainty. Investigating on this topics, a sceptic journalist, Lee Strobel, once said in his book The Case for Easter, medically speaking, Roman execution through cross doesn’t leave much scope for survival. The hypovolemic shock due to massive blood loss even before crucifixion started, the inability to properly breath on the cross, with the weight of the pierced body hanging on the cross will not allow for ‘miraculous’ survival. The spear that was thrust into Jesus’ side dripping water and the blood confirms without a shadow of doubt that Jesus clearly died on the cross.

The ladies who visited tomb early on Easter day knew this, they saw him buried, so they went in search of a corpse. But as they entered the tomb, they encountered God’s work. Trembling and terrified, they left the empty tomb. They heard the report, dead is risen. Yes Jesus did say he will rise again when he was ministering in flesh and blood, but no one believed his message, until they saw empty tomb. The messenger of God dressed in white, and sitting on the right hand side confirmed the news of resurrection. Where then is the space for fear? Where then is the space for unbelief? Your God lives, stop seeking for him in the dead. Our God is alive! Our God is alive!

Tell me friend, how must you receive this message your Saviour lives? Let me give you an example from the Bible, about a young girl who knew how to process shocking news, and now gives us an example to follow. Her name is Mary, the mother of Jesus, remember Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary during Christmas story? Angel Gabriel visited her to announce the news of the birth of the Saviour of this world. God’s plan, which was already given in the Garden of Eden, required the Messiah to crush the head of the serpent, and the evil one striking his heel (Genesis 3: 15). Angel said, that Messiah would be born to young Mary who was only betrothed. How did Mary receive that news back then? Mary listened to the message from God and received it whole heartedly. This is faith at work. Faith looks to what God does, and also in obedience walks with God in the midst of fears.

The message from the tomb of Jesus, pointed to God’s work of salvation. The angel said: ‘Don’t be alarmed!’ “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. Then it offers promise of fellowship with God. Even to the worst of sinners. Remember Peter who denied Christ was named as that risen Jesus will have fellowship with him. So, do not fear is the message for us! Do not worry, do not panic, God, your Saviour is alive!

Friends are you receiving this message? This is the reality we are called to share and proclaim each time we gather as church. Each time we gather around word and sacraments, we celebrate God who is alive and is with us. You see friends, Christian hope is found in two things: first, what God does, second, his fellowship with us even through darkest times. Remember Psalm 23: 4, ‘even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ The sting of fear is taken away by what God’s abiding presence with us. The love of God brings us God’s presence at all times.

In the midst of pandemic, we need to hear this good news. In times of doubt, fears, loneliness, struggle, and loss we ought to receive this message in faith. Faith in God’s saving work truly relieves all our fears. Faith brings healing and hope. That is why with the news of resurrection of Christ, God dispels darkness of all fears.

On that day, the women heard the message, they did not see Christ, but in good faith had to trust the message they received and step out of the tomb. But our belief is not that blind, through water, word, bread, and wine, God pours his love into our lives.

Sometimes, we need timely reminders of this on-going work of God in our lives. In particular, when times are testy for us. In my line of work, too often I come across situations where people need hope. People are in pain and in suffering and are afraid of something in their life. As flesh as blood, it is only natural we fear the enemy, and think it is too strong for us to overcome. Uncertainty in life for whatever reasons, be it financial problems, or sickness, or even death of a loved one, can take out confidence in life. When I visit emergency wards, especially, when looking after terminally ill, I come across people in fear of facing death. Again that is natural.

But the message for us today is, ‘fear not! Your God is alive.’ Jesus’ saving power is enough to overcome enemy’s obstacles. The victory of Christ over death, offers confidence and reassurance we need at all times. Because Jesus lives, we will live also. The words of Jesus, ‘I am the resurrection and life’ dispels the power of fear this Easter morning.

Since, we constantly need reminders, let me share this story as I bring this sermon to a close. I once heard: a Father and a Son driving on a country road. Suddenly, out of nowhere a large earth bumblebee flew in the car. Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, he became petrified. But the father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand and then released it. But as soon as he let it go the young boy became frantic as the bee started buzzing again in the car. His father saw the panic stricken face of his son, once again he reached out to his hand but pointed it his son and said; ‘do you see this?’ he said: ‘You don’t need to be afraid anymore, I’ve taken the sting for you.’ Like this father our Lord Jesus Christ opens up his arms this morning and says to us, ‘it’s ok, you don’t have to worry anymore looking at your sickness, looking at your worries, fears and sufferings. Look at my hands and feet, I have taken the sting for you.’ Looking at the crown of thorns, I carried for you, so that crown of righteousness can be placed over your head. Listen to how Apostle Paul puts this:

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6: 3-5)

The hope of resurrection offers God’s steadfast love towards us at all times. The cross of Christ offers freedom to walk by faith. God baptised you, and called your name, his plan is to forgive you and raise you from death to life. So, rejoice today baptised saints, rejoice because your God lives. Find refuge in the shadow of the one who calls you his own. Forever praise his name!

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740