Monday, April 25, 2011

Who Will Roll away the Stone? Easter Sermon

Easter Sunday
Mark 16:1-8
Bror Erickson

[16:1] When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
[2] And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
[3] And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"
[4] And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back— it was very large.
[5] And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.
[6] And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
[7] But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."
[8] And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

He is Risen, He is Risen indeed.
Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? Who will roll away the stone for us?
In hindsight I’m sure it seemed like such a silly question for the women to be asking. When they arrived at the tomb, it was open the stone had been rolled away. Jesus had risen. Jesus had removed the stone from the inside. There the tomb stood empty, a sign of Christ’s victory over death. He is risen, he is alive, it is death that is dead!
Who will roll away the stone for us? It is a question we still ask, is it not? Death may be dead, but we experience it a plenty. Friends and family dying. We normally take more than three days getting them to the ground these days. And when we finally do commit them to their final resting place, we don’t entertain the idea of seeing them again anytime too soon. Who will roll away the stone?
And then there are those who it seems have yet to come to life. Friends and family who do not believe, coworkers and acquaintances. Some it seems who have a heart of stone. They seem to refuse to believe. They seem to believe anything but that Jesus Christ has risen. I’m dumbfounded sometimes by these people. I met a guy just Friday, who expected that I should believe with him Jesus never existed and was really a conspiracy started by the Romans to tame the Jews. He thought himself very smart for having read a book about it. He would try to discount anything I said, by saying “Oh, but you are a believer.” As if by believing in the evidence of the resurrection I had lost any ability to see objectively. Or that somehow whoever wrote the book he read, was more objective. He soon learned that he did not have quite the grasp on historical realities that he thought he did. He left to catch his plane, and my thought too was, who is going to roll away the stone?
The stone of unbelief is a capstone of death, just as the stone to covering Jesus was a capstone of death. We are born dead in our trespasses. It is what we are born with, death, dead in our trespasses. And there is only one who can bring us to life. We cannot do it ourselves, it is beyond us. But it is this good news, that brings us to life. Jesus is arisen. It is hearing this good news, that we are brought to life. It is hearing this good news that we begin to understand death no longer has the last say. It is hearing this good news that we understand something more happened on the First Good Friday than that a rabble rousing Jew who upset the Romans was crucified, Something more than that a good man died. Something more than that a good teacher, who perhaps gave the world a better ethic to live by died, as Aristotle, Plato, Epicurius before him, and so many after him.
That is what people would like to do with Jesus in their unbelief, turn Jesus into an ethicist who gave us a better ethic to live by. Perhaps he did give us a better ethic to live by, that point is debated. Nothing much more in the ethic he taught than could be found in Aristotle, Aesop’s fables, or Moses for that matter. People who say that would like to turn Christianity into something like Buddhism, a bunch of good thoughts. Watching t.v. the other day I heard a man say that Buddha had changed the world. How I ask has he done that? What exactly did Buddha do that changed anything about this world? All he did was impregnate half the world with the selfish desire to desire nothing, to somehow free themselves of all ambition. This all but inspires people to forsake society, abandon family, any productive amount of work, and live off other people like leaches, all the while chastising them for not following the tenets of Buddha, which if everyone did, everyone would starve to death, which is virtually what most do in those societies dominated by Buddhism. Buddha didn’t change the world, he died, and to this day he is dead. And that is what happens to great teachers, they die and stay dead, their own law finally kills them, as the law does in all its forms.
But Jesus, he rose! Jesus is a live. He is Risen. Indeed. And there he did change the world. There is not a doubt about it. He didn’t just give us a bunch of cute ideas about how we ought to live and love one another. No, now Jesus has given us reason to believe, and reason to live. Reason to believe that when he died on the cross, he atoned for our sins, redeemed us from death, paid the ransom with his blood and gave us reason to live. Reason to live brothers and sisters. Reason to live as was never possible before, with no fear of death, and love for all. Reason to hope. Because he has answered our question for us. Who will roll away the stone for us? Jesus who is arisen. Not so that we can tend to a dead corpse and fill it with embalming spices like every other body that died before us. But so that we can enter life with him for all eternity. This is the stone he rolls away when in baptism we are buried with him into his death so that just as he is risen to the Glory of the Father we too might walk in the newness of life. This is the stone he rolls away for us, when we share the good news of his resurrection with friends and family and they are brought from death to life to believe in Christ. Because finally we know that just as he rolled the way stone, for these women that morning, and brought them to faith in his resurrection with his very own. We know that we who have been given the gift of life in him have also the promise that just as death could have no victory over him, neither will it have victory over us. Yes on the last day, it will be him who rolls away the stone for us, and all who believe and have believed with us. And that my friends is reason not only to believe, but also to love as he has loved us, and not only to live but to celebrate life with the love of Christ. Yes, a silly question, who will roll away the stone for us? The same one who rolled away the stone for the women, Jesus Christ of Nazareth who in the very name of God forgives us our sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He is Risen!

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