Der Vasken's Sermon on April 21, 2019
Apr 24, 2019
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Last summer I had the privilege of taking a group of twenty-five young adults from all around our diocese to Jerusalem and the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. It was an unforgettable experience. We traveled there to walk the grounds where Jesus and Mary, St. Paul and John the Baptist, and other great Biblical characters walked and talked and lived. We traveled there to bend our knees and touch our foreheads to the spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, and we did no less before the spot of His Crucifixion in the heart of Jerusalem.
We entered the prison where Jesus was held on the night before His trial and felt the cold loneliness inside. We sat along a hillside where He spoke the famous Sermon on the Mount and we took turns reading it aloud. We recited the Lord's Prayer on the site where He first taught His disciples this most famous of prayers. We gathered in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and we entered the Tomb of Christ for the most powerful moment of our ten-day pilgrimage. For those ten days, we stood in awe. For those ten days, we connected and we dried our eyes and we felt the hair stand upon the back of our necks, and we felt a great sense of peace. Those ten days were simply amazing. The Tomb of Christ draws in people today just as it drew in those three women we heard read about moments ago.
It was bright and early on the first Easter morning and three women were making their way to the Tomb of Jesus. According to the Bible, these three women were bringing spices and oils to finish preparing His body for burial, but when they arrived, they did not expect to see what they saw. The tomb was wide open. Someone had rolled away the huge stone that sealed the tomb. Listen to what the Bible shares about this:
"So the women hurried away from the tomb afraid and confused, and they ran to tell His disciples when, suddenly, Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' He said to them." But at first, they didn't recognize Him and why should they have? The last time they saw Jesus, His dead body was being sealed in that tomb. "'Greetings,' He repeated. This time they recognized Him and they turned to Him and they dropped to their knees and they praised God. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell My disciples to go to Galilee and I will meet them there.'"
The Good News of Easter is that the Resurrected Christ walked out of that tomb and into the world and into the lives of those who believe. That's the Promise of Easter. The empty tomb changed the course of the world. And its message is of eternal life and hope and the light of Heaven. Once we accept that, we will understand the purpose of the empty tomb. The empty tomb of Jesus Christ plays an essential role in the Easter story. The dead body of the Son of God, the crucified body of the Miracle-worker from Bethlehem, was placed in a tomb on Friday and on Sunday that same body walked out of the tomb and into the world.
Jesus died on a cross on Friday, but before He died, He knew that Sunday was coming. He knew that His body would be laid to rest in a sealed tomb, but He also knew that the tomb would not be able to contain that which was placed inside it. God had other plans. God had more for His Son to do. And so God made it clear that, what began in a manger in Bethlehem, would not end in a tomb in Jerusalem. The tomb was only the beginning.
Everything changed because of Easter. Everything changed because of that empty tomb. The laws of Creation changed because of that tomb. The laws that govern our world changed because of that tomb and all humanity changed because of that tomb. That which was carried into the tomb by human hands, beaten and lifeless, walked out of the tomb by the Hand of God victoriously and triumphantly.
At the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, God "hit the reset button." And as the three women were making their way to the tomb and wondering who was going to move the huge stone out of the way, they realized that the problem was taken care of in a way that was far beyond their understanding. See, it didn't matter who rolled the stone away. What mattered was that the stone wasn't rolled away so Jesus could escape from inside. The stone was rolled away because it couldn't contain what was inside. The sealed tomb symbolized death but death has no power over God. The sealed tomb that held the Body of God's Son could not contain the Power of God or the Light of God or the Love of God. That's what Easter is all about!
According to the Bible, the Resurrection of Christ is the centerpiece of our faith. There are many people who believe in Jesus, who believe that He died on the cross for our wrongdoings, but who have a hard time believing in the Resurrection. Without the Risen Christ and without the empty tomb, we have no Gospel at all. Christianity, without the Risen Christ, is pointless. But we know that He did rise from the dead. We know that the tomb is empty and that's the Good News of Easter!
May you all have a very happy Easter with your families. I look forward to spending time with you on the Hollisian Plaza in the front of our Church for some refreshments.