Easter Vacancy

Text: Mark 16:1-8
Date: The Resurrection of Our Lord + 4/1/18

Do you remember how we started this journey of telling the story of Jesus Christ? Though this is the year of St. Mark we didn’t start with him. We didn’t begin with Mark chapter one because the Evangelist doesn’t begin with any account of Christmas. Rather he begins his gospel with John the Baptist and the beginning of the thirty-year-old savior’s earthly ministry. As we heard today, as Mark didn’t tell us the beginning of the story, now neither does he tell us the end. He just stops abruptly at the empty tomb with no record of our Lord’s many resurrection appearances.

You remember the Christmas story. (Especially St. Luke fills in the most details). After the appearance of the angel announcing that Mary was to be the mother of the Son of God, the government stepped in and they had to travel to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem for some sort of registration. And what did they find when they sought to get a room at the local Bethlehem Inn? “No Vacancy” (Luke 2:7). After His death and burial, the women who came to the tomb expected the same thing. They fully expected to find the Savior’s body laid out where He was hastily interred last Friday night. To their surprise, however, the “No Vacancy” sign was not lit. The angel told them, “There is a vacancy,” “He has risen; he is not here.” What began with the Bethlehem “No Vacancy” now ended with the Easter Vacancy.

The empty tomb of Jesus’ resurrection points us to the open door of heaven, open for all. For He paid the price for all. His death means all sin is forgiven, that is stripped of its power to condemn us. Oh, of course, the devil still tries to accuse us, even to the point of convincing us that a past forgiven sin isn’t really forgiven. He brings to our memory the unkind word or act, the dishonesty, the selfishness, our running away from God rather than following His Ten Commandments. At such times we need to know that though we may recall our sins, that in itself doesn’t mean they have become unforgiven, the buried hatchet dug up to accuse us again.

You noticed Mark tells us the women were “alarmed,” “trembling and astonished” and they were afraid. What a way to end what is the most glorious and happy of endings. Yet fear still plagues all of us also to one extent or another.

For all the times an angel or even our Lord said, “Do not be afraid,” it seems like we never run out of the need to hear those words for all sorts of fears surround us every day, every month, every year. “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Of what were the women afraid? The “young man” sitting in the tomb and then speaking to them? He told them not to be alarmed and then the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. How could that cause trembling and fear?

St. Paul cautioned the Corinthians to remember the word he preached to them but then adds, “unless you believed in vain.” That’s what we should fear, unbelief. Through these words we hear this morning God speaks to our hearts and minds working the gift of faith, living faith, saving faith. We heard Him say, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is 25:8). Paul lists some of the appearances of the risen Lord. The catechism attempts to explain the unexplainable calling us to faith.

From the “No Vacancy” sign of Bethlehem to the empty tomb we are led to believe “that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord,

who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,

that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,

just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity, for this is most certainly true.

Still faith is challenged all along the way. Let the vacant tomb remind you that your Lord has taken away your sins. Even the sins that still so easily beset us cannot defeat the gift of faith. Even death has been transformed to be but the gate to eternal life. For as our Lord is risen from the dead, alive and reigning so we are promised new bodies for old in the day of resurrection. It was especially St. Paul who attempted to explain it, but faith doesn’t wait or depend on the explanation or the understanding of the mind, but only trusts in the Word and promises of God.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” says our risen Lord (John 14:19)