Sermon summaries and audio files
Eckardtesian Thought: I think, therefore I write . . .
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Listen! It says here, When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. When the sabbath was past! Behold, the sabbath is past! A new and eternal week has begun. The sabbath is past! The day of rest is over; and Christ’s rest from the sleep of death is done. He finished his work on Friday, when he said, It is finished, and then he rested. He went to sleep; he died. But now the sabbath is past, as it is written, I laid me down and slept, I awaked, for the Lord sustained me. The sabbath is past, and now Jesus our eternal Sabbath has arisen from the dead.
But in the Marys still do not know. Instead they wonder, Who will roll us away the stone from the sepulchre? They had bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint him, but now it occurs to them that there had been a great stone rolled in front of the door of the sepulchre. What would they do? But then all at once they saw to their great surprise that the great stone had already been rolled away. (Of course it had! For the grave itself had lost its sting. It was empty, void, and impotent. It could not hold its captive, for he had arisen, and Life had triumphed over death.) But they did not yet know this. They needed to be told.
And so now they are told, by a young man sitting in the sepulchre. He says, “Be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen.” At the rising of the sun they hear this, as it is written, “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings: and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” This is the day! The Sun of righteousness has arisen, and has crowned the sunrise of every morning with its true meaning. Christ the Sun of righteousness has arisen.
An angel tells them so, an angel here described as a young man in a long white garment sitting in the sepulchre, on the right side. What does this mean? The angel is described as a young man, for the young Man Jesus has himself stepped out of this sepulchre alive forever, and forever young, with flesh is no longer corruptible but incorruptible; no longer mortal but immortal. And the angel sits, like an judge, to betoken the Judge Eternal, Almighty God. And the judgment is this: that the sweet sacrifice of Christ for the sin of the world has been accepted. The sacrifice was perfect and so has resulted in the redemption of the world and the reconciliation of the world to God. And it is on the right side that the angel sits, in token that Jesus, who now sits at the right hand of the Father, is a full participant in this judgment. And the angel’s garment is white, for although our sins have been as scarlet, they have become white as snow, done away forever, as far as the east is from the west, and as high as the heavens are above the earth. And the garment is long, for this judgment is true into the ages of ages, world without end. Ah! Such a wonderful sight! Such marvelous words! Such glad tidings these are!
But the women are afraid. Afraid? Is this not strange? Why are they afraid? Jesus is not in the grave, and the angel announces that he has risen, just as he had said that he would. But hearing this glorious, wonderful news—news that we would expect should drive away all their fears—they are instead terrified. They tremble and are amazed. And though the angel instructs them to go tell Jesus’ disciples that he is risen from the dead, they do not say anything to anyone, for are afraid. Afraid! But why?
This is an important question. Now behold from this detail the fact that here we have no idle tale; this is what actually happened. The women could not bring themselves to believe this news, because the news was too wonderful and stunning. It was news they simply could not take in. They knew that Jesus had done many wondrous miracles, and that he had even raised the dead: he had raised Jairus’ daughter; he had raised the widow’s son; he had raised Lazarus who had been in the tomb four days. But now it was Jesus himself who had died. He was dead. They saw that. They knew that. They were devastated by that fact. But now? What? How—? See, of course they are afraid! What could they make of all this? Not only is the body not here, but an angel sits here in its place. Suddenly a new reality descends upon their consciousness, and turns their world upside down. They simply cannot take this in. It’s too much, too wonderful, too unbelievable. Words escape them; their very breath is taken away. Stunned, shocked, overwhelmed! This is what happened, which is precisely what we must expect would happen if this entire story were truly what happened, and not itself some idle tale.
For we all know about idle tales, myths and fairy tales. They always have fantastical things happening in them, and characters who carry on without taking thought, as the story line continues. But not here. Here we have an actual, physical, and very real event: these women, who fully expected that their only problem would be how they would get into the tomb to anoint the body, and the need to find someone to roll away the stone for them, are now shocked to find the stone already rolled away, and Jesus’ body gone, and an angel sitting there telling them that he had risen. They were positively astonished! Of course they were, just as you would be if it had happened to you.
This is no idle tale! And if someone should say that this is merely some fantastical, mythological tale, or that we believe such stories merely because we so badly want them to be true, and that we wanted somehow to comfort ourselves with ethereal notions that Christ just went on to heaven after he died, that it’s just make-believe, the stuff of legends and wishes, then we can simply say, Not so! See what kind of report this is. The reaction of these terrified women would not fit at all with a legend or a myth. It belongs to flesh-and-blood reality. It’s true. And yes, it’s stunning, and it would terrify anyone who was actually there to see it. And it did.
And then, shortly after this, Jesus himself did appear. First, to Mary Magdalene, who must have come back shortly after this and lingered in the garden; and he spoke to her, he called her by name, and then she believed! And later the same day he appeared to two disciples on the Emmaus Road, and spoke with them, made himself known to them, and then they believed; and then that evening he appeared in the upper room to all the disciples, and spoke to them all, and then they believed. And these things are written, says the Evangelist, that ye might believe. Oh dearly beloved in the Lord! That ye might believe!
Jesus is risen from the grave! Truly risen! He stood on earth, in front of these eyewitnesses, who now testify to you the things they have heard and seen. Their very hands have handled the Word of life. He was dead, yes. But he is not dead. He had truly died, yes. But he lives. And this astonishing, shocking, marvelous, wonderful story is absolutely true. And today, he who lives, never again to die, is truly present with his church, and feeds us today, here, now, with this glorious Gospel, and this most blessed, holy Sacrament. He lives, and he’s here!
He lives! Believe this, and you shall live too, and never die! And the grave that could not hold him will never be able to hold you either. Be not affrighted! Jesus is risen!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Sermon for Easter Sunrise