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31. March 2013
Easter Dawn
John 20:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

The day began in the dark. Everyone was in the dark. Mary Magdalene despaired. The disciples hid themselves in the upper room. But the black grave could not hold the light of the world. Jesus Christ burst forth from His three day prison, casting the bright rays of His resurrection on the whole world.

This light is for the world, banishing the darkness of sin, crushing death, and casting Satan out forever. Just as the day breaks intentionally, casting its bright glow first upon the horizon and its early risers, so today we hear how Jesus intentionally revealed the good news of the resurrection to Mary Magdalene, then His disciples, and later the rest.

Why this Mary? Little is known about her. She was a close friend, considered part of the womanly band of disciples. In St. Luke’s Gospel it is recorded: “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” (Luke 8:1-2)

This most unlikely of ladies becomes the “apostle to the Apostles” (Augustine). This detail is recorded for your comfort. First, Jesus chose such a one shows that His Gospel of freedom from sin, death, devil, and hell is for all. He died for the sins of the outcast, the foreigner, the addict, the humiliated, the sick, and the women. Lower or upper class is immaterial. All were created by His Word and are redeemed by the Word’s death and resurrection.

Second, no one believed the Word until He revealed Himself. We struggle against our unbelief daily. Some days we’re confident children of God. But most days our sin and it’s shame and guilt sit heavy on our conscience. Our mortality is always before us. The fear of death haunts us.

So it was for Mary, the woman, and all the disciples. She dutifully returned early on the first day of the week to finish our Lord’s burial. She came to see to His body believing Him dead. Yet, the tomb was open. She immediately deferred to the chief of the Apostles St. Peter who return with her and the Evangelist John. Finding the tomb in order with the cloths neatly arranged, what did they believe? Not the resurrection. No, they believed his body stolen.

Insult was added to the most serious injury. They crucified her Lord and now they had stolen him, preventing even a reverent burial. Worse yet, she is left with her sin and those seven demons always vying to enter her again. Weeping. Terrified. But looking into the tomb, she sees two angels in white. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Did they not know? How had they missed the crucifixion that had all Jerusalem captivated?

This is the prelude to the sweetest Gospel for you. Dear Christians, why are you weeping? Are you condemned? Are you alone? Are you sick and tired of this life? Do you fear death? Whom do you seek? Faith never ends with such terrifying questions. But faith must be given. Sins forgiven. Life bestowed. Death transformed.

What you need is precisely what Mary received. You need Easter dawn as much as Mary. Unbelief changed into belief. Despair into hope. Terror into Joy. Death into Life. You need Jesus, His abiding presence, His tender Word. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” The darkness of early morning hid Jesus from her, supposing Him a gardener. But her doubt hid Him from her all the more.

What is the cure for spiritual darkness but light? And the light is Christ, the dayspring from on high, the light that lightens the nations. How does Jesus cast out demons? How does He banish the clouds of unbelief? He speaks! He calls you by name. “Mary!”

This is the truest Gospel word. When Jesus calls you by name He names you as His own. When He said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the bonds of sin were broken. You were rescued from the pit. You were torn from the grasp of the accuser and liar Satan. Even the wages of your sin were transformed. Death ceases to be anything but a blessed rest for those in Christ.

Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? All weeping is over. For the one we seek and could not find has risen and found us. He has called us by name and we are His. You are Christian. You are children of the Father. You are witnesses of the Resurrection. You have received sweet comfort of this greatest of news. Jesus lives! Sin is purged! Death is over!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana

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