At this early Easter Divine Service, we hear the account of the earliest resurrection appearance of Christ. All His followers missed the moment of death’s reversal as Christ the Lord of life stepped forth from the tomb. All of them either forgot or did not believe His promise to rise. They did not understand the Scriptures that it was necessary for the Messiah to rise again the third day.
Even Mary Magdalene was looking for a stolen dead body. She thought Christ was the gardener. Yet Christ chose to appear first to her.
Here, in this sad, dark century, I am compelled to take time to oppose the myth that Mary was the wife of our Lord. There are many ways to refute this lie. But today I will simply point out what is in the text.
When Jesus reveals Himself and speaks Mary’s name, she turns and says, what? “My husband”? “My beloved”? Does she even call Him by name? No, she says, “Teacher.” Imagine that your spouse saw you alive after she thought that you were dead, and felt an incredible moment of joy. Would she call you, “Teacher”? Surely not.
She begins to lay hold of Him, causing Him to say, “Do not cling to Me.” The exact manner of her touching is not specified. Was she embracing Christ? Was she kneeling before Him to touch His feet (as a woman whom some believe to be Mary did on at least one other occasion)? If there was a moment to be on your knees before the Lord in worship, this was a good one, after He had conquered death and showed that He had fully paid the price for all mankind’s sins. But we do not know for certain in what way she touched Him.
One thing we know for sure: If Jesus were really Mary’s husband, then she had every right to touch Him. A husband’s body belongs to his wife, and a wife’s to her husband. To refuse her would be to act in a most cruel and unjust way. How could Christ be so callous?
Besides this, Christ knew that He would ascend to His Father, as He tells Mary. What Man would marry a woman even though He knew that He would leave her in a short time? This cruelty would amount to intentional abandonment, if not for the fact that He was not her husband.
But let us leave that behind and turn to better things. For we are the true Bride of Christ, the Church purchased with His Blood. By rising on Easter, He showed that He would not abandon His beloved saints. He will not abandon us, even if death tries to stand in His way. He will take us home to be with Him forever in the new heaven and new earth, in deathless glory forever.
We have the eyewitness testimony of the people to whom Christ intentionally showed Himself. That is also why Christ came to Mary – so that she could testify that she had seen Him alive. That is why later He appeared to many more. The fact of the Resurrection of Christ is so vital to us that we must be reassured that it really happened.
So you should believe this most firmly: Christ the Lord has risen from death.
Because He rose, you shall rise from the grave as well. Death has no more power over Him. So it has no more power over you.
Now He calls us brothers and sisters, with God as our Father. As Christ was begotten of the Father from eternity, now we have been reborn through water and the Word.
Now Christ’s God is our God. That sounds a little strange. How can Christ have a God? He is already God in human flesh. But out of respect and love for His Father, He submits Himself under the Father. On earth, He worshiped the Father and prayed to Him. At that time He had placed Himself under the Law, to obey all commandments as our substitute. But He also continues to place Himself under the Father, as voluntary submission to one who is equal. So He calls His Father “God” even after the Resurrection.
If He who is equal to the Father can do so, how much more should we, who are far beneath them, submit to the Father as God? How much more should we regularly and faithfully worship Him? How much more should we call upon His Name daily in prayer? How much more should we listen to His Word?
The fact that we have so much trouble with faithfully attending the Divine Service shows the need for which Christ had to die. The fact that we stubbornly make up excuses shows how far we have fallen from where we should be. Christ, who had every excuse in the world, used none. Instead, He treated His Father as God, and still does.
For this we should fall at His feet in repentance. We should weep in sorrow over our sins. Too often we are like Mary, weeping at the wrong occasions. When Christ had won the victory over sin, death, and the devil, she stood crying. We also sometimes are sorrowful when we should rejoice and shrug things off when we should be horrified.
May the Spirit of Christ overcome the prideful coldness of our sinful flesh, so that we may repent as we must. May He lead us to see the horrible weight of our sins, and rightly to tremble before God in sorrow.
For here we are, on the occasion of the commemoration of Christ’s victory over all the forces of evil. He suffered so much and worked so mightily to destroy all that has threatened us. Yet in our lives we have, too often, treated Him as if He has nothing to do with us. We have acted so many times as if other things are more important than the Resurrected Lord.
We have also too often acted as if Christ is not our Teacher. When Mary Magdalene called Him “Teacher,” she did not do wrong. This was the same Man who had been teaching His followers for years. Now He was not gone, but alive. Since He had conquered death, then He is proven to be the best of all teachers. We should attentively listen to His Word as the truth.
But we have been lazy. Other things get in the way. Gas costs too much to come to Church too often. Family, sports, hunting get in the way. We have been putting our priorities in the wrong order. We should say, “Any Man who has overcome the power of the grave can teach me anytime!”
What if Mary had met Christ at the Tomb and said, “Teacher! I am so glad that you are alive!” But then she walked away and hardly saw Him again, maybe an occasional visit, maybe as long as other social events did not get in the way, maybe as long as she was not too tired. If that had happened, we would rightly say that she was a poor follower of Christ.
Let us apply the same standard to ourselves, since He has done no less for us.
Let us also hold onto this truth from Scripture: It was necessary that Christ rise from the dead. Death could not have the last word over Him. There could be no body of Christ laid in the Tomb, decaying for many years. No, there could only be His grave clothes, folded up neatly, as no grave robber would leave them. This folding was the neat and unhurried action of the Lord who had beaten death.
This folding says it all. Now all of time was under His feet. There was no rush. All was accomplished. All things happened and would continue to happen according to His perfect plan.
We rest secure in that perfect plan. Time is our friend now, not our enemy. For death cannot truly threaten us. We will sleep, but we will also rise as He has done, unless He returns first. Either way, we are heading inevitably for the place where death is banished forever, the new heaven and the new earth. There is no rush. There is no frantic scrambling about as we worry that all will be lost. We cannot be lost, for we are His.
Of course, our sinful flesh still compels us to feel frantic and lost from time to time. Our heart still betrays us with a fear of death that has no place in the heart of a Christian. For we are the new Creation. We are the brothers and sisters of the Son of God. He is victorious over the grave, so we are as well.
We worship no dead Savior. We hear His living and active voice. He comes among us to feed us His Body and Blood. He will be with us until the very end of the age, and even for all eternity.
A dead Savior would leave us doubtful about whether our sins are forgiven. A dead Savior would cause us to question whether we have eternal life. But since He is living, we have every assurance that all is paid for, all is accomplished, and our future is secure in Him.
So rejoice today! Your Lord is alive! You are alive in Him! Life has triumphed over death, forever and ever, in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Brother.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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