What did the women have to do in order to anoint Christ? They had to wait until after sunset the day before to buy their spices. They had to wait that long because Saturday was the Sabbath when you could not buy or sell if you were a pious Jew. So they had to wait.
Then they had to get up very early Sunday morning to get to the tomb as early as possible – what commitment! What devotion of their heart! They would not wait a minute longer to show love to their departed Friend.
But a living body does not need spices. There was no smell of decay for the Body of Christ, nor ever will be. In fact, there was and is no Body of Christ in the tomb to anoint at all.
We would rather we were doing favors for Christ, like the women. If we do a good work, we want to think, “Aha! See that? I did so much work. God, did You notice? I hope You will remember this next time You decide whether to give me a big blessing.”
Then if the Lord does not give us something we want, we think, “How could You deny me when I did such a great thing the other day? I deserve it! I did You a favor, but You treated me bad!”
For example, we want to go to church as if we were performing some wonderful work for God. But He needs no favors. He owes us nothing in return. We are the ones who need worship, not Him. We die without worship.
Our Savior, although He was obedient to every commandment, died and was raised, never to die again. He does not suffer any pain or hunger. He does not suffer anything. He needs nothing, least of all from us. Even if we could give Him something, everything that exists is from Him and belongs to Him, up to and including any good deed that we could do, no matter how selfless and extravagant we might think our works are. How could we ever give Him anything that He needs?
He does not even need anything from angels. An angel rolled away the stone from the tomb, but Christ did not need the angel to do it. He could have spoken a word, and the stone would dissolve into dust. Or He could kick it, and it would go into orbit. What He apparently did was simply pass through the stone or the walls of the tomb to show how powerless it was to contain Him. He was already gone before the angel rolled away the stone, so little did He need any angel’s help.
Christ is stronger than death – but do we fully believe it? He promised the disciples He would rise, and they did not at first believe. But that is how He works, by promises. Our joy and task as believers is to learn His promises and trust that He will keep them.
Today we especially learn that He has promised us resurrection. He rose on our behalf, to show us our destiny. He showed us that the power of death is broken. He showed us that we will step out of our graves on the last day.
What a wonderful promise! How could we not be as amazed as the women were? The enemy of man is defeated. Since the sting of death is broken, satan and sin also cannot destroy us. We have eternity of life and perfect happiness to look forward to!
But, amazing as His promises are, we sometimes want other promises that we make up. We sometimes prefer to think that God needs to make us happy and healthy and financially well off. Oh, we do not ask for perfection. A little sniffle now and then is not bad, although we may get awfully grouchy at the time. We do not want to be too rich, although we would not complain. Just comfortable enough, and no need to worry about finances. If we had a little more, surely then we would stop worrying. And we tell ourselves other lies as we make demands of God. Do this for me, do that for me.
Asking a loving Father for gifts and saying, “Thy will be done,” is one thing. But human nature likes to make ultimatums to God. Give us what we ask for, or else we will avoid Your house.
Sometimes our problem is not God but the believers around us. They need to make us happy or else we will boycott them. As if God promised that all men would always treat us perfectly.
All this is to treat Christ as if His resurrection is not reality. Christ has done it and Christ has conquered the unconquerable – how can we put conditions on Him as if He did not do enough for us?
From a sinful human perspective, believing in the Resurrection of Christ is foolish. It does not agree with our scientific, real-life experiences. Dead bodies do not spontaneously come back to life. A man dead three days does not rise, any more than non-living matter suddenly comes to life. Death is final and unbeatable, at least from the perspective of our sinful flesh.
Christ’s victory over death does not agree with our emotions. Death devastates and traumatizes us. Even the women at the tomb, after they heard the message of the angel, trembled and were afraid to say anything to anyone. They had just received the message of the Lord of life’s victory over the grave, but they were still afraid.
Many things in this world may excite and astonish us, as the women were excited and astonished. But so often the things that make us ecstatic do not include the Word of God. The latest this and the latest that easily capture our attention. Our favorite pastime or a favorite person visiting or a favorite show or food or music or experience. But the Word of God does not often excite us. Should we not tremble with excitement, because the Lord who has conquered death for us comes among us to speak His promises? He gives out incomprehensibly magnificent gifts! How could we sit here and yawn, or worse, how could we be bored by the Word? So often, we are.
So often, we are afraid. We are scared of life and what it can bring. We fear dangers, real or imagined.
Or we are sorrowful, because we act as if we are not victors over death with Christ. We are too often tossed about by circumstances because we are not as steady in faith as we should be. As sinners, we are easily trapped in feelings of despair and depression.
What is the antidote? Listen to the Gospel! Hear the message of the angel, as He speaks to us Christ’s victory. Hear what the women saw, because even the bare facts of their eyewitness testimony to us is good news to make the foundations of the earth tremble in excitement.
So what does the Holy Gospel show us? What did the women see?
There were angels. Our text mentions one, who is called a young man in a white robe. That is what he appeared to be, although we know from other Scriptures that he was one of a number of angels who appeared that morning. He tells us, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
What fantastic news! The Crucified One has also become the Risen One. He did not only pay the price for our sins, but He also rose to show us that His payment has earned life and immortality for you. The Father has accepted the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb, and has shown His approval by raising Christ from the dead. So He will also raise you.
There was also a stone-rolling angel not mentioned in our text, although his handiwork is. He rolled away the stone, which is not necessary for Christ, but is important for the women and us. The view into the tomb should be unobstructed so that the emptiness of the tomb can be plainly evident. Look! No body! Now, that does not necessarily mean resurrection, since the body might have just been missing or stolen. But the angel in the tomb helps the women and helps us by interpreting what they saw with the words, “He is risen!”
Notice that the focus is never on the angels. It is on Christ. He is the important One. Look what He did! He has accomplished all things for us!
In our lives, we want to focus on us. Look at my life. Look at all I have to deal with. God, look at my circumstances. What are You doing about it?
But God simply tells us, “Look at My Son. That is what I have done about it. I am bringing death to life and erasing sin with the Blood of the crucifixion. I have opened up the door to everlasting life for you.”
Praise be to this only Savior of men! In Christ, death, the enemy of all men, is conquered. It will be finally abolished on the day of the resurrection of all flesh. Even now, the true terrors of death cannot destroy us who believe, because Christ is risen. The tomb is empty. He has done it for you. Look at Him.
In His Name and to His everlasting glory. Amen.
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