Submitted by Pastor David Klappenbaugh, First Lutheran Church, Rock Port, MO
“Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’” John 20:19
Back in my days as a senior seminary student, the parish I was assigned to celebrated the Easter sunrise service in the church cemetery. You may think that is an odd place to worship our Lord. A graveyard is a place of death and decay, where the greedy ground, salty from the tears of mourners, devours one loved one after another and will one day call each of us. So a graveyard would be the last place one would want to go to worship God. But you think about it: the very first Easter began in a graveyard. Jesus Christ was buried in a graveyard after He died on the cross. His followers’ hopes had been dashed because of Jesus’ crucifixion. It appeared that death had won.
Mary Magdalene, early Easter Sunday morning, comes to the tomb to be with the man who had transformed her life. When she arrives the great stone has been rolled away. Fearing that grave robbers had taken the body of Jesus, she runs and tells Peter and John, who race to the tomb to see for themselves. Mary slowly returns to the tomb and is met by two angels and finally by the risen Lord Himself.
Then quickly, in rapid succession follows a series of amazing encounters with the dazzled disciples and the risen Lord. Seeing was believing. First for the women at the tomb, then the 11 disciples together, then 500 at once (1Corinthians 15:1-6). They saw Him, and talked with him and walk the old familiar paths for the next 40 days. After Pentecost the disciples went into the world with the message and the good news that Christ is risen!
This Easter when we came together we heard the same account of the Jesus’ resurrection that has been passed down throughout the past 2,000 years. “He is risen!” He is risen from the dead. Death does not have power over our Lord.
Wherever this truth has gone, people’s lives have been changed from grief and fear to joy and assurance. The resurrection of Jesus is the great triumphant message that the world has received. Without the resurrection there would be no hope in this grim and hostile world. Will the killing ever stop? Will the blood of the martyrs cease to flow? Will we ever get free from our suspicions, our jealousy, and often hidden prejudices?
Since that first Easter, we can be assured that the Christian Church will not be defeated. He and His plans are linked with God the Father’s Divine power which controls the ultimate destiny of the world. It is certain victory in Christ our risen Lord!
The resurrection also means that no matter what happens in life we can find the strength to endure. Christ is available to help us with our daily problems. God offers us His power in our daily routine. He offers us strength that comes from being at peace with God.
It means that when we die it is not end of things. Life continues in the eternal presence of God. When a loved one dies we can be confident that one day we will join them in heaven along with all who have gone before us. Many of the trumpet lilies that adorned our altar in memory of loved ones blare out the glorious news, “He lives, and because He lives we shall also live.” As we walk through a graveyard we can walk in confidence among the tombstones because an angel pointed to an empty tomb and declared, “He is not here. He is risen!”