“Just As He Told You”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
What a joy to be together today to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the very heart and soul of our faith – the great hope of Christians everywhere – that Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the grave – and has secured for us the sure and certain hope of eternal life and everlasting salvation.
Which makes the ending of our Gospel reading today seem just a little bit strange. It doesn’t quite end the way we would like it to end. We want the woman at the tomb, who had just heard the words “He has risen” to join us in a hail and hearty “Alleluia!” We want them to run from the tomb with a spring in their step, full of confidence and assurance, ready to tell everyone everywhere the good news about Jesus they had just heard. But that’s not how it ends – not this reading anyway. Instead, it ends with them being seized with fear and trembling and astonishment. It ends – along with Mark’s whole gospel – with what seem to be some very unlikely words, “for they were afraid.” Come on, Mark, is that any way to end the story?
But I am here to tell this morning that this is indeed the right ending. And why is that? Because it’s an ending that’s based on reality – one that rings true – one that we can all relate to. It’s kind of like the cliffhanger or plot twist right before the big surprise ending of an action/adventure movie that keeps you hanging until the final climax. It grabs our focus – it grabs our attention – and it also focuses our attention not upon ourselves or our own faith, but on the foundation for our faith, that is, the sure and certain words of Jesus Himself. That comes through in this little phrase that the angel uses, when he says, referring to Jesus, “Just as He Told You.”
Let’s back up and take it from the top. It’s Sunday morning, the first day of the week. It’s very early Sunday morning. Dawn is just beginning to dispel the darkness surrounding Jerusalem. The women set out, bearing spices with which to anoint the body of their beloved Master. They want to get there as soon as possible, because Jesus’ body had been placed in the tomb late Friday afternoon, and they couldn’t do anything on Saturday, since it was the Sabbath. So the “Spice Girls” want to get there as soon as they can, before the body deteriorates any further.
But when they get to the tomb things are not what they seem. The stone covering the tomb has been rolled away. They look inside, but they don’t see the body of Jesus. Instead, they see a young man dressed in a white robe. It’s an angel, of course, and whenever angels appear in the Bible, the people are usually scared witless. So the women are afraid, as well as confused and perplexed by the absence of Jesus’ body. What the heck is going on here? But the angel immediately tells them, “Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be afraid. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Alright, okay, here we go! Jesus has been raised! The body hasn’t been stolen. Jesus is alive! God be praised! But the angel continues: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” The women now have a mission to carry out. Funny how that works – how the proclamation immediately turns into the mission. The good news they have received – they are now to pass on to others. To the disciples, Jesus’ followers, the ones who had been with him since the beginning. They need to hear this message first.
But hold on a second, these are the same guys who deserted Jesus in his hour of need, just a couple of nights earlier. When Jesus was betrayed and arrested, they all ran away. Peter, who had boasted that he would never fall away, actually denied Jesus three times. It’s pretty significant that the angel makes a special point of mentioning Peter. He knows Peter is in distress and despair, so he needs to hear perhaps more than anyone right now the good news that Jesus is risen and living.
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” “Just as he told you.” Yes, Jesus had told His disciples that all of this would happen. He had said this just the other night, on Thursday night, when he had predicted that they would all fall away when he was arrested and killed. “After I am raised up, He said, I will go before you to Galilee.” Everything is happening “just as he told them.”
Let’s think back to the words of Jesus earlier in the week. Remember Palm Sunday? As they drew near to Jerusalem He told His disciples to go into a village where they would find a colt tied on which no one had sat. And it says when they went into the village they found it – just as He had told them. And remember how on Thursday, Jesus sent two of the disciples into Jerusalem, where they would see a man with a water jar, and he would lead them to a house where there would be a room for the Passover Supper? And what does it say? They “went to the city and found it just as He had told them.”
So what else had Jesus told them? Well, three times he had told them that they were going to go up to Jerusalem where He
would be handed over and be killed, each time Jesus adding the words, “and after three days he will rise.” And it was just as he told them.
What’s the point? You can rely on Jesus’ words. You can trust what He says. If Jesus says He is gonna rise from the dead, He’s gonna rise from the dead. If Jesus says He’s going on to Galilee where you will see Him – then you can be darn sure you’re gonna see Him in Galilee. If Jesus promises that He will always be with you and that He will never leave you nor forsake you – guess what – He will always be with you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus’ words are sure and certain and true. You can stake your life on them. You can take them to the bank.
And so, there at the empty tomb these words of Jesus are relayed to the women by the angel dressed in white. He has risen, just as he said. He is going before you, and you will see him. Just as he told you.
This is where the situation of the women matches your situation here today. They had a young man dressed in a white robe telling them that Jesus had risen and that they would see Him again. In the same way you also have a – maybe not a young man – but you have a man dressed in a white robe telling you basically the same thing – that Jesus is risen and living and you will see Him again. Just like the women at the tomb, you have God’s messenger passing along to you the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. This is a message you can count on. You can rely on it. Why? Because Jesus said so. And He always keeps His Word.
You see, the resurrection of JC from the dead validates everything He ever did and said up to this point. And that includes what Jesus said about going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The cross is where that happened. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of Man, died on that cross to pay the ransom – the redemption price that sets us free. Christ our Lord has redeemed us by his holy precious blood, setting us free from the burden of our sin, rolling the stone away from the grave that awaits us. Because now, with our sins forgiven, death no longer has any hold on us. We now share in Christ’s resurrection – His life, love, forgiveness, and salvation. We have Jesus’ word on it, and that word is certain and true.
And so we come away from Easter the same way the women came away from the tomb. With the words of Jesus passed along to us, the good news of the gospel, ringing in our ears, and rolling off our lips. We haven’t seen the risen Christ face to face, but we know we will someday. He has gone before us, into heaven, and there we will see him. Just as He said.
Ok great. But then why do the women go away scared, trembling, astonished and afraid? Well, think about it. Everything was so new and foreign and different from what they had expected. The reality of it all had not yet sunk in. And maybe there were some things to be afraid of. The enemies of Jesus were still around. They had just killed Jesus. They were probably out looking for his followers. Would there be danger in store for them?
Yes, there would be. Back then and still today. Life can be scary and even dangerous for followers of Jesus. It’s a crazy world out there. It’s no wonder we become afraid sometimes. But even in this dicey and dangerous world, we can rest assured in the presence and promise of our Savior and Lord and Friend. We can be comforted and encouraged in the fact that Jesus has overcome death and the grave and any evil that anyone can do to us. We have the victory. He has won the war.
And because of that, dear friend in Christ, you have a unique opportunity before you today and throughout this Easter Season. You have the distinct honor and privilege of being a good news person in a bad news world. Whether you realize it or not, as a baptized Child of God, you have been assigned as a Goodwill Ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven. You have been called to bring peace and hope, comfort and joy, love and forgiveness in Jesus name to the people around you who need it. And as you go about this important task, you can know that God loves you and Jesus forgives you and the Spirit walks with you through it all. Because no matter what, Jesus is risen and living, ruling and reigning, and you will someday share in His resurrection and His eternal life with His people forever. How do you know that? Because he has gone before you, and He has promised that you will see Him, just as he told you. And you know what? I’d say that makes for a pretty good ending.
Christ is Risen!