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Making Good An Old Promise (St. Mark 16.1-8)

The Resurrection of Our Lord

“Making Good An Old Promise”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

St. Mark 16.1-8

12 April 2020

 

+ In the Name of Jesus +

How many promises do you make and keep? We tend to forget or not follow through, don’t we? I know I let people down way too often, in ways big and small. Oh, the sinful flesh always has an excuse – but it’s never really right. Promises broken totally, or kept imperfectly: the hard truth is that an apology and begging forgiveness is all that one ought to do.

And we become cynical all too easily about anyone who makes us a promise. Politicians make a promise? Let’s not go there. People we know make a promise? We hope for the best. What about when God makes a promise to us? Will He make good on it?

This Easter Sunday, we hear news from the grave of Jesus that give us a resounding and earth changing answer. Today, all of God’s promises find their yes – their resounding YES! – in the resurrection of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Where we fall short in keeping our promises to God and to our neighbors – where we are let down by the world and our sinful nature – there the risen Jesus has stepped into the breach left by our empty promises, and has made good on all He has ever said and done in the Holy Scriptures, giving us someone we can really and truly count on.

If you read the Gospels and listen to Jesus, you can’t say that you didn’t see Easter coming. And neither, really, could the women who went to the tomb or the disciples locked away in fear in the upper room on this morning so long ago. Not only had Jesus openly predicted His own death and resurrection, but God had constantly preached through the prophets about the promise of resurrection from the dead, the overcoming of death and the grave:

How about Job’s hope even through his trials and sufferings:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:23-27, ESV)

Isaiah twice expresses God’s promise for the Resurrection:

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ ” (Isaiah 25:7-9, ESV)

And:

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19, ESV)

The Lord said to Ezekiel the prophet,

“Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.”(Ezekiel 37:11-13, ESV)

And finally, God said to Daniel,

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2, ESV)

Those weren’t the only words and signs done in the Old Testament. The promise was given at the Fall of Man in the ancient garden. The serpent shall bruise the Savior’s heel, but the Savior would live to crush the head of the serpent – the serpent would pay with its death – the Savior would live through the attack of the serpent and be victorious.

Ever since, God has been delivering His people from death and bringing them victorious out of their calamity.

At the waters of the Great Flood, the Lord God caused believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all, to be delivered from the evil of a wicked and perverse generation, and the drowning judgment and death of the deluge. The multitudes who rejected the Lord were destroyed; the faithful Church was saved.

At the waters of the Red Sea, the Lord God caused the children of Israel to be delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh. The sea was but a path of dry ground as they passed through; yet it became a watery grave for the godless army that pursued them.

God spared Isaac and returned him to his father Abraham, giving the ram in his place. Jospeh was restored to Jacob and his brothers, after his brothers deceived their father into thinking Joseph had been killed. Then there were the conquests of Joshua, the mighty deliverances of the people under Gideon, Samson, and the great judges of Israel – the victories of great King David.

The women at the tomb and the disciples hidden in fear knew all of this intellectually. But why did they doubt? Why did they forget that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning?

That’s what sin and its consequences do to us. We forget the saving works of God throughout history, we forget that God has promised His believers a life beyond the grave that far surpasses what we have here. We doubt and fear and worry, just as the women on Easter morning approached the Lord’s tomb expecting to find death and decay, just as the disciples cowered in fear of their own cross in the upper room.

Yet, now is the morning when all of God’s old promises have been made good. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation! Where are doubts? Where are fears? Who frets? Who worries? Who sorrows as others do who have no hope? Come near today and lend your ears to the angel’s earth shattering announcement that trumpets forth from the Lord’s empty tomb:

The Lord Jesus is not forever dead. “He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16.6–7) Jesus arose from the chains of death, proclaimed His victory over death and hell, and directed His angels to decree this glorious Gospel to the women who would arrive, and eventually, to His blessed disciples, all of them becoming witnesses of His resurrection. Jesus has burst the fetters of death and hell! He has vanquished the grave! He has kept His Word! He has brought light out of darkness, in Him, life has triumphed over death!

Let these tidings, wherever you may be today, dispel the darkness and extinguish all doubts and fears. The grave has been conquered, yes, but even more, Easter’s victory means that your sins have been atoned for, all the foolish doubts, all the times we’ve feared and fretted and worried instead of trusting God’s promises. All the times we’ve made and broken promises to God and to each other – those are forgiven and atoned for as well.

These and every sin have been atoned for a thousand times over, for God’s Son bore these sins in His body on the cross, and buried them, and they are gone forever in God’s sight. Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one, He has risen, He is not here in this grave. This grave and every grave has been conquered – see the place where they laid Him? It’s empty. God accounts you who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, all who are baptized into His death and resurrection and so are joined to Him as members of His resurrected and ascended body, as forgiven, and righteous in His sight, for Jesus’ sake.

Today, let us purge out the old and evil leaven of sin, doubt, and fear from our lives. Put off the mourning garments of this crushing season of Lent, and let us feast. Feast today on God’s Word that He has made good on His every promise to you and every believer. Rejoice that God is gracious and abounding in steadfast love, and that He can be depended upon and trusted today, and tomorrow, and for all eternity. Feast, for it is glad Easter Day! Let us wherever we are sing His glorious praises, sing with all your heart and voice, dear Christians. Let the high praises of God be in our mouths, saying:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

R: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

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