The Resurrection of Our Lord, Sunrise Service
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. John 20.1-18
04 April 2021
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
“I have seen the Lord.” Thus says the blessed Mary Magdalene to a room full of fearful disciples. John and Peter, in that order, had arrived at the tomb to find nothing but an empty cave with some folded laundry in it. How is it that this woman has seen the Lord? Who can believe her report? Perhaps John pondered this in his heart, having believed at seeing the empty tomb, but the others were afraid. Yes, they locked themselves in for fear of the Jews, but perhaps they also hid in fear of the Lord, their friend whom they had abandoned to his fate. And what were they? They were hardly a glorious company to be a part of, by all worldly standards. It was made up of Matthew, the tax collector, Jude and Simon the Zealots or insurrectionists, terrorists you might say, Judas the traitor who was now dead by his own hand; and what’s worse, the rest are—God forgive them—fishermen, probably a smelly lot. And now here is this Mary of Magdala coming to them, a woman who had to have seven demons thrown out of her by Jesus: seven. She may also be the woman who anoints Jesus feet and wipes them with her hair, who made quite a spectacle in front of those pious Pharisees. Some theologians have even wondered if she wasn’t also the woman who was caught in adultery who Jesus had to rescue from being stoned. In any case, she was once an adamant sinner who invited the company of seven demons, and was probably not at all liked or respected in her community. The people probably looked at her and thought of her as dirty, filthy, nothing but a common harlot.
Yet the words she is tasked to deliver by her risen Lord speak with none of this venom. Although Jesus well could have said something along the lines of, “where were you, you feckless wretches, where were you when I needed you? Even you, my friends, who ate my bread, even you have lifted your heel against me.” Jesus could have just as easily swept into the room through the closed doors with all the wrath and fury of God and smote them all by the sword of His righteous justice. But the words he speaks through Mary are entirely opposite: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” What great mercy is this? Who are they to hear such words of comfort, when they are so worthy of wrath? They are nobody and nothing, unworthy of any honor, yet alone divine and infinite mercy. Yet our Lord came for such as these, such as they who regarded themselves as nobody and nothing, as unworthy of grace: to these it is His good pleasure to call “my brothers.” He had made them like David was to Jonathan—bound by blood, best of friends, promised to be there for each other to the bitter end. But Peter had denied him before the world, had cowered from suffering with His Lord whom he swore to follow; he refused the man who had made him His rock, His Peter, His beloved brother and right hand man. The other apostles once cheated their countrymen out of their living, some may have even had blood on their hands, having rebelled against their rightfully ordained government, or were debauched in other various ways before the Lord Jesus made them princes with whom there is no equal. Paul was even at this moment drunk on the blood of the victory of the Jews, crying out in triumph and knowing nothing of God’s love. And yet our Lord will breathe this same title on them all: “My brothers.”
And so I tell you, my brothers and sisters here, this is the sum of all the Gospels: Jesus is our brother. The wrath of God has passed over us by the Cross of the Christ. The Son of Man ascended the pole so that we might look upon Him and live, that He should swallow death on this holy mountain. He ascended into the furnace of God’s wrath and drank that cup to the dregs, in order that He might be our High Priest and sacrifice, who pours out salvation, life, and comfort from the blood and water of His side. And so He will ascend into Heaven, that He might fill all things at the right hand of His Father and your Father, where He will be our ever-present, constant shield and guide. And so the sun rises on this Easter morning an entirely changed one from the day before, for this is the day that the Lord has made. The world is made new, for He has redeemed it, and He has filled it; hear it in His words: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
These words convey our greatest comfort. Yet, they are not new, as St. Paul relates to us: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures.” Christ has fulfilled all of the Torah, all the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms, every Scripture old and new. The Word of God Himself has come down and fulfilled what was written by the Spirit of Him, and now He proclaims it to you: “You are my brothers, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” These are the same words proclaimed, by the grace of God, by every man who has ever followed in the Apostolic Office of the Ministry; this is the same cry that we trumpet forth to you today: “You are my brothers.” Just as He is risen, in the same way, so are you. From the grave of your sin, the Lord has risen in the east, and lifted you up out of the pit, out of Sheol, out of Hades, out of death and hell, out of sin and sorrow, pain and suffering, and He wipes away all your tears. You are no longer lost, no longer in darkness, no longer worth nothing; No, you are purged of it all here and now. Now he has crowned you kings and queens, anointed you His royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own people, His own children, and He has given you His mercy from the seat of His Cross, so that you can say with Him, “Our Father.” Everything is restored to you double, although you have warranted nothing. Rejoice, you His brothers, for His mercy endures forever.
And so let it be said, on this 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. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Christ is Risen; He is Risen Indeed, ☩ Alleluia!