Sermon Easter Vigil March 31, 2018

Romans 6:3-11                                  Psalm 114                                           Mark 16:1-8

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Through our readings this evening we have followed major events in the history of the Jewish people and therefore of we Christians too.  Those events prefigured Jesus’ life and mission.  The near sacrifice of Isaac Abraham’s only son, even to the extent of carrying the wood of the instrument of death on his shoulders, was accomplished by Jesus on the Cross, the only Son of God.  The Israelites passing through the Red Sea on their escape from the slavery of Evil Egypt, prefigures our escape from the powers of Evil over us in the waters of Baptism in the name of the Triune God.  And the prophecy of Zephaniah that God will be amongst us and that God will renew us and save us from Sin was realised in the life of Jesus.

All of this, which occurred starting about four thousand years ago, was fulfilled in three days from Good Friday through to Easter and that is why we look with such great anticipation for tomorrow, for Easter, the Day of Resurrection.

Let me take a moment to look at something that I think you all may identify with.  The Bible tells the story of humanity and its salvation not exclusively with high ideals and miraculous events but often with ordinary people doing what they ordinarily do, that is the beauty and honesty of the Bible stories.  On Good Friday Joseph of Arimathea with Pilate’s permission, took the body of Jesus to his own tomb.  It was coming up to the Sabbath, which started just three hours after Jesus died, there was no time to find another resting place for Him.  Joseph a ruler in Israel being a member of the Sanhedrin was aided by Nicodemus, a Pharisee.  They were both disciples and they knew that they would be made ritually impure by touching a dead body, and could therefore not participate in the Passover, a great sacrifice for a Jew;  their joint mission therefore cost them a lot.  The story goes on  “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews”  (John 19:39-40).  Now these two men would know exactly what to do in the preparation of a body for the grave and they did it quickly.  Jesus’ Body lay in the tomb from Friday to Sunday.  Sunday morning, what happens ?  Three women arrive with spices  (I’m sure not one hundred pounds of them)  to do the job again.  It seems to me that the women thought the men could not have done it right, so they would !  Can anyone here identify with that ?

To be fair it was the task of the women relatives to prepare the body for burial and the women may have left Golgotha before Jesus’ Body was taken down  (although I doubt that)  and they may not have been aware of all that had been done by the men but they did know where Jesus was buried and most of what had taken place  (Mark 15:47).  It’s just one of those very human stories that makes the Bible very real to me, and I hope to you too;  these are real people with all the foibles, issues and problems we have.  Their stories are written down and seem to be preordained, but they were not, every moment they lived was just like the ones we experience.  They met deadlines, worried about what’s for dinner, why one of their children is such a troublemaker, what’s the best way to take care of grandma, finding enough cash to pay the rent, finding the time to make or repair things or looking for a job, but right now deciding what to do with the executed body of their friend and leader under the ever watchful eye of the occupying army.  There was no script for them to follow, they just did what they thought was right.  It’s an amazing story but understanding that these are real people makes it possible and only then can it become a matter of Faith.

But in the end what does it matter that the women came to do over what the men had done ?  Jesus was not dead !!!  He no more needed spices than a butterfly needs its wings repainted.  The incredible had happened, after three days in the Tomb Jesus had been restored to life.  Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days  (John 11:17)  before Jesus raised him from the dead;  that resurrection was to cost Jesus His life  (John 12:9-11).  But who was there to raise Jesus from the dead ?  There was no other miracle worker who could do that.  The only One who could was Jesus Himself.  And that is precisely what had happened ! / Divine power overcame Death !  For all time.

The women became apostles the very moment they stepped into the Tomb and encountered the angel.  Apostles because they were sent, sent to tell the disciples of the Resurrection and what to do, that’s the job of an apostle.  But there is one very significant instruction to them, they were to tell  ‘the disciples and Peter’.  Now Peter was a disciple, so why separate him out ?  Very simply although all save one disciple had run away, Peter had denied Christ.  The angel wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was forgiven.  There is no sin so great, and can there be one any greater than denying God, no sin, that cannot be forgiven  (except Mark 3:29).  That is where our hope lies.  In our daily hustle and bustle we do and think all sorts of reprehensible things.  Day by day those things build up and would drown us, even in baptismal waters, except that baptismal waters cleanse, because they represent the Death and Resurrection of Christ, wherein we are all saved.  So tonight we wait in faithful anticipation for the Impossible but real Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Crucified Saviour.  Amen.

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