April 17, 2022
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Easter account from Saint John.
Back in 2003 Dan Brown published The DaVinci Code which justifiably upset many Christians. This fictional story was about a conspiracy around the daughter of Jesus who was conceived because of an affair between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Despite the uproar, the book sold millions of copies, was made into a Tom Hanks movie, and earned Dan Brown fame and fortune. Personally, I think the book was poorly written, but I know some disagree with me, and that’s okay. But if you do read it, or if you’ve read it, you need to remember one thing: it’s absolute nonsense, rubbish, bologna, piffle, whatever synonym you chose. Our Lord was never married, and He certainly didn’t have a physical relationship with Mary Magdalene. It’s a lie that’s best ignored. Mary was a follower of Jesus and nothing more, except she heard the greatest Easter sermon ever told.
Mary Magdalene was one of five “Mary’s” we find in the New Testament, and to help keep everything straight, Mary was named after her hometown of Magdala. We know quite about Mary from the Bible. She came to faith when Jesus healed her by casting out the seven demons who had made their home in her. We don’t know if she was rich, however, she and some other ladies provided funds and support for Jesus during His public ministry. We also know that Mary was one of the women standing with Jesus’ mother at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. She also followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to the tomb with plans to return on Sunday morning to finish preparing Jesus for permanent burial.
It’s clear she loved Jesus deeply, but now what? Her Lord and Teacher is dead. She saw Him nailed to the cross, she watched the Roman soldier plunge a spear into the Christ’s side, making sure He was in fact dead. She cried as the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Everything she hoped for was lost. Everything she knew about Jesus was a lie. He was nothing He said He was! Mary knew it, everyone knows it, that when someone is dead, they stay dead, there’s no coming back. It’s no wonder that Mary was a mess come Easter morning.
What about you? Are you a mess this Easter morning? Are you one of the millions of people struggling with depression, anxiety, and a sense of grief? Did you know that twenty percent of all people on disability are on it because of severe depression? Did you know that despite being the richest nation on earth, the USA is also the most depressed nation on earth? Did you know that in the last ten years, depression among American teenagers has increased 200 percent? This doesn’t even consider all the other things that make our lives a mess: those we bring on ourselves and those that are forced upon us. We have messy lives and it’s easy to relate to Mary as we wonder if our God is dead or missing. Is God dead? It sure seems that way at times, doesn’t it?
Have you ever told your child, “Now, now, don’t cry. It’ll be okay”? From my experience that doesn’t always work, and it didn’t work for the angels today either. After Peter and John returned home, Mary peers into the tomb and sees a couple of angels who ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” That seems like a silly question on the surface, but what they’re really saying is that Mary has no need to cry. Jesus is alive, just as He said, the time of tears is over. She doesn’t get it though, so when she sees the gardener, she’s still not with it. Whether Mary didn’t know it was Jesus because He blocked her eyes, she couldn’t see in the early morning dawn, or because she was emotionally spent, we don’t know. All we know is that she was blind to her Risen Savior until He said her name, “Mary.”
“Mary” is the greatest Easter story ever told. In that one-word sermon “Mary”, Mary’s life in permanently changed. as the resurrection of Jesus completely changed and upended her life. From horrible grief to unbridled joy, from the lowest depths to the highest heights. What a shock! She was so excited, relieved, overjoyed that she grabbed on to Jesus and didn’t want to let Him go! Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus means that she’ll see Him again soon, He’s not returning to Heaven yet, so go tell the disciples, give them the sermon of my resurrection. Which she did– telling them that Jesus was alive, their Lord had risen just as He had foretold and promised.
On this jubilant Easter morning, I am overjoyed to give you this same Easter sermon. Jesus has risen and He has risen for you – each of you. When you hear this sermon, don’t hear “Mary.” hear your own name. The Lord says in Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” How is that for an Easter sermon? Stand with me beside the open tomb, turn around, and see the Risen Lord! Hear Him say your name! Listen…hear Him say your name.
When Mary saw Jesus, her life was changed. Christ’s resurrection opened Mary’s eyes to His power and Lordship, she saw Him for who He is: the Son of God who died and rose again to save her from her sins. Now that you’ve seen the Risen Lord, your life has changed as well. You don’t get to see with your physical eyes, you see with the eyes of faith, and as Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” You are blessed because you have heard the comforting words of the angels: You have no need to cry! Jesus has risen and fixes you and your messy life. You were enslaved by Sin and Death, held in Satan’s clutches, but in just three days, Jesus freed you from your slavery. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that Jesus descended into Hell. Do you know what that means? It means the Risen Lord had a victory parade down the main street of Hell. He went into the bowels of Hell and told Satan that when He said on the cross, “It is finished”, it meant that Satan was finished. He has no power over you. You are part of a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of the Crucified and Resurrected Lord. You’re no longer in the clutches of Satan and Death, you’re in the arms of God Himself.
Everything is changed with the resurrection of Jesus – everything. He calls your name, He speaks peace, He gives peace. Jesus is alive so you know that He is with you regardless of how messy your life is. He has conquered not just Satan but all the problems that come in this sinful world. He will be with you, He will guide you, strengthen you, uphold you with His mighty arm! He is risen from the dead, is there anything He can’t do? Not a thing!
You need to be careful when you read anything, but especially those books which are religious or question the Bible. The Da Vinci Code led a lot of Christians to wonder if Jesus really was married to Mary Magdalene, and if she really did have a child. Again, that’s unscriptural and anti-scriptural garbage. In fact, the relationship between Jesus and Mary was better than marriage, for it is one of Savior and Saved. You have this same connection with Jesus for He is your Risen Savior and you are the Saved that He calls by name. Your name spoken by Jesus is the greatest Easter story ever told, but there is a close second, maybe even tied for the greatest. That sermon is only three words, but the most powerful, important, beautiful, comforting words ever spoken. And it goes like this: He is Risen! And all God’s people say: “He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Indeed He is! Alleluia!
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen