Archive for the ‘Mark 16:1-8’ Category

Indeed!

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Easter Sunday, March 27h , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

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Here is a truth that you will hear proclaimed over and over again for at least the next six weeks: “Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!”  Indeed, that is the whole point of not just the season of Easter, but also the reason why both the church and you and I are still here.   We exist today to both live out and proclaim the truth that Christ has risen.  Here’s another truth that you won’t hear many people proclaim: The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ came as a complete surprise to not only his disciples, but even to His most blessed apostles.  Even though He had told them in many different ways that it would happen, they were not only “not prepared” for it, they didn’t believe it or couldn’t believe it when it happened.

The gospels witness this truth of surprise and disbelief for us; even our reading this morning in Mark 16:1-7.

The disciples and the apostles were confronted with the truth of the resurrection, and they were left in total confusion.  In the gospels we are not shown a group of Christians who jubilantly rushed to the tomb to confirm and celebrate, but instead we see a group of disturbed people confused and bewildered by what they thought were only rumors and misleading testimonies.  It was anything and every thing except what it should have been… Good News!

The women came to the tomb at dawn and found the tomb empty.  Mary Magdalene rushed away in confusion and brought Peter and John.  Meanwhile, the others met angels and heard the heavenly report, and then in their state of surprise, they went back into the city so excited and disturbed that they scarcely dared to tell the unbelievable news.

John and Peter came to the tomb and found the grave clothes and an empty tomb.  Only John had the feeling that something significant had happened.  Mary stood outside the tomb weeping, wondering who took the body of her Lord.  And there she met the resurrected Lord Himself, and with the help of the Lord she finally recognized Him.

Soon after this Jesus showed Himself also to the women who were on their way into the city.  And at last the whole group of disciples had heard the truth that Jesus had predicted many times before His death had finally come to fruition.

But even as they heard the proclamation they did not believe because they would not believe, and so they dismissed the report as simply idle talk.

Throughout the day Jesus sought out one after the other of His doubting disciples.

First it was Peter, then Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus, and at last in the evening He greeted the whole group of disciples who were nervously locked together behind closed doors.

Now together with Jesus, their doubts are overtaken with amazement and a thousand questions at least.  The incredible had become a reality and their sadness was turned to joy.  Jesus had made good on His promise.  The impossible would now become their eternal reality… and our reality… Jesus overcame sin, death, and the devil!

This is the way it always happens when a group of eyewitnesses tell about some amazing and unexpected occurrence.

It is exactly the discernible surprise, the amazement, the confusion, and the many unexplained connections among the various gospel accounts to the truth and reality of it all, that we would expect to be reported.  If the story was made up, we would never find all of these strange and even embarrassing accounts, but as the reality of a historic event, this is exactly what we find!

The resurrection witnesses knew what they had to share… the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because it wasn’t their truth you see, it was the truth of God.  They were prepared to endure the scorn and ridicule that would come from the accusation that they had made the whole thing up.  They knew that they would have to face persecution.  In fact, the persecution they faced would come quickly in the form of beatings, crucifixions, stonings, and other barbaric forms of death, all because they refused to recant.

And what was the reason for their refusal to recant their witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20

We all know, truthfully, just how small and insignificant we are without Jesus; without the Easter truth. We know how faithless we can be without God’s work in our lives.

For those of us who are still being moved to walk with and trust in Jesus real presence in our lives, we can truly say that we find our strength and our meaning in Him and His Word.  It’s His Word that’s our shield and our strength.  It’s His Word that gives our lives purpose and meaning.  As we live our lives here among people who we love but who are dying without faith in Jesus, we can only wait and trust that God will do the same work within them that He is doing within us.  And as we wait, we remember that we are the Lord’s little lambs and His servants.

We hear Him call out to us and we follow.  He faithfully leads us and feeds us with His Word as we repeat only what He speaks to us.  We hear His voice and we trust in none other.  And that voice faithfully gathers us to this place so that we can come to be faith-filled.  Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen, He is risen INDEED… Alleluia!!

Arise, Be Faith-filled!

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Easter Sunday B, April 5, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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Why are you here?  I mean really, what was your reason for coming?  That’s a fair question, and it really doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. For those of you who are here faithfully every week, I know why you have come.  You’ve come to hear God’s Word and experience the forgiving love of your resurrected Lord.  That’s why you come every week.  But others may have come for other reasons; valid and important reasons.  Here are some of those reasons I’ve heard over the years: I’ve come to be with family;  It is our tradition to go to church on the important days like Christmas and Easter; or, I’m here because I was invited to come.

While I don’t know your personal reason for being here, I do know why God wants you here; He wants you here to hear His Word and to receive His gift of faith… He wants you to believe in the Easter miracle.  God wants you to know that “Christ is Risen!”  And once you know this truth, then He wants you to keep coming back to His house of worship often and be filled with faith; in other words, He wants you to be faith-filled!

This morning, Christians around the world gather together to hear about a miracle that has saved the world.  We gather to receive the gift of  Easter hope.  We gather together around the very same proclaimed Word of God and the same Sacraments that the ancient Christian church has received since the very first Easter celebration.  These are Christ’s gifts to His church and to you, gifts which bring you free and complete salvation centered entirely upon Christ’s death and resurrection.

As part of Christ’s church, each of us have one thing in common, we are sinners; sinners gathered around a new covenant; a new promise of forgiveness from God, as were Mary and the other women who got out of bed early to attend to their acts of devotion and care for the body of Jesus.  And after their early Easter blessing, the apostles and all of the other disciples who were there with Jesus that first Easter morning were blessed as well.  Each of them, as well as us today were confronted with the good news.  The good news of course is that Christ not only suffered and died to pay for the sins of the world, but He also rose from the dead!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, and so shall you!

Let’s look again at the hymn we just sang, “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain” (LSB 487).  This hymn is a wonderful example of how our powerful Christian faith has been nourished since that first Easter Sunday.  It’s a Faith that comes to us through God’s Word about the risen Christ.  Let’s hear this good news proclaimed again in the 4th verse: “For today among His own Christ appeared, bestowing His deep peace, which ever-more passes human knowing.  Neither could the gates of death nor the tombs dark portal, nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Him as a mortal.”

This is the message of Easter.  Christ our King, our brother and Savior came to us as our champion and through the cross and the empty tomb defeated sin, your sin.  But that’s not all, He also defeated death, and your greatest enemy of all, the devil.  He set you free from bondage just as He set the Hebrews free from their bondage of slavery in Egypt long ago.

Jesus’ death and resurrection has freed the entire world from sin and death.  Jesus death upon the cross and His resurrection gives hope to people, be they yellow, black, white, rich, poor, straight, gay, single, married, old, and young.  But in order for Jesus’ gift of eternal life to become your gift,  it must become personal; it must become your good news!  And God does this very thing through His Word and the waters of your baptism.

In your baptism, God draws you into the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic faith.  In your baptism, God allows you to glimpse by faith, the deliverance of your soul from bondage to sin and deliverance into a promised land of eternity where all of your sins are forgiven.  If you will simply agree with God that you have sinned against Him, and then turn to Him for forgiveness; if you will confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus alone is your Lord you will be saved from this bondage.

Through the miracle of God’s mighty Word attached to the water each of us by faith, can see our Old Testament lesson come alive in our own lives.  Through the triumphant victory won by Jesus our Lord we have been delivered from the oppression of our old masters, sin, death, and Satan.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our salvation is secure and our future is certain if we will just rest and trust in Jesus alone!

We heard in our Old Testament Reading (Isaiah 25:6-9), about our Easter reality; we heard about our promise land and the banquet that is waiting for us.  We heard how God on His part has defeated our mortal enemies sin, death, and the devil and all we must do is believe in this work and praise God for the great things He has done.

“It will be said on that great day (on the resurrection of all flesh), “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.”  Christ is risen!

Just as the Israelites long ago were rescued and still celebrate their deliverance from their bitter years of bondage in Egypt, so too, we the church have something to celebrate; we celebrate our release from the spiritual bondage of sin, death, and the devil.  So rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

Together with all of God’s saints we proclaim our Easter faith as individuals and as part of a large whole, the church of Jesus Christ.  Listen to this truth as its proclaimed in the first and second verses of our sermon hymn: “Come, you faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness!  God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness.  Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters; led them with un-moistened foot through the Red Sea waters.  Tis the spring of souls today: Christ has burst His prison and from three days sleep in death as a sun has risen; All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying from His light, to whom is given laud and praise undying.” [LSB 487:1-2]

This is the Easter hope, the very truth that God wants you to be filled with not just this Easter day, but every day for the rest of your lives.  He wants you to see that your salvation, your eternal life and happiness is all His work through the life and death of His Son Jesus Christ, and the power of His saving Word.

And yet when we leave this place, we’ll be tempted by a sinful society to see ourselves as more enlightened than those ancient people that made up the first church.  Our society will tell us that their science and technology is far superior to our antiquated Christian faith.  They will tell us that we are not in a position to judge anyone, but instead we must accept and empower all people and celebrate our great differences.

This morning, God wants you to see that there are only two differences that He cares about, and they are life and death!  There are only two kinds of people, forgiven and un-forgiven!  In our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), St. Paul reminds us of the true gospel… salvation is entirely the work of God!  Listen to the truth of salvation, which comes by grace alone, faith alone, and is communicated only by scripture alone.  St. Paul says, “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”. [Vs. 3, 4]

How did Paul deliver this message?  Through the Word preached and taught, and the word applied within the waters of Holy Baptism and the Word served at the Lord’s Table, just as is still done today!  In your baptism, God separated you from the sin that will condemn the unbelieving world.  This morning He is telling each of us to continue living out that baptismal gift and turn away from that sin.  He is not asking you to judge others; that is His job and not ours.  Instead He is asking you to examine yourself; He’s warning each of us to quit boasting in the philosophy of enlightened minds and trust in His truth for us.

In your baptism you were made clean and sinless, so now he’s telling you to live that kind of life and quit embracing and celebrating sin; your own sin and other people’s sin.  He simply wants you to confess your sin, receive His forgiveness, and then celebrate as one who is truly saved and loved by God!  This is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth… Christ crucified and risen for you!

In our gospel lesson this morning, we encounter dear Mary and the other faithful women who were disciples, women who physically walked and talked with Jesus on a day to day basis.  They witnessed so many miracles performed by Jesus.  But even their “enlightened” status was not enough for them to see and believe in their risen Lord, in fact they were terrified of the angelic messenger who proclaimed “He has risen!”  You see, their own sinful natures prevented them from seeing that Jesus had in fact risen from the tomb.

It was only later, when their risen Lord spoke to them and called them by name that their doubts and fears would be replaced with faith and joy!

Remember this hymn from your youth?  “I am Jesus little lamb, ever glad at heart I am.  For my Shepherd gently guides me, knows my need and well provides me.  Loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name.” (LSB 740)  Later dear Mary’s faith would be rekindled when she heard the voice of her Lord.  She became faith-filled and excited about the resurrection of Jesus.  Mary was made alive again by the Word of her Savior God.

You too were made alive in your baptism.  It was there in those waters that Jesus called your name.  You are being made alive also this morning, because your resurrected Lord is still calling you by name; He’s calling you out from a society enlightened by sin and He is asking you to once again take your Christian faith seriously.  He calls you out of a faithless existence and He calls you back into His grace; His forgiving love.  And as His children called by faith, we gather together as one body and partake of the Easter feast of victory in His Holy Supper.

Just as it takes many individual kernels of wheat to be crushed into flour to make one loaf of bread, so we too this morning gather as one loaf in our proclamation of faith and our need of forgiveness.  We need to receive Christ body for the forgiveness of our sins.  And in this eating of His body, He gives us faith to see that He is mysteriously and really present in the bread.  And just as it took many grapes to lose their individual importance and become one drink of wine, so too are we all gathered this morning to receive the precious blood of our Lord and Savior in, with, and under the wine.

“Here (is) our true Paschal Lamb we see, whom God so freely gave us.  He died on the accursed tree—so strong His love—to save us.  See, His blood now marks our door; faith points to it; death passes o’er and Satan cannot harm us.  Alleluia!  Then let us feast this Easter day on Christ, the bread of heaven.  The Word of grace has purged away the old and evil leaven.  Christ alone our souls will feed; He is our meat and drink indeed.  Faith lives upon no other!  Alleluia!” [LSB 458 vs. 3, 5]

We all know, truthfully how small and insignificant we are without Jesus; without the Easter truth. We know how faithless we can be without God’s work in our lives.

For those of us who are still being moved to walk with and trust in Jesus real presence in our lives, we can truly say that we find our strength and our meaning in Him and His Word.  It’s His Word that’s our shield and our strength.  It’s His Word that gives our lives purpose and meaning.  As we live our lives here among people who we love but who are dying without faith in Jesus, we can only wait and trust that God will do the same work within them that He is doing within us.  And as we wait, we remember that we are the Lord’s little lambs and His servants.

We hear Him call out to us and we follow.  He faithfully leads us and feeds us with His Word as we repeat only what He speaks to us.  We hear His voice and we trust in none other.  And that voice faithfully gathers us to this place so that we can come to be faith-filled.  Thanks be to God!  Christ is risen, He is risen indeed… Alleluia!!

The Stone is Rolled Away!

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

“And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back-it was very large.” [Mark 16:3-4]

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INRODUCTION: Around the year 1930, a Communist leader named Nikolai Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine.  His mission was to address a huge assembly with the aim of advancing communism. His subject for the evening was atheism. For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling arguments and ridiculing the Christian faith. At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak.  He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist leader. The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”  

The tomb where Jesus was laid on “Good Friday” is now a completely different tomb… it requires a different type of watchman.  It does not need a cemetery caretaker or a company of Roman soldiers assign to protect the dead but an angel from the realms of light and life. The servant-angel appears first; then his Master will soon be seen. This is the signal that a new time has come; an era where heaven and earth are now joined, because Jesus Christ, our Savior, has risen!  CHRIST HAS RISEN!  The wall of separation has fallen; God has reconciled Himself to sinful men; the sacrifice of the Son has been accepted by the Father. This is the supreme Easter truth…CHRIST HAS RISEN!

I. St. Mark tells us that it was very early in the morning after the Sabbath was over, while it was still dark, when the women went out on an errand of love; they would finish anointing the body of their Lord.  The work of anointing His dead body was only hastily done on Friday late afternoon, and now it must be completed.  Some of them had witnessed Jesus death…they witnessed His passion for them, and now it was time for them to give to Him, even if in death, their own passion… their own service of love.  As they arrived at the tomb the sun had just risen, and they were faced with a problem, one that they had not thought of before they set out: Who would roll the great stone away from the entrance of the tomb?  (They did not know that there was a Roman guard assigned to protect the grave from tampering).  They probably blamed themselves for not having thought of the huge stone before.  “How could we have been so stupid?!  We should have insisted that Peter, John, or one of the other men come with us!”

The other gospel accounts tell us that before they arrived at the tomb, angels appeared with the power of heaven and hurled the stone from its groove and that it landed flat upon the ground.  We also learn from these other accounts that the Roman guard witnessed this and trembled with fear, latter running for their own lives.  As the women arrived, they discovered the stone resting in front of the tomb and they were afraid that grave robbers has disturbed the resting place and the body of their Lord!  Suddenly and angel appeared to them, sitting quite comfortably upon the stone, and he had a miraculous story to tell and an even greater mission: “Don’t be alarmed.  You’re looking for Jesus, right?  Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and died, well He’s not here!  He has risen!  Go inside the tomb and see the place where they laid Him.”  And they did go inside; they noticed that the grave close were exactly as they would be if the body were still laying inside, but there was no body!  The angel continued, “Go tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him, just like He told you.”  Now they remembered.  How could they be so ignorant?  After all, the Lord had told them about this so many times.  He said that He would rise from the dead, and indeed He has risen!

II. Why didn’t the women know that Christ would be resurrected?  Jesus continually explained that He would suffer, die, and be resurrected in many different ways to them.  Why was the resurrection a surprise?  Why did it take an angel with the power of heaven moving the stone away to get them to remember and believe?  Jesus must rise from the dead because His own Word promised that this would happen.  Jesus could not be contained by a tomb because He was the very Son of God.  True to His Word, on the third day He did rise from the dead, and with His glorified body He immediately left the sealed tomb in order to prove to our dying, sinful world that God did love us, and that through His passion, His very life, death, and resurrection He reconciled all sinful men to His Father.  Now through His love we can now experience the love of God. 

Dear friends, the stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could leave the tomb; but rather it was rolled away so that the women and everyone else could see that He had been resurrected and was no longer confined by a grave!  The stone was rolled away because Jesus knew that the sinful flesh of His disciples still could not fathom the power of God that was His because He was God’s only begotten Son! 

The stone has been rolled away for us as well.  What are some stones that prevent us from seeing the resurrection power of God in our lives?  For some, perhaps it is a sinful life that you feel prevents God from loving you or accepting you.  “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you!  See the place where they laid him.  He has risen!”  For others, perhaps it is time.  There is only so much time in a day and so many days in a week.  You work so hard, and you just can’t seem to find time to rest.  Sunday is the only day you can do that.  To this God’s Word reminds you of what Jesus said: “Come unto me you who are weary and I will give you rest!”  Friend, learn to rest in the Word of God and the company of others who have learned to do the same.  This morning, God is asking you to hear the words of the angel and let it be your truth, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you!  See the place where they laid him.  He has risen!”

Or perhaps, you are more like Peter.  Something in your past is making you feel like God no longer wants you as part of His family…part of His mission team.  If so, then remember the angel who told the women to go and tell His disciples even Peter that He still loves you and that you are still part of the team.  Dear friend, Peter denied Him three times, but it could have been 3,000 x 3,000 times and it would not have mattered in the least.  Jesus died for Peter and He died for you!  Return to your first love.  Return to Him who first loved you!  He still wants you in the family and He still wants you as part of His church!

ILLUS: The story is told about an organist named Carol. She was an outstanding musician, but she did something no organist should ever do.  She overslept on Easter morning and missed the sunrise service. She was so embarrassed. Of course, the minister and the church forgave her. They teased her about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun. However, the next Easter, her phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, she scrambled to answer it.  It was the pastor, and he said, “Carol, it’s Easter morning! The Lord is risen! … And I suggest you do the same!” The message is clear: We too can be resurrected. If your spiritual life has lost its passion, and you don’t feel close to God like you once did, then God’s Word makes it clear to us this morning, Jesus Christ is sharing his resurrection with us right now. He rises, and so can we. We too can have new life.  We too can make a new start. We too can rise out of those tombs that try to imprison us!  

III. There is one last lesson to be learned in our time together this morning and it can be introduced with this question: Why were the women the first to learn of Jesus’ resurrection and why were they the first to see Him alive?  Another way to ask this is why weren’t the remaining 11 apostles the first to experience Jesus’ resurrection?  A learned Biblical scholar long ago offered five reasons.  He said: God chooses the weak; overwhelmed most by their sorrow, they should be first in Christ’s joy; the presence of the women at the tomb silenced the Jewish lie that the disciples stole the body; as death came by woman, so salvation and life should be announced by her; and finally God wanted to reward the woman’s active love. But why is our learned scholar ignoring the obvious? It was the women alone who went to the tomb on Sunday morning, the women, and none of the men, not even John. They weren’t detained by fear or grief.  They weren’t allowing their busy schedule to stop them from serving God.  They made time because God was worthy of their time.  They continued to love their Lord because He first loved them.  This is why they were honored by being made the messengers of the Gospel to the men. If the Eleven men had also gone out early that morning, the story would have been different, but the love of these women receives its fitting reward. 

CONCLUSION: Are there any men here this morning who might learn a thing or two from the experience of 11 other Christian brothers who lived more than 2000 year ago.  If so, let them mentor you.  Let them speak to you and teach you about how life changing a real relationship of service to Jesus Christ can be.  You can meet with them any time you like.  They are always waiting to teach and guide you.  There words and experiences inspired and guided by Jesus Himself have all been recorded for you in the New Testament.  Let God teach you through those who went before you.  Let this be the day that you live a life that celebrates the fact that the stone has been rolled away.  Let this be the day that you meet your risen Lord and say with sincerity and excitement: CHRIST HAS RISEN FOR ME!