But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.’~ Matthew 28:5-6
Dear People of God,
If there was no resurrection there would be no Christians. These women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, would be the first ones tasked with proclaiming the resurrection. In this day and age we cannot assume people know “churchy” words like resurrection. Some have posited, with various degrees of slander, that Christians believe in “Zombie Jesus.” Others have thought the resurrection is too abstract to be of relevance for us today—that is, that the resurrection of Jesus is too far from our own experience—mostly because in our experience we have never known anyone to be resurrected. The normative experience for us all is that when a person dies, they stay dead. Some have found a strange comfort in the idea that once we’re dead, we’re dead.
But as we shall see, there is so much more to life than we could ever know—and this we have thanks to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So what do we mean by the word resurrection? Answer: To be raised from the dead. Oh, but Pastor Levi, does that mean we believe in a zombie? Baha! NO! You see, a zombie retains its dead flesh. In effect, it is still a dead being. When we speak of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are talking about an actual, living human body where there is no more death to be found. Just his scars remain. He was raised from the dead by the power of God. He had been laid dead in the tomb. And he truly was dead. That also is essential to Christian belief. He was not pretending. So when Mary Magdalene and Mary came to the tomb we must see it as they saw it. They did not assume the resurrection. Especially for seasoned Christians we might just assume the resurrection was the natural follow-up to Jesus’ death. It is not. They came to mourn over his dead body.
But before Jesus died he did leave them a word. That he would indeed be raised from the dead. And when they came to the tomb and encountered the angel the angel reminded them of this word: “He has been raised, as he said.” Only then their faith illumined and the joy of the resurrection would be theirs. For indeed, Jesus’ resurrection changes everything! Because he was raised, we too will be raised. Death is not the end of your life, dear people. For the risen Christ will preserve you into eternal life. It is not experience, reason, or our own circumstances that we rely on, no we rely on the word of God—which is a promise.
I’m in my fifth year of ministry now, and I have done many funerals. And a couple of them now have been for people who have died by suicide. Some, even religious leaders, will say suicide is a doom like none other—even God can’t save you from that! But how wrong they are! We are justified by faith. And God will not abandon someone in the depths of despair for even when all other lights go out—“a dimly burning wick he will not snuff out” (Isa. 42:3). For the promise of God in Jesus Christ is not dependent on our strength or weakness in the time of trial. Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ. Not even ourselves. God has already done everything to secure your salvation. What you have in the resurrection of Christ is an unthwartable guarantee that God forgives your sins, frees you from death and the devil, puts you in eternal life and keeps you there. And I fully believe that each of those people I have buried, including those who have died by suicide, will come alive again, and that their futures will be brighter than their pasts. They belong to Christ now and forever. And, it will be as He said.
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY