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Easter Sunday
John 20:1-2, 11-18

He’s risen!  He’s risen indeed!  Grace and peace to you from him who is, who was, and who is to come, Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior!  Dear friends in Christ, I think you know the feeling.  It’s the feeling you have when you’re driving along on a sunny afternoon and suddenly you enter a dark tunnel on the highway.  It’s the feeling you have when you open a door and walk into a pitch black room.  It’s the feeling you have when the electricity suddenly goes out and you’re sitting in the dark.  It’s almost scary, confining, obscure, and eerie.  We like light, we long for its warmth, its brightness, its certainty.

I know what it’s like to be lost in the dark.  About 2,000 years ago I was terrorized by seven demons, I couldn’t even describe how awful a life that is, but then Jesus met me and everything changed.  With a simple word from His mouth those demons fled and were gone.  No longer in the dark I could see, I could see my Lord, my Light, my salvation!  He meant everything to me, he was my life.  I hung on His words, I listened to what He taught, it was my joy to take care of His needs and the needs of His disciples so He could continue to teach people God’s Word, He taught with the authority of God Himself, He did things that only God can do, He was certainly my Lord, my Teacher, my everything.

But soon everything got dark again.  I couldn’t understand the opposition of the religious leaders.  They hated him.  They were looking for ways to get rid of Him.  Why?  What has He done?  All He did was good!  Then Jesus Himself would talk about suffering and dying, but that’s impossible!  He was the kindest person who ever lived, He was the most selfless person who ever lived, He never did anything wrong, He had the power of God Himself!  But then it happened in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover of all days!  And Judas, of all people, betrayed Him, the religious leaders had Him arrested, why?  All He did was good!  Then they abused Him, mocked Him, treated Him shamefully, and then worst of all…they chanted, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  How could this be?  Then they took Him out to that disgusting mount Calvary and crucified Him like a heinous criminal.  The sky went dark, my heart went dark.  Everything was lost!  I had hoped He was the Messiah!  I had hoped He was the promised Savior!  All those hopes dashed.

Saturday was the worst day in my life.  My Lord, my Teacher, my Rabboni, dead in a tomb, not even properly buried.  So, early on the day after the Sabbath I went out to the tomb with the other women, sure it was still dark, but it wasn’t nearly as dark as my soul.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did!  The stone had been removed from the tomb!  His body must have been stolen!  His enemies must have stolen His body to degrade Him even more!  I ran to tell Peter and John.  How could it get any worse?  How could it get any darker?  How could I be more of a loser?  I couldn’t  help but cry and cry.

And I’m sure you know that feeling, don’t you?  You know what it’s like to stand by the freshly filled grave of a loved one.  You know what it’s like to be filled with the blackness of life’s burdens, worries, and troubles.  You know how black the future often looks, the immorality of our society, health complications you face, family and friends disappoint and discourage, those sins that keep coming, temptations that always seem to win.  You know what it’s like to be in the dark, to feel like a loser, to feel lost.

I stood there at that empty tomb weeping, sobbing, crying.  The tomb was empty.  But if only I would have thought a little bit it might not have been quite so dark.  Jesus’ disciples certainly hadn’t cracked that tomb open, what would they have gained by spreading such a lie?  Who would believe such a ridiculous story that Jesus had risen from the dead?  Besides they were paralyzed by fear.  If only I had thought a little more, His enemies surely wouldn’t have done this.  In fact, this is the very thing they were trying to prevent by posting an all-around the clock guard and keeping the stone in place.  They wanted Jesus buried so people would start forgetting about Him and His claims.

But then glimmers of light appeared.  I peered inside the tomb and two voices asked me, “Woman, why are you crying?”  Why am I crying?  Why else?  “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”  Then from behind me I heard another voice, it must be the gardener, “Woman, why are you crying?  Who is it you are looking for?”  “Sir,” I said, “If you have carried him way, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  If only I had the dead body of my Lord, I’d be happy, I’d give him a proper burial.

But then everything changed!  He called me by my name!  I heard Him say, “Mary.”  “Rabboni!  My Teacher!”  What a glorious light appeared!  What a glorious light scattered the darkness of my soul!  My Savior was no longer dead, He was alive!!  I saw my risen Savior!!  My tears disappeared!  The weight of my soul lifted!  The blackness gone!

Do you know what this means for me?  Do you know what this means for you?  It proves that Jesus truly is God for if Jesus kept this promise then He’ll certainly keep every single promise He’s made to you!  It proves that Good Friday worked, that God accepted Jesus’ payment for the sins of the world, it proves that your sins- all of them- are forgiven in full!  It proves that you will rise too.  Long after your body has been laid in the dark recesses of the earth, on the Last Day Jesus will raise you to life to live with Him forever in the glorious light of heaven!

Jesus came to me that first Easter and called me by my name.  You know, He’s done the same for you.  He called you by name at your baptism and through His Word, He continues to come to you through His Supper to assure you of His promises, His victory, His guidance, His protection in life and death!  Oh the joy of being transformed from darkness to light!  The light of Jesus’ resurrection shone through me as I ran to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”  It also shines through your life too!  How can you not spread this light to your family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances?

Why? Because the light of Christ’s resurrection changes everything!  In a world of death, darkness, and despair, it gives you the light of a sure and certain confidence.  Jesus died.  Now He has risen and will never die again!  Your sin gone!  Hell conquered!  Your grave destroyed!  Because Jesus got out of His grave, because death could not hold its slimy grip on Jesus, because Jesus’ grave is empty, because Jesus burst forth from that tomb, because Jesus is alive forever and ever, there is no question, no doubt, no uncertainty, no fear: There IS a seat in heaven with YOUR name on it!  YOU’RE going to be there one day, because Jesus lives!

And that was true every day of my life and that’s true every day of yours!  Come what may, dark days of difficulty, somber days of sadness, devastating days of death, trying days of trouble, come what may, there will never be a day when you can’t say: “Christ is alive!  He’s risen!”  There will never be a day in your life when Jesus is less risen from the dead, never be a day when death hasn’t already been defeated, never be a day when heaven’s gates are less flung open for you!  Why?  Because Christ won the victory, that victory is yours.  Easter proves it!  Heaven is your home!  So live, live in that glorious light, the light of Christ’s resurrection.  He’s risen, He’s risen indeed.  Alleluia!  Amen!