Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 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.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:1–18, ESV)
(from a sermon by Rev. Norman Nagel)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ is risen! His is risen indeed!
A beautiful exchange we see here between Mary and our Lord. Jesus calls her by name. Mary is distressed at death. Her Lord Jesus, as far as she knows, who was dead in the tomb has had his body stolen. She wants to know where he is. And he speaks her name. The same name he had spoken to her so many times. The name he spoke to her when he cast out her demons. By that name she instantly knows that he is alive standing in front of her. She wants to reach out and grab hold of him in the same way she had always done. But with Jesus raised from the dead everything is different. He no longer is the sin bearer. That has been accomplished. He is no longer under the law that condemned the sin he bore to death. He has gone to the cross and death with sin and now stands in front of her the Risen Lord, glorified in his human body, free from sin and its hold. He stands now in front of her the victor over the wages of sin. He has done death in. He stands alive with the promise of life. And Mary doesn't know, she doesn't understand.
"Rabboni," she says and reaches out to touch him. But she cannot. "Do not cling to me…"; "Do not touch me," he says. It was the time for something more than the physical touch she had enjoyed before. Because although Jesus had been as close to human beings as God could ever be, God and man joined together in one human person, come close to us, to draw us close to him, now is the time for her to cling to him not with earthly hands, but with the hands of faith. Jesus is there to draw her closer then physicality allows. He is there with forgiveness that restores her relationship with God. He has drawn near to her in order to draw her near to him through faith in the forgiveness he offers, because where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.
This is what God does. He draws close to us because our sin prevents us from drawing ourselves close to him. Even now he draws close to us in his Word. The Word that strikes your ears and tells you of God's great love for you in Jesus Christ. The Word that brings to you the Good News of God come near to you in human flesh. The Word that brings to you the Good News of God suffering your punishment on the cross. The Word that brings the Good News of forgiveness won by Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from death. The Word that brings the promise of life forever with God in your own resurrection.
Closer still your Lord draws to you. At this altar he gives his very body and blood. But don't think that this body and blood offered here is the same as that which Mary reached out to hold. You do not receive him here in that earthly sense. You receive him here in a much deeper much more real sense. Here in bread and wine you receive the very same body and blood that God used to save you from the necessary punishment of sin. Here in bread and wine you receive the very same body and blood that walked and talked to Mary. Here in bread and wine you taste and see that the Lord is good but not in the same way as you would reach out and grab a hold of a friend with both arms. But it is no less true. Is no less Jesus. It is no less here for you. He is here for you with all the gifts he offers through his life death and resurrection. That is forgiveness life and salvation. You are forgiven. You have a restored relationship with God through faith in what Jesus has done. And there is no doubt hear that it is for you because you open your mouth and receive Jesus body and blood.
And here at the font you receive Jesus, too. He comes to you in God's name. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The gifts that Jesus offers in his life death and resurrection are placed on you with God's name. Luther asks the question, How can water do such great things? And he answers
Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three:
“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5–8)
So Jesus is here in the water and Word once again with the gifts that he won for you on the cross.
Jesus is very near. He comes near to us to draw us after him to eternal life. He is no less near to us because we can't touch him. In fact we are nearer to him when we reach out to him with the hand the faith rather than the hand of our physical body. We cannot draw near to God through our earthly efforts, our earthly comforts, our earthly wealth, or even our earthly relationships. These things drag us in the wrong direction away from our Savior. He is the one who must drag us to himself. And when we let go of these earthly weights, through faith, we are united with him in all that he does and promises.
Our Lord Jesus stood before Mary in his glorified resurrected body. And naturally she wanted to touch him. She knelt there before him and looked at him through tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy. He had risen from the dead. She wanted to cling to him. Embrace is the right idea. It is God who embraces us. In Jesus Christ, through the Word, in bread and wine, and water, he draws near embraces us and draws us back to God. We reach out with the empty hand of faith that trusts not in what we offer to him but in what he gives to us. Our Lord is before us now, resurrected, victorious over death, promises that are as sure as his resurrection. And we kneel before him in faith. And we say with our sister Mary, "Rabboni!" Amen.
Christ is risen! His is risen indeed!
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.