Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It is for the worship of the Holy Triune God in the Person of the Incarnate Son, Christ Jesus, that you have been created. Indeed, it is the joy and the purpose of the whole Creation to find its life in Him, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. If you want to know the meaning of life and why you’re here, it is simply this, that you worship God in Christ with all that you are and have.
That is the goal of the women, too, of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, when they head to the tomb after the Sabbath, at the dawning of the New Day. They go to worship God in Christ, though they are at something of a loss and do not know how to go about it. We know from St. Mark that they were planning to anoint the dead body of Jesus, but St. Matthew writes that they were going “to look at the grave.” It’s not unlike “staring off into the middle distance,” as some of my favorite authors like to describe. Not much point to that, but they don’t know where or how to focus.
They’re looking for Jesus, really, because they love Him, and they miss Him, and they just don’t know what else to do at this point. But they’re looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way.
You do the same thing, in your own fashion, when you set out “to look at the grave.” By that I do not mean visiting the cemetery where your loved ones are buried; though that could be an example. What I do mean are all the ways that you go looking for life and love and meaning and purpose in the monuments and treasures of this dead and dying world, when what you need is the crucified and risen Jesus, who is not dead but living. He is not in the tomb, and you will not find Him there.
Not only that, but, ironically, those who try to guard and keep the tomb — to protect it from any disturbance or violation, as though it were the goal and the prize — they end up like corpses! Which is the end result and consequence for all who set their hearts and minds on things below.
The Marys do not find Him dead and buried, either, but, by the grace of God, they are not left in their ignorance and perplexity. Instead of tending the tomb or looking at the grave, they are sent by the Word of the Lord to the place where Jesus has already said that He would be: in Galilee. That is where and how He will be found, that is to say, wherever His Word is spoken and directs. As soon as the women leave the tomb and proceed as He has said, the Lord Jesus meets them.
It is always the case that the worship of God in Christ begins with His speaking and His coming to you. Only then are you able to come to Him, to lay hold of Him, and to worship Him rightly.
You need not go to Galilee to find Him; though, if you find yourself in that part of the world, then seek out His Church in that place, to hear Him in the preaching of His Word, and to find Him in His means of grace. But that is the same as it is for you here in this place, too. You are called and gathered to Him by the preaching and the catechesis of His Word, as spoken by His messengers.
Let your eyes and your feet be directed by His Word and promise in your ears; then you are on the right path, and the crucified and risen Lord Jesus meets you on the Way, as He met and greeted the women. By giving attention to His Gospel and the preaching of it, you set your heart and mind on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of His God and Father. And then the mixed feelings of fear and joy give way to the pure and utter gladness of faith and the worship of Jesus.
There is a rather profound irony in all of this, that you find your life hidden with Christ in God, in the heavenly places, by laying hold of His feet and worshiping Him here in His Church on earth. For heaven has come down to you in the flesh and blood of Christ and in His Word of the Gospel. As the angels who spoke to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds directed them to the Body of the incarnate Son of God; and as the preaching and Baptism of St. John the Baptist were the means of grace by which the Father poured out His Spirit upon the Body of His Son; so does God continue to proclaim His Word from heaven on earth, to lead you to and give to you the Word made Flesh.
Those dear ladies had it right when they took hold of Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him. They sought the Lord where He is found, and they worshiped God in the flesh of His Son. And this story has been written for your learning, that you might also believe in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and that, by faith, you should likewise come to Him, lay hold of His feet, and worship Him.
Do not attempt to scale the heights of heaven. That is what the dead things of this earth presume and aspire to do, though all the while they are trodden down into the dust. But the Lord Jesus Christ — who has risen from the dust of the earth, and who has in fact ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven — He meets His people and takes His stand upon the earth. He speaks forgiveness into their ears; He pours out His Spirit upon them by the washing of the water with His Word; and He gives them to eat and drink with Him, even to feast upon His Body and His Blood.
So you also find your life in Him, hidden below in the flesh of Christ, in earthly means of grace, yet dwelling with Him above, even now, in the heavenly places, at the right hand of the Father.
You are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified for your transgressions. And you are in the right place this morning. For He is risen from the dead, and He is here for you. This is your Galilee, to which His angels have directed you. Here your Redeemer stands upon the earth. Here His beautiful feet have come, that you may hear and believe His Gospel, and lay hold of Him in love, and worship Him in faith. It is for this very life that you are created, redeemed, and sanctified.
Therefore, do not be afraid. For this life that is given to you here on earth is safe and secure in the Body of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. It is hidden, yes, so much so that you cannot see it even in yourself. But it is true, and it is real, as surely as the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken to you. As all of Creation is made brand new in Him, in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead, there is nothing at all in heaven or on earth that can rob you of the Life that is yours in Him.
It is true and real for you here, where His Word has called and gathered you to Him.
It is true and real, also, in those places and stations in life to which He has called you to live in faith and love. There, too, it is a hidden life, which the world does not recognize for what it is; and you also become discouraged and frustrated. There are days when you are sorely tempted to go “look at the grave,” to stare off into the “middle distance,” to spin your wheels doing nothing at all, because it all seems lost and hopeless. You’re looking for Jesus, but you don’t find Him.
And, yet, do not be afraid. That is not only my word to you, but His. The truth is that, not only is He risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity, but He is now and ever with you where His Word has directed you to go and be. He is here with you at His Altar, yes, where you worship the Holy Triune God in Him by hearing His Word, by receiving His forgiveness, by remembering your Baptism, and by eating and drinking His Body and His Blood in faith and with thanksgiving for His great Salvation; by confessing what He has spoken to you, by calling on His Name in prayer, and by singing the new Song of the Lamb in the midst of His great congregation.
But so is He also with you as you go at His Word to His brothers and sisters, to love and serve them within your own proper vocations and offices in this world. There, too, you worship Him, and you glorify the God and Father of the same Lord Jesus Christ, by and through His Holy Spirit, as you carry out the duties of your calling, and as you care for those entrusted to your stewardship. Do not doubt that it is true, and do not be afraid. His Word and promise are sure and certain.
His feet not only come to you and take their stand upon the earth; they also go with you wherever you go. He meets you on the Way, and He accompanies your journey, even unto life everlasting.
Your life in Christ is a hidden life. It is still hidden under the Cross, even in suffering and death, while this dead and dying world vaunts itself to great heights, attempting to make a name for itself. But the Truth remains, which is Christ Himself, in flesh and blood like yours, crucified and risen from the dead. And that Day will soon come, which has already begun in His own Resurrection, when you shall see Him as He is, and you shall know as you are known, and you shall be like Him. Already you are clothed in His righteousness; for your sins are all forgiven by His holy, precious Blood, and by His Word of Holy Absolution. Therefore, sin and death have nothing more to say or do concerning you. It only remains to be revealed what is already true for you in Christ Jesus:
He is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia! And so surely are you raised up and made alive in Him.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.