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Festival of the Resurrection at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA, April 12th 2009

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Festival of the Resurrection at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA April 12th 2009

Acts 10:3443 Psalm 118:1-2, 1424 1Cor 15: 1-11 Mark 16:1-8


In the account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in the Gospel of Mark, we have to get beyond the fear and the trembling and the misunderstanding of the disciples into the resurrection as we know it from other passages in Mark as well as from this morning’s other lessons for the resurrection and appearances of the risen Lord.

Here three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, after the Sabbath is over, early in the morning of the first day of the week, take spices and go to Jesus tomb intending to anoint his dead body. Salome may be the notorious daughter of Herodias who danced the dance of the seven veils. But we do not really know. That Salome would have had the money to buy the spices, though.

The women had been deprived of performing their burial rites, washing and anointing the body, especially Jesus’ wounded side and the nail holes in his hands and feet. They would have examined them steeped in hopeless grief, much like mothers examine the bullet holes of all their young sons, killed in the deadly streets of Oakland.

All their hopes had wrapped themselves around Jesus of Nazareth. He had preached peace, had been anointed by the Holy Spirit, went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. And they put him to death by that brutal Roman crucifixion.

They were musing among themselves, who would roll the stone away from the door of the tomb. But really, their grief for the death of Jesus weighed like a stone on their hearts as they kept their eyes fixed to the ground. When they neared the tomb and looked up, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. The young man or the angel in the tomb said that Jesus had risen from the dead, just like he said he would, and he would go ahead of them to Galilee.

The angel was proclaiming the resurrection!


The angels had rolled the stone away and Jesus had been awakened by His Father and he rose from the dead. Now the stone of his death was lifted from the women’s hearts. But in the face of this miracle, amazement with fear and trembling filled them and they fled the tomb and did not dare to tell anyone about it.

What had Jesus told them? “The Son of man must be handed over to the gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. After three days he will rise again!” (Mark 10:33-34) He told them that three times. Then they also remembered how he said it to his disciples and Peter said, “Never should this happen to you!” and they remembered how Jesus said, “Get thee behind me Satan” to Peter. The disciples never seemed to understand what Jesus was saying and they never followed through. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and all the disciples deserted him. But whenever Jesus said something it came true and he said that in three days he would rise from the dead! The thought set them trembling with amazement.

The angel said that he would go ahead of them to Galilee and there they would see him. Mark does not know about Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. All the gospels tell the story differently, as differently as all witnesses experience it. If each one said the same thing, then we would think that they agreed on a story. No, in reality everyone witnesses things differently.

The disciples in fear for their lives had fled out of Jerusalem back to Galilee and in other stories we will learn how they went back to fishing and the risen Christ had to gather them again. Peter and Paul report that they saw the risen Lord. Mary Magdalene saw him and thought he was the gardener. In Acts it tells how all the disciples saw him and they even ate and drank with him after he arose!


St. Paul tell how Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples, to five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, to James, and even to him, like one untimely born, because Paul said he was not worthy. He had persecuted the church of God. But Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light on the road to Damascus.

Jesus does not appear in earthly flesh and blood, but in a heavenly transfigured body, full of the light of God, which is brighter than the sun, because it is the light in which we see light.

Ananias had to come and heal Paul’s eyes. Something like scales had to fall from them so that he could see again. The resurrection in which Jesus appeared again and again to his disciples started our faith. Without the power of the resurrection, the movement of Christianity would have been over on the cross. But don’t you see! That is where it all began!

When Jesus appeared those who experienced his real presence became completely changed. The proud Saul, who ambitiously probably wanted to become the High Priest, because of Jesus’ appearance, became Paul, the little one. He made a one hundred eighty degree turn from a persecutor and torturer of the children of God to becoming one of the very people he was hunting down. When the risen Jesus appeared, it always included a sending. Thus St. Paul was sent on missionary journeys from one end of the world to another.

We should not think that the empty tomb tells us much about the resurrection, although when Jesus was raised his tomb was empty. It is the change in his followers that tells us the truth of the resurrection. When the disciples experienced his appearance they changed from disciples into apostles: an “apostle” means “one who is sent.” The cowering and fearful disciples become marvelously changed into courageous apostles that go back into Jerusalem and smack into the middle of the temple to proclaim that God had raised Jesus from the dead, the Holy One of God that the Jerusalem leaders had just crucified.

They now experienced the risen Christ, who had won the life that overcame not only the fear of death, but death itself. It is not that they just proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, but the fact that they shouted his praises right into the jaws of death fearlessly, gave up their lives joyfully, sang songs in prison converting everyone who heard them, because they could not help joining these incredibly new Christ-like people.

Today here in Bethlehem, we have also come to believe by their witness and the chain of witnesses that Marshall listed at our Seder meal. They too shouted:


And we will sing: because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow. We worship on the first day of the week, because Jesus was raised on that day and we worship in his real presence, receiving his body and blood in Holy Communion with him.


And the way the disciples were changed into courageous apostles and Saul was changed into Paul; simple fishermen and several women changed into people who changed this whole world and we at Bethlehem stand to be changed by the same resurrection!

This is the day that the Lord acted!


Let us rejoice and be glad in our risen savior.

This is the day the Lord has made, and because of the rising of the Son of God, we too will be changed into new persons, the firstborn of the new creation, a new Bethlehem congregation in the spring time of God’s new day.

Because God raised Jesus from the dead, our days will be filled with the radiant light of the resurrection.


The death of Christ has swallowed up death. O, grave where is your victory? O death where is your sting? Christ, the embodied love of God gave us victory and now death is no longer – stronger than life.

Diseases will have to beat a retreat; we will wage battles against war. Oppression will cease. Our oceans will not die but live and we will glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who acted!

Jesus’ death swallowed up death and now even death has to serve life. Jesus captured hell and freed its prisoners. Our victorious risen Lord gave the devil to the devil, told hell to go there, buried death in the grave, so that we all could be saved.


Christ is God’s perfect sacrifice, in glory see him rise. He struck the serpent’s head and now death is no longer the stronger, its bonds are broken, the heavens are open.

Now is Christ risen from death’s dark prison, with healing in his wings and to us eternal life he brings.




Written by peterkrey

April 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Selected Sermons

One Response

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  1. Dad,

    this is a beautiful sermon, I wish I could have been there. I really liked what you said about how Jesus claiming Judas would betray him and Jesus claiming peter would deny him came true and yet the apostles couldn’t believe Jesus had rose even though he had said it would happen as well. Your poetic language at the end of the sermon was so powerful as well juxtapposed with the shouts of he is risen indeed alleluia!


    April 17, 2009 at 6:29 am

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