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Situational Unbelief(?)

Mark 16:1-8

Pastor Jason Zirbel

Easter Sunday
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

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Sun, Apr 12, 2020 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

Why were the women going to the tomb that morning?  Were they going to greet their resurrected Lord and Savior?  Did they want to be the first ones to welcome Him back from the dead?  Nope.  “You seek Jesus, the crucified One.  He’s not here.  He’s risen… just like He told you.” The angel’s words leave no doubt: Those ladies were actually going out to that tomb in grief-stricken unbelief.  I know that sounds crazy/harsh, but it’s true.  Christ told them multiple times over the course of three years exactly what He was going to do on the third day after dying, and yet they still went out to that tomb on that third day seeking out a dead and decomposing Jesus.  They were going out to anoint a corpse.  We can try to justify it any number of ways, but when you get down to it, they didn’t believe what Jesus had told them.  They had “situational unbelief.” They were believers, but their grief and worry had gotten the better of them.  They had failed to remember and trust in the words and promises of their Lord and Savior. 

But…nobody is ever too quick to go there though, are we?  We don’t go there because we’ve been there too.  We understand their “situational unbelief.” After all, they had been traumatized.  Their whole world had come crashing down less than 72 hours earlier.  We’ve all been there before, to one extent or another, right?  Just the fear of not having a year-supply of toilet paper has turned a lot of “good Christians” into utter fools.  I find myself wondering: What if your soul is demanded of you tonight?  God doesn’t care if your silos or your bunkers are stocked with rice and hand sanitizer and toilet paper.  He doesn’t work in that sort of currency.  Look at what the fear of sickness and income loss and our own mortality has done to our trust in our Lord’s promise of His real presence with His people in such a short amount of time.  “As often as you do this, remember what I have said.  This IS My body.  This IS My blood.  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” “Yeah, but… germs.” This is why we don’t cast stones at those ladies.  We understand (perhaps even condone) their situational unbelief.

Our Lord doesn’t condone it though, does He?  In fact, He sends His angel to these poor souls, not to drop the hammer of wrath upon them, but to lovingly correct them; to re-focus them on the joy that is already theirs in Christ and because of Christ.  When the angel proclaimed that the crucified Christ was/is risen from the dead, he [re]focused the ladies on Christ and His Word/Promise.  He set their minds on Christ.  “Remember what He said to you?  This is resurrection fact…just like He told you.” They were focusing on a tomb.  They were focusing on a big stone obstructing their access to a decaying corpse.  They weren’t focused on Christ’s Word and Promise.  “Look here.  He’s not here.  Listen to what He is telling you now.  Go to Galilee.  Seek Him in Galilee.  There you will see Him, just as He told you.” Again, all the focus is being put on Christ and His Word/Promise.  And Christ kept that Word and Promise.  He said what He meant, and He meant what He said.  For forty days after the resurrection, Jesus made Himself present and known, right where He told them to seek Him; right where He promised to be. 

What has this same resurrected Lord said to you?  I ask this because it is easy to get focused on the wrong things, especially when things seem dark and our morale runs low and our faith gets beat up and bruised, stretched and tested.  “If you have been raised with Christ (which we have been through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection), then seek the things that are above, where Christ is.  Set your minds on things that are above, and not on things that are on earth.” That’s easier said than done though, isn’t it?  That’s nice in “theory,” but this is the real world!  SIGH--- The pleasures and worries of this daily life have a real way of choking out and drowning out the Words and Promises of our Lord.  Even on a glorious day like today, we can be focused on the wrong things (and I’m not just referring to hand sanitizer and lost wages and germaphobia).  What about the empty tomb?  Like those women that first Easter morning, we put all our focus on the tomb.  So many Christians today are celebrating the fact that the tomb is empty and Jesus isn’t there anymore.  Yes, I know that the tomb is empty, and praise God that it is.  But…if you remember, the focus didn’t end there at the empty tomb.  “Look here.  He’s not here.  Have a nice day.” No!  The focus necessarily shifted from where Jesus wasn’t TO WHERE JESUS WAS/IS! 

This is our focus—our joy—today, not just the empty tomb and where He isn’t, but more importantly where He IS; where He tells us to seek Him and see Him and hold fast to Him.  Look to the cross.  No, He’s no longer there, BUT… He still bears the marks of crucifixion on His body.  He IS “the crucified One.” And this is Good News of the highest order.  These are the very wounds that He held out to that room full of terrified self-quarantined disciples when He proclaimed “Peace.” And just in case they didn’t believe Him the first time, He said it again—“Peace.” Folks: It is these very same cruciform marks that your Lord ever and always presents to the Father on your behalf, forever proclaiming and showing the proof of your redemption; the blood-bought proof that His Word is true: “It is finished.” Christ’s peace—true peace—is known only in the wounds of the crucified One, who once was dead, but now lives. 

Your Lord speaks this same cruciform resurrection peace to you today.  He has baptized you into this cruciform resurrection peace.  Remember that Word and Promise?  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized have been baptized into His death and resurrection?” His victory over sin, death, and the grave IS (present-tense) our victory over sin, death, and the grave.  Look to the font.  Focus your faith on the Word/Promise that Christ spoke to you as He baptized you, putting His name on Your head/heart.  This means something!  God doesn’t do lip-service.  Like Job, though the world may crash down all around you, you are in Christ, and your victory is already won; already assured…just like He told you.  Look to this altar.  What has your risen and victorious Lord already told you?  “This is My Body. This is My blood.  As often as you do this, remember what I have said; remember what I have told you.” Here is the Lord of Life, right where He promises to be, telling you right where to seek Him and receive Him.  He doesn’t practice “social distancing” from you.  He draws near to you.  Here is the resurrected Christ, for us, for our forgiveness, for our confidence and assurance, for our peace!

Folks: There’s nothing new under the sun.  God’s Word is still speaking to us this very day, in the midst of trials and tribulations, just like it did with the women at the tomb, pointing us to the living and risen Jesus, who has promised us that He is really and truly present with us in His Word, His Body, and His Blood.  We’re still being pointed to where the living and victorious Christ IS so that we may share with Him in the joy of the resurrection victory: His resurrection victory… our resurrection victory.

May this Good News of the highest order bring you joy and peace, in good times and in bad times, better, worse, richer, poorer, in sickness and in health, now and into all eternity.  And as for proper focus…. To Him alone be all glory, all praise, and all honor.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! 


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