And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6 ESV) Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Here at International Lutheran Church we have been reading through the gospel of Mark. In many ways we have already seen how Mark’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is unique. Not surprisingly this morning we read of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and we are filled with a mix of emotions.

How are we to understand the honest yet complicated feelings of the women who had gone to the tomb that early morning? They had come to face the saddest task any of us ever faces – the death and burial of a dear friend, teacher, son, and person in whom they had placed all their hopes. As many of the oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end with this perplexing image “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid,” we can get the sense of the shock that Mark and Peter were trying to get across. This “testimony” is the most astonishing and earth-shaking news ever. “He lives!” “He is not here!” “Go! Tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee just as He said!” Isaiah had foreseen how the LORD would “… swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8) Just as He said! “He is not here!”

These women trembled with fear as they heard only the word of the “young man dressed in white robes.” In this way Mark’s gospel captures for us the very early verbal testimony of the eyewitnesses. The other gospels and Paul remind us of this foundation as they explain in even greater detail the resurrection of Jesus, the blurry-eyed greetings, the walk on the road to Emmaus, the appearance behind locked doors, or even the lakeside breakfast in Galilee. All of these testify “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Yet, like those women all we have is this word. “He has risen! He is not here!”

What about us? Do we stand in awe, yet still tremble from the many challenges we face each and every day? Do we shake with fear, and yet rest in His peace? What no eye has seen, God has revealed to the entire world. Even our lives are by the grace of God the very testimony of the resurrection story. Illness, addiction, depression, loneliness, and anxiety continue to wage war against us all. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza are still impacting the lives of many. Sometimes we feel like our “bridge” has collapsed. If we are honest, we live in fear, even of fear itself. But Jesus’ absence from that tomb has changed everything. We see in a new way through grace that we are extremely blessed. We aren’t alone! His Word tells us to be glad and rejoice even in the midst of all our troubles, because He lives! Mark’s gospel is the Gospel! While you may face fears beyond your ability to control, He has the victory in this and all things! Death will not have the final word. Jesus lives!

Yes, the joyous absence of Jesus of Nazareth is the foundation of the Christian message. These words, “He is not here!” are the lifeblood of our faith as He calls us from our fear and trembling to share this Good News with the entire world.

Pastor Carl