Sermon notes for Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020 ANNO DOMINI! The Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
The Collect for the Day
ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
St. Mark xvi. 1 – 8
WHEN the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
It is pitiful to observe how afraid and fearful were the women who found an empty Tomb. It is absolutely the most beautiful thing that has ever happened for the benefit of man – that the Tomb of Jesus was empty! How often do we observe the wonder of the God’s work and mistake it for a thing fearful and sad. Fear locks our mouth and stops our testimony. Is it not a wonderful thing to find an empty Tomb and a Risen Lord in lieu of a dead and lifeless body? Perhaps it was their fear and momentary loss of faith that prevented Christ from immediately appearing to them. But can we fault these courageous ladies very much? They lingered at the foot of the cross with John when many others of the disciples were in hiding. They were the ones who followed the body to the Garden Tomb (on loan from Joseph of Arimathaea) and watched there until the Tomb was made sure. 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. (Matt 27:61) Perhaps it was AMAZEMENT more than anything else that caused their reaction. How can we proclaim such an overwhelmingly marvelous thing?
It is true that we often disregard even the counsel of angels in our fears. The great Angel spoke to them and, as usual, prefaced his words with “Be not affrighted.” There was no cause for fear, but there WAS great cause for joy. Sometimes we tend to mix our emotions in the wrong way. When God’s Hand moves to the healing of His people, should our hearts not brim with love and joy! But the circumstances simply overwhelmed the women. As my mother used to say, “They were beside themselves.” NEVER did they expect to see what they found. First, the Stone was rolled back. It would take many strong men to perform that task. Fortunately, there were guards there to insure that no man’s hand broke the Roman seal. But the great Angel rolled away the Stone with little effort. Secondly, the women entered a Tomb that was not yet completely empty – there was only an Angel there to greet their fears. Thirdly, the Angel spoke kind words to allay their foreboding fear. Fourthly, the Angel told them that Christ was risen. Should we not believe an Angel when all evidence supports his claim? He even showed them the place where Christ had laid.
Fourthly, the Angel told them something that demonstrated the sweet graces of the Balm of Gilead. You will recall that Peter has suffered for these three days the awful pain of having renounced the Lord his God before the court of the Sanhedrin. 56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. 57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. 59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. 60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:56-62) The look of Christ was not one of reproach, but of deep disappointment – that disappointment one feels when his best friend has ruthlessly betrayed him. How this look had plagued poor Peter. How he despised himself, and ached in the depths of his heart. If he could only take his words back! The Angel told the women: But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. Did you catch the grace-laden meaning of this comment, friends? “…tell his disciples and Peter…” Though His hands of mercy were driven through with iron spikes, His feet nailed to the cross, a crown of thorns for a crown, and the ridicule of the multitudes to welcome His gaze, the Lord knew the agony of Peter, and addressed it with love and forgiveness. The angel did not send news to the disciples ONLY, but specifically to Peter – the only name mentioned for the sake of emphasis.
Though we should be pained by our sins, Christ addressed our failings on the cross in the same way that He sent word to the suffering Peter – “you have not been renounced by ME, though I was renounced by you. My heart is too great to harbor vengeance against one who loves me and hurts me out of fear.” Though we know and love Christ, our sinful nature may often cause us to renounce Him through our weakened flesh. We carelessly may recite the Lord’s Prayer and not mean a word of it. We may enter church as a social feast rather than as an occasion to worship in reverence for the One who bled and died for us.
Our Roman friends have come to the Tomb in the same way the women came. They seek and worship a dead body on the cross. But He is not there. He is risen! They erroneously believe that Christ must be sacrificed anew at every Mass they celebrate. But the Lord’s Table is not an altar, but the Table of the Lord whereby we are fed in the glorious elements of Bread and Wine to signify His spiritual presence in His Body and Blood. The great truth that may escape our understanding is that we, too, are a portion of His Body broken for the Kingdom. Both the Old, and New, Testament Church are the Body of Christ nourished by that Blood shed for us more than two thousand years ago. Abraham knew it, Isaac illustrated it, and all others who looked forward to the promise (as we look back to the accomplished fact) constitute the Body of Christ.
The Gospel ends today a bot awkwardly, for it leaves, on Easter morning, the women fearful. But, thanks be to God, the narrative continues in the next several verses:
9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. 14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:9-20)
I have added these verses for a purpose. First, because these verses alleviate our fears and give us hope in the sure knowledge of the resurrection of Christ; and, secondly, because, if you are using one of the phony new translations such as the NIV, those last nine verses are enclosed in parentheses. The authors of these errant bibles then stipulate, falsely, in the footnote that these verses do not appear in the more ancient and reliable manuscripts. They refer, of course, to the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which do not even agree in many points with each other and which leave entire passages blank on the manuscript page. These constitute only 5% of manuscript evidence while the Textus Receptus of the Reformation agree in all points and constitute 95% of all manuscript evidence. The Thirty Nine Articles require the commonly received text upon which the KJV, the Geneva Bible, and all Reformed Bibles are based. Let us use the Bible with a true history and testimony in lieu of the watered down, politically correct Bible of our day.