Easter is for the guilty (Mark 16:1-7)
Guilt is a powerful thing, isn’t it? Shakespeare pictured guilt so vividly in his play “Macbeth.” The one thing that I remember most about the play is the part where Lady Macbeth is racked with guilt for having encouraged her husband to commit murder in order to become king. Her conscience is bothering her terribly. She even sleep walks and keeps seeing blood on her hands and she keeps trying to wash the spot out but it never goes away.
Do you think the apostle Peter might have been able to relate to Shakespeare’s play? Think of what Peter had done on Thursday and Friday. Put yourself in his shoes. Jesus had warned the disciples that they would desert him. But you had said, “No way! Not me! Never!” Jesus then became really specific with you: “Before the rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.” Then, later on, when Jesus had asked you to keep watch, you’d fallen asleep. You’d then try to prove your loyalty by drawing your sword to fight for Jesus, but Jesus rebuked you. Then, horror of horrors, you’d done exactly what Jesus had said you’d do- you denied knowing him three times. How could you have done that? How could you have been so arrogant? How could you have failed so horribly? Imagine the guilt that racked Peter all Friday and Saturday.
But what do we see in Peter? Don’t we see in Peter our own failures? Peter fell asleep, but what about our own spiritual slumber, apathy, lackadaisical attitude toward church and God’s Word. In Peter’s denial we hear our own voices, see our own actions, as we’ve “denied” Jesus with shameful thoughts, words, and actions. We’ve failed, just as badly as Peter. I’m guessing Peter felt miserable, ashamed, humiliated. Have you felt that way? What is it that weighs on your heart? What is it that makes you feel guilty? And not only that, but there’s overt guilt and there’s covert guilt. What’s covert guilt? It’s that underlying nagging that each of us feels. If I don’t have the best body, if I don’t work so hard, if I don’t do this or that, I won’t be acceptable, there’s also this underlying covert guilt to our lives.
And so, what do the angels do here? They tell the women not only to tell the disciples, but specifically, “tell Peter” that Jesus had risen. Why so? Because Peter really needed to hear it! Peter needed to hear that his sins were forgiven! Peter really needed to hear that Jesus had conquered, sin, death and the power of the devil!
And we need to hear it too. Each of us has things that weigh on our consciences that really bother us. What is it for you? Is it a big sin you committed long ago? Is it a sin that keeps nagging that you fight against and yet fall into? What do you feel guilty about? What do you regret in life? What’s the spot on your hands?
The resurrection of Jesus is meant for you! Jesus’ resurrection tells you that YOUR sins are forgiven! The Bible puts it this way, “Jesus was delivered over to death because of our sins, but raised to life because of our justification.” In other words, Jesus’ resurrection is proof positive that Good Friday worked, that sin- all of it- has been paid in full, that God now declares you innocent and guilt free! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There’s no reason to be paralyzed by regret and regret- your slate has been completely wiped clean- Jesus’ resurrection proves it.
Lady Macbeth did not. The entire play is tragic, and part of it is that Lady Macbeth, wanting peace for her aching conscience, ends up taking her life. How horrible! Her incessant hand-washing could never do what needed to be done.
You, however, have what works! You have the death of Jesus which paid for your sins, and the resurrection of Jesus which proves it to be true! Jesus has washed you completely clean! Easter is for the guilty, Easter is for you!
Easter is for the hurting (Job 19:23-27)
Of all the characters in the Bible, perhaps the one that we have the most empathy for is Job. At the beginning we’re told that Job has just a wonderful life- 10 children, he worships God regularly, has thousands of animals, he’s wealthy, everything is wonderful.
But then, in one day, Job loses almost everything. All of his flocks and herds – gone (imagine losing your house, job, bank accounts, cars everything gone). Then, perhaps most painfully, he loses all 10 children when the house they were in collapsed. Talk about hurting; talk about suffering!
But what was Job’s response: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Then God allowed the devil to attack Job’s health, and he’s afflicted with painful boils all over his body, he actually takes a piece of broken pottery and uses it to scrape himself. At first he responds with faith, but then the whole situation wears on him. He begins to complain, to plead that he’s been innocent and God is not being fair with him. And to make matters worse, some friends of his come and basically tell him, “You must be some really bad sinner to have all this bad stuff happen to you.” But, of course, that’s not the way God works, but his friends insist it. So, Job is suffering, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. He’s really hurting.
Life is full of hurt and pain and suffering. What do you say to the wife who loses her husband to a tragic motorcycle accident, what do you say to the 59 year old man who loses control of his entire body to ALS, what do you say to the parents of a 25 year old pharmacist who overdosed and died, or to the parents whose newborn infant dies in childbirth?
But in the midst of all his pain what does Job confess? “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another, how my heart yearns within me.”
You see what the resurrection does? The resurrection gives the believer the ultimate hope in a life full of pain! Because Jesus physically, actually, bodily, in reality got out of the grave, someday you and I will too! Because Jesus physically, actually, bodily got out of the grave, we will get to see God face to face! We will get to see him and have no fear for we’ve been washed clean in the blood of Jesus. Yes, on this side of eternity we may hurt in all kinds of ways- sin and Satan will make sure of it, but we have the ultimate answer to pain – a Savior who has risen from the dead. That means someday I will go to heaven, someday I will be given a glorious new body, someday I will see Jesus face to face, someday I will be delivered from every suffering of this world. I know that with absolute certainty because my Redeemer lives! Amen.
It’s For YOU! (1 Peter 3:21-22)
But how do I know that Jesus loves me? How do I know that my sins are forgiven? Those are questions that the devil loves to throw at us. Perhaps I can see how God loves so-and-so, that person is so nice and giving, so honest and helpful. I can see how God loves that person. But me? I know what’s in my heart! I know what’s in my mind! I know my sinfulness! How could God possibly love me?
But the reality is that all are sinful, no one does good, not even one. All are sinful humans who deserve nothing but death. Sure, we see people do great things in this world and by human standards they seem pretty good, but God’s standard is different. God’s standard is perfection and no one lives up to that.
That’s why we needed a Savior. A Savior to live perfectly in our place and die perfectly in our place. And in Jesus we have such a Savior and most importantly in Jesus we have a Savior who rose from the dead proving that salvation has been won.
But how do I know it means me? And that’s where our baptisms become oh-so-beautiful! In baptism God places His name on the person who’s being baptized. In baptism God says, “I am washing YOUR sins away. I am claiming YOU as my child. I am working faith in YOUR heart.” In short, as our text puts it, in baptism, God SAVES … YOU!
That’s powerful! How come baptism can be such a powerful event? It’s because of Jesus’ resurrection. You see, in your baptism God connected you to Jesus. The book of Romans talks about how we “were buried with Him through baptism…” In other words, in your baptism God sees you as having been so intimately connected to Jesus that it’s as if you went into the tomb with Jesus. And, the Romans passage goes on to point out, we’ve also been raised with Him! We’ve not only gone into the tomb with Jesus, but we’ve come out of the tomb with Jesus! Through your baptism, God has brought you to new life!
And, on the day you were baptized, God gave all the blessings of salvation … to YOU! Yes, Jesus died for the sins over everyone. But God also wants you to know that what He’s done for all, He’s done specifically for you. And your baptism gives you that. Your baptism saved … you! Your baptism connected Jesus’ resurrection … to YOU!
And you know when that’s going to mean the most to you? It will mean the most to you on the day you leave this world. You will want to know, for-sure, for-sure, that what Jesus did He did for you. Your baptism is that assurance! It’s the assurance that God has saved … you! Amen.