Thank You, Jesus, for Doing Exactly What You Promised to Do
In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
After the Reformation service we hosted here recently, I thanked one of the people who helped to plan and organize by saying, “I didn’t have to worry about that at all.” That was another way of saying, “Thank you for doing exactly what you promised to do.” It sure does take a load off when someone does that, doesn’t it? When the teacher actually teaches the materials on the test so that you’re prepared, when a husband or a wife carries through on a project, when a partner at work does the part of the job he was assigned or volunteered for, it sure does make things go a whole lot better. It makes life easier and creates enjoyable environments.
But when someone fails to do what they’ve promised, well, that is another story entirely. Do you have to pick up the load they’ve left behind? Do you have to carry the ball they’ve dropped? How will you prepare for a test on things you weren’t taught? How can you finish this project when you’re already burdened with paying bills and getting groceries? How can you do your job AND his job and hope to get both done successfully?
Now you’re left to think evil thoughts about someone. When someone doesn’t do what they’ve promised you’re tempted to hurt or harm your neighbor in his body and to say not so nice things behind his back, in addition to to his face.
Perhaps the women walking towards Jesus’ tomb wrestled with what to think about Jesus. On the one hand they loved Him, so deeply that they risked breaking the Sabbath by following Joseph out to the tomb Friday evening, and willing to lose sleep and money late Saturday and early Sunday, to buy more spices and head out at half-past dark to finish the job of anointing Jesus’ body for His burial. On the other hand, they were going out to a tomb. Jesus, their Lord, their Savior, their miracle worker, the One who had announced the coming Kingdom of God, was dead. There would be no more miracles. There would be no more teaching. There would be no more table fellowship. That they thought this Mary Magdalene proved, whose first reaction to seeing the empty tomb was to run back to the disciples crying, They have taken our Lord away, and we do not know where they have put Him! She was ready for Easter, eh?
None of them were ready. They needed swift kicks in the pants, which the angels at the tomb provided. Don’t be alarmed, the angel said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Don’t be alarmed. This word has a two-fold meaning. On the one hand, it can refer to fright and terror, which the women clearly had. Luke tells us that they were frightened. And who wouldn’t be? The Roman soldiers seeing this fell and became like dead men. But the word can also refer to astonishment, amazement, puzzlement. In other words, the angels could also mean, “Don’t be surprised by what you see.” Luke records these words of the angels, supporting that meaning, Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Both are true. The women are frightened and astonished. They didn’t get what was happening. During the three days between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection they resisted the Holy Spirit and forgot Jesus’ own clear, plain, and simple words, “I will rise!”
What a terrible thing to do! And we’d never do that, right? We have sixty-six divinely inspired books telling us God’s Words over and over again. Even better, we have the New Testament making sense of the Old, the Epistles building on the Gospels. We’re never frightened, astonished, amazed, confused, or puzzled. And we most certainly never grumble to or about God, or wish Him hurt or harm. We never, ever forget His Word. No, we do. Often. Every fist raised to God in anger. Every prayer left unuttered because God won’t, can’t, or might not listen. Every church service missed deliberately, every communion skipped, every Baptism delayed or forgotten, every misuse of God’s Name, every hopeless, despairing moment, every time we turn to ourselves and rely on ourselves, every time we doubt God’s ability or desire to do what He says, we’ve forgotten God’s Word. No wonder we get frightened and confused.
And whose fault is it? When someone says something repeatedly, without variance, if you miss it, whose fault is it? Yours. It’s like the old aphorism, “If you want something kept a secret, put it in the bulletin.” Jesus has spoken to us repeatedly about forgiveness, life, and salvation and yet we act as if we haven’t heard, or we’re continually shocked and surprised and disbelieving. If God wants something kept secret, He should record it repeatedly in 66 books written over the course of 1,500 years and disseminate it widely in the most published, read weekly in worship, shared by millions of pastors and billions of believers book. Oh, wait, He has.
But despite our ignorance, ignoring, and unbelief, still God did, still God does, and still God desires to do exactly what He promised. None of that stopped the Word becoming flesh, Christ being crucified or Christ rising from the dead. For you. Repent, turn, and rejoice, that Christ saw fit to do what He promised for you! And then tell you about it. The angels told the women: But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Just as He told you. Jesus said what He was going to do. Jesus did it. And Jesus told you about it. In Isaiah He said that the suffering servant will see the light of life. In Psalm 16 David writes that God’s Holy One will not see decay. Jesus said, Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again. Responding to the requests of his opponents for miraculous signs, Jesus said, “Here’s your sign, the sign of Jonah, the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus told the disciples at least five times, in so many words, “I will suffer, die, and rise from the dead on the third day,” culminating in His upper room prophecy, After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee. Even Jesus’ most implacable enemies got the gist of what He was saying, saying to Pilate, We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Jesus promised and then did exactly what He promised. He suffered for the sins of the world. He paid the price. And then He rose from the dead. Which means, as Paul said, if this is the God who is on our side, the God who died and rose from the dead for His sinful people, then who can be against us? If He didn’t spare His life, how will He not also give us everything promised?
And so this Thanksgiving, rejoice in this – that you have a God, a Savior, Jesus, who does everything exactly as He promises. Remember that as we read some of your favorite lessons and sing some of your favorite hymns. Take note of the promises. Psalm 91: Surely He will save you…You will not fear…no harm will befall you…He will command His angels. Psalm 100: He made us…we are His…His faithfulness continues through all generations. Matthew 11: He gives us rest for our souls. Mark 4: The seed is sown, it’s caught root in your heart! Mark 4: Jesus stills winds and waves. Romans 8: Glory to be revealed, creation liberated, freedom, adoption, redemption, in this hope we are saved. It’s only hope, because it’s not all seen all the time. It’s trusted. It’s believed. And Christ is trustworthy and believable. He has done and will do everything, exactly as He promises! Thank God for that! Amen.