1 Corinthians 15:51-57
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Now, have you ever seen a painting of Our Lord’s crucifixion where artist has painted self into the scene? Museums the world over are filled with such paintings. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? The artists wink at you and say, “Yes. I was there. I believe. His death and resurrection are for me!”
Authors sometimes do the same thing. They paint themselves into the stories they tell. And St. Mark is no different. He was literally there throughout the story of Jesus, seeing much of it first hand, with His own two eyes. But at the highpoint in the story he paints himself into the picture, zooming the camera in on one little detail, drawing attention to himself and his own sinful foolishness. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night, the evening before our Lord’s suffering and death. The soldiers have just burst onto the scene. Judas has betrayed Our Lord into the hands of evil men. All His’ disciples have fled abandoning Him, including “a young man who followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And [the soldiers] seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.”
It is a random little detail not recorded in any other Gospel. The camera zooming in for that moment on a usually unseen background character. Who is that character? It is St. Mark himself. Scared. Afraid. Embarrassed and utterly naked. For fear causes you to act irrationally. To run away completely naked from armed men fearing for your life.
In fear, the women also acted irrationally. On Sunday morning they were told by the angel to tell His disciples and Peter that He is alive and going to Galilee. But in their fear their mouths were stopped up. But did you notice how Mark describes the angel? A young man dressed in a white robe. Here is Mark painting himself back into the picture again. This is not literally Mark, it is an angel. But by the time Mark writes this account his sin of abandoning the Lord has been forgiven. His guilty conscience had been put at rest. For though one young man in a linen cloth had fled naked, ashamed, broken, Our Lord appoints another young man to be His messenger, to tell His tale in the tomb. This young man is dressed not merely in a cloth but a robe, full of majesty, the clothing of a high official in the Roman Empire. This young man has authority. He holds office. He speaks on behalf of the risen Lord! He is His right hand man.
For that’s what the resurrection of Jesus Christ does for sinners. It clothes them. It covers their shame. It gives them greater and better things than before. Mark had been a sniveling little turntail. Christ’s resurrection converted him into one of the four Evangelists, an officially authorized biographer of the most important person who ever lived: the God-man risen from the dead!
And since Mark painted himself into the story, it gives us an opportunity to paint ourselves into the story too. Have you in your sin abandoned the Lord and fled from His side, be it from being counted as one of His disciples, or being associated with Him, or turning your back on your Baptism by not coming to see the Lord and hear from Him with any regularity? This day you have heard your Lord’s pardon, His promise of eternal rest and the peace granted to all who trust in Him. If that means anything to you, determine to continue to come and to be rested by the gifts your Lord would give you here week by week. Ponder what you must do to clear your schedule, or straighten out your priorities. For coming into union with the Risen Lord is the most restful, peace-giving thing that we can have on this side of heaven. This is where the Risen Christ comes to commune with His people. This is where He passes not only through rock and stone, but right the through the rift that divides heaven from earth to come into our presence on the altar in the bread and wine, bringing all the heavenly host with Him! For when we kneel to receive Jesus at the rail we are kneeling before our king. But angels, archangels and all company of heaven are there. That means all those blessed ones who have died in the Lord are present at the altar with you. A true resurrection miracle! Eternal rest, eternal sabbath is yours week by week at this rail.
This is what it means that Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON