Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold This Body Down

Text:  Mark 16:1-8
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Standing over a grave is like standing over a black hole.  It is dark.  The deep soil brings coolness to the air which chills your feet.  The depth of the grave brings a biting to your bones as the grave seems to draw all hope, joy, and optimism from you into itself. 
The dark cruel grave seems to chuckle in victory as the body of a loved one is lowered into its jaws.
There the body will stay, held in the grasp of the grave’s claws.
O grave, it appears that you have victory!  O grave it appears that you have had the final word with many of our loved one. 
O grave, it also appears that you had victory on Good Friday, for you devoured up Jesus.  “You took His lifeless body into your jaws.  You captured God in the flesh.  You brought the Creator so low that you stopped His breath, broke His heart, cut Him off from the light and the land of the living.  You exacted a terrible price, the price of all the sins of all men, of the Law’s full stricture, upon the sinless and perfect Son of God, [Jesus Christ].”[1]
Is this your victory though?  Is this all you could do to the Christ?  If this is your power and if this is your victory, why is the tomb empty?  Why is the Christ not found among the dead?  Why did Jesus rise to life? 
Hear us laugh at you o grave, for the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone to show us and the entire world that you are not as powerful as you might think.  The stone was rolled away to show us that your threats of death are really a facade, for Christ escaped your jaws.  Did you hear that grave, you could not keep the Christ contained. 
On Friday night it seemed that you were the one that was alive as you consumed the lifeless Son of God into your deep cavern.  Today though we hear that the Christ has risen, which leads us to conclude that you are the one that is lifeless and dead, for Christ is alive and well, seated at the right hand of the Father. 
“Where is your victory, O grave?  Show [us].  Where is your sting?  What has happened to your power?  Have you so soon forgotten how you made us cower?  Don’t you claim to be the [common denominator of all of mankind] . . . Aren’t you the ruler of the battlefield and cancer ward, the constant threat against young mothers [with child]? . . . [Don’t you lean inward on us] every time we fall asleep, [quietly whispering to us] that you are the master and will take us when you [well please]? . . . Don’t you claim that you make our bodies fail, grow weak and old and contract diseases, that you make this living death a pure misery of pain, dying, and loneliness, while you strive at all times to take away our dignity?”[2]
O grave, you may claim all of this, but we shake our heads at you in disgust.  We chuckle with the laugh of victory at your overinflated self-assessments.  We taunt you not once, but we taunt you a second time, for Christ our Lord and God has risen out of your so-called power.  Do you not see o grave, He is not in your lair of death.  He is not with you, but He is with us, His church—ALIVE. 
“And what of our deaths and caskets,” you may ask? 
O grave, do you not know that by Jesus’ three-day rest in the tomb that He made the burial places holy of all who believe in Him?  O grave, do you not know that those who are baptized into Jesus were baptized with Him in death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life? O grave, you’ve got nothing on us, because we have been united to Jesus with Him in death and we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 
O grave you will not get us.  You will not keep us in your clinching jaws.  It is true that at the end of our lives we are put six-feet under, but there in your midst, o grave, we will sleep with peace, for our places of burial are made holy by Jesus.  We will sleep in your midst in peace until we are awakened to glory.  Behold, o grave, we tell you a mystery, we shall all sleep when we are put six-feet under, but we shall all be changed.  In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet we will burst forth from your midst with resurrected bodies, and we will see our Lord face to face. 
“And what of our sin,” you may ask?
It is true that our sin puts us in a casket.  Our sin unites us with you o grave; however, have you been so quick to forget about Good Friday?  The Gospel puts us in Jesus’ grave and raises us anew daily, for Christ bled and died for us, accomplishing forgiveness, life, and salvation.
O grave, I ask again, where is your victory?  Where is your bite?  Where are the fangs of your jaw?  You have no answer o grave, for they are all gone, they are worthless, and they are nothing, for Jesus died and Jesus lives.  In fact, since Jesus lives and you are nothing, this conversation need not continue.
Baptized Saints, this Easter Morning, just in case the grave still attempts to speak its lies to you, hear now: 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you.  This is your present reality. Do not be afraid of the grave today. 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you.  This means that your sins have been truly paid for, that God’s wrath was appeased, that death is powerless, and that the devil is a defeated foe. 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you.  This means that you have a living Savior and a victorious Savior; a living advocate.
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you.  This means that your Christ trampled over death by death. No scheme of man and no power of evil could hold Him down.
Baptized Saints, “there is nothing in [the entire] world that you can be more sure of, than Jesus crucified for you, risen for you.  [As they say,] “Ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down.”[3]
Baptized Saints, “Jesus lives, and by His words and Spirit He puts His death and His life into you.  You are baptized.  ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God.’”[4] 
You are buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus; the Gospel has put you into Jesus’ grave, a grave that could not hold the Messiah down, but a grave that leads to the resurrection. 
The Lord is risen!
The grave is empty!
Because He lives, you live as well![5]
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 [1] David H. Peterson, Thy Kingdom Come: Lent and Easter Sermons (Fort Wayne, IN: Emmanuel Press, 2012), 152.
 [2] Ibid.
 [3] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 120.
 [4] Ibid.
 [5] The idea to personify ‘the grave’ comes from David Peterson’s Easter Sermon in his book, “Thy Kingdom Come.”

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