The Door To Salvation Is Opened
April 4, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Exit Is Opened
1. Happy Easter! All day today, as the world spins, songs of rejoicing and praising over Christ's resurrection will revolve around the world. Easter ([Known in Japan as] The Resurrection Festival) is celebrated in churches through out the world. We just read the scripture passage that reports that event and its roots. It is the event that took place that morning at the tomb where Christ was buried.
2. According to what The Gospel According To Mark reports, early that morning, just when it was turning dawn, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, the three of them, all women, headed for the tomb in which Jesus was buried. [They went there] in order to anoint Jesus' corpse with oil. When Jesus was placed into the tomb, they could not even anoint him because the sun was setting and they had to inter him in a hurry before the Sabbath commenced. They couldn't bear the body of Jesus decomposing like that, and then some how after waiting for the Sabbath to end they went to anoint him.
3. But in a certain sense it was a completely reckless operation. I say that because the entrance to the tomb was blocked by a huge stone. In today's passage the text says, "The stone was very large." Three women could not be expected to move it. The women knew it too. That's why they were saying to each other, "Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb for us?" [They said] that about "the stone." Since the women were at the tomb when he was interred, they had surely seen how great a stone it was. Even so, when they arrived at the tomb and looked up, "the stone" was already rolled off to the side. That is what is written in today's passage of scripture.
4. They were saying, "Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb for us?," [and then] "the stone" was rolled away. In other words, "the entrance" to the tomb was opened. They may have thought this was odd, but either way, they were happy that "the entrance" was opened. Their only worry was gone. As things stood now they could go in easily and anoint the body of Jesus. But they immediately found out not so much that "the entrance" had been opened, but that "the exit" had been opened. (By the way, the word that the women used can mean either "entrance" or "exit.")
5. The ladies saw there was a youth in the tomb. He said, "Don't be surprised! You are searching for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, but he has risen from the dead and he is not here. Look! It is the place where they had placed him," (verse six). Indeed, Jesus was no longer there. He had left. The fact that the stone to the tomb was moved out of the way meant that "an exit" had been opened for Jesus, and not that "an entrance" had been opened for the women.
6. However, as you give it some thought, if it was just so Jesus could leave, it would not have been necessary for "an exit" to be opened up. When we look at other passages in scripture, for example, the story is written of when the risen Jesus had appeared to the disciples as they secluded themselves in a house with the door locked. It didn't matter to the risen Christ whether they had shut tight the door to the house or if they had locked it. Since that's the case, then even if the exit to the tomb had not been opened on purpose, then the risen Christ could still have gotten out of it. Why was the tomb purposefully opened? Why was "the exit" opened? I think it was to show it forth plainly to humanity. To the women. And to the disciples. Furthermore, it must have been for the purpose of allowing them to pass it on and tell it to others.
Who Is In The Tomb?
7. Therefore, in fact, it is being passed on to us here in this place today, even after two thousand years. The reason it has been shown and told must be that it has an important message in it worth telling. That morning, "the exit" to the tomb was opened. Anybody could have done it as far as opening the entrance to a tomb. They have had many a funeral services so far, and at those times they [always] open the entrance to the tomb. But at that time, however, it wasn't like that. Christ broke open the exit to the tomb. That is, it means that he opened "the way out of death." In other words, it is saying that nobody needs to be locked up in death. That is what happened that morning for us, and that is the message which we are being told.
8. Incidentally, I have used the expression "to be locked up in death," however, who do you all really think of with those words? Is it the people who have already died? Is it the people already buried in the grave? No, it is not. The ones locked up by death's [prison] are not necessarily just the dead. In a certain sense, even the living are in a similar [condition]. Our lives are already obviously bound by death while we are alive. We are confined. In a way, the grave is not a place we will soon enter ultimately, but you could say that our lives are already in the grave.
9. Of course, we're not usually conscious of this state. However, conscious of it or not, the fact that one is imprisoned in death becomes all too apparent in the bits and pieces of daily life. We fear failure. Why do we? Maybe it's because we know that we cannot endlessly re-do things. Our past mistakes cast a shadow over our lives. Maybe it's because we know that there are so many times when doing things over doesn't work. Life has its time limits for sure. When you consider its limitations, you can't pick up the pieces again when things fall apart. When things break, you can't build it again the second time. We know all this all too often. Therefore, we often times start to live [our lives] dragging around the heavy weight of our past sins for a long long haul; for, we know that within the bounds of human life there are many times when we can no longer make up for things.
10. In this way then, while human beings repeat their sins and mistakes, unable to make atonement or compensation for them, unable to do things over again, they get closer to the end of their lives, and then come to the end of their lives still carrying their indebtedness of many sins. They come to their deaths as sinners by themselves. There is no way out of that reality. Human beings cannot do a thing. That is what it means to be locked up in death.
11. But that day, that morning, the three women saw the tomb whose exit was opened. The exit of the tomb was opened. The exit from death was opened. The door to salvation was opened. What the three of them saw that morning, and what generations of the church have passed on, is the truth that the way out [passed death] was certainly opened, and it was opened by Christ. Thus then, the church has passed down this truth that the door to salvation is opened. Put another way, it means that people no longer have to live imprisoned by death. Our lives no longer have to live confined in dark graves. Since the way out is open, anybody can step out into the morning light of the resurrection.
By The Resurrection Of The Crucified Christ
12. So then, what should we do to step out into the morning light and leave the grave, just as Christ rose again from the dead and left [his] tomb? Let's listen to the words of that youth once more from this text; because he said something very important. He said, "Don't be surprised! You are searching for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, but he has risen from the dead and he is not here. Look! It is the place where they had placed him. Now, go and report it to the disciples and to Peter, 'He has gone on to Galilee ahead of you. Just as he told you earlier, he will meet you there," (verses six and seven).
13. That youth who was sitting at the tomb gave a clear report, that the one who had risen from the dead is the same one who had been crucified on the cross, that Jesus of Nazareth had been resurrected and he is the same one whom the three women had also seen with their own eyes, that is, the crucified one, the one who died miserably upon the cross. That youth gave the unmistakable message, that it was the crucified Jesus of Nazareth who had broken down the door to death which had been confining humanity and who had opened the door to salvation.
14. The door to salvation was opened by his death on the cross. How [is that]? The women still did not know. But it would become clear afterwards, that the cross meant nothing other than the sacrifice to atone for the world's sins. Jesus brought forgiveness of sin to us by his dying as an atonement for sin. He has made it so that we as forgiven persons [can] lift our faces to God and live with Him. In today's first reading the passage was read where Adam and Eve avoided the face of the Lord God and hid in the midst of the trees in the garden. They did. That is the figure of this world, and it is the figure of humankind. But, we no longer should have to avoid the face of God. We should not hide among the trees. We should dive into the love of God because we are given forgiveness of sin through the cross. Thus, if we are in the love of God as persons who have been forgiven of [our] sins, and if we are with the eternal God, then death no longer can confine us and imprison us.
15. The atonement for sin has already been accomplished through the cross. The door to salvation has been opened. The exit has been opened. So, what we need to exit to the outside of the tomb and to begin to walk in the morning light is to accept the grace that has been given through the cross. We are to accept the forgiveness of sin that comes through the cross. And we are to follow the Christ who hung on the cross on our behalf and who rose from the dead. [We are to do] just as the disciples in Galilee did when they received God's forgiveness and began to follow Christ again. At that time, they were no longer confined by death.
16. Today, baptism is probably the clearest way for us to see this point. The Epistle To The Roman Disciples was read in today's second reading. "We were buried with Christ through baptism, and we became participants in his death. That is so that we too will live the new life as Christ was made to rise from the dead by the glory of the father," (Romans 6:4). Paul is thus stating about baptism that [we] "are buried with Christ" in it, and [we] "live the new life" like Christ was raised from the dead to life. A person can live the new life set free from the bonds of death and live in the light of the resurrection. Brother "K" was baptized on his sick bed at the first of January. The brother had been told that the rest of his life would not be long. So he was baptized and partook of the grace of the cross, and when he did, the words that came to his mouth and from his heart is "I am at peace." For about the one month from that moment till he was called home, he was not imprisoned in death at all. The way he was then is certainly the figure of the person who is living in the morning light of the resurrection.
17. And the same thing is happening in this service too. Today two people will be baptized. They too will receive the grace of the cross and begin to walk in the new life. For as long as they live after that moment, they may have some hard times and some sad times. But, at least they will not be imprisoned [by them]. They will walk following after Christ in the morning light of the resurrection.