The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter April 21, 2019
Text: Luke 24:1-12 ILCW Series C 19:2126
Theme: He Is Risen!
If tomorrow, when you get home from work or school and call for your mother, your wife, or someone who is close to you, and there is no answer…and if you find a note on the table saying, “Your wife/your mother/dear one has gone to the hospital,” I think you would be alarmed, yes, frightened! But if she told you beforehand that she was going and that she would be home again in 2 or 3 days, your fright would be less. You would feel lonely for a while in an empty house, but you would not be as afraid. If something unpleasant is about to happen, it helps to know about it ahead of time. It will still be unpleasant. But you’ve been prepared, and it is not such a shock.
I. Some are confused and caught off guard.
Jesus understood that. So, He told us well ahead of time, that He would be arrested, unjustly tried, and put to death on a cross. He told us several times that He would die, but that three days later He would rise again to life. Something very unpleasant was about to happen, and He sought to prepare us ahead of time.
Sometimes, if you are enough afraid of the thing you know is ahead of you, you just close your eyes and pretend it isn’t there. You tell yourself the horror of it will go away, if only you don’t look at it. I think that’s what we did. We had heard what He told us all right. In fact, our friend, Peter, rebuked Jesus for saying it. We heard it, we all heard it, but we refused to understand. Not one of us could bring himself to believe that our beloved Master was going to die.
So, when it happened, it was a heart-wrenching shock to all of us. Everything that made life worth living for us came to a drastic halt on Good Friday afternoon. That night and throughout the endless aching hours of Saturday, we wallowed in gloom and doom. As Easter morning dawned, the happiest day of all the year for you believing Christians, hopelessness, grief, and black despair overwhelmed us.
If only we had listened, really listened to what God said! What a terrible mountain of useless fear and grief we would have spared ourselves! Even as we sat in an upstairs room behind bolted doors, too sunk in sorrow and self-pity to talk, to eat, and to pray, even at that moment God was working the greatest miracle ever. And we almost missed it!
But don’t be too quick to blame us. Has it never happened to you that you have been afraid or in despair all because you forgot the words and promises of God? It’s happened to me. Oh, I’ve heard, I’ve studied in depth those promises often enough. I’ve known them for years. I can recite them by heart. Yet, when trouble comes, how quickly I forget them! How quick we can be to tremble and doubt!
But return with me to that first Easter morning. A little group of our women walked slowly through the streets of Jerusalem. It was still dark, but the morning’s first light was beginning to dawn in the east. The women, from various backgrounds, some rich, some poor, some lowly, some influential, carried spices to spread on the body of our dear Master. It was the only thing left for them to do, to show their love for our Jesus, or so we thought at the time.
Eyes red, swollen, but not crying anymore. When all hope is gone, it doesn’t help to even cry. Our friends didn’t talk much as they plodded along with heavy hearts. But the question was raised, “How are we going to move the big stone in front of the grave?” No one answered; no one knew; no one cared to figure it out. Silently they passed through the city gate.
Oh, ladies, ladies, who love Jesus and whom Jesus loves! I wish we could have lifted the gloom from our eyes, for our friends were about to see something such as we never dreamed could happen!
Ah, they did lift their eyes, but they lifted them only to see that the stone was rolled away from the cave in which our dead Master was laid. How did this happen? New fears struck their hearts. Rushing in, they find no body. Graves are supposed to contain dead bodies! But Jesus’ body was gone, and they were confused by it all.
Have you ever looked for something in the wrong place? You search and search, high and low, where you think it should be, only to have it pointed out that, all the while, you were looking in the wrong spot. One should find a dead body in a grave. But it wasn’t there! And the women were frightened anew, caught off guard, confused. It took messengers sent from God to tell them that they were looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place.
While they stood there at a loss for an explanation, two angels appeared beside them and asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you.”
How foolish we were, because Jesus had told us about His resurrection multiple times. We had forgotten the words and promises of God when He said, “I will rise again the third day.”
Well, that explains why our friends didn’t find Jesus where they thought He should be. You don’t go to a tomb in order to find someone who is alive. But we were confused and caught off guard because we did not listen and did not believe the words Jesus spoke. So, for days we carried around such needless grief and despair.
How many needless burdens do you carry from day to day? How much grief and despair do you shoulder? How many times aren’t you confused and caught off guard? And it all happens because we haven’t really listened to the voice of our Savior assuring us of His undeniable victory for us. He will get us through all things (Ro.8:28).
But this is most of all about the resurrection from the grave and the hope of eternal life. Some are confused about such things. But no one should be. For God has spoken about death, about forgiveness, and about life through His Son because He Is Risen!
He is Risen! Having a risen Savior first of all means that there are no sins still hanging over our heads because Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Ro. 4:25). God has spoken! Having a risen Savior means that there are no sins and payment for them hanging over our heads. Christ paid for every one of them on Friday so that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro.8:1). God approved it; God has spoken! Listen and believe what He promises.
He Is Risen! God’s messenger proclaimed. And that makes all the difference in the world when I am at the point of death for God has promised His own that He will not abandon them to the grave (Ps.16). And Jesus has promised that by His resurrection He has overcome death for us. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He said. “He who believes in me shall live, even though He dies. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn.11:25-26).
Oh, my body will someday become lifeless too, and it will probably remain in a grave much longer than Jesus’ body did. But my soul will be with my Lord the minute I breathe my last here, and someday, someday in the future my Savior will come back for my body at the end of time to reunite soul and body so that the complete me, whom He has created and redeemed, will be with Him forever in heaven. He has spoken! “I go there to prepare a place for you.” He promised the night before His crucifixion. “And if I go, to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me that you may be where I am” (Jn.14:2f). It all happens because He is Risen!
II. Some are indifferent, but don’t hesitate to proclaim it.
When the angel finished speaking, the women turned and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. They ran back to the rest of us who were still burdened with grief and despair. A happy, new hope and realization of God in His saving grace and glory exploded within them while we still wallowed in our gloom and doom, indifference and unbelief. And as they ran the words of the angel echoed in their heads: “Don’t you remember how He told you these things?” “We remember! We remember!” they told one another.
Although we may forget for a time the promises to us that God has spoken, God will not forget. He sees our griefs; He knows our sorrows; He feels our pains; and He knows how much, in the end, that we Christians do love Him, despite our confusion, fears, and doubts. So, He sends His messengers to bid us, “Fear not.” And He sends His Word to comfort and strengthen us. That Word “never returns to Him empty but accomplishes the purposes for which He sent it” (Is.55:11). Although you may sadly, like we first disciples, forget for a time, He reminds us that our “God is faithful, He will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability, but when He tests you, He will also bring about the outcome so that you are able to bear it” (1Cor.10:11).
And if others should appear indifferent to your witness of forgiveness and life everlasting through Christ, just like the women experienced at first when they came back to happily tell the rest of us disciples, don’t be alarmed. God is still at work. Don’t hesitate to proclaim the good news! Even should others call it “Nonsense – Nonsense!” – just like we did at first, so be it! It is still the truth!!! Thankfully, the Holy Spirit also guided us to believe it in the end. God’s Word and promises shall stand; they will not fall. Pray that God will help those who are indifferent to one day experience the glory of His resurrection promises, too.
For He Is Risen! He is risen indeed! God grant its comfort and joy to you this day and every day; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.