Scripture Reading: Luke 24:1-12
So, how’s your weekend been so far? Everyone good? Everyone recovered from Good Friday?
Good Friday is such a hard day. I don’t know if you find it that way or not, but I find it hard. Jesus dying and all that. And knowing that I put him there. It’s a very emotional day.
And then all day Saturday, you just aren’t sure how you’re supposed to feel. Should I be happy it’s a nice day and get out and enjoy it? Or do I sit and mourn some more? What is it we’re supposed to do?
Everyone around us is so excited it’s a 4-day weekend! They are out playing with their kids, happy and excited. Spring is very much in the air!
Yet as Christians, we don’t know what to think. We want to be happy, but we almost feel guilty about it. Jesus died, and we had a hand in it. So when Sunday morning comes, it’s almost a sense of relief! Finally! We can celebrate! We can be happy!
But should it be a sense of relief?
Today, Easter Sunday, it is the greatest day of the entire year! No other day tops today!
The tomb is empty!
Jesus is gone! He’s not in the tomb. His body is no where to be seen! And so we celebrate!
What a weird thing to celebrate!
Someone we think who is very important has died. And now we’re celebrating that the place where he has buried… well, no one can find the body.
No doubt, the women who went to the tomb and found it open were in shock. Not only had they lost someone they loved, but they can’t even find the body. The Gospel of Luke says they were confused, they were wondering about what they have found at the tomb.
The stone rolled away. No sign of Jesus. You wonder if they walked back outside the tomb to make sure they got the right address.
It’s a strange situation to celebrate. Is it not?
And then there’s the two visitors… two angels appear and the women were afraid, as I’m sure all of us would be in the same circumstance. But the angels have an important message to share.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” (Luke 21:5-7)
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Isn’t that an interesting question? It appears as though the women did look in the wrong place, but it’s not because they are at the wrong tomb, it’s because they are looking for someone who’s no longer dead!
And then we are told the women remembered his words. They remembered what Jesus had been teaching. They remembered that he had said a few times, “I will rise again on the third day.” Well, this is the third day! And he’s not here! Just as he promised! Of course! How silly!
There it is! There’s the reason to celebrate!
Jesus has won! Victory is his!
But what has he won? What is this victory?
Well, let’s look to see what the Bible has to say about that.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Well, what does it mean “according to the scriptures? Let’s keep looking at the Bible for understanding.
“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:1-4)
And those are just a few examples of many we find in scripture of why we celebrate the empty tomb.
If it all ended on Good Friday, if it all ended in death, then we have nothing to celebrate here today. Because if it ends in death, then we all will die, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Live a pure life, live a sinful life, it’s all the same. It make no difference at all.
But the empty tomb shows it does make a difference. It makes a difference because Jesus did exactly as he said he was going to do.
He lived. He LIVES!
He has done something no one thought was possible. He was killed on the cross, surely no one can ever come back from such a death! But he did! 3 days later, just as he promised, he’s alive!
And the women remembered he said he would do this.
They are so excited to have been reminded of this remarkable plan, and to witness it actually fulfilled, they run back to the disciples and share what they have witnessed and have learned.
The response of the disciples is confusion. Luke writes, “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
I suspect, in their excitement, the women were tripping over their words trying to convey this amazing thing they have witnessed, and how they remembered how Jesus had shared with all of them the plan, and how it all actually unfolded perfectly, just as he said it would.
But the disciples didn’t believe them. Why not? What was their problem? Can’t they trust the women?
Well, the disciples didn’t receive the news from an angel. It wasn’t revealed to them by the Holy Spirit, as it was for the women. The women had the words of Jesus within them, they had heard Jesus tell them this a number of times, the same as the disciples, and the Bible says they remembered them. They remembered them, but only after the prompting of the angels and the Holy Spirit.
The disciples did not have this revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Peter even got up to go and investigate for himself. He walked into the tomb and saw the burial cloths with his own eyes. But even after seeing the empty tomb for himself; even after hearing what the women experienced, he still didn’t get it. He left, wondering what had happened.
Peter didn’t have the Holy Spirit reveal it to him as the women did.
Isn’t that interesting? The disciples, the ones Jesus had been training for three years, they still had to wait. These men who were the ones who were chosen to build the church of Jesus Christ, they had to wait even longer before they would fully understand what had happened.
It was the women who knew first. It was the women who were the first to share the Good News of the Risen Christ, just as he had promised.
The first preachers of the Good News of the empty tomb, the first evangelists to tell of the saving act of Jesus Christ overcoming the grave, they were women.
This is significant, because women had no leadership roles in society at the time. They were there to serve the men. Yet, the women were the first to not only hear the Good News, they were the first to understand it.
It’s time for another connection between this late story in the Gospel of Luke with one from early on. (If you haven’t heard or read my sermons lately, there’s been a few of these types of connections between the final days of Jesus and his early days in the Gospel of Luke.)
Think back to the birth of Jesus. Who was there? Were the pharisees there? No? What about scribes or other religious leaders? Nowhere in sight. Not even mentioned! What about politicians? Was the king there? Was the governor there? Nope, none of them either.
So who was there at his birth? A virgin and her husband, all alone because they have been ostracized by their community because, well.. because she’s pregnant before she was married. Who else was there? Shepherds! Dirty, smelly, uneducated, unwanted shepherds.
These are who received the gift of the Christ child. Nobodies. No one particularly liked very much. No one respected, no one of any importance at all.
And who received the Good News that Jesus is alive? Women. No one of any particular importance in the grand scheme of society. Certainly not anyone we would expect to be the first to receive this wonderful news. Yet the Holy Spirit gave them an understanding of what has happened before anyone else! And they happily share it with the others so everyone would have the chance to know Jesus Christ is alive!
Who else needs to know?
Who, in this world of ours today, needs to know that Jesus is alive and that he has won the battle on our behalf? Who needs to know?
I’m going to suggest it’s a lot of people. There are a lot of people who need to know that Jesus Christ has risen so that we all are saved from our sinfulness. We all need to know that we have eternal life when we realize this incredible gift God has given to us, this gift of a new life in Him. And this new life is for all eternity. There are many people who need to know this news.
So who’s going to tell them?
If you’re thinking, “Well not me, no one ever listens to me!” then you need to look at this story again.
No one understood the women when they shared this good news. But Peter went to check it out for himself. At the very least he was intrigued enough by what they shared to go and see for himself. Peter, after hearing what the women saw and heard, he felt the need to go and try to find that same excitement the women have.
Do not underestimate what the power of the story, your story, can have. If you have had an encounter with Jesus in your life, a Good News story of your own, then it needs to be shared.
Sure, maybe no one will understand what you are saying. Maybe people won’t get it. But at some point, someone will have the courage to go and see for themselves. They will walk into a place where they can witness what God has done.
Eventually they will get it. Eventually the Holy Spirit will reveal to them an understanding of what Jesus has done. But they won’t know to check it out until someone invites them with a story of their own. Just like Peter responded when the women shared a story with him and the rest of the disciples.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! This is GOOD NEWS!
It’s Good News because Jesus has overcome the sins of the world so that we may have a new life in him. And so can everyone else share in this new life, anyone who comes to see for themselves.
God will reveal this victory over sin and death to anyone who comes to Him. God will show us the new life we can have with Him, and with Jesus, when we open our hearts to even just the possibility through the hearing of the story.
The story of the Good News of Jesus Christ, risen from the tomb, so we may have new life in him, for all eternity.
Isn’t that worth knowing? Isn’t that worth sharing?
Good News for all the earth, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Let us pray,
On Friday we mourned your death. We confessed our failures and our contribution to that painful death. And for the last few days we have pondered, we have wondered, we have struggled to understand why it had to happen.
Until this morning.
This morning you walked out of the tomb to show us the battle is done and the victory can be ours, because you fought it for us. You died for us. And you rose from the grave to show us the war is over when we join you. It is done.
What a blessing. We thank you Lord Jesus for this gift. We welcome your love into our lives, the love of our Father God that you share.
Help us to know this deep in our hearts. Help us to share with those who also need to know this love in their lives. Be with us all as we welcome the Good News, that you have risen from the grave for us.
We pray this is in your most holy name. Amen and amen.