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Sermon - March 27, 2016 Easter

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1249

March 27, 2016 Luke 24:1-12

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“He Is Not Here, But Has Risen”

 

  • The stone was rolled away

 

1-3 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 

 

They did not find the body! Today is my favorite day on the Christian calendar. That is not saying much since this should be the favorite day for all Christians. Today is the day that sets all our days apart. Today is the day that defines our lives. Today is a great day: to celebrate, to feast, to sing, to worship, to love, to smile, to proclaim, to hoot and holler! It is a day for gratitude and for surprise.

 

The Sabbath was over and the women went to the tomb to embalm Jesus’ body because there was no time in the rush to get the body to the tomb before sundown and before the Sabbath. They came, in total silence, still stunned by the events of the last three days. I imagine their eyes were dry because they had cried every tear possible, slept very little, and struggled to get their hearts out of their stomachs. It is not unlike those who, today, take flowers to the grave site still anguished over an untimely, unexpected death. It is probably safe to say that the crucifixion was the most devastating event in the life of the apostles and the other men and women who followed Jesus.

 

The women came to the tomb, they too have died -- their dreams, their hopes, a part of each of them has died with Jesus. Only now with Jesus' death, only now with the worst crisis they could have imagined, only now with death a reality can the stage be set.

 

They came to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, they did not find the body. They wondered who stole the body, how could this large stone have been rolled away? Why has this happening? Isn't it enough that Jesus is dead? Once again they feel violated. They die again, a little bit. But only in death will they know. Only through the death on Good Friday is the life of Easter Sunday possible. This is a theme through much of our lives; only in the death of something is life truly possible. Paul tells us that we must die to ourselves in order to live to Christ. Pride dies to bring forth humility. Greed dies to spring up generosity. Selfishness dies to give way to hospitality. Hatred dies as love triumphs. But, we try to avoid anything associated with death. We want to race through Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday, and yet, death seems to be the reality that is more believable than the promise of life after death. Perhaps that is because we are really more familiar with death, familiar with time spent in the funeral home, familiar with television pictures of war and crime and terrorism. On the other hand, deep down in our hearts, we are searching for life.

 

 

  • Why do you seek the living among the dead?

 

4-8 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words…

 

 

The news that shattered the sadness is told to the women, Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

 

This testimony in Luke 24 tells about the women who come to a tomb prepared to face death and in the midst of their tragedy they are twisted around again and told "he is not here". I can only imagine what they must have been thinking, “Where is he?”

 

The story of Luke 24 speaks to our story especially when we experience the deathliness of our life on earth. When death strikes, whether in our family, with a friend, or in other “deaths” like losing a job or a dream we know will not come true, we lift up the words of hope from the story of Easter. Jesus would “be crucified, and on the third day rise again."

Those who come to the tomb find it hard to believe that there is life after death – life for Jesus, and life for themselves, and because of this good news, we also have the gift of life. This is a story that moves from death to life, turning around what we normally experience – from life to death. This is a proclamation that promises life after death.

 

You will not find the living among the dead! He is risen. Hope, expectations, dreams, all resurrected. That is our story today. Any hint of death is overcome and we have resurrection life, resurrection hope, resurrection expectations and resurrection dreams.

 

The angels tell them to remember what Jesus had said about his death and resurrection and they do remember. I imagine they could almost hear in their minds Jesus saying the words, turn to Luke 9:22, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Remember when he said that? They remembered.

 

 

  • They told all these things!

 

9-11 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 

 

The first evangelists were these women! And their testimony fell on disbelieving ears. That saddens us as much as anything, that the first good news of life was basically rejected by the men who were closest to Jesus. It seemed like an idle tale. They did not believe them. Remember how many times the disciples did not believe something Jesus had said? Here they are again falling into the same mode of disbelief.

The women though, we must give them much credit for their excitement and courage to go to the disciples and share what they had seen and heard. I can only imagine how they might have responded to the disbelief of the disciples. Ladies, how often do you run into this problem with us men?!

 

  • Peter visits the tomb

 

12 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

 

One disciple, in Luke's version, only one runs to the tomb. Something must have stirred in Peter's heart while the women were speaking. Something caused Peter to go see for himself. If he really did not believe them he would not have bothered to go to the tomb.

When he gets there, he looks and sees nothing but the burial cloth. I wonder what his thoughts were at that moment. Did he remember Jesus' words? Did he wonder, like the women probably did, where have they taken the body? Luke reveals that Peter marveled – astonishment, wonder, and surprise.

 

 

  • He Has Risen

 

Today we hear the story and the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the events Jesus foretold, and the words of resurrection the women told the disciples, and the church has told the world, and we cling to these words because we trust that in them is the life promised beyond and in spite of death. These are the only words that will take us through our lives in victory and in hope, no matter what happens in our lives, no matter what circumstances we face, these are the words of life. In the stark reality of death, the women find life in an empty tomb.

 

The message is this, “He is not here; but has risen!” This is all we need to say. This is all we need to hear. He has risen and from time to time we can say, he is right here, revealed in the Word, by the Holy Spirit at the table and the sacrament of communion, here with us as we worship, in us - present in Spirit and Truth, for he has risen! Christ is risen and Christ calls us to believe the good news, to sing his praise, to give thanks, for Christ is Lord of our lives as we journey between life and death, and from death to life. Christ is risen! Jesus is alive and because he lives, we live! Alleluia and amen.