Please read Luke 24:1-12 in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
There was a Christian lady who did a lot of traveling for work, requiring her to fly often. Airplanes made her nervous, so she always took her Bible along to read and it would help relax her.
On one of these flights, she took her seat and took her Bible out of her purse. A man seated next to her chuckled a bit at the sight of a Bible, and he asked, “You don’t really believe all the stuff in there do you?”
“Of course I do,” she replied, “this is the Bible.”
“Yeah, well what about that guy who was swallowed by a whale?”
She nodded. “Jonah. Yes, I believe that happened. It is in the Bible.”
“OK,” the man said, “how do you suppose he survived all that time in a whale? Why wasn’t he suffocated? Digested?”
The woman looked the skeptic squarely in the eye and said, “I don’t really know. I guess when I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah.”
“What if he isn’t in heaven?” the man asked sarcastically.
“Then you can ask him,” she replied.
This lady got the point; I wonder if the guy did. Easter is one of the two big occasions during the year where those of us who get it have special opportunity to share it with those who don’t. The thing to which I am referring is the point of the whole Easter scene: life is available to all who receive Jesus Christ! It is LIFE, abundant and free!
Don’t celebrate the Resurrection but miss its point: you are alive!
- The evidence proving the Resurrection.
Clue #1 = The stone had been rolled away. By design, these stones were meant to be put in place and left there. They were heavy. They were set in an angled track so you had to roll uphill to move it out of the way. As grave robbing was a legitimate concern at that time, graves were made in such a way as to deter robbery. This was a rich man’s grave, so it was of the highest quality. Moving it in and out of place required the work of several men.
Clue #2 = They didn’t find Jesus’ body. Though grave robbing was a problem, the robbers didn’t bother taking the corpse. The women came to embalm Jesus’ body so they were surprised to find it missing.
In this situation, the only people with any motive for taking Jesus’ body had nothing to do with it. The Jewish authorities might have done it to prevent the grave from becoming a shrine. But no, they asked Pilate to seal it tight and he did. The disciples might have done it to fake a resurrection. But no, they were socially isolating in fear of the Romans. Admittedly, it would have been hard to know what to make of this clue all by itself.
Clue #3 = The appearance of angels. Though verses four through eight refer to them as MEN, the details make it clear the two messengers are angels. Consider the three aspects of their description:
– They appeared SUDDENLY, as angels often do.
– Their clothing GLEAMED LIKE LIGHTNING. (Biblically, that description is reserved for supernatural beings.)
– The reaction of the women was to be frightened and to bow before them, WITH FACES TO THE GROUND. That’s how people in the Bible react to angels, never to persons.
In the Bible, angels are a separate race, but they sometimes take on human form. The word translated as angel means “messenger,” and this duo had a five-part message for the women.
– “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?” They make it sound a little odd that the women expected Jesus to be there.
– “HE IS NOT HERE, HE IS RISEN!” As He had already been resurrected, Jesus was not there at that moment.
– Not that any of this should have surprised them; they’d been warned “REMEMBER WHAT HE TOLD YOU.”
– “HE MUST BE DELIVERED INTO THE HANDS OF SINFUL MEN.” In other words, it had always been the Father’s plan that Jesus should come briefly under the power of evil, so he would killed by them.
– “CRUCIFIED:” Jesus’ death was sacrificial, an effective remedy for the universal problem of sin.
– “ON THE THIRD DAY RISE AGAIN:” this part of Jesus’ teaching should have prepared them for this morning: they should have come to the garden ready to worship their Risen Savior, not to anoint His body for burial.
Clue #4 = They remembered Jesus’ words. Well, sure. Having a pair of dazzling angels remind you would be a great memory-refresher! This is important because it meant that they had context for the angels’ message and therefore knew what it meant.
Clue #5 = Peter ran to the tomb. What drove Peter to go to the tomb? What made him so eager to get there? It may have been simple curiosity or he may have been desperate to be forgiven.
Whatever mixture of thoughts and emotions drove Peter to run there, what he saw was a clue: Jesus was gone, but the strips of cloth that had covered His body were left behind. Anyone stealing the body would surely have taken it cloths and all.
Additionally, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had prepared Jesus’ body for burial before the stone had been rolled in front of the tomb. The spices were sticky and smeared on the body. Removing the linen strips would have taken time and effort; there was no reason for a grave robber to do that.
Put all these clues together and the inescapable conclusion is that Jesus rose from the dead. It is the only explanation that is supported by all the data.
- In spite of all these clues, the disciples still missed the point.
THEY DID NOT BELIEVE THE WOMEN; THEIR TESTIMONY SEEMED LIKE NONSENSE. The women were eyewitnesses, but the menfolk did not believe them. Why? Social bias certainly had a role to play; women were not allowed to offer testimony in court. People often refuse to believe anything they haven’t seen for themselves. Remember, they’ve been shut up and in hiding since Jesus’ arrest.
Worse, the women’s TESTIMONY SEEMED LIKE NONSENSE. Given what they’ve just experienced, you could understand if the women were excited. They were probably talking fast and over one another. In their grief, these men would likely have even less patience with something that sounded to them – pardon this politically incorrect expression – hysterical females.
The Gk word translated as NONSENSE was a medical term for the ravings of a fevered insane person. Not to be trusted. The claims of the women were dismissed as emotional rather than rational. Ironically, their slowness of heart to believe is one of the things that proves the Resurrection actually happened. Think about it; this indicates skepticism, depression, and a paralyzing fear.
Nuts who put forth conspiracy theories about the disciples lying and creating a false resurrection are proved wrong; these men were in no shape to create any kind of conspiracy. They had no vision, no desire to create a new faith, no plan at all. They were utterly defeated and without faith on this occasion.
Peter socially isolated himself, WONDERING what had happened. To his credit, Peter is alone among all the male disciples, in taking the women seriously. In fact, Luke tells us that Peter RAN TO THE TOMB.
I can tell you from personal experience it takes a lot to get a fifty-something guy to run anywhere. For Peter, however, this is typical behavior: to run off impetuously. When he got there, what he saw in the tomb – the strips of linen – did not immediately suggest a solution to Peter. So he wandered and WONDERED, trying to find an explanation that fit the facts and suited his preconceived notions. After all, dead is dead, right? Not in this case.
- How to prove you’ve got the point.
Believe it: Accept the evidence. Let the liars and skeptics say what they will; the biblical evidence is clear. The Resurrection did happen.
From there, we believe the following. The Crucifixion was necessary because I have a horrible and recurring problem called sin. I am powerless to fix this problem and it has the most serious outcome: separation from God in this life and in eternity. The Resurrection establishes God’s solution to my sin: the sacrificial death of Jesus. As I receive God’s solution I am forgiven and graciously gifted with life: abundant life in this world and in eternity. Receiving God’s life changes everything: I will spend the remainder of my life unpacking its meaning, but it always starts with loving obedience to God.
Think it: Learn the evidence. Study God’s word. Let it change your heart and mind. Understand how the truth about Jesus affects your priorities and shapes your world view.
Say it: Testify to the evidence. Bring Jesus into every conversation. Look for opportunities to speak His name. Be prepared to tell your personal story of faith.
Do it: Act upon the evidence. Bring Jesus into everyday life by making the same choices He would make. Prioritize your spiritual life: give God the first and best of your time, money, and all other resources (they are His after all). Fellowship with other believers; God created the Church for our good, not the other way around. Mutual service, worship, and discipleship are essential resources for our spiritual maturity.
Don’t celebrate the Resurrection but miss its point: you are alive!
As the angels said, “WHY DO YOU LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? HE IS NOT HERE, HE IS RISEN!” All the evidence is before you. Though the conclusion seems too good to be true, it is! Life is ours because life is in Jesus!
Maybe for some, the Good News seems to good to be true. They’re like a little boy from a long time ago who was a big fan of two children’s TV icons; Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers.
One day it was announce that Mr. Rogers would be paying a visit to Captain Kangaroo, appearing on his show! The boy was ecstatic! Both his heroes on at the same time!
When the day finally arrived, the whole family gathered with the little fellow around the TV. There they were. Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers. Together. At the same time!
The boy watched eagerly for a minute, then surprised everyone by getting up and leaving the room.
Puzzled, his father followed him and asked, “What is it son? What’s wrong?”
“It’s too good,” the boy replied. “It’s just too good.”
If Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers can bring about such a response, surely Jesus rising from the dead could too. Maybe this is why the disciples were slow to believe the women.
After all, life had just dealt them a catastrophic disappointment. Three years of life with Jesus had come to an abrupt end. This is the kind of thing we’ve experienced about this world. Disappointment abounds. Hope gets crushed by tragedy. Happy endings are fiction.
Observing Easter apart from our church family feels like one of those experiences. Perhaps like me you’ve felt anger, grief, denial, bargaining and other emotions of loss. It feels that COVID-19, like the Grinch, has stolen Easter.
But of course, that’s nonsense. Easter is not about traditions and church and families gathered. Easter is something much more.
Easter is life. Don’t allow anything – good or bad – to distract you from that most important point. Easter is your life. Live it.