Sermon – March 27
Text: Luke 24:4-8
And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” 8 And they remembered His words.
Why do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?
In the name of Jesus, our Savior who lives, dear fellow redeemed:
Several years ago when I was pastor in Bowdle, SD our congregation was hosting a delegate conference. We had numerous people leaving at once to stay with their host family. I quickly told one pastor, “This place is easy to find. It’s on the corner of 4th Street and 4th Avenue. When he arrived – you may have already seen this coming – there were four homes, one on each corner. Fortunately he got to the right place by the process of elimination.
Now, take it a step further. What if I had told that pastor to go and find his host family in the cemetery? Of course, that doesn’t make any sense. He would never have found them there because they were not yet in the grave. Yet that is exactly the way that the women in our text went about their day that first Easter Sunday. The angel asked them the question that we consider today: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message today.
1. The women were unaware of what had taken place
A natural reply to the angel’s question might have been, “Where else is Jesus supposed to be?” They watched him die. They watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put his lifeless body in the tomb. They watched as the stone was rolled in front of the mouth of the cave sealing with a finality as sure that jail cell doors being closed. They even were wondering who would roll the stone away for them because to their knowledge it would still be there. They went to a grave to see Jesus because after all death is the end, isn’t it?
But with Jesus the normal rules that we are all subject to did not apply. Psalm 16 prophesying of Jesus reads, For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption. Jesus as the Holy Son of God would taste death and His death was indeed real. There was no doubt that any coroner today would have made that judgment. But death did not affect Him like the rest of us. It would not even go through the normal decomposition that happens to every other body. Jesus is more powerful than even death itself.
These women had the best of intentions, and it’s hard to fault them for what they were doing. The apostles had sequestered themselves and were afraid of what might happen to them. These ladies were honoring Jesus by heading out to anoint His body with spices as was their custom. It was a way of showing respect, and doubtless in an era in which people died young, they had gone through this process before. It would seem though, that their grief had overshadowed their faith. There was not the confidence that He would be triumphant over death as He had predicted. The result was that they were greatly perplexed about this [the empty tomb].
2. All of Jesus’ followers should have known better
How could they have known that this would happen? The better question was how could they not have known? It seems as if the angels are chiding them a bit: Why do you seek the living among the dead? First of all Jesus had told them on numerous occasions. All of His followers should have known. After the transfiguration He said to tell no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead. We read in verse 7 the angels recalling what Jesus had said: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and the third day rise again. He laid it all out beforehand. He had talked about the sign of the prophet Jonah – He would be in the tomb three days as Jonah was in the belly of a fish. He said that if they tore down this temple, namely His body, He would rise again. It was a constant theme in His ministry. Even his enemies remembered His prediction, and set a guard to ensure that His body was not stolen and some hoax perpetrated.
To back up what He said He demonstrated His power in miracles, even just recently raising Lazarus from the dead. Many witnesses had heard the Father’s voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be His Son. I think that perhaps we would have been in the same position as the apostles and these women assuming that death was the final blow for Jesus, but there was no excuse for missing the signs that preceded His death. There is no excuse today either.
Faith goes beyond what can be seen. Faith believes the impossible. So although we did not have the opportunity like Thomas and the rest of the disciples to see the risen Savior and see the wounds of the cross and even be able to touch Him, we still hold on to what we know by faith even as outlandish as it may sound. God even goes the extra mile to make sure that what happened was recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit. We can read again and again of the hundreds of eyewitnesses. We’ve believed events in history books with far fewer witnesses. In faith, though, it is enough for God to simply tell you. Even if there were no eyewitnesses we would know Jesus’ resurrection to be true. The witnesses are just icing on the cake.
In faith then, we can go a step further and know the ramifications of His resurrection. It shows beyond a shadow of doubt that He is the Son of God as He claimed to be. It proves that our sins are forgiven since His resurrection shows that the Father accepted His sacrifice. And since Jesus rose it proves that you as a believer will also rise from the dead one day. You are connected to Christ and will experience glory just as He did. He is the firstfruits meaning that more will follow.
3. Knowing the answer to the question makes all the difference in the world
The women went to the wrong place to look for Jesus. That is still commonplace today. Many people assume that Jesus is still dead. Atheists long for the day when they can claim that they discovered Jesus’ body. Some look into their own hearts and emotions and imagine that they need to have a special feeling to prove that Jesus is alive. Whether you feel it or not does not change the fact that Jesus lives.
Where do you find Jesus? The angel said to the women: He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you in Galilee… And they remembered His words. We need to remember and go back to His words to find Him. We find Him throughout the Scriptures even in the Old Testament. Jesus said in John 5: You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me.
Some want to see a miracle. Some will not believe until it is posted on Youtube. Remember Jesus’ words. Search the Scriptures and you will find Him. He has given us 24 hour access to Him. You will also find Him in the sacraments. Finding Jesus doesn’t need to be mysterious or mystical. We don’t need to have people fainting or speaking in tongues. It’s really quite simple. Jesus can be found in His Word.
When you know where to look you need to remember what He has said, namely that He alone is the way of salvation, that His resurrection will only benefit those who believe in Him. The devil is trying to tear us away from Him, but we need to cling tightly until the day when we enter into death.
Being connected to Jesus means that you are connected to life. You have a Savior who overcame death and is now passing on that trait to you. Your body will see death, but your soul never will. Your heart does not need to overwhelmed with fear, despair and grief. You have a living Savior and you have life. The grave cannot contain any believer. Remember His Words. Remember the promises that He has made to you. They are just as certain as His prediction that He would rise. Lift up your hearts! Don’t seek the living among the dead. Jesus is risen! Amen.