Luke 24:1-12 Jesus’ resurrection

Sermon preached on 8th April 2012, Easter Day

As this is Easter Day I want to share, perhaps not surprisingly, on Jesus’ resurrection.

READ Luke 24:1-12

The first thing we notice about Luke’s account of Jesus’ resurrection is the way in which the story is told, in a very matter of fact and historical way:

v1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

It was the first day of the week, the day we call Sunday.  The women had got up very early in the morning – may be like some of you did today.  They had prepared spices to embalm his body, but when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty.  Luke is not describing a vision; he is not relating an hallucination; he is telling it as history.

At the beginning of this gospel, Luke tells us his overall purpose in writing:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Many had written accounts of all that had happened, and so Luke also made a careful investigation of everything that had happened, to check it out.  He then wrote it down in an orderly account so that Theophilus – either a real person and friend of Luke, or just a general name to include everyone who loves God – so that Theophilus may be certain of the things he has been taught.  So we also can be certain of the record Luke has left us.

Other New Testament writers also speak of the literal nature of Jesus’ resurrection.  For example, the writer of John’s first epistle says,

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard. (1John 1:2-3)

In 1 Corinthians 15:16 the Apostle Paul says, And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

This means that if Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, we might as well pack up and go home.  Christian faith is far too costly for something which is unreal.

Two angels appeared to the women and ask, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen!

Then the angel reminds the women of Jesus’ own words that he would rise again. And they remember, and rush off to tell the disciples what has happened.  In v11 Luke record the very human reaction of the disciples,

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense.

It sounded to them like a load of old rubbish, just as many people today think it’s a load of nonsense.

Then Peter decides to check it out for himself, so he runs to the tomb, and looks in, and sees the strips of linen, which were, unusually, laid neatly and in order, and he went away wondering what had happened.  Maybe, like Peter, you also are wondering what happened.

The end of the passage finishes on a cliff-hanger.  Let’s fast-forward to v36.  Jesus meets them and they are startled and frightened because they think he is a ghost.  But Jesus says, Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

The disciples are filled with joy and amazement as they struggle to believe and come to terms with what had happened.  And over the next few weeks this bunch of fearful and defeated men were radically changed into bold and confidence men fired up with a message, for which they gave their lives, and they turned the world upside down.  If it wasn’t the resurrection of Jesus which transformed them, I would like to know what it was.

But what does Jesus resurrection mean for us?  It means many things, but this morning I want simply to focus on the question the angel asked the women: Why are you looking for the living among the dead?

The question is not only addressed to the women, but also to us: Why are you looking for life in places which are dead and empty?

At one level, of course, the women weren’t seeking the Living; they came to Jesus’ tomb to embalm a dead body.   But at a deeper level, they were seeking, just as we are all seeking, to find that which truly satisfies, which is why the angel asked the question in the way he did.

It has long been recognised that there is within the human heart a restlessness and a deep longing for something which can satisfy.  We look in all sorts of places for this fulfilment.  Have you ever noticed what happens when you want something very badly, and then you get it?  You have longed for it, such as a qualification, or a new job, or a pay rise.  You think that when you get it you will be satisfied, and that will be enough.  But you find that it doesn’t quite work like that, and your heart is not satisfied, and you want more, and press on to the next goal.  May be the angel’s question is actually God’s question to you today, Why seek ye the living among the dead. He is not here, he is risen!  Why are you looking for satisfaction in places which can never satisfy your restless heart?

Theologian C.S. Lewis recognised this condition of the human heart as he was reflecting on the nature of beauty:

The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them … These things – beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn to dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.

Our temptation is that we seek fulfilment in the thing itself rather than recognising that which fulfils lies beyond the created thing.  The thing itself can never give life, and is only a dumb idol.   If TV soaps are in any way a reflection of society, this short trailer of the latest Coronation Street shows people are not finding satisfaction in things, even in human relationships: “Sunita ends up in a passionate clinch with Karl.  With both their marriages in tatters, the pair have sought solace in each other’s arms.”

Our partner can never meet this inner longing; we put unrealistic expectations on them, then wonder why the relationship breaks up; and we are left with a broken heart.  Marriage is of course a great blessing, but our husband/wife cannot meet our inner restlessness.

People seek fulfilment in wealth, and yet never have enough.  Others seek satisfaction in intellectual pursuits, like the philosopher Paul Moore, who was fascinated by Platonic ideas and the beauty of an ideal world of mathematics.  But then he began to experience a deep sense of inner bleakness and emptiness in his life.  He was driven to search for God by what he described as, “the loneliness of an Ideal world without a personal Lord.”    He became a Christian.

I’d suggest that the angel identified for the women, and also identifies for us that which we are really seeking: the living, or, as in some translations, the Living One – a personal Lord.   He lived as a human being; he was without sin and died for our sins; He is risen from the dead; and he lives for evermore!  Yet we insist on looking in empty tombs, in places where there is no life.  We will only find the Living One as we look up and knock at heaven’s door.

It was Augustine who said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

According to the Christian doctrine of creation, we are made in the image of God.  This means we have an inbuilt need, and an inbuilt capacity to relate to God.  To be fulfilled it to be filled by God.  But because of our fallenness we try to fulfil this need by looking in the wrong places.  We substitute the created thing for the Creator, but the consequence is spiritual deadness and emptiness.   But Jesus, through his life and death was victorious over sin and death, and he is risen!  He is the Living One who fills us.

Yet somehow, like the women, and like the disciples, it’s so hard for the penny to drop.  The disciples thought it was all nonsense.  Before I became a Christian I thought it was all nonsense.  So what makes the difference?  It is something which is both very simply and very hard at the same time.  We need to look in the right place, turn from our sin and unbelief, and put our faith in Christ.  As we do we will meet Him, the Living One, the giver of life, who meets our deepest need.

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