Summary: An Easter sermon preached 4/4/2010 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Big Cove Tannery and Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Little Cove (Late service). It talks about the importance of the resurrection.
Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
These are words that are so ingrained into us as 21st century Christians, that we almost recite them every Easter without much of a thought. Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is. But would you have believed that good news if you were at the empty tomb nearly 2000 years ago?
The women who came to the tomb in today’s Gospel lesson didn’t believe it at first. Some today don’t believe it either. Is it that important we believe that Christ has risen? Let’s look at the reading to find out.
It’s the third day since Jesus’ crucifixion. That Friday, after He died Luke tells us these facts: Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.  55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. (Luke 23:50-56) Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Joseph also rolled a stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. The women who were making their way to the tomb saw all that happen. Since it was the Passover Sabbath, they were ceremonially forbidden to anoint Jesus’ body, so as today’s reading opens, it’s Sunday morning, and they’re o their way to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. Now what do you think they expect to find when they get there? They expect to find Jesus’ body wrapped in the linen shroud. Matthew adds in one other factor: “The next day (Saturday), that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered beore Pilate and said ‘Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, After three days I will rise. Therefore, order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people He has risen from the dead, and the last fraud will be worse than the first. “ So Pilate consents to allow them to put a guard there with his seal. So the women are on their way, expecting to find a guard, with a stone in front of the tomb. And since they are followers of Jesus, they have to be wondering, “will the guard even let us in to prepare Jesus’ body for burial?”
So they arrive at the tomb, and to their amazement, there’s no guard, and the stone has been rolled away. No doubt, questions start to come up. What’s going on here? Who did this? What’s going to happen next? They make their way inside, and, there’s no body! It’s gone! The text tells us that they are “perplexed” about this. No doubt! Who took the body they have to be wondering?
While they don’t see the body, they do see two men standing beside them in dazzling apparel. They recognize they’re angels, shining from being in the presence of the glory of God Himself! The women, in fear, bow their faces to the ground, and these angels, or messengers, as the greek word for Angel literally means, tell them “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (v.7) You see, just as Jesus had predicted His death, He also predicted His resurrection. Once the women hear the Word spoken to them, they remembered His words.
As unbelievable as it may seem, on the surface, they believe the Word, and then go back to tell the disciples what had happened. And what happens when they get to the apostles and tell them? Do they believe at first?
Our text tells us that “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (v.11) They’re so wrapped in in their own experience that they ignore the Word from Jesus Himself that He would rise again after His death on the Third Day. Everyone except for one. Peter gets up, runs to the tomb, takes a look in, and he sees the linen burial cloths by themselves. That is the evidence Peter needs to know what happened. We’re told one he sees the burial cloths there and the empty tomb, Peter “went home marveling at what had happened.” Perhaps he recalled the words of Jesus that he would indeed rise again!