Summary: A sermon prepared for "Easter" Sunday and compares the reasons folks came to the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest and our reasons for assembling to worship on the first day of the week.
MercyMe first released their hit song I Can Only Imagine in 1999. Since then, I’ve heard this song played numerous times at funerals as one imagines being in heaven and in the presence of God. The movie by the same name was released last month with much greater success than ever expected. While there are times we should lose ourselves in thoughts about heaven, this morning I want us to imagine being one of our Lord’s disciples in Jerusalem when He was crucified. What would we have done on that somber Friday as our Messiah was crucified? Well, we probably can get an indication from what we read in scripture. Comparing what is recorded in Matthew, Mark and John, we know there were many women who followed Jesus from Galilee looking on from afar that day. But, we also know that Mary the mother of Jesus was there as well as her sister whom we believe was Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. And, Mary, the wife of Clopas, is most likely the mother of James the Less and Joses or Joseph. We also conclude from The Gospel According to John, chapter 19, that the disciple whom Jesus loved – John – was present. Before we remove ourselves from our imaginations of Golgotha that day, I want to draw our attention to an oft-neglected verse – Luke 23:49 – which reads: "But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things." This is Luke’s only mention of Christ-followers at the cross. Luke uses this same Greek word for “acquaintances” one other time in this gospel – in Luke 2:44 – to distinguish folks from the relatives of Jesus. The word derives from the Greek verb meaning “to know” and refers to friends or those well-known by someone. While some have suggested this may have included some of the eleven, it is more likely that Luke would have used the terms “apostles” or “disciples” if they were indeed present. By the time we get to the cross, Jesus’ words of Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 have been largely fulfilled: Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” So, I imagine most of us would have avoided the crucifixion. But, this brings us to the rhetorical question that forms the title of our lesson this morning: “Why do we come to the tomb?” I hope you’ll open your Bibles and imagine with me for just a few minutes. I realize I am using the word “imagine” but, as always, we want you to be like the Bereans and search your Bibles daily to make sure I’ve told you the truth.
I wish we had the time to read all the accounts of how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hurriedly buried Jesus in the tomb before the Sabbath began that Friday evening. But, we will read the two verses that precede our text – Luke 23:55-56 – "And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.