Summary: “Why Do You Look for the Living among the Dead?” I. You Have a Risen Lord II. You Have a Reason for Believing III. You Have a Reason for Living
April 11, 2004 — Easter Sunday
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
“Why Do You Look for the Living among the Dead?”
I. You Have a Risen Lord
II. You Have a Reason for Believing
III. You Have a Reason for Living
Grace and peace be with you, from our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.
Dear Friends of our Living and Resurrected Lord:
I imagine many of you have heard the old joke — or at least some version of it — about the man who’s walking along the street one night and comes across one of the neighborhood children inching along on his hands and knees down on the sidewalk beneath a streetlight. The man asks the boy, “What’s wrong, Jimmy? Did you lose something?”
“Mmf, mmf, yes,” whimpers Jimmy. “I dropped the dollar Mama gave me for ice cream.”
Feeling sorry for the boy, the man gets down on his hands and knees, too, and starts looking. After a few minutes, he says, “I’m sorry, Jimmy, but I don’t see your dollar anywhere. Are you sure this is where you lost it?”
“No,” the boy says. “I dropped it over there by the vacant lot.”
“What?!” the man exclaims. “If you dropped it way over there, why are you looking for it here?”
Jimmy looks at him, then points. “It’s dark over there! I can see a lot better here.”
Little Jimmy was never going to find his dollar if he kept looking in the wrong place, no matter how long or hard he looked or how sincerely he expected to find it there.
I. Just as the women on Easter morning were never going to find Jesus if they kept looking in the wrong place, no matter how long or hard they looked or how sincerely they expected to find him there. They were looking for their Lord in a tomb, and the angels were there to redirect the women’s search. The ladies, and all of Jesus’ followers, needed to understand that if they were expecting to find their Savior still lying in a tomb, they were dead wrong. In their grief they had forgotten what Jesus said would happen when he died, and so, to remind — and gently rebuke them — the angels asked: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Another way they might have made the same point would have been to ask, “Why are you carrying that?” You see, the women had not had enough time to properly prepare Jesus’ body for burial on Good Friday, so they had purchased spices with which to finish the task once the Sabbath was over. So, early on Sunday morning, the women got up and, carrying the spices they had purchased, set out for the tomb. Now you have to realize that these spices would have been packed in the burial cloths, not just sprinkled lightly over the corpse. And we’re not talking about a little bottle of McCormick’s dried oregano, either — these spices must have been heavy. The women were carrying a real burden — which makes their worry about who would move the stone away from the tomb once they got there even more understandable.
But in reality, the burden they were carrying was much heavier than a load of spices that turned out to be totally unnecessary. The women were weighed down with needless grief and needless worry about things they should have trusted God to take care of. They were living as though Jesus were still dead. And so, since they had an already risen Lord, the angels asked them, “Why?”
I sometimes think it might be helpful to have an angel or two pop up in front of me once in a while and ask me the same kinds of questions. How about you? Would these reminders and gentle rebukes help you? — “Hey, why are you living as though your Savior were still dead?” “Why are you still carrying that?”
Because, you know, we do still often live as though Jesus were still in his tomb, and we do still carry burdens that we should have put down or put on Jesus’ shoulders a long time ago. We forget — or fail to trust — that Jesus finished the entire work of our salvation, and we say or think things like, “Well, yeah, Jesus died for my sins — but now it’s up to me to live a life good enough to get into heaven.” That’s thinking as though Jesus is still dead.
Or, like the women that morning, we struggle under heavy burdens and worry about things as though God expected us to handle everything on our own — as though God won’t, or can’t, work all things out for the good of those who love him. We freak out over crime or terrorism too close to home, or we limit our families and overwork our jobs, not truly trusting that when God says he’ll take care of us no matter what that he means he’ll take care of us no matter what. That’s living as though Jesus is still in the grave.