March 27, 2016: Why Do Look For The Living Among The Dead?

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GLORIOUS AND RISEN SAVIOR!

TEXT: Luke 24: 4-8

Dearly Beloved By Our Loving, Living Lord:

I’m not a techie guy. There, I’ve confessed it! To me the modern wonders of cell phones, advanced computers, and the like are a hassle. When they work it’s great. When they don’t, it’s a nightmare. Most of you probably use GPS when you are traveling or want to find a location. Yes, I’ve used Google search for locations, too, but never GPS. I’m a map guy. I have various maps of New England in my car and I enjoy figuring out where things are and finding unique ways to get there. I prefer to use my brain over and against trusting in technology.

That first Easter morning, the women had no GPS to consult in order to find the tomb of Christ. They knew exactly where it was. The memory of that huge stone being rolled into place on Friday was etched forever in their minds. They ran into a couple of angels that morning who summed up their soul-searching and their body searching with a very poignant and ironic question:

WHY DO LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?

I

You well know the entire story. The women weren’t stupid or confused. They knew exactly where Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had laid the body. So, the natural answer to the angel’s question would be: “Where else would He be?”

Any church worthy of that name should never, ever, take the women of the church for granted. Just as today, these women were into details. Details, as most married men know, are seemingly part of a woman’s nature. They, not the disciples, talked about the practical problems connected to Christ’s hurried burial. That’s why they brought along those 75 lbs of spices and various other items. “Let’s do it right and not hurry this loving task.” They also talked about the stone and the guards at the tomb. How would they handle all that? But, amazingly, when they got there, the guards were gone, the stone was rolled away and the grave clothes were scattered on the ground. The shroud that had held Christ was neatly folded, too, but no body! That’s when two angels in shining robes appeared and said: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Those words sound a bit like a rebuke, don’t they? The angels thought these women should have known better than to come looking for a dead Christ. They should have known He would be alive on Easter morning. After all, Christ had prepared them for this. He had talked about it many times. But, like the rest of us humans, it sounded so fantastic that they dismissed the true meaning behind those prophetic words. They must have made them into a parable in their minds instead of taking them at face value.

We would probably be more sympathetic to these women than the angels were. After all, angels are holy. They are perfect spirit beings. They see and communicate with God all the time. They don’t know what it’s like to be wrong, to be weak in faith, or to misunderstand God’s Word. But, we, on the other hand, are sinners. We’re been wrong so much that we can totally relate to the women’s conundrum. After all, who have you known that has come back from the dead? At this time, life was cheap. Almost half of all children died before becoming an adult. Fever and infections that are easily treated today were a common death sentence then. Yes, they knew Lazarus and he had come back. They had heard about the youth of Nain and Jairus’ daughter, too. But, to us, it seems unfair to rebuke them for their lack of faith in this matter, considering their experiences.

However, they should have known better. Christ really had raised three others from their graves. He really had announced His resurrection on numerous occasions over the past 3 years. They should have known from the Good Friday darkness and earthquake that He really was the Son of God. And they should have trusted His promises to them—pushing doubt aside as they came that morning to that tomb.

So, do you side with the angels or with these women? Our heads side with the angels. But our hearts side with the women. Like them, we’re sinners, too. Like them, we know doubt, too. Like them, death isn’t easy for us to assimilate. Like them, our natural inclination, when hit with death, is to wrap ourselves in sorrow and focus on the practical needs at hand. We can easily leave Christ and His promises out of the equation, can’t we?

But, that’s exactly why we need to hear, as they did, the angels’ very next words which are: “He is not here; he has risen!” Jesus is God. With God all things are possible. So life after death—resurrection—is possible; even more, it is certainty! He promised it and He always delivers. Thus, those trusting in the Lord’s promise, the gospel, know with their very being that “because He lives, we shall live also!” This is our faith, our comfort, our hope, our reality. And now, that first Easter morning, it became theirs too!

II

What’s the difference between a name on a mailbox or the same name on a tombstone? Just this: you can visit that friend in only one of those locales. That’s the point the angels were making when they asked: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” But, some self-important human might then well ask: “What difference does it make?”

Ah, it makes all the difference in the world! When we’re weak in faith we tend to be dissatisfied, or do foolish things, or feel guilty, or are unproductive.—Why? Because we’re looking for Jesus in all the wrong places! We often think that the “other world beyond this one” is communicating with us in signs, symbols, events, or even natural disasters. In that, we’re much like the ancient heathen who tried to divine the future by reading animals entrails. But, Christ deals with us directly. He gives us His gracious will in the Bible, through baptism, in holy communion, and in His Word of forgiveness. Those are His vehicles by which He speaks to our hearts. They impart and also strengthen Christian faith which then opens our eyes to His wondrous love day after day.

The angels pointed them back to Christ’s Gospel that day. For the message of the resurrection is the gospel. They reminded them that their dead Lord was now risen—just as He said! On Easter Sunday, Jesus physically arose! Thereby He gave the world proof that the centurion at the cross was correct when he said: “Surely this was the Son of God!” Thereby He gave proof that death could not hold Him, or you either, because His entire life was about trading places with you and me. Thereby He gave us the one eternal truth which sets mortals free—”He who lives and believes in Me will never die!” The empty tomb proved it all true.

After the angels had spoken we’re told: “They remembered his words.” Now it all came flooding back through the reinforcement of the visual proof before them. And from then on these women became stalwart in their allegiance to their living Savior.

Today, we need to listen as they did and also become stalwart by the power of the Spirit who comes through this gospel message. We don’t need GPS to point us to heaven. We need the Bible. We need the Gospel. We need the truth of the resurrection! And today, Christ gives it all to you! And it’s all wrapped up in that simple, profound, and majestic ancient phrase: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” History tells us that the women took that phrase to heart. In the ancient church, literally from the time the women first heard it, Christians used it as a joyous greeting, not only at Easter, but all the time! And so, once again, we stand in their shoes and say: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Amen