Luke 24: 4-8 (The Resurrection of Our Lord – 2016)
“He Not Here; He is With Us!”
On Good Friday, we listened to the crucifixion, death, and burial of our Savior Jesus. Recall the very end of that lesson? A very small band of his believers, 2 exactly, carefully took his dead body and placed it in a nearby tomb. Because of Passover, things were done quickly and quietly. With as much dignity as two men would dare to do, with the danger they themselves could be have been in, they wrapped him up carefully with some myrrh and aloes. The plan was to allow the gals from his company of friends to complete the process early Sunday.
The enemies of Jesus; what were they doing? Interestingly enough they were preparing for a possible scandalous stealing of the body. If you think about it the enemies of Jesus took his words about rising from the dead more seriously than his own followers. They contrived a plan to secure a guard so that there would be no foul play or conniving on the part of the friends of Jesus.
Pilate himself said: “Go and make the tomb as secure as you know how.” Pilate who had long since washed his hands of the whole thing got two more visits about this Jesus and wanted it over with. “Yes, Joseph, you may take the body. Whatever! Just get it over with. What now, another knock at the door? Yes, you foolish priest, you may have all the Roman soldiers you want. Make it as secure as you know how. I am done with this whole Jesus of Nazareth thing!”
What were the ladies expecting to see? A big heavy stone? A dead body in a cemetery? Were they wondering what kind of job the men did late Friday night? What were they going to have to undo, before they even got started? They were certainly not expecting to see the smoldering coals of a Roman Soldier camp. They were certainly not expecting messengers from heaven dressed in gleaming white glory. They certainly were not expecting to not find the body! But the question of the angel is our question today: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee?”
The Living Is Not Among Dead
Why do you look for the living among the dead? Why were the others hiding behind locked doors? Were the ladies expecting a dead body? Were they looking to comfort themselves by taking care earthly tasks? Why were they talking about a stone they could not move? Why did they go to the tomb that morning?
Why do we look for the living among the dead? Why do we wake early and stay up late? Why do we consume ourselves with the dead treasures of this world hoping for temporary happiness? Why do we reach for comfort in our own deathly nature? Why do we stumble over earthy stones while blinding ourselves from the power of an empty tomb? Why do I look for this dead world to bring meaning and life when it has always failed to supply what I truly need! We all are sinfully drawn to look for the living among the dead.
Christ’s death was necessary. His burial was absolutely vital for our true life. Our sin-stained hearts and minds and lives are so dead, that we cannot escape this rut of seeking true life in dead places and things! His cross cleansed us from all that sinfulness. His resurrection secures it: “If Christ is not raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith ... if Christ is not raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17). “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”(vs. 20) And the Living you will not find among the dead!
Why do I look for the living among the dead? What did I expect to happen as I stood and listened to the pastor speak the words of committal? What was I hoping and thinking as the last prayer was prayed and the casket was to be lowered into the ground? Was this my last chance to say: “Perhaps he is not really dead. He is going to wake up! This cannot be real!” How real death is at the grave! What do I expect when I go down to the cemetery to brush the snow off my brother’s grave marker? What am I looking for when I spruce up a small section of grass with evidence of earthly life? Am I looking for the living among the dead?
“He is not here; Christ has risen!” Because Christ has risen, we know that our loved ones who died in faith are among the living, not the dead. Because Christ has risen, we go to their graves with the sure and certain hope of their resurrection and ours on the Last Day. Because Christ risen, we do not search for him among the dead, we proclaim his Resurrection there with full and fresh confidence that “we will be with them and the Lord forever!” (1 Thessalonians 4: 17).
He Lives With Those He Made Alive
The angel purposely mentions Galilee. That is where he spent the majority of his time with his followers. That is where he taught them. That is where he presented himself to be the Son of Man and Son of God. That is where he lived and loved among them and Friend, Shepherd, Healer, and Savior. That is where he repeatedly reminded them: “The son of man must suffer many things and be rejected … and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
Shortly after offering the Lord’s Supper to them for the first time, Jesus warned them of the fact that they would desert him that night: “strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” And then he inserts this promise: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Matthew 26: 32).
Can you fast forward briefly with me to the culmination of this promise? Peter and the others are fishing on Galilee. The large catch of fish occurs and all the light bulbs go back on again. “It is the LORD!” Peter, dripping wet from swimming to shore, heart rate through the roof, sighs of overwhelming joy, arrives on a shore he had been many times before and sees with his own eyes: Jesus is alive. He is not in a tomb near Jerusalem. His body was not carted away by some hapless soldiers. The visits in the private room were real! The promise to be with them in Galilee was real! Jesus lives where he promises to live: “with you always to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)
Where is our Galilee? In the Gospel in Word and Sacraments! The angels purposely told the ladies to “Remember what he SAID!” Remember what he said. The Resurrection points us to the one place Jesus has promised to be found: The Gospel in Word and Sacraments. In your baptism, Jesus is present. You can’t see him, but you remember and believe what he says about baptism. In his words he is presented as the one who destroyed death by destroying sin. He is the one who destroyed death by exiting his own grave with Almighty power. You can’t see him with you always, but you remember and believe what he says about being with always. In the Lord’s Supper he says: “This is my body; this is my blood!” You cannot fully grasp this mysterious promise, but you remember and believe what he said about. Our Jesus does not live among the dead. He lives and breathes in the living breathing Words of Everlasting life.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen. Remember what he said while he was with you.” Remember what he said through John to his Church in the last book of the bible: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1: 17-18) Our true and final Galilee is the New Jerusalem. He went ahead of you there. He will meet you there! He will be with us always in glory! Amen.