Please read Luke 24: 1-12 and then pray; Lord God Almighty, who raised your Son Jesus from death to life, speak to me today about the glory of the resurrection and strengthen my trust and hope in Jesus. Amen!
The last week of Jesus’s life is centred all around the city of Jerusalem. Last Sunday we remembered the joyful, ecstatic praise that greeted and blessed Jesus as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem on a donkey. On Thursday we remembered the last Supper which took place in an upper room in Jerusalem. Then, on Friday, we remembered Jesus dying on a cross just outside the walls of Jerusalem on Calvary’s hill. Today, the focus shifts to a garden tomb in Jerusalem.
The gospel writer Luke will keep us in and around Jerusalem as he shares his resurrection narrative from his eye-witness accounts. (Luke 1:2) Jerusalem is now centre stage for the resurrection, the ascension and then Pentecost. What Luke begins in his gospel he will continue in the book of Acts – so that the Mount of Olives which Jesus descended on Palm Sunday becomes the place of his ascension forty days after the resurrection (Acts 1:12) Jerusalem will also be the place where the Holy Spirit descends like a tornado and fills the disciples with power on the day of Pentecost. They must stay in Jerusalem until they receive the baptism of the Spirit. (Acts 1:4, 8)
As we come to Luke’s amazing resurrection narrative today, we are going to consider together what the text says about three things in particular;
- What the women found.
- What the women heard.
- What the women told the others.
What the women found, heard and told the others on glorious that resurrection morning.
What did these women who had dearly loved and followed Jesus “find” on that Easter morning? They thought they were going find a stone that needed to be rolled away, so that they could go inside and anoint the body of their Lord for which they had specially prepared spices. However, much to their astonishment – they found something else – something profoundly perplexing.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (v2)
Here are two facts that confronted them which they were not expecting at all. They women were going to the tomb only for one purpose – to anoint a dead body. They were not expecting the stone to have been moved away or to discover an empty tomb, and they were certainly not expecting or anticipating the resurrection of Jesus. They did not find the body of Jesus and that must have been shocking and deeply distressing. However, they did find one thing that terrified them. They found two angels. They could not be missed because they shone so brightly with the glory and purity of heaven (v4). It seemed like there was lightning flashing inside that tomb. The women had no option but to fall to the floor with their faces to the ground – which seemed the best and safest place to look at that moment. They may well have had to close their eyes – such was the light that dazzled all around from the presence of the two holy angels.
These angels then spoke or at least one of them did. So now we move on to what the women heard.
It is at this point when we really begin to get a strong hint of resurrection. The question asked by the angels is most telling.
Why do you look for the living among the dead?
The angels know who the women have come to find and come to anoint. But Jesus is living not dead and these women won’t find the Living One (Revelation 1:18) in a tomb. Jesus did not require the tomb for long, just two nights. He had not required the donkey for long, had he? He had not required the upper room for long? When people visit the garden tomb today in Jerusalem, they do not go to visit the place where Jesus’ remains lay. They go to celebrate the resurrection. Christians worship the Living Lord – which is what the angel goes on to declare. This is now what they women hear – a message that is truly momentous and life changing. This is the message of Easter.
He is not here; he has risen.
The “He is not here” part of the announcement is obvious to the women – but the “He is risen” declaration is new and absolutely astounding. He is risen from the dead. Try to get your head around that! The man whose body was brutally savaged and abused just two days ago, is now risen and alive. What incredible news? This is the message of Easter. This is the life-changing good news.
The “He has risen” is actually best translated “He has been raised.” This is what is known as a theological or divine passive. God’s power stands behind the resurrection, because this passive verb points to God (the Father) being responsible for it. God the Father raised God the Son from death to life. In one sense “it was impossible for death to hold Jesus” (Acts 2:24), but in another sense, he needed to be raised from the dead by the power of his Father. This is what happened, and so Peter can preach this on the day of Pentecost;
God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:24)
And because God the Father raised his Son from death to life, he makes a declaration about his Son which Peter again highlights in his Pentecost sermon.
Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) The stone the builders had rejected has become the chief cornerstone. (Acts 4:11)
God the Father raised his Son from death. God declared His Son to be Lord and Christ (Messiah).
Do you remember how at his baptism, the Father declared Jesus to be His beloved Son? (Luke 3:22) Do you remember how at his transfiguration, the Father once again announced that Jesus was His Son? (Luke 9:35) Now, through the resurrection, God proclaims to the whole world, that this Jesus, is His Son and the Lord of all. Paul writes to the Romans about “the gospel God promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1: 2-4)
God raised Jesus from death thus powerfully declaring him to be his Son – and also our Lord! The resurrection sends out a clear message to the world which God made, and to all who are made in his image. This is my beloved Son! This is He who is Lord and God! He alone has overcome death and opened up the way of life. He alone is Saviour. (Acts 4:12) The resurrection vindicates Jesus and exalts Jesus. The world must now receive him as Lord. You and I must receive him as Lord.
After the angel had declared Jesus to have been raised, he then challenged the women to do some thinking and remembering.
Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.” (v 6-7) (Luke 9:22)
Could they not remember being clearly told on more than one occasion by Jesus himself, that he would be handed over, crucified but then raised? Surely they remembered his words to them?
And slowly, the great truth of the angel’s statement begins to dawn on the women. Jesus did say those things. Jesus did promise that those things would happen to him. He did talk about his death – and they didn’t like it. Peter railed against it. Jesus did talk about betrayal. He did talk about his suffering. And yes, Jesus did say he would rise “on the third day”. And what day is it today? Sunday – the third day.
Then they remembered his words – his precious words of promise and hope (v8)
Can you now see why the women hurried off to tell the Eleven and the others what the angel had told them? The truth had risen in their hearts and minds. Luke reveals that the women went off “and told” the Eleven and the others all that the angel had told them. (v 9-10).
The resurrection of Jesus is something that must be shared. This is a story that must be told. The women now told the others. This is the greatest good news story in the whole of human history. He is risen! He has been raised! He is Lord! The women shared the good news – but they found unbelief and even ridicule in the hearts of the apostles to begin with. The resurrection story was not believed initially. The women’s testimony appeared to be “nonsense”. (11) However, we know Jesus did appear to all those disciples, female and male, and they would be absolutely convinced of his resurrection. (Acts 1:3) Later in this gospel, Luke records an occasion where Jesus convinces them that he cannot be a ghost, he shows them his physical wounds, and he goes on to eat some fish with them. (Luke 24:37-39 and 40-43). This resurrection is real – you better believe it!
Peter was the one who felt the need to check out what the women told them. He made his way quickly to the tomb and found it empty. What had happened? He also found the grave clothes? Why were they still here?? The body could not have been stolen or taken away. Who in their right mind would steal a body and leave a shroud? Why were the clothes laid so neatly? Peter’s heart must have begun to beat a little faster? He told me that I would deny him three times and I did. He told us that he would rise on the third day? Has he? Where is he? What has happened here? (v12)
Peter soon got to meet Jesus, as did the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. The resurrection story became their story and rock-solid belief. The resurrected Lord became their Lord and their Master for whom they would be willing to die. They would never deny the resurrection. Jesus conquered the grave. This was fact! This was history. This was now the apostle’s story.
But has the resurrection story become your story? Is Jesus your Lord? Have you confessed that you believe that God raised him from the dead? (Read Romans 10: 8-10) Does Jesus now live in you by and through the presence of the Holy Spirit? Do you possess Christ in you – who is the hope of glory? (Colossians 1:27) We, like the disciples, have to reach this important life changing place where we receive and know Jesus as our living and personal Lord and Saviour. Have you come to that place?
And Christian believers today, and in every generation since this glorious resurrection Sunday, have a serious and joyful obligation to “tell” this good news of the resurrection to the whole world. The news must go everywhere and to everyone – to the ends of the earth. After Pentecost, the apostles and disciples would leave Jerusalem – at least many of them would, and take the news about Christ’s death and resurrection to people everywhere. This news of the “risen and reigning Christ” must be carried by the true Church to all people. This is our mission – and it will remain so until Christ returns – and claims his own. As the song by Graham Kendrick expresses it; Say it loud, say it strong, tell the world what God has done. The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone by His resurrection from the dead. The Church must declare with boldness “Jesus lives” – and the Church must give evidence of His living presence through its worship, witness, mission and transformation. Jesus lives! Hallelujah!
Revd Peter J Clarkson 17.4.22