Looking for the living amongst the dead

 

Luke 24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

The three women disciples ( Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome) set out on that Sunday morning to do the only thing they could imagine: to tend to their friend one final time. To finish the job of anointing his body with spices for burial.

But when they get there, they found that  the huge stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. They go in: there's no body.

Suddenly, two angels appear and speak to them: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? ".

 

That's the question I want to focus on this morning, and its implications. The angels are telling the women, you're looking for the wrong thing, and you're looking in the wrong place.

 

Looking for the wrong thing

The women were looking for the wrong thing.

On the face of it, the angels' question is puzzling, Why do you look for the living among the dead?

 

They weren't looking for the living, were they? Without a doubt, they were looking for the dead in the place of the dead – the graveyard.

These are the same women who had watched Jesus die. They had been there as he breathed his last breath. They had watched as a spear was stabbed up into his chest and blood and water flowed out: a sure sign of death; and they were witnesses of his burial. They had seen Jesus' body wrapped and placed in the tomb. There was no mistake. There was no doubt that Jesus was well and truly dead.

So now, this Sunday morning they had come prepared with spices to anoint a corpse. They weren't looking for the living among the dead; they were looking for the dead among the dead!

 

It's hard to know which is more shocking for the women: the sudden terrifying appearance of these two angelic beings with clothes that gleamed like lightning, or the extraordinary question they ask, Why do you look for the living among the dead?

 

 

 

Looking in the wrong place

You're looking for the wrong thing: he's not dead but alive! And you're looking in the wrong place: verse 6, He is not here; he has risen

The angels had to remind them: 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.'

Well, perhaps they remembered, but they hadn't understood what he meant: if they had understood, they wouldn't have gone to the graveyard.

 

But now, memory kicks in: Then they remembered his words. Suddenly it all fits together, that it was all meant to be, that everything will be all right?

The angels explained that everything that had happened was actually part of the plan from the beginning.

Jesus had to be delivered into the hands of sinful men because that was God's plan from the start to save sinful people like you and me.

 

The Son of God willingly came to live as a man and handed himself over to agony and humiliation at our hands, because he knew that it was the only way to do what needed to be done.

 

 

Jesus had to be crucified. He had to be killed, and he went willingly to his death. He had to be killed, because, again, that was the plan to save sinful people like you and me.

 

God's wrath is against us because we live as his enemies. We proved it then by killing his son, and we prove it now by rejecting his son every day. The only possible outcome when we reject the Author of Life is death: we deserve to die; we deserve to be abandoned to the misery of death forever.  The wages of sin is death.

 

Yet Jesus died. He didn't deserve that. But he stepped into our place and died instead of us. It had to be like this. Only a death can satisfy the wrath of God: either you die or Jesus dies. He had to be crucified.

 

And, he had to rise from the dead! He was the perfect Son of God: death could not hold him. Although he bore the sin of the world, he had no sin of his own. By his death he conquered death for those who will trust him.

 

All this is what Jesus had said must happen; it had been the plan from the beginning.

The disciples had forgotten this; they had never really understood it. But now they did. Within weeks of the resurrection they were preaching it powerfully, and thousands and thousands were believing and being saved from the power of death and sharing in Jesus' resurrection life.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? The women were looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. They were looking for a dead body when they should have been looking for a living lord. They were looking among the tombs, but Jesus was concerned with the living, not the dead.

Conclusion

Two questions arise for us. Are you looking for the right thing? And, are you looking in the right place?

Are you looking for the right thing?

This Easter day, are you looking to engage with the living God? Or perhaps you prefer your god dead rather than living.

A dead god never makes demands on your life. A dead god never challenges you. He never gets in the way of what you want to do. A dead god doesn't ask you for time, or money, or to help the poor, or to tell others about him. A dead god won't interfere with your relationships or your work. He won't insist that you are sexually pure or financially honest. He doesn't judge what you say or how you say it.

Perhaps you'd be rather appalled if your god came to life! If he started engaging with you; changing your priorities; challenging your choices.

 

But, equally, a dead god can never heal your heart. A dead god can never give you freedom. He can't lift your spirit or fill you with joy. He can't hear your prayers or speak to your soul. Above all, a dead god will never give you hope in death.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe in this?" John 11:25-26

The challenge of Easter is this: will you look for the Living God? Is your God alive? Will you engage with the living Lord Jesus, the one who rose from the dead?

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Co 15:55-57

Are you looking in the right place?

There's only one place to find this Living God, and that is in the events of his being handed over to sinful men, being crucified, and rising again.

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Romans 6:8-11

You will never find the living God if you trust in trying to be good. That path leads only to frustration, despair and death. The tombs are full of people who tried to be good. But heaven will be full of people who simply trust Jesus.

Look in the right place. Paradoxically, if we want to share in the life of Jesus we must go back to his death. We must come to the cross and say, Lord I am sorry for my sin. My heart is bad in so many ways. I've lived my life my own way without you for so long. Please bear my sin in your death so that I don't have to.

 

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

If we will look for Jesus at the cross, then he will raise us to resurrection life with him. Life now in all its fullness and life in the age to come. [1]

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

 

Easter is the pivotal point of our Christian faith. On the events of Easter rest our entire faith.

 

And because it is so, we need to contemplate what the events mean for us, now and this year; now and in the future.

 

We are reminded of the church in Revelation which was chastised for losing its first love, another for becoming lukewarm.  Easter is the time to make that self-assessment and recalibrate if necessary.

 

A few degrees off true north now, will result in a ever increasing distance from where we are supposed to be in the future.

 

Are you looking for the living among the dead?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Based on http://www.edginet.org/christian/sermons/luke_24_1to12.html