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Luke 24:5b-9 1
5b “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.

Background

Last week was Easter Sunday. We looked at these same verses.  Last week’s study talked about our personal belief that Jesus is Alive! For this week’s study, just seven days have transpired. The COVID-19 virus is still playing havoc with our world and it is a good time to reflect on the miracle of the “Empty Tomb.” Jesus just showed the world how to defeat death itself.  So let’s look at that empty tomb one more time but from a slightly different perspective.

Jesus was crucified. Jesus is dead, and his followers assume that He remains dead (24:1-3). The women come to the tomb because that is where the saw the body of Jesus was placed after his crucifixion (23:55-56). At the end of the prior chapter, Luke described a group of women who first followed Joseph to the tomb and then planned to return to the tomb in order to further prepare Jesus’ body for burial following the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. (Luke 23:54-56) Their names are given in Luke 24:10 (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James other women). For women to go to a place of burial, near a crowded city, before sunrise, faith and courage were needed. John notes that Mary Magdalene arrived earlier while it was still dark (John 20:1). Evidently all the women set out just before dawn while it was still dark, but Mary got to the tomb ahead of the others. The women brought spices which they had prepared.

Please recall that the body had already been anointed so this would have been additional anointing by the women. Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and almost certainly a member of the Sanhedrin (see John 3:1), joined Joseph at the tomb, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds in weight. Together, Joseph and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews (John 19:39–40). Bodies in Jesus’s time were simply encased  in strongly perfumed burial cloths to help mask the smell of decay. Frankincense and  myrrh were typical burial ointments. Many think that the gifts given at the time of Jesus’s birth by the Kings from Persia were symbolic of His eventual sacrifice and death.

So lets pause here for a moment. We have our first witnesses. Joseph and Nicodemus surely knew Jesus was dead. While being observed by a group of women, our next set of witnesses, we see they were convinced enough to go back to their homes, gather further spices and perfumes, and then risk the darkness of the morning to go back and finish the burial on the third day. Now our arriving women meet the man or men (depending on which gospel) who ask them why did they come looking for a body?  Our third angelic witness says you came to the wrong spot, no one is dead here! The discovery of the empty tomb does not lead to an easy change of perspective. It brings confusion, not clarity. Bodies that are dead presumably remain dead.

The women receive a word that runs counter to what they understand, He has risen (24:5). The angelic messengers are not the point. The focus must be on the message, not the messengers (24:4-7). What our first witnesses encounter is the concept of the resurrection. They are told that Jesus has risen, but they do not see the risen Jesus himself.  This brings the Easter experience down to one word, resurrection. One would think God would work differently. It would seem so much easier to have the women come to the tomb and watch Jesus walk out into the light of a new day. And it would seem much easier for Jesus simply to appear in dazzling glory to us, who gather on an Easter morning generations later.  Like the women on the first Easter, we are all given a message of resurrection, which flies in the face of what we know to be true.

The only logical response to such a message is doubt. Experience teaches us that death wins. The Easter message says that Jesus lives and death loses. Easter is where contradictory claims collide. Unfortunately for most of our world, it makes sense to continue believing the way they do.

The women bring the message of resurrection to the others, and the others respond as thinking people regularly respond. They thought that the message was “an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (24:11). Unbelief does not mean that people believe nothing. Rather, it means that they believe something else. Yet this is where the Easter message begins its work, by challenging all we know to be certain. Experience teaches that death wins and that even the strongest succumb to it. Experience teaches that life is what you make it, so get what you can while you can because it will be over soon enough. And the Easter message says, “Can you be sure?” Death is real, but Easter teaches us that death is not final.

In the eternal realm of God, Jesus gets the last word. The Easter message calls you from your old belief in death to a new belief in life. The claim that the tomb could not hold Jesus, and the idea that the one who died by crucifixion has now risen is so outrageous that it might make you wonder whether it might, just might, be true. The apostles seemed convinced that the message was nonsense, nothing more than “an idle tale” (24:11). Death was death. Yet the message was so outrageous that Peter had to go and take a look for himself (24:12). He had to wonder, “What if it is true?”

Here we are only one week after Easter. As we gather for worship whether virtually over the Internet or in person, we do nothing more than follow in the footsteps of Peter. You have heard the rumor that Jesus is alive and come back again to hear for yourself: “What if it is true?” What if death is real, but not final? What if Jesus is not merely a person in the past but also lives in the present and even the future? What if Jesus were to meet you here today? What would life be really like for you with Jesus?”

Items for Discussion

  • Are there modern day experiences that help people believe that God has power over death?
    • Miraculous recoveries?
    • Near death experiences?
    • Power of prayers?
  • What do you think the difference is between a “natural body” and a “spiritual body” that Paul talks about in I Cor. 15:44-49?
  • Are Christian’s saved by Jesus’ death, His resurrection, or both?
  • When does this resurrection of the believer come, when we are dead or can it come when they are alive?
  • Have you ever been tempted to “un-believe”? By what experiences?
  • What might help someone “re-believe” if they’ve ever “un-believed”?
  • Have you ever thought about the resurrection being the foundation on which your faith, and the church, is built, rather than the scriptures? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Discussion Challenge

  • How can the modern Christian Church become a “remover of doubt?”

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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