Great Expectations

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Luke 24:1-12, “Great Expectations”

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” (Luke 24:1–12, NKJV)

There are times that we have great expectations and great hopes.  We whole-heartedly believe a fantastic promise or potential, and we look forward with tremendous anticipation to the fulfillment of our hopes.

This was not one of those times.

For the women arriving at the tomb early Sunday morning, they had already had their hopes dashed on Friday afternoon.  They had stood witness to Jesus’ suffering and death, helpless to do anything but weep as their Messiah-King was tortured and killed before their eyes.  He had endured the hatred and scorn of the Jewish officials – He had zero justice in the Roman courtroom of Pilate – He had been beaten, whipped, and had His back ripped to shreds until finally they marched Jesus through town and nailed Him to the cross. 

There He hung in agony.  Every breath was painful.  Every hour passed slowly.  Even God the Father had seemingly turned away from His Son.  Finally, Jesus died there on Calvary’s hill.  The Roman soldiers pierced His heart with a spear, and Jesus’ death was confirmed.  His body was given over for burial, and the woman watched as their King was placed in a tomb.

The only expectation they had for Sunday morning was one of grisly service, continuing the rituals of Jewish burial.  They were in the midst of their own grief, surely uncertain of what the future held for them, now that Jesus was dead.

And in a moment, everything changed.

They had expected to anoint a dead body, and instead they found an empty tomb.  Even the stone had been rolled away, allowing the women to peer inside.  That in itself was unusual, but where was Jesus?  Where was His body?  For a group of people already in shock from the previous events of Friday, no doubt this new mystery sent them reeling.  It’s no wonder the Bible describes them as “perplexed.

That’s when the two men (angels) show themselves and ask a question obvious to themselves, but to no one else: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Objection…wait: shouldn’t that be reversed?  They had come to a graveyard because they had seen Jesus die with their own eyes.  They had personally witnessed His burial.  How could He possibly be described as “living”?  And of course, there is only one way: if He wasn’t dead – if Jesus rose from the grave.

The angels never claimed that Jesus hadn’t died.  They simply testified to the fact that Jesus was no longer dead.  He had risen!  He is alive!

This is what Jesus said would happen; people just didn’t believe Him.  It’s not that the disciples and believing women didn’t have faith in Christ; they did.  They believed (and testified) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – they just didn’t believe Jesus’ teaching about what would happen to the Christ.  They couldn’t bring themselves to believe that Jesus would actually be delivered into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and then rise on the third day.  They believed IN Jesus, but they didn’t BELIEVE Jesus (at least on the subject of His death and resurrection).  And because of that, all of their expectations were wrong.

The 11 disciples understood no more than the women at the tomb, and the Bible shows us that they were also left in amazement, seemingly unsure what to believe or think.   They had so little hope in Jesus’ earlier prophecy of resurrection that they initially believed that the women were making up stories.  They might not have thought that the women were lying, but perhaps they were delusional in their grief.  Even as Peter saw the evidence for himself with his own eyes, he was still unsure what to believe.  Jesus would eventually have to show Himself to all of them for them to fully come to faith (and the Bible tells us that is exactly what He did).

How their expectations changed!  And quickly!

  • Not a dead body, but a living Jesus
  • Not a defeated (false) prophet, but a victorious King
  • Not a despairing future, but a steadfast hope of eternity

The empty tomb changes all kinds of expectations! 

When you think about the empty tomb of Jesus, discovered early Sunday morning, what are your expectations?  Some people don’t expect much from Him.

  • To some, Jesus is just another religious or moral teacher…but not according to the resurrection.  He’s vastly more!  Moral teachers do not have this kind of power, but God does.  People liked Ghandi for what his moral teachings about passivism, but Ghandi is still dead.  Name your religious teacher or moral guru – there have been many who inspired many followers, but the ones who have died are still dead to this day.  Not even leaders of religious movements (like Mohammed or Buddha) were able to rise from the dead.  Only Jesus.
  • To some, Jesus is a fraud…but not according to the resurrection.  It proves that He is true!  It is the proof of Jesus’ ordination of God to be the One through whom all the world is judged (Acts 17:31).  All questions and doubts about the Person of Jesus ought to be put to rest in light of the empty tomb.  After all, He rose from the dead under His own power, exactly as He said He would, in exactly the timeframe that He said He would.  Those are not the actions of a liar or a fraud; those are the actions of Almighty God! 

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead ought to change ALL of our expectations about Him.  Because of the empty tomb, we can expect:

  • He is the Lord God in the flesh, come according to promise and prophecy. Romans 1:3–4, "(3) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, (4) and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." [] 
  • He offers forgiveness from sin, demonstrated in that He not only died at the cross, but also rose from the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:16–17, "(16) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. (17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"  []  IF Jesus had not risen, we would not be forgiven – but because Jesus HAS risen, we can KNOW we are forgiven!
  • He offers the hope of eternal life.  Because Jesus is risen, those who trust Jesus as Lord can know that we will rise as well.  1 Corinthians 15:20–21, "(20) But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (21) For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead." []
  • He is coming back again.  If Jesus can rise from the grave exactly as He said He would, then we ought to pay close attention to His words when He spoke of His future return.  Jesus is faithful to every promise!  John 14:1–3, "(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." []

All of this is bound up in Jesus’ resurrection.  Because He is risen, it validates everything else Jesus said and did.  That speaks to vastly more than our forgiveness of sin & eternal life (as wonderful as that is!).  That also speaks to the abundant life that God desires for us right now.  Because Jesus is risen, our expectations change for how we currently live.  We don’t have to wonder if God hears our prayers, we know He does.  Why?  Because Jesus is risen from the dead (Heb 4:16).  We need not worry that God won’t forgive us for the times we occasionally sin.  Why?  Because Jesus is risen from the dead (1 Jn 1:9).  We don’t need to be afraid that we’re ever alone in this world.  Jesus has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20) – and we know that He will because He is risen from the dead.  We can expect the empowerment of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:8).  We can expect God to glorify Himself through our sufferings because of Jesus’ resurrection (Rom 8:28).  We can expect spiritual gifts, abiding joy, and even miracles when God desires to give them…all because Jesus is raised from the dead!

The tomb is empty, and our joy is made full!  Jesus is risen, and it changes every expectation.  Before Jesus rose, the only expectation we had was our own suffering and death, as we were enslaved to sin, and doomed to judgment.  But Jesus is risen, and it changes everything!  Glory be to God!  Thank the Lord that our Jesus is alive!

Is your hope in Jesus?  Do you expect Him to do as He said?  If so, you can celebrate and worship.  Today is a day of remembrance and joy for you.  It’s a day that you can not only thank Jesus for His past work, but you can gloriously hope in Him for His future promises.  You have the grandest expectation of any creature that God has made: eternity in the joyful presence of your Creator.  THAT is your great expectation because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. 

If not, today is the day that you can know Jesus personally.  Let the reality of Jesus’ resurrection change your expectations about Him.  See Him as He truly is: not a mere teacher – not a fraud – but the Lord God Himself.  And as you do, turn away from your sins and place your trust in Jesus, asking for His forgiveness.  Surrender your life to Him as the God that He has proven Himself to be.  What a glorious expectation anyone can have in Jesus…and you can have it today.

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