Get out of the Graveyard

Posted: March 27, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized
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Sunrise on the Square
Luke 24:1-7, “Get out of the Graveyard”

Luke 24:1–7, "(1) 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. (2) But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. (3) Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (4) And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (5) 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? (6) He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”"

They had gone to a graveyard, expecting what all mourners expect: dead people.  Typically, the only people we expect to see walking around are staff: groundskeepers & the like.  Unless we show up for a funeral, graveyards are usually pretty empty.  The grounds are (literally) full, but very few are actually walking around.  Of course, this had been no normal funeral, and definitely no normal grave!  But from the perspective of the grieving women, they did not yet know anything was different.  All they thought they knew is that the Lord that they had loved and followed lay behind a massive stone, sealing the new tomb in which He lay.

Everything they knew was dead.  Their hope – their future – their joy – all of that had been wrapped up with Jesus.  These women (just like the male disciples of Jesus) believed Jesus to be the Christ – the long awaited Messiah of Israel.  This was the King who was to be more than any other king in the lineage of David – this was the one called by God to be His own Son, and who would rule over them forever.  It was true that Jesus spoke of His kingdom differently than what they had always been taught in the past, but there was no doubt in their minds that He was that King.  His power had made it clear.  Whether it was the supernatural power in His miracles or the incredible authority in His teaching, Jesus (unlike other rabbis) had true power.  He had claimed to be sent by God – to even be God in the flesh (“I AM”) – and these women & others had the faith to believe.

Yet now?  Everything was gone.  Jesus was dead, and everyone who followed Him had been shaken to the core.  The 11 remaining apostles had gone into hiding, and most of them were not even present for the moment of His death.  He was buried by two Jewish leaders whose faith had previously been secret, but now all that remained were these women.  Their world had been shattered, but their devotion was not.  They had every intent of ministering to Him even in death.  They may not have known what to believe, but they certainly knew what they needed to do.  They needed to be with Jesus, and so they came.

When they arrived, their world was rocked!  The massive stone that had sealed off the tomb from the rest of the world had been rolled away (probably tossed aside!), and that naturally would have caused a commotion.  At least some of the women took the opportunity to peer inside the tomb, and what they saw amazed them: nothing.  Today, it would be as if we looked into a newly emptied coffin, or a crypt that had suddenly been vacated.  The very thing we would have expected to see there wouldn’t be there – and we wouldn’t know what to think.  Neither did they. 

The women who had looked in were trying to formulate a theory of their own when the facts were given them in the most miraculous of ways: via two angels.  The Roman guard (whom they expected to see) had already been dispatched by at least one angel, and now two of them reappeared to give the glorious good news to the women.  Jesus had risen from the dead!

It was the way the angels told them that is so striking.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” They seem truly curious about the doubt and wonder of the women.  What were they doing in a graveyard?  You’re not supposed to look for a living person in a graveyard; that’s where you look for dead ones.  We almost have to wonder if there wasn’t a bit of a smile on the faces of the angels as they asked the question.  The answer was obvious: Jesus HAD been dead, so the women were looking for Him in the most logical of places.  They had personally seen Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee lay Jesus in this very tomb, and they had come to the only place they knew to come.

But that was really the point the angels were making: they should have known better.  Jesus said that He would rise again.  The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was a regular point of His teaching.  These women & the other disciples had likely heard Jesus talk about it on numerous occasions.  Why hadn’t they believed?  Because it probably sounded too good to be true.  It sounds like one of those teachings that has some sort of “spiritual” application that doesn’t make a lot of sense in real life.  When hearing Jesus teach about it, the disciples probably thought the same thing that many of us still think when hearing about the promises of God for us: “Wow, that sure sound nice.  I wonder what it looks like in real life?  Surely He can’t mean exactly what He said – I’ve got to be missing something.”

Beloved, when Jesus speaks of resurrection, He means exactly what He says!  Every promise of God’s is one that He truly means.  When He speaks of forgiveness, He grants it.  When He speaks of eternal life, He gives it.  When He speaks of grace, He showers us with it.  Yes, He means what He says!

The disciples (men and women) hadn’t truly believed Jesus, and their lack of faith was shown in their actions.  How so?  Because they thought Jesus was dead.  The women had come to a gravesite to perform additional burial rituals on a dead body.  They hadn’t come expecting news of resurrection.  If they had believed Jesus, then they might not have gone to the tomb at all – they might have been searching the hillsides for a living, walking, breathing Savior.  All they needed to do was to take Jesus at His word.  As the angels repeated to them, Jesus had taught them this clearly: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

What Jesus spoke is exactly what happened.  He (as the Son of Man, the glorious Messiah sent by God) was delivered into the hands of sinners.  Those who presided over Jesus’ trials might have been the priests and Pharisees, but they were still sinners.  Their religious backgrounds did nothing to keep them from sin & rebellion against God.  In fact, they used their religion as a disguise, trying to fool others around them into thinking they were more holy than what they were.  They might have been able to fool men, but they couldn’t fool God.  He knew them as the sinners that they were.  No amount of religious ritual, financial giving, or fancy dress could change their nature – nor can it with us.  It doesn’t matter how often we go to church, how much money we put in the offering plate, or what kind of fancy role we might have in a church congregation.  If we are without Jesus in our hearts, then we are in rebellion against God.  We have built up a lifetime of sin though our thoughts, words, and actions, and we can do nothing to make ourselves right.  We are just as sinful as the priests and the Pharisees were of Jesus’ day, and it was into their hands that He was delivered.

From the Jews, Jesus went to the Romans…and He received no better treatment from the Gentiles.  If the Jewish priests had the pretense of religion, the Romans had the advantage of money and political power.  And yet, they were just as sinful as the rest.  When Jesus taught that He would be “delivered into the hands of sinful men,” He included both Jews and Romans in that description.  Today, some people believe their religious acts will save them (it won’t), while others believe that they don’t even need to be saved.  They believe that they are gods unto themselves, and they have no need of God.  Perhaps like the Romans, they have political or business power, and they can get whatever they want.  Perhaps they have wealth & they think they can buy whatever they want.  That might work on earth, but it doesn’t work in eternity.  What happens when this life is over?  Your wallet may be thick today, but you don’t carry it with you beyond the grave.  The Romans were in just as bad a need to be saved, even if they didn’t realize it.

Again, this is to whom Jesus was delivered.  He was delivered into the hands of sinners – He was delivered over to people just like us who abused Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and nailed Him to a cross.  These same people (just like us) taunted Jesus & insulted Him while He was in agony, and gambled for His clothes as if He were already dead.  These same people (just like us) waited for Him to die, not knowing how badly we needed Him to do so.

The reason Jesus spoke so often of His death was because it was the plan of God.  Those people (just like us) needed to be saved from everything their (and our) sin earned: eternal death and the wrath of God.  The wages of sin is death, and all sin is ultimately an offense against an infinite God.  How much offense have you and I built up over the course of our lives?  The thought is terrifying!  Yet this is why Jesus died!  He died in order to step in your place, in my place, in the place of all the sinful men into whose hands He was delivered.  He substituted Himself for us, in order that He would bear the wrath of God in our place, and that He might experience the death that we deserved.

But that’s not all Jesus came to do.  He also came to rise again!  That’s the main part of what the angels reminded the women: “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, (7) saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  Jesus’ death wouldn’t end in death.  He would rise from the grave, and this was something that His followers were to literally expect.  After all, if the first part of Jesus’ statement came literally true, so would the rest.  Jesus was given over to sinners, and He was crucified.  So what would happen next?  Literal, physical resurrection…and He was. (And is!)

So that brings us back to the question of the angels.  Why were the women looking for Jesus among the dead?  Jesus said that He would live again, and He did.  His body wouldn’t be found in a graveyard, because He was presently using it.  If they had believed Jesus in the past, then they needed to believe Him in the present.  Yes, Jesus had died, but everything had changed.  Come Sunday morning, Jesus now lived!

Jesus still lives today!  This is something that is just as true in 2016 as it was in 33AD.  When Jesus rose from the grave, He rose forever.  After all, He said that He would, and so He did.  If you believe Jesus, then you believe in His resurrection!

Jesus IS alive!  Yes, He was dead, and His death had to happen.  This was the plan of God.  But the plan of God did not end there – it lives on today with Jesus’ resurrected life.  Our King is alive – victorious over sin, death, and the devil!

And because He is, our hope is alive as well.  When the women arrived that morning, their hopes had died.  Everything to which they looked forward had been buried in that tomb with Jesus.  But when Jesus rose from the grave, so did their own hopes and faith.  Now they could look forward again to the forgiveness of sin, to abundant life with God, to an eternal future with God in heaven.  All of those promises were alive with Jesus.

So they are with us.  Our hope is wrapped up in the living Lord Jesus!  Without Him, we have nothing.  As Paul writes to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." Without a resurrected Jesus, we are to be pitied.  But He IS!  Thus we have reason for faith & we have assurance in our hope.  We do not wish for salvation; we have certainty that we have received it.  We do not merely dream of eternity, we have the sure knowledge of walking into it.  All because Jesus is risen from the dead!

So with that in mind, why do we dedicate ourselves so much to the things that are dead?  Like the women at first, we walk around in unbelief, treating not only Jesus as dead, but living as those who are dead ourselves.  Too often, we spend our time & energy looking into dead things.  We give ourselves over to sin – and then afterwards, over to guilt and shame.  Like a ship caught in a whirlpool, we find ourselves in a downward spiral: desiring to please God but failing, and then feeling shame over our failure, only to stop going to God for help.  Or maybe we find ourselves listening more to the world than to the words of God.  Instead of living content in the knowledge that God loves us & has made us His children through the work of Jesus Christ, we hear how we’re never good enough – how we’re second-rate parents, failed workers or failed friends, never worthy of the love of other people, much less the love of God.  Or maybe we’re still stuck in willful rebellion against God.  We know we sin against Him constantly, but don’t really know how to stop.  So we continue to harden our hearts, and deafen our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to repentance.

Beloved, hear this clearly: these things are the things of death!  This is what Jesus has called us out of!  We cannot look for life in that which is dead.

Look for life among the living.  And Jesus is alive!  Today is Resurrection Sunday…rejoice in the life of your Savior & Lord!  He IS risen, so expect Him to be alive.  Expect the power that He makes available through the Holy Spirit.  Expect Him to return to earth exactly as He said.  We serve a risen Savior, and He is glorious!

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