Luke 24:1-12 Easter Celebration Praise

 

Let us Pray

 

I’m probably not the first person to say this to you today but anyway – happy Easter!

 

I hope you’ve been having a joyful day, and that you’ve not eaten too much chocolate.

 

I like Easter a lot – and it’s not just because of the chocolate.

 

I’m a big fan of the spring – I love it when the hour goes on – and that usually happens around Easter time.  The trees start to come into leaf, and suddenly the whole world starts to look green again.  And you get tulips – and I like tulips.

 

And Spring has all that potential – all that potential for what the summer holds – all the things your going to do.

 

Yesterday I dug out another of my plots for vegetables – and I’ve got big plans for what that’s going to look like by mid July!  I’m looking forward to warmer days, drinks on the patio – barbeques – all those kind of things.

 

And Easter is, after all about new life, and about new opportunites.  It is a time for wondering and rejoicing at what God has done for.  So let’s do that tonight.

 

We’re spending time with a familiar story this evening, but let us try to suspend our familiarity for a little while, and journey with these women in Luke 23 and 24 – it’s on page 1061 of the bibles in the chairs.

 

Let us wonder with these women, let us follow them through their Easter Day, as we begin to celebrate ours.

 

Lets go with the women as

 

1. The women find an empty tomb: (v1-3)

 

1 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.

 

Now it is the first day of the week – although it is only fairly early in the morning for us – I’m not sure if any of you caught the dawn this morning, like these women, but I know I certainly didn’t.

 

They set of early in the morning because they have a job to do – they want to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, to take away the stench from the dead body.

 

Their saviour is dead – he died on a cross – but they can at least do their best for his body.

 

These women have been making preparations – as we read at the end of chapter 23, they have watched as Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus in a tomb, and then they went away to prepare spices and perfume.  So here they come, to do what they can for Jesus’ body.

 

But a surprise is in store.

 

2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

 

Two short verses tell us things are not as they expected them to be.  The stone has been rolled away – the body is not there.

 

Has Jesus’ body been stolen?  Has it been taken by the Romans?  Has somebody moved it for some other reason – why is the body not there?

 

The tomb is empty – but what does this mean?

 

2. The women see and hear the angels (v4-8)

 

4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

 

The women are filled with wonder – with concern – perhaps with fear – they do not understand what has happened.  And the appearance of two men in clothes that gleamed – clearly a description of angelic visitors – doesn’t help matters:

 

 5 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? 6 He is not here; he has risen!

 

These visitors have news – and a question for the women.

 

The women have come looking for Jesus’ body.  They have come to do what they could for their saviour who is no more.

 

But the angels question tells them that they should be looking somewhere else for Jesus – for he has risen.

 

In a few short words, the angels have turned the women’s world upside down.

 

There they were – at the empty tomb – wondering – and they have been told what has happened – Jesus is not dead – he is alive.  Their preparations for Jesus’ death are not needed – there is no dead body to prepare.

 

And then the angels indicate that they should have known all along.

 

Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  7 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'"

 

In Galilee – on the road to Jerusalem – more than once Jesus predicted his death.  He told his followers that he would be handed over to the Gentiles, that he would be crucified, and that on the third day he would rise again.

 

He was handed over

 

He was crucified

 

And he has risen again.

 

The women had heard – but they had not understood – until now:

 

 8 Then they remembered his words.

 

At that moment the penny drops.  Suddenly everything makes sense – all that they already knew slots into place.

 

Perhaps you can empathise with these women.  Perhaps you’ve had one – or more – penny drop moments in your life.

 

It can often be like that in coming to Christ – everything suddenly makes sense – that feeling that there is something more to life is confirmed – suddenly everything slots into place.  Questions remain – but the big question has been answered.

 

In our lives we are awash with knowledge – we are surrounded by information.  It is almost impossible to walk down the street without being assaulted by a new piece of information.  And things can be no different in church – we get to know an awful lot about God.

 

 But sometimes it can take a penny drop moment for things to slot into place – whether that is coming to Christ as saviour and Lord for the first time, or making sense of a difficult or new situation as followers of Christ.  Sometimes it can take a moment to change the information we have about God and Jesus and what he has done for us into a relationship with the risen Lord, or a deepened relationship with the risen Lord.  We need to pray that the penny drops.

 

3. The women tell what they have found v9-12

 

Not surprisingly, now that the penny has dropped, the women are keen to relate what they have found:

 

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.

 

The eleven – the twelve minus Judas – were still around in Jerusalem – although given their showing the previous week, probably keeping a low profile.

 

And, given the apostles track record in recent weeks, perhaps their response is not entirely surprising:

 

11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

 

Put yourselves now in the apostles shoes.

 

Everything has gone wrong.  One of the brothers you trusted, who you have spend time with for the last three years has betrayed Jesus.

 

And Jesus has been crucified – because given the choice, the crowd would rather free Barabbas.

 

Where is this glorious kingdom of God now?

 

And early on Sunday morning along come some babbling women, talking about the body gone, and angels, and Jesus risen from the dead.  What nonsense!  Surely this could not happen?

 

The penny has not yet dropped for the disciples

 

But at least one of them begins to hope – and to wonder.  Look on at verse 12:

 

12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

 

Peter has a good look round at the tomb.  Can it be true?  The strips of linen have been left behind – would a thief bother to remove them before he stole the body?

 

Could what the women said be true?  Is it possible that Jesus has been raised from the dead?

 

And then Luke leaves the story there – it will not be until later in the day on the road to Emmaus that the disciples begin to believe.

 

But Peter can wonder – and hope.

 

And is in not refreshing for us, with this familiar story, to experience some of that wonder?  To go back to the beginning – to see what happened, to be with the women and the disciples as they experienced that day?

 

 

But we should not stop at wondering.  We know more than Peter – we know what the angels said – and we have recorded for us many of Jesus words – we know what he said and did.

 

So we can move from wonder to rejoicing.  And on this resurrection day we can rejoice for three reasons:

 

1. We rejoice because Jesus’ victory over death is complete (v5-6)

 

Look again at verse 5.  He is not here – he is risen.

 

Jesus is living – he is not dead.

 

This is what Paul passed onto the Corinthians as being of first importance – the most important thing:

 

1 Corinthians 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

 

Christ died, he was buried – he was truly dead – and he was raised again.

 

Jesus dies, but death cannot hold him – Jesus is raised from the dead.  Jesus has defeated death.  And his defeat of death shows that he has also defeated sin.

 

Why?  Because death came into the world because of sin, and because Jesus died as a sin offering on the cross, but he has risen again.  His offering of himself in our place on the cross was acceptable to God. 

 

Death has been defeated on the cross.  Sin has been defeated on the cross.

 

We still face all the effects of the fall – the gradual weakening of the body, illnesses, disease, disabilities, sufferings, hardships – but we know that because Christ rose again, death has been defeated, and we will enjoy new life in him.

 

We rejoice because Jesus’ victory over death is complete.  It is not something that is uncertain, that might happen in the future – we are not waiting for another day of reckoning, to see if Jesus has defeated death properly.

 

As followers of Christ, we can have confidence in the future, knowing that Christ has defeated death, and that we will be raised with him.

 

So do you fear death? 

 

 

We should not fear death as others do.  None of us desire pain – and none of us desire separation from our loved ones here on earth.  But death is not the end – it is the gateway to the future, to spending eternity with Christ our saviour – to enjoying the fruits of Christ’s victory on the cross.

 

When we left Peter he was uncertain – hopeful – wondering.  But we do not have an uncertain hope.  We have a victory to celebrate, as we wait for the final moping up operations to be completed.

 

2. We rejoice because Jesus’ word is true (v6-8)

 

We rejoice in the victory, and we also rejoice because Jesus’ words are true.

 

Look again at verses 6 to 8.  Verse 6 – remember what he told you – verse 8 – and they remembered.

 

We’ve already talked about those moments when the penny drops – when something you’ve known for a while comes to mean something more.  The angles remind the women of what they already know.

 

The angels do not need to come to the women with new revelation and new knowledge – they don’t need to be told anything else – they just need to remember what they have already been told.

 

Jesus predicted his own death, and Jesus’ words are true.  These things happened exactly as he said they would.

 

Jesus’ resurrection gives us, if you like, a test case for Jesus’ reliability.  Jesus has promised many things for his followers – and he has told us many things about how to live.  How do we know that they are true? 

 

When we’re faced with a tough life decision, and we know really that we should choose one way – but we also know that that decision will be costly – how do we trust then – what do we go on?

 

How do we hold onto promises that can seem so vague sometime – ‘I will be with you’?  How can we hold onto promises when everything that happens seems to work the other way – seems to show us that God isn’t really with us at all.

 

Because we can see from the resurrection that when Jesus made a prediction, when he made a promise about what would happen, it came true.  What Jesus predicted, happened.  The resurrection proves that Jesus is trustworthy – he passes the ultimate reliability – he dies as he said he would, and rises from death, as he said he would.

 

So when we are in a situation where we are holding onto Jesus’ promise in all the uncertainties and difficulties of life, we can be sure that what he promised is true – he never has let us down, and he never will let us down. 

 

When faced with costly decisions for Christ, we can have confidence in him as we make them.  He will not let us down.

 

So when faced with those difficult decisions – whether at work, or school, or home – we can recall Jesus’ reliability – what he says is true – his promise can be trusted.

 

And finally,

 

3. We rejoice that Jesus calls us to follow him

 

The end of Luke 23 and the start of Luke 24 show us a group of Jesus’ followers who are a mixed bunch.

 

Sometimes Jesus’ followers follow well.  Joseph of Arimathea steps up to the mark – boldly going to Pilate to ask for Jesus body – boldly standing out against the others in the Sanhedrin who wanted Jesus dead.

 

Sometimes they don’t do too badly.  The women – they want to care for Jesus body - they rush off to tell the others what has happened – but they also fail to remember what they should have remembered – that Jesus was raised from the dead as he promised he would be.

 

And sometimes, well, these Jesus followers don’t do to well at all.  The eleven – they struggle to believe what the women have said – they think it’s all nonsense.  And Peter – he goes to investigate at the tomb – but this same Peter has denied Jesus three times a few days ago.

 

But these are all people Jesus called to himself, warts and all.

 

We don’t have to be perfect to follow Jesus – we just need to repent, to say sorry for all the wrong things we have done.

 

Jesus was crucified for all the wrong things we have done – for the sins of all his people.  Jesus rose again from the dead- he has defeated sin and death, and he has shown himself to be trustworthy and true.

 

He calls us to repent, to say sorry for all that we have done wrong, and to turn to him as saviour and Lord.  The saviour who makes it possible for us to know God, and avoid the penalty for our sin, and the Lord, who will rule in our lives, enabling us to please God.

 

He calls us to follow him.

 

So as we look to the future, as we face the next year, let us experience some of that wonder which the women felt on Easter day.  But let us also rejoice in our saviour who won the victory over death, our saviour and lord who is always truthful and ever true, and let us follow him, the risen one.

 

Let us pray

 

James Hughes

11th April 2004 (Easter)