Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dead Men Don't Rise?

March 31st, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
DEAD MEN DON’T RISE?     Luke 24:1-12     Vicar Jason Toombs

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  Let’s say that again, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  It brings joy to my heart to hear this wonderful Easter Day proclamation.

But it’s also strange; unbelievable, even.  It’s strange to say this because we know that dead men don’t rise from the grave.  They knew this too.  The disciples knew that dead men don’t rise from the grave.  The women knew that dead men don’t rise. 

Frightened.  Alarmed.  Shocked.  Many thoughts were going through the minds of the women when they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  But they did not think that He was risen.  This is beyond all understanding.  Dead men don’t rise from the grave.  They went into the tomb to see if the body was still there.  But no body was there.  The burial cloths were neatly organized and the body was missing.  If we were there, we would have thought like they did, “We saw Him placed into this tomb, not a different one.  Was the body stolen by grave robbers?”  We too, we would have thought anything but “He is risen from the dead.”

They should have known.  They should have believed Him.  They ministered to Jesus while He was teaching.  They heard Him say that He would be crucified and on the third day rise from the dead.  But they didn’t understand what He said.  How could they, they knew nobody died and came back to life.  The dead aren’t raised, ordinarily speaking.  They should have believed Him.  They saw the signs that Jesus performed.  They saw as He raised the widow’s son.  They knew of Him raising Jairus’ daughter.  They were with Him as He spoke to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out.”  They knew that He could raise others, but they couldn’t, they wouldn’t believe His prophesy about His own death and resurrection.

Who could really blame them?  We’ve seen horror movies where zombies come back to life, but that’s fiction.  We know that dead men don’t rise from the grave, that’s a fact.  This we can clearly explain by science: not sleeping, not swooning, not pretending to be dead; He was dead.  Spear thrust into His side, blood and water flowing out.  Dead.

Hastily buried in the tomb.  The women were coming to make sure that the burial was done properly.  With burial spice in hand, as they scrambled to find the body of their Teacher and Lord, “behold, two men appeared in dazzling apparel.”

It was strange and dreadful.  Fear gripped them.  The women hear from the two men the Easter message, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”  That wonderful, perplexing message, “He is not here, but has risen.”  Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Why do we?  Why do we dwell on death instead of life?  At the death of a loved one who has died in the faith, why do we act like we are never going to see them again?  Why do we dwell on this?  Why do we live as though all there is to life is this life?  Why do we seek life in dead works, dead religion, dead ideas, dead philosophies, dead pleasures, dead passions, dead entertainment?  Why do we seek the living among the dead?  Simple, like the women on that first Easter morning, we know that dead men don’t rise.

Except this one did.  This Jesus rose from the dead.  He is the exception to the rule that dead men don’t rise.  And He’s the only exception.  No religious leader, no other god has done what our Lord and Savior did.  Better than Babe Ruth, Jesus called His shot.  He spoke plainly and clearly, I will die and rise from the grave on the third day.  He said this not once, not twice, but thrice.  Three times He said that this was going to happen.  But the people closest to Him didn’t remember what He said until after it happened.  He rose from the dead.  Empty grave, no body to be found.  Just as He said.

What does this mean?  What does this mean for you?  It means that not only is Christ raised from the dead, but you too will be raised.  It means that the dead will live in Christ.  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  Christ is the firstfruits, the first to be raised.  And you will be raised too, raised when He comes again at the end.  The old Adam brought sin and death, the new Adam brings forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

This is the Christian hope: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.  Jesus came not to take away all our earthly problems, not to exempt us from suffering for our faith, not to be a band-aid to life’s boo-boos.  If this is what you’re looking for in a religion, you’re in the wrong place.  Paul clearly states, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  It’s not about this life that Christ ultimately came for.  Christ did not come to be our invisible, heavenly “Get Out of Jail Free Card.”

The empty, open tomb gives us much more hope.  Christ is risen and in Him the dead will rise!  Our last and greatest enemy, death itself, lies conquered, vanquished under the cross-bruised heel of Jesus.  The reign of death and the grave is ended; the reign of Jesus Christ has begun on earth as it is in heaven, all things have been put under His reign.

The women and Peter have been to the tomb.  They have seen with their own eyes the empty tomb.  They saw the neatly laid linen burial cloths.  They have marveled at the things that they have seen and heard.  These are the eyewitnesses of the faith.  And they can’t help but spread the news.  Death and the grave have been conquered; forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus has begun, and these these women hurry to tell the eleven everything they have seen and heard.

Do you fear death?  Fear it no longer, for Christ has triumphed over your greatest enemy.  Do you dread the grave?  Dread it no longer, for Christ has made your grave a sabbath place of holy rest, resting for His return.  Do you grieve the death of a loved one who died believed in Christ?  Grieve in hope and trust in Christ.  Christ has triumphed, He is risen and in Him the dead will rise to eternal life.  Are you suffering and despairing in this life?  Hear and believe this: Jesus Christ has died and risen from the dead and through His suffering and death, you are forgiven, and so the evil of this world has no lasting power over you.

His resurrection is our only hope.  “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. ... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”  This is the church’s proclamation on Easter morning and every day since:  Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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