THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Luke 24:1-12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “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.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
Once upon a time in a far away land there lived a man named Jesus. That, beloved, I’m sure you already know, is how many in our world believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John should have begun their Gospels, especially when it comes to the events that they record about this special day. Once upon a time in a far away land there lived a man named Jesus, who 3 days after He was crucified rose from the dead. A fairy tale. Plain and simple. A bedtime story for little kids and weak gullible people.
The good news that I have for such people today is that they are in very good company. They can count themselves with the greatest amongst us. And no, I’m not talking about great men like Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin or even great minds like Stephen Hawking or rabid atheists like Richard Dawkins. No, no, I’m talking about the 11 greats of the great, Peter and Andrew, James and John, Matthew and Thomas, Philip and Bartholomew, James the son of Alpheaus and Thaddaeus and Simon the Cananean. Yes, I’m talking about the apostles.
But these words seemed to them an idle tale - a fairy story. That’s how the apostles reacted to the news that the women brought back from the tomb. The stone rolled away from the tomb, the missing body of the Lord Jesus, the two men in dazzling apparel and their announcement that He had risen? Yea, it all sounded like a fairy tale to the eleven and those who were with them. At least one of these tale telling women appears to be one of their moms. Now who doesn’t believe their mom? Yea, that’s pretty hard core.
And so, if someone were to tell me that all this stuff about Jesus’ Resurrection is just some fairy tale, I would say right back, Oh really? I know of a guy who was just like you, His name was Simon Peter - the chief of the apostles. He was so much like you, that when he heard the tale, He got up and ran to the tomb and checked it out for himself. And no, he didn’t stop at the rolled away stone, he stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloths by themselves with no body in them. Yes, Peter checked it out for himself. And he went away marvelling at what had happened.
At what had happened… yes, beloved, as many as there may be, who still doubt the events of this day, even perhaps yourselves at times and without question (as hard as it may be to believe) me at times, you need to know, that there is no question about the fact that the events of this day happened, whether anyone, including you and me, wants to believe them or not. Eye witnesses reported what they saw. The stone was rolled away and the Lord Jesus’ body was missing.
Incredible? Yes, it all seems pretty incredible, which is why even our flesh can struggle with it. Now, the Holy Spirit may have kept us from rejecting the reports of Jesus’ resurrection altogether, but at times even faithful christians like you and poor humble pastors like me, may not live in the fullness of their truth. Jesus’ resurrection proclaims loud and clear what He declared with His dying breath on the cross. It is finished. Sin is paid for. Death is undone. Hell is overthrown. The empty tomb is the sure and certain sign of Christ’s victory over it all.
And so why? Why, beloved? Do we still let sin have dominion over us? Why let it have its way with us, as though we must let it rule us? And even more so why do we let it haunt us afterward to bully and abuse us as though it really has anything on us? Has Christ not risen in victory over sin? And we as baptized children of God do we not share in that victory? Am I not set free in Christ to turn my back on sin? To leave it behind? Indeed I am, but I do not believe in Christ’s resurrection as firmly as I should, and so, sin continues to have its way with me causing me to hang my head in guilt and shame. The empty tomb, beloved, the linen cloths, are all cause to hold your head high, no matter how badly or how far you have fallen. All sin … your sin … my sin is finished.
And why? Why, beloved? Do we let death have any power over us? Why do we let it bow us down with worry and care? Why, O, why, do any of the signs of its impending approach like aches and pains, lumps and growths, failing hearts and fleeting breath give us any kind of pause whatsoever? Let alone fill us with anxious thoughts and disturb our rest? And why do we allow ourselves to fall into the depths of hopeless grief, as if death’s ancient darkness could really swallow up any of those, who have known the One who is the Resurrection and the Life? Why? Because we are in good company, beloved, with the 11 and many others who need to have their hearts ever refocused on the empty tomb and linen cloths.
And hell? What of hell? How can we possibly believe that it’s tightening its grip on this world? That its power is growing day by day, rather than steadily fading away? How can we look at the evil that it causes and spurs on in this world, as anything but the final death throes of the serpent’s body, as his head lies crushed under the risen heal of the Son of God? Is hell’s power not all overthrown by the risen victorious Christ? Is creation not even now being renewed by the cosmic wave of life that burst forth from the Lord Jesus’ empty tomb? How then can we wring our hands asking, “Where is the world headed? No, beloved, it’s not to hell in a hand basket, even though it may look that way at times. The empty tomb and linen cloths leave no doubt about it. Hell is doomed to lose because it has lost already.
Once upon a time? No, beloved. Despite what many in this world and your flesh and my flesh may say, the events that we remember with rejoicing and great thanksgiving today were no fairy tale. They happened. Period. The Lord in His mercy has brought you here this morning to bring you to the tomb with Peter, that stooping down with him and seeing through His eyes the linen cloths lying by themselves, you too might go home today, to live marvelling in what has happened and what it means for you and your life. That you may indeed do this, the Risen One Himself comes to you in His flesh and blood to impress all the more deeply on your heart and mind, not to look for Him among the dead, or in fairy tales for that matter, because He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.