Sermon – Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019
Luke 24:1-12 ‘Living Among the Dead’
CT: Into the darkness of our living and our ending, Jesus words speak and are life.
Intro: You wouldn’t expect to find a quart of milk in Canadian Tire nor would you go Safeway to get new brake pads for your car. What then would you go to a cemetery expecting to find? A quiet place, perhaps, to remember someone you love; to see again their name carved in stone. What you wouldn’t expect are 2 men dressed in dazzling apparel saying, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” The backdrop for the 1st Easter was an empty tomb in a cemetery—a place where a bloodied body had been laid to rest only 3 days earlier; now it was missing.
Central: We make quiet and thoughtful journeys to the cemetery with flowers. We collect pictures, set up memorials, and carve names and hopeful words into stone, but the pain remains. We take ice candles to the cemetery on Christmas Eve; it’s meant to shed some warmth and light into the sadness of our Christmas, but if the light is not the Light of Christ, then any meaning from our actions is whisked away as quickly as a puff of wind can blow out a candle. Only one person has ever shed light and life into the grave—the One who rose forever from it, defeating death with the Easter sunrise words: “He is not here, He has risen!” Don’t get me wrong, the flowers, the headstones, the candles are needful things that help you and me live with our grief, but there’s only one source of healing—one stronghold of help—one answer that makes a difference—one hope that will not disappoint you; Jesus!
“He has risen” is central to your Christian faith; it conveys an eternal promise that goes beyond our understanding. It’s like the OT lesson where the wolf and the lamb graze together; it defies what we experience in this world. But there’s more! By grace, we are already made alive in Christ; the living among the dead.
Words: The women made their way in the predawn light to the place where Jesus’ body was laid, what kind of words could they say to one another that might bring comfort or did they move in silence? Death alters every thought of tomorrow; the future seems so tenuous—so not real without the one we love walking beside us. If they had been thinking clearly they would have brought some muscle to help them open the tomb. But not only was the stone rolled away, availing the tomb to their sober morning task; there was no body to prepare—no smell of death to cover up. They were perplexed, hurt, confused—and who wouldn’t be; how could this be? Then the Good News is given: “Remember how He told you…the Son of Man must be, not could be or might be, but must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” This was all necessary for you and me!
Believe and Live: Easter points us to Jesus’ words. His words are not always easy to understand or digest; they are what they are; the truth! When Jesus asked His disciples if they too wanted to leave because of the difficulty of His teaching, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68) The Apostle Paul tells the Romans that Jesus’ words impart faith: “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the words of Christ.” The comparison between Easter morning and what God has done for you and me is striking. Paul describes our world—the people in it as something out of a zombie movie; the walking dead. “And you were dead in your trespasses in which you once walked, following the course of this world…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him.” (Ephesians 2:1-6)
Easter Difference: When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were made part and parcel with Jesus’ death and resurrection that we might walk in a newness of life. (Romans 6) All around us, and in our lives too, we can look back and see a graveyard of losses, brokenness, hurt, pain, and turmoil we’ve created or been part of. Yet through faith in Jesus’ work for us we are raised for the here and now. That’s the difference Easter makes! You are the living; the made alive with Christ, heirs of an eternal heavenly kingdom, among the spiritually dead. You and I have more than Easter eggs and bunnies to share; we have the new life given us in Jesus’ resurrection. It’s the power to live now for forever!
More Than a Feeling: Easter is huge; it’s much more than a happy, fuzzy, feel good day with bunnies, chicks, and butterflies; it’s an empty tomb; it’s the necessity of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins that He would raise you up to walk in a newness of life. The world around you is unbelieving, as we once were. They are perplexed, confused, and will lash out at what they can’t understand; the walking dead don’t like the living! (You’ve seen the movies!) But you and I have been made alive by the Word and promise of our Baptism, and are strengthened in this new life as we hear His Words in worship. And then He feeds this new life with His own Body and Blood at His Table; Jesus’ words attached to bread and wine, conveying what He says they will; the forgiveness of your sins by gift of His Real Presence.
Easter is about your living, which means there’s more than we can possibly put in one service; it would be a bit like trying to eat a bucket of chocolate Easter eggs all by yourself—before breakfast! That’s why the angels’ words are so important to us too: “Remember Jesus’ words.” On the Church calendar Easter is more than one day, it’s 7 weeks long. But more; every Sunday is an Easter celebration where we gather around Jesus’ words; words that impart life, keeping us as living witnesses to Easter among the dead. Jesus’ life; His words, His death, His resurrection are for you. In your Baptism He has attached you to Easter giving you the hope and certainty of life.