2017-4-16 The Lord Is Risen, Indeed

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning (11 AM)
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          April 16, 2017

“The Lord Is Risen, Indeed”
Text: Luke 24:1-12

“Jesus Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.”  This is our glad confession every day, but it is our glad confession today especially.  Let’s hear one Spirit-led account of His resurrection—of the several providentially available to us—to wit, the thorough account given by Luke in his Gospel.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Within the first verse of today’s text, we read that they went.  Who, after all, are they?  Let’s refer back to the final verses of the previous chapter.  We learn there that they refers to a group of women that followed Jesus from Galilee.  As the authorities took Jesus’ lifeless body down from the cross and entombed it, they noted the spot.  As our text opens, Luke lists them more precisely.  He includes Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons some time earlier, Joanna, whose husband was Herod’s steward, and Mary the mother of James (and likely of Jesus also), plus some other women.  These women, recalling the spot of Jesus’ entombment late Friday afternoon, now come on Sunday morning—planning a needful, loving work.

These women went to the tomb—the tomb availed by Joseph of Arimathea—extremely early (my wooden rendering of the Greek) in the morning.  They come at a painfully early hour bearing spices.  The ladies would use the spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  They would have done this late on Friday afternoon, but not enough time availed between Jesus’ death and the onset of the Sabbath—when no work of such a kind could be done.  Hence, they return at the earliest lawful time to do what ordinarily would be done much sooner.

These women, upon arriving at the tomb, both found and found not.  They found the stone rolled away, but they found not Jesus’ body.  These presenting facts perplexed the women that early morn.  As they considered these things, they saw and heard things astounding.  They saw two men in dazzling apparel.  The sight frightened the women, and they fell to the ground.  Then the men spoke—and in their speaking they conveyed incredibly good news.

“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” the men ask.  Then they continue, “He is not here, but has risen.”  Then the two men bid the women recall Jesus teaching this—even from His Galilean ministry some time earlier.  They urge the women to remember that He said He must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, He must be crucified, and He must rise the third day.  The implication is clear: It simply had to be this way.  After this recitation from the two men, the women recall Jesus’ words.

Then the women return from the tomb and tell all they heard from the two men.  They told these things to the Eleven—that is, Jesus’ twelve disciples, less Judas Iscariot, who did his deed and went to his place—and to the rest with them.  The general reaction to the women’s report is incredulity.  The hearers of the women’s report consider it an idle tale, and they believe it not.  Yet Peter, specifically, acts on what he hears.  He feels compulsion to investigate.  Hence, he runs—again, not a dignified thing to do for a man of standing in that culture, but, in view of the news, praiseworthy—from where he was to the tomb.  Once there, he investigates and finds things exactly as the women declared—and he marvels at the whole and ponders what may have happened.  Could it be just as the women said?  Was He, and is He, indeed risen?

Two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus receive first-hand, incontrovertible evidence of Jesus’ resurrection at the end of a long walk (Luke 24:13-35).  The Eleven get the same proof later in the day (Luke 24:36 ff.).  Eventually over five hundred people will see Jesus raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6) before His return to Heaven.  The New Testament writers are unanimous in their testimony to this fact.  In fact, Jesus’ resurrection is the best-attested fact in antiquity—if not in all human history.

The Apostle Paul, writing some twenty-five years after the fact by the Spirit, writes, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).  Jesus’ resurrection is the sole ground for hope; there is no hope without it, but our hope is certain because of it.  Christian songwriter Bill Gaither writes movingly of this in “Because He Lives.”[1]

Gaither tells of living through the late 1960s: a time of great upheaval, angst, questioning, confusion, and disillusionment.  He learned a child would be born to him and to his wife at that time.  Many of us remember those years, and perhaps your view squares with his—in his view, the time was far from ideal to bring a child into the world.  Then the Lord went to work on Gaither’s soul.  The fruit of that work is the hymn with which we close service today.

The refrain is well-known to many a Christian believer: Because He (i.e., Jesus) lives, I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living just because He lives.[2]  May you believe this to the depth of your being, and, as a result, may the Holy Spirit live out the life of the risen Christ in your mortal flesh.

AMEN.

[1] I am indebted to Kenneth Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), for the information about “Because He Lives.”

 

[2] “Because He Lives,” words and music by Gloria Gaither and William J. Gaither.  Copyright 1971 William J. Gaither.

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