Saturday, April 03, 2010

C, Easter Day - Luke 24:1-12 "Everything is Different"

Text Luke 24:1-12

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. 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. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 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! 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.’” 8 Then they remembered his words. 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. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 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.


Easter Sunday - Everything is different. Today is a day of joy and hope, victory and celebration, salvation and life. Yesterday Holy Saturday, was the day our sinful natures, being enemies of God, caused an innocent man to lie silent in the grave, fulfilling the Sabbath rest like no other.

However, our sinful nature and death is not God's will for us. The deathly end of sin is how it’s been since the fall. However, two thousand years ago things changed, Jesus was raised victorious from the grave, shining in the brilliance of his perfection and power over death, he made everything different for us, and today we celebrate that difference. Today sin and death have been thrown off and we look forward with hope towards life in eternity.

But on that first Easter morning, there was not much cause for celebration as the women humped there embalming spices towards the tomb. They had been hindered in preparing Jesus’ body as the Sabbath demanded they cease from all work. So they rested on the Sabbath and on Sunday, the first day of the week, they set off to embalm Jesus’ body.

What did they think as they walked to the tomb? They thought death was the end – there was no more, death and evil seemed to triumph! There was no cause for any celebration. After seeing Jesus die so horribly on the cross, the thought of seeing his disfigured dead body would have left a sickly knot in their gut, similar to the way we feel when attending a loved one’s funeral.

But everything was different! What they expected and what they found were two different things. They anticipated the stone not being rolled away and after having someone roll it away they would have expected to see a body decaying in death. But no! The stone had been rolled away, they went in, but no body was there.

Imagine standing in the tomb of a dead man who had vanished, then the appearance of two ghostly white figures. It would frighten you to death. Similarly the women fell down in fright. They had absolutely no idea what was going on. As death and sorrow consumed them their own lives would have flashed before them as they cast their eyes on these two men who gleamed like lightning. These women terrified in meeting these ghostly figures in that deathly place were definitely in no mood to celebrate on that first Easter morning.

But every thing was different! Luke here reports two men, standing before the women; only later on does Luke tell us the women had a vision of angels. But Luke’s identification of these persons as men gleaming like lightning, remind us of Luke’s other references to lightening, in his gospel. Particularly of Moses and Elijah as they stood talking with Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration. They shone like lightening and spoke with Jesus about his departure, or more precisely about his exodus, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem (Lk 9:28-36). Just as Moses had led the Israelites to freedom, through the exodus, Jesus too had just crossed the waters of death leading humanity on it’s exodus from death. Everything was now so different!

Luke’s reference to lightning also reminds us of Jesus' word’s after the seventy-two disciples returned amazed that the demons submitted whenever they used Jesus’ name. He said on hearing the news, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Lk 10:18). Folks, I saw Satan fall again this morning when we proclaimed Jesus Christ risen from the dead. I saw him fall when we joined in prayer in his name and sang his name in hymns of praise. You can see Satan fall every day as we drown the sinful nature in daily repentance. Know the devil is defeated when you believe your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

However, the women at the tomb saw only death in its bleakest state, with no hope. They had no cause for celebration, no reason for joy. They didn’t have the privileged knowledge we have in our baptism – that Jesus died for our sin and is risen from the dead. And now with the two Godlike men standing with them in the place of death, were they too going to succumb to the same fate as the crucified Jesus?

No, everything was different!

From the lips of these men came a message of life, came the message to which the church has clung for the last 2000 years and is proclaimed every Easter. In fact every Sunday, and is carried daily in our baptisms. “He is not here; he is risen!” they proclaimed, “Remember what he told you while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’”. Out of the grave came life. Jesus Christ was raised – the first fruits of life. The women heard Christ’s message of life in the tomb, and his word being so powerful, not even the place of death, the grave, could even contain these first fruits.

This message had come from the very lips of Jesus, it is what he told the disciples just before he ascended the mountain and was transfigured. It is what he also told his disciple just before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, concerning the coming of his kingdom with lightning flashes: “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (Lk 17:24-25).

The women remembered, they heard Jesus’ words proclaimed, and the power of those very words turned their whole perspective around. Now everything was different, now they knew why it was different, Jesus is not buried here amongst the dead, he is risen from the dead. The death and sorrow their hearts carried to the grave is now replaced with life, hope, and joy as they left to tell the disciples.

Jesus carried our sin to the grave and he took away sin and death’s power which entered through Adam and exists in every person since. He takes our attention from our sorrow and calls us to look to the life promised in him. He is the way and the truth and the life. Now everything is different!

In our original blind sinful nature none of us had the ability to know God, nor did we want to know him. We once saw life from the same perspective as the women, before God’s word gave them hope, they lived under the oppressive shadow of death. Now all of us share in the hope and certainty given to all of us who are baptised and believe Christ’s death and resurrection for us. And even though we all will die one day, just as Christ died, we too will be raised because he is risen.

Everything is now different! Hallelujah! Amen.