This morning as we gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I would hazard a guess that there is not a single person here who has not heard the news before that Jesus rose from the dead. So the theme of the morning is no surprise. However, we seem to have the strange ability to hear without hearing. That applies to all of us. Children can hear what their parents say but not hear what their parents say. It happens in communication between adults, and don’t look over at your partner right now. I have quoted this line before from one of my favourite songs but it applies to this day. “I listened hard but did not see”. I know that I had heard the news Jesus rose from the dead many times before I actually heard the news “Jesus rose from the dead!” Which means he is still alive because death never swallowed him again. So this morning I want to take a few moments to look once again at one of the stories, today it is Luke telling the story, of what happened one morning almost two thousand years ago. Here we are almost two thousand years later and lives still revolve around and recalibrate around one weekend in the life of Jesus Christ — and if that line is not true for you, if your life does not revolve around this news, if your life does not constantly re adjust and refocus because of this news, then you have heard but you have not heard this news. May all of our hearts be open to the glory and the wonder of this news afresh this day!
“But on the first day of the week” This “but” comes right after Luke has finished telling us about the brutal death of Jesus and his burial. Jesus’ dead body had been placed in a grave and laid to rest just before the Sabbath. On the Sabbath they all rested. Unless a person dies very young everyone at one point or another participates in the experience of laying a friend or a loved one in a grave. Although I suppose with cremation becoming the norm it is less and less that we visually lay someone in a grave. There is a finality to that experience. We even use phases like – the end has arrived. We know we will never see them again. Yes we have our memories but we no longer have them. From their perspective they have buried Jesus, the end has arrived. That is their reality. That is our human reality. “But,” – a different reality is about to emerge – “on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.” A group of women, women who had stood and watched the brutal crucifixion of Jesus, women who had stayed with him until his last breath, have come to the tomb with spices. They have come as an act of love. The spices are to pack around the body to protect the body from animals devouring it. They have come to mourn together, to cry together, to support one another in their grief and to tangibly express one last time their love. “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body.” We don’t read far enough today to get this story but in the days to come we will hear about a group of disciples gathering in a locked room and Jesus appearing among them. Not as a ethereal spirit but with a concrete real body that seems to have the ability to pass through walls. The stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could get out of the tomb, the stone was rolled away so that they could get into the tomb. “But when they went in they did not find the body.” Days before they had watched the body of Jesus being placed in the tomb. But now there is no body. Now the story gets really interesting.
“While they were perplexed about this”, they could not make any sense of why the body was not there. “Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them” The description of these beings that have showed up is difficult to translate. Probably because they are difficult to describe. I like the word dazzling, that gets used in the translation I am using, others simply say they were dressed in white, or that they were bright. One translation I saw said they were “dressed in lightening”. That’s my favourite. “While they were perplexed about this, two beings dressed in lightening stood beside them” – doesn’t that send chills up your back? You can feel the energy, “the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground” They did not just look down to the ground this is saying they buried their faces to the ground in fear. They hit the ground. Everyone of us would do the same. The glory and the power of what they are getting a glimpse of at this moment is more than we can ask or imagine. “But they said to them, why do you look for the living among the dead?” They had not come looking for the living they had come looking for the dead. They were not expecting the living they were expecting the dead. For them death was final. Once you died there was no life. They came looking for the dead among the dead. But – “He is not here he has risen”. He is the author of life. He is life. The description of the beings, the angels, that came to speak to the women as “dressed in lightning” paints an image of such power and glory. This past week in our Wednesday morning study group we read a recent article on the shroud of Turin. The shroud of Turin is a mysterious ancient artifact that is a cloth burial shroud with a negative photographic image of a crucified man on it. Negative as in like an image on a film. Is it the burial cloth of Jesus? Well no if you want to deny the physical resurrection of Jesus, but perhaps if you are willing to consider what we are reading this morning actually happened. Scientifically it is possible to create a negative photographic image on a piece of cloth. The problem is that we cannot re create such an image because we cannot create the necessary intensity of light to cause such an image. Do you know what that means. These beings that came to speak to the women clothed in such power and glory that it was like they were dressed in lightening pale in comparison to the glory of Jesus as he rose from the dead. As the author of life brought alive his broken and beaten body.
“Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee” — long before it all happened — “that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words.” They remembered that they had heard but that they had not heard. “And returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest…. But these words seemed to them like an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
There is such honesty in their witness. None of them were quick to believe. Why? Because if this is true this changes everything. This is not chicken soup for your soul. This is not an inspirational thought for the day that might help give you a little more energy or a little more focus or meaning to your day. If this is true then Jesus is everything. In him is life. He is the source of your life, he is the hope of your life, now and in your death. He is the Lord of the living and the dead. Yes it is true, two thousand years later lives still revolve around and recalibrate around one weekend in the life of Jesus Christ. You’re here today. What about you? Does your life revolve around Jesus, do you recalibrate the focus of your life because of this weekend, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus? If you are hearing but having trouble hearing the reality of the witness of those who were there, if it is not sending chills up your back but rather seems like an “idle tale.” Do what Peter did. Run to Jesus. He got up and ran to the tomb. He ran to where he thought Jesus was. His heart was crying out for him and to him. And Jesus did come to him. Ask Jesus to help you hear. Ask Jesus to come to you. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Life is dependent upon him, now and for all of eternity. Welcome the Lord of glory afresh into your life this day. Let your life revolve around Him, recalibrate your life, put the focus of your life on Him.
In Him is life. The grave is empty, won’t you come and see.