My Easter sermon for 2016.
Stop … they found the stone rolled away, but they did not find the body
Luke 24: 1-2
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.
The women expected things to be as it always was when someone died.
It wasn’t so much that life was carrying on as normal – death was carrying on as normal.
They had seen Jesus die. They had seen the body taken down and put in the tomb. The Sabbath then intervened but on Sunday morning they came back. What else could they do but anoint it for burial?
From then everything would go on in the same, slow, cold, dead way …
Except … they have to stop because death has been interrupted.
The two men in dazzling clothes had to begin the process of helping them to rewind through all that Jesus had taught them. How important it is to go back into Jesus’ story and recount it for ourselves: not to spend time in the place of death looking for the living words of Jesus.
Stand … he is not here, but has risen. Remember!
Luke 24: 4b-6
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…
Life was pretty tough in first century Palestine so to be dazzled at a tomb wasn’t your everyday experience. These two men, certainly we are meant to understand them as angels from God, had terrified the women.
Don’t forget they had come in the dark to embalm a body and now it’s missing … or as they are beginning to remember, alive.
They stand there and the story begins to percolate in their hearts and bodies. Three lovely words from Luke: “then they remembered”. Imagine how that scene unfolded as they reminded each other of their shared experiences with Jesus.
They stood there holding unwanted spices for a dead man; perfumes to anoint a corpse. What do we do with these now? Throw them away?!?
They remembered! Jesus had told them it would be like this and, despite living alongside him for three years, it had not sunk into their hearts.
How often do we need to break out of what can become a sense of functional atheism? I’m in the church, I know about Jesus but will I let his death and resurrection become part of who I am.
Step out … he commanded us to preach and to testify
Acts 10: 39-40, 42
39 ‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen… 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify…
The women left the tomb told the eleven and, initially, no one believed them until Peter went to investigate. Our second reading is part of the story of Peter preaching to the Roman soldier Cornelius and his household – being a witness to the resurrection.
Peter had crossed a great gulf between the Jewish Christian church and the Gentiles. Why? Well he says he can’t do any other.
We are witnesses to all that he did…
[God] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify …
Peter is remembering his story. He stepped in to the tomb and saw that Jesus was no longer in it. Then he stepped out looking with new eyes.
Luke says he went home amazed at what had happened. We know from the Bible that very soon he met Jesus face to face.
Perhaps you need to meet Jesus this morning in a new way.
To stop at the tomb and know that Good Friday is not the end of the story …
… or to stand and hear the words ‘he is risen’ and know they are true for your life too …
… or to find the right way to step out and be a witness in the place where God has put you.