Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 24th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body.4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

The gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ.




Alleluia! Christ is Risen!  Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


Today we celebrate.  Today we sing Alleluia again. The choir is prepared.  We have brass instruments. " We have a lot to celebrate.  Spring is here.  We had some nice weather this week. The school year is almost over.  We have candy to eat. Maybe you got some new clothes. 


Oh, yeah, and Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  

You may say that was almost 2000 years ago. So it is old news.  In one sense, you would be right to say that.  It did happen a long time ago.  


So what difference does it make to us today?

I mean, what difference does it make to us beyond these beautiful decorations and the wonderful music and the clothes and the candy?


The women went to the tomb early that Sunday morning to care for the dead body of Jesus according to Jewish custom.  They had to wait until dawn on Sunday because the Sabbath began at sunset Friday evening and lasted until sunset Saturday evening.  


They were faithful Jews.  They would do no work on the Sabbath.  They rested on the Sabbath because they were exhausted from the week’s activities.  They were grateful that God gave them the Sabbath rest, not just as a law, but as a gift so they could rest.  


According to custom, taking care of dead bodies was a woman’s job.  Several women went together.  It was easier that way. It was safer that way since it was still dark outside. They brought the spices that they had prepared.  


When they got there, the stone was rolled away and they went into the tomb.  But they did not find the body.  


Then they saw the angels, the two men in dazzling apparel.  The angels explained to them that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he said he would.  The women remembered Jesus’ words. They remembered what he had taught them when they were still in Galilee. 


So the women went to tell the remaining 11 disciples and the followers of Jesus who were staying with the disciples.  


But, the disciples and followers didn’t believe the women.  Maybe it was a cultural thing.  Women were not considered to be credible witnesses back then. Maybe it was because they were all in shock from their grief.  


Peter left.  He went to check for himself, then he went home amazed.  


That’s the story.  Some believed it.  Some didn’t.  Peter checked it out for himself. 


That’s the way we are too. Faith comes to some of us easily.  Some of us are skeptics.  Some of us have to see things for ourselves before we will believe. 


Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Some of us have been given the gift of faith in greater measure and it is easier for us to believe. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women at the tomb were given strong faith. 


They were blessed because they saw the empty tomb and the angels spoke to them.  If you are someone who is blessed with a strong faith, give thanks to God. 


Most of the apostles didn’t believe the women at first.  You might say they were in the middle of a crisis of faith. They dismissed the women’s story as nonsense.  


You have to admit, they did have a point.  The women’s story is without question, the most amazing story anyone has ever told. 


I can just hear the apostles saying, “Yeah, right, sure he rose from the dead.  If that makes you feel better, you just go ahead and believe that. But, leave us alone to deal with his death in our own way.”


Peter went to check it out for himself.  That’s OK, too. It is often wise to check things out for ourselves. Especially things that seem too good to be true. 


Later that day, most of the apostles had heard the news more than once, and they finally believed it. Sometimes it takes us a while to come around, too. We may have to hear the news a few times from several different sources before we can take it all in. The gift of faith comes to us all in different ways. 


I am sure many of you know people who have heard this story once and dismissed it as an idle tale.  Be patient with those people. The disciples had been with Jesus daily for three years.  Most of them still needed to hear it from more than one source before they believed it.  Perhaps you can be the witnesses your friends will believe. 


The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. Life will never be the same. And that is probably why there were different reactions from the first apostles. Belief, disbelief, amazement. 


What difference does it make to us that Jesus rose from the dead?


Jesus did not rise from the grave for his own benefit.  If he wanted to do something for himself, he could have chosen not to go to Jerusalem.  He could have chosen not to suffer and die.  For that matter, he could have chosen not to be born. 


He could have made those choices, but he didn’t.  He did choose to be born, to live among us, to suffer for us, to die for us.  He chose to rise from the dead for us.  He conquered sin and death for us. 


Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead.  We, too, will live forever with God in heaven.  


Because those women were witnesses to the good news at the graveyard, we are witnesses and disciples today. 


Let us go forth and share the good news.  

Many have not heard. 

Many have heard, but do not yet believe. 

We have heard and we do believe. We are happy to hear it again.


Alleluia! Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!