“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.” Luke 12:6
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! This was the cry of the early church and is still is our cry today. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of all hope!
Over the past seven weeks of Lent, we have been journeying to Jerusalem. We have been waiting and watching in hope. We have looked at theme of hope for seven weeks. Hope is the confident expectation of something we are sure of!
Our passage for this Easter morning comes from the Gospel of Luke chapter 24. The resurrection is recorded in all four Gospels. I encourage you to take some time this week to read the resurrection accounts. What is it that you believe? What is it that you hope for? What confident expectation are you sure of?
Before we come to our reading today, let us stop before the throne of glory and offer a prayer. “God of resurrection hope, give us the same resurrection hope today that filled the hearts and homes of the early disciples. The tomb was empty. Jesus was alive—just like he said. Fill us with this same hope; a hope that will never disappoint us, a hope that will sustain us in every situation and circumstance that we face. Give us Resurrection Hope this morning as we study your word. Amen
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.[i]
Have you heard of the movie “Unbroken”? The title of the book is “Unbroken: A World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” It is the story of Louis (Louie) Zamperini, a former American Olympic distance runner and World War II prisoner. Zamperini was shot down in his B-24 bomber; the Green Hornet. Zamperini lived to tell about his 1943 airplane crash in the Pacific Ocean. Zamperini survived the crash and then drifted in a life raft for forty-seven days. He was then captured by the Japanese. Zamperini spent twenty months in a Japanese prison camp where he endured physical and mental torture. His courageous story and ultimate victory is told in the movie “Unbroken”. The book reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list and was acclaimed by Time Magazine as “The best non-fiction book of 2010.”
When Zamperini was finally rescued from the prison camp, he returned to California a hero, only to fall victim to another enemy which also imprisoned him --- alcohol. Zamperini often told the story of his rescue from his second prison—of alcoholism because his story gave hope to other weary hearts who longed to be saved from the mental anguish, disastrous circumstances and physical defeat of addiction.
After Zamperini was set free from both the Japanese prison camp and from his addiction to alcohol, he returned to Japan after the war. Listen to how Laura Hillenbrand records this story in her book after Louie Zamperini received Christ:
When [Louie] thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but of the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird, the general of the prison camp, had striven to make him. In a single, silent moment, Zamperini’s rage, his fear, his humiliation and his helplessness had fallen away. On the morning Zamperini received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he believed he was a new creation. A year after trusting Christ, Zamperini returned to the Sugamo Prison in Japan where he met with his former captors, all except for the Bird. When Zamperini was told that the Bird had committed suicide, “he felt something he had never felt for his captor before. With a shiver of amazement, he realized it was compassion. At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.[ii]
The war was over! Forgiveness! Beautiful! Effortless! Complete!
That is the promise of the resurrection! This is the joy of the resurrection! This is the hope of the resurrection! The war between good and evil, heaven and hell is over! Because the tomb is empty we have been offered forgiveness! Beautiful! Effortless! Complete!
Let’s look at our Scripture for today and enter into the story. The women have returned from the empty tomb and have shared the good news: Jesus is not there! He has risen just like he told us in Galilee! Our good friend, Dr. Luke, tells us that the disciples did not believe the women “because their words seemed like nonsense.” The Greek word for “nonsense” is “leros” and it is translated as “Nonsense, idle talk, chatter, mere trash, delirium and humbug.”
Hear it this way: “The disciples did not believe the women because their words seemed like nonsense, idle talk, chatter, mere trash, delirium and humbug!”
I would have loved to have been in that room. This had been a terrible weekend. It had been a horrible Passover. Their best friend, Jesus, had been crucified and placed in a borrowed tomb by Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. The Sabbath was now over and the women had gotten up early on Sunday morning, before sunrise. Together they carried over 100 pounds of spices. They were going to anoint Jesus’ body for his proper burial. If I were there, I’d be thinking, “Didn’t they just leave? How come they’re back so soon? What do you mean, ‘Jesus isn’t there’? You saw two men that looked like lightning?” I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking maybe the stress of the weekend has gotten to them. I’m thinking they must be delirious after all that’s happened.
We are told in the next verse that Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Remember Peter? He had had quite a Passover, too. Three times he denied ever knowing Jesus—and then the rooster crowed. Peter went away from the crowd and wept bitterly. In the second it took that rooster to start crowing, Peter knew. He knew that he had totally, 100% abandoned His lord and savior.
I’m sure a million thoughts were running through Peter’s mind and heart. Something in the women’s delirium had to strike a cord within Peter. He got up from the safety of the Upper Room and he ran straight to the tomb. Was this the same man who had just denied Jesus, now running to Jesus’ tomb?
Peter had spent three years walking and talking with Jesus. Peter had witnessed miracle after miracle. How many miracles did Peter see during those three years? The blind were given sight, the lame walked, lepers were healed, and the deaf could hear. Thousands of people had been fed with a little boy’s lunch. Not only did Peter see Jesus walk on water—he had walked on water, too. The wind and the waves obeyed Christ. And now here are some of his best friends, the women, blazing down the house with a story that Jesus is alive!
“Think, Peter, think! Jesus told us repeatedly—at least three times--that he would be crucified, buried and that he would be raised back to life.”
I wonder if Peter instantly thought of the people Jesus had raised from the dead during the past three years? What about last week, when Jesus called Lazarus out from the tomb? Lazarus had been dead for four days—but out he walked!
Listen to how John records this story.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”[iii]
Peter was there when Jesus raised the widow’s son, and when he raised Jairus’ daughter. We are told in the Gospel of John that Jesus told one of the thieves on the cross next to Him that he would be with Jesus in paradise that day! Peter knew all of this.
“Do you believe this?” Haunting words of Jesus.
There Peter is. Huddled in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews. The women have returned and are talking nonsense: the stone had been rolled away, the tomb is empty, two men who are shining like lightning said they need to remember what Jesus had told them. “Don’t look for the living among the dead! He is not here! He has risen!” And all of a sudden, Peter is on his feet—running towards the empty tomb!
What was Peter thinking when he knelt down, looked into the empty tomb and saw the linen clothes folded up? Look at verse 12, Peter went away “wondering to himself.” The Greek word for “wondering” in is the verb, a present active verb meaning that the action of the verb began when Peter saw the tomb empty and he never stopped wondering. Peter was amazed, astonished, marveling and wondering.
It was little league and Carl was at bat. It was the last inning, two outs, the bases were loaded, and depending on Carl, the winner or the loser of the game was up! Carl came from a large family and they were there: his mother and father, grandparents, aunts and uncles—they were there to cheer him on. A total of thirty family members had come to the opening day game. The stakes were high, the energy reached an amazing high as the pitcher threw the first pitch. “Strike one!” Carl was either going to be the hero or the loser. The second pitch crossed the plate, “Strike two!” The crowd continued the noise as the third pitch came across the plate. Carl swung a mighty swing but the ball flew into the catcher’s mitt. “Strike three, you’re out!”
Not only was Carl out, the game was over, his team had lost and Carl felt like he was the cause of the loss. The winning team went crazy, their families swarmed out onto the field, everyone was having their own kind of celebration. All except Carl’s team. Carl’s team walked quietly off the field. dejected, they mingled with their families and headed back to their cars in silence. Carl was still standing at the plate, he was devastated. He hung his head in disgrace. Then it happened. Someone yelled, “Son, get back up. The game ain’t over.”
Carl heard it again, “Son, get back up. The game ain’t over.”
The third time it was louder still, “Son, get back up. The game ain’t over.”
Sure enough, there on the pitcher’s mound stood Carl’s dad. He was wearing a mitt and holding a ball and he said it again, “Son, get back up. The game ain’t over yet.” Carl looked and saw that none of his relatives had left. They were all in the field, waiting to play. Aunt Emma stood in right field. Uncle Joe was in left. They were all out there. Carl’s dad stood on the pitcher’s mound, calmly saying, “Hey, son. Get back up. The game ain’t over. Get back up.”
Bewildered Carl picked up his bat and everybody started cheering. Carl swung at his dad’s first pitch. He missed. Carl missed the next six pitches but on the seventh pitch, he got hold of the ball and sent it into right field. His aunt ran, picked up the ball and threw it to first base. Mom must have lost the ball in the sun because it went right through her hands into the dugout. “Run!” everyone yelled. As Carl ran to second, Uncle David was blinded by the sun as well. “Keep running!” Carl headed for third, where the throw went two feet over the head of the third baseman. “Keep running, Carl!” Carl raced for home, running as hard as he had ever run.
That’s when Carl saw him. About five feet from home plate, right in front of him was his dad. His dad had gotten down on his knees, so that he was the same height as Carl. Tears were streaming down his face. Carl’s dad held out his arms and said, “Son, you are safe at home.” Carl threw himself into his father’s arms. His father picked him up and whispered in his ear, “I told you the game ain’t over.”[iv]
I love to find myself in the stories of the Bible. This week I found myself in Peter. Peter’s hope had been dashed to bits. The loud, proud fisherman who was Jesus’ number one leader and GO TO GUY—had just denied that he ever knew Jesus; not once, not twice but three times in one night. That rooster crowing meant that not only did Peter know what a loser he was but so did Jesus. I think Peter went back and hung his head in shame.
But…give it some time…enter the group of women. What they are saying makes no sense. Angels. Shining like lightning. Jesus is risen just like he said. I think when Peter poked his head into the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there—Peter found his resurrection hope. Everything Jesus had done and said was true. “Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord, I believe!”
Resurrection hope tells us that even we think the game is over, the game isn’t over.
We may not understand the situations and the circumstances of our life but there is one who does. Jesus has overcome death, the world, and the grave. This is our SO WHAT for this glorious Easter Sunday.
Our hope has nothing to do with us. Our hope has everything to do with Jesus.
Resurrection hope is what carried the cross to Calvary.
Resurrection hope is what nailed Jesus to that cross.
Resurrection hope is what laid Jesus in a borrowed tomb.
But…the game wasn’t over…yet…
Resurrection hope is what emptied the tomb. That’s our so what for this morning. Do you feel like the game is over? Are you standing at home plate with two outs, bases loaded and two strikes on you?
Even when all of mankind thinks the game is over…Jesus asks us one question. It’s the same one he asked of Mary and Martha, “Do you believe this?” “Do you believe I am the resurrection and the life?”
Resurrection hope is the empty tomb. Lazarus found it. Mary and Martha found it. The women at the tomb found it. Peter found it. Zamperini found it….and Carl found it.
Resurrection hope is what raised Jesus from the dead, emptied the tomb and rose him from the dead.
He is risen. He is risen, indeed!
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
April 1, 2018 Easter
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Lk 24:1–12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken; A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, New York, Randon House 2010
[iii] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jn 11:21–26). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iv] Ray Johnston, The Hope Quotient, Colorado Springs, CO. W Publishing Co, 2014