Easter Sunday (Morning Service)
Shawnee Bible Church Pastor Jon Gohdes Sunday April 12, 2020 “The Living One” (Luke 24:1–12) He is risen! I don’t know what your particular traditions and practices are for Easter, but it is of course unmistakably American to make a big deal out of Easter baskets, Easter eggs, and of course to entertain that cosmic Leporidae tradition, the Easter Bunny. You’ll be relieved to know that those American Easter traditions and practices find their basic origin in German pagan mythology about the fertility goddess Eostre. But you’re sensible people and can do your own homework (and then sit down and explain it all to your kids). I speak somewhat facetiously because most of us probably observe and enjoy at least some of those Easter customs. I remember as a little fella just how big a deal it was to get up and get going because the hunt was on. All 5 kids in our family had our own Easter basket to find, and mine had an elongated, tall handle that made it difficult to hide. I still vividly remember one of my brothers calling out from the pantry that he had found someone’s basket, which of course proved to be the handle of mine sticking out—to which my little not-so-innocent heart responded in a fit of rage. Ironically, none of us seem to have resisted that temptation to find and blurt out the position of another’s basket because I can remember doing the same. Our family didn’t really do Easter egg hunts, but it’s peculiar that so many Easter activities have to do with seeking and finding. Biblically speaking, Easter obviously emphasizes something much more substantial than chocolate and pastel colors—biblically speaking, Easter is not about something mythological but something literal, and it’s not man-centered but God-centered. In fact, let’s just get our wording straight right now—this isn’t Easter Sunday. It’s Resurrection Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ literal, bodily resurrection from the dead three days after having been crucified on a Roman Cross. We’ve just read Luke’s account of how the empty tomb was first discovered: Women come to anoint Jesus’ body; they find the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, the body gone; two angels appear asking the climactic question: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” What a paradoxical question! On a day when more people today are concerned about finding colored eggs, the truth is these women were seeking a dead Lord, but they met with the reality of a Living Savior! That is the true reality of this Resurrection Sunday. That is the reality of Jesus. In fact, our passage helps us to see three realities about Jesus: The first reality: 1) Throughout the Easter mystery, Jesus was the literal Living One (vv. 1–6a). Orthodox Christian belief has always taken the Bible at its word when it says that Jesus’ body was not there in the tomb because he had literally risen from the dead! All manner of spurious explanations have been offered, ranging from the claim that the disciples stole his body to the assertion that Jesus only swooned at the crucifixion (didn’t really die) and then revived later in the cool tomb. NO. The unified witness that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hand down to us is unquestionably that they knew Jesus had physically died, and that Jesus had physically risen from the dead. I love this observation from J. C. Ryle: “The fact of our Lord’s resurrection rests on evidence which no [unbeliever] can ever explain away. It is confirmed by testimony of every kind, sort, and description. The plain unvarnished story which the Gospel writers tell about it, is one that cannot be overthrown. The more the account they give is examined, the more inexplicable will the event appear, unless we accept it as true. If we choose to deny the truth of their account, we may deny everything in the world. It is not so certain that Julius Caesar once lived, as it is that Christ rose again.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, 492) The Christian faith is grounded and based upon historical evidence. This is a point which Luke especially emphasizes because you’ll remember he was actually not a firsthand witness of these things. He had to do his homework in order to be able to tell the story; he was the first scholar to do original research and interviews and compile them into an account of Jesus’ life: Luke 1:1–4. “So that you may know…” Within the American judicial system, the jury must be convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty! This tension is played out in the classic movie “12 Angry Men.” When it comes to Jesus’ resurrection, historically speaking, it’s beyond reasonable doubt. On that first Easter morning, which was such a mystery, Jesus was the literal Living One (“He is not here, but he has risen…”). The second reality… 2) Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was the spiritual Living One (vv. 6b–7). What is so striking and surprising about Jesus’ ministry is that everyone seemed to be caught off guard by the crucifixion! No one, including these devout women, seemed to grasp the spiritual nature of Jesus’ life and death until they encountered the empty tomb! This is so striking and surprising because Jesus explicitly told his followers what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem! The angels remind the women of this. “Remember how he spoke to you…” When Jesus speaks, he imparts perfect spiritual understanding, but the rub is that it takes time for it to sink into our heads! The followers of Jesus are those who used to be spiritually dead but nevertheless still demonstrate that they are spiritually dull compared to Jesus, the Living One! Few if any examples of this are more vivid than the disciple Peter, whom we are more alike than we would care to admit: Matthew 16:13–17, 21–23. It’s no surprise that Jesus’ followers are finding themselves awakening from spiritual slumber on that first Easter morning. Believing their Lord is dead, it becomes clear that he was the spiritually aware and spiritually Living One all along! The third reality… 3) Throughout all human history, Jesus is the perpetual Living One (vv. 8–12). We’re not surprised that Luke notes how the resurrection first confronted the spiritual dullness of Jesus’ disciples, Peter in particular. Did Peter get it?? The one who in the past had “set his mind on man’s interests”—he walks away from the tomb marveling. He walks away with the truth sinking into his thick scull that Jesus is the perpetual Living One! He was “amazed, wondering, admiring, reverencing, adoring” (θαυμάζω) the reality that Christ was alive. I don’t think Peter ever “got over” the resurrection: 1 Peter 1:3–5. The resurrection is not about a story that might or might not have been true. It’s not even about a true story that we look back upon and merely believe, respect, and affirm. It’s about the story upon which our story depends. Jesus spoke of this when he said John 14:18–20. Throughout all human history, Jesus is the perpetual Living One because the good news of his life, death, burial, and resurrection affect all of our lives today. We see in this passage, the pattern of NT Christianity already emerging: - Jesus’ clear Words are remembered - Jesus’ victorious story is perpetuated - Jesus’ empty tomb is be reckoned with Have you reckoned with the empty tomb? Is it just a story that maybe happened 2000 years ago? Or have you come to see it as the very climax moment of all history that explains and defines your life? Do you see your sin for what it is, Jesus for who he is, and his salvation for what it is? The hymn writer puts it this way: My faith has found a resting place, Not in device or creed; I trust the Ever-Living One, His wounds for me shall plead. My heart is leaning on the Word, The written Word of God, Salvation by my Savior’s name, Salvation through his blood. I need no other argument, I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died, And that he died for me. I close with these helpful thoughts from Barclay: (1) “There are those who regard Jesus as the greatest man and noblest hero who ever lived, as one who lived the loveliest life that has ever been lived on earth and who then died. That will not do. Jesus is not dead; He is alive; He is a living presence today… (2) There are those who regard Jesus as a man whose life must be studied, and whose words must be examined, and whose teaching must be analyzed. There is a tendency to think of Christianity and Christ in terms of something to be studied… Beyond a doubt study is necessary; but Jesus is not only someone to be studied; He is someone to be met and lied with every day in life. He is not only a figure in a book, even that book be the greatest book in the world; again, He is a living presence. (3) There are some who see in Jesus the perfect pattern and example. He is that; but it remains true that a perfect example can be the most heart-breaking thing in the world… We may remember that when we were young, we were presented at school with a writing book. At the top it has a line of copperplate writing below it had blank lines on which we had to copy it. How utterly discouraging were our efforts to reproduce that perfect pattern! But then the teacher would come and, with her hand, would guide our and over the lines and we got nearer to it. That is what Jesus does. He is not only the pattern and example. He helps us, and guides us, and strengthens us to follow that pattern and example. He is not simply a model for life, He is a living presence to help us to live.” (Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 305–307).