This morning is the happiest day in the Church’s year, but only in hindsight. The first Easter began as the saddest funeral procession ever. After Jesus died, they had taken his body down from the cross and placed him in the tomb, but there wasn’t any time left to put the traditional spices on his body before the Sabbath. They had to hurry home that Friday afternoon. The next day, the Saturday after he died, has been called the saddest Sabbath ever. The Sabbath was supposed to be a joy and delight as the Jewish families remembered God’s great acts of creation and the Exodus from Egypt. It was a day of looking forward to a greater rescue and a greater day of rest when the Messiah would come. That Saturday after Jesus died was the saddest Sabbath ever because it looked like God had failed. The Messiah was dead.
When the women were walking to the tomb, it was the saddest funeral procession ever, because they had no hope. Jesus had been their hope. He had even raised the dead, but now he himself was dead. They had no hope of finding anything different. They brought the spices, expecting to find a Jesus’ dead body. They were surprised to find the stone rolled away and the grave empty. They wondered about this, and the word Luke actually used shows that they were afraid and confused about the whole thing. When the disciples heard the story, it sounded like nonsense to them. The possibility that Jesus might actually have risen from the dead was the furthest thing from their minds.
You can hardly blame them. Dead people aren’t supposed to come to life again. It’s unnatural. If someone told me that Elvis was alive, I’d say you’re crazy. Even though Jesus had told them many times that he would die and rise again, it’s very understandable that they wouldn’t actually expect it to happen.
Thank God that our morning has been better than theirs. Even our Good Friday wasn’t all that bad, because we knew that this whole Holy week experience would end up with a happy Resurrection. Jesus is alive.
Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time when it was happening it was harder to see what God was going to do. You know what that’s like. The blessing of looking back on their experience is not only that we see that Jesus is alive, but we also get advice for what we should do when it seems like he is dead. As I read the account, think about the advice that the angels gave. Think about how it helped the women, and how it will help us. Their advice:
Jesus is alive. Remember what he said.
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.
Jesus is alive. Remember what he said.
1. This was good advice for the women.
When an angel says that Jesus is alive, and that’s why is body wasn’t there, that changes everything. All of the sudden it becomes very believable. Everything that Jesus said mattered again, and remembering his words about rising from the dead on the third day, all their worst fears were gone.
If only they had remembered Jesus’ words a little sooner, they wouldn’t have had such a bad weekend. Friday would have been painful and sad, but not as bad. They would still have felt the pain, and they probably wouldn’t have been able to see how God was going to work it all out, but at least they could have found comfort in the thought that they would see the power of God again. Saturday would have been a lot more hopeful, and Sunday morning they would have run joyfully to the tomb, without spices, to see what God had done!
It would have greatly eased their pain, if they had only remembered Jesus’ words earlier.
Let’s not make the same mistake. It doesn’t matter how dead Jesus looks, you can’t count him out of the fight. Remember his words. Now that he has kept his word even to rise from the dead, it’s all the more true. Don’t ever count Jesus out. Jesus is alive. Remember what he said. The angels’ advice was good for the women, and it is good advice for us too.
2. This is good advice for us.
You know what it’s like think that Jesus is dead. You wouldn’t say it that way, but that’s basically what it means when you think that Jesus can’t help you with your particular problem. The angels’ advice works for you too. Jesus is alive. Remember what he said. Even though you can’t always see how Jesus can help you now, you will see his power again. Don’t forget that he is alive, and coming back to raise all the dead. That solves everything.
Let me show you:
The most obvious application is death. When someone dies, take this advice. Jesus is alive. Remember his words. You don’t see his power now, that person is very dead and looks like he will always be that way. In fact, it would scare you to death if that dead person suddenly sat up. You will see the power of God again, though. Jesus is alive, remember what he said, “Because I live, you also will live.” He will come back and raise that dead person to life again.
Sometimes when a person comes into my office with a personal problem, the answer is easy. I know exactly what to say. That rarely happens. Usually I have no idea how it can be fixed. “Pastor, I have fits of anger that take over. I can’t stop it.” “Pastor, I’m controlled by my desires. I know what God wants and I pray for him to help me, but I keep wanting other things.” “Pastor, I can’t get rid of my guilt. I know what Jesus has done, and I believe it, but I can’t shake the memory.” I can usually give some sort of practical advice to help you keep fighting the good fight, but when the problem keeps on coming up again and again, it gets hard to see how Jesus can really be helping. Sometimes the only thing left to do is to keep on fighting, and the only hope of ever being “right” is in the angels’ advice: Jesus is alive, and you will see his power again just like the women did. Remember what he said; he will come back, and raise you from the dead too.
There are also those situations where I have no advice at all, and the angels’ advice is the only thing I can give you. This is actually the thing that happens most often. When the conversation turns to the aches and pains of getting old, and all the disappointment and loss that go with it, there isn’t much that I can say. It may look and feel like Jesus can’t help you with that. The angels’ advice works. Jesus is alive, and you will see his power again too. Remember what he said. He is coming back to raise the dead.
It looked like a disaster when he died on the cross, but Jesus proved himself very capable of keeping his word. That third day the tomb was empty, and the women and disciples saw Jesus alive. When he was dead, nothing that he said seemed to matter anymore. Now that he is alive again, everything that he said is suddenly very relavant and powerful. If he can raise himself from the dead, he can do anything. He can even keep his word to come back and raise us from the dead. May we take this lesson to heart. No matter how powerless Jesus seems, you will see his power again. Jesus is alive. This is very good reason to remember everything that he has said, and continue to do what he has taught us. For starters, come back to church again. It’s worth it, because Jesus is alive. For the more advanced, search out the words of Scripture that speak to your problems, and see how every problem is solved by the resurrection. Let those words carry you through the dark days of life. Rely on your 20/20 hindsight. You’ve seen how good the angels’ advice was, take it for yourself. Jesus is alive. Remember his words. Amen.