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Easter Sunday
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Michael Moffitt, April 21, 2019

He Went Home Marveling at What Had Happened

Text: Luke 21:1–12

One of the things that I have been wondering about recently, is what it was like for those who encountered Jesus while he was here in the flesh. It has always amazed me that God uses ordinary people, like you and me to transform the world through Jesus, His beloved Son. I thought of Joseph as he cradled the baby Jesus in his arms wondering how he could be able to raise the Son of God. I remember the lyrics to “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card,

How can it be this baby in my arms, sleeping now so peacefully, the Son of God, the angel said,
How can it be?
Lord, I know he’s not my own, not of my flesh, not of my bone.
Still Father, let this baby be the son of my love.
Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter,
How can I raise a king, how can I raise a king?

I thought of Mary the mother of Jesus, barely into her teenage years when the angel announced God’s plan for her; I thought of the 12 disciples, just ordinary men totally clueless of God’s plan for them; or Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders who finally saw Jesus for who he was, and the many others who were there as the Glory of God revealed through his Son, unfolded right before their eyes—knowing something important was going on but not being totally sure what it all meant. I smiled as I thought about my own life and how much I understood their curiosity.

The story of the life of Jesus from birth to resurrection is said to be the greatest story ever told. This morning we’ll remember the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is a story that does not allow us to remain neutral, like most stories within history, because if it is indeed true (and I am persuaded that it is), it demands a response.

Let’s set the scene for our gospel story by looking back a few verses to Luke 23:50– 56,

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.  Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

I'd expect that when it says they rested, that it meant that they did no work in keeping with the Sabbath regulations, but I can’t imagine that they were able to actually feel at rest. Their lives had been turned upside down and inside out. I can only imagine their struggle, but the closest I can come is to say there was likely absence of joy. Sorrow, guilt and hopelessness were their constant companion or as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 88:18, “and darkness has become my only friend”. I have had moments in my life that felt that dark—haven’t you?

I’ll bet they could hardly wait to go to the tomb to finish preparing Jesus’ body both out of love for him, as well as the need to be busy, to do something, and probably to get away from the gloom and feelings of guilt of the disciples.

First thing on Sunday morning, the women come to the tomb with their spices, fully expecting to find Jesus' remains. It needs to be understood that these women did not go to Jesus’ tomb believing in the resurrection. They did not go to check and see if the tomb was empty. The fact that they took spices along to anoint the body shows what they expected to find, despite the fact that Luke records Jesus speaking of his death and resurrection six times before the actual event. So, the first people who had to be convinced of the resurrection were the disciples themselves. In a real sense, they were the first skeptics to become convinced that Jesus was raised!

The first hint that something had happened was the rolled-away stone. This stone, as was typical of ancient tombs, had covered the entrance. It was laid in a channel that had been carved out for it. While Mark 16:3 shows that the women debated how they would get the heavy stone moved, Luke simply presents what confronts them on their arrival: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”

Imagine if you will what must have been going through their minds. Remember that they are grieving and essentially numb, unable to think clearly, then they find the tomb empty. Luke writes, “While they were perplexed by this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel”. Luke means angels and the presence of two men invoke the "two witnesses" theme of the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 19:15 “A matter must be established by the testimony of 2–3 witnesses.” God was making sure that all things were done according to his plan and there would be no room for skepticism.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,

Remember that Jesus had told them six times that he would be arrested, crucified and would rise from the dead. Doesn’t that seem like something that you would have remembered while it was actually happening? Well maybe not, let’s look back to one of the occasions where Jesus had forewarned them about what was to come. Luke 9:44–45,

“Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.”

It has often been my experience that God often doesn’t give a complete understanding of what he is going to do because I’m not ready to hear it. The situation that I may be in at the time is not the situation that I will be in when God suddenly acts. In looking back on things that God has done in our lives, I realize that if I had seen the path that he was going to take, that I would have likely attempted to sabotage it. Then I would have missed all that God was doing to reveal and teach me along the way. Some of the greatest times of growing in faith have been the most difficult. I believe that is what had been happening to the disciples. They constantly seemed to misunderstand the obvious but still faithfully followed Jesus anyway. The gospel writer is pointing to the fact that we can trust God to accomplish all that he has determined even though we may be clueless as to his grand design

In our gospel reading this morning the angels seem to point to the obvious: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Put simply, Jesus is alive, so why expect to find him in a tomb. Then the angels remind them of the promise Jesus made to them in Galilee. "Remember how he told you,… `The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again' " (9:22; 18:32–33). God foretold through the prophets about Jesus' resurrection, so why would they be surprised. The things that Jesus had told them were now coming to pass but now the scales would fall from their eyes. Jesus as the Son of man bears the authority of deity, through judgment given over to him by the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13–14), a prophecy given to Daniel 500–600 years earlier. Every Jewish child would have been taught of Daniel’s vision so the disciples would have been as well: 

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

In Luke 22:66–70 the chief priests and the elders asked if Jesus considered himself to be the Messiah and His answer infuriated them but revealed the truth of who he was:

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.”

God, the great cosmic director, has orchestrated what took place here. From the arrest, through the death, to the resurrection, Jesus walked in God's will. The women need not have wasted their money on the spices to preserve Jesus' body; God had taken care of it and had been in control all along. The angels' words bring Jesus' words back to mind. The women cannot keep to themselves what has just happened—they return to tell the eleven and those with them.

Just retelling the story that the women couldn’t keep to themselves, and what had the found at the tomb, doesn’t begin to open up to us the depth of joy and emotion bound up in the revelation that Jesus was alive. I can only imagine the relief that they would have experienced in that moment except to remember the words of our Psalm this morning in 118:22–24:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;  the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

The women had come to the tomb in total and complete darkness and despair but in the “suddenly” of the angel’s words everything changed; Darkness to light, despair to absolute joy and celebration, confusion and blindness to revelation and clarification, before having no idea what to do next, to rushing to tell the disciples- “HE’S ALIVE!!!”

I love the refrain from the song, Because He Lives,

Because He lives I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

I love Luke 24:12 that describes Peter’s reaction to the news that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb,  

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

In the moments and days afterward, when the disciples realized that Jesus had in fact resurrected from the dead, everything changed. Suddenly, they knew with certainty what they had only a limited awareness of before, Jesus was indeed the Messiah, in a way that they had never considered. He was not just the Lord and King of Israel but over all of creation. He had come at his Father’s bidding to take back what had been stolen. Through his obedience, now he was the conqueror of sin and death. The writer of Hebrews says it best in Hebrews 5:8–9,

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…

What an incredible story, right?

The question before us this morning is this: Do you believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead really happened?

This is a vitally important question and must not be taken lightly. Everything in life and in death is bound up in the answer to this question. If Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God, the Father, until he comes again, then the first major implication is that He is Alive. If that is true then what he said and taught is of first importance. Everything we believe about life and death changes when we come to the realization that Jesus Christ is Lord of all things. Let me remind you of our Epistle reading this morning from Colossians 3:1–4:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Paul wanted them to focus on their new life as followers of Christ so that his priorities became theirs. They were now to live as those whose desires and actions were in line with their new identity as citizens of God’s kingdom, those who had died to the things of this world and were now alive in Christ and no longer addicted to the lies and temptations of this world.

Paul was not simply being a moralist but was reminding them that there should be a change in their behavior because they had a change in understanding of who they had become in Christ. If who they now were was rightly understood, then obedience would be a response to, rather than a means of gaining God’s favor.

This is the same thing that happened in the lives or the disciples. Once they encountered the resurrected Jesus everything changed, and their hope was restored and their mission became clear. No distortion this time, just grateful obedience.

If you are a Christ follower this morning, then today is a reminder and an exhortation that the fact that Jesus lives should change how we live too. We should be living in such a way that a skeptical world sees that we have been changed. My mother used to always say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Let us pray that God will move in us in such a way that we reveal the power of the living and resurrected Christ to those around us.

You may be here this morning doubting the truth of the resurrection or possibly believing that it is a myth and that there is no credible basis to claim that it is true.

If that is you, then perhaps you have already checked out and are thinking about lunch or what you're going to do once you leave. Basically, you’re hoping I will soon wrap this up. If that’s you then please pay attention for just another moment.

The Scriptures and sound historical scholarship even from sources outside of Christianity verify what happened to each of the disciples.

Simon, AKA Peter: Simon-Peter, who was appointed by Jesus the leader was eventually martyred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero. It is claimed that Peter asked to be crucified upside down, so that his death would not be the equal of Jesus and the Romans supposedly obliged.

Andrew: According to 15th Century religious historian Dorman Newman, Andrew—the brother of Peter was scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying. Andrew lived for two days, during which he preached to passersby.

James (son of Zebedee, AKA James the Greater): Acts 12:1–19 says that James was killed with a sword. After James was arrested and led to the place of execution, his unnamed accuser was moved by his courage. He not only repented and converted on the spot, but asked to be executed alongside James. The Roman executioners obliged, and both men were beheaded simultaneously.

John: John was the only one of the original disciples not to die a violent death, but they tried to kill him with boiling oil. When that didn’t work they sent him to a prison colony on the Isle of Patmos where he died of old age around 100 AD.

Philip: Philip, the first of Jesus’ disciples, became a missionary in Asia. Eventually, he traveled to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, where he was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified in 54 AD.

Bartholomew: Bartholomew supposedly preached in several countries, including India, where he translated the Gospel of Matthew for believers. In one account, “impatient idolaters” beat Bartholomew and then crucified him, while in another, he was skinned alive and then beheaded.

Thomas: Apparently Thomas preached the gospel in Greece and India, where he angered local religious authorities, who martyred him by running him through with a spear.

Matthew: According to legend, the former tax collector turned missionary was martyred in Ethiopia, where he was supposedly stabbed in the back by a swordsman sent by King Hertacus after he criticized the king’s morals.

James (son of Alphaeus, AKA James the Less): According to Foxe, James, who was elected by his fellow believers to head the churches of Jerusalem, was one of the longest-lived apostles, perhaps exceeded only by John. At the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned by persecutors, and then killed him by hitting him in the head with a club.

Thaddaeus, AKA Lebbaeus, Judas or Jude: According to several stories, he was crucified at Edessa (the name of cities in both Turkey and Greece) in 72 AD.

Simon the Canaanite AKA the Zealot: Simon preached in Mauritania on the west coast of Africa, and then went to England, where he was crucified in 74 AD.

The question that you must ask yourself is, “Why would these men die for a lie?”

Does it make any sense to you that anyone would live the rest of their lives in self-imposed poverty and danger and then to die for something that they knew wasn’t true? I submit to you that the reason that they did so was because they had encountered Jesus Christ risen from the dead and that changed everything.

For over 2,000 years men and women who have come into a relationship with Jesus Christ have been willing to live and die for their belief and it is still happening today around the world. Do you want to know him too? I invite you to give your life to Jesus this morning, so that you can personally know the risen Savior and find life is worth living. I would like to speak with you about this today.

Let’s Pray!

©2019 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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