Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Luke 24:1-12 1 “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And 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 perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in gleaming clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why are you seeking the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.” 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 Now these women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe the women. 12 Nevertheless, Peter got up and ran to the tomb; and when he stooped and looked in, he *saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.” (NASB)
“Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!”
Every year on Easter Sunday we hear the story of the resurrection of Jesus. All four Gospels tell us the story and each with its own set of additional details, but the basic story is the same. We’ve heard the story so often that we think there is nothing new to learn from hearing it again so we tend to gloss over the details.
The story gets reduced to Jesus died on Good Friday. Some women got up early before sunrise to go to the tomb to finish the job of preparing the body. They find the stone is rolled away and Jesus isn’t in the tomb. Angels tell them that Jesus had risen.
The women tell the disciples and more people run to, in, and out of the tomb looking for the body of Jesus. Amidst all the activity, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Eventually He appears to the disciples, the women, and lots of other people and they all live happily ever, ever, ever after.
But the Bible doesn’t deal just in grand landscapes. God is in the details too and the details teach us things if we pay attention to them. Holy Week is a perfect example.
It was Good Friday. Jesus had been up all night being run through a rigged trial that violated all the rules of justice and due process as set out in the Old Testament. Mark 15:9 tells us that “it was the third hour when they crucified Him.” (Est. 9:00 a.m.) Darkness fell over the land at the 6th hour (est. noon). Jesus died at the 9th hour, about the middle of the afternoon– think 3:00 p.m.
The middle of the afternoon would have been just enough time to retrieve the body and do the basic preparation for burial in accordance with the law. First Joseph of Arimathea had to obtain an audience with Pilate so he could ask permission to remove the body from the cross and bury Jesus. Then he and others had to go to the cross and remove the body, carry Jesus’s body to the tomb, which was nearby, secure the material, oil, and spices needed to wrap the body, and do the actually basic preparation for burial. All of that took time and the sun was not going to wait.
Normally, time would not be a problem. But the Sabbath was coming at sundown and burying the dead was strictly forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus’s death in the middle of the afternoon gave Joseph, Nicodemus, and others the time they needed to get the basics done. It did not give them all the time they needed, but enough.
By arranging Jesus’s death in the middle of the afternoon God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was making sure that there would be no shortage witnesses at the tomb on Sunday morning right at sunrise, which is the end of the Sabbath and the start of the new week.
The job had to be finished and the first opportunity would be at sunrise on Sunday. So “on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”
All four Gospels show us that the empty tomb was a pretty busy place from just before sun up til the middle of the morning. All that activity was sent in motion because the women needed to be at the tomb early on Sunday morning.
You know the story. “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them” show up at the tomb. The stone had already been rolled away. The body of Jesus was gone, but the tomb was not empty. They looked inside and see what they think are two men who “suddenly stood near them in gleaming clothing; 5 and . . . the men said to them, “Why are you seeking the living One among the dead ones? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.” (Luke 24:4–7)
Another detail. The men who stood in the tomb in those gleaming white clothes knew something about these women. They knew that they were followers of Jesus and that the women had first hand knowledge of Jesus’s teaching on Good Friday and Easter morning. And that’s where the angels directed them. The bring to mind the words and teachings of Jesus regarding Easter morning. That told them and tells us that the words and doctrines of Jesus are to be the foundation for faith. The angels don’t tell them to look into their own hearts. They don’t tell them to have faith in faith. They bring to mind Jesus’s teaching His crucifixion and resurrection.
As Holy Week approached, Jesus told the disciples with increasing frequency that “the Son of Man [was] going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” (Mark 9:31) Yet none of them understood or believed.
The timing of the events of Good Friday was exactly as it needed to be in order for the events of Easter Sunday to take place as they did. But Easter Sunday also has details that we ought to take notice of as well.
There’s a pattern to Jesus’s Easter appearances. Good Friday and Holy Saturday were filled with despair and fear for the disciples. Jesus would not let these despair and fear be the last words. He did not want any doubt about the sufficiency of His atoning sacrifice or about His resurrection.
On Easter Sunday Jesus made 5 appearances to specific people.
1. He appeared to Mary Magdalene as a gardener (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18) outside the tomb before He ascended into heaven. He told Mary to tell His disciples that He had risen and would meet them later in the day. The men didn’t believe what the women said at first. It took time to sink in and to direct their faith to where it belonged… in Jesus’s words.
2. He also appeared to the other two women who were with Mary Magdalene—Salome and Mary the mother of James (Matthew 28:9-10).
3. He appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34), although we don’t have any details about that conversation.
4. He appeared to the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).
5. In the evening He appeared to the all apostles, except for Thomas (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).
But from the beginning of the day Christians were directed by the angels to Jesus’s words/teachings. With each appearance He confirms that what He taught and promised during His earthly ministry.
From the first announcement of the resurrection, we are given a hint of what is made more clear a week later when Jesus talked to Thomas. “Jesus *said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you now believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” (John 20:29)
John the Evangelist immediately followed up this statement with this commentary. “Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31) The words of God are as sure and certain as the deeds. We cannot know of the second without the first.
The angels remind the women of teaching of Jesus and His promise to rise from the dead. “Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise from the dead.” 8 And they remembered His [Jesus’s] words . . .”
If the women and disciples had believed Jesus’s doctrine all along, they all would have gotten up early before dawn on Sunday morning and paraded themselves down to the tomb to witness the rolling away of the stone and Jesus’s exit from the tomb. But they did not understand and they did not believe.
But slowly the truth of the situation and the doctrine began to sink in. For the women, the call to remember the Lord’s words about the crucifixion and resurrection brought them into the reality of the resurrection. The stone was rolled away. The tomb did not contain Jesus’s body. Two “men” dressed in clothing white and bright as lightning; the announcement that Jesus has risen from the dead and left the tomb; the men’s knowledge of what they had been taught, all began to sink in. They remembered and everything began to make sense. The women could not keep this news to themselves.
The resurrection reveals Christ’s identity and demonstrates His power, and authority. Furthermore, the resurrection certified once and for all that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil.
Jesus promised to rise from the dead, the greatest promise ever given and ever fulfilled. But this was not the only promise made and kept. Many of our favorite Bible passages are verses about the promised resurrection for believers. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29, ESV)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3)
The angels said to the women, He is not here. He has risen just as He said. Jesus was not in the tomb. That means He has risen and He is here, among us, just as He promised. “Lo I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Where? Where He found? He is in the words and in the details given here in the Bible, in the written words of God. He and His words are found there in the water and words of the baptismal font. He has risen and is there in the Sacrament of the Altar in the details, in the words. This is My Body. This is My Blood, given and shed for you for the remission of sin, this do in remembrance of Me.
Jesus is found in the office of public ministry, the pastoral/priestly office in words and details of confession and absolution. He is found in you, in all true Christians as St. Paul noted. “Not me but Christ who lives within me.”
On this Easter morning, listen to the words and details of the angels announcement: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (vv 6b–7).
The women staring at an empty tomb needed to hear the words, “He is not here, but has risen” (v 6a). But we, for a living faith and a confident hope, need to hear those words differently. We need to hear this message once again: He has risen! He is now here in the Word and Sacrament ministry forgiving you sins and preparing you for your Easter Resurrection.
May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.