Easter: Dead Men Don’t Rise…Ordinarily

 

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But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:11)

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Unbelievable, wouldn’t you say? We know that dead men don’t rise. They knew that dead men don’t rise. This isn’t some recent revelation of modern science. It’s a universal truth. Dead men don’t rise. That’s why the apostles did not believe the women at first. That’s why Peter had to go and see for himself. That’s why the women were going to the tomb in the first place. They were going to finish a burial, not to meet a risen Jesus. They knew that dead men don’t rise from the dead. They were bringing burial spices to finish a hasty burial from Friday afternoon.

They came to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They saw that the large stone had been rolled away and the tomb was open. They went inside to take a look, and they did not see the body of Jesus. I don’t know what they were thinking, but I assure you their first thoughts that Sunday morning were not “He is risen! Alleluia!” They were perplexed, confused, frightened. Their minds and hearts were racing. I’m sure they thought “foul play” or “grave robbers” or “maybe we have the wrong tomb.” Anything but “He is risen.”

They should have known. They should have believed. Jesus had told them repeatedly He would be crucified and on the third day rise again. Three times at least He told them. But they didn’t believe Him and they didn’t remember His words because these words are so unbelievable. Dead men don’t rise, ordinarily speaking. They should have believed Him. He raised the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter. He raised Lazarus from the dead. But still, they did not believe Him, in spite of His words, in spite of His works. In spite of all that Jesus had taught and shown them over the three years they were with Him. Yet who can really blame them? We all know that dead men don’t rise.

It takes a couple of bright angels to make the connection with a question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why were you going to a tomb with burial spices? Why are you walking around with long, sad faces? Why do you look as though you’re going to a funeral? Don’t you remember what He said to you? Don’t you believe what He said to you while He was with you in Galilee? Why are you looking for the living among the dead?

Why do we? Why do we dwell on death instead of life? Why do we act as though our departed loved ones who have died in faith are gone forever? Why do we look at death as though it were the worst thing that could happen to us? Why do live as though all there is to life is this life? Why do we seek life in dead works, in dead religion, in dead ideas and philosophies? Why do we seek the living among the dead? Simple, like the women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning, we know that dead men don’t rise.

Except that is, for this one. This man named Jesus. He’s the great exception to the rule that dead men don’t rise. And He’s the only exception. No other religious leader has pulled it off much less predicted it three times in advance. “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.” He called the shot three times and He did it. He rose from the dead. The grave is empty, the body is risen.

What does this mean? It means the dead will live in Christ. “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.” Jesus is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. He is the first to rise with the promise of more to come, a whole humanity to come. Jesus is the new Adam, the new Head of humanity, and as with the Head so with the Body. “Each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming whose who belong to Christ.” As Adam brought all of humanity into sin and death, so Christ brings humanity into justification and life. As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.

This is the Christian hope. Not that Jesus will fix all our problems or exempt us from the suffering of this life or put a bandaid on every hurt that comes along. The apostle Paul is clear: “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And what a pitiful lot we would be if all the Jesus was for us was some kind of heavenly invisible Friend who bails us out of trouble every time we mess up, whom we can talk to and will make us feel better, who will advise us on the best decisions to make in life.

The empty, open tomb gives us much more to hope. Christ is risen, and in HIm the dead will rise! Our last and greatest enemy, Death itself, lies conquered, vanquished under the cross-bruised heel of Jesus. The old icons of the resurrection always show Christ standing on the grave, pulling up Adam and Eve from their tombs. The reign of Death and Grave is ended; the reign of Jesus Christ has begun. When the women and Peter stepped into that open, empty tomb they were eyewitnesses of the new creation breaking into the old. The old has gone, the new has already come. The darkness of Death is ended, the sun has risen and the morning sky is bright with resurrection.

How fitting it is that the Son of God should rise from the dead on the first day of the week! How fitting it is that we worship not on the 7th day as in the old testament, the Sabbath day, but on the 8th day, the first day of a new creation. When the women set foot into that open, empty tomb of Jesus, they set foot in a new creation and caught a glimpse of what was to come – resurrection to life. We all will surely die and be buried, unless of course, Jesus appears in glory first. But the word from the tomb is that death has lost its sting. Christ has conquered. He is risen. And because He is risen, the dead will rise.

Do you fear death? Then fear it no longer. Christ has triumphed over our greatest enemy. Do you dread the grave? Then dread no longer; Christ has made your grave a place of sabbath rest. Do you grieve the death of someone you love? Then grieve in hope and trust in Christ. Christ is risen, and in Him the dead will rise. Are you suffering and despairing in this life? Then hear and believe this, Jesus Christ has died and risen from the dead. His suffering and death are vindicated as will be your suffering and death in Him.

The resurrection clinches it. Jesus speaks the truth; His words are truth; He is the truth. He is the Way to eternal life with God. He is the Life that animates all life. Death cannot hold Him; the grave cannot contain Him. His claim to be the Son of God and the Christ stand firm. His word of forgiveness is sure. His promise of eternal life is certain, “even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”

Why seek the living among the dead?

Christ is risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Christ is risen! Sin is forgiven and washed away.
Christ is risen! The devil is crushed under the cross.
Christ is risen! A new creation has dawned; the old is gone, the new has come.
Christ is risen! Adam is lifted up from the dust
Christ is risen!  His Word is sure.
Christ is risen! And in Him though you die, yet will you live.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

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